“It’s personal!” Although this phrase is often stated negatively, Paul turns it into a positive.
Adoption or “sonship” is the theme used in this passage to illustrate the believers new relationship with God. The NIV Study Bible observes: “In Roman culture, the adopted person lost all rights in his old family and gained all the rights of a legitimate child in his new family. He became a full heir to his new father’s estate.”
Shepherd’s Notes classifies Paul’s discussion into three areas: the test of sonship, the privilege of sonship, and the assurance of sonship.
- The Test of Sonship (vs. 14) “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (vs. 14). We follow the one to whom we belong. A daily response to the Spirit’s leading shows we are God’s child. This factor is more reliable than our emotional ups and downs. “Elation without obedience is a fraud,” (Shepherd’s Notes).
- The Privilege of Sonship (vs. 15) Through the contrasting pictures of slavery and adoption, Paul reminds us that turning to Christ releases us from enslavement to fear. In fact, believers are now privileged to call God “Abba! Father!” Shepherd’s Notes observes that Abba is found only three times in the New Testament: Galatians 4:6; Mark 14:36; and in this passage. Abba is the Aramaic word for father. Used in the Jewish home, it expresses the intimacy between child and father. No term serves better than Abba or Father to show the warm, personal relationship to God that His grace has made possible.
- The Assurance of Sonship (vs. 17) Paul connects being “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” to sharing in Christ’s sufferings. These sufferings come from following Christ, not from the common adversity of illness, loss of employment, or bereavement (Shepherd’s Notes). (See also Philippians 1:29; 3:10; Colossians 1:24). But Paul also emphasizes the result: “in order that we may also share in His glory.”
- When a person becomes a Christian, he/she receives all the privileges and responsibilities of a child in God’s family.
- God deserves obedience to His indwelling Spirit by following Him and “dieing” to sin.
- The believer’s current suffering dims in comparison to the glory he/she will share with Christ.
- Nothing we suffer compares to the suffering Jesus experienced to save us.
Are you God’s child?