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Upcoming Events
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The Work and Ministry of the Holy Spirit
The Spirit of Adoption
Romans 8:14-16
 
Tonight I want to get right into our text from Romans 8.  We'll begin by looking at
 
verses 14-16
 
You will notice right off the bat the several references in this passage to the Holy Spirit.  That shouldn't surprise us because the entirety of this chapter is about the Holy Spirit, His work and ministry in the life of believers.
 
It seems to me that as far as the Trinity is concerned, the Holy Spirit seems to rank a little below the Father and the Son, and that is unfortunate because the Holy Spirit is just as much God as God the Father or God the Son.  There is no way to, neither is there reason to set one below the other when it comes to the persons of God.
 
None is more or less holy or righteous or loving or merciful or whatever other adjective you might want to choose to describe them.  To describe one person of the Trinity is to describe each person of the Trinity.  There is absolute agreement and likeness and unity. 
 
However, that doesn't mean each person has the same function.  Scripture makes it clear that God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit each bear individual responsibilities when it comes to doing the work of God.
 
So what is the primary responsibility of the Holy Spirit, especially in regard to the life of believers? 
He works in what we call sanctification.  It is the responsibility of the Holy Spirit to reproduce the holiness of God in the life of the saved. 
 
Or to say it another way, we could say His work is to transform believers into the likeness of Jesus Christ.  The ministry of the Holy Spirit is not outward, body work.  It can’t be visibly seen in the way you wiggle or move or sway or fall over backwards or mumble or put your hands in the air.  It is soul work, it is heart work.  It happens inside the believer. 
 
In the Old Testament, we would say the work of the Holy Spirit was to produce godliness.  In the New Testament, we would say the work of the Holy Spirit is to produce Christlikeness.  The message of the Old Testament is be like God.  The message of the New Testament is be like Christ.  But the agent of that, in both regards, is the Holy Spirit.
 
Perhaps the single best verse dealing with the process is
 
2 Corinthians 3:18
 
As we look at the Lord, as we look at the glory of the Lord, we are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, and it’s being done by the Lord who is the Spirit.
 
The Holy Spirit transforms us into Christlikeness as we gaze at the Lord Himself.  He moves us from one degree to another, one level of glory to another, to another, to another.  That is His work.  By the way, that’s why He is called the Holy Spirit.
It is His unique responsibility to produce holiness in us.  And as I said, the word theologians use to identify that process is sanctification. 
 
Not only is this business of sanctification the unique responsibility of the Holy Spirit, it is His primary responsibility.   And it's a big deal because this work of the Holy Spirit to change us to be like Christ is the purpose of God in redemption. 
 
Understand the purpose of salvation is not primarily to get us to heaven.  It is to make a people who are ungodly and unchristlike and sinful a holy, godly, Christlike people.  That’s the goal of redemption.
 
Justification doesn't accomplish that purpose.  It just sets us on the path toward the goal. It is only accomplished at glorification when we all become perfect in holiness.  And the work of the Spirit in the meantime is to make us more and more holy in this life until we reach that perfect holiness in the life to come. 
 
Maybe it would help to just back up a little bit and see it from the very beginning.  And some of this will sound very familiar because it's what we've been studying on Sunday mornings.   
 
Genesis 1 and 2 tells us about God creating man.  He made us in His image and likeness.  Now the purpose of that creation is to reflect or reveal God.  That's why man was made different from everything else.  We are a unique reflection of the character and nature of God on earth.
 
 
 
Unfortunately, man fails and that purpose is lost because now you have a sinful mankind that is incapable of reflecting or expressing the glory of God.  By the way, how do we refer to that experience?  We call it the fall of mankind. 
 
That is exactly what we  read in Romans when we are told that "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God".
 
We can’t do what we were created to do.  We were made in the image of God for the purpose of reflecting, expressing the glory of God and we have fallen into sin. And if you look at ancient history, after Adam, you see a few people who were rescued out of that condition and who truly became people who could reflect the glory of God. 
 
Enoch who walked with God one day and just kept walking right into heaven and didn’t die.  The sons of Seth who were a godly line.  But there were so few people in that marred, perverted, corrupted humanity, that a few generations later, God drowned the entire human race because there were only eight people who could reflect His glory.  Only eight out of millions.  He wiped them out and started all over again.  That’s how profoundly fallen was the human race.  
 
