CAN YOU EXPLAIN ROMANS 8:17?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Regrettably, in recent years, especially on social media, our grace brethren have allowed the pettiest and most preposterous of ideas to divide us. One case in point is a rare handling of Romans 8:17. Let us read the verse as it appears in the King James Bible: “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.” Sadly, fellow believers in Christ—however sincere—have greatly damaged this most precious Scripture. Allowing human sentiment (emotions) to blind their spiritual eyes, dull their spiritual ears, and harden their spiritual hearts; they have been deceived and thus introduced needless confusion, concern, and discouragement! Here in this, our special-edition 600th Bible Q&A article, we aim (by special request) to shed much-needed light on this matter.
I. CONFUSION! (CONFUSION! CONFUSION!)
Dear friends, this author has read innumerable online posts written by people on both sides of the issue. Some souls have even emailed him in total bewilderment and complete exasperation. They cannot see what either side is contending as touching Romans 8:17. Others are totally fed up and cannot bear to see anything else written about it. Some discussions are bitter; others are quite absurd. When God’s Word is tossed aside and sinful man sits as judge, should we expect anything else but spiritual disaster?!
Frankly, as is often the case about Bible topics, there is so much ignorance. There is great discussion about Romans 8:17, an enormous amount of heat being generated, but so little substance and almost no light. Emotions, unfortunately, have usually taken precedence on both sides. Christians have become so caught up in writing or speaking that they have overlooked the simplicity of the verse. Four years on, it is high time we settle the matter here. For anyone seeking clarification, we humbly offer this Bible study. We will set aside all opinions of men, and let the Scriptures speak for themselves. “For what saith the Scriptures?”
Turning to Romans chapter 8, we give the Holy Bible preeminence: “ For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.  For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.  The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:  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.”
Verse 17 can be—and has been—misconstrued to promote a works-religion system. For simplicity’s sake, we will hereafter refer to this idea as “conditional joint-heirship.” The basic premise is thus: while all Christians are “children of God,” and all Christians are “heirs of God,” only some Christians are “joint-heirs with Christ.” Proponents of this system base their argument on the following phrase in the verse: “if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” “If so be…” contains three simple one-syllable English words, so it is absolutely mindboggling how people stumble over them!! Whether they do so in complete sincerity, or deliberate ignorance, they struggle to grasp the verse. Dear friends, let the Holy Spirit teach you. It is simple. Do not complicate the Bible. (Leave that for lost people to do!!) Set aside your traditions. Turn off the preachers and put down the commentaries!! Give the Holy Scriptures the chance to speak.
II. CLARITY! (CLARITY! CLARITY!)
A. “IF SO BE:” THE GREEK WORD “EIPER”
The Greek word translated “if so be” (eiper) is used only five times in the New Testament Bible. Glance at these instances now:
- Romans 8:9: “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be [eiper] that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”
- Romans 8:17: “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be [eiper] that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”
- 1 Corinthians 15:15: “Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be [eiper] that the dead rise not.”
- 2 Thessalonians 1:6: “Seeing [eiper] it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;….”
- 1 Peter 2:3: “If so be [eiper] ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”
If we just let the English Bible speak, we see that none of these verses are conditional as in “perhaps so, perhaps not” (“maybe yes, maybe no”). The quote from 2 Thessalonians is a simple example. Is God just or fair in paying back the enemies of His children? Why, yes He is! Paul is not saying, “Maybe it is a righteous thing with God… maybe it is not a righteous thing with God.” On the contrary, Paul is declaring, “In light of that fact that it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you,” “in light of the fact that it is a righteous thing with God to give you rest with us,” He will surely judge in flaming fire those who know Him not and who do not obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Read 2 Thessalonians 1:3-10—one lengthy sentence in Greek!—and you will see the tenor we just delineated. It is a logical argument.
Now, we concentrate on the Romans 8:9 example of “eiper.” Read it again: “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be [eiper] that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” Is Paul questioning whether or not we have the indwelling Holy Spirit? Of course not (refer to verses 1-8 and 10-16). He had just stated in verse 11: “His Spirit that dwelleth in you.” The Holy Spirit living inside Christians is certain, factual. This is no “maybe, maybe not” situation. It would be contrary to God’s nature to allow His spokesman (Paul) to introduce doubt in the minds of His people. The Holy Spirit permanently seals the inner man of the believer the moment he or she believes on the Lord Jesus Christ as personal Saviour (1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Ephesians 1:12-14; Ephesians 4:30; 2 Timothy 1:14). Lost people are those without the Spirit of Christ. Romans 8:9 again, in part: “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” Since we are in the Spirit, we should act like we are in the Spirit (as opposed to acting sinful). Our daily behavior should reflect our Christian identity. That is the logic of Romans 8:9.
