Marks of True Sonship

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C:\Documents and Settings\BobBurton\My Documents\ Exegesis\ Romans8vs14ff.odt Rom8:14-17

Boyup Brook Uniting Church 12.8.07 Reading:Gal. 3:23- 4:7; Rom. 8:12-17 ESV

“Marks of True Sonship”


I begin with a controversial statement: to all ladies here this morning who through repentance, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, are disciples of His - and thus have been born again of the Spirit of God.


I am not a male chauvinist! (“an extravagant attachment to a particular group”)

With that to think about, let us turn to our Bible Readings:

Galatians 3:23 – 4:7 (ESV) and Romans 8:12-17 (ESV).

One or two translations in some contexts use inclusivist language: translate “sons” as “children” - equality of men and women.

But in these passages we have just read, in doing so, an important truth is lost. That truth has to do with our status as sons of God.

Galatians 4:6 (ESV)
6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” This is true of all believers.

Paul's argument: “If we belong to the Son, what belongs to Him belongs to us. All believers are sons of the Father, not as a matter of our gender, but as a matter of our union with the Son. This goes for both men and women.Our sonship is not a gender issue; it is a status issue”! (Goldsworthy, “Prayer and the Knowledge of God” p. 42f.)

If you are born again of God's Spirit, you have received the Spirit of Adoption, the Spirit of Sonship, which is the Spirit of Jesus.

The same status as He has!

He is the Son of God: our union with Him by faith, means that we share that status. Outside of Christ, men are no closer to being sons of God than women!

So my original statement that you ladies are sons of God is not a “put down”, but rather, if there is such a phrase, a “put-up”! It is not a putting down of women, but if anything, a raising of their status!


With this in mind, let us turn to the passage in Romans 8: 14-17 which is the basis of our message today.



Romans 8:14,15 (seeESV)
14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God they are sons of God.15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage (slavery) again to fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

And Galatians 4:4-6But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

Galatians: We have received adoption as sons. Romans: we have received the Spirit of adoption (as sons).


In Roman world of 1st century: father with no son of his own, deliberately choose a boy to be his adopted son. Would perpetuate his name, inherit his estate.

In no way inferior to a birth son. Just as much loved by adoptive father and reproduce his character! A common practice among Romans, not so common among Jews.

However, there is plenty of evidence from the OT that it was a familiar concept to Jews: Israel is described as in Romans 9:4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises.” Israel taken out of Egypt and appointed God's “son”. (The Meaning of Adoption)


You and I have been adopted into God's family – He has made us His sons! “For as many as 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.” (Rom. 8:14,15)

We do not have to approach Almighty God in fear and trembling! Not the servile spirit of a slave, not the anxious fear of one who approaches a capricious God with great uncertainty!

One writer tells of a visit to India. Children as bonded labourers working to repay the debts of their parents – in shackles, hammering rocks into pieces. Christians are like children who after years in bonded labour HAVE BEEN ADOPTED INTO A FAMILY!

John 8:31-36 (NIV)
31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” 34 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Once we enter into the reality of the experience of ADOPTION, all fear should go! Many people, because of past experiences, suffer a SPIRIT OF REJECTION. With what I believe is great insight, it has been said that THE SPIRIT OF ADOPTION CASTS OUT A SPIRIT OF REJECTION!

We need to enter into all that we are IN CHRIST! Once we realise this, great freedom!

Cam with the Chinese girl: (often bribery) “My Father paid for me!”

(The Significance of Adoption)

3 THE CRY OF ADOPTION. have received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry 'Abba! Father!'”

Abba” is the Aramaic term for father used by Jesus (Mark 14:36)

It is a term of endearment, but also a term of great respect.

Mark 14:32-36 (NIV)
32 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.” 35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Jesus under great stress and tension: He was “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” And yet in deep intimacy He could call on His Father in these terms.

The Jews did not normally use this word to address God. It expressed the unique relationship Jesus had with His Father.

A British preacher, Dick Lucas, recalls how in a shop he overheard a young Jewish boy call out to his father: “Abba, Abba.” “I bowed and worshipped.” REALISED WITH NEW FORCE THE INTIMACY WITH GOD THAT IS OURS THROUGH THE SPIRIT!

Let me ask you: do you know this intimacy?

Praying Hyde: a friend asked to pray with him. Waited 15 minutes or more: then one word: “Father!” Such a sense of the presence of God filled the room! (The Cry of Adoption)

Have you entered into this freedom? (Our Adoption as Sons)


The Spirit Himself bears witness with (to) our spirit that we are children of God.”

This describes the ministry of the Holy Spirit to us – to our spirit, GIVING US DEEP ASSURANCE AS TO WHO WE ARE IN CHRIST!

