Reading: Romans 8:12-17; Hebrews 8:7-13
Through His suffering and death, Christ delivered us from the slavery to sin and death, from a life in fear. And now we are children of God. And the relation between children and their Father is completely different from the relation between a slave and his master.
In the previous chapters of his letter, the apostle Paul spoke about our sins and about our guilt. And that we are totally unable to do any good. Paul teaches us that we are justified, only by faith in Jesus Christ. The believer still has to struggle against the power and temptation of sin, his whole life long. That makes it clear to us that we shouldn’t expect anything from ourselves, from our own ability to save ourselves. We can’t. Even after we are saved by Christ, we still sin time and again.
But then the apostle Paul says in Romans 8, that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. We are set free from the law of sin and death and now we are under the law of the Spirit. The Spirit brings life. Christ obtained it for us, through His perfect sacrifice, His suffering and death.
Christ paid for all our sins and fulfilled the complete obedience which we could not fulfill. He did it in our place. And now it is for God as if we did it ourselves. In order that, as Paul says in verse 4, the righteous requirements of the law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, that is the sinful nature, but according to the Spirit.
The Spirit leads us. Our salvation is not something that only happened once and that is it. And thereafter we have to do it all by ourselves again. After we are saved, we are being sanctified. That is a process. We are delivered from the power of sin. But still we do sin. That is what Paul describes in Romans 7. And the Spirit is working in us to make us perfect. That is our sanctification.
Christ fully fulfilled His work of salvation on Golgotha. He fully paid for our sins. That only happened once and does not have to be done again. But now the Spirit is working to impart to us what we have in Christ. The Holy Spirit convinces us that the gospel is true, and that it tells us about the true salvation. And the Holy Spirit renews our lives so that we not only believe that we are God’s children but that we are also going to live as children of God. The Holy Spirit teaches us how to live in the new freedom which we receive through Christ. He teaches us what it means to be God’s children.
God did not make us His slaves. Christ did not buy us with His own blood as slaves out of the power of death and fear, to make us now slaves who should fear their new Master, God. Paul says it in the first part of our text: ‘For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear.’ Faith in Jesus Christ is not slavery. That is FREEDOM! And we should never do as if it is a slavery. As if it is a burden to belong to Christ. As if it brings us a lot of obligations and also much what we are not allowed to do. That is sometimes, or maybe often the idea that many have about Christians: a lot of rules they should obey and a lot of things they are not allowed to do. If that is what the world sees from us, from our lives, then we don’t live as children of God. Then we don’t live in the freedom of the children of God. Then we still live as slaves. Then we act as if we are slaves of God.
But we are CHILDREN of GOD, and that means that we are set free and that we live in the FREEDOM of the Children of God. Faith gives Freedom. We should never live as if our salvation depends on our own good works. Who still acts as if it depends on his own good works, or who still believes that his faith and the growth of his faith, is something that comes from himself and that by his deed of faith he can get salvation, still lives in a spirit of slavery. Because then it still depends on man himself. And then we will always live in fear: are my good works good enough? Or, is my faith strong enough? Is my obedience good enough? Is it all good enough for me, to obtain a place in heaven?
But that is not true faith. No. We received the Spirit of sonship! And that means that we ARE children of God. We don’t have to become children of God, through our own deeds. But we may know that, through Christ, we ARE children of God. Christ, through His Holy Spirit, gives us faith, so that we know that we are children of God. That is the Spirit of sonship. That through faith we know that God chose us to be His Children. If we have faith, then we may be sure that we ARE God’s Children. Otherwise God would not have given us faith. He first accepted us to be His Children, through Christ. It all came from Him. And now He also gives us His Spirit, and the Spirit is going to teach us how to live as Children of God.
We can compare it to someone who has been in prison, for many years. He hardly can remember the time before he went in prison. And he doesn’t know how life looks like outside prison. And when he is released from prison, he doesn’t know how to deal with his freedom. He must learn again how to live as free man. And in the beginning, he will still act as he did in prison, as if he is still in prison. In our society, those people, who are released from prison, can get help from certain organizations, to find again a place in society.
It is something like that, when it comes to us, being delivered and set free from the slavery to sin, and now living in the freedom of the Children of God. Often we still act as if we are still in the prison of sin, the slavery of sin. Our human nature is still inclined to act like we are slaves to sin. Our whole nature is corrupted by sin. And because of that it is impossible for us to handle the freedom which we receive in Christ, if God Himself does not help us, does not guide us, yes even does not renew our nature by His Holy Spirit.
Christ gives us the freedom and He also wants us, demands us, to fully enjoy the freedom which we have as children of God. And for that He gives us His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit guides us and teaches us how to live in this freedom, as children of God. And through the Spirit of God, we become more and more convinced that that freedom is protected by the commandments which God gave to us. Those commandments are not a burden, to lead is into a new slavery, but they are the protection of the life in the glorious freedom of the Children of God.
In Hebrews 8 we find a quotation from Jeremiah 31, where God says through Jeremiah, that He will put His commandments in our minds and write it on our hearts. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. So that we know what is good and that we know how to stay free and not to get back in the slavery of sin. So that we live in the joy of faith. Being a Christian is not a burden. It is a joy. It is good to be a Christian. Your life is good, when you are a child of God. A beautiful life. You are convinced that your life is much better than a life in which you would not know God and Christ. That is the work of the Holy Spirit, Who convinces you that you are children of God.
Faith would never come from ourselves. The apostle Paul says about the gospel, in 1 Corinthians 1:23 : ‘But we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.’ And that is what it still is. For many in this world, it is a stumbling block. They can’t stand the Christians and their message, the gospel of God. It drives them to a rage against everything that is Christian. For others it is pure foolishness. They can only ridicule and mock those who believe and can’t understand that there are still people who believe it.
But we know that this is divine wisdom. And we know that we, children of God, have more knowledge than all those slaves, who still live in the slavery of sin and death. And that is not because we are better, but because we received the Spirit of sonship. The Spirit from God.