ELDER NEIL PHELAN JR.
"THE ACTIVE AND PASSIVE INHERITANCE
OF GOD'S CHILDREN"
Over the centuries, divines have enjoyed preaching and teaching the Biblical subject of inheritance to God's people. As we read the many scriptural passages that deal with the subject of inheritance there seems to be areas in which the scriptures disagree or do not compliment one another. One reason is because some scriptures deal with that part of our inheritance which lies beyond this life while there are other scriptures which deal with our earthly participation in this inheritance. The word of God clearly defines both an inheritance beyond and after this life as well as an inheritance to be enjoyed by God's children in this life.
As we inspect the scriptures which deal with our inheritance in heaven, we view God's choice of a people before the foundation of the world, setting them apart as objects of His love and ultimately saving them by His grace through the finished works of Jesus Christ. These verses are void of human merits of any kind as God's children are placed in a passive position as inheritors by nature of who they are "and if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise"-Gal 3:29 These verses display and extol the power of the Godhead unilaterally accomplishing God's purpose to save and secure a people unto himself who are to actively participate in this inheritance when Jesus shall return to say "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" Mat 25:34b.
On the other hand, our earthly fellowship with God is described by the Apostle Paul as "the earnest of our inheritance" -Eph 1:14a. This means that we can begin to enjoy a portion of our inheritance before we ever get to heaven! As we study the verses that deal with our earthly participation in this inheritance we are made to realize that even though it is available as a result of God's grace, there must be an effort put forth for "He that overcometh shall inherit all things" Rev 21:7a. To participate in this earthly portion of our inheritance with the saints of light one must overcome many obstacles in life. Why is this so? That we might "shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light" I Peter 2:9b. Our fellowship with God today is just a measure of what it will be in Heaven, but it is with the same God and is an extension from His abode: Heaven.
One thing that is common to both of these aspects of inheritance is the simple truth that they are both a product of God's magnificent grace. Whether it is Heaven or the Kingdom of Heaven, grace is on display. How could a perfect and sinless God ever allow guilty sinners even an inkling of His inheritance? By grace! Many enjoy considering this grace when we speak of an eternal inheritance but look to the law for an earthly inheritance but both are by grace. Grace demands that whether beyond this life, or during this life, this inheritance is God's to give and He can give it where He wants to; when He wants to; and to whom He wants to.
How can a sinner hear the gospel? By Grace. How can a person ever come to the place that they have the desire to call upon God? By grace. What causes a sinner to recognize their sin and beg forgiveness from a merciful God? Grace! If you have been touched by god's grace you have been touched by God; you have been owned a child.
There have always been those who would desire to Lord over this inheritance. When Jesus came preaching the Kingdom of God to sinners there were those, even in His day, that did not want to share this inheritance "they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance." Mat 21:38. It was their desire to determine who would, and who would not, participate in this inheritance rather than looking to God, the giver of the inheritance. These were the very ones in whom Jesus said "for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men" and ultimately their kingdom was taken from them. Therefore we establish this fact: whether we are considering that part of our inheritance in this life, or that part of our inheritance which lies beyond, it is a product of God's grace. When I view a sinner repenting under the sound of the gospel I view grace in action; I view an active participation in the inheritance of God; I VIEW GOD.
OUR INHERITANCE BEYOND
Of all the verses we might consider that deal with an inheritance to be received passively by the elect there is no clearer testimony in God's word than Ephesians 1:11 "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"
Ephesians 1:11 communicates to us a state of "being". "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." The elect are found in the position of, "being predestinated" not "getting" predestinated. This position entitles every predestinated saint of God to "an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you." -I Pet 1:4
Ephesians 1:11 lets us view the counsel of the Godhead before the morning of time as their purpose is revealed: setting a people apart as the heirs of His grace. This verse tells us that God is working and willing and is very definitive concerning what GOD is working and what GOD is willing. God is willing for his beloved children to receive an "inheritance". Now if God wants his children to have something and He is willing and working for them to get it, don't you think they shall? Predestination means "to limit in advance, predetermine or determine before". This state of "being predestinated" places every child of God in a position of being predetermined of God to be an heir to the very throne room of God's treasures. Therefore, God determined before this world was ever spoken into existence for the elect to obtain an inheritance. This is far more than we can ever imagine, for who can search out the riches of God or the magnificence of becoming a joint heir with Christ for "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." I Cor 2:9. Heaven and all that is found there is to be inherited by the predestinated saints of glory. The language is specific. In Ephesians 1:11, the greek word from which this word "inheritance" is translated from can be found in only one other place in the New Testament. It is found in Hebrews 1:4 "Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they". This verse declares the exalted position of the incarnate Son of God. Jesus Christ, by inheritance, has a more excellent name than angels. That means because of who he was, his very being, he was found "surpassing angels in authority and character even as he lay in a lowly manger." Why and how was this so? By inheritance! In the same way the predestinated saints of God obtained their inheritance, the incarnate Son of God obtained a more excellent name. Did Jesus obtain a more excellent name because of His works or because he repented from sin or because John baptized him? Obviously not! Both texts display the same truth and that truth is a very vital principal of inheritance.....INHERITANCE BECAUSE OF WHO WE ARE!
