Sunday, February 5, 2012
COMMENTARY ON ROMANS 8:11-17
(11) But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. (12) Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. (13) For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deed of the body, ye shall live. (14) For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. (15) For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. (16) The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: (17) And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
Verse 11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you — The spiritual resurrection of believers is the guarantee of their participation in the resurrection of the body, for the Spirit through whom God raised Jesus our Lord from the dead already dwells in their hearts. “Him that raised up Jesus from the dead” is a periphrasis of God the Father. The Son raised Himself, John 2:19; 10:18; and yet the Father is said to have raised Him from the dead (Heb. 13:20). Christ rose again from the dead, and thereby declared or manifested Himself to be the Son of God with power; see John 2:19, 21; 5:26; 10:18; 1 Cor. 15:4. And though it is said in Scripture that the Father raised Him from the dead, Acts 2:24; 13:30,33; yet, that does not hinder but by His power He raised Himself; seeing the Father and He were One, and the works of the Three Persons in one and the same Essence are undivided. The resurrection of the Saviour is the grand luminary of the faith — it touches and gilds with its brilliance each cardinal doctrine of our faith. As regenerate sinners the elect know experimentally the life giving power of our risen Lord (Phil. 3:10), by being a partaker of its quickening energy, to be sensible of its life-giving, life-elevating power. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet. 1:3). To be sensible of His amazing power in the soul is to be born again — to be raised from the grave of corruption — to live on earth a Heavenly, a resurrection-life — to have the heart daily ascending in the sweet incense of love, and prayer, and praise, where our risen, living Master is.
“He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” — our natural body which is a dying body, subject to diseases, infirmities, afflictions, and eventually physical death, because of sin. But if by grace through faith the Spirit of God dwells in us, death gains not the victory over us, for in His appointed time God shall also raise our bodies from the grave (1 Cor. 15:12-22, 42-44), in the image of His Son, Christ Jesus our Lord (1 John 3:1-3). The Holy Spirit will make our bodies alive at the resurrection, and glorify these bodies, and when they come out of the grave they will be spiritual bodies and not carnal bodies (1 Cor. 15:42-44).
“He that raised up Christ from the dead,” on account of that which justifies His people — His finished work, “will,” at the appointed time, “also raise their mortal” and “dead bodies.” The resurrection of the dead bodies of believers is represented as rising from their connection with the Holy Spirit as well as with our Lord Jesus Christ. We shall be raised by the mighty power of God, by virtue of our union with Christ as His members, and by virtue of our relation to the Holy Spirit as His temples. With Job the saints of God say with joy, “I know that my Redeemer liveth” (Job 19:25). And our living Redeemer utters to the hearts of His people those words of pure grace, “Because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19).
Verse 12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. “Therefore,” sends us to look back to what Paul has been saying: Since we are not in the flesh, but have the Spirit of God dwelling in us; not only sanctifying and enlivening our souls for the present, but raising and quickening our bodies for the time to come; “we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.” To be debtor to another here speaks as equivalent to have received favors from him; and, consequently, being under obligations to show gratitude by seeking to please him. But what do we owe, O Christian, to the flesh? In our unregenerate state we obeyed its sinful motions, gratified its corrupt lusts; and what did we reap, but shame and sorrow? The flesh, with its corruptions and lusts, is at enmity to our God, and at war with our souls. We owe no debt to the flesh. As temples of the Holy Ghost we are to no longer render obedience to the dictates of the flesh (1 Cor. 3:16). The flesh has no valid claim upon the true believer; he is under no obligations to yield compliance with its feigned exactions. It has done us nothing but mischief. Before receiving a new nature by the new birth, it might have given us some temporary gratification, but it could not and, therefore, did not give us permanent good, no, it did us much harm. We owe it no acknowledgment — no service. We owe nothing to sin, the parent of all our woe; to Satan — who plotted our temptation and accomplished our downfall; to the world — ensnaring, deceitful, and ruinous. To these auxiliaries and allies of the flesh, we owe nothing but the deepest hatred, and the most determined opposition (Psa. 97:10; 119:104).
And yet the saints of God are “debtors” to the Father, for His electing love, for the covenant of grace, for His unspeakable gift, for having blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus our Lord! Equal debtors are we to the Son. He was the active agent in our redemption. It was He who undertook and accomplished all that our salvation required. And no less indebted are we to the Holy Spirit. He awakened us to our guilty and lost condition, revealed in us the beauty and glory of Christ as our Saviour and Lord, and sealed to our hearts our pardon in Him. Christians owe to the Holy Spirit all that is good in their character, happy in their circumstances, and glorious in their hopes.
Calvinist Pastor Henry Mahan wrote, “Since our primary interest is not the flesh, materialism and things of this world, but the kingdom of God and His righteousness, since to be fleshly-minded is a sign of absence of the Spirit of Christ, since our flesh and all pertaining thereto shall die and we shall be raised in His likeness, we are not obligated to live for the flesh and this world, but to live unto Christ, who redeemed us. Men who are freed from condemnation and death are not freed from obedience; but to whom much is given, he will love much. We are motivated to holiness by our love for Christ and His love for us (2 Cor. 5:14-15).”
We complete comments on this verse with the words of the godly William Mason concerning our attitude the flesh. “Lord, strengthen us daily, to deny its demands, and mortify its lusts! For, we are not debtors to the flesh; but to the Spirit. Debtors, in an immense sum of love and gratitude. Time can never discharge it. We shall be paying this debt, through a never-ending eternity”.
Verse 13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. David Brown wrote, “If ye do not kill sin, it will kill you” (Matt. 5:29; Mark 9: 43-48; Gal. 5:24). To “live after the flesh, “is to follow the corrupt principles of our fallen human nature, unchanged by the regenerating Holy Ghost, and be governed in character and guided in the conduct by it. The apostle says that the consequence of this “is death.” He who lives after the flesh “is dead while he liveth” (1 Tim. 5:6), and his course will end in the second death; and this is true of all who live after the flesh, whether grossly immoral or not. Whatever anyone professes, whatever they seem or pretend to be, if they live after the flesh, the end of those things is eternal death (Gal. 6:8).
If, on the other hand, they live after the Spirit, and through the Spirit mortify the deeds of the body, they shall certainly live. To, “live after the Spirit,” is to regulate our whole inner and outer life in conformity with the new nature produced by the Holy Ghost (Eph. 4:22). First, we are regenerated by Him into newness of life, for the Holy Ghost is given in regeneration to every true believer. Only those who have received the Holy Spirit are real Christians for “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his,” as Paul says in the 9th verse. The Pentecostal, Charismatic tendency to classify Christians into two categories — those who have, and those who have not, received the Holy Spirit — is delusional and unscriptural. First Corinthians 12:13 makes it clear that all Christians, and only Christians, have the Holy Spirit. Scripture does not teach a “second” work of grace, as these misguided people teach and believe, but it does most certainly teach a continuing work of grace, and this involves a greater and greater fulness of the Holy Spirit in the Christian’s life (2 Cor. 9:8,14).
