Sermon: Name Changer – Romans 8:14-17

14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. 

Lord God,

You are our God. You are our creator. But you are also our Heavenly Father. And let us not take it lightly that we can to approach you as Father and that because of your Son, our Lord Jesus, who took on the penalty of our sins, that we are enabled to be adopted as your Sons and daughters. 

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight

Lord, we once again thank you for the opportunity to meet here today and to praise your great name and to remember your wondrous gospel. 

Our Father, we pray for our time of fellowship. We pray for the city of Beirut who endured a catastrophic explosion this past week which has caused so much destruction in a city and nation that are already reeling. Lord, we also pray for missionaries and Christians in that struggling nation that they can be light in spite of this horrible event. 

Lord, we pray that you would bless our time in your Word. May we be pointed to grace and truth. In Jesus’ name, amen.  

 This morning, we’re continuing in our series the Forensics of Faith. 

 We’ve discussed regeneration: the new Spiritual life that God works in a believer. 

Justification: the right legal standing before God. 

Sanctification: the process through which God makes us holy. 

All three of those things are glorious works of grace in the lives of a believer. 

Today we focus on our relationship to God because of the salvation of the gospel. When we come to faith in Christ, we are adopted as God’s sons and daughters and become members of the family of God. 

It isn’t deserved or merited. It is entirely because of the grace of God through the gospel and the sacrifice that Christ made on the cross. He did that so we could be forgiven of our sins but also so that we could have a relationship with God. 


Main idea: God’s son died so we could be God’s sons. 

And certainly for ladies, you’re no less adopted, no less part of God’s family, you’re adopted as a daughter of God. I say “Son” because that’s what the text says, which is what the Greek had said, which is part of an overarching thee of sonship that is in the Bible. 


I. Adoption 

14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

Everyone who is led by the Spirit is a Son of God. 

Sonship is an important theme in the Bible. We talked about this a few weeks ago in one of our recorded sermons we did this spring. 

In the Old Testament, we see Israel referred to as God’s son. And during the Davidic Monarchy of Israel, the earthly king of Israel was also referred to as a Son of God.

But we don’t see individuals referring to themselves as God’s sons in the Old Testament. Nor do we see people referring to God as their “father.” 


Where the text says “sons,” of course this includes women as well. But when it talks about being sons of God, the term has this rich Old Testament background.

Especially when we consider that the ultimate reason why this is even possible is because Jesus Christ, the son of God, has enabled us to be adopted by God. The son of God died so we could be sons of God. 

This passage also talks about the role of the Holy Spirit in our relationship with God.

We are regenerated by the Spirit. We are sanctified by the Spirit. We are baptized by the Holy Spirit. And here, we are led by the Spirit as an indication of our adoption into God’s family. 

And if you look at this verse in context, when it’s talking about being led by the Spirit, it’s referring to being led by the Spirit away from sin. 

Because we have been given God’s Spirit, it is the Spirit which leads a person in holiness and leads a person from sin. 

Adherence to the Spirit of God shows a person who really is in the family of God. Someone who really has received this Spiritual adoption.

15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

We haven’t received a Spirit of fear. A spirit of doubt. But we have received the Spirit of adoption. It is only when a person has faith and the Spirit that comes through faith that a person is adopted as God’s child. 

And because the Spirit is God, the Spirit internally witnesses to God, and it is through the Spirit that we cry “Abba! Father!” 

Abba is the Aramaic word for Father. It’s the word Jesus himself would have used when referring to God. 

Abba almost sounds like a word a child would use. As little ones are trying to first speak, not even putting words together, but just syllables and sounds. 

Because we have been adopted as God’s children, due to the witness of the Spirit in our hearts, we are able to approach the infinite God of the universe in the same intimate terms in which His own son, Jesus Christ referred to him. “Abba.” 

That when we are in the difficulties of life. When we are in the dark nights of the soul. When we are in the stormy seasons. When we are dealing with brokenness and shattered relationships. That we have a personal God to whom we can address as “Abba, Father.” 

I very lightly touched on this point last Sunday. 

This idea, as Americans is one that is so basic, that it is easy to lose appreciation for the magnitude of what this means. It’s just so entrenched in our vocabulary with how we talk about God that it’s good to step back and think about that. God is our Father. 

Even nominal Christians know the Lord’s prayer, “Our father who art in heaven.” Again, that’s part of the way how we talk about God.  

In many parts of the world, and in many other faiths, such a thing would be radical, if not outright blasphemous. 

But God’s son died so we could be God’s sons. And because of the gospel, we can approach the King of the Universe as our Father. 

Again, do we think about how remarkable that is? 

