Romans 8:17 by Robert Dean
Series:Spiritual Life (2000)
Duration:51 mins 56 secs

Inheritance; Romans 8: 17. Tape 13.





Verse 14, "For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God."


One of the things that most people think about when they come to this verse is that this is referring to an action performed on every believer. That since every believer is a son of God because we are all adopted into the royal family of God at the instant of salvation, that this is a reference to every believer. All who are led by the Spirit of God, [in this understanding] these are sons of God and the reverse would be true if you are a child of God then you are automatically led by the Spirit. But that is not what Paul is talking about here. Not every believer is following the leadership of God the Holy Spirit. This is the same thing that Paul emphasizes over in Galatians 5: 22, "but if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the Law..." the same idea follows because Paul has been addressing the Galatians who have succumbed to legalism and are trying to apply the Law as a means to spiritual growth. Paul is making the contrast that the way of spirituality is under the filling of the Holy Spirit and walking by the Spirit not through morality. The problem with many denominations is that they don't understand the unique factor about the spiritual life in the church age is that it is empowered by God the Holy Spirit and how you make that happen. It starts with confession of sin, so we are filled by means of the Spirit and we continue to walk by means of the Spirit which is a moment by moment dependence on the Holy Spirit to apply the principles of God's word. Those are the two power options in the Spiritual life. The Spirit of God and the word of God, they work together as a tandem principle, it is never one without the other. The leading of the Spirit is not some sort of mystical get in touch with your feelings, sit in your prayer closet and meditate and contemplate your navel until you think God speaks to you. The Spirit leads through the objective, written revelation of the scriptures, so there is no point of confusion there. This is talking about in context, two different types of believers and we built a chart last time of the two different types of believers in Romans chapter 8.


The Successful Believer      The Failure Believer


Walk: Lives his life according to the norms or standards of the Holy Spirit in that moment by moment dependence.

Walk: Lives his life according to the norms or standards of the Sin – nature. Either personal sin or human good.

Thinking: Renovating his thinking according to doctrine/Truth also called divine viewpoint for application in every area of life

Thinking: according to human viewpoint and operating on all kinds of worldly concepts and ideas for application in every area of life.

Results: Life and Peace – the abundant life, peace, stability and tranquillity despite his circumstances of adversity or prosperity.

Results: emptiness, there is temporal or carnal death and misery.

Attitude: wants to please God, learning doctrine is the highest priority and nothing takes its place.

He recognises his position in Christ as spiritual aristocracy and is now going to use that position to advance to spiritual maturity.


Attitude: becomes complacent towards God and Romans 8:7; says his attitude is hostile towards God.

Does not recognise his position in Christ as spiritual aristocracy and does not advance to spiritual maturity because he has an attitude of slavery where he keeps putting himself under the dominion of his own sin nature.

Sons: Children of God and Sons indeed (adult son)


Sons: Children of God

Heirs: Heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ


Heirs: Heirs of God





Verse 14, "For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God."


The one's who are led by the Spirit of God are identified as those who are actively involved in putting to death the deeds of the body. That is talking about the body of sin in context and the operation of the sin nature and that means that you have to be actively thinking about your own sin nature.


Ø  What are your trends?

Ø  What are your lust patterns?

Ø  How do you apply doctrine specifically in those areas?

Ø  What is it that is your particular area of strength or your particular area of weakness?

Ø  Being conscientious about the battle. The spiritual battle of taking every thought captive for Christ (2 Cor. 10:5) and putting to death the deeds of the flesh (Romans 8:13).

Ø  This doesn't mean that you simply confess your sin and now you are back in fellowship and that is the end of it. It is only the beginning. When you get back in fellowship all this does is put you back into a position of relationship with Christ where you can grow. It doesn't advance you any. It simply restores you back to that place where growth can take place.

Ø  The way growth takes place is by learning the word of God under the filling of the Holy Spirit and then applying the word of God. Doing what it says, either in the thought life or in overt action.


When we look at what the scriptures teaches about sons there is a contrast between the huios who is the adult son and a child, teknos,the child of God. The huios is an adult son, one who has accepted all of the privileges and responsibilities of adoption. The doctrine of adoption, we reviewed last time and is introduced in verse 15.


Verse 15, "...For you have not received a spirit [attitude/disposition] of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit [attitude/disposition] of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!"


