We saw in the first 13 verses of Romans chapter eight that the key theme was life. We have life because Christ has set us free and the Spirit of God dwells in us. Now the discussion of this sections focuses on adoption. We are the sons and daughters of God, bought with a price. Those who are led by the Spirit of God are referred to as the children of God in each of the four verses in today’s passage.
Read Scripture- This is the Word of God
Led by the Spirit (14)
The “religious” world around us has declared that all people are sons and daughters of God. It is true that the Apostle Paul affirms that all people are God’s offspring in the sense that He has created us all. I have taught on several occasions that all people are made in God’s image, though it is marred has been marred by sin. Human life should be respected and honored from conception until death, but the New Testament is clear that only those who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God. Those who have been born again; those who are being sanctified; those who are being led by the Holy Spirit are the true children of God.
Verse 14 connects to verse 13 with the word “for” (which can also mean “because”). A great example of what the Spirit does is that He leads us in putting to death the deeds of our bodies. That is one aspect of the Spirit’s leading. To be led by the Spirit is to be completely directed by Him in every part of one’s life.
To be a son/daughter of God is to have life (v13). The new life is real life. It is life with meaning and purpose. Those outside of Christ really have no life. There is only superficial meaning. The Bible teaches that outside of Christ men and women are dead in their trespasses and sins. God wants to make us alive in Christ Jesus.
The Spirit of Adoption (15)
We have not received a spirit of bondage. Before we learned that we could be saved from the wrath of God by placing our faith in Christ, our minds were guilt-ridden and fearful. Our hearts condemned us and our minds were alienated from and enemies of Almighty God. But thanks be to God that He is both just and the justifier of all those who trust in the One He has sent. Our fear has been replaced by freedom in Christ Jesus (v2).
Adoption in the Roman culture was purposeful. A man would adopt a son to carry on his name and to inherit his estate. An adopted son would be equal in every way to a naturally born son and would share in all things with the other siblings. Adoption had a significant place in Roman culture to say the least. The people of the Roman church would have known well what the Apostle was talking about. They had been chosen by God on account of Christ’s atoning sacrifice, and they had been given a unique status in the kingdom of God. They were and we are the children of God; born of His Spirit.
This Spirit of adoption prompts us to call out to God by calling Him Father. Those who are not God’s children; those who are not indwelt by the Holy Spirit; those who are in fear of Almighty God would never call Him Father. Only those who have the Spirit of adoption cry out to Him in this way. The historical evidence seems to show that Judaism did not promote a sense of closeness with God. Yet, Jesus always referred to God as Father in both His prayers and in His teaching. In Gethsemane He called out to God with the Aramaic word “Abba” and the Greek word “Pater” meaning “Father, Father.” We are able to call out to God, even cry out to Him like a confident, enthusiastic little child as opposed to a fearful slave of an oppressive owner.
We are Children of God (16)
By the instigating work of the Holy Spirit we are able to call out to God by calling Him Father. This is the Spirit bearing witness with our spirits that we are the children of God. The Holy Spirit has a ministry of assuring the believer inwardly. There are external truths that can be seen and prove all sorts of truths about the faith, but there are things known within the Christian that cannot always be outwardly articulated. The Holy Spirit ministers to my soul in ways that I could never describe, and He has done the same for those of you who have come to faith in Christ. This reminds us of Romans 5:5 which says, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” It seems that these inward evidences are most notably experienced in prayer. This is just another reason that Christians should develop a healthy prayer life both in public and in private.
We are Heirs of God (17)
If we are children of God, then we must be heirs of God. Remember back to verse 15 and the idea of adoption. To be adopted in the ancient world was to be chosen. It was to inherit an adopting father’s estate. The Apostle has talked about what it means to be a child of God in the here and now, but he must also tell of what it means to be a child of God in the eschaton. Also remember that the New Testament teaches that the Holy Spirit is the deposit of our inheritance. Thus, Paul continues his teaching on the Christian life in the present and into the future by showing how involved the Spirit of God is. “. . . the same indwelling Spirit who assures us that we are God’s children also assures us that we are his heirs” (Stott, 235).
Of course the promise comes with a condition. That last phrase of our passage today declares what the whole New Testament teaches. We are not promised health, wealth, and earthly prosperity in the here and now; but we are promised that after a life of suffering a glorious future awaits us. If we share in Christ’s sufferings, we will share in His glory.
Conclusions and Applications
In this passage we are given several ways of knowing that we are sons/daughters of God.
The children of God are those who:
1. Are led by the Spirit of God
2. Do not fear, but call out to God by saying, “Father”
3. Are borne witness to the fact in their spirits by the Holy Spirit