You Are by Faith a Child of God!
O LORD God, who has revealed Yourself to be in form a Holy Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost: I praise and worship You this day! You have created me; You have redeemed me; and You are presently sanctifying me as Your own dear child. May I always be moved to reverence Your name, to rejoice in Your truth, and to walk in faithfulness until that day that You call me home to heaven. Amen.
Contrary to popular opinion in this world, there is only one true God— the LORD God of the Bible. We are to love Him with all our heart, soul, and strength. We are also and without fail to share our love for Him with our children!
As we listen to Jesus’ instruction of Nicodemus, it becomes clear that the LORD God has three persons—the Father who so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to be its Savior, and the Holy Spirit through whom we are given spiritual rebirth!
Text: Romans 8:14-17
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear; but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.
In Christ Jesus, with whom we are by faith joint-heirs of heaven, dear fellow redeemed:
Today is Father’s Day! Why is there a Father’s Day? The cynical among us might say, “So that Sears can sell more tools and Gander Mountain can sell more fishing equipment!” Those with a historical bent might suggest, “Well, Mother’s Day came first and, probably, people felt fathers should receive equal treatment.” Irrespective of your attitude towards or thoughts about an official “Father’s Day,” it can be said with certainty that the very fact that we as a nation celebrate a “Father’s Day” suggests that we view fathers as important. Despite what some social scientists may suggest, it is demonstrable that fathers, as well as mothers, are important to children; that good fathers and mothers strengthen families; and that strong families are good for our nation! That is as God intended it, for God created men and women capable of producing children (cf. Gen. 1:28). When He brought Eve to Adam He created marriage, and within that framework Adam and Eve had their first children, Cain and Abel. They became the first family.
There is in this life no closer human bond than that of family. Consequently, it should not surprise us that God would use the picture of the family to describe the relationship He desires to have with us, and which He establishes with us by His grace through faith in Jesus and by the working of the Holy Spirit. On this Father’s Day, which also happens this year to be Trinity Sunday, let us consider this wonderful Trinitarian thought from the book of Romans: YOU ARE BY FAITH A CHILD OF GOD! The apostle Paul further explains that the Spirit enables you to address God without fear as your dear heavenly Father, and that the Spirit assures you that you are a joint-heir of heaven with Christ!
Paul begins our text with these words: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” What does it mean to be “led by the Spirit”? That phrase only appears two others times in all of Scripture. The first time was when Jesus was “led by the Spirit” into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (cf. Lk. 4:1). In that instance it simply meant being led from one physical location to another. That is not what it means here. The other time it appears is in Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, when he says: “If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (cf. Gal. 5:18). The context in which that phrase is used in Galatians includes encouragements such as “walk in the Spirit” (cf. Gal. 5:16) and descriptions of how we are to “live in the Spirit” (cf. Gal. 5:25). It speaks of the “fruits of the Spirit” we are to desire (cf. Gal. 5:22-23) and the “works of the flesh” we are to avoid (cf. Gal. 5:19-21). To be “led by the Spirit,” then, means to lead a life of faith. The Holy Spirit creates faith through the preaching of the gospel (cf. Rom. 10:17) and through the Sacrament of Baptism, as we heard in our Gospel reading earlier in the service (cf. Jn. 3:5-6). The Holy Spirit indwells the hearts of every believer (cf. 1 Cor. 6:19), strengthens those hearts (cf. Eph. 3:16-19) and then leads them in the paths they are to go (cf. Eph. 5:8-10). Paul then identifies those “led by the Spirit” as “sons of God”—individuals who by the grace of God through faith in Christ Jesus have now been adopted into the family of God! Paul elaborates on that thought in his Epistle to the Galatians: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (4:4-5).
What does being a “son” or a child of God mean in a practical way for us? Paul says: “You did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear; but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” By nature we are all lost in sin and as such are slaves of sin and deserve the judgment of God upon sin—death. We have that on no less of an authority than Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus says: “Most assuredly I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever” (Jn. 8:34-35a). Because “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23a) Satan then uses the fear of death (just like the slave-drivers of old used a whip) to torture our hearts and embitter our lives. When the Holy Spirit brings us to faith, He takes us out of that situation in which we are bound by our sins and by Satan. He removes the reasons behind which Satan can use fear to afflict and motivate us. The writer to the Hebrews reveals why the Spirit is able to do this: “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (2:14-15). Jesus came into this world, took on our human flesh, lived perfectly as our substitute, died innocently once again as our substitute, arose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and now rules from on high in order to remove our sins and so to remove the sting of death (cf. 1 Cor. 15:54-57). Death then for the child of God is but a door to heaven. Fear can be replaced with confidence! Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit has brought us to faith not to subject us to “the spirit of bondage again to fear,” but rather so that we being adopted into God’s family might be on such intimate terms with God that we might address Him as our “Abba, Father”—our Daddy Father. The word Abba is simply a transliteration from the Hebrew and the Hebrew word Abba means “daddy.”
