The Spirit of Adoption.

Romans 8:14-17 describes how God comes to our aid in our greatest time of spiritual need. These verses come in the midst of a passage describing the activities of the Godhead, specifically in keeping the believer eternally secure. The Holy Spirit's activities of giving life and now of adoption give great solace, comfort, and peace in times of personal loss. At every time, we are being kept safe by God.

Romans 8:14 is the first time believers are called sons, children, or heirs of God. We share all the spiritual blessings that belong to Christ. When we are saved, we are adopted into a new family.

Our Reality

The image of God in every human being desires to have a relationship with one's father. Romans 8:14 provides a paternity test to determine who is truly a child of God: "all who are being led by the Spirit of God." The Holy Spirit renews our minds and leads us to know revealed truth (Romans 12:1-2). He stirs our hearts to communicate with the Father. A child of God seeks to be guided and governed by the Holy Spirit and displays the fruit of the Spirit in his or her life (Galatians 5:22-25).

Adoption is yet another action of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. It puts us into a new family relationship with our Creator. The church in Rome was multi-ethnic and multi-cultural like the city. Local churches should always represent the diversity of the community in which they are located. The Holy Spirit's message in this passage is powerful: regardless of background, all believers are equally made sons of God. Everything of God's is ours.

Our Resolve

Romans 8:15-16 is very similar to Galatians 4:1-6. The Galatian church needed to hear the same content as a correction; Paul wrote it to the Romans as an encouragement. What is the result of adoption in the human spirit? Slavery to sin and the law is fearful, but love eliminates the fear of death and failure (1 John 4:18).

Adoption was not part of Jewish legal tradition, but it was included in Greco-Roman law. Legal adoption gave the one adopted the right and access to all the resources of the father equal to any biological child. A person could be adopted as a child or an adult and enjoy the same privileges. Leon Morris explains, "Adoption signified being granted the full rights and privileges of sonship in a family to which one does not belong to by nature." Another commentator applied this knowledge to our salvation as follows: "When we are saved, God gives us all the wealth, opportunity, and responsibilities of a fully adult son."

Family relationships are maintained by communication. Believers are able to enjoy the Father's presence at any moment just as Jesus His Son can. "Abba" is an Aramaic term; both Jews and Greeks would have understood this concept from the common language. God was never addressed as a personal father in the Old Testament, only in a national sense. In Matthew 6:9 and Mark 14:36, Jesus was the first to model calling God his personal "Father."

The tern "Abba" is often used with exclamatory emotion. It reinforces the fact that God is the only one who can help in time of need. Galatians 4:6 says that the Spirit cries "Abba" within us. Note that this is now the second member of the Godhead who uses this term in Scripture on our behalf. We have access to such a close relationship with the Father only through His Son who has the right to address Him like that.

Many Bible teachers shy away from Romans 8:16 because its interpretation can get very subjective. Yet in the Bible, the Spirit bears witness with us in very clear ways. Most notable is His action of illuminating the Scriptures to the believer. He reveals the significance of God's Word and applies it to our hearts. When this is done in personal study, listening to sermons, temptation, or victory, you can thank Him for proving your sonship. Warren Wiersbe put it well: "We don't have the Spirit; He has us."

Application Points

  • Our position as children of God is shown by how we live. Do you seek the governance of the Holy Spirit? Are you displaying the fruit in your life (Galatians 5:22-25)?

Tools for Further Study

A Hymn to Encourage: "Chosen As His Children"

Chosen by the Father’s mercy,
Set apart to serve His Son,
Sanctified by His own Spirit—
Praise the Holy Three in One!
Saved by resurrection power,
Shielded in His faithful love;
Now, no enemy can tarnish
My inheritance above!

I’m Born again!
I’m God’s own chosen child of mercy!
Born again! What love and grace!
Father, keep me walking worthy
’Til I look upon Your face.

Led by wisdom into suff'ring,
Grieved by many trials below,
Yet rejoicing in His purpose,
That my faith as gold may glow.
Granted faith for overcoming,
Filled with love for Christ unseen;
Even angels cannot fathom
What salvation God will bring!

Fixed upon this hope completely,
As obedient children fear;
For the Holy One who called you
Purchased you with blood so dear.
Born anew from seed eternal,
By His lovingkindness spurred,
Lay aside all tasteless yearnings—
Crave the true and living Word!

Built on Christ, the sure foundation,
We are free from guilt and shame;
He is fitting us together
As a house to praise His name!
We are chosen as God’s people,
Called from darkness into light;
O what mercy now entreats us
To proclaim His glories bright!

Words and Music by Paul Keew, from 1 Peter 1 & 2
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