Hope and Inheritance
1 Peter 1:3-4
1 Peter Lesson #023
August 19, 2015
“Father, we are thankful we have this time together to come before Your Throne of grace to bring various prayer requests before you and to remember our missionaries, specifically this evening. We remember Jim Myers and his ministry and the things they have to get done before they go back to Ukraine this week. We also remember Paul and Lena and their ministry in Ukraine. We pray as they travel around the U.S. and talk to different churches that you will provide for their ministry. Father, we are thankful that we have You to come to in time of need because we know You care for us, You strengthen us and guide us and You are our fortification, our strength and our bulwark. You are our rock. Father we pray that tonight as we continue our study in 1 Peter and these important doctrines in the Scripture related to our future inheritance that You might help us to think our way through what the Scripture says. As intended we pray this might be a motivation for us in our spiritual life. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
We’re studying through 1 Peter but as happens so frequently when we’re going through the Scripture we find that certain ideas are taught that are not always clearly understood today. They’re really built on an understanding of what the Scripture covers across the breadth of Scripture all the way from Genesis to Revelation. We are in that kind of a section right now. (Slide 3) We’re in 1 Peter 1:4 and we’re looking at the topic of inheritance.
Just to put us into context, I want to read this section because verses 1–3 represents a basic thought in the original Greek. It represents a sentence, and a sentence is your basic thought unit. Here Peter is talking about why we are to praise God because of what He has provided for us in terms of our regeneration that we have new life. (Slide 4) It is a new life toward a particular goal and that it is a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and it is toward [verse 4] an inheritance that is incorruptible, undefiled, and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you who are kept by the power of God for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Now, at a surface reading of this text there are many people who have taken verse 4, the incorruptible, undefiled, unfading inheritance as a reference to our eternal security. While that is certainly a part of this that is not what Peter is focusing on here. He is focusing on something that is in addition to our justification which is often talked about in Scripture through terms such as inheritance, heirship, and also in terms of rewards for the Christian. There is a distinction between rewards and salvation. Salvation is a free gift whereas rewards are earned. So we have to stop. We started this last week looking at the Old Testament.
As we looked at this passage I pointed out that we have these three terms: living hope that means a certain expectation, a confident certainty and expectation of the future. It is focusing on the future. It is reserved in Heaven for you. It also focuses us on a future eternal destiny that is something to be revealed in the last time, of course, which focuses us on this future. We know from other passages such as 1 Corinthians 3:12 and following that there is a future judgment for believers, not to determine where we are going to end up, whether Heaven or the Lake of Fire, but a judgment based upon our service and our spiritual growth in this life to determine our future roles, responsibilities, and rewards that are ours in the coming Messianic Kingdom which is a 1,000-year reign of Jesus Christ which comes after the second coming of Christ and then on into eternity. So this is something that is future. The concept of inheritance relates to rewards and relates to the Judgment Seat of Christ
(Slide 5) This is also connected as we saw in our study of Titus 3:7. In 1 Peter 1:3 it talks about the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has caused us to be born again to a living hope. When we were studying what it meant to be regenerated, to be born again, to be given new life in Christ on the basis of faith in Him we went to Titus 3:5. Titus 3:5 states that it is, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” So it is not based on something we do. We do not earn salvation. Salvation is not based on our merits but it is based on what Christ did on the Cross: that He paid the penalty for our sins. Regeneration is an act that is performed by God through the Holy Spirit at the moment that we have faith and trust in Jesus Christ as our Savior.
Titus 3:5, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” Works are excluded there in terms of regeneration. Works are excluded in terms of justification because as Romans teaches we are justified by faith alone.
When we come down to Titus 3:7 Paul says, “Having been justified [a past tense in the aorist tense] by His grace, we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” So there is a potential there of an inheritance. Whether or not we realize that additional blessing in Heaven (additional to eternal life, additional to eternity in Heaven) whether or not we realize that is going to be dependent upon our obedience. I want to lay the foundation for that and that is what I have been doing as we have looked at the biblical doctrine of inheritance. (Slide 6)
A quick review. (Slide 7) We looked at the words last week. There are basically three words. The verb form of the word KLERONOMEO means to inherit. That is used in reference to passages like those who will inherit salvation. It is used in terms of birthright. It is used in terms of property that is received as a gift or property that is received on condition of obedience to certain conditions or as a reward for meeting certain conditions. It has this idea, as we will see as essentially property, but it is something that is inherited.
