The Spirit of Adoption

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Romans 8:14–17 (NLT)  For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.  15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children.* Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”* 16 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.

In the preceding passage (Rom. 8:1-13), Paul begins his discussion about the Spirit filled life by talking about the freedom that we have in the Holy Spirit as a result of the new life in Christ.  Paul transitions from the preceding passage with a verse with a claim:  “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.”  (Rom. 8:14)  Children of God is a phrase from the Old Testament that refers to the nation of Israel.  Paul uses it to remind believers that God has given us an intimate, family relationship with God, and so we will share many of the promises and blessings of given to Israel.  We are no longer babies or slaves, but children with full rights (Gal. 4:1-7).

So John Wesley focused on Rom. 8:15, when he preached a sermon entitled, “The Spirit of Bondage and Adoption.”  (Sermon 9) In that sermon, Wesley made three points:  1.  The state of the natural person is that they are in a state of sleep spiritually.  2.  The spirit that makes you fearful slaves:  The state of the one who is under the law is that he has a spirit of bondage and fear, because they realize that they are under the condemnation of God for sin.  3.  The Spirit of adoption, by which we can call God, “Abba, Father.”  The state of the one who has found grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

1.The state of the natural person Paul covers in Rom. 7.  The state and standing of the person before Christ is the same.  Before salvation, we are confirmed sinners.  We might think ourselves good, as many sinners do.  But the fact is that spiritually we are dead.  We cannot discern whether our behavior is good or evil in the eyes of God, because all the avenues of spiritual knowledge are shut up.  In fact, we are ignorant of the state of our own souls.  So we think ourselves secure, while we are in fact under the judgment of god.

Wesley says that this is no ignorance so glaring as the ignorance of those who consider themselves wise or learned.  There were many of these wise fools in Wesley’s day as there are today.  The god of this world has given them a double blindness.

I was listening yesterday to the radio and heard an interview with John Lawrence Hill on the Jennifer Fulwiler Show.  He is a lawyer and was an atheist.  He felt, as many atheists do, that he was a good man, and a moral man.  But as he considered the philosophical underpinnings of his morality, he came to understand that atheism offers no rationale for a moral life.  All true atheists must be materialists.  That means that there can be no soul, no spirit, but only the physical, the material.  If all we are is meat puppets, then the only law are those natural laws that govern evolution.  The governing principle of human behavior is the law of the jungle.  There cannot be either right or wrong.  IN fact, this was the same argument offered at Nuremburg by the Nazis.  They claimed that everything they did was legal under German law.  Therefore, there was no legal claim by which they could be prosecuted.  The crimes against humanity committed by the Nazis was a natural outcome of their philosophy of atheistic humanism, led by the rejection of God in Nietzsche.  As Hill came to realize that there is no moral foundation for atheism, he began to seek a Lawyer who has created a universal law that governs the universe – God.  So he became a Christian.  His new book outlining this is After the Natural Law:  How the Classical Worldview Supports Our Modern Moral and Political Views.  

2.The state of the person who is under the law:  the spirit of bondage and fear.  By God’s prevenient grace (the grace that calls us to salvation), God touches the heart of the person who is spiritually asleep and awakens us to an awareness of our danger.  We suddenly awake to understand that we are under the judgment of God.  So Jonathon Edwards preached his famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”  For as the Scripture says, “It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  (Heb. 10:31)  It is as if we have been laid “naked and open to the eyes of God” and God sees us “stripped of all the fig-leaves which he had sewed together, of all his poor pretenses to religion or virtue, and his wretched excuses for sinning against God… His heart is bare, and he sees it is all sin, deceitful above all things, desperately wicked.”  (Wesley, quoting from Heb. 4:13 and Jer. 17:9)

Sometimes this awareness is gradual, sometimes it comes like a bolt of lightning.  I knew a man who was a notorious drunkard.  He had grown up in the church with a Christian mother, but a father who was an alcoholic.  His mother never ceased to pray for him.  One night his wife left him, and he lay alone on his bed drinking.  As he lay there, it was as if he could feel the flames of hell licking at his skin and he knew that his eternal destiny should he die at that moment was to enter into eternal damnation.  In his fear of death, he cracked open a Bible his mother had given to him, and saw that she had underlined the verse, “Look and live.”  (Num. 21:8)  He cried out to Jesus in some remembered prayer, repenting of his sin and seeking God in Jesus Christ.  He began to live the Spirit-filled life and turned completely from drink and sin.  In fact, he became a preacher of the Gospel and an evangelist leading many to Christ.

When our spiritual senses are awake, we recognize sin’s control over us.  We become aware that we are sinners who stand under the judgment of a holy God.  So we beomce of aware of our bondage to sin and in fear of death.  (v. 15)

3.In those who are no longer under the law, but under grace or the power of the Holy Spirit reigning in our hearts.  We have received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we are enabled to cry, “Abba, Father!” (v. 15)  Like the man in the illustration above, we cried out in our distress, and God delivered us out of our danger.  In fact, we are not only delivered from the threat of judgment, but we are adopted into the family of the judge.  We are delivered from both the guilt and the power of sin.  So we can say, “I am crucified with Christ.  It is not longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.”  (Gal. 2:20)

“For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”  (2 Cor. 3:17)  So we are free from the guilt and power of sin, but also from the bondage of sin.  Before we could do nothing but sin, but now we have the possibility of living a holy life through the power of the Holy Spirit – that is, living a life that is pleasing to God.

Wesley concludes his sermon by asking us to consider where we are?  There are many sincere people who believe themselves to be safe and secure, while they are under the judgment of God.  Just because you were born in the church that does not make you a Christian.  We must each stand on our own before God, God will judge our hearts on the basis not of religion, but of relationship.

Are you part of the family of God?  Have you the Spirit of adoption, through which you can call God, “Abba, Father,” that is, “Daddy” or “Papa.”  The relationship to which we are called by God is not that of the condemned before the Judge, but that of a child before their parent.

 

 

 

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