13 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.
14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.
15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’
16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ — if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.
19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God.
Why is this a favourite passage?
Romans 8 has all sorts of wonderful things within it, not least the conclusion, but this passage has probably exercised a hold on me longer than anything else that Paul wrote.
V13: I don't read this in a gnostic fashion, whereby anything physical is suspect, and only the ethereal/spiritual/mental is good. I read it (and I think what Paul had in mind was) that our appetites need to be structured around a higher good, and suborned to that higher good, not that the appetites are in themselves sinful. This I see as a call to live with integrity - to bring our lives into an order structured by what we most desire, which, in Augustinian fashion, I see as the love of God.
V14: A manifesto claim: those in whom God lives are his children, and there are certain rights and duties consequent to that fact.
V15: Unpacking things further, being a child of God means that we are not to be afraid of God - our relationship to God is not that of quivering supplicant to violent dictator, rather it is that of beloved child to affirming parent, one who delights in our very existence. So much spiritual energy is wasted trying to please - appease - the monster, when the monster doesn't exist. To be a child of God is to realise that God is on our side and likes us. Hence the 'Abba' ("Daddy").
V16 & 17: When we gain the confidence to treat with God in this way, leaving the fear aside and embracing the love, this is the Spirit working within us. The world being what it is, walking freely with the Lord is liable to get us crucified - but our sufferings that follow from this are what show us sharing in Christ's life, and being his brothers and fellow heirs to the Kingdom.
V18: This world is broken both in human relationships and between humans and the environment and we suffer as a result. Yet the Spirit is the assurance that the suffering does not have the final word: one day things will be put right.
V19: The eventual restoration is cosmic; it is not a privatised accounting of moral failure, it is a renewal of earth and heaven. Humanity has its place within creation as God's children playing in the Garden and not only do we as human beings suffer because of our sin, so too does the rest of creation. As we enter into the life of Christ and the Spirit breathes through us, the creation is healed through our activity - that is our purpose on this earth, to tend the garden. So the creation is waiting for us to enter into our inheritance - a marvellous image.