Chapter 8: Part 1
"Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Rom. 8:1) This is wonderful news! There is no condemnation for the new man, the new creation that is in Christ Jesus! This is more than a written code - it's life! Our new birth brings us into life. Living in life means that we submit ourselves to the Holy Spirit even as Christ did! This is the mind of Christ that we have received! Instead of functioning according to our natural senses we live out of His mind! An unsubmitted mind will not receive the teaching of the Holy Spirit!
The heart of the gospel is Jesus Christ! Being in Him takes us out of condemnation! We have been taken out of the man of sin and have been placed into the man who has no sin! That is why there is no condemnation and no threat of judgment! Our union with Christ Jesus has brought us His life. Just as the branches live out of the life of the vine, so we now live out of His life! Our union with Christ is His doing - not ours.
There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! This bold statement rests upon God's work in Christ. The Greek word for condemnation is KATAKRIMA, the noun form of KATAKRINO. It means to give judgment against or to pass sentence on a crime committed. The sentence against the man of sin took place when Jesus Christ died in His identification with humanity. He did not die as our substitute, but with us and for us.
The KJV adds, "who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit". This addition has been omitted in the New American Standard and other versions because it isn't in the best Greek manuscripts. Some preach that no condemnation applies only to those who walk according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh; if you walk according to the flesh, the Lord condemns you. But it does not say, "there is no condemnation if you walk after the Spirit." It says, "There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Since there is no unrighteousness in Christ, there can be no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Then Paul goes on to describe those who are in Christ Jesus.
"For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death." (v.2) The law of sin and death brings condemnation; without that law there is no condemnation! The Spirit's law of life sets us free from the law of sin and death! If life does away with death, it follows that the law of sin and death has been done away with! This wonderful truth we receive by faith! In Christ Jesus there is no law of sin and death. What glorious news!
Walking according to the Spirit is a description of those who are in Christ; it is not a command. In Him we walk in life! This is not achieved through self-effort; it is not achieved through trying to get the natural self to walk according to the Spirit. Self-effort can never accomplish anything spiritual; it only gets us back into condemnation! The new creation that we are, is spiritual. It lives in life, receives life nourishment and walks in life! There is no condemnation in life!
We are familiar with the law of gravity - the force that draws all bodies in the earth's sphere towards the earth. It teaches us a fact, and does not demand anything of us. Similarly, the law of the Spirit of life teaches us what is present, and does not demand anything of us! We only have to live in the kingdom where it operates. It is not like the law of commandments that demands standards of behavior. This law of the Spirit of life always brings life and light. It never changes; it is always true, it is settled, and it always works because it is truth! It brings us security, because Christ is our foundation and our life!
The law of the Spirit supersedes all other laws; it is the supreme law! All lies bow to it and melt away. It frees us from the law of sin and death and all the lies we believed about God and about ourselves. It enables us to live in victory! It makes us free from our bondage to sin and the struggle we discussed in Romans 7! It operates by faith. Although faith isn't mentioned very often in these last chapters, it is at the very center of Christian living. It is believing what the Lord has done for us.
The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus completely overpowers the law of sin and death just like light overpowers darkness. Death can never overpower life, for life is stronger than death. The law of the Spirit is the supreme law, and it frees us from the law of sin and death and from the condemnation of that law!
James talks about the law of liberty. "So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty." (James 2:12) Do you think the law of liberty refers to the old covenant? Is the law of Moses a law of liberty? Did it ever bring liberty to anyone? No, it only brought bondage, condemnation, judgment and death!
The law of liberty is the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus! Only those who remain in the law of Moses will be judged by that law. If those who are in Christ will be judged at all, it will be according to the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. Judgment by the old covenant is obsolete for those who are in Christ. Only the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus can free us. It judges everything that is not life and truth. There is no other law of liberty.
The law of sin and death is a real tyrant! It has an inherent weakness because it cannot provide any help for keeping the law. It can only condemn. It operates through flesh and speaks to the flesh. "Flesh, you obey God." And the flesh rises up in rebellion and says, "I cannot and I will not!" So even though the law is good, it cannot produce obedience.
God stepped into our predicament and provided a way out! "...sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." (vv.3b-4)
Jesus Christ condemned sin in the flesh, and released those who are in Christ from condemnation! So the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus condemns sin, but it does not condemn the sinner. Christ never approved of sin, and He never will. The whole body of sin, the source of sin - not only our individual sins - was crucified with Christ! This is our release from sin! God condemned sin in the flesh, and released us.
