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Children of God - Part 1

Tom Pennington • Romans 8:14-17

  • 2018-04-22 AM
  • Romans
  • Sermons


Encyclopedia Britannica says of "adoption", "It is so widely recognized that it can be characterized as an almost worldwide institution with historical roots traceable to antiquity." "Adoption", it's become more and more on the front page of our papers and our newsfeeds as well as in our culture as a whole.

So, let me ask you a question. As you think about adoption, what is the greatest adoption, the greatest adoption story of all time? Well, you could point back to one that occurred in ancient Rome. In that story, there was a man born by the name of Gaius Octavius. When Gaius Octavius was eighteen years old, he was adopted; his great uncle named him in his will as his adopted heir. The uncle's name was Julius Caesar. Octavius changed his name to Julius Caesar Octavianus or Octavian for short.

In 27 B.C. the Roman Senate added to his adopted name of Caesar the title Augustus, meaning divine or majestic; and Caesar Augustus, the adopted son of Julius Caesar, became the greatest ruler in Roman history. In fact, he used his power to restore order and prosperity to the Roman Empire with such success that his reign from about 27 B.C. to 14 A.D. became known as the Augustine Age. He established the great Pax Romana, the Roman peace that extended over the world at the time of the birth of Jesus Christ and made the spread of the gospel possible. That is truly an amazing adoption story.

But if you want to talk about other adoption stories, you could talk about two U.S. presidents who were adopted. Or, you could talk about two first ladies who also were adopted. Or, of course countless other famous people who were adopted.

But none of those is the greatest adoption story of all time; because according to the New Testament, yours is the greatest adoption story. If you are in Jesus Christ, if you have repented of your sins and believed in Him, the One True and Living God has really, legally, actually adopted you. That's the message of the New Testament, and it is a truly amazing reality.

John Murray, in his excellent little book that some of you are reading this month, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, writes this of adoption.

This is surely the apex of grace and privilege. We would not dare to conceive of such grace, far less to claim it apart from God's own revelation and assurance. It staggers the imagination because of its amazing condescension and love. It is only as there is the conjunction of the witness of revelation and the inward witness of the Spirit in our hearts that we are able to scale this pinnacle of faith and say with confidence and love, "Abba! Father!"

Adoption, that is one of the great realities. In fact, we could even say, in many ways, at the very highest pinnacle of what God has done for us in our salvation.

Now, what's the context of Paul's teaching here about adoption? Let me just remind you, we're looking at Romans 8, and the theme of this eighth chapter of Romans is the absolute security of the Christian, and Paul explains several reasons why we are secure in Christ. So far, we've looked at two of them.

First of all, we are secure because God has delivered us from all condemnation. The first four verses of Romans 8 make this point. God condemned our sin in the flesh of Jesus Christ at the cross; and for those of us who have believed in Him, verse 1 says, there is "Therefore … now no condemnation," no guilty verdict, no impending punishment; He's delivered us from all condemnation.

The second reason that we've learned that we are secure in Christ comes in the second paragraph of this chapter, verses 5 – 13. It is that God has changed and empowered us by His Spirit. We've been studying that over the last several weeks together.

Now today we come to a third reason. We discovered that there's yet another reason that our salvation is absolutely secure, and it's this: God has adopted us as His children. That is the message of verses 14 - 17. Let's read them together, Romans 8, beginning in verse 14:

For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, [heirs] heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

That is an astounding paragraph. It's one of those realities that, again as believers, we've heard before, and we can easily allow ourselves to take for granted, and yet the truth here is truly amazing. The message of the verses we've just read is this, our salvation is absolutely secure because God has not only justified us, that's the message of the first four verses of this chapter, and He's not only regenerated and changed us and sent His Spirit to dwell within us; that's the message of the second paragraph, but God has legally adopted us as His own children. Now what do we need to know about this radical change in our relationship to God? What do we need to know about our spiritual adoption? Well here in these verses, the Holy Spirit, using the Apostle Paul, teaches us four important details about our spiritual adoption, and I want us to look at those details together because they fill out a rich and beautiful portrait of the reality that you and I enjoy.

