Summary: Romans 8 is one of the most beloved and comforting chapters of the Bible. As Paul writes this chapter, he gives us a wonderful picture of salvation: adoption.
In my NIV Study Bible, the cover and blank pages toward the front are filled with Bible verses. When I got that Bible in college, I would write on the cover and those empty pages Bible verses that I liked and wanted to be able to reference easily and quickly. One day, as I was flipping through the pages, I noticed a trend. On those pages were many verses from the book of Romans. My favorite ones though were from chapter eight. There have been many a time in my life that a passage from Romans 8 has helped me to continue in the face of troubles and temptations. Over the next three weeks, we will look at one of the most beloved and comforting passages in all of Scripture, Romans 8. As we start with verses 12-17, we see a comforting but yet unique picture of salvation: adoption. But to fully appreciate the imagery, and even reality, it is helpful to go in depth with it.
When talking about adoption, it is helpful, and even important, to talk about what life was like before it. Before Jesus was in our lives, we were not in good shape spiritually. According to God’s Law, His Ten Commandments, we were guilty and condemned. One of the functions of the Law is that it serves as a mirror. Just like how a mirror shows you how you look in the morning, with bed head, or as you use one to see how your outfit looks, the Law shows us how we look. It showed us to be people who struggle, stumble, and fall. It showed us to be selfish people who lived for ourselves and our sinful desires. It showed us our failures at living a life according to God’s ways. It revealed our sin and failures. It still does.
But that is not all that it revealed. It revealed that we were separated from God because of our sin. We could not go to Him, nor could He be with us. In fact, in verse seven of this chapter, Paul says that our sinful mind was hostile against God! It thrashed against Him and His ways worse than a toddler throwing a tantrum. The apostle then says in verse 8 that we could not please God. Things didn’t look so great for us, did it?
The other day when I was at Cub Foods, I grabbed a can of Pringles in the chip aisle. As I went to grab the can I wanted, I first had to move the dented can in front of it. This can was in horrible shape. It was dented in two places. One of the dented places was at the top, and the other was toward the bottom. It didn’t look good for the chips inside. As I moved the can, I was right, as I could feel how most of the chips were broken. I thought “Who would ever want this? There is no way they could sell this. They are probably going to have to throw it away.”
When we look at our lives spiritually, the same thought comes to mind. Why would God ever have wanted us? We only were lost causes that were hostile against Him and people who never did Him one good thing. This isn’t even mentioning our earthly lives that have their own unique problems and issues.
But God actually wanted us. He wanted us despite those things. Paul says that God sent us His Son, Jesus, so that we could be His sons and His daughters. Through Jesus, He condemned sin in the flesh, “in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us.” But this was no walk in the park or small task. When Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane before His death, he cried out, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Jesus asked if there was another way to do this. There wasn’t. Jesus bore God’s wrath and judgment, and the sin that we committed. Jesus did this so that we could be forgiven of the sin that separates us from God. He did it so that we could be given His righteousness, and saved from condemnation. And He isn’t done with us yet. He works in us through His Spirit so that we live for Him and not for the sinful flesh. Nothing says, “I love you, I forgive you, I want you,” like God sending us His Son.
This God is the God that we call, “Father!” He gives us the Spirit of adoption. This Spirit was given to us through baptism, where we were welcomed and brought into His family. In our baptism, we are given the full status of children. Its not a half, or three quarter status, but a full one. It is not an air quote thing either. He is our Father, and we belong to Him. We are part of His family. We don’t need to fear the Law and its condemnation. It doesn’t separate us from God nor condemn us in Jesus. We are His forgiven children.