Adoption and the Certainty of Future Glory
Romans 8:9 clearly sets forth the Holy Spirit as the key to victory in Christian’s life. That truth carries over to verses 12_17, which their teaching of the adoption of believers into the family of God as witnessed by the Spirit.
But before we move into that segment of the chapter it will be helpful to summarize the blessings set forth in verses 1-11.
They are many and comforting:
- Believers are no longer under condemnation (verse 1)
- They have been set free from the law of sin and death (verse 2)
- They are no longer under sin’s dominion (verse 2).
- They walk by the Spirit (verse 4).
- Their minds are set on the spirit (verse 5, 6).
- They have life and peace through the Spirit (verse 6)
- God’s Spirit dwells in them (verse 9)
- Their spirits have been made alive (verse 10).
- The resurrection of the bodies is guaranteed (verse 11).
That’s quite a list to be thankful for. Paul tells the Romans in verse 12 that they are “debtors’ because of all God’s gifts to them. Their obligation in the face of the debt in the flow of the argument since the beginning of Romans 6 is to live according to God’s principles. After all, if the indwelling Spirit has given them life (Romans 8:10), how can the continue in the way of death?
At this point, following the logic of the book of Romans, it is absolutely crucial to recognize that we are not in God’s debt unless He has already rescued us. First comes salvation, then follows the response of faith empowered by the Spirit. That order of events is of the utmost importance. Christians keep God’s law not to be save but because they have already been saved by God’s grace.
Verse 14-17 set forth the often-neglected teaching that Christians are adopted into the family of God. “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” Yet isn’t everyone a child of God, Christian or not? Paul emphatically states NO! The idea that all men are children of God is not found in the Bible anywhere. The Old Testament shows God as the Father, not of all men, but of His own people, the seed of Abraham.” And the New Testament plainly states that we are of Abraham’s seed if we have accepted Christ (Galatians 3:26-29). “Sonship to God is not therefore, a universal status upon which everyone enters by natural birth. But a supernatural gift which one receives through receiving Jesus. That conclusion rings true to Jesus’ discussion of the new birth in John 3:3-6 and John’s declaration that “to all who receive him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born. Not of blood nor of the will of the flesh not of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12, 13).
Thus, the sonship and daughterhood is a gift of grace, conferred when a person accept Jesus as Savior by Faith. And it comes when people through the power of God’s Spirit decide to give up their “in Adam” Status in which they were born and accept the “in Christ” status made possible by Jesus on Calvary. Those who accept Christ by faith, Paul claims, “receive adoption” (Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5).
Being adopted into God’s family, of course, changes every aspect of God’s lives. Not only will they continue to live in the spirit, but it will heal their relationship with other members of God’s family. After all, it is impossible to love the Father without loving his other children.
Romans 15 and 16 mark the high point of Romans 8:12-17 in relation to the chapters theme of demonstrating that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (verse 1). Not only have Christians been adopted into the family of God (verse 15) but “the Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God’ (verse 16, NASB). The Spirit’s confirmation to us that we are indeed adopted into God’s family means that we are heirs of God if we stick with him. (verse 17).
With verse 18-25 we come to one of the New Testament’s great passages on the hope of the second advent that makes all our current trials and sufferings pale into relative insignificance (verse 18). Verses 19-22 picture the whole of creation as being under the effects of sin first reflected on in the curse of Genesis 3:17-19.
Then verse 23 transitions from the nonhuman creation to groaning humanity as it eagerly awaits its “adoption” as Children of God. The word adoption cries out for explanation, since Paul had told the Romans back in verses 14-16 that they had already been adopted when they accepted Christ. How can it be that they are still awaiting adoption in verse 23?
The answer lies in the texts themselves and goes back to what we might call being “half saved.” When we come to God in faith, we receive justification, He sets us apart for service (sanctification), and He gives us a new heart and mind. Those are all parts of our salvation. And they are things already accomplished.
But as chapter 7 so graphically illustrated, our new minds and hearts are still housed in the same old bodies, with all of their “twitches” toward temptation (Romans 7:18, 24). Thus, we are adopted into the family of God at our conversion but do not receive its full benefits until “the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23). Paul places that event at the second coming of Christ, when those who have died in Christ, God now resurrect with bodies that are both immortal and incorruptible (I Corinthians 15:51-54). At that point, according to Romans 8:23 he refers to it as the blessed hope.” And here we need to remember that for Paul “hope” is not wishful thinking but a promised certainty.
It is in that context that Paul sets forth two short paragraphs on God’s providential care for His children. The first (romans 8:26, 17) has to do with prayer. The good news is that we are not alone when we pray. One of the Holy Spirits functions is to guide believers in their prayer lives.
The second paragraph (verses 28-30) deals with God’s providence in a Christian’s daily life. Verse 28 tells us that “we know” that He will guide the events of our daily lives for our best good. Romans 8:28 is truly one of the Bible’s great passages of comfort to each believer. While we don’t always understand why some particular thing is happening to us, we can still trust that God knows what He is doing and will actively use events in our lives to His glory and for our salvation.
That thought brings us to verse 29 and 30, in which many think they have discovered the key text teaching the unconditional predestination of some individuals (e.i. the “called”) to salvation. But their assertions are indeed incorrect. This is a passage which has been very seriously misused. If we are ever to understand this passage, we must grasp basic fact that Paul never meant it to be the expression of the theology or philosophy.
To the contrary, the purpose of verse 29 and 30 in their context is pastoral and practical. Paul is continuing to comfort those suffering (verse 17) and groaning or sighing (verse 23, 26) in their half-saved condition (verse 11, 17, 23-25).
He wants them to know in verse 29 and 30 that their ultimate destiny is in God’s loving hands. He had chosen them to be His children, and they had responded in faith. He will not let them go. He will carry them through until their glorification at the second advent.
Thus, Paul concludes his comforting of believers who experience both the internal tension of Romans 7 and the external tensions of Romans 8. He will now move to a song of triumph in verse 31-39 to tell them in no uncertain terms that nothing can separate those “in Christ” (verse 1) from God’s love. Thus, it is that the use of glorified” in the past tense in verse 30 is quite correct even though the actual event is still future. Verse 31-39 trumpet the truth that glorification is an accomplished reality for those who maintain their faith in Christ.