CHAPTER III: The Inheritance, from "The Christian Ministry According to the Apostles" by Thomas Hughes Milner
In Christ we (the first believers) have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the council 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 the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession unto the praise of his glory. Wherefore, I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks to you, making mention of you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him; 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, and what the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, Eph. i. 11-19.
1. THE TERM kleeros is that from which our word clergy is derived. Clergy signifies lot, part, portion, or heritage. From the examination following it will be seen how shamefully the scripture idea has been smothered by the arrogance of the priesthood of the apostacy. In Scripture the Christian clergy are the Lord’s people. As Eph. i. 11 says they have attained an inheritance in him, or literally, he has taken them as his inheritance, his lot, portion, or clergy. But in the full development of the apostacy, when the Roman emperors took the bishops under their patronage, and these lucre-loving dignitaries amalgamated the empire with the church, they reserved to their own caste the distinguishing term clergy, and gave to the mass the common appellation of laity. Always in the New Testament, for a hundred and forty times, this word laos is applied to the unsaved in contradistinction to the saved––the clergy of Jesus. Only when laos is connected with the “name of God,” specifying “the people of God,” is it applied to Christians at all. Then, it is synonymous with kleeros; that is, the people of God are the clergy of his Son. There is no prelacy, no caste in the ecclesia of God. The Christian clergy is not a class in the church distinguished form the Christian laity. All the laity of God are the clergy of Christ; all the clergy of Jesus are the people of Jehovah. Every Christian is a Christian clergyman or woman; every individual of the laity of Acts xv. 14; Rom. ix. 25, 26; 2 Cor. vi. 16; Tit. ii. 14; Heb. iv. 9; viii. 10; x. 30; 1 Pet. ii. 9, 10; and Rev. xxi. 3 is one of the clergy of Rom. viii. 17; Gal. iii. 29; Col. i. 12; Tit. iii. 7; Heb. vi. 17; James ii. 5; and 1 Pet. v. 3. No Christian should acknowledge the right of any class in the church to the exclusive name of “the clergy,” nor should he accept for himself and brethren in Christ the mere term “laity.” To do either is to repeat in aggravated form the profanity of Esau when he despised his birthright.
2. There are four forms in which this important term is found in apostolic Scripture. There is the verb kleeronomeo to inherit, and there are the substantives kleeronomia, inheritance; kleeronomos, heir; and kleeros, heritage. Believers shall inherit eternal life (Matt. xix. 29), salvation (Heb. i. 14), the promises (Heb. vi. 17), the blessing (1 Pet. iii. 9), the kingdom (Matt. xxv. 34), the earth (Matt. v. 5), all things (Rev. xxi. 7).
3. Regarding the verb to inherit, we notice that Matt. xix. 29 intimates that every one who hath forsaken houses, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for Jesus’ name sake, shall receive a hundred-fold, and shall inherit everlasting life. Heb. i. 14 says the angels are ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to those who shall inherit salvation. Heb. vi. 12 enjoins diligence in following those who inherit the promises. 1 Pet. iii. 9 forbids the disciples rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing, but contrariwise, blessing, knowing that they are thereunto called that they should inherit blessing. Matt. xxv. 34 represents the King as saying to the faithful, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Matt. v. 5 pronounces the meek happy, for they shall inherit the earth. And Rev. xxi. 7 supplies the divine congratulation of the Christian victor in the words, He shall inherit all things, and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
4. Respecting kleeronomia, the inheritance, Gal. iii. 18 intimates that it is not of the law, but by the promise, through the faith. Heb. ix. 15 says that through the death of the Mediator the called receive the promise of eternal inheritance. 1 Pet. i. 3-5 ascribes blessing to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to his abundant mercy, has begotten the chosen to a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead–to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and unfading, reserved in the heavens for all who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time. Eph. i. 11-19 teaches that the believers are taken by Christ for his inheritance, and explains that the Holy Spirit of the promise whereby the individual is sealed upon his trusting in Christ is the earnest of his inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession, that is, as Rom. viii. 23 explains, until the resurrection; and also expresses the apostle’s prayer for the disciples’ enlightenment as to the hope of Christ’s calling, the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and the exceeding greatness of the power of God toward them. And Col. iii. 24 exhorts to hearty service to the Lord and not to men, the brethren knowing that of the Lord they shall receive the reward of the inheritance, since they serve the Lord Messiah.