Jesus came in the likeness of sinful flesh. "The Word was made flesh," but it does not say that it was made sinful flesh. He was not born with a sinful human nature, but this difference was not seen outwardly. He looked just like other human beings, but He was sinless! In His identification with humanity He was able to become a sin-offering for us. Because He was sinless, He didn't first have to make an offering for Himself like the priests in the old covenant. He took our sin upon Himself, "So that the requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us."
The law required perfection - perfection in righteousness, justice and goodness! How can this righteousness of the law be fulfilled in us? Has the Lord changed His mind about righteousness? Did He say, "I'll forget about righteousness - I'll just show My grace, and accept everyone as he is, and we'll have a happy chaotic time, everyone doing his own thing for all eternity"? That is not what the Lord has in mind! Since He is righteous - and He will always remain righteous - He has to do everything in a righteous way!
God's standard of righteousness as seen by the requirements of the law, could only be fulfilled by Christ! It cannot be fulfilled by anyone who walks according to the flesh! That is why it could only be fulfilled by Christ. To reap the benefit of His work, we have to be put into Him. So when He is within us, we have the fulfillment of the law in us! Instead of us doing it, Christ has done it for us, and it becomes ours by faith in Him! What a wonderful release from the requirements of the law!
The Holy Spirit brings us the life and righteousness that Christ is! Through the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, the righteousness and goodness of the law is finally fulfilled in us! This is the fulfillment of what was prophesied - that He would write His laws in our hearts. It's wonderful to know that the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus is a law and it is eternal; it is settled and it works! As we walk according to the Spirit of Christ in us, we will walk in life! This is the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.
This gets us out of theology and down to the nitty-gritty of where we live in Christ. When we live in Him, we will be walking according to the Spirit. Paul is not commanding us to walk according to the Spirit; he is telling us what it means to live in Christ. Life in Christ is so foreign to natural thinking that we instantly think it is beyond us. Our natural mind tells us that it depends upon our performance. Then condemnation strikes!
This thinking is the result of ignorance and unbelief! We need to believe what God says about us. He tells us that "those who are in Christ do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit". In Christ Jesus we can walk according to the Spirit, so let's receive this as a promise and not as a command.
We no longer need to walk according to the flesh because we have been given the mind of Christ! But there is an ongoing battle, because our natural mind is always against Christ. Its desires are on the things of the flesh, such as comfort, pleasure, indulgence, pride, power, riches, etc. Walking according to the flesh means we are setting our minds on the things of the flesh - we are preferring them; they are our priority. This results in performing the deeds of the flesh. The root of the problem is our natural mind.
Various Greek words are translated as mind in English. The one used here is PHRONEMA, and it "denotes what one has in the mind, the thought (the content of the process expressed in PHRONEO, to have in mind, to think); or an object of thought." (Vines) The Greek word used for "the law of my mind" in 7:23, is NOUS. This is the mind that obeys God. It denotes "the seat of reflective consciousness, comprising the faculties of perception and understanding, and those of feeling, judging and determining." This is the new mind which belongs to the believer by reason of the new birth.
"For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so." (vv.5-7)
The Greek does not say "the mind set on the flesh" and "the mind set on the Spirit". It says, "the mind of the flesh is hostile toward God," and "the mind of the Spirit is life and peace." (Young's) Our walk is the outworking of the mind in which we are living.
This means that there are two different minds. Each has its own thought processes: the mind of the flesh has carnal thoughts, and the mind of the Spirit has spiritual thoughts. The mind of the flesh, or the carnal mind, pays attention to earthly things. The things in the seen realm are important to it. The emotions it feels play an important role in the directives that come from that mind. The messages it receives come from the flesh.
The mind of the flesh is hostile toward God; it is at enmity with Him. It is actively hostile toward God. It is forceful and domineering, and always works against the Spirit! It tries to convince us that whatever the Spirit says is wrong. It will not subject itself to the law of God; it doesn't even have that ability because it is in death. (vv.6-7) By listening to that mind we are receiving a message content that is against God! We are listening to the voice of death and receiving death!