Anyone who has dealt with foster children—children, whose lives have been in turmoil either through the loss of their parents or the abuse of birth parents—can tell you that those children are often racked by fear. You can see it in their eyes. You can hear it in their voices. It takes time and love to remove that fear, but the steadfast love of faithful foster parents can ultimately remove that fear and restore to the hearts and minds of those children a sense of peace and well-being. When foster parents become adoptive parents, then those bonds of love become even stronger. We have been adopted by our heavenly Father! His deep and abiding love draws us out of the ravages of sin to Himself and He encourages us to come to Him, to rely upon Him, to speak to Him in prayer, to ask from Him His blessings. Yes, God wants us to come to Him as easily and as confidently as we do to very good earthly fathers. YOU ARE BY FAITH A CHILD OF GOD! The Spirit enables you to address God without fear as your dear heavenly Father!
The Spirit, secondly, assures you that you are joint-heirs of heaven with Christ! The apostle goes on, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.” How can you know that the Spirit of God is dwelling within your heart? It is not when you have successfully eliminated all trace of sin from your heart and life, for that will never happen. Until our dying day we must all contend with our sinful flesh, which at times will cause us to stumble (cf. Rom. 7:18-20). But if you know Jesus; if you trust in Jesus as your Savior from sin; if you acknowledge Jesus as your Lord and desire to serve Him , even if ever so imperfectly—then the Spirit of God is dwelling within your heart. Paul informed the Corinthian Christians, “No one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” (cf. 1 Cor. 12:3).
Of what does the Spirit assure us? He assures us that we are by grace through faith children of God, but we are not just children. The Spirit assures us that we have been made God’s “heirs”—heirs of heaven and “joint-heirs with Christ!” In this world any child is automatically called an heir of his or her parents, but if that child is designated within a will to receive something upon the death of his or her parents, that child is called a devisee. That is what Paul is talking about. God has made us His devisees. We will inherit heaven, not upon God’s death for He can never and will never die, but upon our own deaths we will inherit heaven!
To make that promise even more sure, the Spirit assures us that we are “joint-heirs with Christ.” Now, what does that mean? The term “joint-heir” is used three other times in the New Testament, always in connection with our relationship with other people and always in a positive way. It is first used to state that we Gentiles are joint-heirs with the Jews of all of the promises of God—that we share in them equally (cf. Eph. 3:6). It is then used in the “Heroes of Faith” chapter in the Epistle to the Hebrews as a historical reference to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob being joint-heirs of “the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God,” namely heaven (cf. Heb. 11:9-10). Finally, it is used by Peter when addressing husbands and wives, and he calls them joint-heirs of heaven (cf. 1 Pet. 3:7). In each case we share with others those promises of God leading to heaven.
In what sense, however, are we “joint-heirs with Christ”? Paul goes on to explain by stating:
“If indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” As we await our inheritance in heaven, our lives in this world will not always be easy. Jesus reminds us, “A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (Jn. 15:20b). Some of the troubles you and I will face in this life, and perhaps at times many of those troubles, will be faith-related. As we stand up for Jesus in this world, we cannot but expect to be opposed. Let us pray that in those situations the Holy Spirit will enable us to remain faithful! Many of the things we will suffer, however, in this world are simply due to the general sinful condition in which we find this world and ourselves—disease, illness, disability, deprivation. In the verses which immediately follow our text Paul says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:18-23). The Spirit of God assures us that even as we endure suffering with Christ, for He too suffered with us in this world, so we will experience heavenly glory with Him! Our bodies will be glorified as is His. Paul assures the Corinthians: “As we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man,” that Man being Christ (1 Cor. 15:49). “If we endure,” the Scriptures assure us, “we shall also reign with Him” (2 Tim. 2:12).
My dear friends, YOU ARE BY FAITH A CHILD OF GOD! Treasure that truth in your heart! Let us never be ungrateful children—rebelling against our heavenly Father and walking away from Him! No, let us rather turn to Him, walk with Him, and address Him as our dear “Abba, Father” until that moment when faith becomes sight and all of our hopes dissolve into glory! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting
Soli Gloria Deo!