Co-heirs with Christ

Posted On April 20, 2018

I recently came across this quote from Martin Luther during a paper at an annual Bible society conference in Boston:

“If someone could believe with a certain and constant faith and could understand the magnitude of it all, that he is the son and heir of God, he could regard all the power and wealth of all the kingdoms of the world as filth and refuse in comparison with his heavenly inheritance. Whatever the world has that is sublime and glorious would make him sick. . . . If we could grasp and believe for a certainty that God is our Father and that we are his sons and heirs, the world would immediately seem vile to us, with everything that it regards as precious, such as righteousness, wisdom, kingdoms, power, crowns, gold, glory, riches, pleasure, and the like. . . . We would not attach our hearts so firmly to physical things that their presence would give us confidence and their removal would produce dejection and even despair” (LW 26:392–394).

Four truths struck me like never before:

  1. Our worth, as Christians, is found in our identity in Christ as sons, daughters, and heirs of the true and living God. Don’t let this become cliché. But, as Luther asserts, “grasp and believe” it.
  2. If we truly “grasp and believe” our identity in Christ, we would deplore any worldly good that could define us. Even the most “sublime and glorious,” whether “wisdom,” “power,” “crowns,” “gold,” or “pleasure,” would make us “sick.” It will “immediately seem vile to us.” Our love for the world decreases the more our love for God increases.
  3. Embracing our Christian identity will increase our love for our Triune God. We would understand the “magnitude of it all”; that is, the magnitude of God’s love for us in Christ, so clearly displayed in the gospel. Contemplating divine love can only result in human love for God and neighbor.
  4. Finding our worth in Christ helps us see the futility in finding our worth anywhere else. If our identity is found in physical things, which are here today and gone tomorrow, then so will our sense of worth. But if we look only to Christ, who is the same, yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8), then so will our identity and worth.

In an age where beauty, weight, degrees, homes, families, cars, and salaries determine our worth, self-esteem, and identity, may we find in this Luther quote the counter-cultural gospel of God. We have God as our “father,” and we are His “sons and daughters” (2 Cor. 6:18). More than that, we are co-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:16–17). Grasp and believe this, and the world will grow strangely dim.

Dr. David Briones is professor of New Testament at Reformation Bible College.