Do you have this wonderful assurance that you are a child of God?

That “sons” in v.14 includes women as well as men is confirmed in this verse (16) by the use of “children.” The “children” of v. 16 are the “sons” of v. 14. All are given the status of sonship, adopted into the Father's family.

HOW CAN WE KNOW THAT WE ARE CHILDREN OF GOD? Various tests given in the Scriptures.

In 1 John: “The Tests of Life.” 1. Theological, doctrinal: whether we believe that Jesus is the Son of God. 2. Moral: Are we seeking to live in obedience to Christ? 3. Social: Do we love one another?

Many others.

This form of assurance that we are true Christans is derived by DEDUCTION FROM THE SCRIPTURES. A form most Christians have. Not wrong. Goes like this:

Do you believe the Bible is the Word of God?” “Yes.”

What does it say?” “He who believes is not condemned.”(John 3:18) “Believe it?” “Yes.” “Well then, you're not condemned: the Word tells you so – rest on the Word of God!”

That's not wrong – but not what is being said here in Romans 8:16.



Two-fold: By the Spirit we cry (v.15) and the Spirit Himself on His own initiative gives the witness.

It is the action of the Spirit Himself.

What I am saying is that there can be special times when God Himself in the Person of the Holy Spirit acts upon us to give us this deep assurance.

One of the Puritans, Thomas Goodwin, illustrated it this way:

A man walking along a road with his little boy, holding hands...father and son, son and father.

The boy knows he's his father, and that he loves him.

Suddenly father stops, lifts him up, embraces and hugs him. “I love you.”

The boy is no more a son when he's being embraced than before. The father's action hasn't changed the relationship – but what a difference in the enjoyment!

Great to walk along holding father's hand – but far greater to be enfolded in his arms!

1 John 3:1 (NIV) “1 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

Rom. 5:5 “And hope does not put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in and still floods our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

I cannot make great claims re this experience: but I am increasingly experiencing His love!

For me, the Spirit of God through the Word of God!

One morning I woke up: “My father loves me!” Luke 15:20 (NIV)
20 So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

I say to you today: as a born again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, you are to know that you are His son! You have been adopted into His family! (1. Our Adoption as Sons.)

Then you may have a wonderful assurance that you are His son: not just as a deduction from Scripture, but as a direct work of the Holy Spirit in your heart, your spirit. In coming to know the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Adoption, the Spirit of sonship, you cry “Abba, Father!”

And, sometimes in addition to that, the Spirit Himself sovereignly works in your heart, witnessing to your spirit that you are indeed a child of God, loved and embraced by your Heavenly Father.


And if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

Our Adoption as sons, our Assurance as sons, and our Inheritance as sons.

As an adopted son, in those days, the son had the full rights of a birth son: and received the inheritance from the father.

We are “heirs of God – fellow heirs with Christ.” How incredible!


I believe it is, in the words of our text (v.17) to be glorified with the Lord Jesus! This is made clear in the verses that follow: vs. 18-25, 30. v.21 “the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”

It is the glory of the final consummation of all things! 1 Cor. 2:9,10 “But as it is written, 'Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man...”

Philippians 3:20,21 (ASV)
20 For our citizenship is in heaven; whence also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:

21 who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, according to the working whereby he is able even to subject all things unto himself.

John 14:2John 14:2,3 (ASV)
2 In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.

3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I come again, and will receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

But that's not all the verse says: “And if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

Suffering is an integral part of the inheritance we receive!

Philippians 1:29 (ESV)
29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,” “You have been graciously granted the privilege of suffering for Christ” - the Gk. Word (carizomai)

Many Christians in different parts of the world suffering severe persecution.

Dareth – Cambodia. “The Killing Fields” - a boy of 7. Sudan – boy soldiers.

Chinese Christians: what amazed them: the Western church can carry on its ministry without the Holy Spirit!

Slave Trade: “Amazing Grace”.

The suffering for Christ we may be called upon to experience cannot begin to be compared with what others around the world are suffering. Suffering in different forms: ostracised, family etc.

But we are called on to die to self, take up our cross daily etc.


How do we experience this wonderful assurance of our adoption, our sonship?

We must desire it, hunger for it. Often brought to a sense of desperation. This wonderful experience of the Spirit's assurance in our hearts given various names: Sealing of the Spirit, Infilling of the Spirit, Baptism of the Spirit. To me the name doesn't matter.

With David Watson, I prefer to think of it as “The Release of the Spirit” in our lives.

I have only begun to experience this – but I share how God dealt with me.

My experience in Borneo in 1965. How I was filled with the Spirit – A.W. Tozer. (John 14:14 “If you ask me..”)

Let me pray!

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