The true Christian does “mortify the deeds of the body.” “The deeds of the body,” does not refer to the natural functions of the human body, such as eating, drinking, and sleeping, or its natural likings and disliking. These are to be regulated, not mortified, by the Holy Ghost. The “deeds of the body” is equivalent in meaning to the “working of the law of sin in the members;” “our members that are on the earth;” “the lusts of the flesh;” “the deeds of the old man.” To “mortify” these, is to put them to death — not to extirpate the natural principle, but to put an end to its undue measure and wrong direction (Rom. 13:14). This can be done only “by the Spirit.”
No works of the flesh will ever “mortify the deeds of the flesh.” It is only “through the Spirit” that this can possibly be accomplished. Mortification of sin in the godly has been greatly misunderstood. Many think that a mere modification of bodily appearance fulfills their responsibility for mortification. Others have restricted it to the deletion of outward sins. Perfectionists have represented it as consisting in the destruction of sin altogether in the believer. All of these are fleshly delusions.
True mortification has its foundation in the life of God in the soul. A spiritual, yea, a most spiritual work, it can only spring from a most spiritual principle (Rom. 7:6). It is not a plant that springs from or grows in nature’s garden. It cannot be in the principle of sin to mortify itself. Fallen nature possesses neither the desire, nor the power, by which so holy an achievement can be accomplished. Mortification is a sincere sorrow of heart that we have provoked God by our sins, in other words, true repentance, and it is manifest in the fact that we more and more hate sin and flee from it (2 Cor. 7:10). “Mortify” does not signify “slay or extinguish indwelling sin” nor “render lifeless your lusts.” It means to die unto them in your affections, intentions, resolutions, and efforts. We mortify sin by detesting it. “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer” (1 John 3:15), and this Scripture clearly shows that just so far as we really hate our corruptions have we morally slain them. The child of God evidences his hatred of sin by mourning when it has gained an advantage over him (Job 42:6). If it be his sincere intention and honest resolution to subdue every rising of his depravity and the commission of every sin, then in the sight of our Heavenly Father, who accepts the will for the deed, he has “mortified” them. When we contritely confess our sins unto God and forsake them so far of any purpose to repeat them is concerned, we have mortified them (Eph. 5:11; Rom. 13:14). Mortification is aptly set forth as a crucifixion: “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Gal. 5:24).
“If ye.” The believer has a constant duty to engage in the putting to death of the sin that still indwells his mortal frame. We should, can, and must mortify sin in our beings (rom. 6:17-19). This is essential if we are to live eternally with our Lord. It is clear that this is our own personal responsibility. The work of the Spirit is not designed to be a substitute for the personal work of the believer. His influence, indispensible and sovereign though it is, does not release us from our human and individual responsibility. “Work out your own salvation” (Phil. 2:12). “Keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude 21). These are exhortations which emphatically and distinctly recognize the obligation of personal effort and human responsibility. Mortification is a work which true believers must address, and that with prayerful and resolute earnestness.
Yet we acknowledge in our weakness that mortification infinitely transcends the mightiest puttings forth of creative power (John 15:5). “If ye through the Spirit do mortify.” This He does by making us more sensible of the existence of indwelling sin — by deepening aspirations after holiness — by shedding abroad the love of God in our hearts. This is all only possible in the strength that the Holy Ghost supplies. It is something that we do have to do ourselves, yet it is something that we cannot do in the least by ourselves (Phil. 2:13). It is altogether “through the Spirit.” It is His work in us (Isa. 26:12). And above all, the Spirit mortifies sin in the believer by unfolding of the Lord Jesus Christ. Leading us to the Cross, He shows us that as Christ died for sin, so we must die to sin. One real, believing sight of the Christ of the Cross! — oh, what a crucifying power it has! Paul, standing beneath the shadow of the Cross and gazing on his crucified Lord Christ, exclaimed, “But God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Gal. 6:14). Dear saint of God, get near the Saviour’s Cross, if you would accomplish anything in this great and necessary work of mortification. The Holy Spirit effects it, but through the instrumentality of the Atonement. There must be personal, vital contact with the Lord Jesus Christ. This only draws forth His grace. All of God’s blessings, graces, and promises are IN CHRIST.
The “Spirit” of this verse is none other than the Spirit of Christ and of God (see Rom. 8:9,11) who indwells true believers, gives life to them, and makes intercession for them (Rom. 8:9,11, 26). And just as regeneration and true intercession are impossible without the Spirit, so mortification of sin can only be performed by the Spirit. A.W Pink has said, “Without the Spirit’s help we can neither mortify our lusts, pray aright (Rom. 8:26), nor bear fruit (Eph. 5:9). Yet there must be our concurrence: we may, we can, concur or we should not appear different from the unregenerate. God works all our works for and in us, yet also by us. The Holy Ghost is the Author of this work in us, so that although it is our duty, it is His grace and strength whereby it is performed. He brings the Cross of Christ into the heart of a sinner by faith, and gives us communion with Christ in His death, and fellowship in His sufferings.”
The Lord Jesus sees the poor and contrite; He sees the trembling and the lowly (Isa. 66:2); He meets the uplifted glance; He feels the thrill of the trembling, hesitating, yet believing touch, and when He subdues our iniquities, He does not eradicate them, but weakens the strength of their root. The principle of sin remains, but it is impaired.
Let us not overlook the power of the instrumentality of which the Spirit mortifies sin in us: “Sanctify them through thy truth” (John 17:17). The truth as it is in Jesus our Lord, revealed more clearly to the mind, and impressed more deeply on the heart, transforms the soul into its own Divine and holy nature. Let us look from everything to Christ. Look not within for sanctification; look for it from Christ. He is as much our “sanctification,” as He is our “righteousness” (1 Cor. 1:30). Oh, to be ever “Looking unto Jesus.” Believers live in Christ now and shall live with Christ for ever.
Verse 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. The apostle proceeds with the great object of the paragraph — to show that none but those made holy in heart and in life actually have a saving interest in God’s method of justification. “They who are led by the Spirit of God,” are they who “live by the Spirit,” “walk after the Spirit,” and “by the Spirit mortify the deeds of the body.” Man, left to guide himself, as a fallen creature, possesses vast and uncontrollable powers of self-destruction. Many are guided by the spirit of the world, which is the all-pervading and controlling power of the spirit of darkness, which is emphatically denominated the “god of this world.”