We proceed to consider 1 Corinthians 15:15: “Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be [eiper] that the dead rise not.” Paul is not arguing, “Perhaps the dead will be resurrected, perhaps not.” No. He has taken the position of the Corinthians who have denied the possibility of resurrection (check verse 12—which is Christ’s resurrection). Pagan philosophy has deceived these Christians so they now doubt a cardinal truth of Christianity. To combat the error, the Holy Spirit through Paul provides a series of rebuttals throughout chapter 15. In essence, this is what he is saying in chapter 15, verse 15 (paraphrased): “We [the apostles] are liars of God, for we preached to you that Jesus Christ arose. Since the doctrine of resurrection is a fabrication, then Jesus Christ did not arise as we alleged.” (Paul is not taking a “maybe yes, maybe no” approach. So as to strengthen the “yes” position, he is dealing with the matter from the “no” persuasion. The “if” here is one of logic, as in “since.” That is the sense of “if” in Romans 8:9 and 2 Thessalonians 1:6.)
Lastly, we deal with the “eiper” of 1 Peter 2:3: “If so be [eiper] ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” It is not saying, “Perhaps you have tasted that the Lord is gracious, perhaps you have not.” No. The Apostle Peter’s audience has already trusted or believed on Christ (see verse 7). They have already experienced God’s grace.
Thus, they are: “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:2-5). You can also read 1 Peter 1:13-25 and 1 Peter 2:1-10 to see that Peter’s audience is Jewish believers in Jesus Christ. No doubt or uncertainty is present here whatsoever. Since they have tasted that the Lord is gracious, they are spiritual “babes” who need to grow with “the sincere milk of the word” (verse 2). It is logical.
Romans 8:9 is logical (“if so be”). First Corinthians 15:15 is logical (“if so be”). First Peter 2:3 is logical (“if so be”). Second Thessalonians 1:6 is logical (“seeing”). Nothing is being questioned—and that is especially evident in the Thessalonians proof. Possibilities are not here; certainties are. In light of one fact, other facts can be introduced to rest thereupon. It is a flow of logic, a progression of thought. The remaining instance of “eiper” is Romans 8:17, the verse of controversy. However, now that we have gained the sense of the Greek term, as well as the English sense, Romans 8:17 is easy to grasp (provided we let the Bible speak for itself and not have a theological agenda to promote!!!!).
Back to Romans 8:17. “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.” Please note that, in accordance with our earlier analyses, the “if so be” of Romans 8:17 is not conditional. It is a progression of the thought “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.” “If” this is true, then that is likewise right. It is a flow of logic. The “if children” is not conditional or questionable; it is the beginning of the argument’s development. We are children; therefore, we are heirs. We are suffering with Him; therefore, we will be glorified with Him. Both “ifs” in Romans 8:17 are definite and logical. They are not conditional as in “perhaps, perhaps not.” This needs to be stressed again and again and again and again. Nothing is being questioned; nothing is uncertain. The statements are factual and logical.
Read Romans 8:17 again: “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with [sugkleronomos] Christ; if so be that we suffer with [sumpascho] him, that we may be also glorified together [sundoxadzo].” Focus on that Greek prefix “su–” (“sun–,” “syn–”). It is a preposition meaning “with, beside, together.” Our English words “synchronous,” “synthesizer,” and “syncarpous” are all derived from Greek here. Do you see the parallel thoughts of “with him” and “together?” Those who embrace “conditional joint-heirship” ignore these parallel thoughts of “with him” and “together.”
The Bible said, “…if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” Those of “conditional joint-heirship” persuasion read the verse by pairing “joint-heirs with Christ” with “suffering with Him.” That is not the way the verse should be read. The semicolon breaks up the thoughts, so they should not be strung together: “…heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; [SEMICOLON] if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” Respecting the semicolon (we had better not overlook it!!!), two thoughts are apparent to us. Firstly, “Heirs of God… joint-heirs with Christ” is one thought. Secondly, “if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” is another thought. We do not divide the verse so that it reads, “Only those who suffer with Christ will be joint-heirs with Christ.” Otherwise, we will wind up in the “conditional joint-heirship” trap!
