Romans 8 has, thus far, held forth two privileges of being a Christian - the declaration of there being no condemnation for us and the reality of spiritual life - both now and throughout eternity. This morning I turn to, the third precious privilege that flows from being “in Christ” -the priviledge of adoption.
Since the fall, all of us are born “by nature, children of wrath.” (Eph 2:3). God is not our Father by birth (though He is our Creator). No, as children of wrath the truth of the matter is that by birth, God is our righteous enemy and our just Judge (see Rom 5:10, Ps 58:3, Ep 2:11.)
As the Judge of the wicked, He has all rights to punish us for our transgressions. God is holy, as a matter of fact He is thrice holy (Is. 6) and true to His nature “He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.” (Ex 34:7). He will not and He cannot wink at sin. Its wages are death and its wages must be paid. They will either be paid by us or they have been paid by Christ. Here’s where the real beauty of this privilege fleshes out.
All of these glorious truths that I’ve dwelt on from Romans over the past few weeks are intimately acquainted with this precious promise. In many ways this may be the most tender and affectionate promise of them all. If I’m united with Christ (Rom 6), if I’ve been freed from this wretched body of death (Rom 7), if condemnation has been removed and the Spirit has been given (Rom 8) then I am no longer a child of wrath. No, praise God, I’ve been adopted as a child of God. The just Judge has taken my crimes and put them on Christ. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor 5:21).
Through Christ, God is no longer my Judge He is now my Father. Through Christ, there is therefore now no condemnation. Righteous retribution has been taken care of through Christ’s finished work. I will not be punished as a criminal, from now on I will be loved and disciplined as a daughter. “God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? …He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness” (Heb 12:7,10). That is a big privilege. Punishment has parted. It is not punishment but rather discipline that is being done and the Father’s discipline is good for it is doled out in love and in mercy. It comes teaching and training and molding me that I might be more like the living Christ and less like the dead sinner that I was from birth.
Verse 14 declares “for all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” Notice that the sons of God aren’t driven they are led. We had a wicked tyrant in sin. He sought to drive us to our death. O, but we don’t have a cruel taskmaster in God. We have a gentle Shepherd and a loving Father. By our adopted Father’s hand we are “sweetly led into all truth and all duty.” He doesn’t chase us and angrily pursue us. He carries us and upholds us by His righteous right hand. He goes before us, behind us, and with us in every duty. Equipping and enabling us for every task that He has called us to.
We are not slaves we are sons! “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons….” Fear not, child of God! It is sin and slavery that lead to fear. Sin makes us miserable. It hold us captive. It renders us completely incompetent for every truly good work. In walking its path there is everything to be afraid of and nothing to be secure in. In Christ, the bondage has been broken. The chains have been chopped off. The sentence of slavery has been replaced with the certificate of sonship. Cast your fears aside, O child of God and walk in the freedom that your Father has provided at the cost of His only natural born Child.
Fear not, and if you do find yourself fearing run to Him. As sons and daughters cry out to your Father. Cry to Him as a frightened child calls out for her Daddy in her great time of need - “…but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out Abba! Father!” Matthew Henry writes, “Praying here is called crying. Children that cannot speak vent their desires by crying. Now, the Spirit teaches us in prayer to come to God as Father. And why both, Abba Father? It denotes an affectionate endearing importunity. Little children, begging of their parents can say little but “Father, Father,” and that is rhetoric enough.”
This section this morning ends in verse 16 with “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” It is ultimately the Spirit through the Word that gives us true and lasting assurance. Again quoting Mr. Henry, “Many speak peace to themselves to whom the God of heaven does not speak peace. But those that are sanctified have God’s Spirit witnessing to their spirits. This testimony is always agreeable to the written Word, and is therefore always grounded upon sanctification. The Spirit witnesses to none the privileges of children who have not the nature and disposition of children.”
Do you ever struggle with assurance? I do. And here, in verse 16 is where we will find the assurance that we so desperately long for. Assurance is a work of the Spirit. As I look at my own life I must confess that, by grace through faith I am resting in Christ alone to save me. It is abundantly clear to me that I cannot save myself. The Word of God has spoken accurately of who I am by nature and of what my heart is like when left to itself. Of His doing, I am in Christ. I did not choose Him, He chose me. As a matter of fact, I sought to destroy Him for several years, yet He sought to deliver me. He has united me with Christ. He has raised me from being a casualty of sin to being soldier against sin. I am clearly in the war and my High King is, through sanctification, setting me free from the body of this death. By His promise I am a recipient of the privileges of no condemnation, life and adoption.
Are not the privileges great. He has adopted us and He will not abandon His people, nor forsake His inheritance. He will not cast us aside but keep us ever close. He will not beat us down. He will only build us up. He will never leave us, nor forsake us. He is the Father of all fathers and Christian, He has made us His child. May His precious Spirit bear witness of these truths to us and may He lead us all the days of our life, upholding us by His Fatherly righteous right hand.
Thankful for a firm and unshakeable adoption as His child,