The saints are “led by the Spirit,” the sure Guide. It is the office of JEHOVAH the Spirit in the covenant of redemption, after He has called a people out of the world, to be sent by Christ as their Head and undertake their future guidance by indwelling their hearts and leading them on the path to Heaven (John 16:13-14). He does not undertake to lead a spiritual corpse, a soul dead in sins. It is the regenerate, those in whom is spiritual life that the Spirit leads. The leading of the Spirit, then, is His acting upon His own life in the soul of the elect sinner. They are entirely unable to lead themselves. “I will lead the blind by a way they know not” (Isa. 42:16). And such are we for we are unable to discern a single step before us, and incapable of taking that step even when discerned, for we ever need the guidance of the Holy Ghost. What can we see of truth, providence, and God’s mind and will, of ourselves? Absolutely nothing.
In leading the sons of God, the Holy Ghost leads us from ourselves — from all reliance on our own righteousness, and from all dependence upon our native strength. This severing from ourselves — from all our idols — is a perpetual, unceasing work of the Spirit. Only the Blessed Spirit could so lead us away from self, in all its forms, as to constrain us to trample all our own glory in the dust, and acknowledge with Paul that we are “less than the least of all saints” (Eph. 3:8). So from sinful self, as well as from righteous self, the Spirit of God leads us.
In our deep necessity, He leads us to Christ Jesus our Lord. Now that by God’s sovereign, saving grace we know something experimentally of the Lord Jesus Christ, to whom would we go but to Him. Having severed us in some degree from ourselves, He brings us into realization of our union with the Precious Saviour. “He shall glorify me, for he shall take of mine and show it unto you” (John 16:14). We are led of the Spirit if we truly hunger and thirst after that righteousness which is to be imputed and imparted to those that seek it (Matt. 5:6). Are we guilty? — the Spirit leads us to the precious blood of Christ; weary? — to abide in Christ; sorrowful? — to the sympathy of our Lord Jesus; tempted — to the protection of Christ; sad and desolate? — to the tender love of Immanuel; poor, empty and helpless? — to the fulness of Him as our all in all (Eph. 1:23). Yes the Holy Spirit is our Comforter, but the holy Lord Christ is our comfort. And to the Lord Jesus Christ — to His Peron, His offices, His work, in life and in death, the Divine Guide ever leads us.
He leads us to the truth. Our Master said, “He shall guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). When many professing religionists are led off into error and false doctrine, it is most certain that they have not been led by the Spirit. Although they claim Him as their Teacher, He disowns them as His disciples. As the “Spirit of truth” He reveals nothing but truth, teaches nothing but truth, and leads to nothing but truth. Also, He leads to all holiness (1 Thes. 4:7). As the “Spirit of holiness,” He deepens the impress of the restored image of God in the soul of the redeemed, increases their happiness by making them more holy, and advances their holiness by making them more like God (Heb. 12:10). Thus He leads to only that which is sanctifying. “All the unfolding He makes of Christ, all the views He unveils of God, all the deeper insight to truth which He imparts, all the rebukes He faithfully yet gently whispers, all the chambers of imagery in our hearts which He opens, and all the joy which He inspires, have this for their single object — the perfection of us in holiness” (Octavius Winslow). The Lord Christ is the source, the truth is the instrument, and the Spirit is the agent of our sanctification.
He leads to all comfort. There is no sorrow of the believing heart to which He is indifferent, or His sympathy does not embrace. He leads the sorrowful to all comfort by applying the precious promises, by leading to Christ, by bending the will in deep submission to God, and by unveiling to faith’s far-seeing eye the glories of a sorrowless, tearless, sinless, eternal world (2 Cor. 1:3). And, He leads to glory. As another has said, “There He matures the kingdom, and perfects the building and completes the temple He commenced and occupied while on earth. Every soul graced by His presence, every heart touched by His love, every body sanctified as His temple, He will lead to Heaven.” While our Lord Christ is in Heaven preparing a place for His people, the Holy Ghost is on earth, preparing His people for that place with Christ.
These, and these only, “are the sons of God,” that God regards and treats as His children. As many, and no more, as are led by the Spirit to live in the Spirit, and by the Spirit to mortify the deeds of the body, are objects of God’s favor. The sanctifying influence of the Holy Ghost in the new nature, showing itself in holy dispositions and actions, is satisfactory evidence, and nothing else is permanently satisfactory evidence, that a person is in a justified state. All who are conscious of this guidance by the Spirit have an indubitable evidence of their Divine sonship. It is a dignified and holy relationship, and it implies an assimilation of nature with God. The regenerate are denominated the “sons of God,” because they are “partakers of the Divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4).
Verse 15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. Some interpreters understand that the “spirit of bondage” is the Spirit of God, but the Scripture, speaking as the very voice of God, says, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17). The Spirit of God never was, never is, nor ever can be the spirit of bondage to any soul. It is contrary to His name, the Comforter, the Spirit of promise — the Spirit of Christ — the Spirit of liberty — a free Spirit — the Spirit of adoption. It is contrary to His office, as the Comforter — the Glorifier of the Lord Jesus — by taking the things of Christ and showing them to us, and bearing witness to our spirits; of that holy freedom and happy liberty which we have in Him from all kinds of bondage, whether of sin, the Law, death, or Satan. When the Holy Ghost convinces of sin, and shines the Law in its spirituality into his heart, the sinner experiences a sense of bondage to fear the curses of the Law denounced against sin, and upon him as a guilty sinner. This is a must in real conversion of the soul to Christ, but even when our Lord Christ speaks of the Spirit’s convicting of sin, He calls Him the Comforter (John 16:7).
“The spirit of bondage” — the word “spirit” here describes a frame of mind; as when the apostle says, “the spirit of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7). “The spirit of bondage,” is a slave-like spirit — a spirit of dislike and fear. In their unconverted state all are under this servile spirit, which is a character of fallen humanity. It is a great, an awful truth, we are all naturally under bondage to the Law, sin, and death. But when the gracious Lord the Spirit is pleased to visit our souls with His quickening power, and enlightening agency, then we see, know, and feel, the miserable bondage which we are in and under: we feel the terrors of a broken Law, dread the sword of vindictive justice, tremble under the sense of sin, and are horribly afraid of the stroke of death. But, even here, the Holy Spirit can with no propriety be called the Spirit of bondage. When the apostle tells the converted Romans “Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again, to fear,” we are to understand that he was speaking of their former natural state, subject to perpetual dread and slavish tormenting fear of coming short of life and salvation, which they must have done, without Christ and His salvation.
