Romans 8: 12 – 17 (ESV)
12 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.
God’s Ultimate Purpose in Salvation
As we continue our study of Romans chapter eight, we will be focusing on verses twelve to seventeen. In these verses, Paul focuses on the ultimate blessings of the new life in Christ. Paul wants us to know all the gracious acts of God in redemption points to Gods ultimate purpose – to make each and everyone who comes to Him by faith in Christ a member of His family, to make those in Christ His beloved children. In Romans 8: 15 Paul says, if you are in Christ, not only are you no longer condemned, not only are you freed from the penalty and power of sin and indwelled by the Spirit of God, you also received the ultimate blessing. You received the legal adoption papers by the Holy Spirit declaring you a legitimate adopted child of God. Writing on the incarnation of Jesus in John chapter 1, John writes, “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (Also see Galatians 4:4-7). When God receives anyone through salvation, His ultimate goal for their life is clearly laid out in Romans 8:29, which says, “for those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Paul then moves on to outline the blessings and identifying marks of a child of God.
The Sanctified Life – Verses 12-13
Verse 12, “so then, or therefore 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.” Here Paul makes clear distinction between the save and the unsaved, between the children of God and children of the Devil. The unsaved who is still bound to the life of sin Paul says cannot live to please God. On the other hand, the child of God lives to please God by rejecting the old life of sin and pursue a life of righteousness empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit. In 1 John 1: 3-7 John writes, “Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as He is righteous. 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. Verse 9, No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.
Verse 10, by this, it is evident who the children of God are, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” The child of God, sharing the image of Christ lives to please their heavenly Father by disciplining himself, herself to continually reject and eradicate all trace of sin in their lives because it does not fit the new life and nature of Christ. But most importantly, it is an offence to their heavenly Father. Paul says pursuing a sanctified life is one of the blessings and identifying marks of a child of God.
Spirit Led and Empowered Life – Verse 14 – 15
Verses 14, “for all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.” Throughout this Chapter Paul reveals how crucial the Holy Spirit is, both in God’s plan of salvation, as well as in the life of the child of God. Just in this section, starting in verse 12, Paul says it is by the Spirit that the child of God put to death the sin in their lives. In verse 15, the believer receives adoption as child of God through the Spirit. Verse 16, it is the Holy Spirit who testifies with our spirit that we are children of God. And here in verse 14 Paul says the life of the child of God is led by the Spirit. To be led by the Spirit carries the same idea as to walk by the Spirit or to be filled with the Spirit (Rom. 8:2; Gal. 6:16-25; Eph. 5:18). Whether Paul is saying the child of God is to be led by the Spirt, walk by the Spirit or to be filled with the Spirit, he is referring to the same action, to have one’s life controlled by the Spirit. The Child of God submits to the control of the Spirit by living in obedience to His leading according to the Word of God. Willing to follow God in whatever path He chooses. According to Psalm 23, sometimes it is by quite waters. Sometimes it is in the path of righteousness. But sometimes it is through the valley of the shadows of death. Wherever the Spirit leads, the child of God can confidently and faithfully follow the leading of the Holy Spirit knowing he will only lead according to the good and perfect will of God. When you surrender your live to the control of the Holy Spirit, it will be evident by the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Intimate Relationship with God – Verse 15
Verse 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.” Remember where sinners reside before coming to Christ, in Adam. In Adam, he is a slave, slave to the law of sin and death, living daily in fear of death and judgement. Because of sin, their view of God is one of judge, a God of wrath and condemnation. Paul assures believers in Christ that God replaced their spirit of fear, with a new spirit, the spirit of adoption. Adoption is a legal act by which a person takes a child born of someone else for treating the child as one’s own. Through adoption, the newcomer became a member of the family and was entitled to all the right and privileges of a natural born child.
In Christ, God bought believers out of the life of slavery and fear and through the legal act of adoption placed them into His family not as a slave or even a servant, but as a son, as a daughter, as a legitimate child, to experience and enjoy the new loving relationship with God their Father.
God plan of adopting sinners was not an after-thought based on any merit on their part. Paul says their adoption was God’s plan long before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:3-6). Through adoption the child of God can now cry out, Abba, father. The term Abba, Father speaks of the intimate relationship of father and child. A relationship built on trust, dependence, faith, and love.
The Spirit affirms the Relationship
Verse 16, “the Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” Being a child of God is not a status you give to yourself. You do not automatically become a child of God because you are baptized or a member of a church. Likewise, you do not automatically become a child of God because you live a moral life. The Spirit of God, who resides in the believer, is the one who testifies, who affirms who are the children of God. His testimony is a result of their new life in Christ. His testimony is based on of their willingness to forsake sin and pursue holiness. His testimony is based on their willingness to surrender to His leading and control of their lives. His testimony is based on their intimate relationship with God as Father. His testimony is based on their willing to suffer for the name of Christ. Regardless of the situation the child of God faces he or she will have the confirmation of the Spirt that they are children of God who works all things for their good and His glory.
Hope of an inheritance
Verse 17, “and if children heirs also heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.” All the blessings God bestows on Jesus His Son, He now offers to those who are His children by adoption. The apostle Peter writes, “all praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, 4 and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. 5 And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see. What is the inheritance for which all the children of God hope? It is to be fully conformed to the image of Christ. We saw this in verse 29. There is no greater inheritance.” No greater blessings God can give someone than the full inheritance of becoming like Christ. Paul understood this when he wrote in Philippians 3:10, “that I may know him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering, being conformed to His death in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Christ suffered results in His glory. Paul says the path to the believer’s inheritance and glory likewise is the path of suffering. He writes, “if indeed we suffer with Him that we may also be glorified with Him.”
Like Jesus, the child of God is willing to endure suffering, to persevere through all the challenges and adversities to attain their full adoption rooted in the hope and Word of God their Father who promises the suffering of this life is nothing compared to the glory God will reveal in His Children.
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. — Romans 8:13 (ESV)