Tuesday, September 25, 2018

What's So Great About Being a Child of God?

Part 26 of Romans: The Gospel of God

Text: Romans 8:14-17




For 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!” (v. 15). 


My Dad! 

There’s a viral video in which a group of girls are bragging about their dads.

One girl says, “My daddy has a gold tooth!”

One of the girls is impressed: “Wow, a gold tooth?”

Not to be outdone, another girl turns to the first girl and says, “My dad has diabetes.”

We who are Christians say that God is our Father. And the Bible actually encourages us to boast about “our Father in heaven”: “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:31). So what’s so great about being a child of God?


What It Means to Be a Child of God

In these verses, Paul gives us two reasons why it’s an amazing privilege to be a child of God—to have God as our Father.

1. A child of God has been adopted by God. 

In verse 14, Paul says, “All who led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” Later, he writes, “We have received the Spirit of adoption as sons.” To be adopted by God means to be chosen by God. God has chosen us to be his children.

Why do verses 14 and 15 say that we are “sons,” not “sons and daughters”? Is Paul excluding women? No! The reason why Paul uses the word “sons” has to do with the culture of his day. In that culture, a childless adult would adopt a male child to be his heir. So an adopted child would have been a son.

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul says, “In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith” (3:26). And then he says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (v. 28). In other words, all of us—both male and female—are equal in God’s family. No one is more or less a child of God than anyone else!

To be adopted by God also means to be loved by God. In verses 15 and 16, Paul writes, “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!’” (cf. Gal. 4:6). Our relationship with God is not a relationship of fear; it’s a relationship of love.

Paul says that we cry out, “Abba! Father!” Paul’s original letter would have read Abba! Pater! The word Abba—which, by the way, has nothing to do with a Swedish pop group—is Aramaic, and the word Pater is Greek. Both words mean “Father.”

Jesus spoke Aramaic, so “Abba” is what Jesus called God. In Mark 14:36, Jesus address God as “Abba, Father.” When Jesus taught his disciples how to pray, he taught them to address God in the same way: “Our Father in heaven” (Matt. 6:9).

Once God adopts us, we never have to fear that God will one day return us to the orphanage. He will never disown us. He will never kick us out of his family. We are permanently in God’s family. Nothing can or will change that. As Paul says later in Romans 8, “[Nothing] will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 39).

2. A child of God is an heir of God. 

In verse 17, Paul writes, “The Spirit himself bears witness with out spirit that we are children of God, and if children then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.”

What does it mean to be “an heir of God”? What is our inheritance? Our inheritance includes many things, but the greatest treasure of our inheritance is God himself. “There is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist” (1 Cor. 8:6). We were made for God. The Westminster Shorter Catechism says that the “chief end of man” is “to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

We are “fellow heirs with Christ.” Jesus became like us (v. 3) so that we could become like him (v. 29). The Son died on a cross so that I could become a son! “We were reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Rom. 8:10).


Am I Really God's Child?

How do I know if I’m really a child of God? Am I really God’s child? Is God really my Father? If God is my Father, I will resemble him. How can I resemble God?

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul tells them, “Be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Eph. 5:1-2). To be an imitator of God is to be like him in our character and in our actions.

Jesus “loved us and gave himself up for us.” The Father “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all” (Rom. 8:32). Look at 17: “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.” We aren’t to desire suffering, but are you willing to suffer in order to remain faithful to God? God was willing to suffer for us.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

How Do I know if the Holy Spirit Lives in Me?

Part 25 of Romans: The Gospel of God

Text: Romans 8:5-13




You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him (v. 9). 


If in Fact

The apostle Paul says that there are two—only two—categories of people in this world. There are people who are “in the flesh,” and there are people who are “in the Spirit.”

Now this isn’t like if you’re left-handed or right-handed. The consequences of being “in the flesh” or “in the Spirit” are much higher!

  • “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (v. 8).
  • “If you live according to the flesh, you will die” (v. 13). 

Paul says, “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit” (v. 9a). But that’s not the end of the sentence. The next word is “if”: “if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you” (v. 9b). There’s a lot riding on whether or not the Holy Spirit is living in us!

How do I know if the Holy Spirit lives in me? Let me ask you this: What’s your mind set on? 


What's Your Mind Set On?

