(from a transcript of a sermon preached on 2/16/03 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
Please turn in your Bibles to Galatians 4. I'll be reading verses 4 through 7:
Galatians 4: (4) But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, having come into being out of a woman, having come under Law, (5) that He might redeem the ones under Law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. (6) And because you are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba! Father! (7) So that you no more are a slave, but a son, and if a son, also an heir of God through Christ.
Today, the Lord willing, we are going to be looking at the glorious and precious doctrines of adoption, sonship, and joint-heirship of believers. Our text as we continue to go through the book of Romans is Romans 8, verses 14 through 17. As we read this passage, you can see the similarities to the Galatians passage we just read. Let's read Romans 8:14-17:
Romans 8: (14) For as many as are led by [the] Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (15) For you did not receive a spirit of slavery again to fear, but you received a Spirit of adoption by which we cry, Abba! Father! (16) The Spirit Himself witnesses with our spirit that we are children of God. (17) And if children, also heirs; truly heirs of God, and joint-heirs of Christ, if indeed we suffer together, that we may also be glorified together. (18) For I calculate that the sufferings of the present time [are] not worthy [to compare to] the coming glory to be revealed in us.
Paul goes into the doctrines of adoption, sonship, and joint-heirship from the doctrine of the indwelling and leading of the Holy Spirit. In verses 9 and 12, we saw that the Spirit of God dwells in believers. In verse 13, we saw that believers, by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, put to death the practices of the body. Now in verse 14, believers are described as being LED by the Holy Spirit, also called the Spirit of God. What does it mean to be LED by the Holy Spirit? We hear professing Christians say, "The Holy Spirit led me to do such and such" or "I felt led by the Holy Spirit to do such and such," and all they're doing is talking about some kind of inner feeling of comfort that they're doing the right thing. But the Bible is clear about what it means to be led by the Holy Spirit. Let's first look at John 16:13:
John 16: (13) But when that One comes, the Spirit of Truth, He will guide you into all Truth, for He will not speak from Himself, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will announce the coming things to you.
First, we see that Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the Spirit of TRUTH. He used this in John 14:17 and John 15:26 as well. Why is the Holy Spirit the Spirit of Truth? It is because He guides, or LEADS, God's people into all truth. So what does it mean to be LED by the Spirit? It means to BELIEVE the truth by the power of the indwelling Spirit of Truth. Specifically, it means to BELIEVE the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the DOCTRINE of the person and work of Jesus Christ. So, first of all, we see that being LED by the Spirit means believing right gospel doctrine. There is NO ONE who is being led by the Spirit who does not believe right gospel doctrine. So you can take everyone who believes that Jesus Christ died for everyone without exception and KNOW that NONE of them are being led by the Spirit, no matter how much they claim they are. And there is a SECOND way in which believers are led by the Spirit, and we can see it back in our text in Romans 8. Let's go back there. The end of verse 13 says, "But if by the Spirit you put to death the practices of the body, you will live." Believers are led by the Spirit to put to death the practices of the body. They are people who do not live in sin and do not serve sin, as we saw in Romans 6. Their lives are characterized by obedience. So you can take everyone who lives in sin and KNOW that NONE of them are being led by the Spirit, no matter how much they claim they are.
Now that we have established what it means to be led by the Spirit, we can get into the doctrines of adoption, sonship, and joint-heirship. Verse 14 says that the SONS of God are the ones who are led by the Spirit. So we're talking about a specific group of people when we talk of SONS - those who are indwelled and led by the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Truth.
Let's now look at verse 15:
Romans 8: (15) For you did not receive a spirit of slavery again to fear, but you received a Spirit of adoption by which we cry, Abba! Father!
Let us first focus on the doctrine of ADOPTION. Do you know what adoption is? Adoption is taking a child of other parents as one's own child. It is making one who is not naturally your child into your own child. I'll give a concrete example. Suppose Mr. and Mrs. Smith have a baby. Now suppose, for some reason, the baby is not cared for or abandoned. Then Mr. and Mrs. Jones come and take this baby into their home and make this child their own, even though Mrs. Jones didn't actually give birth to that baby. Mr. and Mrs. Jones ADOPT this child, meaning that this child goes from being part of the Smith family to being part of the Jones family. That child's last name is even changed, so that his last name is now Jones. This child is now LEGALLY the child of Mr. and Mrs. Jones. Mr. and Mrs. Smith have no claim to this baby. Baby Jones is no longer the child of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. This gives you an idea of adoption. It is going from being a part of ONE family into being a part of ANOTHER family.
