The On-Line Commentary
on the Book of Romans

By Brother Given Blakely.

The Book Of Romans

Lesson Number 25
8:12 Therefore, brethren, 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 as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "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 joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.- Romans 8:12-17 NKJV
In some Christian circles, the subject of the Holy Spirit has been hotly debated. These contentions involve theological positions of extreme opposition. On one side of the theological pendulum, some choose to make the Holy Spirit and His work their emphasis. On the other side, some affirm the Spirit is strictly confined to the text of Scripture, never working directly with the believer. Additionally, all sorts of claims are being made concerning the work of the Holy Spirit upon the individual. Key expressions like "slain in the Spirit," "the baptism of the Holy Ghost," and "the Spirit works only through the Word," though never used a single time in Scripture, are treated as though they came from God, and are used to divide the body of Christ. It appears as though many believers are very rarely subjected to the Apostolic doctrine of the Holy Spirit.
It is tragic that the Christian community has chosen to debate the Person and work of the Holy Spirit, rather than availing themselves of His indispensable ministry.
The text before us affirms the role of the Spirit in readying us to dwell in the house of the Lord forever. He effectively leads us in this preparation, which consists of subduing the flesh and culturing our spirit. The need for His ministry was introduced in the seventh chapter and the first part of the eighth chapter. We need help!
In summary, we are in a situation over which we have no power. The flesh inserts itself into our thoughts, and we are unable to stop it from doing so. We are forced to do battle with a nature we desire was not even there. How the words ring, so to speak, in my ears: "For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do . . . For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find . . . For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice . . . I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good . . . But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members" (7:15,18,19,21,23).
Where is the believer who cannot identify with these words? What soul is there who is joined to the Lord who has not felt the tug of the flesh, and engaged in a hearty effort to neutralize its power? And where is the individual who can boast of final victory in these areas?
While we do not have to give in to that nature, we do have to confront it. Divine power is required in this effort. That is where the blessed ministry of the Holy Spirit comes in.
Lest the children of God take the matter of "the flesh" too lightly, the Spirit expounds on its nature, and how it affects those following its dictates. Already we have been reminded "no good thing" can be found in our flesh (7:18). Ponder the strength of the Spirit's words.
"For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh . . . For to be carnally minded is death . . . the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be . . . those who are in the flesh cannot please God" (8:5,6,7,8). Those words are like a Divine trumpet blast, piercing into the heart of man, dividing the spirit from the soul, and unveiling the thoughts and intents of the heart (Heb 4:12). No person can receive the Spirit's diagnosis of the flesh and remain indifferent to the solemn obligation of subduing it.
The absence of condemnation is only confirmed in those who "walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (8:1,4). The flesh in its totality has been rejected by God, and nothing that emits from it is accepted by Him. Those are just the facts in the case, and they are sobering ones.
How can we be victorious in our battle with the flesh? How can we be successful in walking in the Spirit? Is all of this to be accomplished by mere human discipline and religious scholarship? Are we left to navigate the treacherous sea of life alone?
Although I have frequently referred to Colossians 2:20-23, it is appropriate to bring it to bear upon our present subject. In that text, the Spirit reveals the impotence of human power, wisdom and discipline in all of its facets. Nature, regardless of how it is disciplined and cultured, cannot produce or maintain spiritual life. Thus God's people are chided for relying on lesser things to achieve spiritual superiority. Here is how the Colossian text reads in the Amplified New Testament.
"If then you have died with Christ to material ways of looking at things and haveescaped from the world's crude and elemental notions and teachings of externalism, why do you live as if you still belong to the world? - Why do you submit to rules and regulations? [such as], Do not handle [this], Do not taste [that], Do not even touch [them], referring to things all of which perish with being used. To do this is to follow human precepts and doctrines. [Isa 29:13.] Such [practices] have indeed the outward appearance [that popularly passes] for wisdom, in promoting self-imposed rigor of devotion and delight in self-humiliation and severity of discipline of the body, but they are of no value in checking the indulgence of the flesh-the lower nature. [Instead, they do not honor God] but serve only to indulge the flesh." (Colossians 2:19-23, Amplified Bible)
Faced with a recalcitrant nature and no inherent ability to subdue it, we stand in need of assistance-Divine assistance. The realization of that aid is called "walking in the Spirit" and "minding the things of the Spirit" (8:4-5). Let it be clear, there is no such thing as an individual who can conquer the flesh, or sinful nature, in the energy of nature. No amount of discipline, however rigid, can make us adequate for the assignment of subduing the flesh. Until this is learned, we are shut up to defeat and a defiled conscience. There simply is no such thing as a salvation that does not require the consistent involvement of Deity.
8:12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors; not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh." Other versions read, "So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh," NASB "Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation--but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it," NIV "So, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation whatsoever to do what your sinful nature urges you to do," NLT "So then, my brothers, we have no obligation to human nature to be dominated by it." NJB
You will notice the later and more general translations read "we have no obligation," while the more literal ones read "we are under obligation, but not to . . . " There is a reason for stating we DO have an obligation, but it is NOT to the flesh. In Christ, we have not come into an area where there are no obligations. We have not been set free simply to roam about in a moral vacuum. The obligation that is placed upon us is a strong one. It has two sides. First, we have an obligation NOT to follow the dictates of the flesh. Second, we have an obligation to follow the direction of the Holy spirit. We will be held strictly accountable for fulfilling these obligations.
Without being unduly critical, this line of thinking is not prominent in the modern church. Viewing the average Christian, one might be led to conclude no moral obligations exist at all. It will contribute greatly to our faith to "hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches."
There are teachings addressed exclusively to those who are in Christ Jesus. They have no application to anyone else. Examples of such texts are at the very heart of Apostolic doctrine (Rom 12:6-7; 13:12-13; 14:13,19; 1 Cor 5:8; 10:8-9; 2 Cor 7:1; Gal 5:25-26; Gal 6:9-10; Phil 3;15-16; 1 Thess 5:6-9). Many believers rarely have a word from God addressed specifically to them. Tragically, not a few churches are devoted, they profess, to the salvation of the lost, with hardly a word being ministered to the saints. But you will find no such trend among the Apostles. All of their Epistles, without exception, were written to the saints. They energetically, and in the power of the Spirit, spoke to the people of God.
The word before us is such a teaching. It is spoken to the saved; those who have been born again, and are in covenant with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. They are critical words because they unveil Divinely appointed foundations upon which godly living is based. It is imperative that these be known by the people of God.
While we are "not under Law," we are nevertheless "debtors." A "debtor" is one held by an obligation, or bound by some duty. It speaks of someone who owes something, and who is obliged to fulfill a duty. STRONGS This is a strong word.
Grace does not relieve us of responsibility and indebtedness. We have been freed, but not from obligation! The grace of God does not relieve us of obligation or duty. Being "justified freely" (3:24) has liberated us from guilt, condemnation, and enslavement to sin. It has freed us from death and delivered us from the wrath to come. But it has not freed us from debt. There is something that we owe, a duty we must fulfill. In a very emphatic way, we are not our own, we have been "bought with a price" (1 Cor 6:19). This case has been made repeatedly in the book of Romans. "Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness . . . yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness . . . But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God" (6:18,19,22).
It appears to me that there is a general ignorance of this requirement among professing believers. The modern church is characterized by a level of casualness and indifference that betray a lack of commitment to the Living God. There is too much self, too much human will, and too much deference to the flesh to deny this condition.
Make no mistake about this, "WE ARE DEBTORS!" Our text will affirm what we are NOT debtors to, but it will not affirm indebtedness has been removed. Jesus paid the debt created by our sins and transgressions. We must pay the debt created by our redemption and justification.
No believer follows the dictates of the flesh because of obligation:"we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh." NASB To live "according to the flesh" is to obey its lusts, or desires. It is to cave in to the conflict described in chapter seven. Living according to the flesh is conducting our lives as though this world was the primary one, and the satisfaction of our earthly natures was preeminent.
A person in Christ who reverts to living according to the flesh has chosen to do so. Because there is no obligation in Christ to live in that manner, the person doing so has succumbed to the delusion of the wicked one and the cries of his own flesh. It is imperative that this acknowledged. The teaching that follows is unusually strong, confirming the blessedness of having no obligation to "the flesh."