Dear readers, let us re-illustrate the truths we have laid out thus far. “If” in Romans 8:17 should be understood as “if that is the case.” It is a flow of logic, not a conditional statement. An example of “if” being used as logical rather than conditional is as follows: “If she is a college graduate, she should have learned how to spell correctly and use proper grammar.” Try it again. “Seeing as to it is cold outside, I will wear extra layers of clothing.” Once more, “Enjoy God’s Word, if so be that He has given it to you.” “No” is not an option in any of these cases, thereby eliminating the “maybe yes, maybe no” approach to the “ifs” here. The only choice is “yes, that is the case, and since that is the case, this too is true.” “This is fact, and on the basis of that fact, we reveal a new fact.” She graduated college; therefore, she should have exceptional knowledge in spelling and grammar. We will have chilly weather today, so I will be sure to bring additional clothes. God has inspired, preserved, and translated His Word; for which cause we desire to read, study, and believe it.
Friend, do you see how simple this all is? We have set aside emotions. We have disregarded preacher’s interpretations and traditions of denominations. We have humbly submitted to the Holy Spirit to teach us using His words. There is no struggling, obscurity, doubt, vexation, dread, anger, or darkness. We just read the words on the pages of Scripture, compare verses, and let those Divine words contradict whomever they oppose. “Let God be true, but every man a liar” (Romans 3:4). If the Bible refutes “Pastor So-and-So,” “Sister So-and-So,” “Father So-and-So,” “Brother So-and-So,” “Doctor So-and-So,” “Reverend So-and-So,” so be it! That goes for me or any other “grace” leader as well! This needs to be stressed again and again and again and again.
B. WHAT IS THE “SUFFERING” IN ROMANS 8:17?
Another driving force behind the “conditional joint-heirship” position is the appeal to 2 Timothy 2:12. Since Romans 8:17 and 2 Timothy 2:12 both relate to suffering, it is automatically assumed that they are speaking of one and the same event. As these Scriptures themselves testify, they are not the same idea!
We present them side-by-side for ease of comparison:
- Romans 8:17: “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.”
- 2 Timothy 2:12: “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us.”
These are two separate contexts, and should not be combined. The suffering of Romans 8:17 is suffering under the curse of sin (check verses 18-25 quoted below). Who is suffering under the curse of sin? Do only mature believers experience sickness, disease, and death? No, those problems apply to all believers, mature and immature (and even unbelievers!).
“ For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.  For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.  For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,  Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.  And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit [Christians included here!!!], even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.  For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?  But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.” (Did you notice how this fits nicely with the order of Romans 8:17? There is suffering first, then glorification; a decaying creation will be followed by a renewed creation. A debilitating body will give way to a resurrected body.
While Romans 8:17 says “suffer with him,” there is no “suffer with him” in 2 Timothy 2:12. Second Timothy states, “suffer”—that is general. Romans 8:17 says “suffer with him”—that is specific. We have two independent contexts. This needs to be stressed again and again and again and again. There are two types of suffering under discussion.
Let us turn back to Romans 8:17. Whatever we suffer, Jesus Christ feels our pain because we are so intricately connected with Him (Head versus body-parts—1 Corinthians chapter 12). He is suffering with us, but since He preceded us, the wording is that we are suffering with Him. We are one with Him. As in the physical world, the Head senses the pain that one part of the Body feels. He suffered under the curse of sin during His earthly ministry. He lived in a fallen world. He saw loved ones grow sick and die. We are still under the same curse, with bodies prone to sickness and death (go back to Romans 8:18-25—and see Genesis 3:16-19 where that curse of sin originated). We await the arrival of our new glorified bodies at the Rapture, just as Jesus Christ was (and still is) waiting for creation to be freed from the curse of sin! As He will be glorified one day, so we will be glorified with Him (1 Corinthians 15:33-58; Philippians 3:20-21; 2 Thessalonians 1:10; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).
Now, we can move on to the “suffering” in 2 Timothy 2:12. Read it in context: “ Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.  It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him:  If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:  If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.”
