Believers are Heirs with Christ

by Mike Ratliff

16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. (Romans 8:16, 17 NASB) 

Even through as Christians we are justified and are under no condemnation (Romans 8:1) it is also clearly taught in God’s Word that Christians are to live lives of repentance from the works of the flesh. There are some, such as those who call themselves “New Calvinists” who take the Doctrines of Grace and separate them from the great teachings of the Puritans such as John Owen, John Bunyan, Thomas Watson, Jonathan Edwards, et cetera that made it clear that in this life Christians are required to “work out their salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). No, these “New Calvinists” such as Mark Driscoll and those who emulate him are antinomians in that they teach those who follow them that if they are in Christ, what they do in the flesh is merely for their enjoyment and has no eternal consequences. Really? Is that what God’s Word says? 

12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. (Romans 8:12-17 NASB) 

As we saw in yesterday’s post, Christian Assurance, to live according to the flesh is to be an unbeliever. However, to live by the Spirit means that you are a believer, that is, you are in Christ and he is in you. The flesh is our unredeemed humanness—that complex of sinful passions that sin generates through its one remaining domain—our bodies (Romans 6:6, 12; 7:5). In v13 we learn what believers must do in the struggle with sin. Paul makes it clear that there are some false teaching in the Church about how believers are made holy and he destroys those teachings right here. The first false view is that in a crisis-moment we are immediately made perfect. The second false view is that we must “let God” take over while we remain idle. The third false view is that some turning-point decision will propel us to a higher level of holiness. Instead, Paul tells us that that the Holy Spirit provides us with the energy and power to continually and gradually be killing our sins, a process never completed in this life. The means the Holy Spirit uses to accomplish this process is our faithful obedience to the simple commands of Sacred Scripture (Ephesians 5:18; Colossians 3:16; 13:14; Psalm 1:2; 119:11; Luke 22:40; John 17:17; 1 Corinthians 6:18; 9:25-27; 1 Peter 2:11).

In v14 Paul makes it clear that the Spirit of God leads all true believers. What does this mean? Believers are not led through subjective, mental impressions or promptings to provide direction in make life’s decisions—something Sacred Scripture nowhere teaches. Think of Matt Chandler and Mark Driscoll and their claims of hearing audible direction from God. They are possibly confused or they are deceived or they are liars. Instead of something subjective that can be horribly misused and lead many astray, God’s Spirit objectively leads his children sometimes through the orchestration of circumstances (Acts 16:7) but primarily through illumination, divinely clarifying Scripture to make it understandable to our sinful, finite minds (Luke 24:44, 45; 1 Corinthians 2:14-16; Ephesians 1:17-19; cf. Ephesians 3:16-19; Colossians 1:9). He also leads his children through sanctification, divinely enabling us to obey Scripture (Galatians 5:16, 17; 5:25). As God leads the believer these ways, he gains assurance that God has adopted him into his family (Romans 8:15-17; 1 John 3:2). Never forget though that the faith of the true believer is made strong through testing.

Unbelievers are enslaved to their flesh. Their will is enslaved to their fallen nature and so, being unregenerate; they are slaves to their fear of death (Hebrews 2:14, 15), and to their fear of final punishment (1 John 4:18). However, true believers have received a spirit of adoption as son. Paul is talking about a Spirit-produced awareness of the rich reality that God has made us his children, and, therefore, that we can come before him without fear or hesitation as our beloved Father. In this we have the confidence to cry out, “Abba! Father!” This denotes tenderness, dependence, and a relationship free of fear or anxiety (cf. Mark 14:36).

I have heard many use Romans 8:16 in a “proof text” sort of way to say that if you have some inner, mystical voice that you are in Christ then that is the Holy Spirit bearing witness with your spirit that you are really saved. That is not what Paul was talking about. Roman culture, for an adoption to be legally binding, seven reputable witnesses had to be present, attesting to its validity. God’s Holy Spirit confirms the validity of our adoption, by the fruit he produces in us (Galatians 5:22, 23) and the power he provides for spiritual service (Acts 1:8).

