The Believer's Privileges. A. D. 58.
12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live
after the flesh. 13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if
ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
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
In these verses the apostle represents two more excellent benefits,
which belong to true believers.
I. Life. The happiness is not barely a negative happiness, not to be
condemned; but it is positive, it is an advancement to a life that will
be the unspeakable happiness of the man (v. 10, 11): If Christ be in you.
Observe, If the Spirit be in us, Christ is in us. He dwells in the heart
by faith, Eph. iii. 17. Now we are here told what becomes of the bodies
and souls of those in whom Christ is.
1. We cannot say but that the body is dead; it is a frail, mortal, dying
body, and it will be dead shortly; it is a house of clay, whose foundation
is in the dust. The life purchased and promised does not immortalize the
body in its present state. It is dead, that is, it is appointed to die,
it is under a sentence of death: as we say one that is condemned is a dead
man. In the midst of life we are in death: be our bodies ever so strong,
and healthful, and handsome, they are as good as dead (Heb. xi. 12), and
this because of sin. It is sin that kills the body. This effect the first
threatening has (Gen. iii. 19): Dust thou art. Methinks, were there no
other argument, love to our bodies should make us hate sin, because it
is such an enemy to our bodies. The death even of the bodies of the saints
is a remaining token of God's displeasure against sin.
2. But the spirit, the precious soul, that is life; it is now spiritually
alive, nay, it is life. Grace in the soul is its new nature; the life of
the saint lies in the soul, while the life of the sinner goes no further
than the body. When the body dies, and returns to the dust, the spirit
if life; not only living and immortal, but swallowed up of life. Death
to the saints is but the freeing of the heaven-born spirit from the clog
and load of this body, that it may be fit to partake of eternal life. When
Abraham was dead, yet God was the God of Abraham, for even then his spirit
was life, Matt. xxii. 31, 32. See Ps. xlix. 15. And this because of righteousness.
The righteousness of Christ imputed to them secures the soul, the better
part, from death; the righteousness of Christ inherent in them, the renewed
image of God upon the soul, preserves it, and, by God's ordination, at
death elevates it, and improves it, and makes it meet to partake of the
inheritance of the saints in light. The eternal life of the soul consists
in the vision and fruition of God, and both assimilating, for which the
soul is qualified by the righteousness of sanctification. I refer to Ps.
xvii. 15, I will behold thy face in righteousness.
3. There is a life reserved too for the poor body at last: He shall
also quicken your mortal bodies, v. 11. The Lord is for the body; and though
at death it is cast aside as a despised broken vessel, a vessel in which
is no pleasure, yet God will have a desire to the work of his hands (Job
xiv. 15), will remember his covenant with the dust, and will not lose a
grain of it; but the body shall be reunited to the soul, and clothed with
a glory agreeable to it. Vile bodies shall be newly fashioned, Phil. iii.
21; 1 Cor. xv. 42. Two great assurances of the resurrection of the body
are mentioned:-- (1.) The resurrection of Christ: He that raised up Christ
from the dead shall also quicken. Christ rose as the head, and first-fruits,
and forerunner of all the saints, 1 Cor. xv. 20. The body of Christ lay
in the grave, under the sin of all the elect imputed, and broke through
it. O grave, then, where is thy victory? It is in the virtue of Christ's
resurrection that we shall rise. (2.) The indwelling of the Spirit. The
same Spirit that raiseth the soul now will raise the body shortly: By his
Spirit that dwelleth in you. The bodies of the saints are the temples of
the Holy Ghost, 1 Cor. iii. 16; vi. 19. Now, though these temples may be
suffered for awhile to lie in ruins, yet they shall be rebuilt. The tabernacle
of David, which has fallen down, shall be repaired, whatever great mountains
may be in the way. The Spirit, breathing upon dead and dry bones, will
make them live, and the saints even in their flesh shall see God. Hence
the apostle by the way infers how much it is our duty to walk not after
the flesh, but after the Spirit, v. 12, 13. Let not our life be after the
wills and motions of the flesh. Two motives he mentions here:-- [1.] We
are not debtors to the flesh, neither by relation, gratitude, nor any other
bond or obligation. We owe no suit nor service to our carnal desires; we
are indeed bound to clothe, and feed, and take care of the body, as a servant
to the soul in the service of God, but no further. We are not debtors to
it; the flesh never did us so much kindness as to oblige us to serve it.