" 13a For if you live according to the flesh you will die . . . " The words are undeniable strong in every translation. Some examples follow. "For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die," KJV "if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die," NIV "if ye live according to flesh, ye are about to die," DARBYS "if you go in the way of the flesh, death will come on you," BBE "if you keep on following it, you will perish," NLT "If you do live in that way, you are doomed to die." NJB "If you live according to [the dictates of] the flesh you will surely die." AMPLIFIED
The words are reminiscent of the first Divine prohibition: "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Gen 2:17). The death of which Adam was warned was as real as the life he was experiencing. Because God had made Adam and put him into the Garden was no reason to imagine he would not die if he did what was forbidden. His life had come from God's own breath (Gen 2:7), but it would leave Adam if he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
All of the strength of that first prohibition is in our text. It is to be approached with all of the sobriety required of Adam. Men may formulate theologies that attempt to neutralize this text, robbing it of its powers, but they will have no effect upon the Word of God. Just as surely as it was not possible for God to lie in Genesis 2:7, it is not possible for Him to lie in Romans 8:13. The death is real, not metaphorical.
Not to the Unregenerate
This is NOT a word to the unregenerate. To say this to someone outside of Christ would be superfluous. They are already dead in trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1-3), are condemned already (John 3:18), and the wrath of God is upon them (John 3:36).
To Those Who Are Justified
The "you" of our text are those who are in Christ Jesus. It is the same ones told they had "peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." It refers to those who struggle with the conflict delineated in the seventh chapter (7:15-25). It addresses those who are emphatically told "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus" (8:1).
If there is any doubt about this, the Spirit opens this teaching by saying, "Therefore, brethren, we . . . " (v 12). There is, then, no question about who is being addressed.
According to the Flesh
To live "according to the flesh" is to live in agreement with, and subordination to, "the law of sin" that is in our "members" (7:23,25; 8:2). It is to follow the course of nature, without regard to the life of Christ and the direction of the Holy Spirit.
This warning is sounded because "the flesh" is still with us. As long as we are "in the body," we must contend with our fallen natures. While we have no obligation to "the flesh," and are indwelt by One who is "greater than he that is in the world" (1 John 4:4), we must take care not to assume our safety. Our faith is the only victory we possess (1 John 5:4-5)!
In my judgment, this warning ("if you live after the flesh you shall die" ) is one of the least acknowledged truths among professed believers. Perhaps many who wear the name of Jesus have not even heard these words. It is certainly not fashionable to declare them.
If It Happened Suddenly
If all across our land, professing believers were to suddenly take hold of this word with both hands, there would be such a revolution within the church the gates of hell would be shaken! Entire church programs would be changed. Multitudes of staff members would be relieved of their duties. The thrust of Christian education would change.
The purported scholars would lose their prominence. Motivators and psychologists would no longer have a place among believers. Religious structures like multi-purpose centers and entertainment organizations would be moved to the back of the church's agenda, if, indeed, a place was found for them at all. Men would not be venerated because of their education, degrees, or lofty titles.
The landscape of the Christian music world would be so altered one would scarcely be able to recognize it. Those who have been viewed as leaders in the local congregation, like elders, deacons, and various ministers, would be thrust from their offices. Christian literature, religious bookstores, and purveyors of religious paraphernalia would be drastically changed, or be put out of business. The trend of brief meetings, short sermons, and shallow approaches to Scripture would come to a grinding halt.
Why do I say such things? Because all of these are concessions to the flesh. They are the result of living according to the flesh, pacifying its desires, and conceding to its demands.
Living With Nature Being Central
Living according to the flesh is living with this world viewed as being primary. Such an approach to life perceives the needs and preferences of the body and life in this world as the most important. Little, if any, regard is given to the end of this world, the world to come, or standing before the Lord.
Living "after the flesh" includes, but is not limited to, immorality. Sins like adultery, fornication, sodomy, murder. . . etc., are at the bottom of the moral ladder. A person, however, can live "according to the flesh" without committing such reprehensible sins. Such a life ignores the appointed occupation of all men, which is to seek the Lord (Acts 17:26-27). It does not lay up treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not corrupt (Matt 6:19-20). The person living "in the flesh" does not contemplate the return of Christ (Tit 2:13), the judgment day (Heb 9:27), or the subtlety of the devil (Eph 6:10). The Word of God is not perceived as essential to life (Matt 4:4), and plans are made as though this world, and life in it, had no appointed end.
Living "after the flesh" disrupts spiritual life. It is like a wedge forced between God and man, the Redeemer and the redeemed. Those who revert to the flesh no longer view Christ Jesus as essential, as when they first turned to God. Such people are their happiest when their earthly needs and desires are met, and most disappointed when they are not.
And what will be the result of living "according to the flesh?" Right here, at this precise point, the faith of all professed believers is put to the test. God will not debate with us on this subject, nor, indeed, will He allow for disagreement among ourselves about it. The sentence is unequivocal. Not even the linguists, with all of their etymological expertise, have been able to deny the affirmation or neutralize its power. "YOU WILL DIE!"
Throughout history, and in this present day, there are countless voices who deny this affirmation. Some say it is impossible for a person in Christ to ever walk after the flesh-even though this word is addressed to such. Others say if a believer reverts to the flesh, God will awaken him and bring him back-even though our text admits to no such nonsense. Those who espouse the "once saved always saved" absurdity acknowledge believers can again walk after the flesh, but emphatically deny that it will have any effect upon their eternal destiny.
Still others who deny all of the above doctrines live as though they did believe them. They starve their souls, give in to the flesh, and allow their human nature to dictate the whole of their lives. Just as surely as Satan said to Eve, "Thou shalt NOT surely die," so the Tempter has deceived these poor souls into believing they will not die. However, he lied to Eve, and he has also lied to them.
The moment our ears are tuned to the flesh, death begins its work in us. Our hearts begin to be insensitive to God. Our eyes no longer see His glory. Our hearts are no longer nourished by His word. Like "the sorrow of this world," which is a facet of walking in the flesh, a life lived in deference to the lower nature "worketh (or produces NKJV) death" (2 Cor 7:10).
Make no mistake about this. If we do not reject the demands of the flesh, it will dominate us! No person, regardless of the level of discipline attained, can prevent this from happening. The wrath of God is emphatically pronounced against all who do not live for Him. "You will die!" In this saying, the Spirit has confirmed what was stated in verse six: "to be carnally minded IS DEATH." It does not lead to death, it IS death!
Those who walk after the flesh have no place before God, and therefore no place among His people. While institutionalism allows for their exaltation, God does not. It is in the church's best interest to refuse to promote those consigned to death to places of leadership-and those living after the flesh ARE consigned to death. They must either be removed from that category, or there is no hope of them being forever with the Lord.
Ultimately, this death is eternal separation from God. It is the lake of fire, hell, and "everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of His power" (2 Thess 1:9). This death, however, has an impact upon men while they remain in this world. The prayers of such people are not heard. The Lord Jesus will not teach them. The grace of God will not sustain them. The Holy Spirit will not lead them. Their religion is all in vain, because they have the spot of the world upon them (James 1:26-27). They are literally on their own, with no helper from heaven, and at the mercy of the devil.
The person who walks after the flesh is "the enemy of God" (James 4:4). He is hostile toward the Lord, and fights against His Law. God is not for that person, but against him. Such have degenerated to the state of an enemy, from which they were once delivered. When God says "YOU will die!," there is no power or wisdom on earth that can negate the sentence! Men may object, but God will be "justified" in this saying (3:4).
It is obvious that the pronouncement is strong. Why is this so? Why is the Lord so intolerant of those who wear His name, yet follow the dictates of nature? There is a reason - a sound reason!
Believers have been "made free from the law of sin and death" (8:2). They have been "delivered from the law" (7:4). They have been united with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection (6:1-4). Their "old man" was crucified when their new life began (6:6). They owe nothing to the flesh, and are under no obligation to obey its lusts, or desires (8:12).
Those who "live according to the flesh" have chosen to ignore these realities. They have quenched and grieved the Spirit, resisting both His warnings and direction. They have shut their ears to the voice of the Lord, and listened to the devil and their condemned earthly nature. They did not do this inadvertently, but deliberately and with focused attention. Every advantage was given to them, but they chose to crucify the Son of God afresh, rather than hear Him who is speaking from heaven.
If all of this seems too strong, ponder again the gravity of our text. There is not the slightest chance that those living "according to the flesh" will NOT die!
By listening and yielding to the "old man," they have put themselves on the broad road that leads to destruction. The only hope is to NOT live according to the flesh!
