Romans 8:14-17

Romans 8:14-17


Ask God to guide your discussions and to experience his presence as you read his word together.

In his timeless book Knowing God, J. I. Packer says, “Adoption is the highest privilege of the gospel. The traitor is forgiven, brought in for supper, and given the family name. To be right with God the Judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father is greater.”

What do you think about Packer’s words?

Romans 8 explains the ministry of the Holy Spirit. In verses 1-8, Paul shows that the Spirit transfers us from the realm of the flesh and law to the realm of Christ, in whom there is no condemnation. In other words, Paul is speaking of what theologians call justification.

But in verses 12-17, Paul moves from justification to adoption. Not only does the Spirit unite us to Christ, who frees us from the guilt of our sins (justification), but in uniting us to Jesus, the Spirit also brings us into the family of God, turning us from orphans into beloved children of God (adoption).


Read Romans 8:14-17 aloud.


  • In verse 14, what do you think it means to be “led by the Spirit”? 1
  • In verse 14, Paul says that the proof of your status as a child of God is that you are “led” by the Spirit. How does this verse speak to people who claim to be Christians but who don’t live changed lives?
  • In verses 15-16, the Holy Spirit is called the “Spirit of adoption.” According to these verses, what does the Spirit do in our lives? And how have you experienced that in your life?
  • In verse 17, Paul says that because we are “sons” of God, we are heirs. 2 Paul says we are heirs “of God” and fellow heirs “with Christ.” What is the difference between being an heir “of God” and fellow heirs “with Christ”?
  • In verse 17, Paul seems to condition our inheritance on “suffering with” Christ. In other words, he says we are fellow heirs with “Christ” if, in fact, we suffer with Christ (cf. Col 1:21-23 for a similar way of speaking). Why do you think “suffering” with Christ is the necessary proof of one’s adoption into the family of God? What do you think it means to suffer with Christ in a practical sense?


  • As we have seen, Romans 8:1-11 generally focuses on justification while Romans 8:12-17 generally focuses on adoption. Read the following quote by J. I. Packer and discuss the differences between justification and adoption. Why is adoption such a crucial doctrine for Christians to treasure?

  • “Paul teaches that the gift of justification (i.e., present acceptance by God as the world’s Judge) brings with it the status of sonship by adoption (i.e., permanent intimacy with God as one’s heavenly Father, Gal. 3:26; 4:4-7). In Paul’s world, adoption was ordinarily of young adult males of good character to become heirs and maintain the family name of the childless rich. Paul, however, proclaims God’s gracious adoption of persons of bad character to become “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17).

    Justification is the basic blessing, on which adoption is founded; adoption is the crowning blessing, to which justification clears the way. Adopted status belongs to all who receive Christ (John 1:12). The adopted status of believers means that in and through Christ God loves them as he loves his only-begotten Son and will share with them all the glory that is Christ’s now (Rom. 8:17, 38-39). Here and now, believers are under God’s fatherly care and discipline (Matt. 6:26; Heb. 12:5-11) and are directed, especially by Jesus, to live their whole lives in light of the knowledge that God is their Father in heaven. They are to pray to him as such (Matt. 6:5-13), imitate him as such (Matt. 5:44-48; 6:12, 14-15; 18:21-35; Eph. 4:32-5:2), and trust him as such (Matt. 6:25-34), thus expressing the filial instinct that the Holy Spirit has implanted in them (Rom. 8:15-17; Gal. 4:6).” (J. I. Packer, Concise Theology)

  • Do you tend to focus more on justification or adoption? That is, do you focus more on God’s forgiveness or God’s fatherly love? Why do you think that is?

  • Read the following characteristics of a Christian who lives like an orphan. Which of these do you relate to and why? How can the doctrine of adoption set you free?
    • Unbelief that God forgave your former sins.
    • Feeling stuck, hopeless, defeated, and giving up quickly.
    • Constantly fearing that God will punish you.
    • Competing and comparing yourself to other Christians.
    • Fasting and praying from a place of guilt, fear, and striving.
    • Feeling unworthy of salvation.
    • Distrust that biblical promises are your portion.
    • The inability to walk in spiritual authority.
    • Fear of walking in your purpose and calling.
    • Believing lies about the character of God.
    • Relying on your self-effort rather than God’s strength.
    • Forgetting to pray and ask for God’s help.
    • Fearing God will withhold good things from you.
    • Allowing offense and fear to separate you from a spiritual family.
    • Doubting the power of God to intervene in any situation.
    • Fear of intimacy with God and others.


Close your time in prayer, thanking God for giving you the Spirit of adoption and asking the Spirit to help you increasingly know your status as a beloved Child of God.
 1 Verse 13 says that those who put to death the deeds of the body “by the Spirit” will live. This seems to be analogous to verse 14, where Paul says that those who are “led by the Spirit” are sons of God. Paul is not saying that our “Spirit-empowered” obedience is what makes us children of God. Rather he is saying that a life characterized by submission to the Spirit, chiefly expressed by faith in Christ, is the concrete proof that one is a child of God.
2In the ancient world, “sons” received the inheritance. Paul’s train of thought is that, because we are united to the Son of God, all Christians are technically “sons” of God, regardless of their biological gender. And because we are sons, we stand to inherit all things in “Christ” the son.