God the Father then determined that, from those eight people, He would restore the image of God in humanity by sovereignly, supernaturally and graciously transforming those sinners.  And it wouldn't be a superficial fix.  He was not just going to put a new coat of paint on the old man.  He was going to do something on the inside that would change the heart and nature of man.
In fact, so radical would be this transformation that Peter would describe it as becoming partakers of the divine nature.   And in a miraculous new birth experience, God actually shares His nature with mankind.
 
And that is really the full message of salvation.  It's more than just making like better for people.  It's more than giving us a home in heaven.  It's more than just escaping hell.  The purpose of God in salvation is to allow lost humanity to once again reflect God's glory.
 
 The purpose of salvation is to reverse the effects of the Fall and make men again capable of glorifying Him.  And to accomplish that, God has to re-create them.  They have to be born all over again, spiritually.  They have to have a new nature.  They have to become new men. 
 
What did Paul write to the Corinthians?  If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation, 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us. 
 
Now that whole work of doing that is the work of the Holy Spirit.  We sing and celebrate the cross, and rightly we should.  We celebrate the love of God, the greatness of God.  We sing hymns of praise to God.  But in the middle of all of this, we forget that the real efficient cause, the divine source of everything that we are as Christians is in fact the Holy Spirit.
 
The plan of God is to take corrupt sinners who cannot glorify Him, who have no capacity to glorify him, who come short of glorifying Him and restore to them the capacity to glorify Him.
 
And keep in mind, these sinners are so marred and defective that apart from regeneration, they will be thrown into the trash heap of the universe called hell where they will burn forever without the possibility of escape because they are so useless.
 
And yet, God's plan is to rescue some of those people, redo them, give them new life, regenerate them, re-create them, restore them, transform them, put them through a spiritual metamorphosis and make them partakers of the divine nature so that they come out on the other side giving glory to God.  In fact, in a word, they come out of that process looking exactly like Jesus.
 
When you look at Jesus, you see the perfect image of God in human form.  So let me ask you, "Could He glorify God?"
 
John said of Him at the beginning of his gospel: “We beheld His glory.”  And what glory was it?  “The glory as of the only begotten of the Father.”  He put God on display like God had never been put on display before.  So if you want to see the perfect work of the Holy Spirit in an individual, look at Jesus Christ. We covered all of that last week.
 
Jesus is the perfect model of the work of the Holy Spirit and the end result is a perfect humanity.  So what the Holy Spirit is doing is just making us to be like Christ and at the end of that process we are changed, fully and completely to look like Jesus Christ.  When we go to heaven, we're going to have a body like His glorious body, and we’re going to be like Him because we’ll see Him as He is, and the day we see Him as He is, we’ll be made like Him.  That’s the goal. 
So that is the purpose of redemption.  God is creating a humanity that is like Christ.  We will be perfect in the image of God in human form.  So God initiated it, Jesus demonstrated it, and the Holy Spirit effects it.  The Holy Spirit’s work is to restore the image of God that was lost in the fall and that will ultimately hapen when we're made to be like Christ. 
 
In the meantime, in this life, He is committed to moving us by degree from one level of glory to the next, to the next, to the next and the word for that process is sanctification. 
 
One other component of this that I want us to see before we get to our text for tonight in Romans 8.  In both the Old and New Testaments, the idea of sanctification carries with it a family component. 
 
Understanding sanctification hinges on the idea that  through it, God was attempting to produce a family resemblance in His people.  His goal was a people who are like God. 
 
For instance, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Be like your Father who is in heaven.”  If you forgive your enemy, those who harm you, you will be like your Father who is in heaven.  That’s an Old Testament perspective on sanctification.  Be like God. 
 
In the same sermon, He said, “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.”  If you belong to God, if you are a child of God, there should be a family resemblance.  That is the essence of understanding Old Testament sanctification. 
The New Testament ideology is very similar with the idea that we are to be is not so much like God, but rather like Christ.  And the two are different only in that for the very first time we are able to see what a human being who is totally godlike looks like.
 