So let us now take this to the spiritual realm. The Bible says that we who are believers were ADOPTED. It says in Ephesians 1:5 that God predestinated us to ADOPTION through Jesus Christ. It says in the Galatians passage we read at the beginning that God sent forth His Son that He might redeem us, that we might receive the ADOPTION as sons. Now if we were ADOPTED into a family, that must mean that we were part of ANOTHER family before we were adopted, right? We were adopted FROM one family TO another family. We went from being children of a CERTAIN father to being children of ANOTHER father. Let's look at our FIRST father. Adam might come to mind for some of you as our first father. In a sense, this is true, since we are naturally and spiritually sons of Adam, and our spiritual depravity comes from Adam. But if that's as far as we go, we've missed the biggest, most important point. Who was depraved Adam's father? It was who Adam OBEYED. Adam obeyed THE DEVIL. And all of Adam's offspring by nature, all who have not been regenerated, are children of the devil. When we were conceived, we were conceived in sin, and we were children of Satan. In our unregenerate state, we were of the family of Satan. Satan was our father. Let's turn to John 8. I'll read verses 42 through 47:
John 8: (42) Then Jesus said to them, If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I went forth and have come from God. For I have not come from Myself, but that One sent Me. (43) Why do you not know My speech? [It is] because you are not able to hear My Word. (44) You are of the Devil as father, and the lusts of your father you desire to do. That one was a murderer from [the] beginning, and he has not stood in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks [a] lie, he speaks from [his] own, because he is a liar, and the father of it. (45) And because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me. (46) Who of you reproves Me concerning sin? But if I speak truth, why do you not believe Me? (47) The [one] who is of God hears the Words of God; for this reason you do not hear, because you are not of God.
What does this say regarding unregenerate people, including US when we were unregenerate? Jesus tells the unbelievers that their father is the DEVIL. And the evidence that their father is the devil is that they are not able to hear the word of God, they do not believe Christ, and they believe a lie. They have the unlawful desires of their father, the devil, and they do not believe the truth, because their father is the father of lies. That is what WE were before God saved us. Children of the devil. Sons of Satan.
Now that we've seen our FIRST family, our FIRST father, let's now look at the family into which we were adopted. Whereas before, SATAN was our father, we have now been adopted by GOD. GOD is now our father. We have gone from being part of SATAN'S family to being part of GOD'S family. We used to be children of SATAN, and now we are children of GOD. God, in His marvelous grace, took us, who were the kindred of the devil, and lovingly brought us into His own household. But He didn't bring us into His own household as SLAVES of the household; He brought us into His own household as His own SONS!
Let's go back to Romans 8, and this time I'll read verses 15 and 16:
Romans 8: (15) For you did not receive a spirit of slavery again to fear, but you received a Spirit of adoption by which we cry, Abba! Father! (16) The Spirit Himself witnesses with our spirit that we are children of God.
The first thing we see is what we did NOT receive, which is "a spirit of slavery to fear." What is this spirit of slavery? It is a legalistic slavery to the law. It is being married to the Law and serving in oldness of letter, as we saw in Romans 7. It is being under the demand of the Law to keep it perfectly. And why is this spirit of slavery one of fear? Because those who have this spirit are obeying the law out of fear that if they do not obey the law, they will be under the wrath of God. They believe that if they obey the Law, they will be in God's favor, and if they break the Law, they will be under God's wrath. Thus, they obey out of a servile fear of punishment. Yet no one can obey the Law perfectly. So, all the while they are struggling to obey the Law in order to maintain God's favor, they remain under the wrath of God. Some of them know this and are constantly troubled that they can never meet up to God's standard of perfect obedience, and some of them are ignorant of this and believe that when they do the best they can, they are meeting up to God's standard. But both of them - the troubled ones and the ones at peace with themselves - are in the same state. They are working and striving and putting forth effort from a spirit of slavery to fear.
