Second Reading: Romans 8:14-17

Signs of Righteousness

Popular Translation

14 If the Spirit leads someone, that person is a child of God. 15 You did not become slaves again when you received the Spirit. No, all of you were made children of God! Because of the Spirit, we cry out to God as "Father!" 16 We and the Spirit agree that we are God's children. 17 But if we are his children, we are also his heirs, along with his Son, Jesus Christ. If we suffer like Jesus in this life, God will give us glory like Jesus has in heaven.

Literal Translation

14 For, as many as are led in the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery again, you received the Spirit of adoption (as a son), in which we shout, "Abba, Father!" 16 The Spirit itself testifies together with our spirit that we are children of God. 17 But if (we are) children, (we are) also heirs; on the one hand, heirs of God, on the other hand, co-heirs with CHRIST, if indeed we suffer together (with HIM), so that we might be given glory (with HIM).

When Paul wrote his letter to the Romans, the cult of the Nazorene caused great scandal in Judaism. Not only were these "Christians" declaring Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, they also allowed Gentiles into their company, their homes, and their meal times. Following this "risen" prophet was a heresy. Living in their community made them "unclean." The faith and the fellowship was polluted, in the eyes of those in the synagogue.

Paul fought with the leaders of the synagogue time and time again. For Paul, both the claims of traditional Judaism and the new Christian movement hinged on the question of righteousness. Are we righteous by what we have done? Or, are we made righteous by what God will do? Paul saw focus on the past (in the Law) as the defining tenet for Judaism. But he saw the ever active initiative of God as the force behind the Church. The synagogue clung to the Law and its traditions. The Church depended upon the movement of the Spirit as it faced the end times. It was a battle between the past and the future.

Of course, this was an over-simplified vision of Judaism. Many of Paul's fellow Jews did look forward to God's salvation in the end times. In fact, many believed that one day of complete fidelity to the Law (if that were really possible) would hasten the coming of the Messiah. And following the Law gave a glimpse into the mind of God. Keeping the Law (looking to the past) lead to revelation (God's will for the future).

But, Paul would assert one point to counter that belief. It did not matter what people did. Only God's activity and will mattered. Only God could make someone "clean" and "righteous." God's way was the "Spirit." The way of man (i.e., the Law) was "flesh." And only the Spirit could bring "righteousness." Only the Spirit could make one a "child" of God.

This background leads us up to the work of the Spirit in Romans 8:14-17. The Spirit makes believers children of God and heirs of the Kingdom, like the Christ. The work of the Spirit was reflected in two ways here: praise and promise. The Spirit was the cause for intimate prayer to God (reflecting the theme of the Lord's prayer). And the Spirit was the promise of strength to the end times, even through persecution.

So, righteousness was the work of the Spirit. We Christians were to know we were right before God as his children when we prayed to God as Father and when we steadfastly awaited the return of the Savior. For Paul, prayer and promise, not rigorous duty, marked the presence of righteousness.

Reflect on the Our Father as a prayer for the end times. As you pray the Lord's prayer, think how this praise was a promise. Think how this prayer revealed your status before God as his child.