If children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ” (Rom 8:17a).[1] In Romans 8, Paul mentions three marks of being children and sons of God: Spirit led (v14), adoption (vv15,23) and heirship (v17). Let us look at some aspects of heirship.

First, note the condition of heirship – “if children, then heirs.” Only those who are the “children of God” (1Jn 3:1) are “heirs of God.” One becomes a child of God only through the new birth (Joh 1:12). God begets us through His Word and of His own will (Jas 1:18; 1Pe 1:24). Once we were the “sons of disobedience” (Eph 2:2b) by practice and “children of wrath” by nature, but we are now “sons of God” in our responsibility and “children of God” in our relationship. It is commonly accepted that children inherit their parents’ estate (2Co 12:14b). An heir does not earn or purchase his inheritance; it is his by birth. We were born into the royal family of heaven and, consequently, have come into a vast and glorious inheritance (1Pe 1:4).

Next, consider the certainty of heirship – “if children, then heirs.” There is no possibility for a child of God to be disinherited. The God who cannot change and who cannot lie said so! We are “heirs of the promise” (Gal 3:29). God promised Abraham a global blessing and is thus bound by His character. Some lose their earthly inheritance, either through their father’s caprice or by a premature death. God guards both us and our inheritance! We are “kept by the power of God” (1Pe 1:5a) and our inheritance is “reserved in heaven” for us (v4b). We are not only guaranteed our inheritance, but we ourselves are assured to make it to heaven. Ours is an “eternal inheritance” (Heb 9:15), “incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away” (1Pe 1:4a).

Furthermore, we are “co-heirs with Christ.” First, this means that we have nothing apart from Christ. The death of our testator effected the will, and He, by His resurrection, became the executor of His own estate, thus bringing us into His bounty. Second, it means all that the Father has given to His Son also becomes ours. If the Lord Jesus is the “heir of all things,” then as his co-heirs we become heir of all things! Since nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, and we are bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh, eternally and inextricably united to Him, all that is His belongs to us! “All things are yours” because “ye are Christ’s and Christ is God’s” (1Cor 3:21,23). The fact that we are “in Christ” means His unsearchable riches come to us by virtue of our union with Him.

Note also the character of our inheritance. The world has so conditioned our minds into thinking of our heavenly inheritance in earthly and material terms. It’s a sad spiritual state if my longing is to satiate my carnal desires for mansions in the sky and for the streets of gold. But the nature of our inheritance is spiritual (Eph 1:11-14) and not material, which “moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal” (Mat 6:19). Ephesians 1 describes our spiritual blessings – redemption through His blood, forgiveness of sins, peace with God, predestination to the adoption of sons. These spiritual blessings cannot be bought with money but are bestowments of grace. Think of the riches that we inherit – “riches of his mercy,” “riches of his goodness” and “riches of his grace.” As wealthy heirs, our Father wants us to reciprocate His generosity. “Freely ye have received, freely give” (Mat 10:8). The Lord Jesus has made us rich (2Co 8:9), and so let the “riches of our liberality” be evident (v2). We can never exhaust the divine storehouses of our Heavenly Father, so let us give like He gives – liberally and not sparingly, joyfully and not grudgingly. Our Father has endowed us with spiritual gifts, and so let us be lavish in our use of them for the edification of His Church and the furtherance of His kingdom. Let us apply those gifts so they reap dividends for eternity. Let us be liberal in our dispensing of grace, mercy and goodness to those in need.

God also invests in the character of His heirs. A good monarch takes careful pains in caring for his heir’s education, diet and companionships so that he is fitted for the great task ahead. So our Father puts great care in the education of His sons and puts them through His school, an essential part of which is the school of affliction (Heb 12:4-11). To properly manage His divine estate, we must be “partakers of his holiness” and produce in our character the “peaceable fruit of righteousness.” Paul reminds us that we are not just heirs of our Lord’s blessings but also heirs of His sufferings (Rom 8:17b). As the inimitable Spurgeon put it, “On the edge of your Father’s great inheritance lies the swamp and morass of affliction … they are bequeathed to you in the same will. The same legacy that left peace with you also left tribulation with you in this world … Christ’s cross is entailed on all of God’s heirs.” As someone else put it, our life here is training for reigning.

Finally, let us contribute to our inheritance. We ought to add to our treasures in heaven. Like prodigious sons who further the family business and add to the family wealth, let us add to our Father’s divine treasury. In the Old Testament, the Israelites expanded their inheritance by taking land from the nations around. So, let us be prodigious in our gospel zeal, storming the gates of hell and rescuing perishing souls from the enemy’s thralldom.

Until the day we enter our inheritance, let us be about our Father’s business as servant sons.

[1] Bible quotations in this article are from the KJV.