So, let's look at the first detail of our spiritual adoption that Paul gives us here and that is: the identity of God's adopted children, the identity of God's adopted children. Who are they? Well the answer is in verse 14, "For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God." Now this is another one of those incredibly profoundly rich and insightful verses in the New Testament. It's a verse that at first glance you might be tempted to read past; and yet in this verse, we gain several key insights about the true identity of God's children: who they are and who they aren't. So, let's look at these insights about the identity of God's children.

The first insight that we gain here is this: most people are not God's children. Most people on this planet, most people who live and undoubtedly some here this morning are not God's children. Notice verse 14, "For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these [and implied, only these] are sons of God." Now this is so typical of the apostle Paul. He often divides all of humanity into two groups, and here he does the same. He divides everyone on the planet, everyone here this morning, into two basic families with two different fathers. There are the sons of God, and there are the sons who aren't, and we'll see who they are in just a moment. The point here is that most people are not God's children.

There is, of course, a sense, a physical sense in which God can be called the Father of all men, but only in one sense and that is the sense that He created them. This is what Paul alludes to, you remember in his famous sermon at Mars Hill in Acts 17:28. He's talking to them about the fact that God is Creator. And he says, because God is Creator, He is therefore the father of all men in that sense. Here's how he says it; he actually quotes one of the Greek poets; he says, "Some of your own poets have said, 'we also are His children.'" But again, he means that in one sense only; he means that in the sense that God created all of us so, physically, everybody here this morning is a child of God because He created you. But normally this Father-son relationship in reference to God is reserved for those who have come to a true relationship with Him through His Son. So, everybody on this planet, everybody here this morning is a child of God in the physical sense that you were created by Him, and He sustains your life. He keeps your heart beating this very moment.

But there's only a small number of people who are God's spiritual children; and it's in this sense that Scripture assigns the rest of mankind, most of mankind to a different family and to a different father. For example, in Ephesians 2, Paul is talking about our lives before Christ, and he says we were "sons of disobedience," and then he adds, we "were by nature children of wrath, [children of God's wrath] even as the rest." In Ephesians 5:8, Paul divides it into two camps. He speaks of the "children of Light" and the children of "darkness."

But Jesus our Lord was even more direct about this. I want you to turn back with me to John 8, John 8. You remember the context, verse 31, Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, in other words who had expressed some sort of commitment to Him, they had said, "Yeah, we believe; we think He's the real thing. We think He really is who He said He is and had attached themselves in some way He says to them, verse 31 of John 8, "… If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine." In other words, He says, "Listen, you've made some sort of external profession that you believe in Me. Well, let me tell you how to know if that's real. It's if you continue in My Word. You continue listening to My Word, obeying My Word, treasuring My Word. "Then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth." How? Through My Words and that truth that you learn in My Word, "will make you free."

And they say, verse 33, "We['re] … Abraham's descendants. [We've] never … been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, [we] … 'will become free?'" Now it's possible that they had a bit of historical amnesia and forgot the fact that as a nation they had been enslaved often and were at that very moment to Rome, that's possible. Or, it's kind of a national pride sort of thing; we don't want to admit that we're enslaved. Or, it may be instead that they know Jesus is talking spiritually and they're saying, "We've never been spiritually enslaved." Regardless, verse 34,

"Jesus answered them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, [Listen to this.] everyone who [is committing] … sin is [a] … slave of sin.'" [Everyone who is committing sin is a slave of sin. So how do you get out of that slavery?] Verse 36, "… if the Son" [That is Jesus, says if I make] "… you free, you will be free indeed." That's your only way out of the slavery to sin.

