Yesterday I preached from Romans 8:15-16 on the doctrine of adoption. As we’ve already noted numerous times in our study of the eighth chapter of Romans, this entire chapter centers on the ministry of the Holy Spirit. However, one of the main aspects of the Holy Spirit’s ministry is to provide assurance that a person is a true Christian. In this text, we learn about how we’re blessed as a result of our adoption into the family of God.
Fear is something that plagues many people in this life—and sometimes that’s the case for those who profess Christ as Savior. If we’ve been adopted into the family of God, we do not have to live a life of fear and anxiety. Instead, we can live a life of assurance because we’re no longer slaves to unrighteousness and held in bondage to the law of God with the inability to fulfill the righteous demands. We can fear the Lord without being terrified of the judgment of God (see Exodus 19:16).
Psalm 111:10 – The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!
As adopted children, we are called out of darkness into the marvelous light of Christ. We have received the Holy Spirit who indwells us as believers. Although the Holy Spirit is referenced by several different titles in the Bible, we see here that he’s referenced as the Spirit of adoption. The doctrine of adoption is central to the Christian life. It’s a beautiful picture of God’s love for his people. That’s one reason adoption is a great practice in our day as well. When I speak with people who have been adopted, I often tell them that their adoption is a picture of how God chose us. It’s a human illustration (although imperfect) of God’s love for fallen humans.
- Moses was adopted into Pharaoh’s family for a divine purpose!
- Esther was adopted by her uncle Mordecai.
- 2 Samuel 9 – David adopts the son of Saul – Mephibosheth.
The Greek term used by Paul here in this text is huiothesia which means “to have an installation or placement as a son” and serves as the technical Greek term for the process of adoption. Not only was the child transferred from one family to another or from no family to a specific family, that child was given the full rights of a son. The adopted child received full rights of an heir and could never lose it.
Another blessing that comes as a result of our adoption is the intimacy that we enjoy with our heavenly Father. If you look at the language surrounding verses 15-16, you will see that it’s centered on the language of family relationships.
- In verse 14, you see the terms, sons of God.
- In verse 15, you have the language of adoption as sons.
- In verse 15, you see the emphasis on Abba Father.
- In Verse 16, you see the language of children of God.
- In verse 17, you see the language of heir.
In terms of salvation, we view God in different functions of his character. Regarding the doctrine of election, we think of God as Sovereign. When it comes to the doctrine of regeneration, we think of God as Creator. Regarding our status of justification, we think of God as Judge. However, as it pertains to the doctrine of adoption, we think of God as Father.
We often fail to realize how revolutionary Jesus’ words were in the model prayer. At the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry—there was a vast chasm between the people and the personal name of God as Father. For instance, the great name for God is YHWH and is usually translated Jehovah or Yahweh and was protected by the Jews. It was so fenced off from the people that we don’t truly know how to pronounce it to this very day. The reason why is that it was not pronounced and there was no indication for how it should be pronounced.
In the Scriptures, the vowel pointing for Adonai (which means Lord) was substituted for the divine name Jehovah which was to remind the readers to say Adonai instead of Jehovah. In many ways – like the Jewish laws that were added to God’s law in order to protect the Sabbath from violation or from becoming common place. So the way they approached the name of God was the same way — they were seeking to protect God’s name from becoming common among the people. Jesus comes along in his earthly ministry, and as God in human flesh, he points the people to pray, “Our Father…” which was revolutionary.
Paul walks in Jesus’ footsteps and as an apostle – points people to pray to God as Abba Father. Why Abba? We must recall that Jesus spoke Aramaic. So, when he was praying, he was not speaking Greek. The New Testament is written primarily in Greek language. So, as Jesus prayed, he would have called God Father in Aramaic which is Abba. So, Paul and the apostles remembered that and wrote it down even when they were writing in Greek! Unlike the other world religions that depict a deity who is far off and detached from the common man or woman—we come to God as “our Father” who is interested in his children.
The final blessing that we see in this section regarding the ministry of the Holy Spirit is his work of assurance. It’s not the work of a pastor to provide members of the church with assurance of their salvation. According to Romans 8:16, it’s the work of the Holy Spirit who bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God. If you want to know that you’re a true Christian, depend on the work of the Spirit who indwells all true Christians. That’s his work.
In 1654 the Puritan Thomas Brooks wrote, “Assurance is the believer’s ark where he sits, Noah like, quiet and still in the midst of all distractions and destructions, commotions and confusions…. [However] most Christians live between fears and hopes, and hang, as it were, between heaven and hell. Sometimes they hope that their state is good, at other times they fear that their state is bad: now they hope that all is well, and that it shall go well with them for ever; [then] they fear that they shall perish by the hand of such a corruption, or by the prevalency of such or such a temptation …. They are like a ship in a storm, tossed here and there.”
That’s not the way we should live our lives as followers of Jesus. We are given the Spirit of adoption to assure us that we belong to our heavenly Father. In fact, in 1 John, we find these words:
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life (1 John 5:13).
As a child of God, you should live a life of assurance as the Holy Spirit confirms and convinces you that you are indeed the child of God. As you live with such assurance, your walk and your worship will be full of joy and purpose each day.
Blessed assurance; Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood