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. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Sometimes there are scriptures that are almost too intense, too personal, to speak about. They cut to the soul, laying open some of the most tender and raw spaces.
I find Romans 14-18 to be one such passage. The words here are almost too much to bear; too much to hear. And yet they are words that carry such tremendous, tremendous hope.
In looking at the scripture before this passage, we’ve been taught what it means to be in Christ Jesus, to be in the Spirit (verse 8:11). But in verse 14, just like peeling the layers of an onion, Paul drills down to a whole new level when he declares that those led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God. How can that be? It’s already such a large concept to grasp that God had a son, named Jesus, whom He gave to be the sacrifice for our sins, and who rose again and is ascended into heaven. But now we are told that we, too are sons of God? It’s almost too much to take in; to comprehend. We are the sons of God. I am the daughter of God. It is hard to accept that, truth though it be.
Verse 15 is a verse I have difficulty writing about. I can’t even bring myself to read my previous study notes on Romans 8:15 (because I’ve studied this verse before), they are too raw. My soul. But if I can step outside of myself, I can start to take a larger view of verse 15 in it’s context.
“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear…” Fear. My old enemy. I think we all struggle with fear to some extent. It can be crippling, defeating. Fear of the present situation. Tremendous fear of the future. Fear of what others think. Fear of failure. And yet we are told here that we did not receive a spirit of being a slave to this fear, to falling back into this fear. If this is so, then there must be an alternative, a solution, an antidote to our fear.
And that comes in the second half of this verse. “but you have received the spirit of adoption of sons…” Not the spirit of fear. Not the spirit of fear, but the spirit of adoption of sons.
What is adoption? It is taking a child that had no protection, no one to love them unconditionally, no one to wipe their tears, to play with them, to provide for them, to care for them deeply, and becoming that child’s mommy and daddy, providing all of those things with all of their hearts and souls and minds to their now son or daughter. Adoption on this earth is the picture of adoption of our souls by our heavenly father. Whew.
I had friends that adopted a baby girl in an international adoption. I can’t even begin to tell you the difference in this sweet child’s eyes from her pictures before her adoption, and her eyes as she has grown up showered with love, protection and unconditional care. Eyes are important, they truly are the windows to the soul. Her eyes, once lonely and empty, turned to eyes that sparkled and shined as she thrived in the loving arms of her forever family.
And so it is with us. Our eyes are important. And before we become the sons and daughters of God, our souls are empty, they ache with a longing that can’t be filled in any other way than by adoption by God our father. And then, as God turns His eyes to us as only a father can, our eyes reflect that love.
There is something about the protection that a father is supposed to provide, that causes the second part of this verse to resonate, to sound forth with a cry familiar to all of us, whether that cry is answered in our earthly relationship with our father or not. A father is supposed to provide absolute protection, love, instruction, compassion and care. The last part of verse 15 declares “by whom we cry “Abba! Father!” Notice Paul does not say that we “say” Abba. No, we cry out Abba! Father! We cry out to our Father in heaven for the protection and care and love and instruction that we so desperately need. And we have the right–the right!–to call out to Him because He has adopted us to be His sons and daughters. My soul, so much more I could write about this, but I dare not. I can not.
But how do we know? How do we KNOW that we are the sons and daughters of our God? Verse 16 answers this all-important question. We know because the Spirit that Christ puts within us gives witness to the fact that this passage is truth. And the Spirit gives this witness to our spirit–to our very soul. We can know it to be truth. We can know it to be truth. Oh, we may question it some times. I often question it, because I know that I am so unworthy, so very unworthy to be His daughter. Or in the middle of the night, when I am awakened by an evil nightmare, it is difficult to cry out “Abba! Father!” in those moments, though my soul longs to. But it is the spirit that speaks to my spirit tenderly, reminding me that I am his.
And if we are children….then that means we are heirs of God! And fellow heirs with Jesus. How can that be? How is that I, this insignificant, imperfect, often failing child be an heir of God? Through adoption. Through adoption. Families that adopt have to update their will to reflect the change in their family. God updates His “will” to reflect the adoption of us as his children, thus making us heirs. And what do we inherit? Eternal life. This world is not our home. Jesus has gone to prepare a new place for us, and we shall inherit that new home some day soon.
But we are heirs with one caveat…and that is provided we suffer with Christ in order that we may also be glorified with Him. “Wait!” one might say. Suffer with Christ? What does that mean?
Life here, even as the sons and daughters of God, contains suffering. Sometimes, it is small, inconsequential suffering of having a tough day. But other times it can be immense suffering: Persecution. Loss of a marriage. Loss of a child. Violation of some sort. Loss of innocence. A devastating illness. And so much more. There is much suffering in this imperfect, fallen world. We can not escape this life without experiencing suffering in some form.
But we are called to echo Paul in verse 18; or, at least to follow his lead. For Paul says that he considers that the sufferings of this present life are nothing–nothing in comparison with the glory that will be revealed to us, the glory that we will inherit as the sons and daughters of our God. O, my soul, sometimes the sufferings of this world seem nearly too much to bear. Too heavy. But Paul says they are nothing compared with what is to come, with what God our Father has planned for us. It reminds me of another important verse: 2nd Corinthians 4:17:
Weight of Glory–what an amazing phrase. Beyond all comparison. Will we even be able to bear it? Good grief, sometimes the longing to go home overshadows all else.
I can’t think of a more fitting way to end this post, than to share a video that I’ve shared before. You can view it by clicking Here. When I first discovered it, I was knocked for a loop. This is my story. This is my story exactly. I was the rebel. My rebellion was immense.
And now, I am His child: