Peninsula Community Church
May 6, 2018
Romans 8:12-17 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 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. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 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!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 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.
When we speak of family I am sure that we all have different opinions and ideas about what that looks like. For some of us, our family experience was a positive one. For many, the family experience provided the foundation we needed to be the man or woman we are today. I am also aware that the opposite is true. For some, the family experience has not been as positive as it could be. As a result, we have been negatively impacted by our families. For some, it was not the entire family, but one family member that seemed to create problems in the home and thus made it hard to celebrate family. Regardless of our background, family matters and family really matters to God.
Throughout the New Testament, there are many Scriptures that point to the family and being the children of God. In this passage, Paul makes a wonderfully powerful statement. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 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!”
In our passage, Paul reminds us that we do not owe the flesh anything. Because we are sons, we are free from slavery. We must take care that we do not reconnect with the slavery of the past. Regardless of what you think about Kenye West, he made a powerful statement this past week. He stated that “Slavery is a choice.” He was not talking about historical or institutional slavery but the mindset of slavery. You see what we set our minds on, will control us. If we focus on being slaves, our identity becomes one of slavery. The issue here is that the flesh will continue to attempt to extract a huge debt from us, but it is a debt that we no longer owe. It is a debt that can never be fully paid, as the flesh wants more and more. The flesh keeps raising the debt ceiling so that the debt becomes impossible to pay.
Paul also reminds us that through the Spirit we have become sons of God. We are a part of His family. This week, I read that God does not call us to do something without empowering us to do what He calls us to do. In this case, we are called to be sons of God and we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to do just, be sons of God. We were slaves to sin, but now we are the adopted son’s of God. It is our adoption that seals the deal for us and sets in place the work of the Holy Spirit within us. For a few moments let us look at this idea of adoption.
During the times of the Romans and at the time of Paul’s writing, adoption was a common practice. By definition adoption refers to the legal action by which a person is taken into one’s family as a member of the family with full rights and authority as a member of the family. The one that is adopted is granted all of the rights and privileges of a true child of the new father. When we understand the act of adoption, we find that it is filled with grace, mercy, and love. For the believer, adoption is one of the most beautiful and rich theological concepts of Scripture.
According to Roman law, the father had ultimate power over a son and for that matter a daughter. That power never ended regardless of the status of the son as an adult. The son was always under the authority and power of the father. He had absolute power and he controlled the family absolutely. It is interesting to note however that by Roman law, if a man saw a son that he wanted to adopt, he had to go through a formidable process to adopt the son.
The Roman law required a two step process. The first step was “mancipatio.” From here we get our word emancipation. This act of mancipatio was a symbolic sale of sorts. One father would approach the other father with the desire to adopt his son. Once they agreed, the two fathers would meet in a public place and transact business. The son’s father would sell the son to the adopting father and then he would buy him back. This would occur twice. On the third time, the father would not buy the son back. The deal was struck. With that, the control of the father was broken. Once this occurred the adopting father would go the Roman magistrate and present a legal case for the transference of the adopted one to the new father. When completed the adoption was final.
Notice the spiritual implications of this. The flesh, the enemy of our soul, had control over our life. We were completely controlled by the flesh. The flesh, because of sin, had been given authority and control over our life. But one day, Christ made the case that He wanted to adopt us as His children. Through the cross, Jesus publicly bought us and finalized the adoption. He gave Himself as the price of adoption so He could adopt us by the power of the Spirit.
When it comes to Roman adoptions there were a few principles that applied. These principles are critical to our understanding of the work of adoption in our life as believers. First, the adopted person lost all of the rights he had with his previous family and the previous father had no rights to his son. While he gave up the old family, He now had all of the rights and privileges of his new family. He was now considered to be a fully legitimate son in the new family.
We have been adopted by God, and we are His children thus the enemy has no right to rule over us or to control us. We lost all of the rights once associated with our previous family. Now, we have all of the rights and privileges of our new family. We are not illegitimate children, we are fully and completely His children. It is for that reason that we are not in debt to the flesh any more. Listen to Paul’s words in Galatians 3:25-26, But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.
This leads us to the second thought. The adopted child is a full heir to his new father’s estate, even if there were other sons who were born into the family. The adopted child was an inalienable identified heir of the father’s fortune. Because of our adoption, we are now full heirs to our Father’s estate. Notice, the passage states we are not just heirs, we are joint heirs with Christ. We have a great inheritance. So often we think of an inheritance as property and other assets. With our spiritual inheritance, we inherit eternal life, but more than that we inherit God Himself. The greatest gift is that we get to live in the presence of God for an eternity. In the Old Testament, there are no less than five occurrences where Scripture tells us that God is our inheritance (Numbers 18:20, Deuteronomy 10:9, Deuteronomy 18:2, Psalm 16:5, and Lamentations 3:23-25).
Thirdly, the old life of the adopted person was completed wiped away. If the son had debts, those debts were cancelled. All records were wiped away as if that person never existed before. The adopted person was regarded as a new person entering into a new life with no past. When we are adopted by God, every sin and debt is wiped away. That is why we do not live as the condemned. Our past record has been wiped away, just as if we never existed before. That is why Paul says that we are new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15). That is why we do not lived as condemned men nor do we owe a debt to flesh.
Fourth, in the eyes of Roman law, the adopted person was literally and absolutely the son of his new father in every sense. So it is with Christ. We are not partial children. We are full blown, complete sons of God. Galatians 4:4-7 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 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.
In the movie Ben Hur there is a scene that illustrates this idea of adoption. It is a beautiful scene that shows Arrius adopting Judah as his son, which made him a freedman, a Roman citizen, and Arrius’s heir. All of the rights of the family were given to Judah Ben-Hur. To view this go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbHDk6Uzri4.
Finally, while other children were born into the family, adopted children were chosen to be a part of the family. As an adopted child, we were deliberately chosen. I am reminded of one adoptee who thought for years that his family had rejected him, but one day he was reminded that he may have been rejected by one family but he was chosen by another. Christ chose to adopt us. He chose to accept us into His family. We are the preferred choice of God. On the basis of free and voluntary election, God chose us to be His sons. That should excite our hearts. The living, powerful, awesome God has chosen us to be His children. We were not just born into the family, we were chosen by God to be His family.
Because of our adoption we cry Abba Father. In the Aramaic and Greek languages these were the most passionate words for Father their were. They were intimate beautiful words of love and adoration. As His children today we look into His eyes and cry Abba Father, Daddy God. As the adopted one’s we can now call Him our Father.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom