Kleronomia: You’ve Inherited!

Word of the Week

February 24, 2024

Klēronomia: You’ve Inherited!

 

. . . to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you . . .

1 Peter 1:4 NASB

 

If you live long enough, you will almost certainly be involved with an inheritance.  Parents pass away and bequeath their possessions to the next generation.  In fact, CNBC claims that as much as $68 trillion dollars will change generational hands in the next 25 years.1

You may inherit Aunt Mildred’s millions or you might get her mangy cat!  Either way, you benefit from the resources garnered by someone else – and we can be grateful for the gift.

Inheritances can be complicated.  As a two-time executor, I have learned that the process can involve endless forms, contacts with lawyers and bankers, and a maze of legal requirements.

You can also find inheritances in the Bible.  It reflects the first century transfers of property to heirs, but it leaps to describe an entirely different inheritance that belongs to believers in Jesus Christ.  This inheritance gives us spiritual riches beyond imagination, without legal complications or paperwork!

To learn more, let’s invest a few minutes to scrutinize the Greek word for “inheritance.”

The New Testament word for inheritance is klēronomia (klay-rah-nah-MEE-ah). You will find it 14 times, almost always translated the same way.

In the Old Testament, land was the most important aspect of inheritance. Hebrews 11:8 says that Abraham moved cross-country to the “place which he was to receive for an inheritance.”  Stephen, in his speech before the Sanhedrin, commented that Abraham never received this inheritance during his lifetime, “not even a foot of ground” (Acts 7:5).

Centuries later, Abraham’s descendants poured into the promised land and took possession.  Their leader Joshua capped the conquest by distributing the land among the twelve tribes.  Each tribe received a swath of territory, assigning plots of land to every family group.  Your family took title to acreage that would be passed down from father to son, a permanent possession of the clan.

People cared about inheritances in the New Testament as well.  One man even asked Jesus to help him get a bigger share of the inheritance shared with his brother (Luke 12:13).  Christ also told a parable about a wicked pack of tenant farmers who thought they could murder the landowner’s son and seize his inheritance (Matthew 21:38; Mark 12:7; Luke 20:14).

Folks have a natural interest in the financial gain that comes from a literal inheritance.  However, the New Testament writers love to point to the spiritual inheritance that belongs to every member of God’s family.

Samples:

  • And now I entrust you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified (Acts 20:32).
  • He is the mediator of a new covenant, . . . so that those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance (Hebrews 9:15).
  • Jesus Christ, who . . . caused us to be born again . . . to obtain an inheritance which is . . . reserved in heaven for you (1 Peter 1:3-4).

Let’s notice some of the distinctives of our heavenly inheritance:

First, it includes much more than a mere plot of land or a bag of silver coins.  God has granted us a place in His presence for eternity.  I Peter 1:4 promises that our inheritance is reserved for us in heaven, so that nothing can touch it.  And the next verse guarantees that we ourselves are protected by God’s power, so that nothing can keep us from arriving in the Throne Room to claim our legacy.

Second, human wills only go into effect when the donor dies.  You may enjoy the money, but you miss the person.  Our heavenly inheritance is different.  It was made possible when Christ died (see Hebrews 9), but we get to enjoy it with a risen Christ.

Third, human inheritances can lose their value.  Those stock certificates in Sears or Univac may be worthless today.  But our heavenly inheritance is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” (1 Peter 1:4).

Finally, God has given us a down payment that we can enjoy right now.  Ephesians 1:13-14 reveal that God has given us the Holy Spirit, just as He promised . . . and the Spirit is “a first installment of our inheritance.”  We are rich people today if we have joined the family of God.  Heaven will be even better, but we have already received enough of God’s legacy to go through life knowing that we operate from His lavish resources, not our own scarcity.

Wall Street cannot compare to the spectacular transfer of wealth that God has arranged for His people!

 

Study Hint:

Klēronomia comes from two Greek words:  klēros, “lot” and nomos, “law.”  Joshua used the method of casting lots to assign the territory to several of the tribes; an inheritance was a legal way of handling a legacy which was originally gained as your lot.

 

You can fine-tune your understanding of the biblical inheritance concept by investigating the two other members of this word family:

  • klēronomeō – to inherit (occurs 18 times)
  • klēronomos – heir (occurs 15 times)

You can get a complete list of all the references using the Blue Letter Bible app.  As we mentioned last week, you can receive free instructions on using the app by sending an email to info@ezraproject.com and asking for “How to Find the Greek Word in 1 Minute.”

 

1https://www.cnbc.com/2019/10/21/what-the-68-trillion-great-wealth-transfer-means-for-advisors.html

 

Word Study Micro-Course

Remember what we have learned about word study?

There are two facts to know:  words have multiple meanings, but a word has one meaning in context.

There are two stages in a word study:  discovering all the possible meanings, and discerning the one meaning in the verse you are studying.

There are two ways to do each stage:  do-it-yourself or bring in the professionals.

You can look back at the last two lessons for hints on using both methods to do Stage One:  finding all the possible meanings.

Today we will summarize the two ways you can figure out the one meaning used in the verse you are studying.

  1. Borrow from experts – where do you look for help in nailing down the meaning of a word in a particular verse? This is the place to use a Bible commentary.  The good ones will often tell you how to understand the way a word is used in your target verse.  There are dozens available, and you should pick one that uses understandable language, sound doctrine, and precise explanations.  You may want to consult your pastor or an experienced Bible teacher for help with choices.
  2. Do-It-Yourself – This one is simple. Just sit down and think prayerfully about the passage you are studying.  The key tools here are CONTEXT and COMMON SENSE.  Look at the list of possible meanings that you found in Stage One, read the verse in its setting, and ask yourself, “Which meaning makes the best sense here?”  You’ll be surprised at how much you can figure out for yourself.

Coming Up

Do you ever feel overwhelmed?  Like someone has stomped on you?  I recently bumped into a verse in the Psalms that led me to a Greek word that may describe your feelings after a tough encounter.  Join me next week to find out more.

©Ezra Project 2024

 

One Response

  1. I like the Greek lessons. Thank you for the phonetic pronunciations could you add the actual Greek spellings as well. Thanks from a 63 year old Cnc machinist, welder, Bible student, s.s. teacher!

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