We should always desire to act biblically, and not to react to the mistakes or abuses of others. Many of us came into the Reformed faith because we were trying to get away from all the relational goo. Well and good. But take care not to react mindlessly. There is no relational goo in a cemetery either, but there should be more to what we want than that. We have something that contemporary evangelicals do not have—but remember that there is often something they have that we do not have.
“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 . . .” (Rom. 8: 15-18)
Summary of the Text
Sin leads to death, as Paul has been pointing out, and so sin also leads to fear of death (v. 15; cf. Heb. 2:15). All liberation begins with liberation from sin, and all ungodly slavery begins with slavery to sin. The Spirit of adoption works two things in us. The first we have already covered—putting to death the deeds of the body (vv. 13-14)— and the second is here. He does in the context of creating a sense of relationship and belonging. We cry out Abba, Father (v. 15). The Spirit works in our works, testifying to others, and He works in our hearts, testifying to us (v. 16). He shows the world in our lives that we belong to Him, and shows us in the spirit that we do. But certain things follow from this. If we are children, true children, then we not only receive guidance, instruction and discipline now, but we also will receive an inheritance later (v. 17). If we are heirs, it is because we are inheriting alongside Christ. We are joint heirs together with Him (v. 17). If His suffering is ours, then His glorification is ours also (v. 17). And how does that shared suffering compare with that shared glory? The comparison, Paul says, is not worth making (v. 18).
Our prayers are not to exhibit the professionalism of a well-run business meeting. We are children (v. 16), and we are children who cry (v. 15), and we are children who cry Abba, Father (v. 15). This is the Spirit we have been given, and this is the work He does. He is at work in our hearts testifying, and because the Spirit is not a false witness, His testimony in our hearts lines up with His testimony in His Word, and His testimony in the character of our lives. And His testimony in these three places lines up and is consistent.
Abba is an Aramaic word, and the rendering Father is from the Greek. Why both? Paul echoes what Mark records for us in the example of the Lord (Mark 14: 36). Now notice how the Spirit leads away from Himself, and brings us to the Father. Jesus teaches us to pray, “Our Father” (Matt. 6: 9). No man comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). For to Him (the Father), we both (Jew and Gentile) have access through Jesus by the Spirit (Eph. 2:18). The Father is the destination, the Son is the road, and the Spirit is the car. The direction of all biblical piety is toward the Father. That is what everything in the kingdom is straining toward (1 Cor. 15:24). And that is why it is so important for you men to be real fathers. You are testifying to something large.
Our Elder Brother
Never consider Christ as just another individual. He is an Adam (Rom. 5:14). What happened to Him in judgment is reckoned and imputed as having happened to you (Rom. 6: 3-5). We are united to Jesus, and this means that everything that happened to Him is ours—His death, His burial, His resurrection, and His glorification. Further, the gulf across which imputation leaps is something we apprehend by faith now. But there is a grand convergence coming, when our union with Christ will be entirely visible.
Christ is our elder brother. When He comes into His final and complete inheritance, so shall we. We are joint heirs together with Him (v. 17).
Not Worth Comparing
The apostle Paul knew what suffering was. He was no armchair theologian ( 2 Cor. 11: 23-28). He was flogged at least five times, and was in prison multiple times. He was beaten with rods at least three times. He was stoned once. He was shipwrecked once. There is much more than that, but you get the picture. He was no delicate flower. He knew suffering. He also knew the ultimate context of that suffering, which was the coming tsunami of glory. This is the scarred man who said that our present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed from within us.
What does he mean? Take all the sufferings of all God’s elect throughout all history and place that fine dust on one side of the scale. Then take one gold brick of five minutes in Heaven, and place it on the other side. That is what he means. “Not worth comparing” means that God is going to put everything into perspective, so we might as well start getting it into perspective now. God will dry every tear (Rev. 21:4), and they will not hurt or destroy in all His holy mountain. The former things will have passed away.
But Paul is getting the Romans on the edge of their seats with this. We are not yet talking about what is revealed in the latter half of this chapter, but we need to start craning our necks now. What is Paul about to tell us? Let us consider just one element of this now, as a sort of trailer. He says here that this coming glory is going to be “revealed in us.” That is the direction the glory tsunami is coming from. The creation is longing for what? The creation is looking out to sea, gazing earnestly for that tsunami. What is that sea? What is that ocean? Is it not you (8:19)?