You don't have the state of mind of a slave; you are not enslaved to that sin nature anymore, so get rid of that mentality where you are putting yourself under a slavery (bondage) to the sin nature thinking that, 'oh, I'm tempted therefore I must go along with that temptation.' Sometimes when we are tempted to do certain things we just don't think that we have any option because the pressure might be so strong. But what the scripture is saying is 'no, you have volition,' the unbeliever doesn't have volition, all he can do is sin, he may choose not to do that sin but he is only resisting in the power of the sin nature itself. What ever he does is sin because he is a slave to the sin nature. This is what Paul emphasizes back in verse 16 of chapter 6. "...Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone {as} slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death [carnal or temporal death], or of obedience resulting in righteousness..."


 If you are a believer and you continue to follow the sin nature then you are presenting your self as a slave, you have that attitude of slavery to the sin nature and the result is going to be death. But you can also present yourself to righteousness and obedience and that results in practical righteousness or sanctification and growth. So the bottom line is your volition, you make the decision; your life is the result of your decisions, no one else's. You can't say 'well, somebody did this to me,' because everyone has somebody who did something to them. You may have one set of circumstances perhaps in comparison they maybe pretty tough but we never know what other people have gone through. It is not our circumstances, it is how we respond to those circumstances that make the difference, because everyone has negative circumstances, adversity and suffering and we are all victims because Adam sinned and we all suffer the consequences and we all live in a fallen world but we are not victims in the sense that we can avoid responsibility.


We are either going to function as teknosthe child of God or huios an adult son. John 1:12 says ""...But as many as received Him, to them He gave the power to be called the children of God, {even} to those who believe in His name..." At the moment you accept Christ as your saviour you become a teknosa child of God. As a child of God you can advance to spiritual maturity and when you take the responsibilities of adulthood that is being a huios an adult son in this context. Paul is contrasting the attitude of a slave verses the believer who has an attitude of adoption. We looked at the doctrine of adoption last time and we saw what that meant in that society. There was the Greek concept of adoption and a Roman concept of adoption.


In the Greek concept of adoption it emphasised the family more and that family relationship and a father could adopt someone outside the family to be a member of the family. But it was up to the one adopted as to whether he would accept the responsibilities and the person who accepted those responsibilities then was elevated to a primary position in the family as the heir, even though he might not have a blood relationship.


On the other hand in Jewish society the first born might not be the first one born in order. Esau was born first in order but he gave up his inheritance rights to Jacob and when he did that Jacob became the first born because first born is a title of priority and Esau gave up his rights. At the time that Paul is writing Romans in the first century AD, in a Jewish context, when a person was adopted in a Jewish household then the title they called the father was this close intimate title of ABBA. That is an Aramaic term. So Paul is emphasizing here that as a believer you didn't get an attitude of slavery to the sin nature at salvation, for that is broken but you have received an attitude of adoption.


Now are you going to take on that responsibility and fulfil that obligation to pursue adulthood and to become an adult son?


Verse 16, "...The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God..."


This is not some sort of subjective communication. This is simply that the Holy Spirit gives our soul a sense of assurance of our salvation. It is restricted. The communication of the Holy Spirit and the witness of the Holy Spirit are restricted to assurance of salvation.


NASB – verses 17


"... and 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..."


Corrected translation– verses 17


"... and 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..."


The issue here is punctuation. The English version has a comma after children and a comma after Christ which makes heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ synonymous. If that's true, then the way you become an heir of God if through suffering and that's works. So it is just a poor punctuation and it should be punctuated and translated (as above).


So what we have in this passage then is not heirs of God and joint heirs as synonyms, but two different levels of heir- ship or inheritance. Heirs of God are common to every believer, all believers at the instant of salvation are heirs of God and as part of their inheritance every believer shares certain things in common. They are all going to receive resurrection bodies at the rapture, every single believer will spend eternity in heaven and every single believer will know the happiness and joy of heaven. But there will also be some distinction; there are going to be other believers who advanced to spiritual maturity and they become joint heirs with Christ and this has to do with their position of ruling in the Messianic kingdom and a position of responsibility in heaven. You can't assume a position of responsibility unless you have been properly trained first. The training ground is here and in phase two, between the time we are saved and the time we die. The issue is how much doctrine are you going to learn and apply so that you can grow to a level of responsibility so that in the Messianic kingdom and then in eternity you can have a place of ruling and reigning, but you have to have the capacity for it. If you don't advance in this life then there is no training and there is no preparation for that responsibility.




The doctrine of inheritance


  1. Two key words that are used are:


(a)  The noun kleronomosand it means inheritance, possession or property. The emphasis in the Greek word kleronomos and the Biblical concept of inheritance has more to do with possession of the property, that there is something that you have a responsibility for, something that is yours as opposed to someone dying and leaving it to you. It emphasises more the concept of possession then it does someone dying.