Now some might say, "But aren't we supposed to fear God? Doesn't God command us to fear Him? Doesn't the Bible say that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom?" Believers most certainly ARE to have a fear of God. But the BELIEVER'S fear of God is something TOTALLY DIFFERENT than this fear that is being talked about here. The BELIEVER'S fear of God is NOT being AFRAID of God's punishment. The fear of God is a reverence for God's holy character as it is manifested in His attributes. It is THIS fear that is the beginning of wisdom, the beginning of knowledge. A Christian does NOT have a legalistic fear that God will cast him away if he disobeys, for THAT is the fear that comes from a spirit of slavery. So when you hear about people talking about "the fear of God" or saying that they have "the fear of God," you need to find out what they mean. MOST people who use the term are talking about a LEGALISTIC fear and NOT the reverence for God's holy character. Most who SAY they fear God really have no true reverence for God's character. This includes all those who believe that God shows grace at the expense of His justice. An idolater shows no fear of God because he attributes to God qualities of character that do not belong to Him and does not attribute to God qualities of character that do belong to Him. As Romans 3:18 says, "There is no fear of God before their eyes." Paul didn't mean that there is no LEGALISTIC fear; he was saying that they had no REVERENTIAL fear. It's important that we know the difference.
So we used to obey out of a spirit of slavery to fear. But NOW how do we approach God and obedience to Him? As verse 15 says, it is out of a Spirit of ADOPTION. We approach obedience to God as sons who obey our father. The slave of the household knows that if he does something wrong, he could be kicked out of his job. But the SON of the household knows that if he does something wrong, he will remain a part of that household, even if his father chastens him for what he did wrong. As Galatians 4:31 says, "we are not children of a slave woman but of the free woman." The son does not obey the father out of a fear that the father will kick him out of the house if he doesn't obey; he obeys the father out of LOVE. This is how we obey our heavenly Father. We do not obey God out of fear that God will reject us if we don't obey. We do not obey God out of a belief that our obedience is what maintains our fellowship with God. We obey God out of the realization that we are the SONS of God and that this kinship will NEVER be broken. God has brought us into His household through the work of Jesus Christ, and Jesus promised in John 6:37 that He will IN NO WAY cast ANY of us out.
This spirit of adoption makes us cry, "Abba! Father!" Now the word "Abba" here is left untranslated. It is a Syriac word. It is important to understand why Paul put this word in here. It is a term that, according to Jewish law, only free men could address to other free men. It was forbidden for a slave to call a free man "Abba." So when Paul says that we cry "Abba!" to God, it means that we are no longer slaves but are free men. So by calling God "Abba! Father!", it means that we are the free children of God. We have been released from bondage; thus we cry, "Abba!" And we have been adopted as God's children; thus we cry, "Father!" And thus, in verse 16, "the Spirit Himself witnesses with our spirit that we are children of God." We who are the children of God have assurance that we are truly children of God because the Spirit causes us to cry, "Abba! Father!", meaning that we believe we have been made free from the curse of the Law and have been made the sons of God through the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. This witness of the Spirit is not some mystical feeling; it is the belief of the truth of the Gospel.
Let us now look at the witness of the Scriptures regarding the precious truths of adoption and sonship. I hope you've already realized that the doctrines of adoption and sonship go hand-in-hand. Adoption is the ACT, and sonship is the PRODUCT. It is THROUGH adoption that we become SONS. And another glorious truth that I won't get into in this sermon is that we are also REBORN, or BORN FROM ABOVE, so that not only are we ADOPTED, but we are actually REBORN into the family of God. We become NEW CREATURES in Christ. This is not like any other kind of adoption. This adoption is so sure and certain and permanent that the adopted children are actually BORN AGAIN into another family. Quite a concept, isn't it?
But now let's look at some Scriptures that witness the fact that we who are believers are sons of God and that God is our father.
Hosea 1: (10) Yet the number of the sons of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which is not measured nor numbered. And it shall be, in the place where it is said to them, You [are] not My people, it shall be said to them, Sons of the Living God.
