Sermon:

The Holy Spirit Makes Us Children of God

Romans 8:5-17

Truth Taught- All believers receive the Holy Spirit who empowers our fight against indwelling sin.

Introduction

In our text today, the Apostle Paul is contrasting two types of people. He shows us what a person looks like who is still dead in their sin and then another person who is alive to God.

The differences between these two people are vast and many. We all begin life as the lost person dead to God and on our way to judgment. For reasons only in God’s mind, He has chosen some to give eternal life to. These are His people chosen before the foundation of the world.

So it is we see those in Adam and those in Christ. Those in Adam are minding the flesh and those in Christ are minding the Spirit.

Romans 8:5–17 (ESV)

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

  1. Those Who Live According to the Flesh

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Phroneō, the verb behind set their minds, refers to the basic orientation, bent, and thought patterns of the mind, rather than to the mind or intellect itself (Greek nous). It includes a person’s affections and will as well as his reasoning. Paul uses the same verb in Philippians, where he admonishes believers to “have this attitude [or, “mind”] in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus” (2:5; see also 2:2; 3:15, 19; Col. 3:2).[1]

Philippians 3:18–19 (ESV)

18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.

Nonbelievers, those without faith all without exception live their lives being led by their sinful desires. There is nothing they can do about it and they wouldn’t do anything about it if they could.

We have been so brainwashed to think we are in control that we read these verses thinking this is Paul saying, walking in the flesh is bad why don’t you start walking in the Spirit? He does not say this. He’s making a comparison and contrast to those governed by their inner desires verses those governed by the indwelling Spirit of God.

Here’s why we must read and understand it this way…

The mind set on the flesh is Paul’s way of saying that the lost person’s mind, worldview, inner person, or who they really are is being guided or governed by an unconverted and dead control center. They simply do things because they are led around by their sinful desires.

More reasons we must read and understand it this way…

The mind set on the flesh is…

For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God

it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot

Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Do you see the biblical reality of those outside of Christ? The reason the Apostle is not using this as an evangelistic plea for those who are living according to the flesh to start living according to the Spirit is because he says; they can’t and wouldn’t want to if they could.

Hostile to God- they live their life against God. They worship idols instead of the true God. They are bent to suppress the truth. They will only ever live morally if it benefits them, never for God, to please Him or for His glory. There is no submission to God. They can’t and won’t please Him. They are spiritually lifeless corpses.

This is why Paul does not intend this section as an evangelistic plea to come to the other side, so to speak because the lost person can’t. They simply love themselves too much to ever love God. They are driven by pride and self-indulgence. They care only for self-gratification and we are told the end is their eternal death.

We must see something clearly here…this category of people is hostile to God. It does not say that God is hostile to them. They despise God and love their sin. Since they hate God so much He will one day give them what they want, an eternity separated from Him.

  1. Those Who Live According to the Spirit

Writing to the Church in Rome He writes…

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

We see very clearly the difference between group number one and group number two…the Holy Spirit is indwelling this second group and not indwelling the first. It is vital for to see that Paul does not mention a third or fourth group because there are no other groups. There is no middle ground here. We see a portion of humanity hostile to God and a portion that loves God.

Life in the Spirit is not a higher level of Christianity but rather is authentic Christianity. The mark of a real Christian is that they live their lives according to the Spirit. What’s astonishing is that Paul writes these words right after he has explained to us about his own sin. How can Paul still battle sin in his life and be indwelt with the Spirit? In other words, how can he commit sin and have his mind set on the things of God?

And if Christ is in you, Paul continues to say to believers, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. In other words, if God’s Spirit indwell-s us, our own spirit is alive because of righteousness, that is, because of the divinely-imparted righteousness by which every believer is justified (Rom. 3:21–26). In light of that perfect righteousness, all human attempts at being righteous are but nonsense (Phil. 3:8).[2]

It is the Holy Spirit who gives believers life. He gives us life now so that we are no longer those who follow the flesh but follow Christ. Then he takes thing further by telling us that the Holy Spirit will also raise us up with the same resurrection power that was used to raise Jesus from the dead.