(b)  The verb is kleronomeo which means to possess, to receive something as one's own possession or to obtain something. It is used to describe a birth right for the believer by which every believer enters into by virtue of their sonship. We all have a birth right by virtue of our sonship, in Galatians 4:30, sonship is used to describe what happens at adoption. Every believer participates in that kind of sonship and this is our birth right. (Gal 4:30 and Heb 1:4). It is used to describe property given as a gift in Heb 1:14 and Heb 6:12 in contrast to a reward. In 1 Peter 3:9 though it is used to refer to property received on condition of obedience to certain conditions. This is received because you fulfil certain conditions.


In Heb 1:14 it is a gift with no conditions, in 1 Peter 3:9 it is based on conditions. That is a conflict unless there are two different kinds of inheritance. The rewards of 1 Peter 3:9 are based on meeting certain conditions and following certain activities. This is our inheritance which is related to the rewards received at the judgement seat of Christ.


  1. Jesus Christ is called the heir of all things in Hebrews 1:2, " these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world..." It is God the Son who revealed God the Father to us. He is the only begotten of the Father, John 1:18 says, "...No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained {Him.} ..." So Jesus Christ is the heir, that is why he is called the first born, He is called the first born in the Hebrews passage, not because He is first in the creation order as if there was a time when Christ was not, but because He is the designated heir, that is what prototokos means. In the Hebrew system the first born is often a title for the designated heir. He maybe the second, third or the forth one born but he is the first in priority so a good way to understand first born is the pre-eminent one, the one who gains the double portion in the Hebrew system. 
  2.  Inheritance for the believer is based on our adoption which occurs at the instant of salvation and we are entered into the royal family of God. Therefore inheritance is related to positional truth. It's related to Romans 6: 2 – 4, which says we have all died in Christ, we have been identified with Him in His death, burial and resurrection which is symbolised through water baptism and emersion. Inheritance is based on our adoption, it is part of our sonship and it is related to positional truth, Galatians 3:29, Galatians 4:1 and Romans 8:16 – 17. The thrust of that is that if you are the Father's son then you are the Father's heir. "... and if children heirs also heirs of God..." So that is the general inheritance of all believers.
  3. Inheritance is based on the grace promise of the Abrahamic covenant; everything goes back to what God promised Abraham. That is why it is a cornerstone for understanding everything that follows it in the scriptures. It is not just something that relates to the Jews in the Old Testament, but it is something that is critical for our own spiritual life today. Galatians 3:29, "...and if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise..." So every single believer is an heir by virtue of being 'in Christ.' We are recipients of that blessing of the third paragraph of the Abrahamic covenant.  Galatians 3:18 "...For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise..." So inheritance for all believers, being an heir of God is for every believer based on the Abrahamic promise and it is not based on any conditions of obedience.



  1. Inheritance demands eternal life because the son must have the same life as the father. To be an eternal heir you must have eternal life.


Titus 3: 5 – 7, "...He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour so that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to {the} hope of eternal life..."


A person is justified but he only has the potential of being made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. They are not seen as synonymous. So in this verse Paul is focusing not on being an heir of God but something more. Something that is conditioned on something else, not something that comes with justification but something that includes something else. It begins with eternal life and you can't be an heir unless first of all you have eternal life and have been regenerated.


  1. Heir ship means that we are to share the destiny of Christ. Jesus Christ has an eternal destiny and we share it as we share his election. You see that is what predestination means, the pre means 'before hand' and destination means 'a goal.' So it is a goal that is established beforehand, that before time God designed a destiny for us and that destiny is to be like Jesus Christ. But that doesn't happen apart from our volition, it happens by our volition being engaged in applying doctrine under the filling of the Holy Spirit.


Ephesians 1:11 says, "...also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will..."


also 1 Peter 1:3 – 4, "...Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to {obtain} an inheritance {which is} imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you...


  1. Inheritance is therefore a present reality and a future possession. This is developed further in 1 Peter 1:4 – 5,


" {obtain} an inheritance {which is} imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time..."


So this is a present reality and it is a future possession.


Ephesians 1:11 says, "...also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will..."


Ephesians 1: 13 – 14, "...In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation--having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of {God's own} possession, to the praise of His glory..."


So the sealing of the Holy Spirit that takes place at the instant of salvation is related to your inheritance and is a seal and a promise of that inheritance looking forward to our full possession of it when we are in heaven.


  1. Heir ship means eternal security. We get that from the sealing of the Spirit, we can do nothing to lose it, and we did nothing to earn it so we can do nothing to lose it. Ephesians 1: 13 – 14 and 1 Peter 1:4 – 5. It is an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away; it is reserved in heaven for us. But you see, when we talk in terms of category 1 inheritance which is being an heir of God, we have commonalities or something that is common to every believer.

