Life in the Spirit Part 3 “Blessings from the Spirit” – Romans 8:12-17
Pastor Mark Hardy December 2, 2012
Aristotle Socrates Onassis, a prominent Greek shipping tycoon who married Jackie Kennedy in 1968, was one of the richest men in the world. Upon his death, his daughter Christiana Onassis inherited $1.6 billion of his fortune, which she kept in 200 separate bank accounts. With her money she owned an island, eight homes, a yacht, a personal zoo, and even flew on her private jet from London to New York just to pick up some cases of Coca-cola.
Although being an heir to an inheritance can be a good thing, it can sometimes do more harm than good. That was the case for Christiana. If money could make people happy, she should have been ecstatic! But at the age of 37 Christiana essentially took her own life. Those who knew her best said that she died of a broken heart and was desperately unhappy, even though she had inherited so much.
Now as Christians, we too are heirs—maybe not physically in this life but we are spiritually. In the passage we will be looking at this morning we are told that we are “heirs of God,” which is far better than being the heir of a billionaire. This is one of the things we are going to see. Turn in your Bible to Romans 8.
Last time we began looking at Romans 8:5-17, where we see eight blessings that believers receive from the Holy Spirit in our new life of freedom in Christ. Thus far, we have seen the first four blessings in vv. 5-11:
1) A New Mind-set—a God-centered world and life view.
2) A New Destiny—eternal life in knowing Jesus Christ.
3) A New Power—the indwelling Spirit of God.
4) A New Hope—a future resurrected glorified body.
This morning we will look at the remaining four blessings in vv. 12-17. The fifth blessing is:
V. A New Obligation
A. Look at v. 12: So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—
1. In saying “So then” Paul is now drawing a practical conclusion from what he has just said in vv. 5-11. And yet, he continues to reveal more blessings that we as believers have received from the Holy Spirit.
2. Notice that Paul specifically calls the Roman believers “brethren,” which is a term of endearment. And yet he says “we” to show that what he is about to say is for all believers, including himself.
3. The essence of what Paul says is since believers are “in the Spirit and not in the flesh” (vv. 5-11), therefore we have a new obligation to live holy, righteous lives. He first expresses this truth negatively.
4. Look again at v. 12, “…we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.” The word “obligation” (otheiletai) here refers to one who owes a moral debt and is a debtor.
5. Never forget that as a believer, you are “under obligation (or indebted) not to the flesh.” Again the word “flesh” (sarki) is referring to all that is characteristic of a self-centered life in its rebellious independence from God.
6. As Christians we owe the sinful flesh nothing because the indwelling Holy Spirit has set us free from its tyranny and mastery. It no longer has any claim on us, so that we should render obedience and service to it.
7. Paul then goes on to state in v. 13: for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die. (Stop there)
8. Notice that Paul changes from “we” to “you” to drive home his point even more directly to the Romans. This is a warning that every “professing” believer needs to be mindful of.
9. The true believer can never lose his or her salvation, for we have already been given the absolute security of v. 1, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
10. However, just because one “professes” to be a Christian, if he or she is “living” (present tense) continually “according to the flesh,” which means being governed and directed by sin as the characteristic unbroken pattern of life, then this person’s on-going sinful lifestyle reveals that he or she doesn’t have the indwelling Spirit of God and is not a Christian.
11. This is why Paul says, “…you must (certainly) die.” And death here is in its broadest scope—spiritual, physical, and ultimately eternal death unless the person becomes truly saved.
B. Paul now expresses the truth of our new obligation positively. Look again at v. 13: but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
1. This is essentially an exhortation to live a holy, righteous life by “…putting to death the deeds of the body.” This is a blessing because before we were saved we could never do this.
2. The one Greek word translated “putting to death” (thanatoute) means “to kill off, to mortify, to get rid of altogether.” This word in the present tense, indicating that “putting to death” is not a one-time act but a continual process in our daily lives because sin has not been eradicated.
3. This is what Paul meant when he said in 6:11 to “consider yourselves to be dead to sin.” And what Jesus was referring to in Mark 8:34 saying, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Matt. 10:38; Lk. 14:27)
4. Notice how there is to be a clear distinction between the lifestyle of the believer and the unbeliever. John Murray said it like this, “The believer’s once-for-all death to the law of sin does not free him from the necessity of mortifying sin in his members; it makes it necessary and possible for him to do so.” (pg. 294)
5. Now what again are we are to put to death, kill, or mortify? Paul says, “…the deeds of the body.”
6. We have already seen that the physical body is not sinful in itself, but is merely an instrument that can be used for both good or for bad; for either God or for sin. And in this context, these “deeds” (praxeis) refer to the self-centered activities of our sinful flesh that are being expressed through the members of the body.
7. In the New Testament there are a number of partial but representative lists of such sinful “deeds of the flesh” that we as Christians are to put to death (Mk. 7:20-23; Rom. 1:29-31; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 4:25-31; Col. 3:5-10).
8. Now how exactly do we do this? Notice again that Paul says, “…by the Spirit you are putting to death.”
9. Here we see that holiness of life involves both God and us. We are responsible—“…you are putting to death.”
10. However, our responsibility is not our own self-effort or legalism. On the contrary, we do so in complete dependence on the Spirit, for it is “…by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body.”