“But ye have received the Spirit of adoption.” In Gal. 4:6-7 the Spirit is called the Spirit of the Son. In the Scriptural truth of the Trinity God is Triune, meaning that He is One in Being, and three in Persons. The First Person, the Father, eternally lives the life of the one Divine Being as Father; that is, He eternally generates the Son. The Son eternally lives the life of that one Divine Being as Son, eternally generated of the Father. And the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. He is, therefore, the Spirit of the Father as well as the Spirit of the Son. That Spirit of Christ Who dwells in our hearts is the Spirit of God’s Son, and therefore the Spirit of sonship, the Spirit of adoption.
But it pleased God to have many sons so He adopted us. He gave us the right to be His sons, and all the privileges of children of God. We, who by nature are not children of God, but children of the devil, exiles from God’s house, His enemies, He adopted, gave the right to His love, His care, His blessings, and His fellowship. He gave us the adopted us and made us legal heirs of all the blessings of salvation. This adoption is an act of pure grace.
There are various aspects or stages in this gracious act of adoption. It has its source in God’s eternal decree. First, the eternal only begotten Son of God was ordained to be the firstborn of every creature, the firstborn of the dead, and the firstborn among many brethren, the Head of the Church; and in Him and unto Him He adopted all the elect to become sons of God. For He “predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherewith he hath made us accepted in the beloved” (Eph. 1:5-6). And Christ “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature . . . and he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence” (Col. 1:15, 18). “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn of many brethren” (Rom. 8:29). In sovereign grace, therefore, he adopted us from before the foundation of the world, and that, in Christ, the firstborn from the dead.
Secondly, this adoption is realized in time, and will be perfected in the day of Christ, through the resurrection, and by the revelation of the righteous judgment of God. It is realized through the Cross, the perfect sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. We came into this world in fallen Adam, as children of wrath, with no right to sonship whatever, guilty and worthy of eternal desolation and damnation. But the eternal only begotten Son assumed the flesh and blood of the children, came in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, took His ordained position at the head of all the elect, took the whole burden of their guilt sin upon His mighty shoulders, and with that burden of sin upon Him took the place of God’s judgment and wrath in their stead, and in their behalf, offered the perfect sacrifice for sin, obtained for His own perfect and everlasting righteousness, the right to be restored to God’s favor, to become the sons of God, and to dwell in His house forever. God realized our adoption unto children and hears through the death of His begotten Son. And in the resurrection of Christ from the dead, this adoption received His own official seal. He was raised for our justification (Rom. 4:25). Our Lord Christ, crucified and raised, is the ground of our adoption. We are children for His sake.
Thirdly, this adoption is bestowed upon us, and realized in us, through the Spirit of Christ, and by God-given faith. The Spirit of Christ is the Spirit of adoption through Whom we cry Abba, Father. “Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (Gal 4:6). He makes us partakers of the adoption unto children by the faith He works in our hearts, by which we embrace Christ and all His benefits, are confident that we are justified, and that for the sake of Christ we are the sons of God with all the rights of children. This Spirit witnesses with our spirit that we are the sons of God. And the same Spirit also realizes the adoption by causing us to be born of God, by restoring in us the image of God, and making us like the image of the Son as the firstborn from the dead. What an earthly father is impotent to do, i.e. to make of his adopted child a son of his own flesh and blood, God performs by the wonder of His grace in our Lord Christ. He regenerates us, calls us out of darkness into His marvelous light, makes us partakers of His own life and love, and thus bestows upon us the grace of actual sonship.
Lastly, this adoption unto sons of God awaits its final perfection in the day of Christ. For we “ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:23). In that day we shall be publicly and before all the world justified and manifested as sons of God, and the image of God shall be raised in us to the highest possible glory of a creaturely likeness, for then we shall be perfectly conformed to the image of God’s only begotten Son in our glorified Christ.
In our text the believers themselves are presented as crying, “Abba, Father.” But in Gal. 4:6-7 it is the Spirit Himself Who is represented as crying the same. It is the Spirit of Christ as He is sent into the hearts of believers Who is so presented as crying, “Abba, Father.” Because the Spirit of God’s Son is sent forth into our hearts, and because as sent into our hearts He cries, “Abba, Father,” therefore we also can be, and are, described as crying, “Abba, Father.”
Verse 16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God. The godly, scholarly, commentator William S. Plumer wrote wisely in his accurate and experimental commentary on this great Epistle of Romans concerning “The Spirit itself,” “The pronoun itself is used because in gender, number and person it agrees with the word rendered Spirit. But the masculine pronoun is also applied to the Holy Ghost, John 14:26; 15:26; 16:8, 13, 14; and elsewhere. So that the Scripture clearly teaches that the Spirit is not an influence but a Person, of whom it is proper to say He, His, Him.” The Spirit testifies by His saving work in the hearts of His people. He convinces His elect of sin, of righteousness and of judgment (John 16:8-11). He reveals to and in them the way of salvation by our sovereign Redeemer (John 15:26; 16:14; Gal. 1:16). He works in us all the Christian graces (Gal. 5:22-23). He strengthens all the good principles in them which He implants (Eph. 3:16; Col. 1:11). And He gives to the soul of His people testimony of His presence and their own gracious state.
Many poor, deluded Charismatics, Pentecostalists, and others, teach that there is an impression by the Spirit directly on the imagination, by some immediate communication from the Spirit, that your sins are forgiven, and that you are a child of God. This is but a mere species of enthusiasm. But let no true believer be distressed or deluded by this false doctrine and deceiving of others. Flee from false teachings that consider outward visions, voices, manifestations, heats or fancies, direct inspiration, or revelation that may be seen, heard, or felt by the outward senses. No; far different from this is the mode of His testimony. He first implants within the elect soul the germ of spiritual life (2 Cor. 3:6), which, beneath His culture, produces the “fruit of love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” The Spirit bears witness to our spirits, not to our senses. He incites in His true children an influence of Himself, exciting such a love for God and Jesus Christ, such clear, Scriptural views of their character that the subject knows from experience and from Scripture that he is a child of God and an heir of salvation. From this we are to draw the rational deduction of our adoption.
