Elder Adam Moore
June 12th, 2011 www.FirstPresTucker.org
at the First Presbyterian Church of Tucker
12 So then, brothers, 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 all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “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 fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Romans 8:12-17 ; English Standard Version
We believe in the Holy Spirit, The Lord, the giver of life,
Who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the prophets. – The Nicene Creed
This Sunday we observe Pentecost. Pentecost is when God the Father sent the Holy Spirit to His people. But what significance does this have for believers today? We acknowledge the Holy Spirit as being part of the Trinity and children learn that the Holy Spirit’s primary role is that of a helper. But beyond this what relevance does the Holy Spirit have to our lives? When Paul wrote his letter to the believers in Rome they too were struggling with this question. Today we can look at two different examples how people incorrectly interpret the Christian life. The world will look at someone and assume that they are “saved” because they are a fundamentally good person. Christians incorrectly interpret the Christian life when they look at their own life with a great deal of anxiety on whether or not they are saved. Both of these incorrect interpretations are closer than we might think. They both are an incorrect interpretation of one’s motives and no true confidence in salvation. Both of these positions, at the core of their issue, are really a distrust of the faith of Christ. Many Christians go through life fearful of losing their salvation or that they were never really saved in the first place and having this fear rise to a point of extreme agony. But, as we will see in this section of Romans we should never doubt our salvation even for a moment, but be confident in the salvation that was given freely to us. Paul wrote this particular letter while still in Corinth, and it was written to help prepare the believers in Rome for his impending visit. The letter to the Romans is probably one of the most written about and theologically rich books of the New Testament. In the passage that we read together Paul is stressing the importance of the Holy Spirit and his role in our life.
In the opening of this section of scripture, which the ESV titles Heirs with Christ and the NASB titles Exalted Living, Paul starts talking about our obligations as believers. To be under the obligation of the flesh is to oppose God and to be a detriment to ourselves. Paul first introduces this topic previously in this chapter in verses 5-6
5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. – ESV
Flesh in this section is synonymous with sin and the implication is that we are no longer under the obligations of our old sinful wills, what a wonderful truth for any one of us to hear. Let us also remember that Paul often writes in contrasts, so the opposite of our obligations to the flesh is simply we are no longer bound to our old sinful ways. We never have to lament that we are unable to change and that we are too weak to do anything about changing our sinful behaviors. Now we are under a strict obligation, to our Lord and to turn away from our old sinful ways. But we are not to do this by ourselves; we have been given the Holy Spirit who is with us always. The wages of sin have but one outcome, death. Not merely physical death, because all of us will experience physical death, but the permanent spiritual death that awaits the unbeliever. This point is so important to Paul that he essentially quotes himself, as verse 13 is a mirror of verse 6. In looking at this passage the ESV translates this section as “you will die”, but the NASB translates this section, as “you must die”. I think that the NASB translation is a little closer to the true weight of the Greek word used here. Sin has but one penalty and one outcome, permanent spiritual death that will not end. Paul says that those who stay under the obligations of the flesh or keep to the desires of their sins can only experience one outcome. But by saying that “you must die” shows the true and perfect righteousness of God the Father. The Lord, because of his perfect righteousness, is bound to proclaim only one judgment, death to those who will not repent. But we as believers are free from this judgment. In a person’s struggle with sin something must die, either the person who refuses to repent, or the sin itself. Paul says at the end of verse 13 “ if by the spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
We as believers though have a new life, a new outlook, new desires, a new everything. We are, after being saved from sin through the blood of Jesus, are a new creation. We do not suffer from the bleak outlook of the unbeliever, we are not hopeless – we are the children of God. Martin Lloyd-Jones wrote this about our son ship;
“we have to realize that because we are children of God,
that a mighty power is working inside of us which
nothing is impossible.”