There's, verse 38, "I speak the things which I have seen with My Father; therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father." [They said,] … "Abraham is our father." Jesus said, ["I don't think so.] … If Abraham were your true spiritual father," [now He's already admitted just couple verses before they are physical descendants of Abraham, so He's talking here spiritually,] "If you … [were] Abraham's [spiritual] children," [you would do what he did; you would listen to the Word of God, you would be anticipating Me the Messiah like he did.] But you're not really from Abraham." Verse 41, "You are doing the deeds of your father."

They said to him, "We were not born of fornication." By the way that's a sort of subtle dig at Jesus; probably, you know, that sort of mystery that hung over his birth. The only explanation they had was that wasn't something miraculous, that was something dirty, something evil and so, kind of like, "Well, we, unlike you, weren't born of fornication. We have one Father, God." Verse 42, Jesus said, "If God were your Father, you would love Me." By the way, that's an amazing statement. You run into people who say, "You know, I have a good relationship with God. God and I are close." And yet they have no commitment to follow Jesus Christ. Jesus says, "If God were your Father, you would love Me…." They go together. I didn't come on My own initiative, verse 42, but God "sent Me," the Father "sent Me," the Father "sent Me."

Verse 44 is the point; "You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father." You want to copy him; you want to do what he does. "He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies."

Do you know what Jesus is saying? He is saying, "Every person who doesn't follow Me is a child of the devil. He belongs to Satan." If you're here this morning and you're a follower of Jesus Christ; you're a true follower of His, your Father is God. But if you're here this morning and you're not a follower of Jesus Christ, you've never committed yourself to follow Him, you may never have thought of yourself this way, but Jesus says your father is the devil himself. That's who you really belong to.

In 1 John 3:10, "By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother." He says, test yourself to see, see which family you belong to, which father you have. Here's the bottom line, from Adam's sin onward, every single one of us were born as children of the devil. It doesn't matter if you were sort of a goody two shoes person growing up, and you tried to stay out of trouble, and everybody thought you were the teacher's pet; it doesn't matter. Every single one of us, good or bad externally, were born children of the devil. The people Jesus was talking to in John 8, it's not like they externally looked bad. They looked pretty good. And if nothing has happened to change this reality, then today your spiritual father is Satan, and you are part of the family of the devil himself.

Your only home today is this sin cursed world which John the Apostle says is passing away and forever, listen to this, "Forever," Jesus says, "He will send you to be with your father." Matthew 25:41, he says I "will … say to those on my left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.'" And we could add, and his children. So, not everyone is an adopted child of God. In fact, most people aren't.

That brings us to a second insight back in Romans 8:14, a second insight is this, all true Christians have been adopted as God's children. Look at verse 14 carefully, "For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God." If you have the Spirit, you're being led by the Spirit. We'll talk about what that means in a minute, but if you have the Spirit, you're being led by the Spirit, then you are a son of God. There's no such thing as a Christian who hasn't been adopted. This isn't something for sort of higher-level elite Christians. This is every believer. When you believed in Christ, God adopted you. Galatians 3:26, "you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus." So, what does it mean to be adopted? What is spiritual adoption?

Well, I think first of all, you need to make sure you know what it's not. It doesn't mean that you are a child of God in exactly the same way that Jesus is. In passages like John 3:16, Jesus is called God's "only … Son," God's "only … Son." The Greek word, I think you know if you've been a Christian any time at all, you've heard that word. The Greek word is monogenes. It's two Greek words put together, monos, which means "only", and genos which means "kind". "Only kind", it means "one-of-a-kind, unique". Christ is God's one-of-a-kind, only eternal Son. So, we're not becoming like Christ in that way. He is still God's one-of-a-kind Son.

So, what is our adoption? What does that mean? I like the way John MacArthur explains it in his biblical doctrines book, he says this, "In adoption, God legally places regenerated and justified sinners into His family so that they become sons and daughters of God and thus enjoy all the rights and privileges of one who is a member of God's eternal family." So, He places you, with a legal act, into His family. You become legally His son or His daughter, and then you enjoy all the rights and privileges that come with being a member of the family of God; that's adoption.