(Slide 8) The noun form for inheritance of property is KLERONOMIA, which simply refers to the inheritance itself. One thing I want to note here because I do not have it on the slide is that the root form is KLER and the root noun is KLEROS which refers to a portion or a share of an inheritance. That will be important when we come back so we have the noun for inheritance or property.
(Slide 9) Third, we have the noun which designates the heir: KLERONOMOS, the one who receives the inheritance or the property. Now in American or western language we think of inheritance as someone dying and there is a bequest or a will and they receive certain property that had been owned by someone else. Now it is given to someone or passed on from generation to generation due to their death. In the Scripture the Old Testament and the New Testament word group basically had the idea of ownership or possession of something. It does not necessarily imply that someone dies in order to gain something.
(Slide 10) In Hebrews 1:2 we read that God, “Has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things.” That does not imply that someone died and Jesus inherited. He is the owner. He will be placed in a position of authority over all of the universe on the basis of something. What did Jesus do? When we studied through Hebrews 1, 2, and 3 Jesus becomes designated as an heir because He obeyed God during the time He was on the earth, during the time of His Incarnation. It is not Jesus in terms of His deity who becomes an heir because as Divine He is always in authority over everything. He was a co-creator with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit in eternity past. In terms of His deity He has always been that but what happens at the Incarnation, the second Person of the Trinity, the Eternal Son of God, enters into human history as Jesus of Nazareth who is Jesus the Messiah and He enters into human history and as such, He is born without sin. Then He lives His life without sin and He goes through suffering and testing in order to be qualified to be the Savior. Then He dies on the Cross and He does not cave in to temptation or testing. There is no sin found in Him. As a result of that, in His humanity, He is going to be appointed the heir of all things. He is going to be the ruler over the planet.
We have studied this a lot in the past. This is sort of a quick review. When mankind is created in Genesis 1, Adam is created to rule (Genesis 1:26–27) over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and the beasts of the field and man is to be the king of the earth. Adam fails by failing the test God put in the Garden of Eden, the test to not eat from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil so when Adam disobeyed God, Adam falls into sin, creation falls under the curse of sin and Adam loses, because of sin, his ability to fulfill the destiny that God has designed him to rule as the king of the earth. In God’s redemptive plan, first of all, He has to solve the problem of sin which is what happens when Jesus Christ dies on the Cross for the sins of the world, but He has to bring man back to the position where there is a perfect human ruler that can reign over all of God’s creation.
Jesus Christ performs the first phase of that at the Cross. The second phase will be fulfilled when He returns as the messianic King. Then He rules over all creation. This is His inheritance, a reward for His obedience in terms of His humanity. It is His humanity that is rewarded, His humanity that receives this authority. At the Second Coming it is a human being who is going to rule over creation. It is Jesus Christ who rules over creation. It is not God, apart from humanity. This is the role of the God-man Savior within our understanding of Christianity. This is what is important to understand. There is not a need for someone to die and pass on property. The emphasis is on ownership, authority, and property.
We looked at that mostly last time. (Slide 11) The third category which I think we touched on last time is that we have to go back into the Old Testament to understand this concept of inheritance and heirship. Many of these passages, especially in Hebrews which many of you went through with me around ten years ago but our memories have faded in terms of that, but we understand and remember mostly the major concepts which we covered. What we saw in Hebrews was that the writer who speaks a tremendous amount about inheritance and heirship all through that epistle does so on the basis of a vast number of quotations from the Old Testament. We have to go back to the Old Testament to understand how these words were used.
When you read through the Bible and you start in Genesis and start working your way through you realize that as God introduces new ideas, new concepts, and new vocabulary that starts to shape how we are to understand his revelation. When we do any kind of word study, any kind of discussion on any kind of doctrine, we always have to go back to when this doctrine was first introduced in the Old Testament and what those words and terms mean in the Old Testament, because that sets the framework for being able to understand what is stated later on.
