The covenant with Abraham is fulfilled in Jesus, the heir, including the promised inheritance of land in the New Creation – Romans 8:1-23.
The Apostle Paul presents Abraham as the great exemplar of faith, the model for all who would live from faith. God counted his faith as “righteousness” while he was still uncircumcised, and thus, justified him apart from the “works of the Law.” Consequently, Abraham became the father of everyone who is “from faith,” both Jew and Gentile, and the “heir of the world.”
According to Romans, after the institution of the covenant, Yahweh gave circumcision as the “seal” of the “righteousness” that Abraham had demonstrated already:
- (Romans 4:11-14) – “And a sign he received, circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while yet uncircumcised; to the end, he might be the father of all that believe during uncircumcision, to the end, the same righteousness might be reckoned to them; and the father of circumcision to them who are not of circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of the faith while yet uncircumcised of our father Abraham. For not through the law does the promise belong to Abraham or to his seed, that he should be heir of the world, but through a righteousness from faith. For if they who are of law are heirs, faith is made void and of no effect is the promise.”
References to “promise” and “heir” point to future realities, things not yet received. For Abraham and his “seed,” the promised inheritance is the entire “world” or kosmos. In stating this, Paul expanded and universalized the original land promise to include the entire “world.” And, since the promised inheritance is through faith, the “promise is firm to all the seed” of Abraham.
God appointed Abraham the “father of many nations” because he believed the word of the One who raises the dead, and therefore, He granted him “seed” although Sarah’s “dead” womb. The promise to inherit the “world” was for the Patriarch and his “seed” – All those who walk in the same faith as him.
The references to “raising the dead,” “heir,” “seed,” and “children” anticipate the discussion in chapter 8 on the resurrection, the redemption of the creation, and inheritance with Christ:
- (Romans 8:10-11) – “If anyone has not Christ’s Spirit, the same is not his; but if Christ is in you, the body, indeed, is dead because of sin, but the spirit is life because of righteousness; moreover, if the Spirit of him that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he that raised Christ Jesus from the dead will quicken even your death-doomed bodies through his indwelling Spirit.”
Our present mortal bodies are “dead by reason of sin,” therefore, they are still subject to death. But this is not the end of the story, for “if the Spirit of Him that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you.” As always, Paul links the past resurrection of Jesus to the future resurrection of the saints.
If God is to redeem mankind and recover all that was lost, redemption must include the physical body. Likewise, the creation that was also condemned by Adam’s sin must be redeemed.
- (Romans 8:15-20) – “For you have not received a spirit of bondage leading back into fear, but you have received a spirit of sonship, whereby we are exclaiming, Abba! Oh Father! The Spirit itself is bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God; and if children, heirs also, heirs, indeed, of God but co-heirs with Christ, if, at least, we are suffering together in order that we may also be glorified together. For I reckon that unworthy are the sufferings of the present season to be compared with the glory about to be revealed towards us; for the eager outlook of creation is ardently waiting for the revelation of the sons of God.”
Though still mortal, believers are “children of God,” and therefore, “heirs of God and coheirs with Christ.”
But to be a coheir with His Son means to suffer for his sake so that we “also will be glorified together” with him. But the sufferings of this “present season cannot be compared with the glory that is about to be revealed.“
The creation itself has been subjected to death and decay, and it is suffering until the present hour while “awaiting the revelation of the sons of God.” When his sons are “revealed,” then the “creation itself also shall be freed from the bondage of decay into the freedom of the glory of the sons of God.”
- (Romans 8:21-23) – “That creation itself also shall be freed from the bondage of the decay into the freedom of the glory of the sons of God; For we know that all creation is sighing together and travailing-in-birth-throes together until the present, and not only so, but we ourselves also who have the first-fruit of the Spirit within our own selves do sigh, adoption ardently awaiting, the redemption of our body.”
Paul links the promised New Creation to the bodily resurrection of the saints. This is what it means to be an “heir of the world.” Everlasting life is the future inheritance received at the resurrection, an event that will coincide with the New Creation. Moreover, the redemption of the creation is dependent on the resurrection of the “sons of God.” Here, the promises of bodily resurrection and New Creation are inextricably linked.
God “foreknew” the men and women who would exercise faith in His Son; therefore, He is well able to work together all things for good “to them that are called according to purpose.” And that purpose is to produce children, “many brethren,” who will be conformed to the “image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” And those whom he “called,” he also “justified,” and the same He also “glorified,” which, in this context, means their “redemption,” the resurrection from the dead. At the resurrection, they will be conformed fully to the glorified Son of God.
This is the “purpose” for all men and women who “walk in the faith of our father Abraham,” whether Jew or Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised. As the “children of Abraham,” we are the coheirs with the “firstborn” son, Jesus. And, though called to suffer with him in this life, we will become conformed fully to his image and glory in the coming age when God raises the dead and reveals His sons for all to see.