Now, like justification, adoption isn't subjective; it doesn't happen inside of us. It is a legal decision in which God gives us the legal right to become His child. Packer calls it "The highest privilege that the gospel offers." John Murray, in that passage I read for you a few moments ago, calls it, "The apex of grace and privilege that staggers the imagination."

Now, why? Why would God adopt us? What is the ultimate cause of our adoption? Notice the word "ultimate", the ultimate cause. The answer is the sovereign grace of the Father. That's the only explanation for your adoption and mine. Turn to Ephesians 1. Paul says it very clearly here; Ephesians 1:3, he begins to detail the spiritual privileges that are ours in Christ. He begins, in verses 4 – 6, with the privileges that come to us from the Father. He focuses specifically on the Father; and in verse 4, he says the Father "… chose us [This is sovereign election. He] chose us in … [Christ] before the foundation of the world." In other words, before you had done anything good or bad, before you were, before there was anything, He "chose us in … [Christ] before the foundation of the world." His choice was unconditioned on anything in us; it was unconditional. But He had a purpose in mind, notice the word 'that,' "that we would be holy and blameless before Him." God decided to choose you so that in the end, He would make you like His Son.

But that wasn't the only reason He chose you. Related to that, notice the end of verse 4, and by the way in the Greek test, this is one long sentence, so He "chose us," the end of verse 4:

In love [having] … predestinated us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of his will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

In other words, God chose us in eternity past because of His love for us; and in so doing, He predestined, don't be scared of that word; it simply means "to predetermine your destiny". And what destiny did God predetermine for you when He chose you? And that is that He would adopt you as His own child. So, adoption was the gracious sovereign purpose of God the Father in choosing us in eternity past to salvation. He intended all along to adopt you. Now that's the ultimate cause, but what means did God use to make adoption possible?

How could God do this? What means possibly could have brought this to pass? Turn over to Galatians, just a couple pages back, Galatians 4, and look at verse 4. Here's the means;

When the fullness of time came, [When everything was just right, that included, by the way, Caesar Augustus being on the throne and the Pax Romana and the Greek language and all those things, when everything was just exactly like it ought to be,] God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that [Here it is.] we might receive the adoption as sons.

The only way you and I could be redeemed, the means that God used to accomplish it was the death of Christ, and that was also the means that He used to secure the possibility of adopting us into His family. And as a result, verse 6 says:

Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.

What was the means that made your adoption possible? It was the death of Jesus Christ. It was His securing your redemption; that was the only way a holy God could adopt you and me into His family.

So, what is the instrumental cause of our adoption? Using that sort of specific language from the language of logic, what was the instrumental cause, the instrument by which adoption became truly ours? Now maybe you're sitting there thinking, "Wow, I would love to have God as my true Father, I would love for God to adopt me, but how in the world do you get God to adopt you? Well, turn back to John 1, because here the instrumental cause of adoption is identified as faith in Jesus Christ. Verse 10 says:

… [Christ] was in the world, … the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to his own, [possessions, His own things] and those … [were His own, reference to most of the Jewish people] … did not receive Him. But as many as received Him [By the way, notice that personal language--to receive a person. What does that mean? Well, he defines it at the end of the verse.] … even to those who believe in His name, [Who put their faith completely and wholly in Him, who follow Him, who love Him and the language we saw earlier: who continue in His Word.] … as many as received Him, [Notice verse 12.] to them he gave the right to become children of God….

The instrumental cause of your adoption was when God, verse 13, when He gave you life, you were born again through the work of the Spirit, and then He gave you repentance and faith as a gift. And you believed in Christ; and in response to that faith that God Himself gave you and enabled you to exercise, then He gave you justification; He declared you to be right with God, and He legally adopted you. Galatians 3:26 says, "you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus." The instrumental cause was your response to the gospel, your faith in the gospel.

