CO-SUFFERERS, CO-HEIRS
Joint-Heirs with Christ
In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 36a of 83

17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. 18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:17-18).

We saw in our previous study that God not only justifies us in Christ, but adopts as His sons and daughters. And not only does He adopt, but He also gives us a new birth, and sends His Spirit to dwell in us to enable us to recognise Him as our heavenly Father!

Because of what the Spirit of Adoption does in us, we cry out in our hearts Abba, Father (v. 15)! Paul, of course, is not merely saying that the words Abba, Father will be found in our lips.

He speaks of the believer calling out unto God as Abba, Father for two reasons. First, Christ our elder brother did the same. Secondly, the term ‘Abba’ is a restricted term. It could only be used by sons, not slaves. We are not made slaves to God. We are made His sons and daughter. Paul says in Galatians 4:6-7—

6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. 7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant [slave], but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Gal 4:6-7).

Therefore when Paul speaks of how we cry Abba, Father, he is speaking about the filial feelings that arise out of our hearts. You may call Him Abba, Father, Heavenly Father, Our Father, which art in heaven, or simply Father.” But when you address Him, you know whom you are speaking to. And you have the assurance that He is listening to you as a Father would listen to the child He loves.

We were formerly children of wrath. We ought to dread God because He would judge us for our rebellion against Him. But now the Spirit of Adoption makes us feels God’s love and moves us to love Him.

By the work of the Spirit of Adoption in us we are assured that we are truly the beloved sons and daughters of God.

And if we are sons and daughters of God, then “we are heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (v. 17).

What is it to be heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ?

1. Joint-Heirs with Christ

An heir, according to the Webster Dictionary, is:

A person who will become or who has become the owner of all or part of another’s property or titles on that other [person’s] death.”

This is the common understanding of the word ‘heir.’ A rich man writes a will before He dies. “50% of my estate is to go to my wife. The rest of the 50% is to be shared equally amongst my five children.” He signs his will before some witnesses, and then it is sealed.

Shortly after that he dies. Then when the family is assembled, the will is unsealed. The names of the heirs are read out and each of them receives a portion of the dead man’s estate—according as he had apportioned before His death.

Now, the word ‘heir’ in our present context, obviously, does not share the same meaning at every point. God, after all, does not die.  

What then is an heir of God? An heir of God is someone whom God has appointed to be recipients of a share of his heavenly riches.

Christ, the only begotten Son of God would no doubt have the lion’s share. But all the adoptive sons and daughters of God would also have a significant share each. We would be joint-heirs with Christ.

We will partake of the inheritance which Christ our Lord has purchased for us. This inheritance is the same as the covenant blessing of God reserved for us in Christ. The word ‘covenant’, diatheke in the Greek, can also be translated ‘testament’ or ‘will.’ Though God does not die, Christ, the God-Man by His death on the Cross secured our covenant inheritance for us.

What kind of inheritance shall we expect to received? Paul speaks of this inheritance in one word in verse 18, namely—‘glory’: “the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Eternal heavenly glory awaits the joint-heirs with Christ. But what does this glory comprise of? What is the glorious inheritance that awaits us? The Scripture describe it in many passages. In verse 23 of this chapter, we are told that the redemption of our bodies is part of the inheritance.

But elsewhere, the Scripture speaks of the gift of incorruption and immortality (1Cor 15:53-54); of the right to enter the Heavenly City or the New Jerusalem (Heb 11:10, Rev 21:2); of eternal and unhindered fellowship with God in Christ; of entering into the joy of the Lord (Mt 25:21); of the privilege of eating and drinking at the table of the Lord in His kingdom (Lk 22:30); of the right to sit with Christ at His throne (Rev 3:21); of heavenly rewards (Col 3:24; cf. Mt 5:12; Lk 6:23; 1Cor 3:14; Rev 22:12); and of crowns—an incorruptible crown, a crown of righteousness, a crown of life and a crown of glory (1Cor 9:25, 2 Tim 4:8; Jas 1:12, 1 Pet 5:4).

It is obvious that while we are on this side of eternity, we shall not fully comprehend what is that glorious inheritance that awaits us!

It is a fact that as adoptive sons and daughters of God, we are joint-heirs with Christ, the only begotten Son of God. Today suffering and sin blinds our eyes so that we cannot see the brightness of the glory that is already ours. But one day it will become very clear to all the world what a great privilege we enjoy. The apostle John puts it this way:

“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 Jn 3:2)

Does this hope not comfort your heart, dearly beloved brethren?

All who are the true sons and daughters of God will share in the glorious inheritance that Christ has procured.

But the question is: Who are the true sons and daughters of God? It is instructive to see how throughout this chapter, the apostle Paul has been carefully limiting and qualifying his words of assurance. There will be those who think that the blessing he is speaking about apply to them, when they do not.

So when he says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus,” he qualifies that those who are in Christ Jesus, “walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Rom 8:1). So when he says: “Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit” and therefore can please God, he immediately adds: “If so be that the Spirit of God dwells in you” (v. 8-9). So when he would comfort us that we are the “sons of God,” he reminds us that the sons of God are led by the Spirit of God and will mortify the deeds of the body (v. 13-14). So likewise, when would assure us that we are “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ”, he immediately adds a qualifier:

“… if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Rom 8:17).

Paul, we must understand, is not saying that our suffering with Christ is the ground upon which we will receive our inheritance. No, no; Christ is the only ground for our inheritance. Our suffering with Christ is not the basis for our entering into glory and receiving our eternal inheritance. But suffering is the unavoidable way to glory. The way of life everlasting,—that the Spirit of Christ will lead us through,— is a way of suffering.

This is what Paul and Barnabas taught the saints during their first missionary journey. Do we not read (in Acts 14:22) that they…

 “[Confirmed] the souls of the disciples, and [exhorted] them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.

The road to the eternal kingdom of God is paved with the stones of suffering and tribulation!

But what kind of suffering is the apostle Paul talking about?

…to be Continued Next Issue

—JJ Lim