Matthew 6: (9) So, then, you [should] pray this way: Our Father who is in Heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
Matthew 13: (43) Then the righteous will shine out like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. The [one] having ears to hear, let him hear.
John 1: (12) But as many as received Him, to them He gave authority to become children of God, to the ones believing into His name,
Romans 1: (7) to all those who are in Rome, beloved of God, called-out saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and [the] Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 6:17-18:
2 Corinthians 6: (17) Because of this, "come out from among them" "and be separated," says [the] Lord, "and do not touch [the] unclean thing," and I will receive you. (18) "And I will be a Father to you, and you will be sons" and daughters to Me, says [the] Lord Almighty.
Galatians 1: (4) who gave Himself for our sins, so that He might deliver us out of the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,
Galatians 3: (25) But faith coming, we are no longer under a trainer; (26) for you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 3:11:
1 Thessalonians 3: (11) But may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you.
2 Thessalonians 1:2:
2 Thessalonians 1: (2) Grace to you and peace from God our Father and [the] Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Thessalonians 2:16:
2 Thessalonians 2: (16) But may our Lord Himself, Jesus Christ, and our God and Father, the [One] having loved us and having given everlasting comfort and good hope by grace,
1 John 3:1-2:
1 John 3: (1) See what manner of love the Father has given us, that we may be called children of God. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. (2) Beloved, now we are the children of God, and it was not yet revealed what we shall be. But we know that if He is revealed, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is.
Revelation 21: (7) The one overcoming will inherit all things, and I will be God to him, and he will be the son to Me.
This is a precious truth that we are the children of God. We are no longer the children of Satan. We no longer have a spirit of slavery to fear. We are the children of God Almighty, and we have a Spirit of adoption that witnesses with our spirit and that causes us to call God "Abba! Father!"
Now let's go back to Romans 8 and look at verse 17.
Romans 8: (17) And if children, also heirs; truly heirs of God, and joint-heirs of Christ, if indeed we suffer together, that we may also be glorified together.
Here Paul uses some "if-then" logic. First, given the fact that children are heirs of their father, then IF we are children of God, we are heirs of God. What is an "heir"? An HEIR is an INHERITOR. A good definition is this: "One who receives or is entitled to receive some endowment or quality from a parent or predecessor." So, since we are the sons of God, we are entitled to an inheritance. Our entitlement does not come from anything we do or are enabled to do; it comes totally from our standing, which is the children of God. And our standing had nothing to do with our own effort; we were brought into God's family by God Himself. An inheritance is something that is not earned. One does not work for an inheritance. It is something that is BESTOWED upon someone. So what is the inheritance that we are given? Well, if we look through the Bible to find what the people of God inherit, we see many things. But I believe that in this passage, based on the context, the inheritance is one thing in particular, and that is heaven. The context that I'm talking about includes being glorified together with Christ at the end of verse 17, the coming glory to be revealed in verse 18, the revelation of the sons of God in verse 19, the creation to be freed from the slavery of corruption in verse 20, the redemption of believers' bodies in verse 21, and hoping for what we do not see in verse 25.
So, then, because we are the sons of God, we inherit eternal life in heaven. There are many Scriptures that speak to this inheritance; let's look at a few of them.
Matthew 25: (34) Then the King will say to those on His right, Come, the blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from [the] foundation of [the] world.
Ephesians 1: (11) in whom we also have been chosen to an inheritance, being predestinated according to [the] purpose of the [One] working all things according to the counsel of His [own] will, (12) for us to be to [the] praise of His glory, the ones who had previously trusted in Christ; (13) in whom also you, hearing the Word of Truth, the gospel of your salvation, in whom also believing you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,
Titus 3: (7) that being justified by His grace, we should become heirs according to [the] hope of eternal life.
Hebrews 9: (15) And because of this He is Mediator of a new covenant, so that, death having occurred for redemption of transgressions under the first covenant, those being called might receive the promise of the everlasting inheritance.
1 Peter 1:3-5:
1 Peter 1: (3) Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, He according to His great mercy having regenerated us to a living hope through [the] resurrection of Jesus Christ from [the] dead, (4) to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and unfading, having been kept in Heaven for you (5) [the ones] in [the] power of God being guarded through faith to a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time;
So we see that believers have an inheritance in heaven.