Now, so far, we have seen two insights about the identity of God's children. Number one, we've seen that most people are not God's children. Secondly, we've seen that all true Christians, those who have been chosen by God in eternity past, who have been redeemed by the death of Christ in time and who have believed in Him, they have been adopted by God.

Now, there's a third insight about the identity of God's children here in Romans 8:14. It's the test of true son-ship is being led by the Spirit: the test of true son-ship is being led by the Spirit. You know, it used to be more common, but still occasionally in our times, there will be a lawsuit called a paternity suit. Essentially, it's a lawsuit to establish whether the person involved is really the child of someone else. Usually, it revolves around money, inheritance, that kind of thing. Now there was a time when that was really hard. A paternity lawsuit was hard to discover because there were no objective scientific means to discover that. But, of course in our day, there's DNA, and DNA testing settles the issue of paternity with almost 100% accuracy. Folks, verse 14 is a spiritual paternity test. Is God your Father? Well, here's the answer, verse 14, "For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God."

Now, make sure you know what Paul is not talking about here. That word "led by", he's not talking about subjective personal guidance. He's not talking about the Spirit somehow guiding you to accept this job over this job. He's not saying here that the Spirit is going to help you with some subjective feeling in your gut or some internal peace to know what personal decision you ought to make. By the way, that's never how you should be determining what you ought to do. You should never be saying, "Well I know, I'm going to make this decision because I just feel a peace about it." Like, what is that? How do you know that's God? How do know that's not the pizza you had for dinner last night or whatever it is that brings you peace? How do you know that? You don't! That's very subjective; it could be your flesh; it could be something random; it could be influenced by your mood. Your feeling is not a way to determine what you ought to do or how you ought to live.

If you struggle with knowing God's will about personal decisions in life, who to marry, what job to take, where to live, etc., etc., if you struggle over that, then I highly recommend two books to you. Book number one is for those of you who don't read as much; it's a shorter manageable book. It's written by Kevin DeYoung, it's called Just Do Something, great title, great book. It'll explain how Christians ought to make decisions. The second book is for those of you who like to read a little more. It's a book that frankly revolutionized my own perception about finding God's will back in my days in college and early seminary. It's written by Gary Friesen; it's called Decision Making and The Will of God. I think both of them are available in our bookstore. But if you struggle with that, get those books. That's not what Paul is talking about here at all.

So, what does it mean to be led by the Spirit? Well, context is always king, so look at verse 14 and notice it begins with that little word "'For". For those of you who are bothered by my southern accent that's "F O R", for. The word "For" there shows that verse 14 explains and defends what Paul just said at the end of verse 13. So, look at the end of verse 13, "if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For, all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God." Do you see in context then being led by the Spirit means the Spirit is leading you to put the sins in your life to death. That's what he's talking about. So then verse 14 provides us with a paternity test, with a test of our son-ship. Do you want to know if you're truly a child of God? Then ask yourself this question: "Is the Spirit of God leading you day by day in your real practical life to put to death the sins in your life and to put on Jesus Christ?" If not, then you don't belong to God; you're not His child, for it's those who are led by the Spirit of God to do that. These and only these are the sons of God.

Verse 14 though is not only a paternity test, it's also an assurance of our security in Christ because this is the main point of this passage. It's to give true Christians a sense of their security in the Spirit. If you're here and you have repented and believed in Jesus Christ, and if you have, therefore, moved as Paul says from being in the flesh to being in the Spirit, and the Spirit now dwells within you, and if the Spirit now dwells within you, He is leading you day by day to kill or to put off the sins in your life and to put on the virtues that look like Jesus Christ, to both emulate and to pursue holiness, to pursue the moral character of Jesus Christ. If that's your life, if that's where you live, then it means you're being led by the Spirit of God, and it means you are in fact a child of God. You passed the paternity test.

