Paul adds to the Spirit language here by referring to believers who live in the Spirit as “children of God.”
And he’s doing something really neat here, I think. He’s spent some time talking about being a slave to God instead of a slave to sin. He identifies himself as a slave to God in 1:1. But here, he makes a shift: this slavery to the Lord results in becoming children of God. Instead of bondage or heavy-yoke slavery, the Spirit is the spirit of adoption. Of son-ship and daughter-ship. And if we are children of God, we become God’s heirs… heirs to the kingdom.
And that’s great… it’s a wonderful promise that’s true. And it’s one of the things we hear a lot about, in a “nyah-nyah… Christians win in the end!” sort of way. In a “justice will be done in the end and my enemies will get what they deserve” kind of way. In a “all we have to do is hunker down and endure, because the rest of these pagans are going to hell eventually and we’ll get our reward” kind of way.
But that attitude tends to ignore verse 17:
and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
We will be heirs if we suffer with him?
I read that tonight and it occurred to me… it really is just as Jesus said. The last will be first. To become the greatest we must become the least. To lead we must serve. Blessed are the meek, the poor in spirit, the persecuted. Blessed are those who mourn. Blessed are we when folks lie about us and get away with it.
I guess I feel myself on the edge of something deeper here… Like we’re called to be Kingdom people not because Jesus is going to put the beat-down on the Muslims in the end or something. To be a follower of Jesus for more reasons than he just happens to be the winning team. The way to the resurrection (including our resurrection) goes through the cross. The Way goes through it and not around, under, or over it.
And let’s face it: being last really stinks. So does being lied about. So does suffering. But it’s the way to inherit the Kingdom, and it’s worth it.