So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 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. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons[of God. 15 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!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 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.
The Scriptures teach that our only source of righteousness is the Spirit of Life, Christ Jesus. Having been granted repentance of the works of the flesh, of a life constantly seeking to attain a better standing with God through human deeds, we look to Christ trusting Him alone for all salvation. He alone has “made us free from the law of sin and death.”
“So then,” writes the Apostle Paul, “we are debtors.” Yes, beloved, we are debtors. But no longer are we enslaved by our vain attempts at self-deluded righteousness. The glorious truth of which Paul writes is this: In Christ alone we are free from the curse of sin and death (the flesh), loosed by the grace of God from the chains of dead works, being now free to live in the light of His glory and grace. We are debtors to Christ, to His mercy and grace alone!
We are adopted as children of God. Notice the specific language utilized by the Apostle. He writes that Christians are “adopted” by God. This is the language of family, this is the language of steadfast commitment and care. God, who teaches us through our Lord’s own prayer to call Him “Father,” will not suffer His children, yes His very own children, to be removed from His hands! And, as His blessed children, no longer are we to be “tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine,” bound up in the chains of false religion or fleshly religiosity. The Apostle calls our former life an existence fettered to the spirit of slavery, a life of fear and uncertainty. Ah, but our life, our new life in Christ as adopted sons and daughters of the Most High God, is marked by assurance in the steadfast promises of Christ, reminding us daily through His word that we have fellowship with God whereby we cry, “Abba Father!”
Beloved, we are adopted as children of God.
v. 12 “So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.”
A. God’s in Christ frees us to be debtors to mercy alone! We do not look to ourselves for righteousness, for we agree with Paul that “no good thing in us dwells.”
B. We are free to live in the reality of Christ’s finished work, no longer blindly following the course of this world. To “walk according to the flesh” means to judge according to the appearance. It means to trust in doing/not doing, going/not going, having/not having, etc.. Christ has freed us from the lie of pursuing a fleshly righteousness, for such a glorious thing could never be conjured up by the works of a mere sinner’s hands.
V. 13 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.
A. Note the impossibility of attaining life by performing mere human effort. Those who trust in their own fleshly works have nothing waiting for them except the ghastly spectre of impending judgment.
B. Likewise, as Paul explains in verse 13, if, by the Spirit you “put to death the deeds of the body,” you will live. So many lose their footing at this point, venturing off into works-righteousness. They place the chains rights back on! The progressive sanctification and lordship salvation camps attempt to force human effort right back in as they misinterpret passages such as Romans 8:13. Both of these groups teach, in varying degrees, that we gain assurance of our salvation as we live more and more sinless after each passing day. In their view, “putting to death the deeds of the body” means to repent and put away sins by somehow growing in some personal holiness, working at it each and every day.
But, for all of the lofty and theologically appealing language used to describe this system of works-righteous, it still boils down to gaining spiritual assurance from the works of our hands, albeit while giving God the glory for all our so-called work!
Beloved, to “put to death the deeds of the body” is not a call to drum up in ourselves some new level of personal holiness, super spirituality, or radical asceticism. No! God has not called sinners to somehow assist Christ in their own redemption or sanctification. Beloved, “God has done, what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do!” To “put to death the deeds of the body” is the godly admonishment to, by God’s gift of faith, repent of dead works, to shun any attempt at “doing/not doing” as our basis for righteousness in the sight of God! Only God’s children freely cast their works and efforts into the dust bin because they have been set free from the law of sin and death! In Christ, looking to Him alone, we have by the infinite merits of His death, put to death the deeds of the body! In this way, “the new and living way,” the law is completely satisfied, God’s children are forever sanctified, and God is all-in-all glorified!
14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons[of God.
A. The only way verse 14 makes any sense whatsoever is if the work of “putting to death the deeds of the body” is perfectly settled by God alone in Christ. Otherwise, as Christians waver in their daily lives, and we will continue to waver because we are “weak according to the flesh,” it could be said that believers cease to be the children of God because “they aren’t currently being led of the Spirit!” What a powerless and hopeless notion! This would make completely void the clear teaching in this very lesson that we have “not received the spirit of slavery again to fear!” Fear is all we would possess if our salvation was left up to our performance!
B. “To be led by the Spirit of God” is to be made to believe the true testimony concerning Christ. This is done by God’s supernatural gift of faith. We believe the Gospel because God Himself regenerates us, making us “willing in the day of His power!”
Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
15 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!”
A. We have NOT received another dose of impossible law-keeping! This is the “spirit of slavery” of which Paul writes. What did the law give us? Fear! Fear because it righteously judged us as deserving the wrath of God. The perfect law of God uncovers our sorry and sinful state, but offers no remedy for our condition.
For by works of the law no human beingwill be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
B. We have received adoption as children of almighty God! Family is forever! I am glad the Father set His seal, the Holy Spirit of God, on each of His children, sealing us until the day of redemption!
Our Lord Christ promised the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, would be with us.
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be[g] in you.
18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
C. As adopted children of the most high God, we who are saved have the seal of the Comforter guaranteeing our right standing with God through Christ!
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 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.
A. “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit” – How do we know that we are the children of God? The Spirit bears witness with our spirit! But, how does the Spirit perform this feat? Is Paul suggesting that we merely trust our emotions or other subjective inclinations? Absolutely not!
The Holy Spirit speaks only of Christ. Consider what Christ said concerning the Holy Spirit in John 16:14:
“He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
Our Lord teaches us that the Spirit of God testifies or bears witness with our spirits that we are the children of God by opening unto us the truth of the Words of Christ! The Word of God is applied in power to the hearer by the Holy Spirit. He takes Christ\’s Word (the Scripture) and declares it unto us!
The Apostle Paul puts Christ’s promise to practice as he goes forth preaching the Gospel!
1 Corinthians 2:1-5
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
B. There are benefits to being an adopted child of Almighty God. Not only have our sins been fully atoned in the death of our Lord Christ, not only have we been declared righteous by imputation of Christ’s own perfection and sinless nature. We have the clear expectation of eternal life in the presence of God, joint heirs with our Lord Christ in all the Father delights to grant unto us!
Will there also be struggles as we continue to live in this fallen world? Absolutely! Paul writes about how believers will undergo trials and tribulations for Christ’s sake. But, he reminds us that we are the children of God: THE CHILDREN OF GOD! And, though hell itself raise up against us, we need not fear because God has done, what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do! He saved us, adopted us into His own family, promised us an inheritance incorruptible reserved in heaven! Praise the Lord: We are the adopted Children of God!
Lord, may you bless the preaching of your Word today for Christ’s sake and in His Name Amen.