So, in verse 14, we learn the identity of God's children; most people are not God's children. All Christians have been adopted as God's children, and the way you tell is are you being led by the Spirit of God to put the sins in your life to death and to pursue likeness to Jesus Christ.

There's a second detail about our spiritual adoption in this paragraph; it comes in verse 15. We've seen the identity of God's adopted children. Notice, secondly, the intimacy of God's adopted children. You see, our relationship to God has changed dramatically with this adoption. Notice verse 15 says, "For you have not received the spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" Now to fully appreciate what this verse is saying, you have to understand the sort of spiritual circumstances before Christ came.

If you go back to the Old Testament and search the Old Testament, you will discover that adoption was common in the nations around Israel. You'll see adoptions happening in Egypt and Persia. But in the Old Testament, there are absolutely no laws regulating adoption, and there are only four recorded adoptions in the entire Old Testament, the most famous two are Moses and Esther. What's interesting about all four of those examples of adoption is they all happened outside of Israel. Nevertheless, this concept of spiritual adoption is present there in the Old Testament. A few times the Old Testament describes Israel as God's son. For example, Exodus 4:22; Isaiah 1:2; Hosea 11:1; Israel is called God's son. Paul says that Israel was adopted, they enjoyed the adoption, chapter 9 of Romans, verse 4 describes. We'll talk about that when we get there. I started to say in a few months, I think that's true.

So, in addition to that though, only fourteen times in the Old Testament is God called the Father of Israel, that is, of the nation of Israel. For example, Isaiah 63:16, "… You are our Father, though Abraham does not know us And Israel does not recognize us. You, O LORD, are our Father, Our Redeemer from of old is Your name." So, there was sort of this group sense in which they thought of God as their Father, but it was not the primary way that Old Testament believers thought about their individual relationship with God. In fact, listen to this, not one time in the Old Testament does an individual address God directly as "My Father", not one time.

That's the context of Romans 8:15. Notice again what he writes, "you have not received the spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received [Notice, by the way "received," it's an aorist tense in the Greek. It refers to a past event; it's pointing to your conversion. At conversion you received] a spirit of adoption as sons." Now notice twice he speaks of the spirit: "a spirit of slavery" and "a spirit of adoption". There's a whole lot of debate about who or what those spirits are, and the reason for that is the Greek word for "spirit" is used in three primary ways. It's used as an attitude or a state of mind like spirit of envy. It's used, secondly, for the human spirit; and thirdly, the word is used for the spiritual being, that is the Holy Spirit. So, which does Paul mean in verse 15, and does he mean the same in both occurrences? Well, that's the debate. Let me tell you what I think the context here drives us toward.

In the context of Romans and what we've learned from Romans 6 and Romans 7, I think the first one, the spirit of slavery, is best understood as the state of mind that a slave has. There was a time, as we learned, that we were slaves. We were slaves of sin, and our slavery to sin produced the state of mind of a slave. And what is that state of mind? Look at verse 15, it's fear; it's fear. Specifically, our slavery to sin produced a fear of God and His judgment and His punishment. In fact, Hebrews 2 refers to the fact that all of our lives, we lived in slavery to the fear of death, not just the process of death, but what death brought. "It's appointed to man once to die and after this the judgment." We lived in fear of that reality because of our sin. But when we came to Christ, Paul is saying in the first half of verse 15, God didn't produce in us the state of mind or attitude of slaves of sin again like we used to have, because that would simply produce more and more fear of God's judgment. Instead, notice the second half of verse 15, here's what God did at our conversion, "you have received a spirit of adoption as sons."

Now notice first of all, the word "adoption". It is simply the technical Greek word for legal adoption of children just like our English word. Leon Morris says, "It is being granted the full rights and privileges of son-ship in a family to which one does not belong by nature." We have been adopted by God, but notice, Paul doesn't just say that. Notice he refers to the "spirit of adoption." Now, I think with the second use of the word "spirit", Paul is saying two things at the same time. It's kind of a play on words. First of all, I think he's saying that instead of that state of mind of a slave that we used to have before Christ, we now have received the state of mind of a son, one who has been adopted.

But I think at the same time, he is talking about the Holy Spirit because our adoption is confirmed to us by the Spirit (capital 'S') of adoption. In fact, in the parallel passage we read a moment ago in Galatians 4:6, it says, "Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts." So, I think Paul is also talking here about the Holy Spirit, and he calls Him "the Spirit of adoption" because He bestowed our adoption. It's the Father who adopts us, but the Spirit applies or bestows that adoption and confirms it to us. So, when we became Christians, when you became a Christian, if you're a believer in Jesus Christ, when you became a Christian, you no longer had the state of mind of a slave, living in constant fear of God's coming wrath and judgment. Instead by the work of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit (Capital "S") who bestows and confirms our adoption as sons, we have received the (small "s") spirit or state of mind of sons, both.

Now, all that brings us to a key point that Paul wants to make. By the work of the Holy Spirit bestowing our adoption on us, verse 15, says, "we cry out, 'Abba! Father!'" That is astounding? Those two words together, "Abba! Father!"

Let's take the last one first, "Father". That is the normal Greek word for "father". It's the word Jesus uses in the Lord's Prayer, and in Matthew 6:9, when he says, "Pray … in this way: 'Our Father who is in heaven.'" And that's astounding in and of itself because our father was Satan, and now our Father is God.

But Paul adds another word here that even enriches this. Notice that word "Abba." This word occurs only three times in the New Testament. It occurs here in Romans 8; it occurs in Galatians 4, where we just saw it a moment ago, where it's very similar, "we cry out, 'Abba! Father!'" and it occurs in Mark's gospel. Now Mark's gospel, that reference is very important because in Mark 14:36, Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane, and He's praying, and He says, Jesus says to God, "Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me, yet not what I will, but what You will."

Now Jesus knew three languages; He knew Greek; we know that He knew Greek from the New Testament. There are examples of His interacting in that way. We know that He also knew Hebrew because He taught often in the synagogues and would read from the scrolls or preach from the scrolls which were in Hebrew. And in addition to that, He grew up in the home where He spoke most frequently Aramaic; that was the language of the first century Jewish people in Palestine, Aramaic. So, most of the time when Jesus referred to God as His Father, He would have used this word "Abba" just as He did in the garden. But what I want you to understand that that would have been absolutely shocking to the Jews around Jesus. "Abba" comes from the Hebrew, but it's an Aramaic word.

Now last century, a German scholar named Jeremias extensively researched this Aramaic word, and he discovered that it is a very common word. It was used many times every day in every Jewish home, very common. And yet here's the shocker. In all of the written documents of Judaism, not one time does a Jewish person use the word "Abba" to refer to God. This was brand new with Jesus. Jesus came along, and He always referred to God as "Abba", except for one time. When was that? It was during the three hours of darkness on the cross when He was separated from the Father.

Jeremias also discovered that three of the early church fathers including John Chrysostom, who grew up in homes where Aramaic was spoken, agreed unanimously that "Abba" was originally how a small child addressed his father. That's substantiated by the Jewish Talmud. Listen to the Jewish Talmud, quote, "When a child experiences the taste of wheat," in other words, when he's weaned from his mother's milk, "it learns to say Abba! and Emma!" Abba! and Emma! In other words, "Abba" and "Emma" were the first words the child babbled to describe his parents; like our terms "dada" and "mama," those words that aren't words that the child does the best they can to sort of pronounce the words as they're put in our language. Eventually "Abba" was no longer limited to small children; it became the way grown children referred to their fathers as well. Very important for you understand, it was both a term of endearment; and at the same time, a term of respect.

