And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him…
God Himself is His greatest gift. The loftiest blessing which we can receive is that we should be heirs, possessors of God. The text tells us —
I. NO INHERITANCE WITHOUT SONSHIP,
1. The lower creatures are shut out from the gifts which belong to the higher forms of life, because these cannot find entrance into their nature. Man has higher gifts because he has higher capacities. In man there are more windows and doors knocked out. He can think, and feel, and desire, and will, and resolve; and so he stands on a higher level.
2. And so Spiritual blessings require a spiritual capacity for the reception of them; you cannot have the inheritance unless you are sons. Salvation is not chiefly a deliverance from outward consequences, but a renewal of the nature that makes these consequences certain.
3. But the inheritance is also future, and the same principle applies there. There is no heaven without sonship; because all its blessings are spiritual. It is not the golden harps, etc. that makes the heaven of heaven; but the possession of God. To dwell in His love, and to be filled with His light, and to walk for ever in the glory of His sunlit face, to do His will, and to bear His character stamped upon our foreheads — that is the glory and the perfectness to which we are aspiring. Do not then rest in the symbols that show us, darkly and far-off, what that future glory is.
4. Well then, if all that be true, what a flood of light does it cast upon the text! For who can possess God but they who love Him? who can love but they who know His love? How can there be fellowship betwixt Him and any one except the man who is a son because he hath received of the Divine nature, and in whom that Divine nature is growing up into a Divine likeness?
II. NO SONSHIP WITHOUT A SPIRITUAL BIRTH.
1. The Apostle John, in that most wonderful preface to his Gospel, teaches that sonship is not a relation into which we are born by natural birth, that we become sons after we are men, and that we become sons by a Divine act, the communication of a spiritual life, whereby we are born of God. The same apostle, in his Epistles, contrasts the sons of God who are known for such because they do righteousness, and the world which knew not Christ, and says, "In this the children of God are manifested and the children of the devil" — echoing thus Christ's words, "If God were your Father, ye would love Me: ye are of your father, the devil."
2. Nothing in all this contradicts the belief that all men are the children of God inasmuch as they are shaped by His Divine hand, and He has breathed into their nostrils the breath of life, But, notwithstanding, it still remains true that there are men created by God, loved and cared for by Him, for whom Christ died, who might be, but are not, sons of God.
3. Fatherhood! what does that word itself teach us? It involves that the Father and the child shall have kindred life, and that between the Father's heart and the child's heart there shall pass answering love, flashing backwards and forwards, like the lightning that touches the earth and rises from it again. A simple appeal to your own consciousness will decide if that be the condition of all men. No sonship except by spiritual birth; and if not such sonship, then the spirit of bondage. You are sons because born again, or slaves and "enemies by wicked works."
III. NO SPIRITUAL BIRTH WITHOUT CHRIST. If for sonship there must be a birth, the very symbol shows that such a process does not lie within our own power. The centre point of the gospel is this regeneration. If we understand that the gospel simply comes to make men live better, to work out a moral reformation — why, there is no need for a gospel at all. If the change were a simple change of habit and action on the part of men, we could do without a Christ. But if redemption be the giving of life from God, and the change of position in reference to God's love and God's law, neither of these two changes can a man effect for himself. No new birth without Christ; no escape from the old standing-place, "enemies to God by wicked works," by anything that we can do. But Christ has effected an actual change in the aspect of the Divine government to us; and He has carried in the golden urn of His humanity a new spirit and a new life which He has set down in the midst of the race; and the urn was broken on the Cross of Calvary, and the water flowed out, and whithersoever that water comes there is life, and whithersoever it comes not there is death!
IV. NO CHRIST WITHOUT FAITH. Unless we are wedded to Jesus Christ by the simple act of trust in His mercy and His power, Christ is nothing to us. We may talk about Christ for ever. He may be to us much that is very precious; but the question of questions, on which everything else depends, is, Am I trusting to Him as my Divine Redeemer? am I resting in Him as the Son of God? Ceremonies, notions, beliefs, formal participation in worship is nothing. Christ is everything to him that trusts Him. Christ is nothing but a judge and a condemnation to him that trusts Him not.
(A. Maclaren, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.