11. It is not our legalist self-effort or the passive “Let go and let God” approach. The biblical balance is both us and God, what I like to call “Responsible Dependence.”
12. We see the same thing in Philippians 2:12-13 where we are told to responsibly “…work out your salvation in fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”
13. Douglas Moo said, “Human activity in the process of sanctification is clearly necessary; but that activity is never apart from, nor finally distinct from, the activity of God’s Spirit.” (pg. 496)
14. Now why should we do this? Not only because we have a new obligation to do so, but also because Paul says this is the only way “…you will live.”
15. To “live” (zesesthe) here refers to the eternal life that we have in Jesus Christ (Jn. 17:3) both now and forever. Now this life is a free gift of grace through faith in Jesus Christ not as a reward for self-denial.
16. However, although we as believers possess eternal life right now we will not experience the reality of its “fullness” when we harbor unconfessed sin in our lives. This is why we must keep short sin accounts with God and continually be “putting to death the deeds of the body.”
17. The sixth blessing is:
VI. A New Identity
A. Look at v. 14: For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
1. The word “For” (gar) shows that Paul is further explaining what has just said about “…by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body” (v. 13b). In other words, believers are those “…who are being led by the Spirit of God,” which is a distinguishing sign of all true believers.
2. Thomas Schreiner accurately states, “All those who have the Spirit manifest that fact by their submission to the Spirit, and conversely those who do not possess the Spirit are not led by the Spirit . . . . The ‘leading’ (agontai) of the Spirit does not refer to guidance for everyday decisions in determining the will of God. It refers to being ‘controlled by’ or ‘determined by’ or ‘governed by’ the Spirit.” (pg. 422)
3. Now the one Greek word translated “who are being led” is passive, indicating that the Spirit is the primary agent in our Christian obedience. It is His work in us that accounts for our obedience.
4. C.E.B. Cranfield says it well, “The daily, hourly putting to death of the schemings and enterprises of the sinful flesh by means of the Spirit is a matter of being led, directed, impelled, controlled by the Spirit. Though the active participation of the Christian is indeed involved, it is fundamentally the work of the Spirit.” (pg. 395)
B. Notice that those who are “being led by the Spirit of God, these (i.e. these alone) are sons of God.”
1. Although every human being is God’s creature by creation, only those who have received Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord and are indwelt and led by the Spirit, are “sons (or daughters) of God” and belong to His family.
2. Although the term “sons” (huioi) here and “children” (tekna) in v. 16 are different Greek words, in this passage these terms are synonymous and should not be distinguished. This is our new identity in Christ!
3. John 1:12 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”
4. And 1 John 3:1 states, “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.”
5. Therefore, never forget that what is most true about you as a believer is not the sin that you struggle with, but that you are a son or daughter of God, His very child in whom He dwells.
C. Paul adds further confirmation and clarity to this in v. 15: 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!”
1. There is much difference of opinion as to what Paul means by “a spirit of slavery” and a “spirit of adoption.” Here in the NASB both of the words “spirit” (pneuma) are a small “s” referring to the human spirit.
2. If you have a KJV or NIV the first “spirit” is also a small “s,” but the second “spirit” is a capital “S,” referring to the Holy Spirit. And some scholars say that both of the words “spirit” should be a capital “S” by way of contrast.
3. So what is Paul saying? I believe the “spirit of slavery” refers to the human spirit—the attitude, frame of mind, or disposition which once controlled us before we came to Christ in saving faith.
4. As believers we “…have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again.” In other words, that’s what we used have when we were fearful about our slavery to sin and God’s judgment of our sins.
5. Instead, we “…have received a spirit of adoption as sons.” This is a radically changed human spirit—an attitude, frame of mind, or disposition of confidence in the fact that we are the adopted “sons” of God, which only comes from the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it could be both a small “s” and a capital “S.”
6. Now the word “adoption” (hiothesias) refers to God’s placement of believers into a position as adult sons. It speaks of our new family relationship whereby we have all the legal rights, privileges, and responsibilities that would ordinarily accrue to a natural child.
7. Although the Old Testament gives various examples of adoption (Gen. 15:2-4; Ex. 4:22f; 2 Sam. 7:14; 1 Chron. 28:6; Ps. 2:7; 89:26f; Jer. 3:19; Hos. 11:1), the Jews did not practice this. Therefore, Paul is speaking about adoption from the Greco-Roman perspective.
8. F.F. Bruce makes this observation, “The term ‘adoption’ may have a somewhat artificial sound in our ears; but in the Roman world of the first century A.D. an adopted son was a son deliberately chosen by his adoptive father to perpetuate his name and inherit his estate; he was no whit inferior in status to a son born in the ordinary course of nature and might well enjoy the father’s affection more fully and reproduce the father’s character more worthily.” (pg. 167)
9. Therefore, it is by the Spirit that we are the adopted “sons (and daughters) of God.” And it is this adoption into the family of God that allows us to lovingly and confidently approach God in the intimate way described at the end of v. 15: …by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”
10. Now to “cry out” (krazomen) here means to sincerely and fervently call on God in prayer (Ps. 3:4; 4:3). The word “Abba” is an Aramaic word for “Father,” that was used of a small child intimately calling to his father, “Papa” or “Daddy;” while the Greek word translated “Father” (pater) is here repeated for emphasis.
