Meditations in Romans : 34: Heirs of God
Rom 8:16,17 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 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.
I largely find, as I look around and listen to what I hear in church, an absence of the awareness of being God’s children. Indeed I believe some Christians would almost feel it presumptuous to call themselves children of God, but that is the clear teaching of Scripture and, even more, in the verse we finished on in the previous meditation, Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit Himself testifies or confirms with our own spirit that that is what we are, so if we deny it, we deny what the Spirit within is trying to tell us – You are God’s child! We covered that already when we noted the words, “you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” (8:15) Every time we feel inclined to turn to God in prayer, it is the Holy Spirit reminding us of the relationship we have with the Father.
Now this is important to follow through because of where Paul next takes us: “Now if we are children…” He’s not saying ‘if’ in any derogatory, challenging way; he’s saying, “Now because we are children of God…” Accept it: you ARE a child of God if you are a Christian. The apostle John was strong on this: “to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,” (Jn 1:12) and, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)
So, OK, let’s move on, “Because we are children of God…. we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.” An heir is simply someone who has received an ‘estate’ (however extensive or small that may be). The ‘estate’ is simply whatever is being left by the deceased. We receive the property or rights or whatever, being left to us by the person who has died. It wasn’t ours beforehand, but it is now. It has been left to us and it now belongs to us. Now there is something significant in the words of this verse. Note: heirs OF God, co-heirs WITH Christ. God has left this to us and we share the ‘this’ with Christ. This is where most of us come unstuck, because we’ve heard the teaching – you are an heir – but we are left wondering, “What is it I’ve been left?”
Well, let’s take a step back again: we are now children of God, “sons of God” (8:14) and we said previously that whenever in the New Testament there is this sort of wording, it harps back to the Old Testament concept of the eldest son who took over the father’s business and carried it on. What have we inherited? The Father’s business! What is the Father’s ‘business’? Is it not to love the world and draw it back to Himself? I am sure that God, being the Almighty Being that He is, does billions of things in the rest of Creation, but as far as this planet is concerned, the Bible reveals to us that God is always at work (Jn 5:17) and Jesus did what he saw his Father doing (Jn 5:19) and now draws us into doing the same things (Jn 14:12). How can we do that, we ask in panic, and the answer is, by the Spirit he has put within us – HE is the one who does it using us as the vessels through which to move.
But then Paul has a further thought and it is as if he then says, “Look, you’ve got to be whole hearted in all this. I mean when you came to Christ you totally surrendered yourself and gave up your will to God’s will, and that means to all of it. So when it comes to sharing in the Father’s ‘business’ it means taking all that that involves, the bad as well as the good or, if you like, the bad to ensure we get the good as well.” Hence he writes, “if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” i.e. if we want to share in God’s business, sharing in Jesus’ ministry, we have got to realise that because we live in a fallen world and contend with an enemy, and have to cope with others who are not where we are, it is sometimes going to get rough!
This is not saying anything surprising. It’s a fact of spiritual life. Because we live in a sin-filled world and there is an enemy in the form of Satan, his demons and powers and principalities of darkness (Eph 6:12), there will be people who are against us just as there were people who were against Jesus and his disciples. This, unfortunately, (and we would prefer it was otherwise) is how it is living and ministering in a fallen world. Sometimes it gets difficult (to say the least!).
The apostle Paul was possibly the ultimate example of this. Listen to his testimony: “I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.” (2 Cor 11:23-27)
Now of course most of us are not called to do what he did but we may still suffer opposition at work or college or school or from neighbours, but whatever it is, the apostle Paul could go on a declare, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (8:18) As his argument goes on, it does, we suggest, indicate that this glory to “be revealed in us” is actually in this lifetime but we will have to wait for the next meditation to consider that.
In the meantime, hold on to the thrust of verses 16 and 17: we ARE children of God and so we have inherited God’s ‘business’ which we share with Jesus, bringing His love and goodness into this fallen world to draw back to Him whoever will hear and respond. The wonder of it all is that we don’t do it on our own but we do it by Jesus’ leading and by the empowering of his Holy Spirit who he has put within us. Hallelujah!