By: Alson B H Percival (Venerable Dr.)
The Apostle Paul in Romans 8:12-25 continues his series of studies that began in chapter 5 on the function of grace. Paul agonized on the fate of Israel in the outworking of God’s grace. So, while the verses for this lesson are part of a beautiful conclusion to a positive portion of the letter, they also come before and anticipate the troubled and troubling reflection that Paul presents in chapters 9-11.
Paul in addressing the community of believers in Rome v. 11 offered a theological observation in the form of an “if” and a” then” statement (“If the Spirit of the One who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, then the One who raised Christ from the dead will make also your mortal bodies alive through his Spirit that dwells in you.” Having addressed the Romans in that manner, the Apostle began the verses of our text v. 12 by building on the declaration from v.11 with a statement that itself opens with the words “So then” or “Then, therefore.”
Whereas in last week’s text 8:1-11 Paul uses the theme of Christian life as being life in the Spirit, in this weeks’ Scripture 8:12-17 he uses the implicit comparison of “sonship” which is hard to detect in the New Revised Standard Version; and “childhood” is used to amplify and take the place of sonship. This is how the Good News Bible puts it, So then, my friends, we have an obligation, but it is not to live as our human nature wants us to. For if you live according to your human nature, you are going to die; but if by the Spirit you put to death your sinful actions, you will live. Those who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s children. For the Spirit that God has given you does not make you slaves and cause you to be afraid; instead, the Spirit makes you God’s children, and by the Spirit’s power we cry out to God, “Father! My Father!” God’s Spirit joins himself to our spirits to declare that we are God’s children. Since we are his children, we will possess the blessings he keeps for his people, and we will also possess with Christ what God has kept for Him; for if we share Christ’s suffering, we will also share His glory. (vv 12-17) All is done however to reflect on the significance of our relationship to God.
When Paul tells the Romans–men and women alike–that they will become “sons of God,” he made a statement about legal standing. He as it was constructed and understood the ancient world. In the patriarchal culture of oldness, normally a son or sons were the heirs to the goods of the father of the family. The oldest son received a double share of the goods, while other sons received lesser portions. Women were “married off” and not normally the focus of inheritance. Therefore, when Paul declares that “all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God”, he spoke concerning becoming related to God in such a manner that all Christians have an inheritance from God, which is in itself an inheritance with Christ.