Now back to Romans 8:17. The next thing we see is that we are JOINT-HEIRS of Christ. Whereas the Greek word for "heirs" was klay-ron-OM-os, the Greek word for "joint-heirs" is SOON-klay-ron-om-os. The prefix "SOON" means a union together with. We are united together with Jesus Christ in our heirship. So both believers and Christ are heirs TOGETHER. Here is another precious doctrine. Since we are the sons of God by adoption, and Jesus Christ is the Son of God, we are BROTHERS with Jesus Christ. And since Christ is our brother, we are joint-heirs with Christ in our inheritance of glorification in heaven. Let's turn over to Hebrews 2:10-18:
Hebrews 2: (10) For it was fitting for Him, because of whom [are] all things, and through whom [are] all things, having brought many sons to glory, to perfect [Him] as the Author of their salvation through sufferings. (11) For both the [One] sanctifying and the [ones] being sanctified [are] all of one; for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brothers, (12) saying, "I will announce Your name to My brothers; I will hymn to You in [the] midst of the assembly." (13) And again, "I will be trusting on Him." And again, "Behold, I and the children whom God gave to Me." (14) Since, then, the children have partaken of flesh and blood, in like manner He Himself also shared the same things, that through death He might cause to cease the [one] having the power of death, that is, the devil; (15) and might set these free, as many as by fear of death were subject to slavery through all the [lifetime] to live. (16) For indeed He does not take hold of angels, "but He takes hold of" "[the] seed of Abraham." (17) For this reason He ought by all means to become like [His] brothers, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the things respecting God, in order to make propitiation for the sins of [His] people. (18) For in what He has suffered, being tried, He is able to help those being tried.
Here is our glorious oneness with Christ. Both the One sanctifying and the ones being sanctified are all of one. Praise God! Because of the work of Christ for us, because He has taken hold of the seed of Abraham, because He became like His brothers, we are one with Christ. He is the Author of our salvation, and we will be glorified with Him in heaven. How is it that we, who are sinners, can be brothers with Christ? It is because we now have the very righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and we are counted as righteous and holy as Jesus Christ is. Think about it: we, who were once enemies of Christ, children of wrath, sons of Satan, haters of God, full of wickedness - NOW Jesus Christ is not ashamed to call us brothers. What a glorious thought! What a topic for meditation! How blessed we are to be the sons of God and joint-heirs with Christ!
Back to Romans 8:17. The last part says, "if indeed we suffer together, that we may also be glorified together." One of the aspects of being united to Christ is that we are united in suffering. As Christ suffered, Christ's brothers also suffer. Turn over to 1 Peter 4:12-13:
1 Peter 4: (12) Beloved, do not be astonished at the fiery trial happening among you for your testing, as [if] a surprise [were] occurring to you; (13) but according as you share the sufferings of Christ, rejoice; so that you may rejoice exultingly at the revelation of His glory.
Everyone who is in Christ is a sharer in the sufferings of Christ. Of course, we are not suffering as a representative and substitute like Jesus did, but it is guaranteed that we will suffer for our faith. And, as Romans 8:17 says, if, in our unity with Christ, we suffer, we also, in our unity with Christ, will be glorified. Those who do not share in the sufferings of Christ will not share in glorification with Christ. The Lord willing, we will go further into Christian suffering in the next sermon. To close, let us again look at a passage that we already went through that shows our oneness with Christ. Let's read Romans 6:4-11:
Romans 6: (4) Therefore, we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that as Christ was raised up from [the] dead by the glory of the Father, so also we should walk in newness of life. (5) For if we have been joined together in the likeness of His death, so also shall we be in the resurrection, (6) knowing this, that our old man was crucified with [Him], that the body of sin might be nullified, so that we no longer serve sin. (7) For the [one] that died has been justified from sin. (8) But if we died with Christ, we believe that also we shall live with Him, (9) knowing that Christ being raised from [the] dead dies no more; death no longer lords it over Him. (10) For in that He died, He died to sin once for all; but in that He lives, He lives to God. (11) So also you count yourselves to be truly dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.