Romans 8:12--17 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
In the past two weeks, we have looked at the central passage in Paul’s letter to the Romans. We have seen something about our relationship to the indwelling Christ. We have looked at our relationship to the indwelling Spirit. Now we come to consider our relationship to the first person of the Trinity, the Father God. For the person who has received Christ Jesus as Lord has been set free in the Son of God by the law of the Spirit of life. In this passage, we see that we are able to call God “Abba, Father ”! How do we arrive at that blessed place? We are adopted by God the Father into his family. The idea of being adopted into God’s family is the opposite of being born into a human family. Adoption follows conversion and is God’s response to our faith. The Holy Spirit, who is also the Spirit of the Son, allows us the privilege of calling God our “Daddy”. The work of the Holy Spirit gives us assurance of our adoption. After we have become children of God we receive adoption into the family of God as the result of saving faith.
In order to better understand this let’s look at a couple of verses that make it clear that adoption follows conversion and is God’s response to our faith. First…
In the beginning of John’s Gospel. Let’s look at John 1:11-13. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
In regeneration we are made spiritually alive. As a result, we are able to come to God in prayer and worship. We are able to hear his word with receptive hearts. Believers in the name of Jesus have received him and are given the right of adoption allowing us to become children of God.
We need to recognize that God did not have to adopt us into his family. He has other creatures who are spiritually alive and do not have the privileges of family members. Angels, for example, would fall into that category! The writer of Hebrews makes it very clear that angels are a different category of creation. The angels are ministering spirits who are sent to serve mankind. Our Father put humans in charge of the creation, not angels (Hebrews 2:1). Paul, writing to the Corinthians, tells us that we are to judge the angels.
God is our Creator, our Judge, our Lord, our Teacher, our Provider, our Protector, and our Sustainer. Yet the closest relationship that we can have with God is his role as our heavenly Father. Relating to us as a Father shows very clearly that he loves us and that he understands us. He takes care of our needs and gives us many good gifts. The greatest gift is Himself in the person of the Son and the Holy Spirit. Without that gift we would not have salvation. What about…
Those who do not believe. Let’s look at Ephesians 2:1-3. And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Before a person comes to faith in the Lord Jesus — and there is no other way of salvation — we are spiritually dead. Unbelievers are totally unable to do spiritual good. That is a hard concept to wrap our minds around. There is no doubt that Scripture teaches us that everyone is in spiritual bondage at birth and we remain in that condition until we come to faith in Christ.
Humanly speaking unbelievers are able to do many things that are good but we must remember that “all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Isaiah 64:6). Unbelievers are not even able to understand the things of God correctly. The Bible tells us that the “natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). We cannot even come to God on our own power. That statement flies in the face of much that passes as evangelism today. To say to a person “read these four scriptures and pray this prayer and you will be saved” goes against the very words of Jesus. Jesus says, “no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44). If we have a total inability to do any spiritual good in God’s sight doesn’t that mean that we have no freedom of choice with regard to salvation? Those who are outside of Christ make many voluntary choices. They decide what they want to do and they do it. There is a kind of freedom in those choices. However, since we are born in fundamental rebellion against God, as well as a fundamental preference for sin, unbelievers do not have the most important freedom! They do not have the freedom to do right spiritually nor the ability to be pleasing to God. If God gives anyone the desire to repent he or she should not delay and face the possibility of hardening their own heart. The ability to repent and the desire to trust in God is not naturally ours but is given by the Holy Spirit. If you sense God calling you to repentance please respond quickly. The writer of Hebrews tells us “Today, when you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 3:15). We are born separated from God and we are unable to save ourselves.
The Bible teaches us that…
We are children of God through faith. Let’s look at Galatians 3:25-27. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
Before Jesus came into the world the consciousness of God as Father was quite limited. The privileges of membership in God’s family did not come until Christ came and the Spirit of the Son of God was poured into human hearts. As children of God through faith, we have the privilege of calling God “Abba! Father! ”…
And relationships have changed. Let’s look at 1 John 3:1-3. See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
In fact, all relationships change to some degree. With salvation, we enter into a deep, deep, love of God that goes beyond anything we can know as a human without him. The gift of faith allows us to be called the children of God! John, in his gospel, talked about those to whom Christ gave the power to become children of God! Remember they “were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13). We cannot save ourselves nor can any other person grant us salvation. This is only the work of God and it brings us into new relationships all around. As God’s children, we are brothers and sisters in Christ. The Christian faith is unique! No other religion (and I don’t mind calling it a religion) is treated as harshly as Christianity. The world does not know or understand why we are like we are. We not only have a new Father and an untold number of brothers and sisters…
We have a new older brother. Let’s look at Hebrews 2:10-13. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.
11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, 12 saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”
13 And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.”
There was eternally a Father-Son relationship! The role of the Father in creation and redemption has been to plan and direct the Son to implement our salvation. It is the role of the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father, to complete the work of salvation by convicting of sin and testifying about Jesus. Throughout eternity the Father has been the Father, the Son has been the Son, and the Holy Spirit has been the Holy Spirit.
The writer of Hebrews takes us to Psalm 22:22 and shows us that the passage belongs to Jesus. “I will tell of your name to my brothers” since Jesus and the children of God all came from the Father Jesus was not ashamed to call us “brothers”! We are told “he had to be made like his brothers in every respect” in order to bring about salvation (Hebrews 2:17). Being like us Jesus was tempted in all ways like us.
In the Roman world and throughout most of the history of the human race the oldest son is viewed as the head of the household when his father dies. As such he is superior to the rest of the family. That imagery certainly works in the relationship of Jesus to his family. He has become our older brother and we are subject to him, even to the point of kneeling before him, praising him and obeying him. Since we have come into this new family…
We have family responsibilities. Let’s look back to Hebrews 12:7. It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?
Discipline implies responsibility. As children of God, we have the responsibility of growing to be like him. Jesus spoke of our proving our relationship to him.
It is a great privilege to receive discipline from God. The Lord disciplines who he loves. He disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. Proper discipline has always been the foundation of an orderly life. In Proverbs we find “whoever spares the rod hates his son (Proverbs 13:24). And, the rod and reprieve give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother” (Proverbs 29:15).
As a result of our new relationship…
We have a new way of living. Let’s look at 1 Peter 2:11-12. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
We have the responsibility of living a life that brings honor to our God and Father. I can remember several times when my mother told me “The Bray family doesn’t live that way!” She wasn’t claiming we were better than anyone else she was just simply saying that we did have standards to live by. The same is certainly true of becoming Christian
There are many benefits, or privileges, that come to us with our adoption into the family of God. One of the greatest privileges is being able to speak to God to relate to him as a good and loving Father. He loves and understands us in ways we cannot really imagine. We have an inheritance in heaven. We have the privilege of being led by the Holy Spirit. We have the privilege of sharing in Jesus’ suffering and glory. Because we have become God’s children we relate to one another as members of a spiritual family. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. As God’s children we are able to imitate our heavenly Father. Have you entered into that faith relationship with God? The Bible tells us that today is the day of salvation.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton, Ill, Standard Bible Society.