Sermon on Romans 8:14-17
Text: For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
It is a storyline that was common years ago. A child was placed on the doorstep of a house. The mother rings the doorbell and then leaves. The family sees the child there on their step and they take him in. He becomes a part of their family. That is similar to what happened to my cousin and her husband. They were unable to have children, so they went through the steps to adopt a child. They were told it would take some time. Then, one day, they got a telephone call that a child had been left on the doorstep of a church. They could take him in as a foster child. They did not have any of the things to bring a baby into their home. So, they ran out and bought a crib and diapers and all the rest. They brought that little boy into their home and, eventually, they adopted him. Jaiden is now a part of their family. This morning, as we study the Holy Trinity, we are reminded that WE ARE PART OF GOD’S FAMILY. 1. We Have The Testimony Of The Spirit. 2. We Have The Ear Of The Father. 3. We Have The Inheritance Of The Son.
In the first verse of our text, Paul states this fact: “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” (Verse 14) We are the children of God. This was not always the case. We were not born as children of God. Rather, we were born as God’s enemies. This is clearly stated in the Scriptures. Earlier in the chapter, Paul said, “The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.” (Romans 8:7) This is how each of us is born: “hostile to God.” We see this in the fact that you never have to teach a child to be naughty. You never have to teach a child to be selfish. You never have to teach a child to lie. You never have to teach a child to be greedy. Unfortunately, we know that those traits are still evident in our own lives to this day. Selfishness shows itself every time that we insist that things be done our way, refusing to even listen to another’s point of view. How easily the lie comes from our mouths when we are trying to avoid getting into trouble or when we hope to get something from someone else. We find ourselves discontent with what we have. We look at what others have and wish that those things would be ours. These seem like such little things to us. However, in God’s sight, they are just as big as any other sin. It does not matter if we just wanted what others had or if we actually took it from them. It does not matter if we are angry with others or we murder them. Since we are born outside of the family of God, we would spend our eternity away from God’s love and would feel his eternal anger against our sins.
However, God did not want us to be abandoned orphans. So, he sent his Son to do everything necessary to take care of our outstanding debt of sin. This was a two-step process. First of all, Jesus lived in our place. He never committed any of those sinful acts that we mentioned earlier. He was content, no matter the circumstances. He always told the truth, even if it meant suffering. The second part of the process was suffering the punishment that we deserved because of our sins. His death on the cross satisfied the debt of sin that we owed to our God. His resurrection proves that the payment was sufficient. Yet, we would still have remained orphans, if the Holy Spirit had not been at work in our hearts. He created the faith that receives the benefits of Christ’s substitutionary work. Through this work of the Trinity, we have become part of the family of God.
Our loving God wants to reassure us time and again of our status as his children. We read in verse 16, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” Paul notes that “our spirit” testifies “that we are God’s children.” We know that we are God’s children. On good and easy days, it is easy to say that we are God’s children. How much more difficult it can be to say that on the tough days. Things are not going right. We find ourselves having fallen into sin once again. The devil seizes on those moments to try to get us to doubt that we really are God’s children. ‘If you were really God’s child, would you be going through this?’ ‘If you were really God’s child, would you have committed that sin?’ Our spirit can become weak and doubt whether it is still true, that we are God’s children.
Here we see the love of God, specifically the Holy Spirit. He testifies “that we are God’s children.” He does so in a number of ways. The first is in the Holy Scriptures, which he inspired those men to write. Again and again, he reminds us that we are God’s children. In addition to these verses, we find such passages as 1 John 3:1, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” Galatians 3:26 says, “In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.” How wonderful it is to know that my belonging to the family of God does not depend on whether or not I feel like I am! The Holy Spirit continues to reassure us that we are. Since he is God and, as such he cannot lie, we have the assurance that we are part of God’s family.
In addition, the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives. As we produce those fruits of faith, those things that are pleasing to God out of thanksgiving to him, it is another testimony that we are the children of God. If God did not mean anything to us, we would have no desire to do things that please him. Every time we do good works, it is a testimony that the Holy Spirit dwells in us. This is not to say that we will always do things perfectly. There is always room for growth in our life of sanctification. Yet even the littlest good work, is noticed by God. It is part of the testimony that we are God’s children.
