And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation works patience;
"Not only so." The apostle has been speaking of the priceless advantages that flow from justification, peace, access into grace, rejoicing in hope of the glory of God. Surely there is sufficient here "to pay" a man for becoming a Christian. But, "not only so." This "not only so" is the Christian's peculiar privilege. Make the most copious enumeration you will, and there will be a "not only so." "O the depth of the riches!" Note —
I. THE STRANGE FACT OF OUR TEXT.
1. Though a modest man, Paul was greatly given to "glorying." And in his grounds we can generally justify him. We are not surprised that he should boast of himself. And there is leave for any man to do so who has good reason, provided it be done in the spirit of the apostle. We are not surprised that he should boast of the churches. Above all we are not surprised at his boast in the Cross, that grand symbol of the world's redemption. But that he should "glory in tribulations also" must seem somewhat strange to the generality of men who regard them as distressing. You could understand him if he were speaking of the halls of mirth, of the pomp of palaces. He might reasonably glory in such things.
2. But the explanation is to be found in no defective mental or moral organisation. These are not the words of a madman speaking at random; nor of some hare-brained youth who goes through life saying "I don't care"; nor of a stoic whose false philosophy teaches him to despise alike the good and the ills of life. No, never was a nature more sensitive than Paul's. He does not mean that he gloried in the midst of his tribulations, notwithstanding his tribulations, treating them as matters of no account and even of contempt. They were the very ground of his glorying. Nor was his glorying mistaken. Our tribulations are but the instruments of the Lord of the harvest for purifying our souls. The uses of our griefs are Divine, and this must not only reconcile us to them, but enable us to glory in them. You see the strength of the apostle's argument, He has got God, Therefore he has got all and can glory in all. Can connect a thing with God, whatever guise it wear, is at once to make it an angel.
II. THE EXPLANATION OF THIS STRANGE FACT. He justifies his assertion by setting forth the gradations by which tribulation works the highest good.
1. Tribulation worketh patience, or "endurance." The more a Christian suffers in a Christian spirit, the greater capacity does he discover for endurance. So that his very afflictions become their own anodyne.
2. "Patience worketh experience." The word signifies —
(1) Proof; patient endurance of suffering proves a man's spiritual mettle. The furnace must declare whether a man's religion is gilt or gold. A parrot might be taught to say "Thy will be done." How will the man behave when every earthly comfort is withdrawn?
(2) Approbation. God sends tribulation first that it may test, and then, that He may say to us, "Well done!"
3. "Experience, or approval, worketh hope." These tribulations drive us to the anticipation of another world. While sunny skies are over our head we think only of the present, but an overcast heaven sends our thoughts into the future. And hope maketh not ashamed. We sometimes see men with rueful countenances coming away from the door of a quondam friend. "Ah! I did hope that man was my friend," is the exclamation. "But he has put my hope to shame." Men never come away like that from God's door. There is nothing like experience to fortify faith.
4. "Because God's love is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost." God's love, as the active principle in the heart, is the angel presence that banishes all impatience, all fear. The God I love sends my tribulations. Therefore will I glory even in tribulations. Only love can interpret the mysteries of God. I will close with a picture (Revelation 7:9-14). Thus tribulation is the gateway of heaven.
Parallel VersesKJV: And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;