So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 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. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 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!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 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. – Romans 8:12-17 ESV
If you are a child of God, you owe Him. Not that you could ever pay Him back for what He has done for you, but you should live with a deep and lasting awareness of your indebtedness to Him. He sacrificed His Son on the cross so that you might have life. “For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God” (1 Peter 1:18-19 NLT). Those of us who are in Christ, owe God our lives, literally. Our debt to sin has been paid. God’s righteous judgment has been satisfied by the death of His own sinless Son. So we are free to reject the demands of our sinful flesh. We don’t have to give in to our sin natures anymore. We can say no to the passions and sinful desires of our flesh – but only with the help of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Paul makes it clear that it is “by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13 ESV). He is the one who gives us the strength to live right lives even though our sin natures are alive and well within us. We are now sons and daughters of God who have the Spirit of God living inside of us. Hard to comprehend? You bet. But essential for us to believe by faith, because it is the key to our victory over sin in this life. Jesus died to pay for our sins. The Spirit lives within us to give us power over sin. Sin can no longer condemn me, but it can distract and defeat me. Which is why Paul goes out of his way to drive home the point that we are no longer on our own when it comes to dealing with sin.
We are sons and daughters of God, and we are led by the Spirit of God. And the very fact that we have the Spirit within us, convicting, encouraging and guiding us, is proof of our new relationship with God. Paul puts it this way: “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16 ESV). When we feel conviction over sin, that is the Spirit at work within us. When we read the Word of God and hear Him speak to us, that is the result of the indwelling Spirit of God. Any time we find ourselves exhibiting love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, that is the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. And that fruit reveals that we belong to God. We are His children, adopted into His family and rightful heirs to all that belongs to Him. And as hard as that may be for us to grasp, it is vitally important if we are ever going to experience the kind of abundant life that Jesus promised us. What Paul is attempting to do is to get us to think about our future inheritance, rather than dwell on the temporary pleasures that our sinful flesh tends to obsess over. We are heirs of God and He has something incredible in store for us that is not of this world. The apostle Peter found the very thought of it worthy of praise to God. “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay” (1 Peter 1:3-4 NLT).
But there is another aspect to our inheritance. Because we are fellow heirs with Christ, we share in the reality of our future glorification. Just as He received a new glorified body and a reunion with His Father in heaven, so will we. But during this life, we also share in His suffering. As the Son of God, He suffered on this earth. He was ridiculed and rejected by men. He was misunderstood and falsely accused. His message of salvation was dismissed and His claims of deity were denied. And, ultimately, He suffered a humiliating and excruciating death on the cross. So as children of God, we are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:17 ESV). In this life, we suffer, because we are not of this world. We no longer belong here. And our new identity and status as sons and daughters of God puts us at odds with this world and the prince of this world. Jesus warned us that the world would hate us because it hated Him. And it does. This world is not our friend. And the more we live as who we are, children of God, the more animosity we will experience from this world. Just prior to His death, Jesus told His disciples, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NLT). And Paul will close out this chapter with the encouraging words, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39 ESV).