The Spirit Assuring
We do not propose to treat of the Spirit assuring in a topical and general way, but to confine ourselves to His inspiring the Christian with a sense of his adoption into the family of God, limiting ourselves unto two or three particular passages which treat specifically thereof. In Romans 8:15 we read, "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." The eighth chapter of Romans has ever been a great favorite with the Lord’s people, for it contains a wide variety of cordials for their encouragement and strengthening in the running of that heavenly race which is marked out and set before them in the Word of God. The Apostle is there writing to such as have been brought, by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, to know and believe on the Lord Jesus, and who by their communion with Him are led to set their affection upon things above.
First, let us observe that Romans 8:15 opens with the word "For," which not only suggests a close connection with that which precedes, but intimates that a proof is now furnished of what had just been affirmed. In the verse, the Apostle had said, "Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh": the "Therefore" being a conclusion drawn from all the considerations set forth in verses 1-11. Next, the Apostle had declared, "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" (v. 13); which means, first, ye shall continue to "live" a life of grace now; and second, this shall be followed by a "life" of glory throughout eternity. Then the Apostle added, "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (v. 14), which is a confirmation and amplification of verse 13: none live a life of grace save those who are "led by the Spirit of God"—are inwardly controlled and outwardly governed by Him: for they only are "the sons of God."
"Not Received the Spirit of Bondage"
Now, in verse 15, the Apostle both amplifies and confirms what he had said in verse 14: there he shows the reality of that relationship with God which our regeneration makes manifest—obedient subjection to Him as dear children. Here he brings before us further proof of our Divine sonship—deliverance from a servile fear, the exercise of a filial confidence. Let us consider the negative first: "For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear."
By nature we were in "bondage" to sin, to Satan, to the world; yet they did not work in us a spirit of "fear," so they cannot be (as some have supposed) what the Apostle had reference to; rather is it what the Spirit’s convicting us of sin wrought in us. When He applies the Law to the conscience our complacency is shattered, our false peace is destroyed, and we are terrified at the thought of God’s righteous wrath and the prospect of eternal punishment.
When a soul has received life and light from the Spirit of God, so that he perceives the infinite enormity and filthiness of sin, and the total depravity and corruption of every faculty of his soul and body, that spirit of legality which is in all men by nature, is at once stirred up and alarmed, so that the mind is possessed with secret doubts and suspicions of God’s mercy in Christ to save. Thereby the soul is brought into a state of legal bondage and fear. When a soul is first awakened by the Holy Spirit, it is subject to a variety of fears; yet it does not follow from thence that He works those fears or is the Author of them: rather are they to be ascribed unto our own unbelief. When the Spirit is pleased to convict of sin and gives the conscience to feel the guilt of it, it is to show him his need of Christ, and not to drive unto despair.
No doubt there is also a dispensational allusion in the passage we are now considering. During the Mosaic economy, believing Israelites were to a considerable extent under the spirit of legal bondage because the sacrifices and ablutions of the Levitical institutions could not take away sins. The precepts of the ceremonial law were so numerous, so various, so burdensome, that the Jews were kept in perpetual bondage. Hence, we find Peter referring to the same as "a yoke which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear" (Acts 15:10). Much under the Old Testament dispensation tended to a legal spirit. But believers, under the Gospel, are favored with a clearer, fuller, and more glorious display and revelation of God’s grace in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Evangel making known the design and sufficiency of His finished work, so that full provision is now made to deliver them from all servile fear.
"Received the Spirit of Adoption"
Turning now to the positive side: believers have "received the Spirit of adoption, whereby they cry, Abba, Father": they have received that unspeakable Gift which attests and makes known to them their adoption by God. Before the foundation of the world God predestined them "unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself’ (Eph. 1:5). But more—the elect were not only predestined unto the adoption of children—to actually and openly enjoy this inestimable favor in time—but this blessing was itself provided and bestowed upon them in the Everlasting Covenant of grace, in which they not only had promise of this relationship, but were given in that Covenant to Christ under that very character. Therefore does the Lord Jesus say, "Behold I and the children which God hath given Me" (Heb. 2:13).
It is to be carefully noted that God’s elect are spoken of as "children" previous to the Holy Spirit’s being sent into their hearts: "Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts" (Gal. 4:6). They are not, then, made children by the new birth. They were "children" before Christ died for them: "he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; and not for that nation only, but that also He should gather together in one the childrenof God that were scattered abroad" (John 11:51, 52). They were not, then, made children by what Christ did for them. Yea, they were "children" before the Lord Jesus became incarnate: "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same" (Heb. 2:14). Thus it is a great mistake to confound adoption and regeneration: they are two distinct things; the latter being both the effect and evidence of the former. Adoption was by an act of God’s will in eternity—regeneration is by the work of His grace in time.
Had there been no adoption, there would be no regeneration: yet the former is not complete without the latter. By adoption the elect were put into the relation of children; by regeneration they are given a nature suited to that relation. So high is the honor of being taken into the family of God, and so wondrous is the privilege of having God for our Father, that some extraordinary benefit is needed by us to assure our hearts of the same. This we have when we receive the Spirit of adoption. For God to give us His Spirit is far more than if He had given us all the world, for the latter would be something outside Himself, whereas the formeris Himself! The death of Christ on the Cross was a demonstration of God’s love for His people, yet that was done without them; but in connection with what we are now considering, "the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us" (Rom. 5:5).
Wondrous and blessed fact that, God manifests His love to the members of His Church in precisely the same way that He evidenced His love unto its Head when He became incarnate, namely, by the transcendent gift of His Spirit. The Spirit came upon Jesus Christ as the proof of God’s love to Him and also as the visible demonstration of His Sonship. The Spirit of God descended like a dove and abode upon Him, and then the Father’s voice was heard saying, "This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased"— compare John 3:34, 35. In fulfillment of Christ’s prayer, "I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them" (John 17:26) the Spirit is given to His redeemed, to signify the sameness of the Father’s love unto His Son and unto His sons. Thus, the inhabitation of the Spirit in the Christian is both the surest sign of God’s fatherly love and the proof of his adoption. (Please click here to continue reading, "The Spirit Assuring")