We understand this; this happens in our culture. I'm the youngest of ten children; and when I'm with my oldest sister, who's in her late 70's, and she speaks of our father who is now with the Lord, she always calls him, "daddy." If he were living, he would be well over a hundred years old. So "Abba!" then is like our terms "daddy" or "papa," and you choose whichever of those brings not only endearment but also respect because this word had, in the Aramaic, respect with it as well. That's how Jesus always referred to God, "Abba!"

But it gets more amazing than that because the amazing thing is that He taught us to think of God this way as well. "We cry, 'Abba! Father!'" It's the Spirit who makes us aware of this new relationship. "We cry out [to God,] 'Abba! Father!'" By the way, both here in Romans 8 and in Galatians 4:6, the word for "crying" is the same Greek word. At times this Greek word is used for something that isn't very pleasant, for a loud cry out of duress. For example, it's used by Jesus on the cross, "He cried out." It's used Revelation 12:2 of a woman in labor. But this same word is also used more than forty times in the Psalms of simply crying out to God in prayer. For example, Psalm 3:4; Psalm 4:3; Psalm 18:6. So the Spirit of adoption (Capital "S"), the Holy Spirit who bestowed and who convinced us of our adoption, teaches us to cry out to our Father in prayer whether it's in a traumatic moment or whether it's in all of life, just like a little child constantly does to his father, "papa, Abba!"

Let me just ask you, is this how you know God? Is this how you think of God? If you're a Christian, it's how you should think of Him because you were once a child of Satan. He was your father. He was cruel and uncaring, and he acted to actually bring you into slavery. But now, you have a totally different relationship with the God of the universe. There was a time when he was only your Creator and your King and your Judge; you had no intimate relationship with Him, no right to approach Him. But in Christ, Paul says that what happened to your relationship with God can best be compared to the process of human adoption. Now, your Creator and your King is also "Abba!" You are truly His son or His daughter. That is shocking and astounding!

Just think for a moment about the grace of this. Have you ever considered that God could have saved you? God could have sent His Son and regenerated you? He could have justified you. He could have done all of these spiritual works in you. He could have made it possible for you to live forever. He could've done everything that He did without making you His child, and yet He goes beyond that at the highest point of grace and says, "Not only am I going to redeem them from the penalty of their sin, but I'm going to make them my own children, sons and daughters." No wonder John the Apostle writes in 1 John 3:1, "See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are."

And here's why this factors into Romans 8. You want to know why you're secure? I want you to think for a moment if you know of any decent human father, any decent human father who has repudiated and abandoned and walked away from his children? Oh, it happens, but is there any decent loving human father who would ever do that? How much greater a Holy Father, perfect in love, who always does what is right, how much truer is it that He will never abandon those whom He has chosen to adopt! You are secure in Jesus Christ.

Let's pray together.

Our Father, we are amazed to even be able to say that, "Abba! Father!" It's only grace. We know that the ultimate cause of this amazing reality is Your sovereign grace set upon us in eternity past. Father, we know that it's only possible because of the work of Your Son, that He redeemed us so that we might enjoy the adoption as sons, and we thank you that Your Spirit has applied that adoption to us, has bestowed it upon us, and has confirmed it to us by His Word that we've studied together this morning. Father, how could we ever thank you? We do acknowledge that You could easily have chosen to save us, to redeem us, to forgive us and just left us as slaves, but instead, you've made us sons and daughters. What grace! What love! What mercy! We love you!

And, Father, we want our lives to reflect this truth of adoption. Help us to live in a way that honors you, our adoptive Father. Help us not to dishonor You in any way. Father, help us to do everything we can to honor You and to direct others to You who are currently the children of the devil.

Father, I pray specifically for those here this morning who have never repented and believed in Jesus Christ. Help them to see their circumstances as they really are, as you see them, lost, a child of Satan himself, one that if they don't repent, our Lord will someday say, "Depart from me into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and all who are his children." Father, may they see the beauty of Christ, the grace of the gospel and be saved even today?

We pray it in Jesus's name, Amen.