For the past couple weeks, we have been talking about our identity as sons and daughters of God, who have been freed from slavery to sin, adopted into the Family of God, and given a new name and a new lifestyle. Today we are going to look at another facet of our relationship with the Father, namely, the privilege of being an heir. The passage we have been studying in our discussion of sonship, Romans 8:14-18, is as follows:
“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. 18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”Romans 8:14-18
So, what does it mean to be an heir of God and a co-heir with Christ? When most people think of an heir, they think of someone (usually a relative) who will inherit the money or possessions of another person at that person’s death, as specified in a will. If scenes from murder mysteries where discordant families gather to hear the reading of a will are flashing through your mind right now, you have gotten the picture. In ancient Roman culture, wills were vastly important, especially after the creation of the Twelve Tables in 450 B.C., which formalized the laws of inheritance. Essentially, these laws made it possible for a Father to name any Roman citizen his heir, though Father’s most often passed their inheritance down to their eldest legitimate son. The laws also made provisions for more than one heir to be named, so that the inheritance could be divided up between co-heirs in any way. On the father’s death, the heir or heirs would receive all of the father’s money, property, possessions, responsibilities, and debts.
In much the same way, we are heirs of God in that he has promised us a glorious inheritance in heaven, though it will be received after our death, not after his. 1 Peter 1:4-5 proclaims that the Lord has promised “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” God has promised an outpouring of heavenly riches that have been saved for his children in heaven. This inheritance will be greater than any of us can even ask or imagine, for “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no heart has imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Cor. 2:9).”
However, notice that Paul makes a distinction between us being an heir of God and a co-heir with Christ. To the Roman mind, it would make sense that Jesus, being the first and only natural-born son of God, would be the prime candidate to receive all of the inheritance, or at least most of it. But Paul emphasizes that we are co-heirs with Christ because he wants to highlight our equality with Jesus in the inheritance. When God adopts us as his children, we are all seen as equal, regardless of our sins or our good works, and we all have a share in the inheritance that rightfully belongs to Jesus. We have the privilege of sharing equally in all the glory and suffering of Jesus.
I could stop here, and tell you to fix your eyes on Heaven, expectantly waiting for the inheritance that has been promised to us at the end of our earthly days. I could tell you that the best is yet to come, and that we just have to buckle down and ride out the struggles of this life so that we can experience the glories of Heaven. This is where many people, and even some pastors, stop. But there is so much more to being an heir than receiving a heavenly reward at the end of our lives. We do not say a prayer to become a part of God’s family only to check out until we arrive at the pearly gates. Being an Heir means sharing in the Father’s presence, position, power, provision, and pain TODAY.
- Sharing in God’s presence:
Being a son of God co-heir with Christ gives us intimacy and access to God that we would otherwise be unable to attain. If we look back at Romans 8:15, we see that the spirit of adoption gives us boldness to enter into an intimate relationship with our father, calling him “Abba”, which in Aramaic means “Daddy”. What a privilege, to be able to address our Father with such a personal name! Like a businessman who will drop everything to listen to his children when they walk into his office, our heavenly Father is attentive to our cries and takes great delight in us when we call on his name.
Part of being a son is the Joy of nearness to your father, and because of the great love of God, we are able to experience that closeness in an intimate way. As Romans 8:38-39 proclaims, “Neither life, nor death, nor angels, nor principalities nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, is able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our lord.” At every moment we have access to the Father and an assurance of his love.
2. Sharing In God’s Position:
In last week’s blog post, we discussed a little bit of what it means to share in God’s position. As a Child in God’s household, we are raised from our our previous status of spiritual poverty to become princes and princesses in God’s kingdom, receiving the spiritual riches and honor that come with being a child of the king. Regardless of our previous state, there is a place at the king’s table for all of us. Part of the beauty of being elevated to this position with Christ is that as co-heirs, we get to share in his glory. As Romans 8:17 says, “we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”
In John 17:22-23, Jesus himself prays, “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
We get to share in God’s glory so that the watching world will be convinced of God’s love for his children and turn towards him!
3. Sharing in God’s power:
Just as Elijah passed his mantle of power over to Elisha when he was taken up to heaven, Jesus promised his disciples that when he had ascended to heaven, they would have access to the abundant power of God to carry out God’s mission through faith.
As John 14:12-13 says,
“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”John 14:12-14
Jesus promises here that those who believe in him through faith (his co-heirs), would be able to perform miracles even greater and more numerous than what he had done in his earthly ministry through the power of God. But, you have probably heard the saying, “with great power comes great responsibility”, and so it is with God’s power. It is not to be used flippantly, like some circus magic or voodoo card trick. The power of God will only be unleashed when we seek to glorify God and live in obedience to our Father.
4. Sharing in God’s provision:
The children of God need never worry about provision, for God will amply supply the needs of those in his family. Again and again through scripture, we witness God’s promises to provide for us when we ask him:
“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”Matthew 6:31-33
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”Matthew 7:7-11
“In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”John 16:23-24
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”1 John 5:14-15
“ Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”Hebrews 4:16
“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”Philippians 4:19
Scripture speaks for itself: The Father is willing and able to lavish good things on his children when we ask him to meet our needs!
5. Sharing in God’s pain:
This is a strange one, and some of you might be thinking, “sharing in God’s pain? That doesn’t seem fun.” But I would be remiss not to remind us that being a co-heir of Christ doesn’t mean that we get to walk on sunshine and rainbows for all of our lives. Being part of a family means you get to share in both the laughter and joy, and the pain and tears. You cannot simply abandon your family when times get rough. Remember when I shared Romans 8:17 earlier when I was talking about experiencing the glory of God? You may have noticed that I glossed over the first part of the verse which talks about sharing in the sufferings of Christ. Let’s look back at that, shall we?
17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. 18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
Sharing in the sufferings of Christ is a prerequisite for experiencing his Glory. It is in our weakness that God proves himself strong, and it is often in the pain we experience in life, that God is glorified the most. We need not be surprised when trials come, for as Jesus says in John 15:20, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.”
Yet Paul gives us hope when he says that our present sufferings cannot compare to the glory that will be revealed in us. While our struggles will be difficult, the reward for perseverance is even better:
“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”Romans 5:3-5
Over the past three weeks, we have walked through a journey of discovering what it means to be God’s children, to be made new in Christ, and to become an heir of God and a co-heir with Christ, and now is the time to walk out what we have learned. Let us stand firm in the knowledge of our new identity in Christ and be bold enough to share in the presence, position, power provision, and pain of God every single day.