Therefore, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.
Is our desire, is our vocation, life? Then we are bound in honour, hound by the necessity of the case, to live, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. But are we even then sure of the destiny of life? We are walking in a way; whither does the way lead? The answer to this question lies in the prevailing characteristic of the life we live now - a life that is "led by the Spirit of God:" These are sons! Survey the life: only "sons" could live a life like that. And the life, being of God, is to God; "If children, then heirs." We have, then, to consider - sonship, heirship.
I. THE SONSHIP. In ver. 15 he leads them back to the commencement of this new life. What was the change which then passed over them? They were in bondage once - such bondage as he has described in ch. 7. And this bondage might be said to be of God, for it was the transition to liberty. God showed them the infinite claims of his holy Law, and thereby revealed to them their guilt, their helplessness, their doom. Oh, what bondage was theirs then! The whole purport of that period of their spiritual discipline was "unto fear." Nay, not the whole purport; they were but wounded that they might be made whole. God had prepared some better things for them. "In me dwelleth no good thing :" yes, this they learned. But, in Christ, they "received the Spirit of adoption;" in him they saw their sin forgiven, and in the power of God's boundless love they mounted upward as on eagles' wings. Accepted in the Beloved!
1. The adoption. An alienation is here implied from the original sonship. Man's fall; each one's sin and wicked works. The potential adoption of all in Christ Jesus: hold fast to this great fact. But not this alone: each one's individuality respected, and hence the actual adoption only of those who voluntarily attach themselves to the new Headship of Christ Jesus. This the blessed concomitant of pardon; and love working by law (Roman custom), that in this also "he might be just."
2. The witness. Each one who unfeignedly believes in Christ Jesus is adopted into the family of God. But may not this blessed adoption be realized? Thank God, it may: "The Spirit witnesseth with our spirit." "All things are of God" (2 Corinthians 5:18), and so the whole of the great work of salvation is his work, and when every holy confidence towards himself is inspired in the believer's mind, it is his inspiration. But he deals with men in harmony with the laws of their own minds, and guides and inspires them through the processes of their own thought. Hence the expression, "witnesseth with our spirit." Our consciousness of God's forgiveness, our conviction of his love, are produced instrumentally by our apprehension of his purposes and promises in Christ; but in and through the working of our own spirit his Spirit works. We are prompted by our perception of God's love in Christ to cry, "Abba, Father;" but it is also by him that we thus cry. He works the assurance in and through the working of our thought and feeling: "witnesseth with our spirit." And thus is explained the failure, where there is failure, to realize this assurance. God's inspiration is not wanting, but the instrumentality is at fault. Perceptions, tone, temperament - these constitute the hindrance. And remediable by proper means. Such, then, the sonship which is the secret of the new life: adoption, and the realization of that adoption - all of God. His children! His beloved ones! Therefore we love him; therefore we live to him.
II. THE HEIRSHIP. But if sonship be the inspiration of this new life, what must its destiny be? We are heirs - "heirs of God; joint-heirs with Christ."
1. Heirs of God. The idea of fatherhood is the bestowal of all benediction on the child. And "of him every fatherhood in heaven and on earth is named" (Ephesians 3:15). Therefore he himself, and all that he can give, shall constitute our heritage. Now, in this world, God is ours; this is the great possession: his presence, his power, his love. And thus the world itself is transmuted into an inheritance of joy, even sorrows yielding blessing. But we are not yet of age; our manhood then! And oh, the inheritance that shall be! God himself we shall see face to face, knowing even as we are known. And God's creation shall be made - how fair and beautiful to us, who shall say? "In thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (Psalm 16:11). And that "path of life" shall be "shown" us by God.
2. Joint-heirs with Christ. Christ, the Appointed One, the Son of man - God has adopted us in him; God has made us heirs in him! And his appropriation of the heritage is our pledge. His life in the world: the Father, the Father's gifts; yea, even the cross. His risen and ascended life: "the Firstfruits of them that slept;" "whither the Forerunner is for us entered" (1 Corinthians 15:20; Hebrews 6:20). See John 17., where the co-heirship is so set forth. But meanwhile, "if so be that we suffer with him"! The process of recovery to sonship, heirship. We drink of that cup, we bear that cross; but so we shall wear that crown. - T.F.L.
Parallel VersesKJV: Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.