“The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit.” The breathing of the renewed heart after holiness — the heart He wrought within us (Ezek. 36:26) — supplies another illustration of the mode of the Spirit’s testimony. The panting after Divine conformity is the Spirit’s inspiration. By begetting in us the Divine nature — by shedding abroad God’s love in our soul — by sprinkling the conscience with Christ’s atoning blood — by endearing the Precious Saviour to our hearts — by leading us to rest wholly in His finished work, yea, to rest in HIM alone — by creating and increasing love to all our brethren and sisters in Christ, and fellowship with whatever is holy, and heavenly, and useful, He thus testifies to our Divine relationship. It is all based on that which subsists between the Bible and the experience of the sanctified heart, by which the Spirit witnesses that we are born of God. Whatever may be the mode of His testimony; it never contradicts the Word of truth, but always is in perfect agreement with, and fully sustains it.
“That we are the children of God,” although in ourselves with such depravity of heart, such carnality of mind, such rebellion of will, such a propensity to evil each moment, and in everything such backslidings and flaws, does there yet exist within us a new nature that links us with the Divine (2 Pet. 1:4). We know the Spirit of Truth in the honest confession of human helplessness, painful doubt at times, yet, in the experience of Divine succor. “Hereby know we that we dwell in Him, and He in us, because He hath given us of His Spirit” (1 John 4:13). And the Spirit works love in the heart of the elect and this “love is of God” (1John 4:7). “We love him because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). “And every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God” (1 John 4:7). Spiritual life, and our knowledge and assurance thereof, does not exist in seeking happiness or spiritual enjoyment; but in knowing God in Christ by the Holy Ghost (Isa. 58:14). To know God and Jesus Christ is life eternal. To know God is to be acquainted with Him in His covenant — to enjoy Him in Christ Jesus our Lord — to commune with Him by the witness of His indwelling Spirit — to delight in Him as revealed in the Scriptures of Truth.
“That we are the children of God” — the grand evidence of a true faith and assurance is this inward testimony of the Holy Ghost; when He bares “witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” Our actual adoption cannot be more certain than this. It is secured to us by the predestinating love of God, and the everlasting covenant of grace; is confirmed by our union with the Lord Jesus Christ, and is sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise (Eph. 1:13). “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will” (Eph. 1:5). The testimony which the Spirit bares is designed to meet every phase of Christian experience, including painful doubtings and uncertainties to the children of God themselves, by which this glorious truth is often enshrouded. It is for the comfort and assurance of our own hearts, that the Spirit bears witness with our spirits that we are the children of God. His testimony is for the confirmation of our own faith and assurance, and the consolation of our own hearts (1 John 5:20). All that we have in the way of true religion, true assurance, or genuine experience is IN CHRIST JESUS our LORD. True faith and true love cannot be found out of Him.
Verse 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. “If children” — if we are dear to God, we shall be blessed by God. If we are children, made so by grace, He will treat us children — as His children. How can any sinners, who are by nature, children of wrath, be children of God? “God predestinated them unto the adoption of children, by Jesus Christ, to himself” (Eph. 1:5). They are begotten and born into the state of children by the Spirit of God; and by true God-given faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, they enjoy the knowledge and comfort of it.
“Then heirs,” to an immortal inheritance, of free grace, by free grace. We are heirs to all that God is in Himself — God Himself is the inheritance of His people. We are heirs that He has engaged to do, to make us holy, happy and wise in time, and to all eternity. Not only are all things in the covenant ours, but the God of the covenant is ours. “I am thy part and thine inheritance” (Num. 18:20) are His words addressed to all His children. Not only are they put in possession of all that God has — a boundless wealth; but they are in present possession of all that God is — an infinite Portion. “I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer. 31:33). What an immense truth of the covenant of grace, yea, it is the chief wealth and the great glory of that covenant that God is our God. This gives that great substance to its blessings and security to its foundation. “The Lord is my portion, saith my soul, therefore will I hope in him” (Lam. 3:24), for “truly in the Lord our God, is the salvation of (spiritual) Israel” Jer. 3:22-23). The love, the everlasting, changeless love that He bears to us, constrains Him to give Himself as our God, our Portion, our salvation, our all. There is in Him an all-sufficiency of love to comfort us; an all-sufficiency of strength to uphold us; an all-sufficiency of power to protect us; an all-sufficiency of good to satisfy us; an all-sufficiency of wisdom to guide us; an all-sufficiency of glory and bliss to make us happy here, and happy to all eternity. Oh, dear children of the King, “This is our God for ever and ever, and he will be our guide even unto death” (Psa. 48:14). “In thy presence there is fulness of joy, and at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Psa. 16:11).
As “heirs of God,” all things are ours, as Paul writes in 1 Cor. 3:21-23. Whether they be things temporal, spiritual, or eternal; whether they be things present or things to come, all are ours (Psa. 115:15-16). “That ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints” (Eph. 1:18) reveals that God has an inheritance in the saints, and our text revels that they have an inheritance in and from God; for if they are children, then they are heirs.
“Joint-heirs with Christ.” If we are one with Christ by true faith, then we are co-heirs to all that His Father, and our Father, has to bestow. The same blessings which Christ enjoys shall be bestowed on the children of God, and they shall enjoy these blessings in consequence of their vital union with Him. If we should inquire more distinctly what this “inheritance” is, Col.1:13 reveals that it is “the kingdom of God’s dear Son,” into which the saint is already translated. Joint-heirs with Christ must share His kingdom. He has now made us “kings and priests unto God” (Rev. 1:5). Sonship with God is heirship with Christ. All flows to His people through Him. “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance” (Eph. 1:10). “If a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Gal. 4:7). We must lay the same stress that the Scriptures lay on this great truth. We possess nothing — we receive nothing — we expect nothing but through Christ. He who is our Righteousness is the meritorious Recipient, and we only receive through Him (Heb. 9:15).
We are (1) Heirs of God; the Father with all that He has reserved in Heaven for His children; the Son with all spiritual blessings for His brethren; the Spirit with all covenant comforts to be communicated to His charge. (2) Heirs of the world (Rom. 4:16). God’s meek ones inherit the earth (Matt. 5:5). Paul says, “All things are yours” — the “world” among them (1 Cor. 3:21). (3) Heirs of salvation (Heb. 1:13). Salvation by purpose (2 Tim. 1:9), purchase and power (Heb. 9:12) — from all the sins which will and must depress me, from every curse which shall assail me, from every cross which shall oppress me, and, from my flesh which cannot but distress me. (4) Heirs of promise (Heb. 6:17). These two titles are linked together; “Heirs of promise,” and “Refugees of hope,” for these are they to whom the Father bestows every good thing in Christ Jesus — they are all ours by the Spirit of Christ. (5) Heirs of righteousness (Heb. 11:7). It is called the righteousness of God (Rom. 1:17) because God purposed it — the righteousness of the Law (Rom. 8:3) because the Law demanded it — the righteousness of Christ (2 Pet. 1:1) because Christ performed it — the righteousness of faith (Rom. 4:13) because faith apprehends it, and approves of it. (6) Heirs of the kingdom (Jam. 2:5). By regeneration we enter into it (John 3:5), and by the Spirit we enjoy its King, crown, throne, scepter, and blessings. As true saints we hope to appreciate it as we ought when the King shall say unto those on His right hand, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34).