Again,  John said, “We beheld His glory and that glory was like the glory of God." He was like God, He was full of grace and truth.  That’s the work of the Holy Spirit.  He makes godly people Christlike people.  Sanctification equals godliness equals Christlikeness.  That’s what holiness is, separating from sin unto godliness, unto Christlikeness.
 
So the wondrous reality of a life of Christ lived here on earth is you get to see what godliness looks like, what perfect godliness in a human being looks like.  And that’s the model.
 
So when somebody says, “I want to be godly.  What does that look like?”  you can say, “It looks exactly like Jesus Christ.”  You want to see godliness in a human form?  Look to Christ. 
 
So that is the goal.  We are to be like Christ.  To that end, the Holy Spirit does a miracle of regeneration that makes a brand new person.  One day He will perform a miracle called glorification that will make us to be like Christ.  And in the meantime, he is involved in sanctification which moves us ever closer to that divine image and goal. And it is set within the context of a family resemblance of us being like God our Father and our brother, Jesus Christ.
 
Now that was a lot of introductory information to get us to what we read in Romans 8, but we finally got there!
In verses 14-16, the main theme is that the Holy Spirit is doing the work of adoption.  You have the reference to sons of God in verse 14.  You have the reference to adoption as sons in verse 15.  And then you have the reference to sons of God or children of God again in 16. 
 
So this is all about being in the family and what that relationship means to us as a member of the family.
Now remember, the work of the Holy Spirit is to make you look like the rest of the family, and in particular like your Father and your perfect Brother.  It’s about family likeness.
 
God is in the process of creating a family who will be able to demonstrate His glory by being like Him.  In order to restore the image of God, we have to be re-created.  We have to be reborn.  And that’s what regeneration and new birth is all about.
 
But what about adoption?  We tend to think of adoption as kind of a second-class situation.  People adopt kids that for some reason others didn't want or couldn't take care of and you never know what you're going to get.  You just kind of get what you get and have to deal with it.
 
And the truth is, it may not work out very well  Those kids might turn out to be a disaster because you can’t really control what they are in the inside.  You can do all the legal work on the outside but the inside is different.
 
 
 
 
The truth is with any child, whether born or adopted, you get what you get.  You might look at one kid and say, “Man, that one could use a little more brain power!  This one could use a little less rebellion!  That one needs a little more patience!"  But we get what we get.  Right?  
 
But the Biblical presentation of adoption is far different from the way it is often viewed by us.
In the 1st century, if you were adopted, that didn’t make you a second-class child.  Rather, it made you a first-class child. 
 
Typically, it was boys who were adopted and they weren't adopted to rescue them off the street or get them out of danger.  You adopted a son because you needed someone who exceeded in capability the ones that you had.  Adoption was first-class stuff in that an adopted son was deliberately chosen by an adopting father to perpetuate his name and inherit his estate.
 
If you had a delinquent, undependable, no count son, you could adopt some noble young man to become your son.  In no way was that adopted son inferior; they were in fact, superior because they were the ones to whom the estate and responsibility passed. 
 
This adopted son would be chosen to represent the family, to manage the family’s future, and to inherit the family’s estate.  This adopted son may well have been the apple of his father’s eye, the joy of his father’s heart.  He may have received the best of his father’s affection and education more so than a born son. 
In fact, chances are he demonstrated his father’s virtue and his father’s training more perfectly than the others.
 
And the whole point of the analogy is to say to those of us who are the children of God, "You’ve been adopted by divine choosing.  Now understand, God didn't choose us because we were so noble or honorable that God couldn’t keep His kingdom in motion without us. 
 
That's not the part of adoption that is being illustrated.  The part that is highlighted is that by sovereign, divine choice, God preferred you and me.  He chose us.
 
Let me tell you how it worked.  A Roman adoption was a very formal event.  It was difficult because in the Roman law, there was this rule called patria potestas, the father’s power.  That’s Latin.  And the father’s power meant that he had absolute power over the family.  He had absolute right to dispose of his children in the early stages of the Roman Empire, kill his children if he wanted, absolute control over them. 
 