The mind of the Spirit pays attention to heavenly things - to the unseen realm. It receives messages from Christ and wants to serve God! It brings us life and peace! This is what we want! To do the will of God we have to be in life! (v.6) Life is in the Spirit! The justification we have received brings us peace with God. Those who receive the free gift will begin their reign in life at the present time. Life in Christ Jesus means we have peace with God. That is the mind of the Spirit!
Our natural mind receives all kinds of messages that are foreign to the word of God; they come from the natural self and out of unbelief. Walking according to the flesh is not confined to living in corrupt sin; it includes the thinking and thought processes of our natural mind. That means we can sit in church and pray, and still be walking according to the flesh. Unbelief, thinking God is angry at us and withholding the best from us, moaning, groaning and complaining, is walking according to the flesh. That mind is filled with natural things - with lies about God and accusations against Him. That mind suppresses truth! The mind of the Spirit welcomes truth!
All the religious exercises that come out of our own natural understanding are useless. People usually look at outward behavior to determine someone's spiritual state. After being out of touch with someone for awhile, we often ask, "Does he still smoke? Is he still going to church?" However, the Lord looks at the heart, at the inside. He knows our thoughts and our walk, and out of which mind we are living.
God's verdict stands firm: "Those who are in the flesh cannot please God." (v.8) This is a settled matter! So what does it mean to be in the flesh? Does that mean that we have to die physically before we can serve God? No! To be in the flesh means that our thoughts and actions are governed by our selfish desires. The natural mind is anti Christ, so it cannot please God. Therefore it is useless to try to get it to please God. As long as we are serving the flesh, we cannot serve God. Its hostility is veiled by religiosity! It is only good for being crucified and put to death. The Lord is not reforming the natural man, for that man is living in death. God raises us out of that death; the new birth brings us into life.
Verses 9-10 tell us who we are in Christ. "However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness." How can we be in the Spirit while we are in this mortal body? The answer follows immediately.
Those who have received Jesus Christ have the Spirit of God dwelling in them. If the Spirit of God dwells in us, we are in the Spirit. That is where we live; our spirit has been united with the Spirit of Christ, and has become one with His Spirit! That takes us out of the flesh man or the natural man.
In Col. 2:11 it says, "And in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ." Old Testament circumcision was done by cutting off physical flesh; spiritual circumcision takes us out of the body of flesh or the mind of the flesh. It cuts off the works of the flesh. We receive this by faith and not by feelings! Believing what God says brings us into truth! We have been united with the Spirit of God, and are now spiritual creatures. Christ is our identity!
We have been put into the Spirit. We receive this by faith - not by looking in the mirror. We see ourselves when we look into the scriptures. This is the only mirror that is of any value to us. If we look at our flesh in the mirror, and say, "That's me," we'll agree with the devil as he holds up the grave clothes (the old man), and flashes them in front of our face. "Here you are; the old man is still alive." If we look up and say, "I recognize him - that's me," we are looking in the wrong mirror; we are listening to the lie.
The law of the Spirit of life has made us free from the law of sin and death! We have been crucified with Christ, and we have been raised with Him. Christ has become our life! We are to fix our eyes on Him! If we want to know who we are, we look at Him. If we want to know our strength - look at Him and see His strength! If we want to know how sinful we are - look at Him and see His sinlessness! If we want to know how much condemnation we are under - look at Him and see that there is no condemnation in Him! Why? Because what is true about Jesus is true about us. Once we start thinking that way, we start living that way. Let's remember that the battle takes place in the mind.
1 Cor. 2:16 tells us that we have the mind of Christ! Are we still thinking according to the natural mind, or are we thinking according to the mind of Christ? If we let the old mind rule us, we will be conformed to this world. It is filled with the lusting of the flesh and the pride of life. Letting the mind of Christ rule us, renews our mind. It transforms us! As we believe what God says about the new creation man and who we are in Christ, we will be freed from our wrong thinking and all the lies of the enemy!
A good new computer and computer program enable us to do amazing things - once we learn how to use them! Similarly, we have to learn to live out of our new mind, and this doesn't come automatically. When we are put into Christ, we get a mind that is free from all the bondages of sin! Learning to live out of it requires listening to the Spirit and following His instructions! As we believe God, we will learn to think according to the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, and be ruled by it! This frees us from the old covenant thinking.
Just as a new computer is not the old one, so our new life is not the old one. It's a completely new life! Now that we have been raised from the dead with Christ, we are a new creation! This is not fanciful thinking - this is truth! Truth enables us to stand against the wiles of the devil!
