“Our Blessedness as God’s Children”
(Romans 8:11-19 – October 3, 2021)
Romans 8:11-19 – 11But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. 12Therefore, brethren, we are debtors – not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13For 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. 14For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15For 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.” 16The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and 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. 18For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.
Dear children of God in Christ Jesus,
“Sons of God… children of God.” Whom do these expressions describe? The apostle Paul answers this question in Galatians 3:26-27: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” When we were baptized into Christ, Titus 3:5 says we were spiritually reborn “through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” So we were made “children of God” by the faith His Spirit put in us. As long as we remain in this faith we receive all the benefits of Christ’s salvation, in the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. God sees us as His blessed children, clothed in His Son’s holiness.
Let us consider “Our Blessedness as God’s Children”: for our text shows that, as God’s gift, 1) We have received the Spirit of adoption; and 2) God’s Spirit makes us sure of eternal life.
1) We have received the Spirit of adoption
First, we are blessed because we have received the Spirit of adoption. We are led by God’s Spirit, rather than by the sinful flesh. As it says in verses 12-14: “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors – not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 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. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”
The flesh, the sinful nature, is at war with the Spirit of God in us (Galatians 5:17). Our sinful nature is an enemy of our eternal welfare. It is a power in us that would lead us to hate what is good and love what is evil. Haven’t we often felt the power of our sinful nature? When we are tempted to speak evil against others and hold a grudge against those who offend us. When we are tempted to look wrongly at another with envy or lust. When we are tempted to take part in some sinful activity. When we are tempted to neglect God’s Word out of laziness and pursuit of worldly priorities. In many ways, we are constantly tempted by our sinful nature to forsake following Christ. The sinful nature would lead us away from Christ to a state of spiritual apathy, impenitence, and finally unbelief.
But God’s Holy Spirit in us leads us to victory over our sinful nature. The Spirit reveals that we are to “put to death the deeds of the body” (vs. 13) – to put to death those desires and thoughts that sprout from our sinful heart, and not to let them grow into sinful actions and lifestyles. The Spirit warns that we would lose our spiritual life and die in our sin if we continued to obey the voice of our sinful nature.
But not only does the Spirit warn us against sin, He also gives us strength to overcome sin. He leads us back to the grace of our baptism each day, by repentance and faith. The Spirit brings us to pray: “Lord Jesus, since You bore all my sins in Your death on the cross, wash away all my sins by the power of Your blood. Drown my sinful nature in the waters of baptism; and in the power of Your resurrection, let me rise to walk in newness of life. Let me walk in the peace of forgiveness and the joy of eternal life You have given me as a child of God.”
In this way, the Spirit leads us to fearlessness before God, for we know we are His redeemed children in Christ. Paul says in verse 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.’ “
A slave in bondage is usually obedient to his master. But often, his obedience is motivated by fear of punishment. That is the only kind of service natural man is able to render, according to his sinful nature. If unbelievers happen to act according to God’s law, it is an act of slavery, not freedom. Either it is done out of fear of punishment, or it is done with the thought of trying to earn a reward from God.
But children need not obey out of slavish fear. They can obey their parents because they are children, and they know their parents’ unconditional love for them. When the relationship in a home is the way God wants it to be, children are happy to belong to their parents. They gladly love, honor, and obey them.
So it is with us as God’s children. We have been given “the Spirit of adoption.” The Holy Spirit made us God’s children by bringing us to saving faith in His Son. The Spirit acts as the placement agent in our adoption, placing us into God’s family with all the rights and privileges of His children in Christ. As verse 16 says: “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” Now we can look up to God our Father as children who know His unconditional love for us. We can gladly love, honor, and obey Him with hearts that are truly thankful.
Thus the Holy Spirit leads us to cry, “Abba, Father.” Here Paul uses the same intimate term for “Father” that Jesus used at Gethsemane before going to the cross, as He prayed and entrusted His life to His dear Father’s will (Mark 14:36). And through faith in Jesus, we too can go to our heavenly Father on the same intimate terms. We know the security of being in God’s family, and having a Father who loves us and does what is best for us no matter what circumstances we are facing in life.
How blessed we are then, as God has given us His Spirit of adoption, poured out on us in baptism. By God’s Spirit, we know Jesus as our Savior and are receiving all the benefits of His forgiveness and salvation. The Spirit enables us to overcome sin by living in the power of our baptism and faith in Christ. The Spirit leads us to a joyful conviction that we are God’s beloved children, whom He cares for dearly.
2) God’s Spirit makes us sure of eternal life.
From this, we see our blessedness as God’s Spirit makes us sure of eternal life.
A child of God does not need to live in uncertainty about his or her salvation. At times, we may be bombarded by temptations, doubts, and fears. But it is not a matter of how we might feel, or how things may look at the moment, that makes us true children of God. We are and remain true children of God simply by faith in His Son. It does not depend on how strong our faith may be. Even weak faith in Jesus is saving faith. This faith is worked and strengthened by God’s Spirit who dwells in us.
If we ever doubt our salvation, let us turn to the Word of God. For here, as it says in verses 16-17: “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.” We do not become sure of our heavenly inheritance by looking within ourselves, trying to find some strength or worthiness of our own. Who of us can claim to have lived lives that make us worthy of the name of God’s children? Our conscience does not bear witness to our blessedness as God’s children. Nor will the world bear witness to it. The only place we can go for that assurance is God’s Word, where the Spirit bears witness that what Jesus has done as our Savior truly does give us certainty of eternal life.
In Scripture the Spirit shows us that, as God upheld His standard of perfection, demanding perfect obedience to His Law, Jesus is the one who fulfilled that standard for us. The Spirit shows us that, as God justly decreed that sinners must pay hell for their sins, Jesus is the one who received that punishment and died for our sins on the cross. The Spirit bears witness that in Jesus we have forgiveness and peace with God. By this testimony, we are assured of joining our Savior in His heavenly inheritance. So we can say with Paul 2 Timothy 1:12: “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.”
As the Spirit directs our eyes of faith to Jesus, He bears witness to how completely our lives are joined to our Savior, both in time and eternity. For as God’s children, verse 17 says we are “joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”
While living in this world, God’s children must often endure hardship and suffering as Christ Himself did. We must pass through trials and tribulations, and endure hatred from the world for the sake of Jesus and His truth. But our suffering never means that God has forsaken us; and it is not punishment. How could it be, since Jesus was forsaken in our place and suffered the full punishment for our sins?
No, our loving heavenly Father turns our suffering into discipline for our good. Through it, He is shaping us in faith and holiness (Hebrews 12:3-11). He is training us up in the way we should go so that we will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). He is keeping us from turning aside to the broad path of destruction with the unbelieving world; and keeping us in the narrow way with our eyes fixed on our heavenly goal in Christ (Matthew 7:13-14). In our weakness He wants to renew us by His Spirit, to draw us all the more into His Word, so that we rely only on His promises and His strength for our comfort and assurance.
In our suffering, God’s Spirit is leading us to trust in Christ all the more as our only source of strength and salvation. This cannot hurt us; it can only be for our good. As children of God in Christ let us remember that, just as our Savior was glorified after His suffering, we too will be glorified. One day we will be with Him in eternal joy and see for ourselves, as it says in verse 18: “that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
Therefore, can anyone live in a more blessed state than the children of God? We have been given His Spirit of adoption in Christ, as heirs of His heavenly kingdom. We live in the blessed hope of the resurrection to eternal life and endless joys with Jesus in heaven. As we are assured in verse 11: “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” This is the Spirit’s wonderful testimony to us today, dear blessed children of God in Christ Jesus!
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.