5. Concerning kleeronomos, heir, Heb. i.2 announces that God has constituted Jesus “heir of all things.” Rom. viii. 17 pronounces his followers children of God, and since children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ. Gal. iii. 29 calls them heirs according to the promise; iv. 7, heirs of God through Christ; Tit. iii. 7, heirs according to the hope of eternal life; Heb. vi. 17, heirs of promise; and James ii. 5, heirs of the kingdom which God hath promised to those who love him.
6. Relative to kleeros, heritage, Acts viii. 21 reports that Peter told Simon Magus that he had neither part nor lot in the gospel salvation. Acts xxvi. 18 shews that the ministry given to Paul was in order to the conversion of men, that they might receive forgiveness of sins and heritage among those who are sanctified by the faith in Christ. Col. i. 12, 13 ascribes thanks to the Father who hath made the believing meet to be partakers of the heritage of the saints in light, who hath delivered them from the power of darkness and translated them into the kingdom of the Son of his love. And 1 Pet. v. 3 enjoins the elders to oversee not as lords over the heritage, but as examples to the flock.
7. From this enumeration of all the passages comprising the various forms of the word as bearing on the subject, it is abundantly manifest that the entire body of the faithful is comprehended in the clergy or heritage of God, and, therefore, that their division into clergy and laity is invidious, divisive, and antiChristian. That the recognition of this distinction is a practice which, while it lowers the standing of the great body of believers to the level of the unconverted, raises the prelatic class upon a platform of lordship over the whole heritage of God. And, therefore, that the body never can be truly one, nor enjoy the liberty wherewith the Son makes his brethren free; nor individually fulfill the sacred duties of their high calling, so long as this anti- and antiscriptural distinction is tolerated.
8. It is not less manifest that the Scripture idea of clergy, i.e., of the Christian inheritance, heritage, or heirship, ramifies through the entire economy of grace, so that imperfect views of this subject must discolour the whole horizon of Christian vision. Doubtless it was because the apostle saw this that he so ardently prayed for the illumination of the disciples in the knowledge of the riches of the glory of the Messiah’s inheritance in the saints. But what gross darkness covers the people in regard to this transcendent theme! How little they know of the hope of the high calling of God in this respect! How few of them are aware that in confining the term clergy to the ecclesiastical hierarchies, they are assigning over to them the birthright appellation of every child of God! How tamely they submit to a domination which Peter so solemnly forbids the bishops to assume in the work of the pastorate! How entirely by this submission they neglect the injunction not to serve men, but heartily to serve the Lord, under the gladdening knowledge, that of the Lord the reward of the inheritance would be received, seeing the Lord himself had been served!
9. Inexpressible comfort is lost by this ignorance. There is no thought more gladdening and ennobling than the consideration that the Lord of glory, the heir of the universe, has constituted us joint-heirs with himself. It is a most magnificent idea that he has taken us for an inheritance to himself, and that he has given us an inheritance, in him. To be an heir of God, a joint-heir with the Son of his love, to have all that is God’s for an inheritance, is a most entrancing and inspiring thought. For incitement to Christian labour there is nothing like it.
10. And it is with this practical object that the apostle suggests the thought in Col. iii. 24. He exhorts the brethren against a mere human service: he urges to a heartfelt service to the Lord, and in doing this he gives the brethren to understand that it is because of their thus serving the Lord that they shall receive of him the reward of the inheritance. This magnificent inheritance constitutes the Christian’s reward: it is given him by the Lord for service rendered to himself. The apostle’s doctrine, therefore, is no service, no inheritance. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
11. Nor should the dread contrast instituted in Scripture betwixt the lot of the heritage of God, and those who are not his people, be overlooked. Not only are we informed that the latter have neither part nor lot with the former: not only does 1 Cor. vi. 9, warn us that “the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God;” but their lot is contrasted in Rev. xxi. 7, 8, with that of the Christian victor in these awfully solemn words: He that overcometh shall inherit all things, and I will be his God, and he shall be my son; but the cowardly and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murders, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolators, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.