"If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness." (v. 10) Life and righteousness are tied together. Just as sin and death go together, so life and righteousness go together. If we have been given righteousness, we have been given life. Our inner man is alive, but our body is dead because of sin.
"But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you." (v.11) How can mortality receive life? It says that the mortal does not inherit immortality! (1 Cor. 15:50) But this mortal must put on immortality! (v.53) The bondage to live according to the flesh is taken away because God has given us life! Living according to the flesh brings death.
The Spirit and the flesh dwell together in one body, but only one can rule! When the flesh rules, the body is under its control. When the Spirit rules, the body obeys the Spirit. Either the flesh will rule the body or the Spirit will rule the body. The flesh is mortal and corruptible, but the Spirit is immortal and incorruptible; so it is higher than the flesh, and should be ruling. When the Spirit is master, we will not perform the deeds of the flesh. The redemption of our body takes place when the Spirit rules, and the body is no longer used to do evil deeds.
Life for our mortal body means it has righteousness. Righteous deeds can now be expressed through this body. This is not for the future - this is for now! Because we have been given righteousness, we have been given life. Life and righteousness belong together; we cannot have one without the other. The Spirit indwells our inner man, and His life will be expressed by the words and actions that come forth via our mortal bodies. We are no longer under obligation to walk according to death.
In Christ we see the power of the indwelling Spirit. Christ ruled over nature, sickness, sin and every limitation! He was not subject to nature's laws. He taught us what the norm is for the spiritual man. Then He told the disciples, "The works that I do, he (the believer) will do also; and greater works than these he will do..." (Jn. 14:12)
Although faith is not mentioned here, it is very evident that this is a life of faith. Anything that is not of faith is sin. If we are minding the Spirit we are moving in faith. If we are minding the flesh, we are in unbelief and doing our own will! It is very important to remember this!
"So then brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh - for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live." (vv.12-13) To walk according to the flesh is to reap corruption, because the law of sin and death operates in the flesh. Instead of setting our minds on the things of the flesh, we are to live by the life that the Holy Spirit is. We are not under obligation to the flesh; we are not debtors to the flesh, and we are in no way subject to the flesh, because the Lord has set us free from that.
Putting to death the deeds of the flesh means getting down to the nitty-gritty. We can't put that off till tomorrow. It's more than living in the forgiveness of our sins; it's actually putting to death the deeds of the body. The clearest description of the deeds of the flesh are listed in Gal. 5:19-21. "Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarned you...that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."
These are deeds that reside in the flesh, and if the natural mind has its way, the body will participate in enacting them. These deeds are to be put to death; they are not to be performed! The Lord is training us to live on the level of faith. Only by faith can these deeds be put to death! Faith enables us to live out of the life that is within us!
"Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry." (Col. 3:5) We can consider them dead because we have been baptized with Christ into His death to sin! We have been born again into life and righteousness, and we can now walk in righteousness. This is the redemption of our body. We can now say that our whole being - spirit, soul and body - has been freed from the bondage to sin!
This freedom has to be received by faith, because our own logic and natural feelings will always contradict what God says. They will tell us that we are still in bondage to the devil. After we have received our freedom by faith, we will come into peace and rest and joy. Our feelings will then flow from God. It takes faith to consider our members as being dead to immorality when our flesh is sending us a different message. But as we live out of the life of Christ within us, we will begin to hate those desires. They belong to the Adamic man - not to us!
Walking together with someone toward a certain goal is enjoyable; walking together with the Spirit is also an enjoyable experience! "But when He, the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth." (Jn. 16:13) The goal and purpose of our walk with Him is truth! Truth is light and life. So walking in truth will keep us from yielding to the lusting of the flesh and the pride of life! This puts to death the deeds of the flesh.
In John 8:31-32 Jesus said, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." Only truth can free us from our bondage to the lies that exist in our natural mind. When man believed the serpent's voice, he received the serpent's mind of lies. This mind cannot understand spiritual realities.
Walking according to the Spirit means we have to believe what God says - about Himself, about us, and about what He did and is doing. This is walking according to the truth. It is not striving to attain, but believing that God has done it all! It means living out of the mind of Christ, knowing our union with Him, knowing that He is our life, and that His desires are our desires! Our hope, aspirations, pathway and goal for life, are the ones Jesus has for us!
"Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness." (Eph. 6;14) Walking in the Spirit is walking in truth! Truth takes us out of our natural thinking. It guards us from the deception and lies that are in the natural mind. Christ is the truth, and His word is truth. If we only receive truth, we will not receive anything that is against the truth. This puts to death the deeds of the body, and rids us of our bad habits.
The battleground is in our mind because that is where all the lies and deception are. Walking according to the flesh means walking in the doubt and unbelief of lies. It brings us into self-pity or self-aggrandizement and self-confidence - which is confidence in the flesh. That means we try to do things out of the resources in the flesh - the resources we are familiar with, such as education, power, prestige, control, affluence, etc. These bondages can only be broken by faith - believing that we have truly participated in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ! In Christ they can no longer control us!
Why do we so often remain in our bondages? Is it because we enjoy them, have confidence and faith in them, and in leaving them we wouldn't be "me"? We are used to them, and often there is a fear of entering a new dimension. We all need something to cling to, and the lie tells us that we should cling to it. It tells us that Christ will let us down. When we have more confidence in the bondage than we have in the ability of Christ, we are walking according to the flesh!
The Lord wants us to glory in Him, and to magnify Him! We can only do this in obedience to Him. The Holy Spirit magnifies Christ by revealing the truth to us - for Christ is truth! He does this so we can walk in truth and glorify Christ, our Head! We are His body. As we live out of Christ's mind, we will walk according to the Spirit! Our actions and words will then flow out of that mind!
"And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." (Phil. 4:7-8) Whatever we dwell on, will come forth from us.
Everything is in Christ Jesus! Everything in Him is perfect! There are imperfections in everything else. But we are not to dwell on the imperfections in people! We pray for them and ask God to show them the areas that need changing, as well as to show us our areas that need changing.
We cannot be transformed into the image of Christ without being changed! Our minds need to be renewed! If our minds are filled with all the garbage the world spews out on television, in books, politics, radio, the work place, etc., we won't be transformed. This does not mean that we live in a vacuum; we still live in this world. But there is a big difference between encountering these things in our daily walk, and filling our minds with that filth, and living in it! The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from everything that is not the truth. The blood symbolizes the soul. As we receive Christ's soul, His sense of being, we will be cleansed from all lies.
The desires of the flesh are at enmity with God; they deny the word of God, and will never submit to God. They can only be overcome by living out of the life of Christ. To do this our minds have to be filled with truth. We need to believe what God says. We have been crucified together with Christ and have been baptized into His death to sin, and have been raised up in Him! Filling our minds with truth will cause us to live in truth!
"For if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live." (v.13) Living by the Spirit automatically puts to death the deeds of the body. We do not focus on putting to death the deeds of the body; this would only be self-effort and zealousness, and they only function in death. We focus on obeying the Spirit, and our obedience puts to death the deeds of the body. This is life-giving!
Life is in the Spirit, and life brings growth and change. There is activity in life - passivity and unconcern are in the death realm. So the deeds of the flesh are overcome by the activity of the Spirit. How does this work in practical living? Do we just go merrily on our way, saying that if the Lord wants us to change, He'll have to do it without any cooperation on our part? Or is cooperation necessary?
Let's consider smoking. Some people say that it's up to the Lord to make them quit smoking. In His own time, in His own way, if He so desires, He will release them from this habit without any cooperation on their part. This sounds religious - and that is really all it is. There is deception there. The truth is that they don't really want to give it up, but they make it appear as if smoking is God's desire for them. In other words, it is God's fault!
My grandfather had a problem giving up smoking. He first tried to overcome it by self-effort. He would be on the field plowing, throw his package of cigarettes away, and in the corner of his eye carefully watch where it landed, then retrieve it later on. This happened time and again! He truly wanted to be delivered of this unhealthy habit! Finally he spoke to the Lord and admitted his inability to stop. He told the Lord that he trusted Him to do it. Then he put his package of cigarettes on the kitchen shelf within easy reach - and he never touched them again! This is cooperating with the Lord and overcoming by His Spirit! The Spirit gives us the ability to have victory over the flesh. Our reliance is on the Spirit, and we cooperate with Him.