God did not just reveal the Bible in one lump sum. He does not just dump it out there in one book. When you have these religions that come along that have been invented by men like Joseph Smith with the Book of Mormon and Muhammad with Islam, they have one book. It is very interesting to study the similarities between Islam and Mormonism. In Mormonism Joseph Smith is from this little town called Palmyra, New York. I have been there. I have been to the cabin where he grew up. I have been to the mountain across the way where he goes up and the Angel Moroni appears to him, allegedly, and gives him this book and these magic glasses to be able to translate it. Something somewhat similar happens to Muhammad. He goes up to a mountain where he is on a fast and a spirit appears to him and reveals the Koran to him. He has got to remember it and go back and write it down. There are a lot of similarities there but it is all one revelation given at one time.
But the uniqueness about the Bible that sets Christianity apart is that the Bible is written by over forty authors over probably a period about 2,000 years. Job is the earliest and is written before Abraham or about the time of Abraham. Then we have these sixty-six books that are written by over forty authors over 2,000 years addressing some of the most controversial topics and doctrines that have ever been discussed in human history. These authors are from three different continents, Africa, Asia, and Europe. They write from different continents. They minister in different places and yet they write in one hundred percent agreement. There is no disagreement among them. There are no contradictions and this makes Scripture stand out.
God is progressively revealing a plan; He does not just dump it all on Adam on day one. A little is given here, a little is given there and there is a gradual building that we refer to as progressive revelation. God progressively reveals more and more, just as you as a parent teach your children. You do not start off teaching them advanced mathematics and calculus and expect them instantly to speak three or four different languages or to already understand everything. You start off gradually and then you build on it. This is how Scripture introduces concepts and starts building them down through the course of the centuries so we study things as they are developed across the panorama of history in the Old Testament.
In this third point we are going back to the Old Testament. (Slide 11) The concept of inheritance is first introduced and talked about with Abraham where we have the terminology used. Then it is developed more during the time of Moses at Mt. Sinai, the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The foundation will take us back to looking at Abraham in Genesis. There are certain categories of people in the Old Testament. We understand that throughout the Old Testament the possession of the land which God promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is consistently referred to by this word inheritance. The word inheritance as we have seen talks about possession. God says I will give you this land as an inheritance, as a possession, and it will be yours throughout all of the generations. This kind of language is used again and again and again. When the tribes move in during the conquest period, they are given their inheritance. The land is then divided up and the last part of the book of Joshua sort of reads like a real estate contract because the borders are all set out for each particular tribe so they would go to their tribal allotment. They were responsible for feeding the Canaanites who were there. They failed and that is part of the story going on into the book of Judges.
The idea is that they are each given this tribal allotment—but not everyone, not every tribe. There was one tribe that was not given a possession in the land. They were not given any tribal allotment and that is the tribe of Levi. You have three different kinds of people living in Israel. You have those who are called sojourners. This was a term that was used to refer to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob because they did not own any land or real estate in the land God gave them, other than the burial place, the cave of Machpelah, that Abraham purchased for the burial of his wife, Sarah, and himself. You can go there today. Of course it has been impacted by the whole Israeli/Palestinian/Arab conflict. The Arabs control one-third of it. The Israelis have control of two-thirds of it. You can go in and see parts of it. You cannot go down into the cave. Herod built a huge edifice on top of it. You can go in there and see the monuments that are there for Abraham and Sarah and for Jacob and Leah. Rachel is buried outside of Bethlehem. So they are sojourners. They live in the land but they did not own any real estate there.
Strangers were aliens. They were not Jews. They had no ownership in the land. They were not converting to become Jews like Ruth did when she married Boaz. She was a Moabitess and she became a Jew. But strangers were those who were not Jewish and did not have property rights in the land.
Then there was a tribe of Levi. The Levites were not given any land. They were to be scattered out among all of the tribes so that there would be a Levite living within a short distance of every Jew in the land, so that they could go to for instruction on the Law. God provided the Levites for that particular role, to teach the people about Himself, to teach them the proper rituals, proper sacrifices, and to teach the Law.