In verse 5, Paul writes, “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.” To set the mind on something is to desire something. We either desire “the things of the flesh” or “the things of the Spirit.”

What is the “flesh”? It’s “our fallen, ego-centric human nature” [1] To live “according to the flesh” is to live a life that’s all about me.

To “live according to the Spirit” is to live a different kind of life. The Holy Spirit transforms our mind. We have a new desire—a desire to please God. We desire “the fruit of the Spirit,” which is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23).

Verse 4 tells us that Jesus died so that “the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us.” “In us” could mean “for us” (i.e., justification) or “by us” (i.e., sanctification). Jesus didn’t die only for our justification. He also died for our sanctification. “Holiness is the ultimate purpose of the incarnation and the atonement.” [2]

What are you setting your mind on? [Read James 4:1-4; 1 John 2:15-17.] Are your values and pursuits any different from those of the world? What we set our minds on will affect the way we live.


Is Grace Just About Getting?

We are justified by grace. Justification is a gift from God. But is grace just about getting? What about giving? Do we say, “God, you have given me so much, but I’m not gonna give anything to you”?

There is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (v. 1). But verse 13 says, “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). That’s a warning.
Neither the “indicative”—what God has done for us in Christ—nor the “imperative”—what we are commanded to do—can be eliminated. Nor can they be severed from one another; they are inextricably connected. The point of that connection in this passage is the Spirit. The same Spirit that “set us free from the law of sin and death” has taken up residence within us, producing in us that “mind-set” which tends toward the doing of God’s will and resists the ways of the flesh. [3] 
“We are debtors” (v. 12). Giving back to God isn’t optional. But God isn’t saying, “If you don’t pay me back, I’m going to take away everything I’ve given you.” First of all, we can never pay God back. Secondly, anyone who has the Holy Spirit will never argue that we don’t owe God our lives.

____________________

[1] John R. W. Stott, The Message of Romans, p. 222.
[2] Ibid., p. 221.
[3] Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, p. 495.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Justification and Sanctification

Part 24 of Romans: The Gospel of God

Text: Romans 8:1-4




For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death (v. 2). 


Justification and Sanctification

Two important biblical words are “justification” and “sanctification.” What do they mean?

Justification is the declaring of a person to be righteous (i.e., not guilty). (It’s like when we say, “His actions were justified.” In other words, the person is not guilty of wrongdoing.)

Sanctification is moral transformation (i.e., Christlikeness, holiness). Sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit (“the Spirit of life,” v. 2). This is why he is called the Holy Spirit. (It's not that he's more holy than the Father and the Son.)


What's the Connection?

Many commentators believe that 8:1 is about justification (“no condemnation”) and 8:2 is about sanctification. [1] What’s the connection between verses 1 and 2?

Notice that verse 2 begins with “For,” which means “because.” John Piper points out that “because” can be used two ways. It can be used to provide evidence of something or state the cause of something. [2]

If I say, "I am tired because I’m yawning,” I'm saying that my yawning is evidence of being tired. But if I say, “I am tired because I didn’t get much sleep,” I'm saying that my not getting much sleep is the cause of being tired.

Is sanctification the cause of justification, or is sanctification the evidence of justification?

Sanctification isn’t the cause of justification. If it was, we could never achieve (or keep) the status of “no condemnation.” Sanctification is the evidence of justification.


God Has Done What the Law Couldn't Do

If it’s impossible for us to get rid of our guilt, how is it possible? “God has done what the law [i.e., the Mosaic law], weakened by the flesh [i.e., our sinfulness], could not do” (v. 3a). The purpose of the law was not to justify us: “By works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20). [3]

God has done what the law couldn’t do: make a way for us to be justified. How?

  • The Father sent the Son (“By sending his own Son,” v. 3b). 
  • The Son became human (“in the likeness of sinful flesh,” v. 3c). “His humanity was both real and sinless simultaneously.” [4]
  • The Son became an offering for our sin (“for sin,” v. 3d). 
  • The penalty for our sin was paid by the Son on the cross (“he condemned sin in the flesh,” v. 3e). “In the flesh” refers to the body of Jesus. “Believers are no longer ‘condemned’ (v. 1) because in Christ sin has been ‘condemned.’” [5]
  • Now our justification and sanctification are possible (“in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us,” v. 4a). [6]

Believers are described as people “who walk [i.e., live] not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (v. 4b). This is sanctification—the evidence of our justification and the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives.