But then there is the joint – heir ship with Christ possession, and these are contingent. There are two categories of contingent inheritance blessing.

(a)  There are contingent blessings in time. These are the blessings that God has designed for us in time that he will not provide for us until we grow to maturity; it is not a system of works. It is NOT 'well, if I go to Bible class and if I learn and if I memorise thirty verses God's going to give me a blessing.' It is that as you grow and mature, you become able to handle the blessings in terms of having the capacity to handle the responsibility of that blessing. God is willing to give it to us, in fact he has already designated it as ours from eternity past but we have to grow and mature so that we can be worthy of that blessing and can handle the blessing so it will not destroy us. God is not going to bless us with something that we are not ready to handle because it would destroy us, which is why they are contingent.

(b)  There are contingent blessings for eternity. If we don't grow and advance to spiritual maturity then those blessing either in time or in eternity will never be distributed and they will be just reserved in heaven for us and when we get there we can take a nice look at what we missed and they will never be ours because we never advanced in maturity to where we could handle those particular blessings.


  1. We have God the Holy Spirit who is the down payment of our inheritance this is through the sealing of the Spirit and he is the pledge of our inheritance in Ephesians 1:14 and Galatians 4:6.


  1. There is a problem here, in understanding these inheritance passages and that is that there are some passages which speak of inheritance as a permanent possession based on faith alone in Christ alone and then there are other passages which speak of inheritance as an acquisition or a reward.


  1. For example:


Ø  Ephesians 5:5 says, "...For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God..."

What does that means? It sounds like if inheritance is equivalent to gaining eternal life than that sounds like it is works. If you are immoral and impure or greedy or materialistic, oops! You can't be saved!

Ø   Colossians 3:24 says, "...knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve..."

There inheritance is identified with a reward, a reward is not grace, and a reward is for service rendered. So there it seems as if inheritance is based on service. Well if you don't serve Christ and you don't advance to maturity, can you have an inheritance?

Ø  The only way to resolve this difficulty is by showing that there are two inheritances. There is the inheritance of the kingdom, Ephesians 5:5 and 1 Cor 6: 9 – 10 and there is inherit salvation in Hebrews 1:14. There are two levels of possession.


  1. Just as Christ inherits the kingdom due to his loyalty to God the Father so will joint heirs with Christ.  Example offered as an Old Testament analogy.


Corrected translation– verses 17


"... and 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..."


...If indeed we suffer with Christ...


What does that mean 'to suffer with Christ?' There were two categories of suffering in the life of Christ

  1. He suffered on the Cross – we cannot share in that. He paid the penalty for our sin; this is not talking about what took place on Golgotha between 12 noon and 3pm when Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins.


  1. What we discover by reading the book of Hebrews is that in Heb 5:8



Ø  "...Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered..."

That is not talking about the cross. That is talking about His life in His perfect humanity from His birth to right before He went to the cross. He had to learn, He went through suffering, He lived in the devils world, He went through the testings in the wilderness where He was tempted personally by the devil, He went through various other testings throughout His life and He went through various amounts of suffering and adversity and He grew spiritually in that suffering in His humanity under the filling of God the Holy Spirit and applying doctrine.

Ø  That is what this verse is talking about, "...if we suffer with Him..." How do we suffer with him? We go through suffering in life and we handle it the same way he handled it. By dependence on God the Holy Spirit, applying the problem solving devices, (by applying the stress busters), that is how we advance because we are willing to live our life, solve our problems not on the basis of what comes naturally to us, the easy way out from our sin nature by following all of the gimmicks and the 'how to' principles of our psychological culture but by applying the principles of the word of God consistently.

Ø  The only way to do that is to make doctrine the number one priority and that means that we are constantly either getting tapes, listening to tapes when we can't be at Bible class and making being at Bible class that high priority so that our soul can be refreshed by the word of God.


Our Father, we do thank you that we have had this opportunity to look at your word and to be challenged with the fact that we do have an inheritance that is reserved it is undefiled and it is in heaven waiting for us. But the issue is our volition, whether or not we are willing to advance to the high ground of Spiritual maturity making our spiritual life and our spiritual growth a matter of the highest priority and being willing to deal with the distractions so that we can put our relationship with you first and our desire to glorify you through the things we learn and apply. Father we pray that you would help us to understand these things and to look at our lives objectively and clearly so that we can see how we need to apply this. In Christ name, Amen.