In regard to a Roman son, he never came of age in the sense that he ever had any independence from his father’s power.  No matter how old he was, no matter if he was married, he was always under the absolute power of his father.  If you were a son or a daughter, you were under absolute possession, absolute control by your father.
 
 
 
This made adoption very difficult because if you found a son that you wanted because it would be advantageous to your business or in your estate, in your family, for the well-being of your family’s future, how are you going to get the other father to let him go? 
 
If he’s a noble enough son for you to want him so much, obviously his own dad wants him also. 
 
So how did that happen?  Well, some negotiations were involved in that.  He had to formally pass out of the patria potestas of the man to whom he was born and pass into the patria potestas of the adoptive father.   That process involved two steps. 
 
Step number one was called mancipatio, from which we get emancipation.   Mancipatio was carried out by a symbolic sale in which scales and pieces of copper were used. 
 
There were three exchanges involved in the ceremony.  The money would be placed on the scale and the first time, the father would then take him back and say, “No.” 
 
that process would be and the money would be put on the scale, and he would take him back again.  And this was to demonstrate reluctance and to communicate that he wasn’t just throwing this child away.
 
The third time, the money would be offered and the son would not be taken back by his father and would thus be emancipated from the patria potestas of his birth father.
 
Then there followed a ceremony called vindicatio.  The adopting father would go a Roman official and or present a legal case for the transference of the son from one family to the next.  And when it was all said and done, the adoption was complete.  It was a very deliberate and formal process.  
 
As a result of the exchange, four things took place.  First, the adopted person lost all rights in his former family.  On the other side, he gained all the rights that came with being a member of his new family.  He couldn't go back and claim something from his former family, but he had all the rights of a fully legitimate son in his new family.
 
Secondly, he became heir to his new father’s estate.  That's generally why this was done to begin with.  And when he became an heir to his new father’s estate, that right stood, if other natural born sons tried to interfere.  The birth of subsequent sons did not pre-empt the adopted son’s rights to the estate.
 
Thirdly, the old life of the adopted person was completely obliterated.  It was as if he never lived.  All his debts were cancelled on the spot.  All his records were obliterated.  It was as if he was born the day he was adopted.  Everything else went out of existence.  He was like a new person who just started his life.
 
And fourthly, in the eyes of the law, the adopted person was permanently and absolutely the son of his new father. 
 
 
 
 
Question:  have you ever heard of anything like that anywhere else?  You have if you've been saved because that is exactly what happens when we come into the family of God.
 
All our rights to our former family and our former father, the devil, are cancelled.  We gain all the rights that come with being a child of God and are recognized as fully legitimate sons in our new family.  In fact, we are identified as heirs of God, joint heirs with Christ of all that the Father possesses.  We are the inheritors of His estate.  Everything from our old life is wiped out.  The debt that was against us was cancelled at the cross and we are seen as true sons of our new Father.  What an amazingly beautiful picture!
 
Now, back to what I said a moment ago.  Sometimes an adopted child brings a lot of problems and challenges because of their nature and upbringing.  We understand that; most of us have witnessed that.
And even though the child is legally adopted and everything is right on the outside, the inside is a different story.
 
Think about this because this is where the biblical presentation of being a child of God differs from a human adoption. 
 
Not only are we sons and daughters of God by adoption, we are also God's children by birth.  What does that mean? Think about it like this: 
 
 
 
 
Adoption gives us the name and the title and the rights
 
The new birth gives us the nature and genetics of our new father and family.
 
The emphasis on adoption is to show that we were chosen.  The emphasis on regeneration is to tell us Who our father is.
 
In other words, we now have become not just adopted children but partakers of the divine nature of God Himself.  It’s a staggering thing.  And the Holy Spirit is doing all of this.  Let's look at these verses
 
So how does the Holy Spirit demonstrate this adoption? 
 
First,
 
- by leading us
 
verse 14
 
The first mark of adoptive sons is they’re led by the Holy Spirit.  They’re directed by the Holy Spirit.  Their lives are controlled by the Holy Spirit.  He lives within us and He is directing us.  He doesn’t lead by violence.  He leads by inclination. 
 
What does that mean?  He generates in us inclination.  He is bending us, changing our will, changing our desires, changing our longings, changing our affections, shifting our interests. 
 
