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Romans 8 fills our hearts with truth about the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is distinct from the Father and the Son as well as being in relation to them as “the Spirit of God” and “the Spirit of Christ” (v. 9). He is as divine as the Father and Son, since He is the Lord and giver of life (v. 2) and the one who raised Jesus from the dead (v. 11). The Spirit indwells us now, and on the last day will raise our bodies like He did Jesus’ body (v. 11). He is the one by whom we die to sin and live in holiness (v. 13). He is the one who leads us (v. 14). And in Romans 8:15, Paul says we have communion with Him as we do with the Father and the Son.

The first thing to note about this communion is our reception of the Spirit. When Paul says, “For you did not receive,” he distinguishes this once-for-all, past-tense reception of the Holy Spirit from our ongoing present-tense filling by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18). When did we “receive” Him? When we were born again and transitioned from being in “slavery” to being “sons.” What exactly did we receive? We did not receive “the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear” but “the Spirit of adoption as sons.” While the ESV translates the first spirit with a lowercase s and the second with an uppercase S, it is clear by the parallelism that they both refer to the Holy Spirit. Paul is saying that we did not receive the Spirit to enslave us once again in a servile and fearful way, but we received Him to free us from bondage and to make us sons of God the Father. When Paul says, “to fall back into fear,” he is contrasting our life before Jesus Christ and our life after. Before Christ we were without the Spirit and therefore in “slavery” to sin. Life outside of Christ was lived in fear because we were “hostile to God” (Rom. 8:7) and not pleasing to God (v. 8). In contrast, we “have [now] received the Spirit of adoption as sons” (v. 15).

The second thing to note about this communion is our reaction to the Spirit. Having “received the Spirit of adoption as sons . . . we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” Our past reception leads to our present and ongoing invocation of our heavenly Father. Because adoption means that God takes those who are “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3) into His family, Thomas Manton said this is “the highest demonstration of God’s love to us.” And because we have “received the Spirit of adoption,” it is “by [Him]” that we cry out with tremendous personal assurance that we are God’s children: “Abba, Father!” This is a prayer of assurance and confidence that we have peace with God. This is a prayer of assurance and confidence that we have been made acceptable to God. This is a prayer of assurance and confidence that we belong to God’s everlasting family. This is a prayer of assurance and confidence that we—we—having received the Spirit, now have communion with Him as we do with the Son and our beloved adopting Father.

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