To live “according to the flesh” is to live a me-centered life. To live “according to the Spirit” is to live differently—to be like Christ.


There Is "No Condemnation," But There Is Obligation

“No condemnation” means no condemnation. There’s no fine print; there are no exceptions. There is absolute security for the believer.

But Jesus died on the cross not only for both our justification; he also died for our sanctification. “Holiness is the ultimate purpose of the incarnation and the atonement.” [7]

Being satisfied with only justification (and not bothering with sanctification) is like being given a free Hawaiian vacation but never leaving your hotel room.

____________________

[1] The two occurrences of “law” in verse 2 mean “power” or “principle” (cf. Rom. 3:27).
[2] John Piper, “Set Free by the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus” (sermon)
[3] The law isn’t bad. Telling someone that apples won’t cure tiredness doesn’t mean that apples are bad.
[4] John R. W. Stott, The Message of Romans, p. 219.
[5] Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, p. 477.
[6] The fulfillment of the “righteous requirement of the law” can be seen as referring to our justification or our sanctification. Perhaps it refers to both.
[7] Stott, p. 221.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

No Condemnation!

Part 23 of Romans: The Gospel of God

Text: Romans 8:1, 13




There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (v. 1). 


A Heck of a Story!

I remember watching the NFL Network’s Super Bowl LI edition of Sound FX. The Patriots are losing 28-3 in the middle of the third quarter. A Patriots’ victory appears highly unlikely. But one thing that stood out to me was Patriot’s wide receiver Julian Edelman telling teammates, “It’s gonna be a [heck] of a story!”

Edelman ended up being right. Super Bowl LI did become “a [heck] of a story” for the Patriots. They ended up winning the game 34-28. The Patriots’ 25-point comeback is the largest comeback in Super Bowl history.

In the book of Romans, the apostle Paul says that every single one of us is a sinner. We have broken God’s law. We are guilty. And there is absolutely nothing we can do to take away our guilt.

It looks very bad for us. But “where sin increased, grace increased all the more” (5:20, NIV). The gospel is an amazing story!


Security and Warning

We are free from condemnation. But does that mean we’re free from obligation (i.e., obeying God’s commands)? Look at verse 13: “If you live according to the flesh you will die [eternally], but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live [eternally].”

According to verses 1 and 13, there is—for the believer—freedom from condemnation, but there isn’t freedom from obligation.

  • Does “no condemnation” mean that we are absolutely secure in Christ? 
  • Does the warning “If you live according to the flesh you will die” mean that we have to “earn our keep”? 

Freedom from Condemnation Yes!

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (v. 1).

  • “Condemnation” is “the opposite of justification.” [1]
  • “Now” refers to the new era that began when Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead.
  • “Therefore” points back to what Paul has been saying about God’s grace. 
  • How can we be free from condemnation? God “condemned sin in the flesh” (v. 3). “The flesh” refers to Christ’s body. 
  • It doesn’t say, “No condemnation unless….” We don’t have to fear that any sin will ever condemn us! “Who is to condemn?” (v. 34). 
  • “To insist on feeling guilty is but another way of insisting on helping God with our salvation. How deeply imbedded in human nature is the influence of works-righteousness!” [2]

Freedom from Obligation? No!

“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).
[How does] the need to put sin away from us relate to the promise of verse 1? Calvinists and Arminians are agreed that the believer must progress in the battle against sin if he or she is to attain eternal life. But the Arminian believes that a regenerate person might, indeed, be so lured by the flesh that he or she fails to progress in the Christian life. At some point, then, that person might cease to be “in Christ.” Thus, the promise of verse 1 no longer applies to that person. The Calvinist, by contrast, believes that the influence of the Spirit in a believer’s life is so dominant that he or she can never reach the point of falling permanently into a lifestyle of sin and so forfeit the promise of “no condemnation.” [3]
“Security without responsibility breeds passivity, but responsibility without security leads to anxiety.” We need balance! [4]

____________________

[1] John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, p. 274.
[2] Robert H. Mounce, Romans, p. 174.
[3] Douglas J. Moo, Romans, p. 258.
[4] Ibid.