Brothers and sisters, when we come around the emblems on our Lord’s table we are chal­lenged by the effort to which our Father in heaven has gone to complete this plan and provide for our salvation. For example, we have the reassur­ing words of Psalm 103 where we read, “He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us. Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear Him” (v 10-13). There is then, this marvellous extension of love and compassion towards those that fear Him, that being as limitless in scope as the vastness of the heavens!

But in fearing God as His children, it is incum­bent upon us to show a certain mindset. Romans 8 describes that mindset as a conscious choice that we need to make. We can choose to centre our minds on the things of God or we can choose to allow our minds the freedom to go anywhere, at any time, not cutting it off from the thoughts and actions that do not give glory to God. We make that choice every waking moment of every day! But the end result is inescapable. In absolute terms, the apostle concludes that, “To be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (v6). The outcome of life or death for us, therefore, depends on a decision from us and, as we are well aware, there is an ever-present enmity between flesh and spirit (see Rom 7). As children of God, let us set our minds on what the Spirit desires, for that surely is life and peace.

The Steps of Sonship

As we can see from Romans 8, there are several steps towards sonship into Yahweh’s family. They involve leaving the “natural” father and then being adopted (placed as sons) into a new relationship with Him. It involves:

  1. Separation from our old, natural father (the flesh).
  2. Being reborn in a spiritual sense, resulting in baptism and becoming a member of His family.
  3. Living a way of life that manifests the characteristics of the Father, doing not our own will but God’s.
  4. The walk must be one of faith, walking in the spirit; we cannot see God but we trust and believe in Him.
  5. That walk ultimately leads to the full manifestation of the sons of God in their “apocalypse” to the world: “He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies” (v11). What a step that will be – glorified nature in the Age to come!

We do not walk alone! The apostle Paul gave us much reassurance regarding our walk to the Kingdom. Firstly, he assures us that as “sons of God” we are led by the “Spirit of God” (v14). We let God’s spirit lead us in His way toward His kingdom with the confidence of the Psalmist who declared, “Even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me” (Psa 139:10) and, “see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlast­ing” (v24). Consequently, whatever befalls us on that journey, we need not fear (Rom 8:15). We are His children and at every sign of danger we can cry unto Him “Abba, Father” and reach up to find unfailing safety in His arms (vs15–16).

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Rom 8:28)

Beyond the comfort and reassurance of our present security, we also realise that we are “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (v17). It is almost beyond our comprehension to appreciate that we are destined for an indescribable inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. We only have to look at his resurrected glory to gain a picture of the glory held out to us. If the Lord was made perfect through suffering, then we should appreciate that we are being offered no less! Beyond the temporal pain lies the joy set before us when we may also be glorified together with our Lord and with his saints: “We shall be like him” (1 John 3:2). Brethren and sisters, how rich is that promise!

Waiting Patiently

The children of God have a glorious freedom, a freedom from sin, guilt and death, but we do have to patiently wait for our day of redemption. The apostle likens this to the process of childbirth. With intense longing we “groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption” that we know will surely come (v23). This is an allusion to Genesis 3:16 and the pain, sorrow and travail of childbirth (see Job 39:3). As a woman in the acute pangs of childbirth, we cry out ‘How long, O Lord!’ With deep groan­ings, we cry, how long, indeed, O Lord?

Our anticipation is helped by the signs of the times that are so quickly occurring. We know that when we see these things come to pass then we are to lift up our heads for our redemption draws near. Paul tells us that, “If we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it” (v25). Yet help is always there. We take Job as a great example of a man sorely afflicted, yet he saw that “the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy” (Jas 5:11).He declared, “Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty” (Job 5:17).

The apostle tells us that the Spirit helps our infirmities (Rom 8:26). How does God assist us in our groanings for redemption? At the end of an age the writer to the Hebrews wrote words that are very instructive for us. He said that “no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (12:11). When faced with chastening trials, for what should we pray? Would we know what to pray for? For removal of the trial or strength to endure? Let’s take the example of our Lord when he faced the horrible prospect of betrayal and crucifixion. The prospect was extremely painful and bore down heavily upon his godly and sensitive mind. We gain an insight into the mind of the Lord by being privy to his strong crying and tears: “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again” (John 12:27–28). What a spirit of resolve! And what a gracious response from the Father who loved His Son! Here is a wonderful decision to do God’s will, being faithful unto the end, even unto his last breath! Truly the words of Romans 8:28 were vindicated in the life of the Son of God: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose”.

We can conclude several things about our trials from this encouraging verse. They are a vehicle for good, our ultimate good, even if they may not seem to be beneficial at the time (see v35–37). It has been proven true for all those who love God and have a relationship with Him. We believe that the trials we experience are in accordance with His purpose with us and are intended to shape us for our ulti­mate destiny!

Being Conformed

In the midst of our trials it is comforting to know that God predestined us “to be conformed to the image of His Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (v29). What a great honour it is for us, the children of God, to not only know that our future is secure but also to know that we enjoy the privilege of being his brethren and sisters, among many brothers.

We are therefore destined for great things, but this is not automatic – we have our part to play in our salvation. It is fair to say that if we do not pos­sess the mindset of loving service now, He will not be forcing us to do it forever!

We need to ask ourselves the question, how well are we being conformed into the likeness of His Son? Are we still endeavouring to be the children of God and, more particularly, being conformed into a reflection of the Lord himself? As we partake of the emblems we are remembering him and, as each memorial passes, we examine ourselves and resolve more completely to “live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20).

There is great encouragement for us to continue in this transformation until he comes. Consider what incentives there are for us. Let us read Romans 8:31–39 and note again in those verses the sense of victory for the redeemed who overcome all things:

  • God is for us and not against us! Compare this with Philippians 1:6: “being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ”. He will complete His good work!
  • He spared not His own Son
  • With him He also freely gives us all things
  • He is prepared to justify us – to declare us as righteous

Brethren and sis­ters, the question as­sails us: what are the dimensions of our re­ciprocating love? How high is it? How deep is our love in response?

The apostle con­cludes by drawing at­tention to what the Lord Jesus Christ has done, and is doing, for us:

  • He is at the right hand of his Father daily making intercession for us (v34).
  • Nothing apart from ourselves can separate us from the love of Christ, despite the po­tentially bad things that can happen in our lives. We are assured that we can be more than conquerors through him that loved us (v37). The apostle wrote to the Philippians, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (4:13).
  • Verses 38–39 reaffirm for us that nothing, absolutely nothing and no one, will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. To the children of the most High God, what comfort lies in those words!

Brethren and sisters, do we allow our problems to become our barriers and defeat us? Do we limit his love for us? Do we limit his love for others?

As we partake of these emblems each week in faith, confidence and assurance we can sincerely say, “Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15:57). It is the will of the Father and the Son that we will share in the victory of the Lamb when he is surrounded by myriads of angels and fellow saints. What a glorious inheritance is held out to all those who are heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ (v17).