WITH DALE RATZLAFF
We continue our study in Romans 8:14-17.
For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
All born again Christians are being led by the Spirit. Or, we could also say, as Paul does in this text, all those who are being led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. Just how does this take place? I remember seeing a cartoon of a farmer driving slowly down a dirt road in an old pickup with an unbroken horse tied to the back with a rope. The caption read, “He’s a leadin’”. Is that the way the Holy Spirit leads us? Some would say, “Yes” and translate this text as, “All who are driven by the Holy Spirit are sons of God.” A number of weeks ago we were studying in Romans 6. Here is the section that is relevant to our study today.
But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness (Rom. 6:17-20).
While it is true that we are slaves of righteousness, it does not mean that our freedom has been taken away. We become “obedient from the heart”; we “present” our members as slaves of righteousness. Our will works in conjunction with the “leading” of the Spirit. Paul assures us that we “have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again.” We never need fear where or how the Holy Spirit is leading us. We are like a little girl walking through the dark woods at night holding her father’s hand. There is no fear in following the father’s leading. The fear would be that the child might pull her hand out and go off the trail on her own. That would not happen, however, if the child really knew her father and the goodness of her father. Nor would the father let her do such a stupid thing.
Many years ago when I was in the trucking business, we lived in Woodland, California. Just across the road there was a ditch about four feet deep. It had sloping dirt sides and seemed a perfect place for our young boys to carve out roads on the ditch bank and play cars. However, even though the ditch had no water in it most of the time, once in a while irrigation water came rushing down that ditch, and we knew that if our young boys were there at that time it could be disaster. Therefore, we warned them NEVER to play in the ditch. They were never even go near it. Well, as human nature would dictate, one day I found our oldest boy playing in the ditch. So I “disciplined” him quite strongly by the same method my mother disciplined me. After that he willingly stayed away from the ditch.
I believe the Spirit leads us similarly. We are now God’s children. He wants us to realize the closeness of that loving relationship. When we really know our Father and His character, trustworthiness, and love, we can trust His Spirit to guide us without trying to pull away and take personal charge of our lives. If we do start to take a course out of His will, He is there to discipline us. As the writer of Hebrews said,
Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness (Heb. 12:9-11).
In contrast to the “spirit of slavery leading to fear again” we “have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’” “Abba! Father!” is the dearest term with which a Jewish child could address his/her father. It speaks of a personal relationship.
There is a legal relationship that takes place when a child is adopted. For us it occurs at the moment of our justification by faith. Now we are in God’s family. We never leave or forget this new legal relationship, but from that first moment on, it grows naturally into a loving family relationship.
The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
What a wonderful four-fold promise. (1) The Holy Spirit testifies that we are children of God. Testimony is based on factual evidence, not feeling, so we can take this to the bank. Just to know, for sure, that we are in the family of God brings overflowing assurance. (2) We are now heirs of God. Stop and let your mind wrap around this fact. (3) We are fellow heirs with Christ! Christ did not live a totally blessed life here on earth. True, as the Son of God and the Son of Man He was indeed blessed to see the results of His ministry and sacrifice. (4) Some may not consider this fourth promise to be part of the good news of the family relationship; “If indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”However, it is.
Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb. 12:2).
Jesus was clear eyed when He said,
You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved (Mt. 10:22).
Paul reinforces this truth.
Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Tim. 3:12).
When we look at what is taking place around the world we recognize the hatred that is rapidly building against Christians. But, like Christ, we are to see the joy set before us as we remain faithful to our Lord.
Here is Paul’s conclusion.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Rom. 8:18).
As I wrote out the study I was blessed realizing what a joy it is to be in the family of God. I am a joint heir with Jesus my Lord! I don’t deserve it; I didn’t earn it. My only qualification was that I was a slave of sin and needed redemption by Someone who was truly free, a member of the human family, one who had the assets needed to pay the redemption price and was willing to pay that price. Yes, and He did it for you and for me. As the refrain to the old Hymn goes:
Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe; Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.
Father, what a joy it is to know the relationship we have. Lead me in the way of righteousness. Keep me from leaving the path of your will. Help me to keep my promise to you that I will do what you want me to do if your Spirit makes it clear. Thank you, thank you.
In Jesus name.