13b. . . but IF by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live." Now we come to grips with the appointed means by which spiritual life is maintained-and it MUST be maintained! In Christ, we are not put into an automatic holding pattern. Our faithfulness is not an appointment, and is nowhere presented as though it was.
When the word "IF" is used, human choice is involved, and faith is required. Neither the choice nor the faith are taken for granted. This key word-"IF"-is repeatedly used in Romans.
"But for us also, to whom it [righteousness] shall be imputed, IF we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead" (4:24).
"For IF we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection." (6:5)
"Now IF we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him." (6:8)
"IF then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good." (7:16)
"Now IF I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me." (7:20)
"But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, IF so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you." (8:9b)
"Now IF any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." (8:9b)
"And IF Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness." (8:10)
"But IF the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you." (8:11)
"For IF ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live." (8:13)
"And IF children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." (8:17)
"But IF we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it." (8:25)
"IF God be for us, who can be against us?" (8:31)
"That IF thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." (10:9)
"For IF God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee." (11:21)
"Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, IF thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off." (11:22)
"And they also, IF they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again." (11:23)
The word "IF" stands as a sort of line of demarcation. The result posed is conditioned upon the circumstance required by "if." It simply is NOT possible to receive the righteousness of God if we do not believe on Him (4:24). If we have not been planted together in the likeness of Christ's death, we cannot be in the likeness of His resurrection (6:5). If the Spirit of God is not in us, we are still in the flesh (8:9a). If we choose to live in the flesh, we will die!
The word "IF," therefore, puts the ball into our court. At this point, the lot is cast into our lap (Prov 16:33). If we react to our responsibility properly, as we will see, the Lord will accomplish the work in us. If we do not, we are foolish to imagine the desired work will be completed.
" . . . but if ye through the Spirit," KJV "But if through the power of the Holy Spirit." NLT Those in Christ Jesus have a challenging assignment set before them. However, they also have access to a power sufficient for the task. The Holy Spirit is mentioned nineteen times in this eighth chapter. All of them point out His pivotal role in the matter of salvation.
Walking after the Spirit (8:1).
The Spirit of life has freed us (8:2).
Walking after the Spirit (8:4).
Those who live according to the Spirit (8:5a).
The things of the Spirit (8:5b).
Not in the flesh, but in the Spirit (8:9a).
The Spirit dwelling in us (8:9b).
Those who do not have the Spirit of Christ do not belong to Him (8:9c).
The Spirit is life (8:10).
The Spirit dwells in us (8:11a).
God enlivens our mortal bodies by the indwelling Spirit (8:11b).
Through the Spirit, we put to death the deeds of the body (8:13).
Those led by the Spirit of God are God's sons (8:14).
We have received the Spirit of adoption (8:15).
The Spirit bears witness with our spirit (8:16).
We have the firstfuits of the Spirit (8:23).
The Spirit helps our weaknesses (8:26a).
The Spirit makes intercession for us (8:26b).
God knows the mind of the Spirit, who intercedes for us according to God's will (8:27).
In all of these references, the Spirit is presented as working within and together with the saints of God. He is the empowering One from heaven, given to assist us in making it safely from earth to glory. The text clearly implies the necessity of the Spirit's working within the believer.
The responsibility set before us cannot be accomplished independently of the Holy Spirit. No law, however clearly stated and rigid, can accomplish this appointed work. Further, this is not something that is optional.
The involvement of the Holy Spirit in our salvation is extensive.
The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts "by the Holy Spirit" (Rom 5:5).
The offering up of the Gentiles is made acceptable "by the Holy Spirit" (Rom 15:16).
We are enabled to keep what is committed to us "by the Holy Spirit" (2 Tim 1:14).
Holy men of God wrote the Scripture as they were moved "by the Holy Spirit" (2 Pet 1:21).
Righteousness, peace, and joy are "in the Holy Spirit" (Rom 14:17).
We are washed, sanctified, and justified "by the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor 6:11).
Various gifts are dispensed to the church "by the Spirit" (1 Cor 12:8).
Believers are being changed from one stage of glory to another "by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor 3:18).
The message and implications of salvation have been revealed to God's holy Apostles and prophets "by the Spirit" (Eph 3:5).
The Word of the Gospel is effective in those who believe because of the working of "the Holy Spirit" (1 Thess 1:5).
We can build ourselves up in the most holy faith by praying "in the Holy Spirit" (Jude 20).
It should not surprise us, therefore, that the requirements of spiritual life depend upon the working of the Holy Spirit. The work set before us is not sensational, or appealing to the flesh. It is a necessary work, not an optional one.
When addressing the subject of "the flesh," the Spirit always speaks with a tone of violence. Jesus said, "Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" (Mark 8:34). Again He said, "And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched" (Mark 9:43-44). Notice the aggressive nature of our Lord's words.
Apostolic doctrine is equally strong on this matter. "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin" (Rom 6:6). "And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts" (Gal 5:24). "Mortify [put to death] therefore your members which are upon the earth . . . " (Col 3:5).
This is "the flesh" unveiled in Romans 7:15-25. It is the residue of the Adamic nature that remains with us until we are "absent from the body" (2 Cor 5:8). Absolutely no tolerance is to be given to "the flesh." It is to be put to death!
Those sophists who argue that the old nature has been destroyed, and thus causes us no more difficulty are fools. You cannot put to death, or mortify, something that is not alive, or with which you do not contend. Further, there is no need to mortify the deeds of the body if they pose no threat, or there is no liability in their influence.
To put to death the deeds of the body is similar to suffocating them. It is to deprive them of what they need to live. It is to not allow them to erupt in words and deeds. Thus the Spirit admonishes us, "make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts" NKJV (Rom 13:14). This is abstaining from "fleshly lusts that war against the soul" (1 Pet 2:11). It is staying away from what feeds those lusts, and refusing to enter environments where they are encouraged and fed. When they assert themselves, intruding into our thoughts, mortifying them is saying "NO" to them, refusing to allow them to be satisfied (Tit 2:11-12).
And, how is such an aggressive stance to be accomplished? How can we who were once ruled by the flesh put it to death? Is it through some rule of discipline-some sanctified routine? Indeed not! This is done through the Holy Spirit-through His enablement. If we refuse to quench, grieve, or resist Him, He will lead us in the mortification of the flesh. However, He will not do so without our consent. People like Ananias, Saphirra, Demas, and the Corinthian fornicator will bear witness to the truth of that!
Proclaim the Ministry of the Spirit
How can anyone hope to mortify the deeds of the body if they remain fundamentally ignorant of the Holy Spirit? How can those who rarely, if ever, hear of His indispensable ministry gain the triumph over the flesh?
And what of those who only relate the work of the Spirit with mystical and ecstatic experience? Or, those who only relate the working of the Spirit with spiritual gifts-for them, mere external shows purported to be of the Spirit? To such people, what value is putting to death the deeds of the body? Perhaps that is why frequent outbreaks of immortality occur among those with distorted views of the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
"The Deeds of the Body"
Precisely what are "the deeds of the body?" We have already noted that the sinful nature itself, or "the flesh," cannot be eliminated while we remain in the body. The "law of sin," resident in our "members," cannot be simply removed from existence. Neither, indeed, can the desires of the flesh, though hated, be utterly eliminated from human experience -even though a person is born again. No matter how strong the believer is, he will have to contend with wayward and degenerate thoughts. That is the whole point of Romans 7:15-25.
This eighth chapter is showing us that the presence of the sinful nature, as well as the desires that erupt from it, are not of themselves a source of condemnation. When, however, those desires find expression, whether in prolonged and willful thought, or overt action, sin has resulted. This is the point developed by the Spirit in the first chapter of James. "But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death" (1:14-15).
The "deeds of the body" are the result of being "dragged away" from devotion to the Lord. They are when the lusts have been nurtured and allowed to express themselves in intentional actions. This is why Ananias and Saphirra were judged so harshly. They did not "put to death the deeds of the body," refusing to give expression to the "law of sin." Rather than the "law of sin" simply being within them, they allowed it to produce a "deed," and thus were judged. The Holy Spirit could have assisted them in mortifying that "deed," but they chose to quench His holy work, and welcome the deviate thought.
