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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Inheritance of the Saints

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. (Colossians 1:11-12)

God provides an inheritance

Paul prayed for the Colossians, thanking God that He had qualified them to share in something valuable, something worth passing on. The Greek word for “inheritance” comes from a word that means to break, especially of bread. When the Greeks broke a loaf of bread to share at the dinner table, they used a word that was directly related to the word for inheritance. Every time they broke bread they were acting out the concept of sharing valuable property given by the owner when he died.

This is a picture of the sacrifice of Christ. Jesus used this same word when he spoke of his own death:

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is my body." (Matthew 26:26)

Our inheritance as Christians is Christ Himself! Jesus is our treasure, given to us when we accept his death as full payment for our sin. Jesus was resurrected! Our inheritance is a life hidden in Jesus!

Riches of Glory:

To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)

The “riches of glory”, something once hidden but now revealed, is Christ in you!

It is popular to expect a fortune when named as an heir of a rich relative. We envision thousands of dollars, a mansion, a grand estate. Paul was expecting something even greater:

...all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:2-3)

Our spiritual inheritance is not streets of gold, clouds of pleasure, or palatial mansions...our inheritance is Jesus:

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. (Colossians 2:9-10)
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-3)
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:23-24)

God qualifies us

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. (Colossians 1:11-12)

Paul's prayer included thanks to God for qualifying the Colossian believers to share in the inheritance of the saints. We know that the inheritance is Christ Himself, but in what way were the Colossians qualified by God to share in Christ?

Qualified is translated from a Greek word meaning enabled, from a related word meaning competent, ample, or fit. Its root meaning is to arrive.

Paul explains how God qualified believers in the next verse:

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14)

Before God qualified the Colossians, they were subject to a domain of darkness, held in bondage to a debt of sin. They were alienated from God, enemies even, spiritually dead, condemned by God's law as criminals.

...And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds... (Colossians 1:21)

...And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14)

Only through a perfect sacrifice for sin could the Colossians find redemption, forgiveness, and eternal life with God. Only through Jesus could the Colossians, and us, become qualified to share in the life of Christ, our Great Inheritance.

Two words that both mean “enabled”:

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. (Colossians 1:11-12)

Both “strengthened” and “qualified” mean to be enabled, but there is a difference between the two words:

“Strengthened” is a vigorous enabling, implying action and response. “Qualified” is a condition, a fitness or competence.

Although Paul mentions first the strengthening we receive from God, the foundation for this strengthening is in our qualification. God first qualifies us for His kingdom in Christ, and part of the light we then enjoy is being strengthened in endurance, patience, joy and thankfulness.

In the Light

Paul describes our inheritance as being in the light:

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:11-14)

Light is translated from the Greek phos, meaning luminousness, whether of the sun or fire, or figurative in thoughts and actions.

The light of life in Christ is contrasted with the darkness of death without Christ:

...the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned." (Matthew 4:16)

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

“In Christ” means living in light.