11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

  1. The Believer’s Call to Mortify the Deeds of the Flesh

12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live

We see the contrast again. Who are we pleased to serve? We don’t owe the flesh any loyalty. It’s only going to try to kill us. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die.

Our flesh or we might say our sinful nature has not given us one benefit…nothing. So, we are not indebted to it at all. In fact, living by the Spirit means life to us, also means we must be putting to death the flesh (our sinful nature). The only thing we owe or sinful nature is to seek to put it to death. Old theologians call this mortifying sin.

To put sin to death in your life is very hard work. The iconic slang phrase, let go and let God is of no use when seeking to follow Christ and mortify sin. It is a lifelong task.

While it is very hard work, we don’t go at it alone. We are to be mortifying the flesh by the Spirit. It is the grace of God at work in us that gives us the power to put to death the deeds of the flesh.

If we are to kill sin in our lives we must be diligent, committed, and disciplined.   How can we begin to put to death the deeds of the flesh? In the Book of Colossians, Paul tells us exactly how to go about this work of mortifying the flesh.

Colossians 3:1–17 (ESV)

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

  1. The Believer’s Astonishing Inheritance

14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Here we are introduced to another invaluable benefit of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Not only does He bring us to life and cause us to walk with Christ, not only does He write the Law within us and cause us to obey it, but the Holy Spirit is our seal of adoption. When we believed, we were given the Spirit of adoption.

15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

There is a lot of glorious content in verse 15. Paul uses the Aramaic Word Abba. Why does he use this specific word? It is true that it is the informal word that a child would use for his father, equal to our word daddy. A child will cry out from his bedroom after a nightmare, daddy! No child in the midst of fear calls out some formal title for their father. When they’re freighted they don’t say oh, honorable father…No the cry out daddy help!

Notice that this is the opposite of fear. He tells us that we didn’t receive the spirit of fear but the Spirit of adoption that has taken us from fear to sonship.

While all this is absolutely true, the reason he uses this specific word is because this is the exact word Jesus used when He referred to His Father.

Heidelberg Catechism  Q & A 120

  1. Why did Christ command us to call God “our Father”?
  2. To awaken in us at the very beginning of our prayer what should be basic to our prayer— a childlike reverence and trust that through Christ God has become our Father, and that just as our parents do not refuse us the things of this life, even less will God our Father refuse to give us what we ask in faith.1

Now, because we have the Holy Spirit we too can rightly call God our Father.

In the midst of Jesus’ struggle before the cross He relied on His Father for comfort and strength.

Mark 14:36 (ESV)

36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

So, because believers possess the Spirit of adoption we are God’s children. Then Paul goes on to tell us of another implication, another glorious benefit…

Because we are children of God we will receive an inheritance from our Father.

17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

As we struggle with and battle indwelling sin (suffering) we are given confidence that we are, in fact, God’s children. As we suffer and as we are given confidence through suffering that we are God’s people, then we can also be confident that we are also heirs with Christ. The struggle does not make us heirs but is proof that we are heirs.

We are left with much to be encouraged with as we struggle in putting to death the sin that lives within us. The struggle is the proof. It’s not necessarily how good we’re doing but are we battling sin. Because salvation is by grace, our performance is not the deciding factor. The issue is has God given us His Spirit who causes us to battle sin. It’s the battle that proves we are in fact children of God and if we are children then we are heirs with Christ.

Beloved just as surly as Jesus will receive His inheritance we too will receive ours.

Beloved we can make progress in our fight to mortify sin and walk according to the Spirit. If we are in Christ, we are children of God and joint heirs with Christ…let’s consistently live like it. Put off sin and put on Christ.

Galatians 4:6–7 (ESV)

And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

 

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (p. 416). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (p. 420). Chicago: Moody Press.

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