“If so be that we suffer with Christ” — the fellowship of Christians with our Master, in time — on earth, in His sufferings, is in order that we may have fellowship with Him through eternity, in Heaven, in His glory (2 Tim. 2:11—12). Observe in what this joint-heirship consists — suffering, and glory. Our suffering with Christ means literally suffering in the fellowship of Christ, partaking of the same suffering as Christ — we endure the same suffering as Christ; we suffer on account of our relationship with Him. This suffering is certainly not the meritorious cause of glory. Christians “suffer” as men and as Christians; and the afflictions of the saints in ages past have been peculiarly numerous and severe. In becoming true Christians we are distinctly told that if we would be Christ’s disciples, we must renounce ourselves take up the cross (Matt. 16:24) — that “in the world they should have tribulation” (John 16:33) — and that “through much tribulation (affliction) they must enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). These sufferings are “sufferings with Christ” — borne in common with Him. This is true even of the ordinary afflictions of life. He bore these as well as us; and as borne by us, we indicate a fellowship with Him in His sufferings. This evil world hates our Lord, and His children as related to Him, and we, with Him, endure suffering at the hands of wicked men because of Who Christ is and what we are in Him. The wicked men of this world hated Christ, contradicted Him, mocked Him, rejected Him, and finally crucified Him. That same hatred of Christ, that same rejection, we suffer with Him (John 15:18). As the children of God submit patiently to, and acquiesce cheerfully in these afflictions, as righteous appointments of God, expressions of His displeasure of sin, as well as the means of their spiritual improvement (Heb. 12:8), they have a still closer fellowship with Christ to which, as Christians, they are exposed. They are treated as He was treated and they have His sympathy in all their sufferings. The sufferings of Christ have sanctified and sweetened the sufferings of His people. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his Master (Matt. 10:25). “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake” (Phil. 1:19). And when we suffer, it is a suffering with Christ. In all our affliction He is afflicted. He suffers with us.
“That we may be glorified together” — as suffering precedes glory, so glory assuredly follows suffering. Thus it was with our Lord Christ. To be “glorified with Christ,” is to be made partakers of His glory: it is to be made “like Him,” seeing Him as He is — conformed to Him in soul, and even in body. Our vile bodies are to be fashioned like unto His own glorious body, and we are to shine forth along with Him “as the sun in the kingdom of His Father” These sufferings “work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17). “It became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings” (Heb. 2:10); and by a somewhat similar course of trial does He conduct all His followers to fellowship with Him in glory. “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:7). Every trial will be found to have improved the character — made it more capable of the celestial glory, and nothing but the dross shall have perished. The afflictions of the justified are not only to be followed by glory, but they are the appointed and appropriate path to it.
“Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory” (John 17:24). Welcome the suffering, succeeded by such glory. Welcome the cross, followed by such a crown. Look at our Lord’s Word concerning the eternal election of Christ’s people, “Hath not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?” (Jam. 2:5). In that glorious day when Jehovah shall reckon up His jewels not one shall be wanting. Every predestinated child of God shall be found in the glory appointed by the Father, “glorified together.” RCLVC.
Worthy Doctrinal and Spiritual Notes and Quotes on Romans 8:11-17.
Verse 11. The true doctrine of the divinity, personality, and agency of the Holy Spirit in man’s salvation is of vital importance, vs. 1, 4, 5, 6, 9-11. Without the mediation of Christ we should not be in a more hopeless case than we should be without the effectual working and mighty energy of the Holy Ghost. Poor deluded souls, still sunk in gross ignorance and under the power of the wicked one, have sometimes brought great reproach upon this precious doctrine by their hypocritical cant and ungodly lives; but what doctrine have such men or others not abused? Let us not for a moment yield the truth because some pervert it and others scoff at it. It is freely conceded that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost, so abundantly granted at the first planting of churches, have ceased; but His ordinary and special influences in the church are as much needed as ever. The promise of the Holy Spirit to all God’s people is one of the vital promises of the covenant of grace, Isa. 44:3-5; Ezek. 36: 25-27. Nor have we higher authority or more encouragement to seek for anything than we have to pray for larger measures of the Holy Spirit, Matt. 7: 11; Luke 11: 13; John 4: 10. The gift of the Holy Spirit is a chief fruit of Christ’s undertaking, Acts 2: 33. It is alike a fruit of His intercession, John 14: 16, 17. The fact is, we are powerless for any good, unless we have the presence and aid of the Spirit. If there have been fanatics and filthy dreamers in the world, let us not turn formalists, and renounce the unspeakable blessing of the gift of the Spirit. Without Him we be all dead men. — William S. Plumer (1802-1880).
Wheresoever one person of the Trinity is, there the whole Trinity is present. — John Chrysostom (347-407).
Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace. (Psa. 37:37).This can be nothing else than the imputed righteousness of Christ put upon the sinner, and dwelling in him. He must have them both. The imputed righteousness of Christ put upon him is his justification, and that is the ground of his acceptance and welcome. The imparted righteousness of Christ put within him is his sanctification, and that makes him sincere before God, to mean what he says and say what he means. This is what I understand is meant by that passage in which the Holy Ghost taught the apostle to say, that the righteousness of God, which is by faith, is unto all, and upon all them that believe. It is placed unto their account for their uprightness, their justification before God; and it is put upon them, yea, dwelleth within them as the very mind, and spirit, and life of Christ, by which they are made sincere and honest before God. — Joseph Irons (1785-1852).
It should be noticed how significantly Paul varies in this connection the name of Christ. First he speaks of the raising of Jesus from the dead. Here the Saviour comes under the consideration as to Himself, His own human nature. Then he speaks of the raising of Christ Jesus from the dead. Here the Saviour comes under consideration as the Messiah in His representative capacity, which furnishes a guarantee that His resurrection must repeat itself in that of the others (His people, LVC). — Johannes G. Vos (1903-1983).
Verse 12. Where there is an ungodly walk, the blessing which is the fruit of the redemption cannot be taken in. — August Tholuck (1799-1877).
None of our obligations are to wrong. Liberty to sin has never been granted to any creature. Of two natural evils we may chose the least. Of two moral evils we may choose neither. Nor is an upright man ever so situated by providence that he must violate the law of his being. In every temptation there is provided a way of escape, 1 Cor. 10:13. — William S. Plumer (1802-1880).
