NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER EIGHT (Lesson XXVI)
Speaking of being joint-heirs with Christ, Charles Spurgeon follows this same theme by noting that all members of God’s family are not just co-heirs, but equal-heirs. As such, Abraham and all the patriarchs are not heirs of more than those who will be born into God’s kingdom the day before our Lord returns. Then Spurgeon asks: “Heirs of what?” He goes on to say that we are heirs of what God chooses to give and He has promised to give of Himself. If this is true, then nothing more need be said. Spurgeon then makes reference to the troubles and trials that the prophet Jeremiah suffered because of preaching the word God gave him. Yet, in the midst of his sorrows he stated: “I said to myself, the LORD is my inheritance, therefore, I will put my hope in Him.”1 For Spurgeon, this is a blessed co-partnership – this fellowship: joint-heirs with Christ. What a joy to take part in the whole heritage of grace, as well the heritage of suffering that allows us to be part of God’s glory.2
Frédéric Godet has a lengthy commentary on this verse, but it is worth looking at some of what he says. For Godet, Paul is using an expression chosen specifically to impress us with the grandeur of what has been promised: being co-heirs with Christ. Such loftiness of holding the title as heirs of God could have easily been overlooked had not Paul taken what some would consider an abstract idea and made it tangible by adding concrete facts. Godet explains that being an heir with Christ does not mean that it is first given to Him and then He gives it to us. Rather we will be given possession of the inheritance at the same time as He receives it from the Father so that we receive the divine possession with Him.
Godet goes on to say that in order to get a better view of what it means to be called joint-heirs with Christ, we should consider what the relationship between Christ and the Father really entails. By doing so, we should have a better understanding of what we are hoping for as children of God.3 In order to come into possession of the inheritance, one precondition must be met: only if we suffer with Him. Paul no doubt knew that as ambitious and excited some are to stand in Christ’s glory with Him, they are equally as likely to recoil from any thought of having to go through suffering to get there. But it is precisely in suffering that the cohesive bond between Christ and His followers is strengthened. That’s why, when qualifying as His joint-heirs, we are drawn closer and closer to Him. As Godet sees it, we can only take possession of the glorious heritage by accepting and doing our part in the common inheritance of suffering as He did.4
Douglas Moo believes that to better understand what Paul has said here we should combine Romans 8:14-17 with Galatians 4:3b-7. He points out that in both passages, Paul talks convincingly about how believers are transformed from being slaves of sin to sons of God through the sacrificial death of Christ. That was the reason He was sent to be one of us. This elevated status was acquired through the process of adoption. And being adopted is tied to the indwelling of the Spirit of God. It is the Spirit who makes us aware that we now belong to God as His dearly loved children. Not what someone else says or claims, but the personal testimony inside our heart and mind as the Spirit agrees with our spirit that this transformation has happened. Being God’s children then leads to our being His joint-heirs.5
Jewish scholar David Stern agrees with Dr. Moo on examining this in the context of verses 14-17. He asks the question, “How do we know that the Spirit will empower us to obey the Torah, as promised in verses 1–13?” We get the answer from Paul’s guarantee as a God-appointed Apostle to the Gentiles that the Good News he brought contained an inspired message of hope. That message is clear: We who trust Yeshua will one day share in His glory. So what Paul is saying here is that God put His Spirit inside all believers to give them the assurance and confidence that it is all true. Also, that we will be victorious no matter what sufferings, discouragements, and doubts we meet along the way.