11. Although the Jews never addressed God in prayer as “Abba,” Jesus did. We see this in His agonizing prayer in the garden of Gethsemane in Mark 14:36 where we read: And He was saying, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what you will.”
12. It is because of our new identity as adopted sons and daughters of God by the Holy Spirit that enables us to have this kind of loving intimacy with the Creator God of the universe. What a blessed privilege we have!
13. The seventh blessing is:
VII. A New Assurance
A. Paul then proceeds to say in v. 16: The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.
1. The word “testifies” (summarturei) here means “to confirm and assure.” Here we see that the Spirit Himself produces an assurance in “our spirit” that we truly are the “children of God” and belong to Him.
2. What a wonderful blessing! Our personal relationship with the Lord is both objective and subjective.
3. There is a difference between the security and assurance of salvation. The “Security of Salvation” is an objective fact based on the truth of God’s Word; it is from God’s perspective what He has done for us.
4. However, the “Assurance of Salvation” is from our perspective and is subjectively produced by the Spirit. Now just how the Spirit conveys this assurance to our souls that we are a member of God’s family, we don’t fully understand.
5. Whereas it is not in an audible voice, He does give us this inner assurance in our spirit, so that we can know that we belong to Him!
6. It’s important to understand that if we are truly saved then we have the “security of salvation” promised by God. However, when we are living in sin and disobedience to the Word of God we will not experience the felt “assurance of salvation.”
7. Where are you in your relationship with Jesus this morning?
8. The eighth blessing is:
VIII. A New Inheritance
A. Look at v. 17: and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ… (Stop there)
1. This verse is both a conclusion and an introduction to the next section. Douglas Moo rightly states, “This verse is transitional, connecting Paul’s description of the adoption as children that believers enjoy at the present time (vv. 14-16) with his moving portrait of the culmination of full benefits of that adoption that await the believer in the future (vv. 18-30).
2. The word “if” here represents a fulfilled condition and means “if and it’s true” or “since.” Therefore, since we as believers are the “children of God” we are “…heirs also.”
3. We also see this in Galatians 4:7, “Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.”
4. The word “heirs” (kleronomoi) here refers to one who obtains an inheritance. But notice whose heir we are!
5. Paul says, “…heirs of God and fellow heirs of Christ.” This is far better than being the heir of a billionaire.
6. The wording “heirs of God” suggests that we are not merely heirs of what God has promised but of God Himself. John Murray said that, “…it is difficult to suppress the richer and deeper thought that God himself is the inheritance of his children. (pg. 298)
7. We see this in Psalm 73:25-26 where Asaph writes, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart my portion forever.”
8. Jeremiah declared in Lamentations 3:24, “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.”
9. Now as “heirs of God,” we are also “fellow heirs with Christ.” This simply tells us the means by which we as believers are heirs of God.
10. It is only because of our union and solidarity with Jesus Christ. Therefore, because we are united with Christ all that is His is ours as well.
11. And it is the Spirit of God that brings us into these tremendous blessings. Right now we are “…blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3), but there is more inheritance to look forward to in the future.
B. But being a “fellow heir with Christ” involves more than anticipating the glories of heaven. Look at the end of v. 17: …if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
1. Suffering is the God-ordained path to future glorification. No one likes the hardship and trials that suffering brings, but just as Jesus Himself suffered before He entered glory, so we too must suffer before we enter our future glory.
2. Concerning Christ’s sufferings we read in Hebrews 2:9-10, “But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.” (Lk. 24:26, 46; Acts 17:3; 26:23; 1 Pet. 1:11)
3. Likewise, we are promised that we too will experience suffering. We are told in Philippians 1:29, “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.”
4. Second Timothy 3:12 says, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
5. And 1 Peter 4:12-13 states, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.” (Jn. 15:20; 16:33; Phil. 3:10; Col. 1:24; 1 Thess. 3:3; 2 Thess. 1:4-5; 1 Pet. 1:6)
6. As difficult as our suffering can be, it is God’s refining process to prepare us for future glory. Suffering purifies our lives by bringing our sin to the surface, so that it can then be put to death; and it drives us into a deeper dependence on the Spirit of God who alone can make us more like Jesus Christ.
7. But praise God for the truth of 1 Corinthians 1:5 that says “For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.”
8. What an encouragement to know that when we suffer the Lord suffers along with us and will always give us His sufficient strength and comfort to endure (2 Cor. 12:9-10).
In closing, as believers we have received these eight blessings from the Holy Spirit in our new life of freedom in Christ: A new mind-set, a new destiny, a new power, a new hope, a new obligation, a new identity, a new assurance, and a new inheritance.
It is only as we understand these blessings and appropriate them that the Spirit of God will empower us to live in victory over sin and become more like Jesus Christ in our daily lives.