Mortifying "the deeds of the body" is putting to death the expression of sin. It is refusing to allow our bodies to become the vehicle of transgression. Every word or deed is produced by either the "old man" or the "new man." Either we have been moved to action by the "law of the Spirit of life," or the "law of sin." No deed, regardless of its seeming insignificance, is neutral. Blessed is the person who sees this, and develops a keen sensitivity to the circumstance.
When "the deeds of the body," or the outward expressions of inward unwanted lusts, are not mortified, or put to death, sin has been committed. In keeping with the provisions of the New Covenant, those "deeds" are to be "confessed" and forgiveness appropriated (1 John 1:7). This is not mentioned in our text because of its focus. In it, the Spirit is dealing with us on a higher level. HE is showing us the secret to subduing the sinful nature, convincing us of the marvelous provisions of this great salvation. THE HOLY SPIRIT WILL EMPOWER US TO DENY UNGODLINESS AND WORLDLY LUSTS. The grace of God will teach us to do this, and the Spirit will assist us in the doing of it. This is one of His primary functions.
The mortifying of the deeds of the body is nothing less than sanctification- learning how to possess our vessels "in sanctification and honor" (1 Thess 4:4). It is a progressive work in which we are to become more proficient. The NASB emphasizes this perspective: "but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body . . . " Several things become apparent when we consider this verse.
We are never rid of "the deeds of the body" while we remain in this world.
Too, these "deeds," or expressions, are so powerful they can only be put to death with the assistance of the Holy Spirit.
The word "IF" confirms that a choice is involved in this matter.
The involvement of the Holy Spirit in this work assumes He is not being quenched or grieved.
As we will see, it is imperative that this work be done. It is not an instant accomplishment, nor is it one that is imputed to us.
Spiritual life is not to be taken for granted. It is not maintained independently of our involvement. The "living" of reference is conscious and effective participation with the living God, the Source of true life. It is having the blessing of God upon you, being heard by Him, and acknowledged as His own. The prophets used this same kind of language, even though Israel never realized its fulfillment under the Old Covenant. "Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live" (Ezek 37:5). "And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live" (Ezek 37:14). "For thus saith the LORD unto the house of Israel, Seek ye me, and ye shall live . . . Seek the LORD, and ye shall live" (Amos 5:4,6).
The "life" of reference is not to be divorced from eternal life. While it is not our purpose to judge who possesses eternal life, it is our responsibility to show its relationship to the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit. No person is "alive to God" who consistently yields to the flesh. Further, "life" is never promised to those who continue to live "according to the flesh," yielding their members as instruments of sin.
This affirmation is to be taken seriously! "But if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live." NASB The "newness of life" into which we were raised in baptism is maintained through the power of the Holy Spirit (6:4). We are to reckon ourselves to be "alive unto God through Christ Jesus our Lord," humbling yielding to the sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit (6:11). While we are, indeed, "alive from the dead," that life must be maintained through the Spirit (6:13).
Too frequently, spiritual life is considered without due regard for the subduing of the sinful nature. Those who insist on being sloppy about their relationship to God, whether young or old, will not be able to sustain fellowship with God and Christ (1 John 1:3). Where a commitment to putting to death the deeds of the body is not found, life toward God cannot and will not be sustained. It is only a vain imagination to think God can be served and man advantaged by a life that is not devoted to war against sin. Sin is always the evidence of death. It is always the result of not putting to death the deeds of the body. By the same token, where the deeds of the body are being put to death, and refused expression, there is undeniable evidence of the life ministered by the Holy Spirit. Those making progress in this area are to be encouraged by the precious promises of God.
14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God." It should be apparent to you that we are speaking of weighty matters. By "weighty," I mean things pertaining to life and godliness, acceptance by God, and everlasting life. Many approach the book of Romans as though it were too profound for most believers. It is not uncommon for purported schools of theology to reserve courses in this book for more advanced students. All of this is an absurdity borne out of the flesh, and not the Spirit. In Christ, critical matters are not for the more learned, but for all of the sons of God. They deal with common needs and provisions, without which no person can make it safely to the heavenly harbor.
Light and frivolous views of Scripture are enemies to the soul. They rob the individual of Divine provisions, pamper the flesh, and give the advantage to the "law of sin." It is altogether too fashionable for self-appointed preachers and teachers to walk upon Scripture like a spider walks on water, always dealing with the superfluous and relatively inconsequential. Such men treat life in this world as though it was the most important life. By so doing, they give the devil an advantage, who is the "god of this world," as well as its "prince" (2 Cor 4:4; John 14:30). If any person imagines this to be too strong, the due consideration of this verse will throw that imagination down to the ground, where it belongs.
Here the Spirit makes a critical distinction among men-even those who profess to be in Christ Jesus. He will make no allowance for a lifeless theological position, identity with a religious institution, or self-accessed worth. The blessing pronounced will ONLY apply to the ones mentioned-"as many."
Further, it will include everyone in the category mentioned-"as many." No one identified by the description is excluded, and no one not so identified is included. This will be a single test that has been determined by God, ratified by the Son, and validated by the Spirit.
Some contemporary versions read "guided by the Spirit." BBE,NJB Again, the involvement of the individual is assumed. The Holy Spirit does not coerce people, but leads them. They are not forced into certain paths of life, but guided in them. Leading assumes effectiveness on the part of the Spirit, and willingness on the part of the ones being led. If either of these is not true, the leading cannot occur.
The word "led," as you might expect, is not a casual one. It indicates an aggressive, though not coercive, stance. The idea is that the Spirit is leading us where HE is going, which is the primary meaning of the word: "to lead, or take with one." The Holy Spirit never leads someone in a path He Himself is not walking! He never steps out of the will of God to guide individuals. While it should not be necessary to say this, the current religious climate demands that I do so. Those who live out of harmony with the revealed will of God are not being led by the Holy Spirit. Any and every action that is in conflict with the purpose of God has been wrought independently of the Spirit's influence.
To be "led by the Spirit" is to be brought to a Divinely appointed destination. It is to be conducted in the way of life through the personal guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Let there be no ambiguity about the kind of leading being referenced. This is speaking about putting to death the deeds of the body. It is not speaking about buying houses and lands, accumulating wealth, or determining an earthly vocation! Those who are not subduing the flesh are not being led by the Holy Spirit, regardless of their laudable works.
Not A Reference to Scripture
The leading of the Spirit does not refer to the Scriptures themselves, as some suppose. It is true that He always directs men according to the Scriptures, and in strict harmony with the revealed purpose of God. There is no question about this. However, this is not the point of our text. This is a personal direction, where the individual is directly impacted by the influence of the Holy Spirit.
There are some who emphatically deny this to be the case. Unfortunately, these advocates are largely part of the religious movement with which I was identified. These affirm the Spirit works "only through the Word," although such an expression is not found in God's Word. Let it be clear, the leading of the Spirit is never in contradiction of Scripture. It is never into territories not revealed in Scripture, or that cannot be explained by Scripture. Yet, His leading is personal, and thus effective.
The Holy Spirit is actually leading men into uprightness, or a life that is in harmony with the nature of God. As it is written, "Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: Thy Spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness" (Psa 143:10). How wonderfully the desire is stated!
Guidance From Within
This Direction occurs WITHIN the believer, not external to his person. This is where the Holy spirit has been sent by God. As it is written, "And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father" (Gal 4:6). And again, "Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts" (2 Cor 1:22). This takes place in fulfillment of the prophecy of Ezekiel: "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them" NKJV (Ezek 36:27). And again, "I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live" (Ezek 37:14).
The Holy Spirit, then, working from within our hearts, and in harmony with the human spirit, guides us in the subduing of the sinful nature, or the mortification of the deeds of the body. Wherever success is realized in this sacred work, the Holy Spirit has led. Wherever success is not realized, He has been quenched, for this is His appointed work.
Lest we be tempted to view this text in a cold and lifeless manner, the subject is related to being "the sons of God." There are great masses of church people who have never heard this Divine declaration, and even greater numbers who have never heard it expounded. There exists in the modern church a phenomenal number of people who never associate being the sons of God with being led by the Spirit to put to death the deeds of the body. Some would consider such a view to be salvation by works. But salvation is NOT by works which we have done (Tit 3:5), yet only those who are led by the Spirit to subdue the flesh are the sons of God. Both affirmations are from heaven!
Evidence! Evidence!
If you are going to build the confidence of God's people, and destroy the confidence of pretenders, you must deal with evidences. By this, I mean proofs of affiliation with God that can be determined by spiritual perception.
