Today we move into the spectacular and scary promise of Verse
because it says that all the children of God are his heirs — we will receive the inheritance of God, and there is no greater inheritance in the universe. And scary
because verse 17 says that we will have to suffer in order to receive it. “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.”
How the Spirit Testifies that We Are Children of God
But first, let’s review the main point of the previous verses. Verse 16 says, “The [Holy] Spirit
himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.” If you belong to Jesus Christ, as verse 9 says, you have the Spirit of Christ. And what does he do in you? He testifies that you are the child of God. How does he do that? We saw at least two ways from last Sunday’s text.
“Our inheritance is so great that it makes every trouble in life seem small by comparison.”
First, we saw the connection between verses 13 and 14. “If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” So we concluded that one of the things the Spirit does to show that you are the child of God is lead you, that is, lead you into war with sin so that by his power you put to death the deeds of the body.
Second, we saw from verse 15 that the Spirit gives rise to the cry “Abba, Father!” Verse 15b: “You have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!’” Notice the words “by which.” This is the work of the Holy Spirit. When believers in Jesus find rising in our hearts the cry, “Abba! Father!” this is the testimony of the Spirit that we are the children of God.
Let’s see this in relationship to 1 Corinthians 12:3. There Paul says, “No one speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus is accursed’; and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” In other words, the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit when we cry, “Jesus is Lord!” But that is not the only cry the Spirit prompts in our hearts. Another is, “Abba! Father!” In other words, the Spirit produces two profound changes in us toward God: One is a humble demeanor of submission: Jesus, the Son of God, is my Lord, my Master; I am his subject; he is my ruler, my sovereign. And the other is the joyful, bold, childlike demeanor of confidence: God is my Father.
Jesus is my Lord! God is my Father! That is the humble, hope-filled cry of the Spirit-indwelt Christian. And out of this humble confidence we are led “by the Spirit” to make war on our sin and put to death all that does not exalt our Lord and honor our Father.
Verse 17: Our Spectacular and Scary News
Now in verse 17 Paul gives us added reason to exult over the truth that God is our Father. And don’t miss this. Clearly, Paul wants us to rejoice! You don’t tell someone spectacular news about his future if your aim is to discourage him. And verse 17 is spectacular news. Yes, it has a scary side to it. Almost all good news does. But that doesn’t take away from how spectacular this verse is. In fact it probably adds to it.
“If [you are] children, [you are] 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.” There are two great truths in this verse: one is that we are going to receive a great inheritance, including our own glorification; and the other is that we are going to have to suffer in order to receive it.
Our Great Inheritance
Let’s take them one at a time and ponder what they mean for us. First, then, you are heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ and you will be glorified with Christ.
What is the inheritance promised here? As you face the pleasures and the pains of what remains of your life here on earth, what are you hoping for beyond all this? Do you have a hope beyond this life that makes the present pleasures look smaller than the present pains look manageable? This is what Paul had. He wants us to have it. You see it in verse 18: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Paul wants us to share this tremendous hope: the inheritance on the way to us is so great that it makes every trouble in life seem small by comparison. What is this inheritance?
There are at least three aspects to the inheritance.
1. The World
First, the inheritance is the world. Romans 4:13: “The promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith.” In other words, if you share the faith of Abraham, then you are a fellow heir with him, and the inheritance, Paul said, is “the world.”
If you are an heir of God, then you will inherit what is God’s. And God owns the world. Psalm 24:1: “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.” So if the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, then the heirs of the Lord will inherit the earth and everything in it. In Psalm 2:8 God says to his Son, “Ask of me, and I will surely give the nations as your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as your possession.” And if we are fellow heirs with the Son, then we shall inherit the nations.
Paul puts it this way in 1 Corinthians 3:21–23, “For all things belong to you, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.” What is our inheritance? The world. The earth and all that is in it. The nations. All things.
But practically what does that mean? At least it means this: that everything that exists will serve your happiness. Nothing will have the final prerogative of trumping your joy. “All things are yours” means that even the negative things — Paul mentions life and death in 1 Corinthians 3:22 — will serve you in the end. In the end, God does not merely defeat every enemy of your good, but turns enemies into servants. “Tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword” — we don’t just conquer, we more than conquer (Romans 8:35-37). All things are yours — life and death — all things are yours. All things will serve your everlasting joy.
2. God Himself
Second, the inheritance is not only the world, but God himself. In fact, if we said that our great inheritance was mainly the things God had made, and not God himself, we would be idolaters. Consider Romans 5:2b: “We exult in hope of the glory of God.” In other words, the great joy of our hope is that one day we will see and savor the glory of God himself. And lest you think that his glory is something different from God himself, consider verse 11 of that same chapter, “And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” “In God!” Not the gifts of God. And not in this verse even in the glory of God, but in God.
“This is our great inheritance: the Lord himself!”