This “suffering”—if we allow the context to speak!—was already defined for us in verse 9. “Wherein [the Gospel of Grace—verse 8] I suffer trouble, as an evildoer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound.” Verse 10 onward is a conclusion of what has gone before, as it begins, “Therefore [for which reason]….” God’s Word is not restricted, though sinful men can imprison God’s men. Though Jesus Christ’s messenger can be silenced (discouraged or dead), His message will not be and will never be. Paul is being persecuted as he writes that very passage; he has been arrested and is now sitting in a prison, suffering for the sake of preaching the Gospel of Grace. This is certainly not the suffering of Romans 8:18-25. Again, they are different issues.
Nevertheless, such simple truths disappear as the “conditional joint-heirship” confusion slips in. It is alleged that we must suffer for the “mystery’s sake” before we can be joint-heirs with Christ. We must, it is said, be persecuted for preaching Paul’s special doctrine, or we cannot be heirs in the heavenly places. Being joint-heirs is not a guarantee, they claim, as we may not suffer for the mystery’s sake (and they grab Romans 8:17 as proof!!). This is an appalling mistreatment of the Bible. Such an approach is wrong for three reasons. We will gladly repeat the two mentioned earlier—and we will add a new refutation!
Firstly, if suffering for the mystery’s sake resulted in being a joint-heir with Christ, then it would have been most appropriate for Paul to mention that in 2 Timothy chapter 2. After all, as that passage demonstrates, he was suffering for preaching his Gospel (part of the mystery). Yet, the word “joint-heir” never once appears in 2 Timothy. Furthermore, there is no suffering “with Christ” here as in Romans chapter 8. We would have to insert these words into Scripture without authority. Thus we would be liars, guilty of adding to God’s pure words (Proverbs 30:5-6). Do we really care to go that route? If that is our preference, we need to stop playing the hypocrite and just admit we really do not believe the Bible. If we must resort to changing Bible verses, our loyalty is to our theology and not our God!
Secondly, as was already pointed out, of the five times “eiper” appears in the Greek Bible, it always serves as the most important link in the chain of logic. Never is doubt being gendered in any case. Romans 8:9 is logical (“if so be”). First Corinthians 15:15 is logical (“if so be”). First Peter 2:3 is logical (“if so be”). Second Thessalonians 1:6 is logical (“seeing”). Nothing is being questioned—which is especially evident in the Thessalonians proof. Mere possibilities are not here; absolute certainties are. In light of the facts, other realities can be introduced to rest on the first facts. It is a flow of logic. It is a progression of thought. The remaining instance of “eiper” is Romans 8:17 (“if so be”) and it too is logical and not conditional.
Thirdly, all Christians are “joint-heirs with Christ” just as all Christians are “children of God” and “heirs of God.” Again, the “if so be” clause of Romans 8:17 is logical not conditional (“maybe, maybe not”). Since there is great confusion, we will repeat yet again what has gone before. Romans 8:17 begins, “If children, then heirs.” Are we God’s children or not? Is Paul arguing “perhaps yes, perhaps no” here? Of course not! The “if” is not “maybe you are God’s children;” the “if” starts a thought process. Verse 16 just claimed we are (definite or certain, not speculative) God’s children: “ The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:  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.”
Since we are children of God (verse 16), we are His heirs by default (verse 17). The second “if” of verse 17 functions the same way as the first “if” in verse 17. “If we suffer with Him” (and we will, as this is definite, certain, not speculative—see verse 18), then that suffering will eventually give way to glorification. As we share in His sufferings, so we will partake of His glorification. This is not conditional but logical. Once again, go back to the first “if” of verse 17, and even glance up to verse 16 (where the sentence starts). We are heirs of God, and we are joint-heirs with Christ. Both are facts because of the truth that we are children of God. These three are facts, not possibilities or conditional ideas. They are absolute certainties.
We are children of God. Since that is true, two other outcomes are also true. Firstly, we are heirs of God. Secondly, we are joint-heirs with Christ. There is no hoping, wishing, or doubt here. We are heirs of God in that everything that belongs to Him belongs to us. Think of a father passing on his estate to his son. We are joint-heirs with Christ in that what the Father passes to Him is transferred to us as well. We share His identity, for we are flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone, members of His body (Ephesians 5:23-30). We are called “Christ” and “the body of Christ” for this very reason (1 Corinthians 12:12,27). What exactly is this “joint-heirship” that all Christians have? For the remainder of this article, we will do a treatment of the “joint-heirship” as the Bible presents it.