Man's use of "evidences"
In the theological world, the word "evidences" deals with the field of apologetics. It is an effort to substantiate the existence of God and the fact of His creation through visible and logical evidences. Let it be clear that no such approach is found in Scripture! There are no extended efforts by inspired men to prove the existence of God or the fact of His creation. That is because both are to be received by faith, and faith requires no other evidence than Divine declaration. In fact, faith itself "is the evidence," or assurance (Heb 11:1).
The Spirit's use of evidences
When dealing with proofs, or evidences, the Spirit deals with our faith, our sonship, and our acceptance with God. One such expression is found in First John. "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments" (5:2). Again, "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death" (1 John 4:14).
This is the kind of evidence declared in our text. The proof of sonship is found in the effective mortification of the "deeds of the body." That will appear too strong for some, but no person can allow himself the luxury of competing with God in his thoughts. The Spirit is firm and precise in this pronouncement. "For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God" NASB (Rom 8:14). Men may reason that God has some wayward sons who are NOT led by the Spirit-but they cannot argue their case from this text! If, in fact, it is possible to be God's son, yet NOT be led by the Spirit, this text falls to the ground and must be declared spurious and worthless.
Further, the purpose of this text is not to produce endless wrangling, as the legalist is prone to do. The Spirit has no regard for the foolish prattling of men, and gives no honor to their carnally contrived doctrines. His purpose is to build up those into whom He has been sent. His aim is to confirm their salvation to them, and to convince them of their new life in Christ Jesus.
One of the fundamental ways through which He accomplishes this vital ministry is effectively leading the believer to deal with the eruptions of the "law of sin" within. He has already told us we will have to contend with this unwanted law. Now He shines a ray of hope upon our hearts and minds, assuring us that contention does not mean we must be defeated, and war does not mean we must lose. He will assist us in gaining the victory over sin! When we are able to perceive that victory, we will have in our hand the evidence that "we are the sons of God" (1 John 3:1-2). Forever remove from your mind the notion that confidence can be achieved while nurturing sin or pampering the flesh. If you do not mortify the flesh, it will mortify you.
" 15a For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear . . . " Other versions read as follows. "For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again." NASB "For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear." NIV "For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear." NRSV "For you did not get the spirit of servants again to put you in fear." BBE "So you should not be like cowering, fearful slaves." NLT "For what you received was not the spirit of slavery to bring you back into fear." NJB
This verse confirms the truth declared in Second Timothy. "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear . . . " (1:7). By this, the Spirit means that in Christ, we have not been brought into a condition that strikes fear into the heart. Salvation is not a circumstance where we are dominated by torment and anxiety, fearful of being rejected by the Lord we have embraced. Many believers live under the cloud of doubt, unable to rest confidently in the Lord. They daily wonder if they have done anything that may have excluded them from the Lord's favor, even though they desire only to please Him. Their fears have been produced by a Law-approach to God. This is an approach that relies on human effort alone.
Salvation does involve RECEIVING. It is not a program that requires achievement before reception. Rather, achieving follows receiving. Because of the warfare inside of the believer, it is first stated that we have NOT received the spirit of bondage again to fear. The conflict with the flesh is apt to produce bondage within the believer, particularly if it is not understood. Immediately, therefore, the Spirit assures our hearts that what we have been given in Christ in no way enslaves the believer.
The "spirit of bondage" is the result of being under the Law. Paul has already described this bondage. "But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died." (7:8-9). Rather than the Law liberated men from sin, it actually resulted in their enslavement to sin. This was because their nature was not changed. As a result, the Law enhanced the conflict between men and God, offering no resolution for the dilemma.
When sinners are told the truth about sin and its alienating effects, yet are provided no remedy for their condition, they are even more enslaved to sin. Cast upon their own resources, they are dashed upon the rocks of despair. Fear then enters with great power, driving the guilty from the presence of the Lord, and destroying any hope of recovery.
The "spirit of bondage" compels men to view themselves as enemies of God, alienated from Him, and dominated by the law of sin. This is precisely what moves men to say Christians are just like the Israelites of old-recalcitrant and wayward. It is what causes men to immerse themselves in religious activities, all the while remaining aloof from God, fearful to come into His presence.
This fearfulness has to do with being in the presence of the Lord. It does not mean being afraid of men, or of circumstances. Rather, it has to do with drawing back from the Lord because of the misconception that He is austere, and looking for a reason to condemn. This is accentuated by the inner conflict believers experience. They suppose the presence of the "law of sin" causes them to be condemned, or at least judged harshly, by the Lord. They are unable to distinguish between "the law of sin" and sin itself. As a result, they are afraid of being in the presence of the Lord.
The word "again" reminds us of our former state under the Law. The Law condemned us for the very thoughts with which we now struggle. When we were under the Law, we did not hate those thoughts as we do now. However, the Law condemned us because they were present in our persons: i.e., "Thou shalt not covet!"
This is not the kind of spirit we have received in Christ Jesus. To put it another way, we have not simply received a new set of rules-a new law that is to be executed in the energy of the flesh. The New Covenant is "not according" to the covenant made with Israel. It is of another order. It is another kind of covenant. We were not simply given a new set of rules, and a new start with a clean slate, but one with a new nature, and the power to maintain it.
" 15b . . . but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, 'Abba, Father.'" Other versions read as follows. "But you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, 'Abba! Father!'" NASB "But you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father.'" NIV "But you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, 'Abba! Father!'" NRSV "But the spirit of sons was given to you, by which we say, Abba, Father." BBE "You received the Spirit of adoption, enabling us to cry out, 'Abba, Father!'" NJB
At once you will notice the various translations fall into two categories. The first views "the Spirit" as applying to the Holy Spirit Himself (KJV, NKJV, NIV, NJB). The second views "the spirit" as meaning an attitude, or frame of mind (NASB, NRSV, BBE). There is a sense in which both views are correct, but what is the intention of the Spirit in this text?
First, the Holy Spirit is referred to no less than twenty-one times in this chapter.
" . . . who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." (v 1)
" . . . the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus." (v 2)
" . . . who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." (v 4)
" . . . that are after the Spirit." (v 5a)
" . . . the things of the Spirit." (v 5b)
"But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit." (v 9a)
" . . . if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you." (v 9b)
"Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His." (v9c)
" . . . but the Spirit is life because of righteousness." (v 10)
"But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus . . . " (v 11a).
" . . . shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you." (v 11b)
" . . . if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live." (v 13).
"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." (v 14)
" . . . but ye have received the Spirit of adoption." (v 15)
"The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit." (v 16)
" . . . but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit." (v 23)
"Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities." (v 26a)
" . . . but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." (v 26b)
"And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit." (v 27)
In view of the dominating theme of the Holy Spirit in this chapter, I will expound the text as referring to the Holy Spirit, also called "the Spirit of Christ" and "the Spirit of God." It does not refer to a mere attitude or frame of mind, for we cannot be made sons by such a mind. A proper mind set is the result of being made sons, not the cause of it.
Upon coming into Christ, we received the Holy Spirit. That is a fundamental part of Apostolic doctrine. This is declared frequently, and is beyond all controversy.
"Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God." (1 Cor 2:12)
"Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts." (2 Cor 1:22)
"Now He that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit." (2 Cor 5:5)
"He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us His Holy Spirit." (1 Thess 4:8)
"And he that keepeth His commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that He abideth in us, by the Spirit which He hath given us." (1 John 3:24)
"Hereby know we that we dwell in Him, and He in us, because He hath given us of His Spirit." (1 John 4:13)
"Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?" NKJV (1 Cor 6:19)
"Then Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'" NKJV(Acts 2:38)
This is not a gift received by SOME who are in Christ Jesus, but by ALL of them!
The Holy Spirit is called "the Spirit of adoption" because His presence within is what confirms we are God's sons. His presence ratifies or confirms our status. Thus it is written, "And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father" (Gal 4:6).
Why use the word "adoption?" Why not refer to regeneration as a new birth, as elsewhere (John 3:5,8; 1 Pet 1:23)? This is not an uncommon view of our status in Christ. Later in this very chapter "the adoption" will be equated with the "redemption of our body" (v 23). Later, "the adoption" is said to have pertained to Israel "according to the flesh" (9:4),among whom we have been grafted (11:17). Galatians 4:4-5 declares "God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." Ephesians 1:5-6 associates our adoption with the predestination of God Himself. "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved."
