Tuesday, October 7, 2008

An Inheritance That Needs No Bailout

One of my favorite Scripture passages is 1 Peter 1:3 and following. So much great and powerful truth contained in so few words. Consider just v. 3-5.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Note what's stated as a purpose for God the Father's bringing His people to new birth in Christ - "to obtain an inheritance." This passage says that one of God's main reasons for sovereignly saving His people is to provide for them an inheritance. The inheritance of God Himself, and His Kingdom. Based on His covenant promises. In fact, we're told in Romans 8:17 that since we are adopted children of God, born into His family, we are "heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ." What an amazing truth, to be inheritors of all that God has promised Jesus Christ.

So what do we tend to think of when we hear the term "inheritance"? More than likely we think in terms of real estate, stocks, bonds, mutual funds and such. Tangible property passed on from father to children. But in these times of economic and financial uncertainty, there are many of us who see the value of our assets dwindling, fading away, shrinking. And it can be frightening, can't it? Times like these can give us small hope of being able to pass on an inheritance to our families, or of receiving one.

But that's not exactly the kind of inheritance the first century readers of Peter's epistle would have thought of. Notice back in 1 Peter what kind of an inheritance is described that God provides for His children. First, it is imperishable. The Greek here is ἄφθαρτος, referring to that which will not decay or rot. One of the most valuable commodities in Biblical times was grain, often stored up by wealthy farmers as a long-term asset, something to be passed on. But grain that begins to rot is worthless, losing it's value entirely. But not so the inheritance of God for His people. It is eternal and of infinite value, never subject to decay.

Second, the inheritance of God's people is referred to as undefiled, from the Greek ἀμίαντος. Meaning that which is unspoiled and pure. Another valuable commodity in the ancient near east was olive oil, or good wine. But if either of these became tainted with impurities, they would, like rotted grain, be worthless. But again, not so with the inheritance God the Father provides for His children. It is pure and untainted and will remain so.

Thirdly, the inheritance God promises is described as one that "will not fade away." The Greek is ἀμάραντος, describing something that is perpetual and not subject to loss. One of the most prized possessions that could be passed on to a son from a father in a wealthy family in Biblical Palestine was the father's robe. A sign of power and prestige and authority, only worn on extremely special occasions, and usually of a bright fabric that was very costly. But like all fabrics, subject to fading of those bright colors over time. And with the fading came a loss of value. But not so with the inheritance of God's people. It is perpetual, unfading, unchanging. We are inheritors of the royal robe of Christ as we are clothed with Him, permanently and eternally.

And lastly, this eternal inheritance is described as being ours already. Peter states that it is "reserved in heaven for you." It's in the bank, so to speak. The Greek translated reserved here is τηρέω, meaning guarded or kept secure. God has deposited this inheritance in a heavenly account with our name on it, and is reserving it for us. And note where the power comes from to preserve this reserved inheritance. It is God Himself, who is keeping us and protecting us all the way through the perils of this life and this world to His ultimate destination for us where our inheritance will be consummated with Him.

So meditate on these truths, Christian, when the uncertainties of Wall Street make it seem as if there is no certainty of tomorrow's finances. Because there isn't. Regardless of whether the Dow is up or down. But instead, focus on the infinitely superior inheritance that the Lord Jesus Christ has determined to share with those He has redeemed. The inheritance of the Kingdom of God, of an eternity in worship and fellowship with Him face to face, the sure and certain blessings of eternal life in Christ. And rest in those truths and that position, and take joy in it. As Peter goes on to say in v. 6-9:

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.

Amen. Soli Deo Gloria.

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