C. “THE INHERITANCE” VERSUS “THE REWARD OF THE INHERITANCE”
Two themes we should never, ever confuse are (1) “the inheritance” and (2) “the reward of the inheritance.” The Bible handles them separately and we will do likewise. “Conditional joint-heirship” people need to pay close attention here!!
Go to Ephesians chapter 1, which speaks of our inheritance: “ Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:  That in the dispensation of the fulness of 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 that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,  Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory…..
“ And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,  Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,  Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:  And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,  Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.”
Since Father God has made Jesus Christ the Heir of the governments of Heaven and Earth, we believers in Christ are also heirs. We share His governmental authority in the Heavens just as redeemed Israel will share it in the Earth. This is the future glorification we briefly noted earlier in Romans chapter 8. It bears repeating, and so we will be glad to repeat.
Re-reading Ephesians chapter 1: “ Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;  Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:  That in the dispensation of the fulness of 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.”
Every member of the Church the Body of Christ will go to Heaven. That is the “heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ” promise of Romans 8:17, given to all who are “children of God” (verse 16). “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26). Heaven is the inheritance of all Christians (all members of the Body of Christ, those who have trusted His finished crosswork at Calvary as sufficient payment for their sins—1 Corinthians 15:3-4). We all share in His authority to rule over the heavenly places. Ephesians 2:6-7 says to this effect: “And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” All individuals “in Christ” today qualify to reign in the heavenly places!
However, our specific roles or jobs in Heaven are conditional. Our entering Heaven is unconditional but our responsibility in Heaven is conditional. Did you see the word “places” in Ephesians 2:6? These are positions of authority. See Revelation chapter 12: “ And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,  And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.” In the ages to come, God here expels Satan and his fallen angels from outer space or second heaven (Ephesians 6:12)—that He might install us the Church the Body of Christ in those places or spheres of influence!
Turn to Colossians chapter 1: “ For by him [Jesus Christ] were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:  And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.  And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.  For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;  And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.”
It would help us here to consider Earth’s governments, for they are similar to the structure of Heaven’s governments. Qualifications are needed for each level of service. The more influential positions require greater qualifications. The qualifications—not to go to Heaven but to serve in Heaven!!—are increasing amounts of sound Bible doctrine we stored in our soul while living on Earth. The reward is not going to Heaven—that is the inheritance. The reward of the inheritance is discharging specific duties in Heaven. Be sure to keep them separate. Be sure to keep them separate. Be sure to keep them separate. We will repeat it over and over and over until it sinks in. The reward is not going to Heaven; the inheritance is going to Heaven. The reward of the inheritance is assuming specific responsibilities in Heaven’s governments.
Now, go to Colossians chapter 3 to read of the reward of the inheritance: “ And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;  Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.  But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.”
This event is “the Judgment Seat of Christ” (Romans 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10). “The Judgment Seat of Christ” is not to determine who will go to Heaven and who will go to Hell. That was already settled on Earth, when Christians believed on Jesus Christ. Christians alone are present here. Children of God, heirs of God, joint-heirs of Christ, are the only people at “the Judgment Seat of Christ.” The matter that needs to be settled at “the Judgment Seat of Christ” is the spiritual maturity of individual Christians. What type of doctrine did they store in the inner man? Good teaching (dispensational Bible study)? Or bad teaching (everything else)? What heavenly job will fit their level of Bible understanding? Will they sit on a throne (like a king)? Or rule over a dominion (like a lord)? Or reign over a principality (like a prince)? Or govern like a power (other ruler)? Or be part of mights (like a soldier)? Or be among every name that is named (general, basic duties)?
Again, there are different ranks or offices or levels of Heavenly government—just like Earth’s governments. Colossians chapter 1 again: “ For by him [Jesus Christ] were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:….” Ephesians 1:21: “Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:….” These are like presidents, kings, princes, military leaders, state governors, city mayors, and so on. They have varying degrees of authority—influence that matches their education.
Our education or curriculum is Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon. That is the material that we must know to function in the Heavenly Place for the Lord Jesus Christ’s glory. We are going to Heaven because of what Jesus Christ did for us at Calvary (unconditional), but what we do in Heaven depends on what we do with the Bible now on Earth (conditional). Do we study Scripture, or something else? Do we ignore Paul and read the rest of the Bible? If it is not God’s Word rightly divided (2 Timothy 2:15), it is not applicable to God’s will in heavenly places. It is the “garbage” material of 1 Corinthians 3:9-15—amounting to nothing in eternity!
