The Test of Sonship (Romans 8:12-17)

When considering close friendships, how can you tell if someone else is a Christian? More importantly, how can you tell if you are a Christian? Well, we could consider things like, “Does the person claim to be a Christian?” or more specifically, “Does the person say they believe Jesus is God and that He is the only way to heaven?” We might also look at evidence like whether or not the person reads the Bible, prays, or goes to church. But as Dr. Evans chillingly cautioned us last week in chapel, simply knowing and doing the right things does not make someone a Christian. As Jesus Himself said, many will come to Him on the last thinking that they belong in heaven when in fact they never knew Jesus at all (Matthew 7:21-23). No, if we are really serious about our own eternal destiny and the eternal destiny of those around us, we need a better way to evaluate faith.

Fortunately, Scripture gives a better test in our passage today – the test of sonship through the Holy Spirit. The Bible tells us that when people truly come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, they become God’s own adopted sons (and daughters) by the power of the Holy Spirit who comes to live inside them (Romans 8:15). This work of the Spirit sets us free from fearing God as His enemies and instead witnesses within our souls that we have become God’s friends and children (Romans 8:16). To be a child of the King of Kings is to be totally loved, forgiven, and accepted. Christians have been brought into God’s family not because of what we do or have done, but because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. Jesus paid the sin debt that we could not have covered with a million years of good works. Our response to that gift is thankfulness and joy, which in turn leads us to a new life led by the Spirit of God within us. We are now “debtors” to God, not living as slaves serving a distant Judge out of the fear of punishment, but as children gladly obeying a caring Father who rescued us from sin and death and hell (Romans 8:12). We now seek to “put to death” or get rid of sin in our life (Romans 8:13) and instead be led by the work of the Spirit, which makes us desire to do God’s holy will. To be led by the Spirit is, as Dr. Evans explained well in chapel last week, to be growing in our love for God and our hatred for our sin, to be putting more and more of our trust and fear in our God instead of our circumstances or other people.

Do you want to know if you are a son or daughter of God? Look to the witness of the Holy Spirit within you. Look for the fruit that only the Holy Spirit can produce – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Don’t look for perfection, but look for progress. Are you growing in faith and godliness? Ask yourself, “Do I love Jesus? Do I want to do what He says? Do I want to live for Him? Do I have compassion to see others know Jesus? Do I feel sweet fellowship when I am with other Spirit-led Christians?” Today’s passage makes a clear statement about the authenticity of people’s faith: “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Romans 8:14). A person willfully currently choosing a life of sin and disobedience may indeed have received the Holy Spirit in the past but be severely resisting or quenching Him to their own hurt in the present. However, they might not have the Holy Spirit and be a child of God at all. Today’s text warns us to take following God very seriously because it says that the proof of spiritual sonship is not found in what we say we believe or an experience we claim to have had. Instead, Romans 8 points us to how the Holy Spirit transforms our lives to become more like Jesus. Sons and daughters will be like their Father. The sons and daughters of God are heirs with Christ, set to inherit all the joys of eternal life now and the blessings of heaven forever after our death (Romans 8:17). May we all be led by the Spirit and rejoice in our adoption as God’s children.

The Text (Romans 8:12-17)

12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 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. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 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.” 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and 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.

Questions to Think About

  1. How could considering yourself a debtor to God affect your daily life this week?
  2. In what areas of your life are you striving to put sin to death this school year?
  3. Have you ever examined your life to look for evidence of the Holy Spirit at work? If yes, what did you discover? If not, would you be willing to let God examine your heart this week?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

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