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Joint Heirs and Some More Brother Stuff

April 16, 2007
by

Chris,

You would be right in saying that the marriage relationship is used a lot more than the relationship of brothers.  However, that language is there, and I believe it is helpful to examine what is meant by any metaphor in the Bible.  After all, God created us, and designed relationships to teach us something about him, and when the inspired Word of God calls attention to a particular relationship, we should look at it.  Also, the picture of Christ going before us in death and resurrection is a good find!  This is indeed something that husbands and wives don’t experience (or at least, aren’t guaranteed to experience).

While thinking about other passages that talk about our relationship to Christ, this one came to mind (Romans 8:12-17):

12 So then, brothers, [4] we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 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. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons [5] of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 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.

Now at first, this just seems to be stating “yeah, we are brothers with Christ”, and it is saying that.  However, the term fellow heirs would have sounded very different to Roman ears than it does to modern Western ears.  When we talk about heirs to a throne, we typically think of the English and French kingships, where an heir was a biological son – thus, calling someone “fellow heirs” with Christ is talking about a family relationship.  Now, thankfully, this IS the picture – we are brought into God’s family, and he treats us as such.  However, to a Roman mind, another picture would have also came into picture.  Royalty back then wasn’t hereditary.  This makes reading Roman history an interesting experience filled with much unnecessary drama – the lack of a clear succession plan caused a lot of headaches for the Empire, as there was a lot of fighting and weakness as a result of this plan.  The closest the Emperors ever got to solving the problem was the Roman institution of adoption.  In Roman times, adoption could happen among two people of similar ages – a grown Emperor could adopt someone who was around his age, and this person would be immediately brought into the family, and an heir would be clear.  I’m not sure if this practice was adopted before or after the Apostle Paul wrote, but this would have informed early Christians reading the text.  In this case, God would be the emperor, and he would have adopted his children into his family, placing them with Christ.  The adopted weren’t second class sons – they were on equal footing with the biological sons (and were sometimes considered more legitimate – they were chosen heirs, the heir the Emperor had given his blessing to).  There were even cases where two Emperors were declared, with two heirs to replace them.  (This tended to devolve into chaos, but that was a legal possibility that Romans did not find strange in any way.)

What a strange thought!  We are considered fellow heirs with Christ – loved by God and Christ, and we will rule with him!  We don’t deserve this rich honor, but God has granted it to us – praise be unto his name!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 22, 2007 1:54 pm

    Thanks, always good posts on your blog!

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