Romans 8: Who Are The Heirs? -- By: Zane C. Hodges
CTSJ 9:2 (Fall 03) p. 2
Who Are The Heirs?a
Christian heirship is a great New Testament theme.1 On this subject, the Apostle Paul has made a vital and instructive comment. We find his statement in Romans 8:16–17, where he writes: The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.
This declaration is often read as if only one heirship were in view. However, with only a slight alteration of the English punctuation (which is equally permissible in the original Greek), Paul’s words may be read as follows: and if children, then heirs—heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.
Under this reading of the text, there are two forms of heirship. One of these is based on being children of God. The other is based on
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suffering with Christ. This distinction is crucial for understanding the New Testament teaching on this subject.
The concept of two kinds of heirship is very natural indeed in the light of Old Testament custom. As is well known, in a Jewish family all the sons shared equally in their father’s inheritance, except for the oldest, or firstborn, son who received a double portion. That is, he inherited twice as much as the other sons.
Against this background, Paul can be understood as saying that all of God’s children are heirs, simply because they are children. But those who suffer with Christ have a special joint heirship with Christ. It is of great significance that later in this chapter Christ is actually described as the firstborn among many brethren (8:29).
Naturally, all believers are God’s heirs. In the eternal future they will most assuredly inherit all of the blessings which are unconditionally promised to them. Among these is an eternal glory (Romans 8:30) which is inherent in the resurrection itself. Hence Paul can say, The body is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power (1 Corinthians 15:42–43). Elsewhere he writes that we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body<...
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