Consider how vividly this is displayed as we consider a natural example of heredity. In this life we receive many things passively by inheritance. When we inherit something we receive it by heredity. We receive something which comes from another person or source. We are made an heir by another. One definition that Webster gives for "inherit" is "to receive by heredity". Heredity means "the transmission of qualities from parent to offspring by processes which occur first in the nuclei of germ cells, equipping each egg and sperm with a single set of genes accumulated in past generations, and representing in chemical code all the information necessary for the production of an organism similar in every way to its parent..." Verily, heredity is the process of receiving passively and vitally from another source.
It becomes very apparent that we obtain many things passively from our parents as a result of our very "being"; as a result of who we are and not as a result of what we did. Because of our kinship or relationship, we receive, by heredity, many things from our fathers and mothers. I bear my father's name by inheritance because of who I am. They could have named me "Smith" but by birth I was really a "Phelan". All of us possess many genetic traits because of our very being or I might say it like this "because of who we are." Blood type, hair color, eye color, looks, and many other obvious characteristics are passed down from parent to child. These are all received passively and not by choice or volition of the recipient. Did you ask to be born? Did you ask to be conceived by your parents? Does your accepting your eye color make it so? Did you ask for you hair color? If not so naturally, how much more so spiritually? Did you ask to be a child of your natural father and receive these traits? Equally so, did you ask your heavenly Father to be born from above and receive these spiritual yearnings and traits? Did you ask God to give you the spirit which abides within you?
There are many other things we might consider concerning heredity. My earthly father shared his love with me, his home with me, his food and raiment with me and all of his riches and possessions with me. I have never had to ask for any of it. Why? Because he loved me and I was a member of his family. As a result of my birth, and he being my father, he was responsible for many things and because of this relationship, it was his desire to give me those things.
Therefore "being predestinated" to obtain an inheritance is simply a family matter. Every offspring of God, born from above, has an allotment in this inheritance. As we view this facet of our inheritance, we are brought, by grace, to high ground, where man's free will is shattered by scriptural evidence.
How in the world are we going to understand that "we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated" and at the same time believe "He that overcometh shall inherit all things?" There is only one way and that is to realize that one is active and the other is passive. Even though they are both a product of God's grace, one is enjoyed by the resurrected saints of God; glorified; spotless; conformed to the image of Christ. The other is to be enjoyed by vessels of clay; sinners; creatures of time; subject to error. As we approach this facet of our inheritance we are made to realize the doctrine of fatalism or the absolute predestination of all things could not possibly harmonize with these passages of scripture. This is truely the place where "Ye shall know them by their fruits."
The New Testament is pregnant with verses of scripture that deal with an inheritance which can be enjoyed by God's elect in this life. To understand and enjoy this facet of inheritance properly, it is beneficial to understand the precise meaning of the word "inherit" and "inheritance" as used in this fashion. In most of the verses that deal with an active participation in this inheritance in this life the word inheritance or inherit is translated from a word which means "to be an heir, (obtain by), getting by apportionment, a sharer by lot, a possessor". To me this means more than birthright. Indeed, it is available as a result of birthright, but subscribes an involvement, an active participation by the child. It is a living and vital principle of Heaven itself and goes beyond a name on the Church books or filling a seat on the pew, but is a living, breathing, moving participation with the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. It is a day by day, moment by moment experience, as we fellowship with our Lord.
Matthew 5:5 opens up some understanding to this view of inheritance "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth." Does this mean the meek shall inherit the earth as one would inherit a house or a car? Obviously not. It means that the meek, by reason of their meekness, shall possess and enjoy this earth in a way that others will not. Mat 19:29 teaches us that the Lord should come before all others if we are to enjoy this inheritance "And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life." When we have the Lord in His proper place we will then love and care for our family members as we should.
The Word of God makes it very clear that this earnest of our inheritance may be lost as a result of sin "For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." Eph 5:5. As we mentioned earlier, to participate in our earthly portion of the inheritance each child of God must overcome. What must they overcome? The scriptures clearly illustrate this to be sin. Some of these sins are clearly defined in Galatians 5:21, Ephesians 5:5 and I Corinthians 6:9-10.
Paul, a chief of sinners at one point in his life, is careful to remind us that God will not allow those that participate in these sinful lusts to be "a possessor" of this inheritance in this life "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?" I Cor 6:9a. Does this mean that people who have participated in these sins are disqualified from this inheritance? No, Paul is equally careful to remind us that there were members of the church at Corinth that were once involved in these very sins and had overcome through repentance and belief of the gospel "And such were some of you" I Cor 6:11a. Their former life of sin would not have allowed a participation in this inheritance, but the gospel came to them in power as they viewed Jesus Christ and him crucified while their repentance testified "ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." I Cor 6:11b. This reveals the true meaning of inheritance by overcoming sin. This is the very purpose of the gospel. To tell the heirs of grace what is theirs to possess "The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints". Eph 1:18.
Gospel means "good news". This is it! You have an inheritance in which you may enjoy right now! Turning sinners around to worship their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and enjoy the inheritance which is rightfully theirs is the full purpose of the gospel and is reflected in the charge Jesus delivered to the Apostle Paul " To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me." Acts 26:18. What a charge Paul received! Jesus didn't mince any words in charging the Apostle Paul to turn sinners "from the power of Satan unto God". When is last time you viewed this purpose of the gospel? When is the last time you viewed the "Active and Passive inheritance of God's Children?" Dearly beloved, let us all labor to enter in to this inheritance and fellowship with our Lord on a daily basis. -Sonny