21 June 2019Romans 8:12-17
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. (v. 15)
Psalm: Psalm 147
In the preceding chapter of his letter to the early Christians at Rome, the apostle Paul describes the inner turmoil he experiences in his daily life: “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do” (7:19). This turmoil is caused by the conflict between Paul’s desire to follow the law of God, on the one hand, and his sinful human nature, “the flesh”, on the other. Left to his own devices, the flesh will always triumph and he is bound to a life of sin and ultimate destruction. However, the good news that Paul brings the Romans in chapter 8 is that, through Christ’s death on the cross and the gift of the Holy Spirit, God has set us all free from “the law of sin and death” (8:2).
Paul continues to expand this good news in today’s passage, urging his readers to set aside the sins of “the flesh” and embrace the gifts of God’s Holy Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit, Paul writes, we may enjoy an entirely new relationship with God; a relationship he describes using potent contemporary imagery. Instead of being slaves, who had no rights or control over their lives, governed by their master ‘sin’ (or “the flesh”), they have been adopted by God, through the Holy Spirit (v. 15). In the Roman Empire, as now, adopted children enjoyed all the same legal rights and responsibilities of a natural child. Through adoption Paul’s audience had similarly become “children of God” (v. 14). They too could enjoy the same intimate relationship with a parent as any natural-born child, calling them ‘Father’ or ‘Abba’ (v. 15). The latter is an Aramaic term that Jesus used in addressing God (Mark 14:36), which is sometimes, although not wholly accurately, translated as ‘Daddy’. It vividly indicates the closeness of Jesus’s relationship with God, and Paul here suggests that all Christians may enjoy such a close and loving bond. Like an adopted child, we may also be “heirs” to our parents, inheriting their property and possessions. In this case, though, this is the greatest of all inheritances: eternal life with Christ, obtained through his suffering (v. 17).
- What does “the flesh” mean to you? Is it wholly sinful?
- What difference does being adopted by God, through the Holy Spirit, make to us in our daily lives?
- How can we inherit Christ’s glory through our own suffering (v. 17)?