The word "adoption" emphasizes the legality of our status as sons. To put it another way, it underscores the choice of God-that we are His sons because He desired it to be so. The word also opens how we have been placed into the status of sons against the constraints of nature. There is nothing in us by nature that brought about our adoption. It was purely "according to the good pleasure of his will" (Eph 1:5).
The term "the Spirit of adoption" instructs us that while our acceptance was according to God's predetermined purpose, it was carried out by the Holy Spirit. We were, in fact, "born of the Spirit" (John 3:6). Thus, God is said to have "chosen" us "through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth" (2 Thess 2:13). Again, those in Christ are said to be "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit" (1 Pet 1:2).
It is "by" or "through" the Holy Spirit that we "cry out, Abba. Father." To "cry" conveys the idea of energetic and loud calls. Coming from the Greek word kra,zomen, "cry" means "cry out, cry aloud, and speak with a loud voice" - exclaiming. It is not a gentle word, and does not convey the idea of a soft and casual plea. This is best explained by the Spirit's reference to our Lord's agony in the garden. "Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt" (Mk 14:36). The book of Hebrews refers to this prayer as Jesus offering up "prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears" (Heb 5:7).
This is a cry of dependence. It is a call for support and strength. It is also an insightful call in which the relationship to God is known. This is a cry of confidence, where a loud voice is raised toward heaven in expectation of needed resources. Galatians 4:6 declares precisely the same thing taught in this passage. "And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father."
There is a lot of nonsense taught by some regarding this phrase. Some affirm "Abba" is a synonym for "Daddy," a sort of child-like reliance upon the Father. While there may be an element of truth to this, it is certainly minuscule and unworthy of emphasis. It is, in my judgment, an attempt to impose casual Western culture upon the Word of God. The family relations of Western culture were not the manners of the Eastern world. There was a level of respect among the ancient people that is scarcely known in our society.
In all three times where the word "Abba" is used, it is joined with the word "Father." It is never used alone (Mk 14:36; Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6). The word "Abba" is a Syriac, or Chaldean word. It was used, authorities say, by the Jews also. We are told there was a law among the Jews that forbade servants to call their masters "Abba." Haldane This is confirmed in the Hebrew canon, Berachoth, fol. 16.2. It appears to me that all of these views are to be seen in the word "Abba." It was a word intended only for sons, not servants, and depicted a degree of confidence that only comes when the individual is convinced of his sonship.
There is a two-fold teaching in this word. First, there is no longer a division between Jew and non-Jew in Christ Jesus. Both come to God as their "Father." Second, we do not approach unto God as mere servants, with no inheritance or rights. Rather, we come as sons, with rights and privileges that have been righteously conferred upon us through the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. We have been freed to come to God, and the Spirit assists our coming by enabling us to confidently cry out "Abba!"
The word "Abba" is a transliterated word, with the letters simply being converted to another language, rather than translating the word. That makes the word universal, like "Amen" and "Hallelujah." From this perspective, all believers everywhere call upon the Father with one voice. In this, there an acknowledgment of our oneness in Christ.
I want to emphasize that this is not an infantile cry, but one of spiritual maturity. Insight and strong faith characterize it, neither of which is childish. It comes from one engaged in a fierce battle with the flesh. The use of the word "Daddy" in reference to God can only be used when dominated by spiritual ignorance. No person acutely aware of the Almighty God could approach Him in such a casual manner. Such an approach is not found before, during, or after the Law.
" 16The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God." God has established the necessity of two witnesses. Under the law, two witnesses were required before capital punishment could be enacted. One witness was not enough (Deut 17:6). A solitary witness was forbidden to rise up "against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established" (Deut 19:15). The Revelation portrays the message of God as being delivered by God's "two witnesses" (Rev 11:3). In confirming His promise to His children, "God willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us" (Heb 6:18). It is the Divine manner to buttress critical matters with at least two witnesses.
Now, in the matter of our sonship, the Lord has also established two witnesses. One is His Word. In it He has declared those in Christ Jesus are His sons. All who have been justified are His children, and He is their Father. Now the Lord provides us with a personal Witness.
"The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children." NIV Herein is a marvelous truth: that the Spirit of God could bear intimate witness to the spirit of man! This reality confirms that we have been justified, and are accepted in Christ. If this were not the case, the Holy Spirit could bear no such testimony to us. To those outside of Christ, His ministry is one of conviction, confirming that men are alienated from God (John 16:8-11).
The witness of reference is not through the Scriptures, although it is in perfect accord with them. It is not the witness of our brethren, although it will be in agreement with those who have spiritual understanding. This is the witness of "The Spirit Himself." This is the "Spirit of adoption" who confirms the reality of that adoption to us.
The confirmation of our sonship will not come through a reasoning process, or through human logic. It will come from "the Spirit Himself." Our confidence will not come from human deduction, but from Divine witness.
The Spirit bears witness with our essential persons-the part of us that is "born of God." Here is where the "new man" exists. It is associated with our "heart," which is the inmost part of our being. This is the part of man declared in Job 32:8. "But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding." There is no more noble understanding than this, that we are the sons of God! Every facet of spiritual life hinges on this understanding, and it can only be ministered by the Holy Spirit of God.
The Spirit does not bear witness to our minds, or to our souls, but to our spirits. This is the part of us that can be enlightened from above-the part where there is accord with the Living God.
There is significance in saying the Spirit "bears witness WITH our spirit." He does not say "to our spirit," as though He were merely instructing or enlightening us. Nearly every version of Scripture says "with our spirit." The Duoay-Rheims version says "to our spirit." The New Jerusalem Bible seems to capture the real sense of the text. "The Spirit Himself joins with our spirit to bear witness that we are children of God."
A Confirming Witness
This is a confirming witness. It is a witness already declared by the cry "Abba, Father!" It is confirmed by a new affection, an appetite for the "things of the Spirit," and a hatred or all iniquity.
The witness of our own spirit is declared a most unique way in John 3:33. "He that hath received His [Christ's] testimony hath set to his seal that God is true." The expression "set to his seal" reads more clearly in the NASB: "set his seal to this." The NKJV reads, "has certified." The idea is that in the acceptance of Christ's testimony the individual will become convinced that God is true. Faith will expel doubt from the soul, bringing joyous confidence.
The Spirit joins with our renewed spirit, confirming what has already been sensed by faith. This drives the truth of our status as sons of God home to the heart, producing the confidence required to finish the course set before us. No child of God can be without the witness of the Spirit. It is a necessity, not a luxury.
The objective of the Spirit's witness is spelled out. It is that we are "the children of God." Our own cries (Abba, Father) declare this, and now the Spirit does also. John refers to this very witness when he says, "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself" (1 John 5:10). No enemy can reach this witness, or deprive the redeemed of it. It speaks to us in quiet and in storm, in good times and in trying ones. When we have no one else to confirm we are the children of God, we have the witness in ourselves, and it is confirmed by the certification of the "Spirit Himself."
The inner witness is involved in our Lord's most remarkable statement to the Samaritan woman. "But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be IN HIM a well of water springing up into everlasting life" (John 4:14).
This is an accurate statement of our status: "the children of God." God has begotten us with the Word of truth, and thus we are His children (James 1:18). We were born again, not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but "of God". Thus we are "the children of God" (John 1:13). This is what we should be called. As it is written, "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God . . . " (1 John 3:1-2a).
How frequently the saints are identified as the sons, or children, of God. Ponder the power and ministry of these words.
"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the SONS OF GOD" (Rom 8:14).
"For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the SONS OF GOD" (Rom 8:19).
"That ye may be blameless and harmless, the SONS OF GOD, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world" (Phil 2:15).
"Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the SONS OF GOD" (1 John 3:1).
"Beloved, now are we the SONS OF GOD, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is" (1 John 3:2).
"Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be MY SONS AND DAUGHTERS, saith the Lord Almighty" (2 Cor 6:17-18).
"To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of SONS. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father" (Gal 4:5-6).
"For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many SONS glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings" (Heb 2:10).
"Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the CHILDREN OF GOD" (Rom 8:21).
"For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:26).
"In this the CHILDREN OF GOD are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother" (1 John 3:10).
"By this we know that we love the CHILDREN OF GOD, when we love God, and keep his commandments" (1 John 5:2).
Right here there is a great deficiency in the modern church. A remarkable lack of assurance exists among believers. Great numbers of them acknowledge they are not sure of their relation to God. The relative silence of the pulpit on this subject has only served to make the condition worse.