Paul said, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." The Lord always involves us in His work. Being passive means we are living in denial of the truth. God enables us, and then we say we are doing it. For example, a little boy wants to buy a birthday gift for his father, but he does not have any money. So the father gives him some money, the boy buys a gift, and proudly presents it to his father.
Resting in the Lord does not mean doing nothing; it means resting from works done by self-effort. We do the works that are initiated by Him, and we do them His way. Jesus only did what the Father showed Him to do! That puts to death the deeds of the flesh.
After we were saved and filled with the Spirit, many of us experienced miraculous deliverances from evil habits. It just happened - they were gone! But then there were others which did not just disappear! Maybe we waited for the Lord to take them away in the same way, but He didn't do it. And He isn't going to, either. He did that at first to show us that victory is in Him. Now He wants us to walk by faith and in the obedience of faith!
Walking in the obedience of faith puts to death the works of the flesh. Faith is not a choice - it's a persuasion. The Holy Spirit will never lead us into evil. Listening to Him, even as Jesus did, will always keep us from obeying the lies and deceptions that are in the natural mind. Christ forgives us when we fail. Failure teaches us that self-effort can't do it. Faith in Him brings deliverance from sin!
"For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God." (v.14) Sonship brings us into a relationship with the Father! We've been freed from the bondage of slavery! This is the joyful reality!
Notice that one of the characteristics of the sons of God is that they are led by the Spirit! The word son here is from the Greek HUIOS. John always uses HUIOS in reference to Jesus - He is the Son of Man and the Son of God. This word primarily signifies the relationship of offspring to parents, but it is also used in reference to moral characteristics. For example, it speaks of sons of God, sons of day, sons of light, sons of peace, etc. In contrast, it also says, sons of disobedience, sons of the evil one, son of perdition.
Jesus had much to say about sons of God. "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God...But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be (Greek: become) sons of your Father who is in heaven..." (Matt. 5:9;44-45) The disciples were to do these things, not in order to become children of God, for they already were children - they already had a Father in heaven! But by doing these things, they would make this fact known. By living out of the life that is within us, we are becoming sons - that is, we are coming into maturity. That quality of life can only come from God! The revelation of the Father's nature in us is the mark of sonship and maturity.
Our goal is to hear the Spirit at all times, and to be led by Him continuously. When we become aware of being led by some other spirit, let's quickly repent and turn to the Lord. Jesus only did what the Father showed Him to do!
"For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, `Abba! Father!'" (v.15) This is good news! The Greek word for adoption is HUIOTHESIA - "from HUIOS, a son, and THESIS, a placing...The Holy Spirit who, given as the Firstfruit of all that is to be ours, produces in us the realization of sonship and the attitude belonging to sons." (Vines)
The scriptural meaning of adoption is different from the present-day meaning. We know that we are not adopted into God's family - we are born into His family. Then how does adoption fit in? In Galatians 4 we see that our adoption as sons takes place when we come out of the servanthood of the law! It involves that maturity and special relationship with the Father where the son can represent the Father and act on His behalf!
This relationship is ours in Christ! Since He is the only-begotten Son, we can only be sons when we come into the recognition of our union with Him! He is the head, and we are members of His body! We cannot be under the law and under the headship of Christ at the same time. Only in our union with Christ can we call God our Father. Christ is the Spirit by which we cry, `Abba! Father!'.
We stand in awe and wonder of God's great salvation! We are placed as sons in His household! In Christ we have the same relationship with the Father that He has! This is far beyond forgiveness! Remember that God calls those who are led by the Holy Spirit, His sons!
"He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will...So that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, `Abba! Father!' Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God." (Eph. 1:5; Gal.4:5-7)
Abba is an Aramaic word. In the Gemara (a Rabbinical commentary) it says that slaves were forbidden to address the head of the family by this title. It corresponds to a personal name, in contrast to "Father," with which it is always joined in the New Testament. Abba is the word framed by the lips of infants, and stands for unreasoning trust, while father expresses an intelligent understanding of the relationship. The two together express love and intelligent confidence. (Vines) This love and trust was expressed by Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane when He prayed, "Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will." Notice that Jesus left choice up to the Father - and so should we!
The Spirit in us is the Spirit of Jesus! "Abba! Father!" expresses this love and trust relationship with the Father through the Holy Spirit! So we can communicate with Him in love and trust, and with an understanding of our informal relationship with Him! Let's not be afraid to get close to the Father and to enjoy this wonderful relationship!
