12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. 13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16 The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
Therefore, brethren…Paul begins this section with the assumption that those in the church at Rome and all who have been born again by the Holy Spirit since that time have arrived at the position he had just described in the previous verses. I suppose this would be a good time to address the issue which people today seem to be concentrating on instead of the centrality of Jesus Christ. Why does Paul use the masculine specific nouns and pronouns for saved people instead of the inclusion of feminine gender also? In another letter the Apostle makes it plain that in the body of Christ there are no genders, neither male nor female, as well as no regard to social standing. The Word of God does NOT exclude females from being in the body of Christ. The apparent use the masculine gender is intended to include all who are born again and therefore in the body of Christ.
Verses 12 & 13 summarize the content of the previous verses which show how living in the flesh will result in death because all flesh will die. However, living in the Spirit will give life because God cannot die. Jesus said in effect that, “I am come that you might (will) have life and have it more abundantly.” Paul then proceeds in verse 14 to show our new family position. Galatians 4:1–7 Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differs nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; 2 But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. 3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: 4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. 6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. 7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
So we see that the first two items we inherit by becoming the children of God are: the removal of sin and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Paul uses the two common methods of becoming a child of his or her parents: adoption & birth. In Roman law an adopted child assumed full rights of inheritance of the new parent. Verse 15 explains that as adopted children we no longer live in fear or exclusion but have the right and privilege to call God, Father. Not only are we the children of God by adoption, but also of birth.
1 John 3:1–3 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knows us not, because it knew him not. 2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. 3 And every man that hath this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure.
When a child is born, there is a birth certificate created that can be used to prove the family relationship. In the case of adoption a court order is created that also proves the new family relationship. So, in the case of being adopted by God, what proof do we have? Verse 14 states that the leadership of the Holy Spirit is our proof. Most of us have heard the phrases, “Like mother, like daughter; like father, like son.” Since the Holy Spirit is God, our life display of His leadership is proof that we are the children of God.
Verse 15 shows how being Spirit led affects our spirit. First, we no longer live with the negative attitude of fear of being a slave as those unsaved people do who have to live under the Law. Then in a positive way being Spirit led is the testimony of the Spirit that we ARE the children of God. Because the Spirit tells us that fact, we can believe it because God cannot lie. Verse 16 carries this forward with the fact that the Holy Spirit tells our spirit that we are the children of God. So we have the testimony of our spirit and the testimony of the Holy Spirit.
So what is our obligation as children of God? The initial verses of this section: 12 & 13, reveal this. First of all in a negative sense we are no longer obligated to fulfill the desires of the flesh because we now live in the Spirit or the Spirit lives in us. Secondly in a positive way the vacuum created by no longer seeking to fulfill the desires of the flesh is filled with the desire to obey the Holy Spirit.
Then the question might be in our mind about, “What do we get out of this?” Verse 17 tells us that as heirs we will inherit what Christ inherits. We are joint heirs with Christ. What did Jesus inherit? That verse tells us that He inherited suffering. Uh, Oh, we don’t like that word do we? Yet, as heirs we will suffer. Jesus told His disciples that the world hated Him before it hated them. Same song, second verse for us. When we do live in obedience to the Spirit’s leadership instead of the old man’s leadership, we will suffer at the hands of the ungodly people of the world.
Fortunately that verse does not end there. It continues with glorification. The suffering of Christ did not last eternally. He came out of that tomb in glory. He ascended to the right hand of the Father. That is a position of glory and honor. Beginning with the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, we as the Bride of Christ will be given the glory and honor to be shared with our Groom, Jesus Christ. That is one reason husbands today are to love their wives as Christ loves His Church, His Bride. What a day that will be when Jesus I will see!