That's a part of what it means to be a partaker of the divine nature of God.  All of a sudden, we love what God loves. 
 
So how does He lead us?  Two ways. 
 
First of all,
 
         - externally by the Scripture
 
We love the law of God, Paul says in Romans 7.  We delight in the law of God, Psalm 119 – 175 times, David says it.  In verse 18 of that chapter David says, “Open my eyes that I may behold wonderful things from Your law.”  This is the work of the Holy Spirit. He leads us externally by Scripture.
 
 And he leads us 
 
         - internally by Sanctification
 
The Holy Spirit stirs and speaks and moves in our spirit to lead us. what did David pray in Psalm 119:
“Order my steps in Your Word.”  We are led by the Spirit of God.  Listen:  being led by the Spirit is not some kind of surprise in a moment a moment of worship.  It is a way of life whereby the SPirit of God shows us and teaches us and directs us and guides in the ways of life.  He is conforming our will to that of God so we can become like Christ.
 
The second thing the Holy Spirit does is
 
- give you intimate access to God
 
verse 15
When you were an lost and headed to hell, if you had any spiritual awareness at all, you lived life of fear.  Lost people live in the dread of dying and going to hell.  It is an anticipation of coming judgment and having to answer to a holy God.
 
But when you get saved, you receive the Spirit of adoption, which some theologians say is the supreme name for the Holy Spirit.  If you wanted to take the name of all names to give the Holy Spirit, He should be called the Spirit of adoption because it is His work of bringing us into the family and conforming us to the family resemblance that dominates what God has given Him to do,
 
And now, we have, through the Holy Spirit, the ability to cry, “Abba, Father.”  Before, you couldn't just rush into the presence of an infinitely holy God and say, “Papa.”  Why?  Because God is distant and holy. 
 
But now, there's no fear!  We come right in any time of day or night,  We plop ourselves up in His lap, put our hands on His cheeks, look Him in the eye and let Him know what is on our heart!  Why?  Because He chose us!  He's our Daddy!  There is intimacy and security and standing that comes with that! There’s no fear. 
 
There’s a third ministry of the Holy Spirit in this work of sonship and that is not only is He leading us and giving us intimate access but
 
- He gives us assurance
 
verse 16
He testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.  The Holy Spirit comes to us, takes up residence in us, and confirms to our hearts that we belong to God.
 
Let me tell you where this comes from.  In the adoption process in ancient Rome, seven witnesses had to be there.  Why? 
 
Well, what happens when the father dies and all the born children resent the adopted son who is the heir?  There’s going to be a battle.  And so the children who are born to the father are going to say, “He’s not legitimate, he’s making an illegitimate claim.”
 
But somewhere, there were seven people who were eyewitnesses to this very legal transaction who can affirm the truthfulness and legitimacy of that.
 
We don’t need seven.  We just need one, the Holy Spirit who has sealed us to the day of redemption.  That means we are protected until the day of redemption.  No one can ever take our inheritance.  It is reserved and set apart for us. As Peter says, it is undefiled and laid up in heaven for you. 
 
The Holy Spirit is the seal, the engagement ring, the guarantee of the full inheritance.  That is what verse 16 is saying.  He testifies with us that we are the children of God.  He bears witness along with our spirit.  There is an internal confidence that all is well.  This, in a word, is called hope.  We have a strong hope, don’t we?  And that’s the work of the Holy Spirit, to give us that strong hope.
 
I don’t live daily fearing I might not make it to heaven.  It never enters my mind.  Why?  Because the internal witness of the Holy Spirit gives me hope.  
 
If you were a child out in the streets or in a very difficult, abusive, perishing family, what you would want would be someone who would lead you and guide you in the right way, someone who would take all the fear out of your life, all the anxiety out of your life, and have all the resources that you could ever hope for, ever need, and far more, and somebody who would assure you of a future.  If you could find somebody like that, that would make an adoptive child happy.
 
Well, you have that and more because that is what God promises you, and not only does He take you in by adoption, but He changes your nature, and then He begins to make you look like the Father and your Brother, Christ Himself.  This is the blessed work of the Holy Spirit. 
 
Let's pray.
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