There cannot be a more gross misunderstanding of the Gospel economy, than that it is destitute of as plain and direct and intelligible sanctions against moral evil, as those which are devised for upholding the legal economy. — Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847).
All that we owe to the flesh, is a holy revenge for the injuries already done, and the hindrances already given us; and instead of rendering our state doubtful, by living after it in any degree, we should, by the Spirit, continually endeavor, more and more entirely, to mortify it, and repress all its actings. — Thomas Scott (1747-1821).
Verse 13. A Christian indeed has a double principle influencing him. Though he has a law of sin that moves him one way, yet there is in him also the law of grace which thwarts and crosses that principle of corruption; so that as grace cannot do what it would, because of sin, so neither can sin do what it would, because of grace (Gal. 5:17). The heart of a Christian, in the midst of ensnaring, sensual enjoyments, finds indeed a corrupt principle in it, which would incline him to fall asleep on such a soft pillow and forget God; but it cannot. O no! It cannot do so. There is a principle of grace within him, supplied by Christ, that never leaves off disturbing and calling upon him till he is made to rise and return to his God, the true rest of the soul.—John Flavel, Puritan (1628-1691).
Withdraw the veil that conceals the Sun of Righteousness, and let Him shine in upon your soul, and the mortification of all sin will follow, and the fruits of all holiness will abound. — Octavius Winslow (808-1878),
Never let us reckon that our work in contending against sin, in crucifying, mortifying, and subduing of it, is at an end. The place of its habitation is unsearchable; and when we may think that we have thoroughly won the field, there is still some reserve remaining that we saw not, that we knew not of. Many conquerors have been ruined by their carelessness after a victory, and many have been spiritually wounded after great success against their enemy. David was so; his great surprise into sin was after a great profession, manifold experiences of God, and watchful keeping of himself from his iniquity. And hence in part has it come to pass, that the profession of many has declined in their old age or riper time. — John Owen, Puritan (1616-1683).
Nothing will deaden a man to the passing, gilded, scenes of time and sense, but a discovery of the substantial, unfading beauties of Jesus Christ. This will make a man set little store of the things of time and sense. A man may look at the shortness of life and the certainty of death; he may consider the Law’s threatenings, and the terrors of Hell fire; but these will not mortify sin. “If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” — Henry Fowler (1779-1838).
Verse 14. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. What a wonderful leadership is the Spirit’s guidance and control! What a wonder to be led by the Third Person of the Eternal Trinity. The text implies that if not led, then we are not saved. “Eternal salvation” is the work of Christ to “all them that obey Him” (Heb. 5:9). How does He lead? 1. He leads them to the Cross of Christ. 2. He leads them to the Throne of Grace. 3. He leads them to the volume of the Book. 4. He leads them in the Path of Duty. 5. Through the mazes of Trial and Temptation in this Life. 6. Through the valley of the Shadow of Death. 7. He leads them to Emmanuel’s Land. What glory is just ahead to those indwelt by and guided by the Holy Spirit of God! He will open the DOOR and escort the children of God into the Celestial City! — Wylie W. Fulton (b. 1939).
Let’s first notice how the children of God are led, not by violence against their inclination, not by force against their will, but they are led by the Holy Spirit bending and changing their will in a manner consistent with their new nature in Christ. When the Lord Jesus said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” He didn’t mean that God forces a sinner against his will, but He makes us disposed to go to Jesus by His Spirit and by His secret power. He never violates the sinner’s will, but makes him willing in the day of His power. The leading of the Holy Spirit results in the enlightening of our understanding because Christ said, “When the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all truth.” The leading of the Holy Spirit results in the sanctification of our will and our affections so that our mind is transformed by the Holy Spirit. Then the saint has eyes of understanding to know what is the hope of his calling, and what is the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints. — L. R. Shelton, Sr. (1898-1971).
No matter how well educated a man may be, no matter how sincere or prayerful he may be, he has no Scriptural grounds for believing that he is led or will be led by the Spirit of God or in the way of God, if he refuses to trust Christ alone for salvation, to take His Word as the voice of supreme authority, no matter whom it contradicts, and to pattern his thoughts, convictions and behavior by the Word as it is explained and applied by itself. . . Get a clear grasp of the main, fundamental phases of the truth; the fact that God is God, that He is absolute, independent, sovereign and holy; that salvation is His idea, the objects of it are His choice, the plan for it was His plan, the glory for it will all be due to Him and the wisdom, power and work required will all be provided by Him. Get straight the fact that we deserve nothing better than Hell itself, that any claim we have upon God, upon His forgiveness, His mercy, His love, or His wisdom, protection or power; must be based upon the fact that Christ purchased these benefits for us, not that we as creatures, children or servants deserve or merit them. Try to understand the significance of the various offices of Christ in relation to the rendering of satisfaction to God and the securing and supplying of each individual believer, both in this life and eternity. — J. R. Boyd (1909-1994).
Verse 15. This spirit of bondage, which is unto fear, can only be exchanged for the spirit of adoption, by our believing the Gospel. Every legal attempt to extricate ourselves from the misery of the former spirit, will only aggravate it the more. — Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847).
But for ever Christ remains the only begotten Son, the eternal, the natural Son of God, Whom we can never approach, but Who reached out for us in the flesh; while we were for ever children adopted, by grace, for His sake, highly favored, yet always creaturely reflections of the Divine image. — Herman Hoeksema (1886-1965).
To some of the elect, the spirit of adoption, or the knowledge of their adoption, is granted sooner than to others of the same family; nevertheless, “every vessel shall be filled.” My soul, canst thou say, “My God,” with humble confidence? And, even though He slay thee, art thou still determined to trust in Him? Then why art thou cast down under thy manifold and daily infirmities? Surely, if He be thy God, He cannot but watch over thee every hour, and that for thy good; wean thee from the creature by every dispensation; teach thee caution by every fall, slip, and mistake; hear thy cries out of the low dungeon, and most graciously deliver thee. — Henry Fowler (1779-1838).
O what a life have you in comparison of other men. Some have two hells, one present, another coming; you have two heavens, one in hand, the other in hope. Some of your own brethren in Christ, who have been, it may be, many years panting after assurance, are still denied it; but God hath indulged so peculiar a favor to you. Bless ye the Lord, and make His praise glorious. — John Flavel (1628-1691).
