March 24: Romans 8:17

Romans 8:17

“And, if (His) offspring, (then) also (one)s holding the lot—holding the lot of God, and holding the lot together with (the) Anointed; (and) if indeed we suffer with (him), (it is) that also we shall be honored with (him).”

This final verse builds upon the theme of believers as sons of God. Here, as in v. 16 (cf. the previous note), the more general (and inclusive) term te/kna (“offspring, children”) is used; however, the context of inheritance clearly shows that Paul still has the sonship idea in mind. The plural ui(oi/ (“sons”) was used in v. 14, along with the noun ui(oqesi/a (“placement as a son,” i.e., adoption) in v. 15. The son-heir theme also features prominently in Galatians 3-4, and the parallels between Gal 4:5-6 and our passage have been noted.

The noun klhrono/mo$ literally means “one holding the lot [klh=ro$]”. A klh=ro$ is a broken piece or small fragment (of wood, stone, etc), used in the casting of lots. From this specific (concrete) usage, the more general idea of a portion or allotment developed. Often this refers specifically to an inherited portion—i.e., an inheritance; and, thus, the klhrono/mo$ is a person holding the right to an inheritance, i.e., an heir.

Here, Paul is declaring that believers hold the right of inheritance, as sons of God. It is indeed, from God Himself that we inherit, as the expression “heirs of God” (klhrono/moi qeou=) indicates. The genitive qeou= (“of God”) is an objective genitive, designating what it is that we inherit—namely, the things belonging to God. However, it is normally the eldest son who inherits; and, in applying such an illustration to a Christian context, this means that Jesus Christ, the Son, is the true heir of God. We, as believers, can be considered heirs only through our union with him. Paul expresses this point here through use of a me\nde/ construction (“on the one hand…on the other…”):

    • me\n:
      klhrono/moi qeou=
      (“heirs of God”)
    • de/:
      sugklhrono/moi xristou=
      (“heirs together with Christ”)

On the one hand (me\n), we are indeed heirs of God; but, on the other hand (de/), this is only true because we are heirs together with Christ. Syntactically, the two expressions are the same, and the translation probably should reflect this:

      • “heirs of God / co-heirs of Christ”

Literally, this would mean that we all, together as believers, are co-heirs to what Christ, first, inherits. However, what follows in v. 17 suggests that the preposition sun– should be understood in relation to Christ (i.e., together with him). This would mean that the noun sugklhrono/moi would be translated “heirs  together with (him)” (lit. [one]s holding the lot with [him])—i.e., we share Christ’s inheritance together with him.

And, how is that we come to share in his inheritance? Paul alludes to this in the remainder of verse 17: it is by way of our union with him, realized through the Spirit. This point is essential to Paul’s spiritualism, and is deserving of special attention. We focus on the nature and significance of this spiritual union in the next daily note.

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