Online Bible Commentary
The Spirit of Adoption
Romans 8:12 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,[e] 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. (NKJV)
Paul wrote this letter from Corinth, Greece during a three month visit to the church there in late 56 and early 57 A.D. The letter is heavy with Christian Doctrine, Christian teaching.
The teaching for chapters six through eight is sanctification. Sanctification can be defined as the process of being made holy.
Chapter six introduces positional and practical sanctification. Paul then elaborates on positional sanctification in chapter seven and practical sanctification in chapter eight.
In chapter six, Paul taught sanctification as being positional, meaning our standing with God, and as being practical, meaning how we work out this standing in our lives.
Referring to positional sanctification Paul wrote: “For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.” (Romans 6:10). On the cross, Christ finished the work of sin. Sin died and Christ was risen to “live to God” a new life as the Resurrected Christ.
Next, he wrote “Just as Christ died to sin, likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin (Romans 6:11a). Positionally, Christ’s death on the cross put sin to death and we Christians died to sin with Him. Practically, Paul commands us to “be dead indeed to sin”.
Christ has declared us dead to sin. Positional sanctification says that we are dead to sin, we are unable to sin. When we become a Christian, we become a new creation, dead to sin and alive to righteousness, “alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (v. 6:11b).
But there is still a problem, positionally, that Paul details in chapter seven. He writes “So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.” (v. 7:25b).
We serve the “law of God” with our spiritual selves. But we still serve “the law of sin” with our physical selves.
So, we, as Christians, still have a sin problem, positionally. We must work out this problem practically.
That is where the Holy Spirit comes in. When we become a Christian, the Holy Spirit indwells us. The Oxford Dictionary defines the word “indwell”, theologically, as meaning “to be permanently present in someone’s soul or mind: to possess spiritually”
This passage begins with the word "therefore", referring back to the previous verse. The previous verse refers to the Holy Spirit who indwells all Christians.
Paul wrote: "Therefore, brethren, we are debtors--not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh." (v. 12). Since we are indwelled by the Holy Spirit, we are in debt to the Holy Spirit and are to live in that manner. We are not in debt to the flesh, sin, our own selfish desires. We are not to live by the flesh .
"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." (v. 13). For if we live by the flesh, we will surely die. Paul is speaking here of a spiritual death, eternal separation from God.
On the other hand, if we live by the Holy Spirit, we will no longer live by the flesh . Instead, we will live in the righteousness of God.
"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God." (v. 14). So when we allow ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit, we are living as children of God. Only Christians possess the Holy Spirit. Only Christians are children of God.
"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." (v. 15). The Holy Spirit is not a spirit of bondage. Before we were Christians we were in bondage to sin, and fear.
Instead, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of adoption. We have been adopted into the family of God.
The word adoption, as used here, does not have the same meaning as we may commonly use it. This word adoption, means a permanent separation from our previous family.
There is no way that we will ever reunite with our former family. Once we become a Christian, we remain a Christian. We cannot lose our salvation.
Previously, as non Christians, we were under the headship of Adam, sin. We were controlled not by the Holy Spirit, but by our own selfish desires.
When we become a Christian, we are indwelled by the Holy Spirit. And from that point forward we allow the Holy Spirit to control our lives.
This adoption carries with it certain benefits. One such benefit is that we can approach God in affectionate terms, such as calling him "Abba, Father" (v. 15c).
The word "Abba" is an Aramaic word which can be translated "Daddy". Because we have an intimate family relationship with God, we may approach Him in this manner.
He is indeed our Daddy. He loves us and He works all things together for our good.
"The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God." (v. 16). The Holy Spirit helps us to understand our relationship with God. The Holy Spirit ministers to our human spirit, and reinforces the fact that we are children of God.
"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," (v. 17}. As children of God we are His heirs. We stand to inherit all that is His. And God owns everything.
As children of God we are also joint heirs with Christ. Christ being the Son of God.
So, since we are joint heirs with Christ, we share in all that He has received. We share in His sufferings and we also share in His glory.
As Christians, we will suffer in this world. We will be persecuted for our faith.
However, we will also share in the glory of God. Christians have eternal life in Heaven.
In Heaven, we will be warmed by the glory of God. As His children, He will love and care for us for eternity.