Again, the reward is not going to Heaven; Heaven is the inheritance. The reward of the inheritance is fulfilling specific duties in Heaven. The inheritance is not the reward; the inheritance is given to us because of Jesus Christ’s finished work at Calvary’s cross. We did not work to get into Heaven. Now, there is a reward associated with the inheritance, and that reward depends on the quality our Christian service. It is not how much we did but rather why we did what we did. Was it sound Bible doctrine working in us? Was it God’s grace working in us (Pauline doctrine) or empty religious tradition? That is, was it grace living or legalism? Did we use grace doctrine or denominationalism? It matters!!!
To the extent that we suffer in 2 Timothy chapter 2, that is the extent of our reigning in Heaven (see 2 Timothy 2:10-13). If we refuse to let Jesus Christ work in us using Paul’s epistles, that is a loss of reward, and our duties in Heaven will be diminished because we are unqualified to serve in certain heavenly governmental positions. We enter Heaven—the inheritance—based on Calvary’s finished crosswork. We receive the reward of the inheritance based on the quality of doctrine we put in our soul (see 1 Corinthians 3:9-15; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10; Colossians 3:23-25). May we have “gold, silver, precious stones” (Pauline doctrine) and not “wood, hay, stubble!” (Alas, most of us will largely have the useless information stored in our soul!! The Judgment Seat of Christ will manifest it too!)
Much, much more could be written here, but this author trusts that enough material has been laid out for any Romans 8:17 doubts to be dispelled. Those brethren who are willfully ignorant will have to remain willfully ignorant at this point (1 Corinthians 14:38). We cannot help them at this point. Let them go on their way with their nonsense. The God of the Bible values free will, and so do we! Now, for those of us who want to hear and believe the words of the Holy Spirit, let us summarize and bring this study to a close.
III. CONCLUSION (CONCLUSION! CONCLUSION!)
Romans 8:17: “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.”
Sadly, this precious verse has been used to divide Pauline dispensationalists and grace believers for the last four-plus years. The “joint-heir” clause is taken as a conditional statement—“perhaps yes, perhaps no.” Maybe we will be joint-heirs with Christ, and maybe we will not. Here is the “conditional joint-heirship” camp that we would do well to avoid. In this system, “If so be” is taken to mean we must suffer with Jesus Christ in order to become “joint-heirs” with Him. We supposedly must suffer for the mystery’s sake—sound Pauline doctrine—before we can qualify as joint-heirs with Christ. God’s grace is thus destroyed, having been perverted into a legalistic or works-oriented system!!
The way the first half of Romans 8:17 is structured allows us to see how to handle the latter half. “If children” is not questioning whether or not we are God’s children. Rather, this is a fact Paul laid out to then lead us to two conclusions. Since we are (1) God’s children, then we are (2) His heirs. Since we are (2) His heirs, then we are (3) joint-heirs with Christ. These three qualities go together. All three apply to all Christians. We do not force the first two apply to some Christians, and make the third pertain only to a special group of Christians (namely, those believers suffering for the mystery).
If suffering for the mystery’s sake resulted in being a “joint-heir with Christ,” then why did Paul not mention that very term in 2 Timothy 2:9-13? After all, he himself was suffering for preaching his Gospel (part of the mystery). Why “joint-heir” never appears in 2 Timothy is because this “suffering” is not the same as the suffering of Romans 8:17. Romans speaks of suffering “with him,” a suffering isolated from the suffering of 2 Timothy!
The Greek word in Romans 8:17 (the controversial “if so be”) is “eiper.” It always forms the heart of a chain of logic. Never is doubt being gendered in its four remaining instances—Romans 8:9, 1 Corinthians 15:15, 2 Thessalonians 1:6, and 1 Peter 2:3. Possibilities are not here; certainties are. They are progressions of thought, laying out arguments to form conclusions. The remaining instance of “eiper” is Romans 8:17 (“if so be”): in keeping with the data, Romans 8:17 is logical and not conditional. We must be consistent!!