Ownership in the land, or inheritance, was not something everyone had. You had people who had inheritance in the land but not everyone was an heir. You had many people who lived there but only a few who were owners in the land. That is important because it helps us understand inheritance passages applied to Church Age believers. Too often when we get to passages in the New Testament when it talks about those who commit this list of sins will not inherit the kingdom, and too often that phrase had been interpreted to mean they won’t go into Heaven. But inheriting the kingdom does not mean getting into Heaven. It means having certain ownership responsibilities and privileges in the kingdom. There will be many believers who will be in the kingdom but they won’t have any inheritance in the kingdom because they have failed. Now, that is sort of the summary. We will look at the precedents for this in the Old Testament.
(Slide 12) A couple of passages that I pointed out last time would be like Exodus 12:48, “But if a stranger sojourns with you and celebrates the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near to celebrate.” So you have these who are not owners in the land. They are just sojourners. We would call them resident aliens but they do not have the same rights and privileges as the citizens do, those who have inheritance rights.
(Slide 13) A passage dealing with the Levites is Numbers 18:20, “Then the Lord said to Aaron, ‘You shall no inheritance in the land.’ ” That is the Hebrew word nahal which means to inherit or possess. “Nor own any portion among them.” Then God says, “I am your portion.” That word portion is important. It is the word heleq. which has the idea of a portion or a share in an inheritance. It is translated often with the Greek word KLEROS which goes back to what I said about KLERONOMIA, KLERONOMOS. That first part of that word, that KLER is the Greek root which means a portion or a share. So God is telling the Levites that He is their inheritance. It has to do with that personal relation.
Where that is going to be important is that part of the study of inheritance is that when we get to Heaven, every Christian has certain things in common. Everyone has a resurrection body. Everyone is going to be absent a sin nature. Everyone is going to have maximum happiness in relation to them as an individual. In other words, everyone is going to have a “happy cup” but not everyone’s “happy cup” is the same size. Some people are going to have a smaller “happy cup” or a smaller capacity. Other people are going to have a greater capacity depending upon what happens in their spiritual growth in this life. Everyone’s cup is going to be full so his experience is going to be of maximum happiness. There is not going to be any sorrow. No tears, no pain, for all those things will have passed away. Everyone is going to have joy but not everyone is going to have the same capacity for joy so they won’t have the same fullness of joy. Their capacity will be full so they will be happy and have great happiness and not know any loss of anything less than that. So these passages indicate from the Old Testament that there were different ways to understand inheritance and this possession.
(Slide 15) I want to skip to point four where it starts getting really interesting. In the Old Testament, inheritance starts with Abraham. If we are going to start to understand the concept we have to work through several things that are said about Abraham. So inheritance in relation to Abraham can be related to either the land promise or the seed promise. It is tied to both.
The land promise is that God promised to Abraham and his descendants that they would perpetually have the real estate rights to the land from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates and from the River of Egypt [not a term for the Nile] but from the Wadi Al Arish which is down in the Sinai and from there north since the Euphrates cuts diagonally from southeast to northwest. It fills all of the area covered by Israel, much of Jordan, and some of Iraq today. All of that was part of the original territory that God gave to Israel for their eternal possession.
They never fully owned it because they did not obey the Lord. Full ownership is always conditioned upon obedience. We will get into that in just a minute. The promise is given to Abraham. We see passages like Galatians 3:18 where God gave it to Abraham by promise. Whenever we see the word “gave” the word that ought to come to our mind is grace. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” No strings attached. Free gift. That is God’s grace. He gives on the basis of who He is, not on the basis of who we are.
God graciously made this promise to Abraham to give him the land. He also promised He would have an abundance of descendants, the seed, that he would have seed that was greater than the sands of the seashore or the stars of the sky. (Slide 15) Romans 4:13 makes that same reference: “For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.” Again, inheritance is based upon a promise.