This is not at all acceptable! Modern religion has silenced two witnesses, drowning out their testimony with its trumped up agendas and misplaced emphases. The witness of the renewed spirit has been silenced, as well as the confirming witness of the Holy Spirit. The result is that sin is blazing out of control within the very society that has received power to assist us in overcoming it.
Let here be no doubt about this! In order to wage the warfare described in Romans 7:15-25, some assurance of our adoption by God is required. I am not prepared to define a particular level of that knowledge, but some level must be possessed.
I have every confidence that, when realized, the witness of the human spirit and the Holy Spirit will grow louder and louder. In the wake of that witness, strength will be renewed, and victory over the flesh will be realized.
When our conscience is awakened to the inner witnesses salvation brings, we will have less difficulty with the hard experiences of life. Our enemies will not trouble us as much, and Satan will be more readily and effectively resisted.
" 17a and if children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ . . . " Are there any advantages to being a child of God? The devil would have us think there are not. That, in essence, is what he deceived Eve into thinking (Gen 3:1-6). With subtle aggressiveness, the Tempter promotes the idea that the world has more to offer than God. This is why people are not seizing the Kingdom with violence, as a prize to be obtained (Matt 11:12). It is why church meeting houses are empty on Lord's evening, and only briefly occupied on Lord's day morning. It is the reason why believers are in the minority in our country, State, and city. People have been duped into believing there are no significant advantages to being a child, or son, of God. It is why more men are not preaching. It is why people ignore their Bibles, preferring entertainment to edification. It is why supposedly Christian concerts are preferred to powerful preaching. It is why there has been a decline in evangelistic and revival meetings. This is the reason for compromise in Christian colleges. Satan has convinced people there are no real advantages to being the children of God. Thus, satisfaction is sought elsewhere.
The epitaph over these conditions is, "An enemy hath done this!" Matt 13:28). There are wonderful advantages to being the children of God. The world has nothing that can compare with them. They will survive the end of the world, and minister to the believer in both life and death. Here is something we must speak of more frequently. The words "reward" (Matt 5:12; 1 Cor 3:8,14; Col 3;24), "crown" (2 Tim 4:8; James 1:12; 1 Pet 5:4), and "prize" (1 Cor 9:24; Phil 3:14) must find their way into the vocabulary of the church! Preachers and teachers must get their heads out of the sand and deliver a message that speaks of a glorious future for the children of God. The subject of heaven needs to be revived. Words like "inheritance" (Eph 1:14; Heb 9:15; 1 Pet 1:4), "treasures in heaven" (Matt 6:19-20), and "reign with Christ" (Rev 22:5 2 Tim 2:12) must become familiar to the saints!
There is too much earth being thrown on the saints of God from the pulpit! Much of the supposed Christian literature of our time is nothing more than dust thrown in the eyes of believers. It becomes obsolete too quickly, and does not pull back the veil so men may see the glorious future of the children of God.
Everything hinges on whether or not we are "the children of God." Nothing else matters if this is not true! It is therefore imperative that every believer be confirmed in the persuasion he is a child of God. If, in fact, we are "children," what a glorious circumstance belongs to us!
The flesh reasons that "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." Thus it would rather have something now than wait patiently for something greater. But this is not the spirit of the Kingdom! If we are children we are "HEIRS," and that has to do with the future.
What Is An Heir?
An "heir" is someone who shares in the possessions of another. They did not earn what they will receive, nor did they purchase it. The heir receives something wrought out or procured by another.
The "heir" receives something that has been determined and apportioned by someone else. The provider is a benefactor who has been constrained by an affection for the appointed "heir."
Isaac was the immediate "heir" of Abraham's possessions, as well as the promises given to him. Of him God said, "but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir" (Gen 15:4). Ishmael, the son of Abraham through Hagar the Egyptian was "not heir" with his son Isaac (Gen 21:10; Gal 4:22-31).
An inheritance is reserved for the "heirs," and "heirs" are appointed to obtain the inheritance. Those with little or no interest in rewards or an inheritance must remember there is no point to being God's children if there is no inheritance. Notice the reasoning of our text. It is most powerful. He does not say, "And if children, then comfortable." Or, "And if children, then happy." Or, "and if children, then prosperous." The Word lifts our eyes and points them toward the future-to the coming of the Lord. That is when we will receive our real possessions!
A Forward Posture
Wherever a forward posture is not found, defeat is ever present! When believers do not think of their inheritance, they will find it easier to think of life in this world. They will overestimate earthly treasures and advantages. They will experience more disappointment, and will more readily fall into doubt! But when they consider the fact that they are "heirs," the horizon of the future will grow brighter. The promises will become more precious, and the coming of the Lord will be longed for with great anticipation and eagerness.
It is no wonder the children of God are called "heirs according to the promise" (Gal 3:29). By God';s grace they have been "made heirs according to the hope of eternal life" Tit 3:7), and are the "heirs of salvation" (Heb 1:14).
"Heirs of God"
What a word is this-"heirs of God!" Here, in one word, the summation of our inheritance is stated. It is God Himself! The "heirs of God" will inherit God! As Galatians 4:7 says, "Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ."
How well David stated it: "My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" (Psa 73:26). Inheriting God Himself is involved in the wonderful promise, "and I will be their God" (Jer 31:33; 32:38; Ezek 11:20; 37:23,27; Zech 8:8; 2 Cor 6:16; Heb 8:10). Full and unhindered access to God will be given to us as "heirs of God." This is the inheritance of all who are "the children of God."
"Joint Heirs with Christ"
This too is a most marvelous phrase! It is too large for worldly wisdom to receive. The bag of nature is too small to hold this promise! If ever a person is to gain some insight into these things, he must put a large distance between himself and the world. The bigger the world, the smaller the promises of God. Conversely, the larger our inheritance looms before us, the more inconsequential this world is.
Sharing the Inheritance
A "joint heir" is one who shares the inheritance of another. Such a person participates with one who has inherited the assets of another. And what can be said of Christ's inheritance? Presently God is speaking to us "by His Son, whom He has appointed Heir of all things" (Heb 1:2). Notice, God has "APPOINTED" the Son as "Heir" of everything! Whatever can be inherited WILL be inherited by the Lord Jesus Christ! The "heathen" have been given to Him for His "inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession" (Psa 2:8). The whole of God's government has been put upon His shoulder, and He will "establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever" (Isa 9:7). Because of His uncontested Headship, "the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand" (Isa 53:10). Everything has been "put under His feet" (Eph 1:22). It shall yet reverberate throughout the universe, "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever" (Rev 11:15). It is no small thing, therefore, to be a "joint heir with Christ!" In that status untold riches are found.
A Word from Heaven
In confirmation of this blessed promise, a cry sounds from the heavenly throneroom. It is intended to buoy up the spirit of the faithful, encouraging them to fight the good fight of faith and finish their course. "He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son" (Rev 21:7). The Lord Jesus alluded to this when he promised, "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth" (Matt 5:5).
Throughout eternity, as it rolls its ceaseless cycles on, the saints will not be sitting on clouds and strumming harps. Indeed,, they will be "joint heirs with Christ." Whatever He is doing, they will be doing. His activity will be their activity! The "world to come" will be given into their charge, as "joint heirs with Christ" (Heb 2:5-10).
In their appointed role of "joint heirs," they will "judge the world," and even "angels" (1 Cor 6:2-3). The saints are the "strong" with whom Jesus will divide the spoils (Isa 53:12).
Daniel's Prophecy
Something of the greatness of being "joint heirs with Christ" was revealed to Daniel. Let these words sink down into your ears. "But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever - yes, for ever and ever . . . until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom . . . Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him [them, NRSV]" (Dan 7:18,22,27) NIV
Abraham's Seed
In confirmation of this blessed status, the Spirit reasons with us concerning the Lord Jesus and those who are in Him. This particular reasoning is found in the book of Galatians, and it is marvelous. "Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, 'And to seeds,' as of many, but as of one, 'And to your Seed,' who is Christ . . . And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (3:16,29).
Salvation has forged a unity between Christ and the redeemed that is so close and so effectual that they are counted as "Abraham's seed!" It is in that capacity that they are "joint heirs with Christ." A marvelous condition, indeed! Once this is seen, victory will be realized, and a high degree of confidence and boldness attained.