Divine Adoption. This wonderful grace had its birth in eternity, has its development in time, and its maturity awaits eternity again. It first existed in the eternal mind, and originated in eternal love. It is everlasting in its nature. It is enjoyed by the favored and distinguished objects of it in their present state of being, and will be consummated in their glorification with their already glorified Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Adoption, literally, is an act by which an individual takes another into his family, confers the privileges of a child, and constitutes him his heir. Divine adoption is that act of free and unmerited favor by which God puts poor sinners into the estate, and brings them into the relation of children, confers upon them all spiritual blessings, and makes them heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. — John Gadsby (1808-1893).
Verse 16. Experience is, indeed, a strong demonstration; and it is such a witness as leaves no room for debate. For here the truth is felt, proved, and acted upon in the heart, which the Christian knoweth well, and is as sure of as he is persuaded that he liveth, or that the sun, when it shineth, hath life and warmth. — Fleming (taken from The Gospel Standard Magazine, 1877).
Till such time as the Holy Ghost hath wrought faith and put a man into a state of grace, He cannot assure him, He cannot comfort him. — Thomas Goodwin, Puritan (1600-1680).
Many, perhaps with an unwise curiosity, as how can the Spirit testify to us our acceptance with God? And some have said He never gives His witness except through the Word. But we know not the way of the Spirit in any of His operations, natural or spiritual, Eccl. 11:5; John 3:8. He is sovereign, and divides His gifts severally as He wills, 1 Cor. 12:11. To deny the work of the Spirit because we know not the manner of it is as unwise as to deny that the wind blows because we cannot explain the phenomena attending it. It is freely admitted that God’s Spirit honors His Word in all His work in us, and that He never witnesses contrary to His Word; but no man can prove that the Holy Spirit does not directly and immediately comfort, enlighten and animate the people of God, giving them good hopes, bright prospects and delightful persuasions of their interest in Christ. Experienced Christians know that He does wonderful things for them, and that His presence converts night into day, dungeons into places, and racks and tortures into harmless things. This witness of the Spirit is not by voices from Heaven, nor by dreams, nor by senseless impulses, nor by a fanatical delight in some words from Scripture; but by His testimony concurring with the clear and honest convictions of our own minds and hearts. The Spirit, by whom we have been born again, shines on His own blessed work within us, and we see the infallible tokens of our newness of life. True this doctrine may be abused, but if we deny every doctrine that is abused, we shall have a very short creed. — William S. Plumer (1802-1880).
This ‘witness of the Spirit’ is borne along with that of our own consciences, not without it, nor against it; and it coincides with the testimony of the Holy Spirit, in the Scripture, and must be proved and assayed by it. — Thomas Scott (1747-1821).
I have no hope in what I have done, yet I am full of confidence; and this is my confidence — there is a hope set before me. I have fled; I still flee, for refuge to that hope. In Him I trust; in Him I have strong consolation, and shall surely be accepted in the Beloved of my soul. The Spirit of adoption is given me, enabling me to cry, “Abba, Father!” I have no doubt of my being a child of God, and that life and death, and all my present exercises are directed in mercy by my adored Heavenly Father. — Philip Doddridge (1702-1751).
Assurance (as the great Mr. Brine somewhere observes) is twofold. There is an assurance arising from the immediate witness of the Spirit, and a lively act of faith; and there is an assurance arising only from the exercise of sanctified reason on past reason and the Word of God. The former, like the bright shining of the summer sun, that not only gives light to show one the road, and that one is in it, but it warms and cheers one. The latter, like the bright moonshine in a frosty night, shows the believer the way and the way-marks, and he may know where he is by it, but it will give little or no warmth. If I mistake not, Mr. Flavel means the same when he distinguishes between the witness of the water and the witness of the Spirit. — J. Ryland, jun.
But let not trembling believers forget that faith, strictly so called, is neither more nor less than a receiving of Christ, for ourselves in particular, as our only possible propitiation, righteousness, and Saviour: John 1:12. — Hast thou so received Christ? Thou art a believer, to all the purposes of safety. — And it deserves special notice that our Lord calls the centurion’s faith “great faith;” though it rose no higher than to make him say “Speak the word only. And my servant shall be healed” Matt. 8:8, 10. The case likewise of the Canaanitish woman is full of the present point. Her cry was, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David!” And, a little after, “Lord, help me!” Jesus at first gave her a seeming repulse: but her importunity continued, and she request only the privilege of a dog, viz., to eat of the crumbs which fell from the Master’s table. What were our Saviour’s answer and our Saviour’s remark? An answer and a remark which ought to make every broken sinner take down his harp from the willows: “O woman, great is thy faith.” Matt. 10:22-28. — Augustus Toplady (1740-1778).
Verse 17. If sons, then we are “heirs and co-heirs with Christ,” saith the apostle; sons by nature are not always heirs, but all sons by adoption are: we are heirs with Christ, the Lord Christ as our elder brother, managing all our estate for us, because unable to do it ourselves; we are heirs, (1) Of the kingdom of glory (1 Pet. 1:4-5). (2) Heirs of all this visible world (1 Cor. 3:22); not that we have the whole world in our own hand, (it would be too cumbersome to us to manage), but the Lord gives us the rent of it, the blessing and good of it, though it be possessed by others. (3) We are heirs of “the promise” (Heb. 11; 9; 6:17), whereby Jehovah Himself comes to be our inheritance and portion for ever; and look, as Christ was in the world an heir of all, though trod under foot by all, so are we; what can we desire more? — Thomas Shepard (1605-1649).
Crosses and afflictions are the common lot of the people of God in this world. Our Lord has told us that we shall meet with tribulation. Every saint has his own particular difficulty, temptation, and conflict to grapple with. We have need to be emptied from vessel to vessel. We are too apt to settle on our lees, too apt to be taken with the vanities of this passing world. — John Berridge (1716-1793).
Trials and afflictions are the appointed lot of the family of God; and if we belong to that favored number we shall certainly have our share of them. — J. C. Philpot (1802-1869).
We must have an assurance based on the Word of God, that is true. But a mere acceptance of the truth that God’s Word states is not assurance. “The devils believe and tremble” (Jam. 2:19). Their acceptance of the truth of God gives them a certain experience and much feeling, but they (the demons of Hell) are not saved. It must be an acceptance of the truth of God from the Bible promises as the Lord is pleased to apply it to our hearts. Cold acceptance is nothing. Red hot feelings are nothing. Man’s leading or teaching or soul-saving effort is nothing. The revelation of Christ to a poor awakened sinner’s heart is everything! Rest in nothing else. Settle for nothing else. Yes, there will be some assurance: You will know at least two things and they’ll be burned into your soul. You will know (1) what a sinner you are, and (2) what a Saviour Christ is! — Wylie W. Fulton (b. 1939).