Now we have to understand this. I have gone through parts of this in different studies but I have not connected it to inheritance when I have taught this in the past. I want you to turn in your Bibles to Genesis 5 and we are just going to think through how inheritance works in terms of this understanding of grace and works, and what God did in the life of Abraham. This connects over to some studies I have not touched on for a while since I taught Genesis and Hebrews about ten years ago. I have touched on it in the God’s Plan for the Ages – Dispensations series a little bit last year. (Slide 16) In Genesis 15 we have some of the most significant passages in the Old Testament. Let’s look at verse one to set the context. “After these things…” What things? Lot has separated from Abraham and chose the beautiful land in the Salt Sea and moved to Sodom and Gomorrah. Some kings from the east came in Genesis 14 and they made war against the people and they conquered Lot and his family. Abraham took his servants, 318 of them, and went after Lot. He is able to defeat these four kings from the east and rescue the prisoners and return them to their homes. That is what happens in Genesis 14.
“After these things"—after he gave a portion of what he had recovered to Melchizedek, ten percent of it, who was the king of Salem, which was the earlier name for Jerusalem. He gives that to Melchizedek and receives a blessing. Then after that the Word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” Abram said, “Lord God, what will you give me seeing I go childless and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus. You have not given me any offspring. The one born in my house is my heir. Then the Word of the Lord came to him saying, “This shall not be your heir but one that comes from your body shall be your heir.”
“Then he brought him outside and said, ‘Look now toward heaven and count the stars if you are able to number them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ ” The promise here is related to his seed, his descendants. In Genesis 15:6, “And he believed in the Lord and He accounted it to him for righteousness.” What does this have to do with inheritance? The first verse I want you to look at is Genesis 15:5. God takes Abram outside and has him look up at the stars. Without all the city lights like we have today it is magnificent. It is incredible. That was one of my disappointments when we went to Grand Canyon and took the raft trip through the Canyon. It was during the time of the full moon so we did not see a whole lot of stars at night. In fact, we wanted to put on a blindfold so we could sleep at night because the moon was so bright. But God takes Abram out and he can see just millions of stars and asks if he can number all the stars, because that is how many descendants He was going to give him. This is the promise of the seed to Abram. This is a grace promise. It is a promise of additional blessing, additional to Abraham’s salvation. We know that Abraham is already saved. He is already justified before the Lord so Abraham at this point already has eternal life. The eternal life was a free gift based upon Abraham’s faith alone in the redemptive promise of God through the Messiah. It is important to understand that. That is grace. At this point God is giving Abraham an additional promise. That promise is that in terms of this life there is going to be an abundance of inheritance. There are going to be temporal blessings that are going to be given to him.
The reason I say Abraham is already justified and his eternal life is already determined because of the next verse in Genesis 15:6. (Slide 17) In the English you do not catch what happens in the Hebrew. In verse 6 it says, “And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.” Now in English I want you to pay attention to how we use that little word “and”. In the Hebrew narrative when they told the story the way it is written in the Hebrew you start a sentence with a conjunction followed by the verb. The verb is always in the imperfect tense in Hebrew so it means “And God did this and then God said that and Abraham did that and Abraham went here and God said that and Abraham did that.” It is telling a story, “This and then that and that and then this.” It follows a set grammatical formula going through the text.
Now and then you see a break in the text. If that “and”, which is just in Hebrew a letter called a vav, suddenly goes from the beginning of the verse, from a vav and an imperfect verb, to a vav and a noun, that means there is a contrast and there is a break in the action and a shift. In this case, what you have is a break from an imperfect verb to a perfect tense verb. That indicates that the flow of action has stopped and we are now talking about something different than what we have been talking about in the first five verses. It starts off in verse one, “After these things the word of the Lord came to Abraham.” “Then Abraham said,” [literally in the Hebrew it’s just “And Abraham said and behold the word of the Lord came to him and then he brought him outside.” It is just this standard narrative procedure]. Then in verse 6 there is this break by the use of a different tense. What that indicates is that verse 6 is not following chronologically the flow of events in verses 1–5.