In John 15:15 Jesus said, "No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you." This reference to friends implies more than a casual relationship. I believe it refers to the blood covenant friendship - the friendship that was sealed in blood and could not be broken without the death penalty!
"For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, `Abba! Father!'" (v.15) Slaves live in fear of reprisal if they fail to please their master. Many Christians also live in fear - the fear of losing their salvation, the fear of not being ready when Christ comes, the fear of what God will do to them if they neglect to read the Bible, etc. This fear is not from God, because His Spirit does not inject this fear into us. His Spirit brings us intimacy with the Father! This is one of the best ways to recognize whether a message comes from the Holy Spirit or from a different spirit.
Many testify that God has given them a message that has caused them to lose their peace. They have come into fear, and the joy of the Lord is completely gone. This is a sure sign that the Holy Spirit did not give them this message! We have not received a spirit of slavery, leading again to fear! We have received a spirit of adoption as sons, that trustingly and joyfully cries out, "Abba! Father!" We have to discern what spirit is speaking to us. The words may sound good, and may even be scripture, but the spirit speaking to them has an evil intent. The devil also quoted scripture to Jesus. Words that produce fear are not from the Lord. We can know what spirit is speaking to us by the fruit it produces.
God does not want us to be in slavery. His Spirit frees us from the bondage of the law. "It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery." (Gal. 5:1) Young's and Rotherham's translations both say that Christ has made us free. There is a difference between being made free and being set free. When a prisoner is set free, he may still have the same attitudes and desires that he used to have. When we are made free, we are changed from the inside.
Whenever we get back into the law, we are back into slavery. The law makes so many demands, and they are all good. But if we read our Bible, pray, testify, hand out tracts, attend prayer meetings, teach Sunday school and do good works in response to a law, it is slavery! Anything that is not Spirit-directed is slavery! Let's not be fascinated, enchanted, entangled and enslaved by keeping laws for righteousness. Everything we do has to be Spirit-directed, for otherwise it will produce bondage and slavery!
"The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God." (v.16) Here the Greek word for children is TEKNON; it gives prominence to one born, whereas HUIOS stresses the dignity and character of the relationship. When the Spirit brings us the witness that we are children of God, all doubt is gone. We have been born of God and have received His life! Isn't that beautiful! His life inherently gives us God's DNA!
There is a difference between children of God, and sons of God. Those who have been born again, but are still governed by rules and their carnal thinking, are still children. They have not yet learned that they need to be led by the Holy Spirit. Being born of the Spirit makes them heirs and joint-heirs with Christ. On the other hand, sons of God have learned the importance of being led by the Spirit. They have come into maturity and are therefore His sons (HUIOS). They do not do their own will. Their conduct gives evidence of their relationship with God and their likeness to His character. Being led is a continuous way of living. Their maturity is evidenced in their constant dependence on the Holy Spirit! Independence belongs to immaturity.
1 John 3:1-2 says, "See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is." To see Him as He is, we have to see Him spiritually in the very essence of who He is!
We are His children now! Children have been born into the family, but they still need to mature. The Holy Spirit witnesses to our spirit that we are God's children. However, our carnal mind is always giving us reasons to discredit and disbelieve what God says. That is why we have to walk by faith, believing the voice of the Spirit! We have been united with Christ, and are one spirit with Him! (1 Cor. 6:17)
"And if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him." (v.17) A fellow heir is a fellow participant - one who receives an equal part of the inheritance with Christ! The greatness of God's grace staggers our minds! We are co-heirs with Christ if indeed we suffer with Him! The word co-heir is also used in Eph. 3:6. The Gentiles are co-heirs or fellow heirs with the Jews. The Gentiles have an equal place in Christ's inheritance!
Our inheritance does not consist of material possessions. This is a spiritual inheritance - imperishable, undefiled, and does not fade away! (1 Pe. 1:4) It is nothing less than the life of God! We inherit the kingdom of God because we have His life! Just as our salvation is in Christ, so our inheritance is in Christ! His life in us bears fruit. Unbelievers do not possess God's life, so they cannot inherit eternal life; they first have to become believers.
God's life always remains the same - it never decreases nor increases! Being co-heirs with Christ gives us God's life - it means that we have the same quality of life that Christ has! Living out of that life brings growth and fruit! Christ lived out of God's life perfectly; we still have our failures. But we are learning, and are being conformed to His image!
