Romans 8:17-18 meaning

Verses covered in this passage:

  • Romans 8:17
  • Romans 8:18

Christians are children of God, and from Him every believer unconditionally inherits being justified in His sight and the promise of one day being with Him in His glory. For Christians who suffer as Christ did, there is a specific inheritance reward; Jesus was given authority over earth by God for what He did as a man—dying and resurrecting to take the punishment for our sins. God rewarded Jesus Christ for this suffering. For those of us who suffer as Christ did, He bestows the privilege to be fellow heirs with Him in His coming kingdom. Ultimately, the sufferings on this earth are trivial in light of this wonderful opportunity of reigning with Christ in His future reign on earth.

Paul makes two distinctions concerning our heirship in verse 17: heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

One part of this heirship is unconditional, another part is conditional. Before we were children of God, we were children of wrath, as Paul writes in Ephesians 2:3. We were dedicated to following our sinful desires. Our heritage was wrath: judgement and selfishness and doom. But now, as Christians, we call God our Father, and our hope and inheritance comes from obedience to Him. There are two sorts of inheritances, those with conditions and those without conditions. Here there is one of each. God uses the illustration of family and children to illustrate both types. It is impossible to “unmake” someone a child. The father’s DNA is in that person whether they like it or not; that is unconditional. But it is not uncommon for a loving father to disinherit a son from a portion of the will, particularly if the father knows the inheritance would harm the child.

“Heirs of God” is an unconditional inheritance. We have God as our inheritance no matter how badly we might fail. If we believe in Jesus, God is our Father, no matter what. Our failures will always be forgiven and undone. Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.

In Col 2:13-14 Paul states this plainly: “[Jesus] made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions … having nailed it to the cross.” There is no out-sinning the grace of God.

Having God as an inheritance, as our Father, is unconditional. But then, Paul names another inheritance, which is conditional. In verse 17, he writes, and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

The “if” here is tied to whether “we suffer with Him.” This inheritance is a reward we receive only “if” we suffer with Jesus. What did Christ inherit, what was the glory Jesus obtained as a reward for suffering? As the Son of God, he started off with the whole universe being His. He is God. But the Bible says He inherited something else, due to His great suffering and sacrifice on the cross. And the reason Jesus died on the cross was because of obedience to His Father.

The books of Philippians and Hebrews discuss this notion at greater length. In Philippians 2:8-11, Paul writes out the progression of the story of Christ’s time on earth: He became a man, He humbled Himself so low that He gave His life on the cross in obedience to God, having learned obedience to God (because He was truly human) and because of His faithfulness God exalted Jesus and bestowed to Him complete dominion of the earth and its people.

The earth was originally intended to be a province ruled by humans. That’s the way God created it. This is obvious in Genesis chapters 1-3. God put man on the earth to rule it. The Bible is also fairly clear that who was ruling it before—and even is still now on the throne, but inappropriately—is Satan. Lucifer.

But God intended that man should rule earth. Now He has given the earth to Jesus as a human as a reward and inheritance for His obedience to the point of death. And Jesus intends to reward those who learn the obedience He learned by sharing that incredible reward. Jesus died, but we died in Him. So as we put the flesh to death, and walk in the Spirit, we are walking in obedience as Jesus walked. We are living a crucified life. In answering the slanderous charges of the competing Jewish “authorities”, Paul has made the case that a sufficient reason not to live in sin is to avoid the negative consequences (death) and experience the positive consequences (life and peace). But here in verses 17-18 is a transcendent reason to put to death the sin nature and walk in obedience to the Spirit.

In God’s original design, we humans were not supposed to compete with one another to see who would rule. We were supposed to rule in perfect harmony with one another where everyone’s gift contributes to serving the other. That was the way it was supposed to be, (and the way it can be in the Body of Christ if we walk in the Spirit, as Paul will show us in Chapter 12). But sin and death entered through Adam—creating all the violence and failure that we live under. Violence and death are completely interwoven.

So, Jesus inherited what he didn’t already have from God: rulership over the earth as a human (Philippians 2:8-11). Now, we Christians get to restore the heritage that we were intended for. But only if we suffer in the same way Jesus did, by obeying God and depending on Him, even to death. It makes perfect sense that Jesus would only share the throne He was rewarded on the New Earth to those who have learned to live a servant life, which is another way to describe a crucified life of walking in the Spirit.

So far Paul has offered many practical reasons to walk in the Spirit and not the flesh, but now he addresses this entirely new reason. He tells the Roman Believers to have the mindset of, “I want to not only avoid sin for practical reasons, I want to follow Jesus and live as He lived. And suffer what He suffered because of what He gained, which is promised to me as a reward for suffering.”

Will all of us have to die on a cross? Clearly not. But all of us are asked to daily crucify our evil, disobedient Self on the cross of obedience every day. Paul is blowing away the slanderous competing Jewish “authorities” now by insisting on an additional, transcendent reason to walk by faith. The reward of obedience is to reign with Christ. It is ironic that these “authorities” who’ve elevated themselves are actually giving opportunity for Paul to be elevated by enduring the suffering that they’ve dealt him; their slander had caused occasion for this letter to be written as a part of the Bible.

If we have believed on Jesus, then we’re heirs of God already; that’s unconditional. But, if we want to also be joint heirs with Christ, sharing His throne as the human King of the earth, then we must suffer with Him as He suffered.

In verse 18, Paul writes, For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. This glory will be revealed to the Christians who suffer just like Christ did, experiencing rejection from the world because He walked in obedience to His Father.

Paul expresses a deeply encouraging thought, that the way in which Christians suffer here on earth is not even worthy of comparing to the future glory, where Christ will rule, where God will reward those who were faithful to Him, where every knee shall bow and every tongue confess, and much more than we know. The New Earth will be governed 100% by God’s will, which is true life, and it is the new life we are called to live by faith (Romans 1:16-17). Even though we suffer here and now, the future glory of Christ is unimaginably better than our current lives.

Biblical Text

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. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

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