The way it reads in English we think that it does and that “believing in the Lord” is believing the promise of verse 5. That looks that way and it makes logical sense but the Hebrew grammar does not support that. The Hebrew grammar supports the fact there is a break in the action. Verse 6 is not following chronologically verse 5. It is instead a reminder of something that has already happened in the past. It is a perfect tense verb. In any language, that describes a completed past action. So this is referencing us to a completed past action, referencing Abraham’s original faith in God.
It is talking about the time when Abraham, who grew up in a family of polytheists, started focusing on worshipping the one true God, Yahweh, the God of creation. The God who has created all things, the heavens and the seas and everything that is in them. So verse 6 basically functions as a reminder that Abraham had already believed in the Lord sometime before Genesis 12 when we first met Abraham. He had already believed. In Genesis 12 Abraham is seventy years old. According to Jewish tradition Abraham begins to follow the God who created the heavens and the earth and all that is within them sometime when he was forty or fifty years of age. That is not the Word of God so we cannot be sure that is accurate. That is just Jewish tradition. It makes sense that sometime prior to Genesis 12 Abraham had begun to trust in Yahweh and he had begun to follow Him and to obey Him.
As a result of Abraham’s obedience to God as a faithful believer, God then comes along and tells him He is going to give him an additional blessing. That blessing is identified as the Abrahamic Covenant. He told him He was going to give him a specific piece of land, multiple descendants, and a blessing to all nations through him. This fits something that we have studied before.
You may or not remember that in the ancient world there were two types of covenants that were typically used. (Slide 18) I believe that all covenants in human history were all patterned after the original covenant that God made with Adam. You always have God’s actions as the precedent. Then as man remembered how God had entered into these covenants with man He patterned his human covenants on what God had done. The first is called the suzerain-vassal treaty. Big term but it essentially refers to the fact that in the ancient world when a great king, a suzerain, would conquer various other countries he would set them up as buffer states or as client states. He would make a deal with him. If they followed the deal, he is going to bless them. If they break the deal, he is going to come in and is going to let loose the dogs of war. He is going to discipline them severely. So this is a conditional type of covenant, saying that he has conquered them and if you do these six things for me, I am going to do these things to bless you and prosper you. If you disobey me, if you align yourself with my enemies, then I am going to come in and decimate you and all these things.
We found many examples of that among the ancient peoples, like the Hittites and others. It fits the pattern of the Mosaic Law as a whole, as well as Deuteronomy as a smaller book. It has all the basic sections. It starts off with a preamble. Then there is a historical reminder of what God has done for Israel, just as the suzerain-vassal treaties would start, with a preamble, and talk about all the great things the king had done for the vassal, the servant nation. That is a conditional type agreement and that relates to the Mosaic Law. There is another kind [of treaty] that was commonly used in the Old Testament, that if this vassal nation, this servant, was particularly obedient and helpful, then out of the goodness of the great king’s heart, he would bestow additional blessings based upon his own good will upon that vassal. That fits the pattern of grace.
There are numerous studies that have come out over the last fifty or sixty years demonstrating that the Abrahamic Covenant fits the pattern of this royal grant treaty. What is that second word? Grant. Grant is a synonym for giving. Giving is always a reminder of God’s grace. What we see here is that the Abrahamic Covenant is a covenant given to a servant who has already proved himself faithful and obedient. It is a reward that is given to someone who has already been obedient. Salvation is not a reward. Salvation is a free gift, but you have additional rewards that are given to believers.
In modern times we have examples of this in contracts with athletes. They get a contract when they are hired by the Houston Astros or Texans or Rockets for a job, and they are given a guaranteed salary; then they have certain incentive clauses. They are guaranteed a certain minimum salary. Then if they perform well, for example if they perform well in terms of how many touchdowns they get or how many sacks they have or interceptions or tackles they have, they get additional bonuses. That is what I am talking about in terms of how inheritance works.
There is the inheritance that goes to all believers. It is that basic guaranteed salvation that we have eternal life, we are new creatures in Christ, we have a new body without a sin nature, a resurrection body, and all of those are common to all believers. We are all heirs of God. But then there are additional rewards that are promised to those who are obedient, to those who walk with the Lord, and to those who are exceptional servants of God during this life. That is the incentive clause to continue to walk in obedience.