You can approach God as “Father.” If you called your boss your father, he’d think you were crazy! You don’t address the president as “father.” And those are just people. But with Almighty God, we can approach him as “Father.” And I think we treat it like, “well yeah, so what?” 

We are enabled to approach God in such a way. 

Not because we deserve it. We don’t. God is holy and mighty and perfect and righteous. 

And we are not.

 But the God of the universe invites you into close relationship with Him. That’s not something that is meant to be taken lightly. 

In Jewish literature from ancient times, individuals did not refer to God as their “father.”

I’ve already alluded to this, but in the Bible, the giants of the Old Testament didn’t address the Lord as their Father. Abraham. Who believed in God and it was counted to him as righteousness. Who God promised his offspring would be as innumerable as the stars, through whom all the nations would be blessed (Genesis 12:3, 15:5, 22:18), don’t address God as his “Father.”

Moses, the leader of Israel who led them from slavery in Egypt, through wanderings in the desert. The man to whom God gave the Ten Commandments. The man who was in the presence of the Lord and whose face shined so spectacularly that he had to wear a veil when talking to the people didn’t address God as His Father (Exodus 20, 34). David. The King of Israel. The man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22) the author of 76 Psalms, some of the most loving words in scripture written about God did not address God as his father. 

But 39 times in the gospels, Jesus personally refers to God as His Father.

And he talked about our relationship to God as being our father. I’ve mentioned the Lord’s prayer. It begins “Our father, in heaven (Matthew 6:9).” Before the prayer, he says:

when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:6)

These great figures in the Old Testament. Didn’t refer to God as their father, but Jesus instructs us to do so.

Because of what Christ has done for us so that we can be forgiven of our sins, he has invited into a relationship, and because God has given those whom he has forgiven his Spirit, we can approach God as “Abba, Father.” It’s not just that we get to use a new term to refer to God. It’s that the Spirit of God witnessing and convicting us internally affirms in our heart that God is our “Abba, Father” and that we are His children. We have a good God.

Some people envision this abstract creator God who’s not personal or relational. But the Spirit testifies in us in these intimate terms in referring to God. Abba, father.


Is that something you’ve done recently? Or done ever? And I’m not so much talking about the words. 

But do you ever rest in the grace of your loving heavenly Father? Do you ever find peace and patience in knowing God is on the throne?

I think it’s so tempting for us to want to control everything. To want to control situations. I know it’s something I fight against. 

But we are adopted as Sons and Daughters of the Father of all creation. We are heirs of grace because of what Christ has done. 

We get to approach God as our Father, just like how Jesus could. Because we are adopted. We aren’t partially adopted as God’s children. We are fully adopted into the family of God. Since the adoption is a work of God, it’s not something we can lose. You can’t get disowned in this family. You are God’s child when you place faith in Christ. 

In times of uncertainty and stress, is the first reaction to panic about it? Is it to worry and be fearful? Or do you think “My Father in heaven knows me and knows.”

When you’re in a situation and you don’t know what to do, do you think “Father, lead me.” When you’re dealing with someone who’s difficult, do you think “Father, soften me.” When you’re facing loneliness and desire, do you say “Father, be with me.”

God adopts us. You cannot be God’s child without having been adopted by God. 

Being able to approach God as your Father is something only his adopted children can do. 

While all people are created by God, not all people are his sons and daughters. 

John 1:12 says that for all who believed in him, he gave the right to become children of God.  In our own passage, in verse 16, it is the Spirit that testifies that we are children of God. But without that means that a person is not. And the Spirit comes through faith.

It’s not because he needs us, or because he’s lonely without us. God has always existed in a relationship with Himself, in the three persons of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Spirit. And yet he invites us as well into relationship with Him. Purely because of his goodness and love.  


We see other references from Paul to adoption. 

Ephesians 1:5 

In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will

 Again, the forgiveness that comes through the gospel is reserved exclusively for the person who has placed faith in Christ. 

We see similar language used in Galatians as we do in Romans. Galatians 4:4-6

 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 

The son of God died so we can be God’s sons.


None of this is to say we should just be totally casual in our relationship with  God. In the Ten Commandments, we are told to honor our Father and Mother (Exodus 20:12). And we should. And we must also honor our Heavenly Father. 

Jesus honored and revered his Heavenly Father. And keep in mind, Jesus is God. We aren’t. But nevertheless, we see from Jesus humility before God. We see him living in fidelity to God’s will. 

God is our Father in heaven. We can experience closeness and intimacy with God. But it’s a relationship that also demands reverence and honor.

He is perfect.    


16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.  

There is so much that could be said about these verses. 

The Holy Spirit bears witness in your heart the you are a child of God. 

The Spirit witnessing to God is also touching on the doctrine of assurance.

This again speaks to the impact of the gospel in a person’s life.

