Heirs with Christ
Topic: Biblical Verse: Romans 8:12–8:17
The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
July 12-13, 2014
“Christians in the Capital: Heirs with Christ”
I hope everyone enjoyed a safe and happy Fourth of July celebration whether here in our nation’s capital or elsewhere. My family and I returned from a week’s visit to Iowa where we spent time with both sides of our family. We had a great trip! Because my wife’s family lives in Des Moines, we went down for the Fourth of July fireworks near the state capital building, and then returned a few days later to tour this beautiful building – the only state capital with five domes, the center of which is literally covered with gold! If you are ever in Des Moines, by all means take advantage of your time there and tour the Iowa state capital building. It’s free and you’ll be glad you did. And no, the Iowa Department of Tourism is not paying me to say this. Having celebrated the 238th anniversary of our nation’s founding on the Fourth of July, we are heirs to what our forefathers and foremothers lived and fought and died for: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. My home state of Iowa has this motto on its flag: “Our Liberties We Prize and Our Rights We Will Maintain.” As a transplanted Iowan, I am an heir to those liberties and rights. And on the Commonwealth of Virginia’s flag is this Latin phrase: Sic Semper Tyrannis, “Thus Always to Tyrants.” When our liberties and rights are threatened, whether in Iowa or Virginia or any other place, we react very strongly. But in today’s Epistle, Paul the apostle writes how we are heirs of something even more valuable than our national identity with its liberties and rights. Paul writes: “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:16-17). Our summer preaching series, “Christians in the Capital,” continues today under the theme “Heirs with Christ.” May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.
Paul’s letter to the Romans was originally written to Christians living in the city of Rome, the capital of the mighty Roman Empire. Those proud places of ancient Rome are now mostly in ruins: the Forum, the Coliseum, Palatine Hill, to name a few. In contrast to the pantheon of Romans gods and the cult of worship surrounding Roman emperors, Paul’s letter centered on the Gospel as God’s power for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe (Romans 1:16-17). This Gospel centers not on what we can do for God, but on what God in Christ has already done for us. Paul writes how this gives both present and future hope, and how this impacts everyday life for the believer. The Roman believers were Christians living in the capital, and so are we today. We live in the shadow of our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. Although we live in a different time and a different place from ancient Rome, in many ways we struggle with the same issues. How do we live as citizens of the kingdom of God while at the same time living as citizens of this nation? What do we do when the laws of the nation conflict with the laws of God? How do live in the midst of a culture that is growing increasingly godless? These are very real questions and concerns for God’s people.
In the midst of our questions and concerns, let us hold steadfast to this truth: that “… we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellows heirs with Christ…” An heir is someone who inherits something, and we usually think of possessions or property: a house, real estate, or belongings. An heirloom is something that gets handed down from one generation to another. Maybe you have inherited something that is now a prized family heirloom. But there are non-tangible things that are even more valuable, and chief among these is the gift of faith. To pass on to our children and grandchildren – to the next generation – the gift of faith, is to bestow on them something which is more valuable than gold or silver. This is a priceless heritage that money can never buy. The Word of God tells us that “… you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ…” (1 Peter 1:18-19a). Ours is a blood-bought redemption – not my blood or yours, but the blood of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). This is the blood which cleanses us from all our sin (1 John 1:7). That same Word speaks further: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3-5).
An inheritance can sometimes mean we have an obligation placed upon us, which may not necessarily be an easy thing. Inheriting property or real estate, for example, can be a big headache! Paul reminds us in today’s Epistle that as “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” we have an obligation placed upon us – not a burden, but a blessing: “So then, brothers [and sisters], we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:12-13). So, what does this mean? In another of Paul’s letters, he writes: “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21). Is this the inheritance we want? Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are called to something different – something better.
Despite our best efforts, the heirlooms which we inherit can get lost or broken. They wear out and lose their luster. We keep them locked away in cupboards and safes, but don’t really use them. And when we must leave this world, we can’t take it with us. In contrast to all of this, our inheritance in Christ is far greater than anything we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20), whether in ancient Rome or modern day Washington, D.C. We are Christians in the capital, and we have a message to bring to the capital, the nation and the world. That message is the forgiveness of sins, eternal life and salvation in Jesus Christ; that God “… desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). By the grace of God, this is the good news we proclaim to all. By the grace of God, this is our inheritance as heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ. Amen.