We live in a world that has rejected God the Father, and so we are a nation of bastards, fatherless and angry, fatherless and despairing. And this is why God sent His Son into the world: so that all the lost sons might be brought home, to adopt them as His own sons by His Spirit.
“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God…” (Rom. 8:14-17).
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
Paul is in the middle of an argument, but the central point is that whoever is led by the Spirit of God is a son of God (Rom. 8:14). This Spirit is the Spirit of Christ who was obedient to the point of death, condemned sin in His flesh on the cross, and rose from the dead (Rom. 8:2-3, 9-11). This Spirit is not of bondage to fear (because all of the condemnation for our sin has fallen on Christ in our place, Rom. 8:1-3), but rather, the Spirit of adoption has been given to us which teaches us to call God ‘Our Father’ (Rom. 8:15). This Spirit has been given to assure us that we belong to God as His children (Rom. 8:16). And this assurance includes the full inheritance of Christ and all of His glory, while sharing in His suffering (Rom. 8:17).
THE SPIRIT OF ADOPTION
It has been rightly said that God has no grandchildren. The point is that salvation in Christ is a direct adoption by God the Father, in Christ, by His Spirit. Christ is the only Mediator between God and men, and what He mediates is His own relationship to the Father: we are joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17). He freely shares everything with us.
Nevertheless, part of this inheritance is the people of God. Elsewhere, Paul prays that “ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints” (Eph. 1:18). “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member but many” (1 Cor. 12:13-14). Some of us have the great blessing of having grown up in a faithful Christian family, but many are starting from scratch, either as new converts or simply as being awakened to the necessity to follow Christ more faithfully. But all of us have been given the same Spirit of the Son, and in Him, we have all been given the inheritance of the saints. God has no grandchildren, but all of God’s true children have parents and grandparents in the faith.
THE SPIRIT OF FORGIVENESS
This Spirit is not a spirit of bondage to fear (Rom. 8:15). In Hebrews it says that Jesus partook of flesh and blood “that through death he might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:15-15). Bondage to fear is fundamentally fear of death, and the reason we fear death is because the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). For guilty sinners, death is punishment, and this is the power of the devil, Satan – the Accuser. He accuses us and condemns us for our sins, and we know that we deserve to die. But the Spirit of Pentecost is the Spirit of deliverance because Christ condemned all our sin in His body on the cross (Rom. 8:3). All our offenses were nailed to the cross, and therefore all the accusations, all the condemnation was blotted out by His blood (Col. 3:14). And now Satan has nothing on us, and the sting of death is gone (1 Cor. 15:56).
This same Spirit of forgiveness sets us free to forgive others. Guilt is one kind of bondage to fear, but bitterness is another. Many people are kept in bondage to fear by sin committed against them, often by parents or others close to us: fear that it will happen again, fear that no justice will be done. But bitterness is like chaining yourself to someone else’s sin (Heb. 12:15).
Forgiveness isn’t the same thing as trust. Forgiveness is a promise, not a feeling. It’s a promise not to hold someone’s sin against them before the Lord. And if someone isn’t repentant and hasn’t asked for your forgiveness, you can’t be fully reconciled. But you can and must have forgiveness ready for them. Have forgiveness ready like bread baking in your heart; have forgiveness like a bottle of fine wine waiting by the door. Be like the father in the parable looking down the road, ready and eager to run to them, because that is how you have been forgiven (Eph. 4:31-32). This Spirit gives this glory.
THE SPIRIT OF GLORY
The Spirit has been given to guarantee our glory in the Son, and the text goes on to say this glory will include all of creation itself (Rom. 8:17ff). The Spirit restores, glorifies, and transfigures everything; the Spirit anoints for rule and battle (Rom. 8:37).
All wars are ultimately fought with and over glory. We fight for competing visions of glory, and we fight withwhatever we consider our greatest strengths. Many Christians are at a loss about what to do about the current madness assaulting what is left of Western civilization. But this is the battleplan: pursue the glory of your Father as His sons. Everything good triumphs over evil. Forgiveness triumphs over bitterness. Generosity conquers greed. Joyful marriage confounds perversion. Beauty overcomes ugliness. Therefore, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is lovely… cultivate those glorious things.