The Spirit bears witness that we are children of God. And if children, then heirs. Being adopted as a child of God comes with an inheritance. 

In the first century Roman world, their concept of adoption had many similarities to how adoption works here today. Again, adoption doesn’t mean someone just has a new set of roommates. It is becoming part of a family. It is having a new name. 

In Rome, for people in the upper classes, if they did not have a male heir, sometimes they would adopt a child from another family. Perhaps the most famous example of this from the Ancient Roman world was Augustus Ceasar. 

But here’s what’s interesting.  Since it was often times wealthier families who practiced adoption, it was to carry on the family name and it was also for the purpose of having an heir to whom to give an inheritance. 

And those are all true for us when we are adopted as sons and daughters of God. And you do have privileges through adoption as well. 

You have the inheritance of a future with God. You have the Spirit of God in you. You have forgiveness for your sins. You have a relationship with God. You are God’s child.  

But there are also responsibilities with being a child of God. There are greater things we are called to.

We are supposed to be like our father.

Like Father, like son.

After the Lord’s prayer, Jesus says “if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14).

Jesus said to “be merciful, even as your father is merciful (Luke 6:33)” and those who love their enemies will be sons of God” (Luke 6:35).

 And that the peacemakers will be called “sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).

Like Father, like son. We are called upon to do what our Father does too. Obviously it’s not that we become divine now or at any point ever in the future. But in character and holiness, as God’s adopted heirs, we are to live lives as witnesses to God’s holiness and goodness in the world.

Another part of being an heir with Christ taken directly from the text:

if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Now this might not be what we’d expect. Shouldn’t we be insulated from any sort of suffering or difficulty?

Christ wasn’t. And part of the union with Christ does involve difficulty and suffering. That cuts against the grain of what our society likes to say Christianity is. That true blessing is always the path of least resistance.

But that view is not Biblical. 

The Bible doesn’t hide from the reality of the fallen world in which we live. Sharing in suffering, enduring and persevering in faith through difficulty is a prelude to future glory.

For a person who truly is adopted and truly is a child of God, even in the difficulties, we still have the Holy Spirit inside us, witnessing “Abba, father” confirming our faith to us. But in being like Christ, we all do have our crosses to bear.

And knowing that, are you still able to trust God? Or do you want to go into doubt? Do you want to find scriptures that say that isn’t true? What’s your response?

Some of us have been blessed with incredible dads. Dads who were always there for us. Supportive. Loving.

But some of us didn’t have great dads.

Sociologists say that a person’s view of their father can impact their views of God.

But even in spite of challenges, what do you believe about God? Do you believe he is a good and loving Father?


I talked earlier about Roman adoption. 

It’s striking to me that something that was sometimes practiced in Roman adoptions was the adopting family giving money to the birth family for their child. The adopted Roman could often times still maintain connections with the birth family and was promised an inheritance in the new family. 

But it’s striking that it came at a cost. 

It makes me wonder how passages like this would have been viewed in the first century. Because our adoption into God’s family also came at a cost. The cost of God’s son dying so that we could be God’s sons. 

Even today. In doing a domestic adoption through an adoption agency, it’s many thousands of dollars. It comes at a cost. 

God adopting us as his sons and daughters came at a cost. 

In the book Hidden in Plain Sight, author Mark Buchanan tells the story of a woman named Regine from Rwanda. She had become a Christian and moved to Canada. She met a man named Gordon. They got married and eventually decided to return to her homeland to spread the gospel. 

Tragedy would strike when her only son was murdered in Rwanda. 

Regina prayed for clarity on who had done this. She was filled with bitterness and hatred. 

Her only son. Gone. 

One day, she had a knock at the door and there stood a young man.

He hesitated. Then he said, “I am the one who killed your son. Since that day, I have had no life. No peace. So here I am. I am placing my life in your hands. Kill me. I am dead already. Throw me in jail. I am in prison already. Torture me. I am in torment already. Do with me as you wish.” 

The woman had prayed for this day. Now it had arrived, and she didn’t know what to do. She found, to her own surprise, that she did not want to kill him. Or throw him in jail. Or torture him. In that moment of reckoning, she found she only wanted one thing: a son.

God has a son too. 

And that son gave his life for you so you could be called God’s own son or daughter. 

Regina took that boy in that day. She made him her own. 

He had killed her son and deserved wrath and punishment. But what he instead found was unimaginable grace. Her son’s killer found a home. 

We were outside the family of God. Our inheritance wasn’t joy in heaven. It was wrath in Hell. It wasn’t the Holy Spirit, it was worldliness.

It wasn’t God as our Father. We couldn’t make him adopt us. God chose to adopt us because of his love. But the cost of that was his own son. Who died for us so we could be with God. That was the cost of forgiveness from our sins.