The New Testament mentions fellow heirs on numerous occasions. We are fellow heirs with Christ. Isaac and Jacob were fellow heirs of the same promise Abraham received. (Heb. 11:9) Husbands are to live with their wives in an understanding way since they are "fellow heirs of the grace of life." (1 Peter 3:7) They are on an equal footing with their husbands. "The Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel." (Eph. 3:6) God's great plan for us is too wonderful for us to truly grasp! Fellow heirs with Christ! He made us His children, not only to escape punishment, but that we might share in Christ's inheritance!
The following verses show us that we are heirs because we belong to Christ. "And if children, heirs also, heirs of God...Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God...And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise...Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light...So that being justified" (Greek: having been justified) "by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." (Rom. 8:17; Gal. 4:7; Gal. 3:29; Col. 1:12; Titus 3:7) This is God's doing, not ours! We are heirs of God because we are children of His family. No one can take that away from us.
In the book of Revelation there is an emphasis on the rewards the overcomers will receive. "He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations...He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne...He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son." (Rev. 2:26; 3:21: 21:7) A wonderful inheritance is awaiting those who have been made ready and have overcome!
Although our inheritance of eternal life comes to us as a free gift through faith in Jesus Christ, above and beyond that, there is an inheritance that has a condition attached to it. We may not look forward to that condition because it is one of suffering together with Him! "If we endure (suffer), we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He also will deny us...That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death." (2 Tim. 2:12; Phil. 3:10)
What is meant by sharing in the sufferings of Christ? These sufferings are not the natural sufferings due to sickness and accidents. Jesus did not suffer because of any imperfections in Himself; He suffered for us! Suffering for us does not mean suffering instead of us. Nowhere do the scriptures say that Christ suffered as our substitute. He gave Himself for us! His sufferings were initiated by His obedience to the will of the Father!
Certain things can only be learned through suffering. That is why it is so important that we share Christ's suffering together with Him. Jesus Christ learned obedience by the things He suffered. When obedience initiates suffering, the extent of our obedience is tested.
There is also a suffering that has to take place for the body of Christ. Paul said, "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions." (Col. 1:24) What could be lacking in Christ's afflictions? Didn't He suffer enough throughout His life as well as on the cross? He did, but here Paul is talking about the body of Christ. The Lord is building up the body of Christ, and that is where we come in. Giving ourselves for the body involves suffering!
We are co-workers with Him! There is a lot of work that needs to be done in building up the body of Christ, and it requires sacrificial love! It is an outworking of the love which the Holy Spirit has poured into us. This love is willing to sacrifice one's own desires for the sake of others. Just as parents sacrifice themselves and work and put themselves out for their offspring, so we give of ourselves for growth in the body of believers!
These sufferings must correspond to the sufferings of Christ. Just as Christ was rejected because the people lacked spiritual understanding, so those who present spiritual truth will also be rejected. They will suffer because they are being misunderstood; this brings with it great loneliness. We may feel like Elijah did; we may feel we are the only ones who truly desire truth. But God had 7000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal.
The principle we need to remember is that the Lord equips us to be overcomers. The Lord is teaching us to walk according to the Spirit! Then we will walk in truth! Truth yields a harvest; receiving truth brings us more truth. Lies have no foundation; they are nothing, so they cannot bear fruit.
Paul's great desire was to know Christ and the power of His resurrection. To know Christ he would also need to experience fellowship in the sufferings of Jesus and thus be conformed to His death, that he "might attain to the resurrection from the dead," and receive "the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Phil. 3:11,14) Paul was not referring to his salvation; he was looking for an inheritance! This prize went beyond the gift of eternal life. The prize would not be his without sharing in the sufferings of Christ.
The inheritance of Jesus is in the saints. In Eph. 1:18-23 Paul said, "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all."
The glory of Christ's inheritance is in the saints, and in His unfathomable power toward us who believe! Because of Christ's sufferings and resurrection, we can now become saints! The work of Christ has accomplished this! All the unrighteousness and ungodliness of the Adamic man is done away with in Christ! We have become a new creation! Christ's righteousness has become our righteousness! We have been taken out of the sinner category and have been put into the saint category! This is the glory of Christ's inheritance! All the saints of all ages testify to the glory of Christ's inheritance in the saints and His superabundant power in those who believe!