Russell Moore who teaches at Southern Baptist Seminary told the story of the first time he ever saw the two boys, he and his wife would eventually adopt. The boys were lying in excrement and vomit, covered in heat blisters and flies, in an orphanage somewhere in a little mining community in Russia. Russell and his Maria had applied to adopt and had gone on the first of two trips, not knowing if they would find anyone waiting for them. Immediately upon landing in the former Soviet Union, Moore wondered if he and his wife had made the worst mistake of their lives.
Sitting in a foreign airport, with the smell of European perfume, human sweat, and cigarette smoke wafting all around them, Maria and Russell recommitted to God that they would trust him and that they would adopt whomever he directed them to, regardless of what medical or emotional problems they may have. A Russian judge told them she had two “gray-eyed” boys picked out for them, both of whom had been abandoned by their mothers to a hospital in the little village about an hour from where they were staying.
Sure enough, the orphanage authorities, through their translators, cataloged a terrifying list of medical problems, including fetal alcohol syndrome for one, if not both, of the boys. They looked at each other, as if to say, “This is what the Lord has for us, so here we go.”
The nurse led them up some stairs, down a dark hallway, and into a tiny room with two beds. Russell said he can still see the younger of the two, now Timothy, rocking up and down against the bars of his crib, grinning widely. The older, now Benjamin, was more reserved, stroking my five o’clock shadow with his hand and seeing (he came to realize) a man most probably for the very first time in his life.
Both the boys had hair matted down on their heads, and one of them had crossed eyes. Both of them moved slowly and rigidly, almost like stop-motion clay animated characters from the Christmas television specials of our 1970s childhoods. And Russell and his wife loved them both, at an intuitive and almost primal level, from the very first second. As they left the Russian orphanage, for the first time the boys saw the light of day, cars, and heard the noises of out of doors. As they drove away the boys turned and reached back for their orphanage (Adopted for Life). They did not realize what they had just been rescued from and the much better life they were about to learn and enjoy.
God’s Word teaches that each of us as believers has been adopted into the family of God. Because we were born in sin we were spiritual orphans. In Romans 8:14-17 Paul teaches us about our adoption into the family of God.
In Romans 8, Paul is writing about why believers are secure in Christ.
1. We have been delivered from the Law (8:1-4) that we might walk in the Spirit
2. We possess the Holy Spirit (8:5-13) who can help us mortify the deeds of the flesh
3. We are in The Family of God (8:14-17) as mature adults
Adoption in the Bible, however, is different from adoption in our American system. The adoption that Paul refers to is Roman adoption of the first century. It was not one family getting a small child abandoned by another family. Roman adoption was a father adopting his own older son. The adoption ceremony was an induction into adulthood with all the rights and responsibilities of manhood.
The Holy Spirit is also “the Spirit of adoption” (Rom. 8:14–17). The word adoption in the New Testament means “being placed as an adult son.” We come into God’s family by birth. But the instant we are born into the family, God adopts us and gives us the position of an adult son. A baby cannot walk, speak, make decisions, or draw on the family wealth. But the believer can do all of these the instant he is born again.
So what are the Marks of Spiritual Adulthood?
1. Obedience to the Word (8:14)
“Sons” or adult sons or spiritually mature believers follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. The same picture is in Galatians 4:1-7.
Just as sheep follow their shepherd, so do mature believers follow the Holy Spirit. The Spirit uses God’s Word to guide or lead us. Jesus predicted this now present ministry of the Holy Spirit in John 16:13.
The Holy Spirit guides us into truth by putting people in our lives to guide us with His Word. He puts parents in the lives of their children (Ephesians 6:1-3). He puts friends in our lives who exhort us with God’s Word (Hebrews 3:12-13). The Holy Spirit puts teachers and pastors in our lives to instruct us in God’s Word (Hebrews 13:17).
Immature believers just wont listen. Mature believers will. Not only is obedience to the Word a mark of spiritual adulthood but also holiness of life.
2. Holiness of Life (8:15a)
The Holy Spirit makes us free from addictions or “bondage” or slavery. Sin is no longer our slave master. Listen again to Paul in 8:2. If your addiction is porn, prescription drugs, drinking, overeating, or over working, the Holy Spirit can break you loose from these shackles.
The Holy Spirit also makes us free from “fear:” The fear of getting caught or the fear of punishment. Paul in 2 Timothy 1:7 encouraged us, “God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and soundness of mind.”
C. The Corinthians were the opposite of the adult believer Paul is describing here. In Corinthians 3:1-3, Paul called them spiritual babies. At one of John MacArthur’s pastor’s conferences a pastor who preached on spiritual infancy from 1 Corinthians 3:1-3, walked out on the platform wearing only an adult pamper, with a baby bottle in one hand, a pacifier around his neck and a Bible in his other hand. What an unnatural sight. But no more unbecoming for a grown up believer who is still immature.
Spiritual babies are addicted to sin (1 Corinthians 6:12). Mature believers are free at last to intimately fellowship with our Father (Part two).