In verse 15, we are reminded of a wonderful benefit of being part of God’s family. It says, “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” If we were to stand before God on our own, we would love in fear. However, since those sins have been removed, we can approach the Father as his dearly loved children. We cry out to him, “Abba, Father.” The word “Abba” is an Aramaic word that means father. It indicates that we know him to be our Father, who only wants the best for us. We have a Father who never tires of our requests. We have a Father who, not only hears all our prayers, but answers each and every one of them. His answers will not always be what we want, because we do not always ask for what is best for us. However, we have the assurance that his answers will always be for our benefit. If a 3-year-old asked his father if he could take the car and go to town, the father would say, “No.” He would not say that because he hated the child. He would say that because it would not be safe for his child. He loves the child and wants to do what is best for that child. In the same way, you and I have our Father’s ear. He listens to all our prayers and, gladly, does what is best for us. Because he is our loving Father, we can come to him with everything that is on our hearts and know that he listens to every prayer. Dr. Luther described this wonderful state in his explanation to the Address of the Lord’s Prayer: “With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that he is our true Father and that we are his true children, so that we may pray to him as boldly and confidently as dear children ask their dear father.” This is a right and a privilege that we have because we are part of the family of God. You have the Father’s ear, and he listens to everything that you have to say.
As members of God’s family, we also stand to receive a glorious inheritance. Verse 17 says, “Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” The word “if” is not a maybe or not type of a word. You may or may not be a child of God. Rather, has the sense of “since.” ‘Since we are God’s children.’ Since we are God’s children, we are heirs. We are co-heirs with Christ, which also reminds us that we are his brothers and sisters, which would make his Father our Father. We will share the same inheritance as our brother, Jesus. That inheritance that he received is the glory of heaven. He is even now reigning in heaven. That will also be ours in the future. That inheritance is sure. Heaven is waiting for you. The day that you were adopted into the family of God, that became your inheritance.
Sometimes, it might seem that this inheritance is so far away. Life is difficult here. However, that should not surprise us. Look at what our brother, Jesus, went through as he was here on this earth. His life had plenty of suffering, in addition to his suffering when he was on the cross. He felt hunger. He felt the sadness of a loved one passing away. He knew the sting of a close friend betraying him. Yet, at the end of this life, he received his inheritance in heaven.
That is the point that Paul is alluding to when he writes, “If indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Verse 17) Again, do not think of the word “if” as a maybe or not. We will suffer earthly difficulties, as our Savior suffered them. We will also suffer for our God when we live our Christian lives in this sinful world. When we stand up and say that something is wrong, we will suffer because others make fun of us. When we refuse to do something that is sinful, we will be shunned by others. God told us that this would be the case. For example, Jesus put it so bluntly in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble.” Peter adds in his first epistle, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:12-13) Yes, we will go through sufferings as we live in this world, but we have an inheritance that far surpasses anything that we will go through. That is why Paul could so confidently state in a few verses following our text, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18) This inheritance is yours because you are part of the family of God. You will share in the Son’s inheritance.
After my mother remarried, my sister and I were adopted by my stepfather, who now, legally is my father. Ever since that happened, I have been his son, with all the rights and privileges that go with it. My last name is his last name. What is especially wonderful is the fact that he never made me feel that I was not his child. He cared for me and provided for me. I always knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was his child. I am proud to call him my father. As wonderful as that relationship is, it is nothing compared to the relationship that we have with God. We are his children. The Holy Spirit testifies to us over and over again of this fact. As his dearly loved children, we know that our Father loves us and wants us to come to him with his requests. We always have his ear. Since we have been adopted into his family, we have the rights and privileges that go with that. We also will share in the inheritance that our Brother, Jesus Christ, won for us and is even now experiencing. On this Trinity Sunday, we thank God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – that he has made us his children. We pray that we bring honor to his name. Amen.
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