Heirs According to the Promise

By Eric Norford

The book of Galatians is a book that deals with the difference between the Old Law and the New Covenant. The Old Law was limited in its scope. It pertained to the Jews only. The Old Law was limited in forgiveness of sins. It required the blood of animals as sacrifices on a daily basis to remit sins. However, in the New Covenant, Paul tells us that a person must come in contact with the blood of Christ in baptism to have forgiveness of sins, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death. Therefore we are buried with Him in baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-4). A person who is baptized becomes a child of God (Rom. 8:14-17). Romans 8:17 makes this point clear, “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint- heirs with Christ . . .” Paul also said in Galatians 3:29, “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according the promise.”

The word “heir” according to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon means, “to possess of Christians, as exalted by faith to the dignity of sons of Abraham and so sons of God, and hence to receive the blessings of God’s kingdom promised to Abraham.” Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words says the word “denotes one who obtains a lot or portion.” It carries with it the idea that all children of God are heirs to an inheritance that is yet to come. When do Christians become heirs? They become heirs when they put Jesus Christ on in baptism and are born again to be adopted by the Father (John 3:3, 5; Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:5). If you’re a child of God, then you are an heir according to the promise of God. We are currently waiting to receive our inheritance of heaven.

God’s Promise

In order for us to understand the great promise of God we must return to when the promise was originally given. The covenant and promise was given to Abraham. God promised that through Abraham’s seed a nation would inherit a land that God would give them. He also promised that through Abraham’s seed all nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen. 12:1-3). God renewed the promise of a nation and land in Genesis 15:3-6. The heir to these promises first was Isaac. God renewed the covenant with him in Genesis 26:3-4. The heir to Isaac was Jacob. And God renewed the same promise to Jacob that he had made to Abraham and Isaac (Gen. 28:13-14). It was through one of Jacob’s sons that the seed promise would be fulfilled, that son was Judah (Gen. 49:10). The seed promise made by God was the Messiah coming to bring salvation.

Genesis 15:6 declares that Abraham believed and obeyed the God of heaven. Other New Testament passages show that Abraham trusted in God’s word and was obedient. Thus, he was called a friend of God (Rom. 4:3-6, 20-25; Gal. 3:6; Heb. 11:8-17; Jas. 2:20-25).

God promised that through Abraham’s seed all families of the earth would be blessed in the Messiah. The promise was for those who follow the Messiah, they would never die, share in the blessings, and would receive an inheritance (John 3:15; 6:35, 40; Heb. 1:1-4). Paul said in Ephesians 1:10-14, “That in the dispensation of the fulness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him. In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will: That we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after ye believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory.” We know that this promise is sure and true because God cannot lie and sent Christ to purchase our souls (Gal. 4:4; Tit. 1:2).

The Law of Moses

God not only promised Abraham the great promises, but said that his descendants would spend 430 years in captivity (Gen. 15:13-16; Acts 7:6; Gal. 3:17). When they escaped Egyptian bondage, they received the Law of Moses (Exod. 20-34). The Law served two purposes: (1) It was added because of transgressions or sins (Gal. 3:19); (2) It showed us the promise to come (Gal. 3:21). But the Law of Moses was not a perfect law, “But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should  afterwards  be  revealed. Wherefore  the  law  was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith, but after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster” (Gal. 3:23-25). The faith is a reference to a better testament, “But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also He is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been fault- less, then should no place have been sought for the second” (Heb. 8:6-7). The Law could not take away sins. It was an imperfect of faith, “For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not ceased to be offered? Because that the worshipers once purged should have had no conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Heb. 10:1-4).

The Perfect Sacrifice of Christ

Since the Law could not take away sins there had to be something better. Jesus Christ came and was the perfect sacrifice for sin. His death made possible the forgiveness of sins, even the sins of the whole world. He bore them all — the sins of those under the Old Law and those who were living during the Patriarchal age (Isa. 53:5, 8, 10-12; Heb. 10:12). The Old Law was given till the seed should come — that seed was Christ (Gal. 3:19, 26). He offered himself just once for all time (Heb. 9:28; 10:8-14). Christ’s death opened the door of salvation for all mankind — the perfect, great salvation (Heb. 2:3; Eph. 2:11-22). Jesus’ instructions were for people to believe, repent and be baptized (Mark 16:16; Luke 24:47). The apostles followed those instructions by preaching it (Acts 2:38-40). The Jews on Pentecost believed it and obeyed it (Acts 2:41). When we follow those same instructions, we become heirs as all who have obeyed the Lord (Gal. 3:27-29). Those who obey share in the blessings (Eph. 1:3; Rom. 8:28-30). We become members of the body of Christ — the church (Acts 2:47; 1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18). The body is where God wants all to be one (John 17:20-21; Gal. 3:14; Eph. 3:6). The inheritance will be given when Christ returns or if we should die first and after we face God on the Judgment Day (2 Tim. 4:8; Rev. 2:10; 1 Pet. 1:4; Heb. 4:9-11).

Can we not see how this all ties together? If in Christ, then are we Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise. Our responsibility is to proclaim the great message of salvation to all (Matt. 28:18-20). God’s promises are sure and true, our hope is tied into them (Heb. 6:13-15, 18-20). We wait for the new heavens and new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness (2 Pet. 3:9-13). Those who obey can receive the blessings and become “heirs according the promise” as well. Brethren, let us remain faithful and loyal to God and keep the promise of the inheritance.