It is implied that we are debtors to Christ and to the Spirit: there we
owe our all, all we have and all we can do, by a thousand bonds and obligations.
Being delivered from so great a death by so great a ransom, we are deeply
indebted to our deliverer. See 1 Cor. vi. 19, 20. [2.] Consider the consequences,
what will be at the end of the way. Here are life and death, blessing and
cursing, set before us. If you live after the flesh, you shall die; that
is, die eternally. It is the pleasing, and serving, and gratifying, of
the flesh, that are the ruin of souls; that is, the second death. Dying
indeed is the soul's dying: the death of the saints is but a sleep. But,
on the other hand, You shall live, live and be happy to eternity; that
is the true life: If you through the Spirit mortify the deeds of the body,
subdue and keep under all fleshly lusts and affections, deny yourselves
in the pleasing and humouring of the body, and this through the Spirit;
we cannot do it without the Spirit working it in us, and the Spirit will
not do it without our doing our endeavour. So that in a word we are put
upon this dilemma, either to displease the body or destroy the soul.
II. The Spirit of adoption is another privilege belonging to those that
are in Christ Jesus, v. 14-16.
1. All that are Christ's are taken into the relation of Children to
God, v. 14. Observe, (1.) Their property: They are led by the Spirit of
God, as a scholar in his learning is led by his tutor, as a traveller in
his journey is led by his guide, as a soldier in his engagements is led
by his captain; not driven as beasts, but led as rational creatures, drawn
with the cords of a man and the bands of love. It is the undoubted character
of all true believers that they are led by the Spirit of God. Having submitted
themselves in believing to his guidance, they do in their obedience follow
that guidance, and are sweetly led into all truth and all duty. (2.) Their
privilege: They are the sons of God, received into the number of God's
children by adoption, owned and loved by him as his children.
2. And those that are the sons of God have the Spirit,
(1.) To work in them the disposition of children.
[1.] You have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, v. 15.
Understand it, First, Of that spirit of bondage which the Old-Testament
church was under, by reason of the darkness and terror of that dispensation.
The veil signified bondage, 2 Cor. iii. 15. Compare v. 17. The Spirit of
adoption was not then so plentifully poured out as now; for the law opened
the wound, but little of the remedy. Now you are not under that dispensation,
you have not received that spirit. Secondly, Of that spirit of bondage
which many of the saints themselves were under at their conversion, under
the convictions of sin and wrath set home by the Spirit; as those in Acts
ii. 37, the jailer (Acts xvi. 30), Paul, Acts ix. 6. Then the Spirit himself
was to the saints a spirit of bondage: "But," says the apostle, "with you
this is over." "God as a Judge," says Dr. Manton, "by the spirit of bondage,
sends us to Christ as Mediator, and Christ as Mediator, by the spirit of
adoption, sends us back again to God as a Father." Though a child of God
may come under fear of bondage again, and may be questioning his sonship,
yet the blessed Spirit is not again a spirit of bondage, for then he would
witness an untruth.
[2.] But you have received the Spirit of adoption. Men may give a charter
of adoption; but it is God's prerogative, when he adopts, to give a spirit
of adoption--the nature of children. The Spirit of adoption works in the
children of God a filial love to God as a Father, a delight in him, and
a dependence upon him, as a Father. A sanctified soul bears the image of
God, as the child bears the image of the father. Whereby we cry, Abba,
Father. Praying is here called crying, which is not only an earnest, but
a natural expression of desire; children that cannot speak vent their desires
by crying. Now, the Spirit teaches us in prayer to come to God as a Father,
with a holy humble confidence, emboldening the soul in that duty. Abba,
Father. Abba is a Syriac word signifying father or my father; pater, a
Greek work; and why both, Abba, Father? Because Christ said so in prayer
(Mark xiv. 36), Abba, Father: and we have received the Spirit of the Son.