Says Stern, the first part of this blessed assurance is that the Spirit within us is God’s Spirit. This is the identical Spirit that moved over the face of the waters on the first day of creation.6 The same Spirit who inspired the prophets.7 It is by the same Spirit who is co-equal with God the Father and Yeshua the Son,8 that we are being led. The second part of the assurance is certified by our being bonafide adopted children of God. We do not follow Yeshua as slaves which would imply alienation because we would not be serving Him willingly. Also, our relationship with God is one of deep intimacy, the kind that allows children to lovingly call their father “Papa.”9 Furthermore, the family relationship we have with the Father is not only personal but legal. This is what makes us heirs of God as joint-heirs with the Messiah, our divine brother.”10
Stern then goes on to say that this adoption by God to become His children is only for those who are led and follow the leading of God’s Spirit. Another way of saying it is only those who have put their full trust for salvation in Yeshua. He alone is the one who sends the Spirit.11 Also, those who do not have Yeshua in their hearts are not in the Father’s heart either.12 And for everyone who believes in God the Father and Yeshua the Son, the Spirit of God Himself bears witness with our own spirit that we are children of God. But we must keep believing, hoping, and waiting because the adoption process will not reach its ultimate climax until our whole bodies are redeemed and set free,13 so we can become like Him.14 Adoption is so important because it follows reconciliation; on our being restored to God’s favor from our former condition as His enemies and becoming His family and friends.15
Stern concludes with by making note that in many Western societies individuals who have been adopted are stigmatized as not being real or genuine members of the family. But in God’s eyes, adoption is a very positive state of being. Those who have been adopted are first-class children of God. Furthermore, they become legitimate joint-heirs with the Messiah. That’s why as babes in Christ we can grow up gratified at having been chosen by God and adopted into the elect family of the redeemed. And the big difference between normal human adoption and God’s divine plan of adoption is that all who are chosen are then born-again into the family of God. Does it get any more real! As such we have been transferred from death to eternal life by God the Father at His own bidding16.17
Verse 18: We have pain and sorrow now, but these are nothing compared to the great glory that will be given to us.
Paul also wants the Roman believers to know that this is not what we would call today, “bait and switch.” That means, a person is promised one thing for their compliance, but when they finish they are given something totally different. One serious problem found in current preaching and teaching in the church is that all emphasis is placed on the glory and blessings of the Christian life, while the hardships and persecution are left untouched. Jesus made it clear when He said: “When you are reviled and persecuted and lied about because you are my followers – that’s wonderful! Be happy about it! Be very glad! for a tremendous reward awaits you up in heaven.”18
As Paul neared the end of his missionary journeys, he told those who came out to hear him preach: “Life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus – the work of telling others the Good News about God’s mighty kindness and love.”19 We must keep in mind that part of that ministry involved persecution, beatings, being jailed, fleeing or his life, and eventually being tried and martyred for the sake of the Gospel. Because of this, he was able to tell the Corinthians: “These troubles and sufferings of ours are, after all, quite small and won’t last very long. Yet this short time of distress will result in God’s richest blessing upon us forever and ever! So we do not look at what we can see right now, the troubles all around us, but we look forward to the joys in heaven which we have not yet seen. The troubles will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.”20
The writer of Hebrews uses Moses as an example of such dedication: “It was by faith that Moses when he grew up, refused to be treated as the grandson of Pharaoh, but chose to share ill-treatment with God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. He thought that it was better to suffer for the promised Christ than to own all the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking forward to the great reward that God would give him.”21
Even the Apostle Peter, who knew what it was to suffer for the cause of Christ, had this to say: “So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though the going is rough for a while down here. These trials are only to test your faith, to see whether or not it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests gold and purifies it—and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold; so if your faith remains strong after being tried in the test tube of fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day of His return.”22
So Paul tells the Colossians: “When Christ who is our real life comes back again, you will shine with Him and share in all His glories.”23 And when he wrote the anxious saints in Thessalonica he encouraged them by saying: “I would say to you who are suffering, God will give you rest along with us when the Lord Jesus appears suddenly from heaven in flaming fire with His mighty angels… When He comes to receive praise and admiration because of all He has done for His people, His saints, you will be among those praising Him because you have believed what we told you about Him… Then everyone will be praising the name of the Lord Jesus Christ because of the results they see in you, and your greatest glory will be that you belong to Him. The tender mercy of our God and of the Lord Jesus Christ has made all this possible for you.”24
1 Lamentations 3:24
2 Charles Spurgeon: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
3 See verse 29
4 Frdric Louis Godet: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
5 Douglas Moo: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
6 Genesis 1:2
7 Isaiah 61:1
8 Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 3:17–18
9 See Mark 14:36
10 Verse 29; see also Ephesians 3: 6
11 John 14:26
12 1 John 2:23
13 Verse 23
14 1 John 3:2,3; Other scriptures on adoption: John 1:12; Galatians 4:4–5; Ephesians 1:5
15 Romans 5:10-11
16 Matthew 5:48
17 David H. Stern: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
18 Matthew 5:11-12
19 Acts of the Apostles 20:24
20 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
21 Hebrews 11:24-26
22 1 Peter 1:6-7
23 Colossians 3:4
24 2 Thessalonians 1:7-12