Rockefellers and WaltonsPrepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Romans 8:17a (Holman) . . . and if children, also heirs . . .
An heir is anyone who possesses a natural or legal right to the inheritance of another. Heirs usually do not fare very well. Few strike it rich through inheritances, but the few who do are often highly publicized. Early in the twentieth century, John D. Rockefeller, the first billionaire ever, was the richest man in the world. The inheritance he left behind is still a powerful force. The same can be said of a few other families, including the heirs of Wal-Mart magnate, Sam Walton.
Some of the world’s wealthiest people owe their wealth to their birth, but none of them can compare to the wealth that is ours due to our new birth. It is far better to be born twice and have little money than born once and financially rich.
Romans 8:17b . . . of God . . .
We Christians have no little inheritance to take pride in. We have much because we are heirs of God. Since we are adopted, we are children; and since we are children, we are heirs. All God’s children are heirs. We are not all preachers or teachers, but we are all heirs. What belongs to the Heavenly Father belongs to us.
This is the best inheritance anyone can possess, but we often do not seem to be appreciative, as if we do not realize all that is ours. Once a wealthy man who never knew his heritage of riches, lived on tips he received as a porter in a railway station. One day he was told he was an Earl, entitled to a large estate. Be assured the man quit collecting tips. He immediately took possession of his inheritance.
This is what Christians should do. We need to awaken to the importance of knowing we are God’s children, and therefore His heirs. We need to realize what is ours, and enter into the responsibilities and privileges of our inheritance.
Christians should concentrate more on their spiritual inheritance than their earthly one. Heirs to this world’s fortunes can face setback on several accounts.
One, estates are sometimes inconclusive. There can be a flaw in the will, or a suit against it. Years ago our nation watched with interest the fiasco surrounding the settlement of Howard Hughes’ estate. There were forged wills, outdated wills, out-of-state wills, unfiled wills, and anything else that there could possibly be.
There is no confusion regarding our spiritual inheritance. No suit can be brought against it. God the Judge is satisfied with Jesus’ handling of all the legal aspects of the case. God is pleased with the way our inheritance is probated.
Two, estates are sometimes insignificant. Do not be surprised if your parents state in their will, “Being of sound mind, before we died we spent everything we had.” Or even if there is an inheritance, after legal fees and taxes there may be little left to distribute. Praise God there is no possibility of shortage in our inheritance. He who gave us His only Son will not deprive us of any good thing.
Three, estates are sometimes insolvent. It is possible to inherit a debt. In the Civil War, Ruth’s great great grandfather and two of his young sons died instantly in a boiler explosion. They meant to wash their hands, but someone fatally turned the wrong valve. The widow was left to manage an estate including many debts.
It took several painstaking years to clear the estate. The probate records of her difficulties are at the courthouse in Benton, Missouri. She had to appear before a Judge annually and give an accounting of her progress. This cannot happen to us spiritually. Jesus paid all the debts. No spiritual claims can be charged against us.
Four, estates are sometimes insecure. We never know for sure what will become of an earthly inheritance. “Never count your chickens before they hatch.”
I am my parents’ heir; I do not expect to strike oil when we dig their graves. They recently briefed me on their finances. I was impressed by their assets, and depressed by their liabilities. My dad has hundreds of Bible verses memorized. I hope one is, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his grandchildren” (PR 13:22).
None of us knows what the future holds financially. Our lives can change at any moment. Sam Walton’s heirs are among America’s wealthiest people now, but may not be in a few years. Rockefeller may someday be a forgotten name.
The circumstances of earthly parents can suddenly change. People have financial reverses. Countless problems can arise. Ruth’s great grandfather did not learn from his father’s mistake. He had plenty, but buried it somewhere on his farm. As a teenager, my father-in-law helped nurse this man. The old farmer said he was going to show my father-in-law where the money was hidden, but then died within 48 hours. The money was never found. Earthly inheritances are at best insecure, but our spiritual inheritance is secure because God Himself oversees it.
Romans 8:17c . . . and coheirs with Christ . . .
