So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:12–17)
You’ll recall that Paul has been making a contrast between living by the “flesh” and living by the Spirit. Here he develops his theme, and give us as an astounding explanation of what living by the Spirit actually means: “all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God”.
Now, some of you might be thinking “but surely I’m a daughter of God”! Well, Paul is not here only addressing the men in Rome, but is speaking about the mechanism by which we become ‘children of God’ (as he says later in the passage). He has already said that all Christians have the Spirit of Christ living within them, and this Spirit is, as he says here, “the Spirit of adoption as sons”. Christ is the son of God, so those who have his Spirit living within them are also adopted as sons of God. Male or female, all share in that adoption. We share, in other words, in Christ’s ‘sonship’. That is why we can cry out “Abba! Father!”.
The extraordinary thing here is the imagery of adoption. Adoption is permanent and legal. It makes the one who is adopted into an heir. It is a mechanism of someone fully and legally joining a family. It is permanent.
Our standing before God is not dependant on where we come from, or who we are, but simply on adoption. Adopted by God! What an image!