It is because of the work of the Holy Spirit inside of us that we can be sure of our son ship. Paul in verse 14 writes, “those who are led by the Holy Spirit are sons of God.” Our ultimate, complete, and entire deliverance from sin is guaranteed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This is the greatest assurance of our salvation that the Holy Spirit is dwelling in us. God’s desire for you and me is that we are to be so sure of our own salvation that no matter what may come at us, we shall remain fully confident that we are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. But being heirs’ means that there is a family relationship in place. We claim God to be our Father through our adoption. God as our father plans for us as any good father does for his children. But, He is also the one we should approach first when we desire something. Just as children come to a parent with requests, we too must approach our Heavenly Father as his children when we are in need. Then how much more should our thanks be when receive any blessing from our heavenly Father. Fathers also plan for their children until they reach maturity and are ready to start making decisions on their own. God does the same for us, because until we are called home and made prefect by the grace of the Father, we do not reach spiritual maturity. We are constantly growing each and every day, but ultimately we need the Lord intervening for us. But how does God lead us in the plans that He has for us? By sending the Holy Spirit. Unlike our earthly parents, God is truly with us every were we go. He is able to correct us and none of our sins are committed in secret. By having the Holy Spirit indwelling in us means that God himself is with us no matter what our circumstances are. Our son ship also means that God knows each and everyone of us as individuals and therefore knows and understands our strengths and weaknesses just as every parent knows the intimate details of their own children’s life. But when we pray we have to approach the Lord as child would approach their parent, with reverence, honor, and deep binding love.
Paul says that we received not the spirit of slavery but in contrast the spirit of adoption. We are no longer bound as slaves to sin, but the contrast is true: we are free from sins bonds. Our salvation and future inheritance was not earned, but rather handed to down to us. This is the point of us being heirs. We did nothing to earn or deserve our inheritance, yet it is guaranteed to us because our relationship with the Father. And even more miraculous to consider is that our right to our inheritance is not because of to whom we were born, but because we were chosen by the Father to be his child. Paul uses the Chaldean form of the Hebrew word for father, ABBA, as he writes this letter. This would have been Paul’s native tongue, which demonstrates how intimate this relationship with the father should be. Paul, of course, was writing this letter in Kione Greek, which was the formal language of the times, but when he comes to a place were he wants to express the intimate nature of his relationship with God he uses a word that would have been the most familiar and comforting for him to hear, ABBA. When we cry out to God, ABBA Father, it is because the Holy Spirit himself is the one who delivers to our souls the assurance of this fact, “ God sent the Spirit of His son into our hearts, the Spirit who cries out, ABBA, Father.”
But how do we have confidence that the Holy Spirit is working in us? When we read verse 16, and I like the translation of the NASB here again, which reads,
16The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,
or any of the other passages in the Bible that talk about the Spirit being a witness to us, we may think to ourselves, “I have never heard a grand voice speaking to me or have felt some undeniable force guiding me.” Simply our crying out of ABBA to our Holy Father shows that we are the sons and daughters of the Lord. For that cry is not of our own but the voice of the Holy Spirit crying out for us. Our soul does not cry out or profess some great truth of the gospel on it’s own and the Holy Spirit merely adds it’s “Amen” to it, but our soul is reassured constantly because of the continual testimony of the Holy Spirit to it. Our souls then are fed continually the truth of the gospel from the very source itself. As we continue to look at this we need to pay special attention to the preposition “with” in the Greek word “soom-mar-too-reh’-o”. It is conjugated so that the preposition is part of the word, which increases it’s emphasis. So, the Holy Spirit is testifying with our souls directly that we are the sons of God. How often do we read about the burning bush or when angels would descend and bring God’s message to his people and think to ourselves, “man that would be great to hear what the Lord wants directly from the source!” But in reality we have it better! They only got the Lord’s word in bits and pieces when He would deliver it to them. We though since the Holy Spirit has been unleashed have the word spoken directly to our souls every day and every hour. We know this again because of the way Paul used the word “soom-mar-too-reh’-o”, it is conjugated in the active indicative, which lets us know that this action of testifying is not only happening right now, but will continue to happen in the future. The Holy Spirit’s testimony is not just a one time deal, but a continual pleading to our very soul about the love and forgiveness we have in God the Father and who better to know this then one of the members of the Trinity who, as we read in the Nicene Creed, proceeded from the Father and the Son. And it is from the Holy Spirit’s testimony from our feelings of love for God and our willingness to turn aside from our sin and follow Christ come. It is from this testimony the Heavenly Father continually gives us our assurance of pardon day after day and the intimate knowledge that He loves us. So, it is not wrong or deceitful to say “I know that the Father loves me and I am saved”, because the Holy Spirit himself has whispered this truth to your soul continually.