14 For all those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons.
Romans 8 is probably everyone’s favorite chapter in Romans. There are so many wonderful assurances, starting of course with verse one, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Such wonderful words: “No condemnation!” They lift us up and let us sail across the rest of the chapter, noting as we go words like “life” and “peace” and “sons who can call our father Abba,” and ending with the glorious promise that nothing can separate us from His love.
All this is right and good—with one big caveat. It only applies to those who truly ARE in Christ Jesus. If we fold our wings and instead walk carefully through the entire chapter, we will discover that Paul provides us with some fairly specific ways to determine if these promises actually apply to us.
After explaining how we have access to this freedom only because Christ has fulfilled “the righteous requirement of the law” and not because of anything we ourselves have done, Paul introduces our part, saying we must now “walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” He goes on to explain that those who walk this way “set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” He underscores this by emphasizing that in fact “the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God.”
Does this mean we’re only supposed to think “religious” thoughts and never concern ourselves with the matters of daily living? That’s not what Paul is referring to when he speaks of the flesh. If we step back for a minute to Romans 7, we’ll have a clearer sense of his meaning. We read in verse 18, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.”
What we see here is a scenario of war. There are two distinct sides. The Spirit who dwells in Paul is fighting against the sin nature that still resides in him, what he calls “the flesh.” When a person is truly regenerated, this war is active and ongoing. If you can’t say you’ve experienced this battle, it’s a good sign the Spirit may in fact not live in you.
To be sure, an unregenerated person can struggle to follow rules or to please an authority, but the inner battle Paul is speaking of is noticeably unique. The longer a person lives with this inner spiritual turmoil, two results will follow. First, there will be a gradual realization of his personal weakness in resisting the demands of his flesh. At the same time, there will be increasing joy and peace as he discovers the power of the Spirit within him which is revealed through the process of repentance and forgiveness.
Another indication that a person is truly regenerated can be seen in Romans 8:18. Paul declares that in his mind, “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Said another way, the priorities of a regenerated person shift dramatically from what they were before salvation. As this person eagerly looks forward to Christ’s coming and the final restoration of creation, his personal comforts and pleasures become less and less important.
In short, if the Spirit of the eternal God of the universe is truly inhabiting your body, the results are so significant that they can only be explained supernaturally. As Paul puts it in verse 16, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” There is nothing more important than having the assurance that we eternally belong to Christ.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- God is so concerned that we answer the question of security rightly that He devoted a whole book in His Bible to it. John tells us in 1 John 5:13, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” Read carefully through this letter for other specific ways to evaluate your standing with God.
- However, the Bible also speaks of false assurance, most explicitly in Matthew 7:21. It is far better to doubt your salvation until you are fully assured of it than to let someone convince you not to worry about this. Our salvation rests not on our determination to believe something, but on the actual presence of the Spirit in our lives.
Pray for favor in communities and with local leaders for our global workers. Pray that God would meet the needs they have for family and ministry.