" 17a. . . IF indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together." Here is another one of those "IF" clauses. Wherever an "if" is found, choice is required. This is not the "if" of happenstance. Make no mistake about this. Those who do not meet the requirement will not enjoy the benefit! I realize it is not fashionable to speak in this manner among certain people, but that is no to concern to me. Those who speak of unconditional love, and the impossibility of coming short of the rest do well to adjust their theology, for it is flawed at the core. There is not a syllable in Scripture that suggests salvation, the most magnanimous display of Divine love, is without conditions. Faith is a condition (Heb 11:6). Repentance is a condition (Lk 13:3,5). Obedience if a condition (Acts 5:32; Heb 5:9). Hearing what the Spirit is saying is a condition (Rev 2:7).
Now we come to another condition. The issues are great. Let no one be foolish enough to disassociate this text from salvation. We are speaking of being "heirs," "heirs of God," and "joint heirs with Christ." The person who imagines it is possible to miss these things and still be saved is a fool. Such a person has been deceived by the devil and thrown into a state of spiritual insanity. Being an "heir," an "heir of God," and a "joint heir with Christ" IS salvation!
Again, the language is strong. The KJV reads, "if SO BE that we suffer with Him." Other versions read, "if indeed we suffer with Him," NKJV,NASB "if indeed we share in his sufferings," NIV "if, in fact, we suffer with him," NRSV "provided we suffer with him," RSV we must also share his suffering," NLT This is not, then, a casual suggestion.
Two things are required. First, the suffering must be genuine, or germane to the faith-life. Second, it must be "with Christ," experienced in the crucible of fellowship with the Son, into which God has called us (1 Cor 1:9). These two views are worthy of further development.
Genuine Suffering
The suffering must be "indeed," and "in fact." The status of an "heir" is conditioned on this suffering: "provided we suffer." That means there is a suffering that does not qualify for the blessing. Suffering as an "evil doer," for example, does not count (1 Pet 4:15). There are also sufferings related to living in this world-sufferings that are common to all men, whether they are believers or not. They do not qualify for the blessing either.
Genuine suffering includes reappraisals for being godly-suffering "for righteousness sake" (1 Pet 3:14). It is the result of separation from the world and an earnest quest for heaven. It is written, "Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution" (1 Tim 3:12). Such people are promised their suffering is not the end of the matter. Their day is coming! In them the promise will be fulfilled, "The LORD will make you the head, and not the tail; you shall be only at the top, and not at the bottom" (Deut 28:13).
Those who recoil from such suffering put a distance between themselves and the promises of God. If they do not take up their cross every day and follow Jesus, they will not be "heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ." If, however, they bear up patiently under the harsh treatment of the world, God will richly reward them. For them, there is coming a day when they will not recall a single wrong. Their eternal inheritance will drown out such remembrances in a blaze of everlasting glory.
With Christ
For suffering to be valid, it must be "with Christ," not merely for Him. This speaks of the "fellowship of His sufferings" (Phil 3:10), sharing the same rejection and opposition our Lord experienced. This is not the suffering Jesus did when He bore the sins of the world. No person can share in that sufferings. They can only share in the benefits that flow from them. This is the suffering of which Jesus spoke when He said, "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you" (John 15:18).
When we get into the yoke with Jesus, taking His yoke upon ourselves (Matt 11:28), men will react to us as they do to Him. His enemies will become our enemies, and His friends will become our friends. Those who disagree with Him will disagree with us. Those who reject Him will reject us. It is His life in us that produces these conditions. As Paul confessed, speaking for all who are in the Son, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me" NASB (Gal 2:20).
If you will bear up under the suffering that results from this fellowship, you are an heir, an heir of God, and a joint heir with Christ! Pass the word along to fellow sufferers! They need to hear it. You need to hear it! I need to hear it! Jesus has left a remnant of suffering behind for us-suffering in which the choicest Divine fellowship will be realized. Paul referred to this suffering when he wrote, "Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body's sake, which is the church" (Col 1:24). These are not redemptive sufferings. They do not remove sin, either yours or the sins of others. But they ARE sufferings appointed as the prelude to inheriting God and being a joint heir with Jesus! Embrace them with zeal!
There is a stated objective to suffering "with Christ." It is that "that we may be also glorified together." This means "together" with Christ, as indicated by other versions: "in order that we may also be glorified with Him," NASB "in order that we may also share in His glory," NIV and "in order that we may also be glorified with Him." RSV
The idea is that when Jesus appears in His glory, we will also appear in glory. That is precisely how it is stated in Colossians 3:4. "When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory." Christ being "our life" now involves suffering with Him. But when He shall appear in all of His glory-the glory He presently possesses- then we will be glorified "together with Him."
Then we will be seen for who we really are-"the children of God." Our real self will become apparent, and the "body of this death" will be discarded. Then Jesus "will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself" (Phil 3:21). Until then, we just run the race with patience, not desiring a premature showing. Better to be glorified together with Christ than to seek glory independently of Him!
One additional word is in order. The point here is not that suffering causes us to merit glory. Rather, it is that suffering necessarily precedes glory. Just as Jesus suffered, then was glorified, so must we suffer with Him before we can be glorified with Him. That is the Kingdom manner as lived out in the Lord of glory Himself. He set the tone for spiritual life. The individual who seeks to avoid suffering with Christ, by that very action, forfeits being glorified with Him.
We have been in high places! The greatness of salvation has been expounded in a most effective manner. With great power, we have been apprized that we owe nothing to the flesh. We have no obligation to it, and need not extend ourselves to pacify it. Nothing good is found in it, and it cannot inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Cor 15:50). We must not, therefore, allow the flesh to enter our lives in general, or the focused parts of life in Christ, including personal devotion and our assemblies. Flesh insists on dominating, and will do so whenever given an opportunity. "Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh" (v 12).
We must also gird up the loins of our mind and accept the fact that following the dictates of the flesh eventuates in death- spiritual death. It negates all progress that has been made and throws us into the death process once again. It is not possible to survive living "after the flesh." God has spoken, and experience confirms it to be true. "For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die" (v 13a).
Just as surely as living after the flesh produces death, putting to death the deeds of the body through the Holy Spirit results in life. We are sensitive to God only to the degree that the deeds of the body are mortified. The Spirit will empower and direct us in refusing to allow sin to express itself through our members. It is our business to believe that. It simply is impossible to enjoy Divine fellowship and benefits if we allow sin to erupt in words and deeds. However, if we subdue such expressions, we will become more sensitive to the Lord and His direction. "But if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live" (v 13b).
Being the "sons of God" is a most blessed privilege, and is to be guarded at all cost. This state is not to be taken for granted, for it is conditioned upon being led by the Spirit of God. Those who are not easily directed by the Spirit are standing in "slippery places" Psa 73:18).
Those, however, who hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches, and can be easily directed by Him are in safety, and have every reason to be of good cheer. Their triumph is as sure as their faith is strong. Faith IS the victory that overcomes the world. "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (v 14).
What we have received in Christ Jesus is far superior to all that was before Him. Nothing about salvation promotes debilitating fear, or moves one to withdraw from the Lord in shame and dread. Instead of that, we have received the Spirit of adoption, or the Spirit of sonship. We have been marked down in heaven as sons of God, and the impact of it has registered upon our spirits. Rather than crying out in terror at the thought or presence of the Lord, we cry out confidently, "Abba, Father," knowing that He hears us and will supply our need according to His riches in glory. "For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father" (v 15).
All of the complexities of our nature are met in Christ Jesus. Not only do we have a sense of Divine acceptance that is attested by Scripture, a personal Witness is given to us to assure us we are the children of God. That witness is the Holy Spirit, who comes along side our Spirit and joins it in confirming we are the children of God. "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God" (v 16).
The benefits of being God's children extend far beyond time and circumstance. Presently, we are enjoying the firstfruits of salvation, with the bulk of our inheritance to come. There is a birthright up ahead that goes beyond the capability of the human mind. As it is written, "But as it is written: 'Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him'" (1 Cor 2:9). However, God has not left us in a quandary about these things. Rather, He "has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God" (1 Cor 2:10). Part of that revelation has been made known in our text. It is in summary form, but it is challenging to ponder. It involves being "heirs," "heirs of God," and "joint heirs with Christ." Obtaining that status is worth the most arduous effort! It will be granted to you if you suffer with Christ, filling up the small measure of suffering He has left behind.
Now, put yourself into the work. Extend yourself for Christ. We only have a short while to wait. "And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together" (v 17).

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