This answers a great historical question that was a problem for the Roman Catholic Church throughout the Middle Ages. The Roman Catholic Church got sucked into a works doctrine because they asked that if you taught salvation that is free and all you have to do is believe in Jesus and you have eternal life, then what is the incentive to be moral and to be obedient? They decided you do not get salvation if you are disobedient. So they had an additional salvation based upon works that dominated Roman Catholic theology from about the 5th or 6th century A.D. all the way up to the Protestant Reformation.
The Protestant Reformation recovered the doctrine of justification by faith alone, that salvation is a free gift from God. You just trust in Christ as Savior and you are given salvation. Early on in the career of John Calvin, he clearly understood the free grace of the gospel of justification by faith alone as Martin Luther did. Martin Luther was the Augustinian monk who began the reformation on October 31, 1517.
Calvin began to write his classic work on theology. It went through well over fifteen or twenty editions. When it started off, it was just a few dozen pages. Eventually it grew to two volumes, like it is today. During the course of that time, from the late 1520s to ten years later, he came under tremendous assault from the Roman Catholic Church. What was their beef? The beef was the question of how you keep people moral and under control if salvation is free and all they have to do is believe on Jesus, and then they can just go live like they want to and commit all kinds of sins because their eternity in Heaven is secure.
Calvin fell into the same trap and he began to introduce what has come to be called something like lordship salvation—the idea that if you are truly saved you won’t live in horrid sin. You may sin. You may commit terrible sins but if you are truly saved, you won’t stay in that state for any length of time. If you do, that just proves that you were not ever really truly saved. We often hear people inadvertently buy into that theology when they look at someone’s life and they say, “Just look at that guy. That person has committed adultery; they have lied; they have been deceptive; they have gotten up in front of courtrooms and they have committed perjury. How in the world can that person be a Christian?” Then you turn around and insist that since they trusted in Jesus Christ as Savior they are saved. “No, they can’t be. If they were saved they would live like it.” See, that is lordship salvation.
What Christianity teaches is grace. Even though we trust in Christ it does not mean we are automatically going to be obedient. There is additional growth that must take place after salvation. After salvation and they have grown spiritually for a while, they may still ditch it and say, “I’m just not going to follow the Lord anymore.” They are going to come under divine discipline. They are still saved and still part of the family [of God]. God is going to bring discipline on you according to Hebrews 12:5–8. You’re going to come under divine discipline.
This is the idea that there are incentives. This is what was missed in the Reformation; this is what is missed in Calvinism; this is what is missed in Reformed theology; this is what is missed in lordship theology. Grace does not mean you can sin after you are saved with impunity. It means that you are still saved, but there are incentives related to inheritance and rewards that are significant that are to motivate us to continue to walk in obedience after we are saved. So the Royal Grant treaty relates to this Abrahamic promise, this Abrahamic Covenant that God gives him, that is in addition to the fact that he has a secure salvation. God is going to give him additional rewards.
This is indicated by the first verse that appears in Genesis 15 (Slide 19). God appeared to Abraham and told him not to be afraid. “I am your shield and” your what? Your reward. I am going to be your great reward. This is something more than just salvation. Salvation is something that is free. A reward is something that is earned on the basis of what you do. You get a reward if you excel in sports. You get a reward if you excel in some form of competition. You do something for that, but salvation is just a free gift. So God is talking about a reward here.
(Slide 20) This is related to obedience. Genesis 22:18 says that at the conclusion of Abraham’s life, after he has tested him with the whole episode with sacrificing Isaac, God said, “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” Why? Because it is a free gift? No, He does not say that, does He? He says, “Because you have obeyed My voice.” It is the fulfillment of those additional blessings that are contingent upon obedience. Not his eternal destiny. Not his eternal life. Not avoiding the Lake of Fire. But the additional blessings that God promised Abraham in time and in eternity were predicated upon his obedience.
This gives us a foundation for understanding inheritance at the very beginning, the first use in the Old Testament in Genesis. Next time we will come back and go into the additional points developing this a little bit further as we go through the Exodus and go on into Deuteronomy. I am going to quit now because we have a special presentation.