It denotes an affectionate endearing importunity, and a believing stress
laid upon the relation. Little children, begging of their parents, can
say little but Father, Father, and that is rhetoric enough. It also denotes
that the adoption is common both to Jews and Gentiles: the Jews call him
Abba in their language, the Greeks may call him pater in their language;
for in Christ Jesus there is neither Greek nor Jew.
(2.) To witness to the relation of children, v. 16. The former is the
work of the Spirit as a Sanctifier; this as a Comforter. Beareth witness
with our spirit. Many a man has the witness of his own spirit to the goodness
of his state who has not the concurring testimony of the Spirit. Many speak
peace to themselves to whom the God of heaven does not speak peace. But
those that are sanctified have God's Spirit witnessing with their spirits,
which is to be understood not of any immediate extraordinary revelation,
but an ordinary work of the Spirit, in and by the means of comfort, speaking
peace to the soul. This testimony is always agreeable to the written word,
and is therefore always grounded upon sanctification; for the Spirit in
the heart cannot contradict the Spirit in the word. The Spirit witnesses
to none the privileges of children who have not the nature and disposition
The Believer's Privileges. A. D. 58.
17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with
Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified
In these words the apostle describes a fourth illustrious branch of
the happiness of believers, namely, a title to the future glory. This is
fitly annexed to our sonship; for as the adoption of sons entitles us to
that glory, so the disposition of sons fits and prepares us for it. If
children, then heirs, v. 17. In earthly inheritances this rule does not
hold, only the first-born are heirs; but the church is a church of first-born,
for they are all heirs. Heaven is an inheritance that all the saints are
heirs to. They do not come to it as purchasers by any merit or procurement
of their own; but as heirs, purely by the act of God; for God makes heirs.
The saints are heirs though in this world they are heirs under age; see
Gal. iv. 1, 2. Their present state is a state of education and preparation
for the inheritance. How comfortable should this be to all the children
of God, how little soever they have in possession, that, being heirs, they
have enough in reversion! But the honour and happiness of an heir lie in
the value and worth of that which he is heir to: we read of those that
inherit the wind; and therefore we have here an abstract of the premises.
1. Heirs of God. The Lord himself is the portion of the saints' inheritance
(Ps. xvi. 5), a goodly heritage, v. 6. The saints are spiritual priests,
that have the Lord for their inheritance, Num. xviii. 20. The vision of
God and the fruition of God make up the inheritance the saints are heirs
to. God himself will be with them, and will be their God, Rev. xxi. 3.
2. Joint-heirs with Christ. Christ, as Mediator, is said to be the heir
of all things (Heb. i. 2), and true believers, by virtue of their union
with him, shall inherit all things, Rev. xxi. 7. Those that now partake
of the Spirit of Christ, as his brethren, shall, as his brethren, partake
of his glory (John xvii. 24), shall sit down with him upon his throne,
Rev. iii. 21. Lord, what is man, that thou shouldst thus magnify him! Now
this future glory is further spoken of as the reward of present sufferings
and as the accomplishment of present hopes.
I. As the reward of the saints' present sufferings; and it is a rich
reward: If so be that we suffer with him (v. 17), or forasmuch as we suffer
with him. The state of the church in this world always is, but was then
especially, an afflicted state; to be a Christian was certainly to be a
sufferer. Now, to comfort them in reference to those sufferings, he tells
them that they suffered with Christ--for his sake, for his honour, and
for the testimony of a good conscience, and should be glorified with him.
Those that suffered with David in his persecuted state were advanced by
him and with him when he came to the crown; see 2 Tim. ii. 12. See the
gains of suffering for Christ; though we may be losers for him, we shall
not, we cannot, be losers by him in the end. This the gospel is filled
with the assurances of.