Since we are children of God (verse 16), we are His heirs by default (verse 17). The second “if” of verse 17 functions the same way as the first “if” in verse 17. “If we suffer with Him” (and we will, as this is definite, certain, not speculative—see verse 18), then that suffering will eventually result in glorification. As we share in His sufferings, so we will partake of His glorification. This is not conditional but logical. Again, go back to the first “if” of verse 17. If necessary, you may even go back to verse 16 (where the sentence starts). We are heirs of God, and we are joint-heirs with Christ. Both are facts because of the fact that we are children of God. These three are facts, not possibilities or conditional ideas. They are certainties. All Christians are “children of God,” all believers in Christ are “heirs of God,” and thus all Christians are “joint-heirs with Christ.”
Anyone who uses Romans 8:17 to teach “conditional joint-heirship”—that we must suffer for the mystery’s sake to be joint-heirs with Christ—is most definitely promoting false teaching. Even one hint of a performance-based acceptance system slipping into the Body automatically negates the Holy Spirit’s working in grace. “If ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law” (Galatians 5:18). “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9). If we let just a little bit of works-religion in, the whole Law system will find its way into our hearts and minds. If we must strive and mature in doctrine to be joint-heirs with Christ, then that is works, not grace. Once we go that route, we are susceptible to using all of Romans 8:17 (the other “if”) so as to teach we become God’s children and God’s heirs only by suffering with Christ. False teaching will “increase unto more ungodliness” if we do not stop it in its early stages (2 Timothy 2:16). Be on guard!! Beware! Be on guard!! Beware! Be on guard!! Beware!
The system of “conditional joint-heirship” also ignores the fact that the Romans (8:32), Colossians (2:10), Ephesians (1:3), and all other Christians are blessed with all that Father God has to offer. We do not have to strive to be joint-heirs with Christ. God gave that already to all of us in Christ the moment we trusted Christ (go back to Romans 8:14-17—where those truths cannot be divorced from each other). Must we strive to obtain everything that is Christ’s? Did we not already get everything that is His the moment the Holy Spirit put us into Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13)? Why, yes, He did!
If anyone tells us that all Christians are heirs of God but only the “edified according to Paul’s epistles” are joint-heirs with Christ, we can dismiss them as advocating a works gospel. Grace is tainted, canceled, or “frustrated” (Galatians 2:21). We work for reward (Colossians 3:23-25)—the reward of the inheritance. We do not work for the inheritance—namely, Heaven (Ephesians 1:3-23; Ephesians 2:1-10). Whether they realize it or not (that is beside the point), the “conditional joint-heirship” brethren are making it sound like we work to get into Heaven. They have confused the inheritance with the reward of the inheritance. Friends, we had better learn to differentiate the two!!
All members of the Body of Christ will be glorified in the heavenly places by virtue of being heirs of God, and all Christians will be glorified in the heavenly places by virtue of being joint-heirs with Christ. Since we are suffering with Christ now, it only stands to reason we will be glorified with Him in the future. “You suffer now but you will be glorified later.” As we partake of His sufferings, so we will share in His glory. That is the glorious truth in Romans 8:17, given to all believers in Jesus Christ. We will reign in the heavenly places with Him (Ephesians 2:6-7). That is the inheritance, solely dependent on Jesus Christ paying the price with His shed blood at Calvary (Ephesians 1:3-14).
But, exactly what tasks do we undertake once we get into Heaven? Here is the reward of the inheritance. Our rank/office within the heavenly places is directly proportional to the quality of doctrine we stored in our inner man (1 Corinthians 3:9-15; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10; Colossians 3:23-25). This is our Christian service—how we let our position given us in Christ daily affect us in mind and body while living on Earth. Here is where Christian good works are. That is why we constantly stress here that sound Bible doctrine matters!! Pauline dispensationalism matters!!
Christian friend, if you are not applying to life a clear understanding of Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon, then your Christian life is not pleasing to God! That is why you are deceived, confused, struggling, disappointed, and miserable. Your Christian life is not functioning as God intended because you are not using the doctrine He intended for Christian living. You are relying on church tradition, non-Pauline doctrine, human viewpoint—and that amounts to nothing in light of eternity. There is no power of God therein.
Start reading the Book of Romans and believe what you read! In doing so, you will spare yourself so much spiritual darkness. You will save yourself so much time groping, wandering, wondering, doubting, and struggling. This author can testify to that firsthand… and so can countless other saints!!