Romans 8:14-23

Led by the Spirit. Spirit of slavery vs. adoption. The Spirit’s voice. Suffering with Christ. Present suffering.

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"14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God." (Romans 8:14)
Christians often receive encouragement to seek guidance from the Holy Spirit instead of relying solely on their own abilities. However, the question arises regarding the most effective approach to do so. Should they prioritize dedicating more time to prayer or seek relevant Bible verses that speak to their current circumstances? Additionally, in critical moments requiring an urgent answer to a problem, there is a vulnerability to suggestions from individuals who may appear to possess spiritual authority.

In summary, they are searching for a tangible action they can take, whether it is waiting for the Holy Spirit to speak to them, or finding a way to appear as if they are being led by the Spirit.

However, while the Bible may not provide specific instructions for every situation, it does offer a clear and overarching guideline that applies to all aspects of our lives:

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. (Galatians 5:18)

To put it differently, the Holy Spirit will not guide you if you are living under the law. The crucial question to ask yourself is whether you are living according to a law that you believe will earn you God’s favor or acceptance. This is the only law that Paul is referring to in Galatians 5:18. In fact, Paul warns against seeking righteousness through the law in Galatians 5:4. Beyond this, God gives you the freedom to make decisions on anything that does not bring shame to the gospel of Christ. Use your common sense.

In essence, being guided by the Spirit does not require constant self-awareness or questioning about His guidance. Instead, when you keep your focus on Jesus and trust in His completed work, you know that you are no longer under the law. By resting in Christ, you accomplish one thing and achieve another. You find assurance in being led by the Spirit. It is the marvelous mystery and beauty of Christ residing in you, the hope of glory (Col 1:27).


15For you did not receive the spirit of slavery leading again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ (Romans 8:15)

Understanding that being led by God’s Spirit requires not living under the law, you can experience a personal relationship with God the Father through the indwelling Holy Spirit and address him as Abba, a term of endearment. This signifies a close, intimate relationship with God. This profound truth is reaffirmed in the opening verse of this chapter, emphasizing the assurance of being forever free from condemnation by God. Such assurance empowers you to approach Him with confidence and draw near without fear.

Once again, it is crucial to understand that the fear being referred to here is not the ordinary fear one experiences in daily life, but rather the fear of being judged by the omnipotent God. This fear is contrasted with the profound joy of salvation, which is granted to those who have been liberated from the bondage of the law.


16The Spirit himself bears witness to our spirit that we are God’s children. (Romans 8:16)

How does the Holy Spirit reveal this wonderful truth to us? Does He speak through a gentle whisper? Or does He convey it through the words of others? Is it similar to the concept of the “burning in the bosom” often mentioned by believers in the Mormon faith, which signifies the confirmation of truth or the witness of the Holy Spirit?

Is this a reliable method? Can you trust the human feeling that is shifting like the wind? I propose we don’t trust our unreliable feelings. Even the Bible says that the human heart is deceiptful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9). And instead, it admonishes us to trust in God’s written words:

You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:32)
You are clean already because of the word that I have spoken to you. (John 15:3)
Set them apart in the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:17)
Sanctify her by cleansing her with the washing of the water by the word (Ephesians 5:26)

The Holy Spirit bears witness to our spirit as we study the written Word of God. Follow the example of the Bereans and diligently compare every teaching with the foundational truths of God. It is crucial to recognize that relying solely on personal experiences or the quest for signs in the pursuit of divine revelation can be risky, as it aligns with the practice of omen reading, which is strongly condemned in Deuteronomy 18:10 as an abhorrent practice.


17And if children, then heirs (namely, heirs of God and also fellow heirs with Christ) - if indeed we suffer with him so we may also be glorified with him. 18For I consider that our present sufferings cannot even be compared to the glory that will be revealed to us. (Romans 8:17-18)

Numerous Christians hold the belief that, as children of God, they are deserving of a comfortable and blessed life. This perspective sheds light on why churches emphasizing health and wealth attract significant attendance and their advocates accumulate substantial wealth. Regrettably, this mindset often overlooks or disregards the idea that present hardships might be encountered by those who have not failed God in any way. Nonetheless, Jesus conveyed a poignant message when He stated, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20). This remark serves as a subtle indication that challenges and difficulties could await those who choose to follow Him.

In order to uplift those who may be enduring hardships in the present, Paul offers a reminder of the forthcoming “glory that will be revealed,” urging us not to lose heart.

The essence of verse 17’s “suffer with him” is best understood in this context. However, it is important to note that some individuals misinterpret its meaning and, in their pursuit of demonstrating solidarity in Christ’s suffering, may unintentionally harm themselves and those they influence. They end up striving for righteousness through their own human efforts rather than relying on God’s grace.


19For the creation eagerly waits for the revelation of the sons of God. 20For the creation was subjected to futility - not willingly but because of God who subjected it - in hope 21that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of decay into the glorious freedom of God’s children. 22For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers together until now .23Not only this, but we ourselves also, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we eagerly await our adoption, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:19-23)

The expressions of “futility” and the “bondage of decay” are evident in various forms such as death, diseases, wars, and other afflictions that contribute to the misery of life in this world. It is this very reason that the entire creation, from the beginning of time until now, experiences groaning and suffering.

While we have been received into God’s family through faith in Christ, the “redemption of our bodies” will only occur on the day when Christ returns at the last trumpet (1 Cor 15:52). This is the time when all diseases will be eradicated. This differentiation emphasizes the contrast between our faith and that of the health-and-wealth gospel, which promotes the idea that we should experience the “glorious freedom” of being relieved of any current bodily issues in the present moment. However, clinging to such expectations can be detrimental to one’s faith, especially if deliverance is not realized during their most challenging moments of need.

Nghi Nguyen

- Scripture quoted by permission. All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: This is my own opinion on the topic, which does not necessarily reflect the church's theology, or beliefs of the individuals in it — Nghi Nguyen

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