Finally, in v17 we come to our inheritance as heirs. Every believer has been made and heir of God, our Father (Matthew 25:34; Galatians 3:29; Ephesians 1:11; Colossians 1:12;; 3:23; Hebrews 6:12; 9:15; 1 Peter 1:4). We will inherit eternal salvation (Titus 3:7), God himself (Lamentations 3:24; cf. Psalm 73:25; Revelation 21:3), glory (5:2, and everything in the universe (Hebrews 1:2). Unlike the Jewish practice of the primacy of the firstborn son, under Roman law the inheritance was divided equally between children, where the law more carefully protected possessions that had been inherited.

Not only are Christians heirs, but “fellow heirs” with Christ who has been appointed to be heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2). Every adopted child will receive by divine grace the full inheritance Christ receives by divine right (cf. Matthew 25:21; John 17:22; 2 Corinthians 8:9). Proof of the believer’s ultimate glory is that he suffers—whether it comes as mockery, ridicule, or physical persecution—because of his Lord (Matthew 5:10-12; John 15:18-21; 2 Corinthians 4:17; 2 Timothy 3:12).

I find it interesting that as I have been going through these passages, there has been so much emphasis within the “visible church” on how much Christians are to resemble the world or how little. What about taking part in the fantasy books and movies about werewolves and vampires and the video games that are extremely violent? Should Christians take part in that? As I study these passages I see that we are to become more and more separate from the world, not more and more like the world. If you are so in love with your video game or books series or tv series that you become resentful if your participation in it is questioned as a professing Christian then that is evidence of a deeper spiritual problem such as idolatry. Remember my brethren, spiritual blindness is a judgment that comes from God upon those who refuse to repent of their idolatry (Romans 1, 2).

Soli Deo Gloria!

 

 

5 thoughts on “Believers are Heirs with Christ

  1. “I have heard many use Romans 8:16 in a “proof text” sort of way to say that if you have some inner, mystical voice that you are in Christ then that is the Holy Spirit bearing witness with your spirit that you are really saved”

    What if you have a verse come up(well up from within you? I know It’s not a voice or a mystical voice but it comes up in a time of need.

    For instance say, I’ve memorized several verses in Proverbs. Say for example someone all of a sudden levels me with a diatribe–all of a sudden the verse that I learned comes up that says for example “A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult.”-Pr.12:16, isn’t that the Holy Spirit? or is it just me?

    I know Jesus said “my sheep hear my voice,,,,,”. I’m just trying to get a clear fix on when people say we don’t hear a “voice” compared to scripture welling up and Jesus saying we hear his voice …

    thanks Mike

  2. Pingback: Heirs With Christ « Tender Mercies

  3. Linda, yes I have that happen quite often, but that is not what Romans 8:16 is talking about, which is evident in its context. Have you noticed that you have tied all the hearing from God to His Word? That is how it works.

  4. Yes Mike I understand that I digressed. I just needed this answered as reassurance since many well meaning Christians are blurring this issue more and more and it’s getting muddled and lost. Thanks

    Mike said~”Paul makes it clear that there are some false teaching in the Church about how believers are made holy and he destroys those teachings right here.”

    is that referring to some people with the false teachings that they think they are sinless like those who falsely teach that you can’t say anything “negative” and you should never confess sin?

    I met a “Christian” lady who believed she was above confessing sin anymore. I pointed out to her in 1 John where it states, 1Jo 1:10 “If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.”—her way of squirming out of it was, John was not talking to a Christian audience, he was talking to unbelievers.

    So, she thought she could live with her boyfriend and was above sin and reproach

    She also had the belief that she was worthy. I said, Only Jesus is worthy and because of him saving us we are of great worth and infinite value. I asked her, if you’ve been in heaven a million years would you think you are worthy? her answer was yes. I told her that even when I’ve been in heaven a trillion years I will never have obtained being worthy of such glory, honor and adoration of being in the very presence of God Almighty. Only Jesus is worthy for all eternity.

    anyways the “new Calvinists” I believe stem off of this kind of egregious error.

    To me Mark and even John Piper with his “Christian hedonism” is a subtle form gnosticism

  5. Linda, yes there are plenty of those who claim that since they are justified that 1 John 1:8-10 does not apply to them. Wrong! John was writing to to the Christian brethren in Asia as he pastored the church in Ephesus when he wrote that. As believers we are to continually about crucifying our flesh, taking up our own crosses and following Jesus. Where there people get this idea that its okay to be happy and content in their flesh is beyond me, but it certainly didn’t come from the Bible.

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