The Spirit of Adoption
romans 8:12-17 | Ian Thomas
January 20th, 2019
What is a Christian? The question can be answered in many ways, but the richest answer I know is that a Christian is one who has God as Father… If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and control his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all. - J.I Packer
Main Idea: Though we were orphans, we have been adopted by God through Christ, making us fully and completely children of God.
I. Truly Brothers and Sisters (8:12-13)
To address the church in Rome as “brothers and sisters” was revolutionary in this context. The constant threat of division between Jews & Gentiles within the church is the single biggest issue of the New Testament outside of the gospel itself.
The question that looms over the early church and the New Testament: Are we really brothers? Are we really sisters? Is this really our family?
Paul urges the church to no longer live “according to the flesh” which always leads to tribalism. This looks like an “us” vs. “them” mentality that only ever goes skin-deep. And it leads to “death.”
We are a family not formed by the blood of biology but by the blood of the cross. Caring for orphans makes perfect sense when we grasp this. We are not the sum of our biological background or our biological family, no matter what that may look like.
John 20:17 Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.
II. Truly Sons (8:14-15)
Paul strikes at the heart of what it means to be “spiritual” here. The primary work of the indwelling Holy Spirit is to instill a deep sense within us that God is indeed our Father. The Spirit works to confirm this identity in us.
Adoption is a choice, not an obligation. This should confirm to us that God does not merely “tolerate” or “put up” with us, but he views us as beloved sons and daughters.
The Spirit here leads our souls to cry out “Abba! Father!” Abba is a term of intimacy, but this is more intense than a childish babble. It is a cry (or a scream or “groan” cf. 8:26) of desperation toward our Father, realizing he is the only hope that we have in this face of brokenness.
The only way that we are given this identity and this privilege is because Jesus himself became an orphan for us. He was adopted into an earthly family, cries out in the garden of Gethsemane “Abba!” and on the cross “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
…But all they knew was the orphanage. It was filthy, but they had no other reference point. It was home. They are now thoroughly Americanized, perhaps too much so, able to recognize the sound of a microwave ding from forty yards away. I still remember, though, those little hands reaching for the orphanage. And I see myself there. - Russell Moore
Growing in Christ means leaving behind what we know as “home” and what is comfortable, which is always scary. But when we leave behind what is “comfortable” for what God is calling us to, we leave behind the spirit of slavery to fear and instead move toward our eternal family and the true Kingdom. This is where our true identity is found.
III. Truly Heirs (8:16-17)
The issue of inheritance was far more than receiving a lump sum of money when a relative died in the 1st century; inheritance was tied up to your livelihood and lineage far more than we can imagine today.
Paul assures us that we are “heirs” of God and “co-heirs” with Christ. This means that we are going to inherit the whole world alongside Jesus, receiving the very same blessing that is given to him from God the Father. But this is all in the context of family.
The picture that Paul is painting: though we were orphans- though we were not the “natural-born” children- God has made us truly brothers and sisters; we truly have God as our Father; we are truly heirs of God. This should be hard for us to believe.
The picture we get of the Kingdom of God is a bunch of adopted children.
It is not a matter of “if” God has called us to orphan care but rather “how” he has called us to this.
This mission of the church is to declare and display the gospel to the “least” of these, because Jesus is there with them (Matt. 25:40).
More important than your name, however, is hearing it called out by the One you’ve come to know, or rather who has come to know you. When you see him for the first time face-to-face, when your legal adoption is fully realized, the Spirit within you will cry out, “Abba! Father!” And you’ll hear another voice, louder than all the others, cry out the same thing. You’ll turn to see him, the Messiah of Israel, the Emperor of the universe, Jesus of Nazareth. And you’ll call him “Brother" - Russell Moore