Children of God
In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 35c of 83

14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 15 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. 16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Romans 8:14-16a).

[Our theology always impacts our life. A wrong understanding of Paul’s words in our text has led to a joyless, moribund life for some who may actually be true believers. But how does a proper understanding of our text make a difference. This is what we are looking at in this final instalment of study of Paul’s comforting description of our adoption into God’s family. JJL]

3.  Uses of the Doctrine

What do we say to these things? It is all very well to know accurately what the apostle Paul is teaching us. But how should these truths transform us? Well, let me ask you three questions.

First, I would ask you: Do you cry ‘Abba, Father’ from your heart?

Remember that the apostle Paul is not telling us to cry out ‘Abba Father.’ No, no, he is stating as a fact that as the children of God, we will call our Abba Father.

So you must ask yourself: Am I? I am not asking if you ever use these words on your lips. I am asking if you use these words meaningfully. I am asking if when you cry out “Abba Father,” you do so with love for Him and a consciousness of His presence and His love for you.

I am not asking you if you have perfect love for God, or whether you feel His love for you perfectly. No, no; while you are on this side of eternity, you will never love God as much as you may desire in your renewed heart; and you will never be able to experience the love of God as you want to. Your old man will ensure that! But do you not find in your heart any assurance that God loves you? Do you not find any assurance that He has forgiven your sin?

If you do, you will cry ‘Abba Father.’ It will arise out of your heart instinctively. When that happens, you know that you are a child of God.

Secondly, I would ask you: Do you know whether you are living correctly as a Christian?

Remember: The Spirit of Adoption is not a spirit of bondage unto fear. Therefore, consider your motives and attitudes in your Christian walk. Why do you do what you do as a Christian?

·        Why do you keep the Sabbath? Is it because you are afraid God will not bless you if you don’t?

·        Why do you catechise your children? Is it because you do not want your child to be embarrassed in class?

·        Why do you attend the worship services and prayer meetings? Is it out of slavish fear? Is it because you do not want to be embarrassed by having the Session call you to ask why you are absent?

Beloved, these ought not to be the reasons for doing what you should do. Your reason should be one of love and gratitude towards your heavenly Father.

If your reason for what you do as a Christian is not love and gratitude towards God, you are not living as a Christian should. You must re-examine yourself as to your faith, —for you know nothing of the fear or love of God. You are simply not living the Christian life even though outwardly you may appear as a Christian. You ought really to prayerfully re-examine your whole foundation.

Likewise, if gratitude towards God does not motivate you to want to be found in God’s house to worship God with His people, then you must also re-examine your foundation. Are you for real, if you neither love God nor know His love? Say what you want, but if gratitude does not move you, you do not love God.

But thirdly, I would ask you: Do you know how to grow as a Christian? Do you know how to cultivate your love for God in your heart?

Well, the answer is very simple: Saturate yourself with the Scripture. The more you know the Scriptures, the more you will you will be able to apply the Scripture, and the more the Holy Spirit can apply the Scriptures to your heart.

Remember that the Spirit of Christ leads you with a road map,—namely the Bible.  And remember that even your assurance of being a child of God, depends on what you know of the Word. The Word is the wax; the Holy Spirit is the seal. If you have no wax in your heart, do not expect the Holy Spirit to give you a stamp of approval.

Therefore, the more you know and live according to the Scripture, the more you can have assurance that you are a son or daughter of God. Conversely, the further you are from the Scripture, the weaker your assurance of God’s love must be. If you are rich in Scripture, you will be rich in assurance.

And not only so, but the more you know of the Scriptures, the more you will know what pleases God and what displeases Him. Think of your earthly father. If you know him well, you will know what makes him happy and what makes him sad. I am not talking about favourite food or hobby. I am talking about your behaviour.

So it is in your relationship with your heavenly Father. The more you know Him, the more you know how to please Him. Indeed, by the work of the Holy Spirit, you actually desire to please Him. This is how the Holy Spirit leads you—so that you become more and more like Him.

I have been asked if I believe that intuition and feelings have any place at all in the Christian life. Well, the answer is: Yes, I believe that there is a place for feelings and intuition, but they must be feelings and intuitions that grows out the soil of a fear of God that is fertilised by the Scriptures. If you are going to decide on anything because you have a feeling it is the right thing to do, you must be able to say something of what Scripture or doctrine that gives rise to that feeling. Christians must be slaves to the Word of God.


Oh dear reader, be heavy with the Word of God.

Read the Word of God daily. Take every opportunity to hear His Word. Memorise the Scripture, meditate on the Scriptures.

And not only so, but use the catechism. Use the catechism as a webbing to hang more Scriptures in your memory. A webbing, in case you are unfamiliar with the term, is something that a soldier wears so that he can hang his carry his bullets, grenade, bayonet, water-bottle, etc. A soldier does not carry things in his pocket. He carries them on his webbing.  And he can carry a lot of things.

Now, the catechism is like a webbing. If you learn the catechism, you will have webbing in your heart to hang biblical truths. Otherwise you can only carry very little truths.

So, dear reader, be diligent to wear a webbing of the catechism so that you can be heavy with the Word of God. Unless you are heavy with the Word, you cannot be sure that you are a child of God. If you are ignorant of the Scripture, but you are sure that you are a child of God, your assurance is very flimsy.

And it will show in other aspects of your life. It will show in your prayer life. It will show in your conduct and attitude. It will show in your studies. It will show in your work place and at home and in church.

If you will enjoy your adoption to the Father, strive to be saturated with the Word of God.

But are you still a stranger to Christ and His gospel? I must tell you that you are not a child of God. And if you are not a child of God, you a child of the devil. I am not making this up. It is the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ. You can read it in John 8. If you are a child of Satan, beware. Satan is the father of lies. He wants you for His company. He is trying very hard to make sure that you do not step onto the way of life.

But will you not flee from him? The Word of God is the map showing the way of life everlasting. Will you not read the Word and come learn the Word so that you may know the Way. But above all, will you not cry out unto the Lord to take you by your hand and lead you out of the way of destruction.

The Lord Jesus says: “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him” (Jn 6:44). But he also says: “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (Jn 6:37). Our Lord Jesus will be a friend to all who come unto Him and He will give them His Spirit and lead them home unto His Father. What a blessing it is to be a Christian. Will you not come? Amen.

—JJ Lim