HEIRS OF THE WORLD


13 For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified; 15 for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation. 16 For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.

(Rom4:13-16)

Two points to pick up on here. Firstly, what to some will be the extraordinary statement that the children of Abraham are heirs of the world. Heirship pertains to what will be possessed in the future – we like all human beings are already the world’s inhabitants – what is being spoken of here pertains to ownership or rule. That is perhaps not so surprising when one considers that God’s elect are described as joint-heirs with Christ and He in turn is described as the heir of all things (Heb1:2). This is so much more than the idea of the soul going to Heaven when you die, wonderful though that is. That is not what God’s elect are ultimately being prepared for as I am in the business of demonstrating. And as we shall see, so is Paul. Jesus also spoke of the meek inheriting the Earth (Mt5:5) as did His forefather according to the flesh, David (Ps37:11). “Meek” is not weakness but gentleness, humility, lack of severity and particularly in its Hebrew form, one who is afflicted. Significantly, Jesus as Judge and Lawmaker and Moses as Lawgiver are both described as meek.  

The other point follows from that observation and pertains to what Paul appears to be saying about the Law. Taken in isolation such passages as these might seem to indicate that fulfilling the law is no longer an issue for the Christian. As earlier posts concerning Romans 2 indicate that is not really the case (especially vv26-29). For Paul has made a particular point of saying “The entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Gal5:14). The letter of the Law is impossible to keep but not the spirit, and as James affirms the Christian is expected to fulfil it (James2:8). But still more to the point so does Jesus. Only those who fulfil what James describes as the Royal Law of love for neighbor  can enter Heaven, let alone inherit the earth (Mt25:41-46).

Those who believe Paul to be annulling Jesus’s teaching are dangerously mistaken. For as is evident in this passage concerning Abraham, JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH IS NOT A NEW DOCTRINE that Paul was introducing. For “AS IT IS WRITTEN the just shall live by faith” (Rom1:17 citing Habakuk2:4). Jesus will have known that perfectly well when he taught what is recorded in Matthew 25 – the definitive New Testament passage on final judgement (supported in principle by Rom2:6-11). The only, albeit significant thing that HAS changed that Paul is disclosing is that Torah observance is no longer a requirement for God’s chosen people. That is a result of Jesus “abolishing in his flesh the enmity, even the Law of commandments CONTAINED IN ORDINANCES to make in Himself of two, one new man that He might reconcile both (Jew and Gentile) to God in one body (Eph2:15-16).

Jesus’ teaching should not be taken as “a preparation for the gospel according to St Paul” (Mt28:19-20). In view of the Great Commission the moral and juridical teaching of Christ cannot be altered, even by Paul. And it hasn’t been. The distinctive feature of Paul’s Good News concerns his disclosure regarding “the mystery which has been hidden from ages and generations but has NOW been revealed to His saints, to whom God willed to make known the riches of the glory of this mystery AMONG THE GENTILES, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col1:26-27). That is the fact that a way has been made open for Jew AND GENTILE to come to “receive an inheritance with the sanctified” (Acts26:18) and so become heirs of the world.

The fuller picture is set out in The Little Book of Providence  – Free PDF HERE