We cannot be deprived of our spiritual inheritance. Ours is safe. We are sure of this because we are heirs not only of God, but also of Jesus. Actually we have a triple security. We are heirs by the Spirit, heirs of the Father, heirs with the Son.
We have no inherent right to any good thing. Our right of inheritance lies in Christ.
All we receive is due to the fact God counts us as being in union with Jesus, who is appointed “heir of all things” (HB 1:2). Since all the Father has is given to the Son, the only way to receive the Father’s gifts is to be united to His only Son.
Only in Christ can we possess good things God has for us, and once we are in Christ all that belongs to Him belongs to us. His heritage becomes our heritage. Since our inheritance is ours due to Christ, always give Him all the glory for it.
Romans 8:17d . . . seeing that we suffer with Him so that we may also
be glorified with Him.
Paul told us the exact nature of our inheritance. It is made up of not worldly things, but of two spiritual things. One, suffering now. This passage on suffering is not a break in Paul’s thought. Our inheritance includes suffering in this life. Conversion does not bring instant panacea. Sorrows will lie all along our path.
This suffering is not natural adversities common to all people (illness, debt, bereavement, etc.), but suffering incurred because one is a Christ-follower. Our Lord suffered in this life, and no servant is above his Master. Jesus suffered voluntarily; He chose to do whatever was necessary to please His Father.
Christ’s life was one of obedience, and thus He suffered. It made him the object of evil people’s hostility and Satan’s fiercest darts. It caused Him to live in self-denial. Sacrifice marked Christ’s life, and we are to follow His footsteps.
Suffering irks flesh and blood. We recoil from it, but to share His crown we must first share His cross. We must consciously and voluntarily elect to do this.
Jesus said, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23b); “Whoever doesn’t take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:38).
We are to say “No!” to the world’s applause, to our carnal selves, and to Satan’s temptations. This can cause us painful suffering. It is agonizing to deny ourselves certain physical gratifications, but is necessary for real Christian living.
Any part of us that might lead to sin must be denied. Paul said, “I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified” (I Cor. 9:27). This never-ending conflict inside us is a major part of our suffering. Our two natures are locked in a warfare that pains us.
If the new nature wins a battle, our flesh is disappointed. If the old nature wins a battle, our consciences are pained. However the conflict goes, there is pain.
Our life is one of conflict and sorrow. Holiness is not won with ease. Evil has to be slain every day, every hour, every minute. “In long lingering agony often, with the blood of the heart pouring out at every quivering vein, you are to cut right through the life and being of that sinful self” (Maclaren).
Do not be surprised at the never-ending struggle we find ourselves in. The conflict should not make us doubt our salvation, but should be deemed an evidence of salvation. The fact we struggle against evil should increase our assurance.
The struggle is a burning brand that characterizes believers. “All Christ’s sheep are branded with a cross” (Anonymous); It proves Who owns us.
Two, glory in the future. Fortunately, the hard part of our inheritance comes first. For believers, the best is always yet to come. The pathway is strewn with suffering, but after physical death the road leads to glory, to being entirely delivered from the presence of suffering and sin.
Christ’s life is to be lived again in the life of every believer. Before His physical death Jesus suffered; after death, he enjoyed glory. His followers live by the same chronology. Before death, we suffer; after death, we enjoy glory.
Knowing what awaits us should help us accept our sufferings with a good spirit. We need a submissive attitude. We should feel honored to be able to say no to the world, Satan, and us. Bear the cross with joy. Accepting our lot lightens the weight of the cross; a rebellious spirit turns a wooden cross into an iron one.
Another consolation is that Christ Himself ministers to us in our suffering. When passing through a heavily wooded area, a trailblazer constantly breaks twigs and branches in order that those who follow can track his path. They who come behind have comfort in knowing that they are tracing the steps of the leader.
Believers have a similar experience. However painful the road, or dark the woods of suffering, we look around and see broken twigs and branches. These prove Jesus preceded us. He suffered what we suffer. He knows how we feel.
Not only has He preceded us. He has returned to be with us. Listen closely; you will hear the soft tread of His feet. Meditate on His tender hand brushing over our weary heads. Enjoy His fragrance that can suddenly fill the air. Take it all in, and then, weary one, lean against His breast, and rest.