“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 8:16-17, ESV)
This is one of those good news, bad news verses. First the good news: “The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.”
We not only have a body, we also have a spirit. Our spirit communicates with the Spirit, namely the Holy Spirit. Together our spirits bear witness that we are the children of God.
The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Holy Trinity. True God. In today’s epistle Paul calls him the “Spirit of adoption as sons by whom we cry, “Abba Father.” There is no way we would be able to call God, “Abba Father!” unless we had first been redeemed by Christ. So the Holy Spirit assures us that, because of what Christ did for us on the cross we are now able to be adopted as God’s beloved children.
When you think of bearing witness it is done for a reason. People don’t just randomly bear witness for no reason. The reason the Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God is because of the devil. The devil constantly wants us to doubt that we are the children of God.
The devil even tried to get Jesus to doubt that he was the Son of God. “If you are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread” he said to Jesus when he tempted him in the wilderness.
But Jesus responds exactly as a child of God would, by quoting Scripture: Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.
So when the devil comes tempting us, attacking our spirit saying, “Are you sure you are a child of God?” then the Holy Spirit comes right along and bears witness with our spirit, confirms the testimony of our spirit, that we are the children of God.
From a legal standpoint it is always good to have more than one witness. That is the case here. We have multiple witnesses- our spirit and the Holy Spirit – bearing witness together that we are the children of God.
When witnesses disagree it leads to confusion and uncertainty. But in this case the Spirit bears witness with our spirit. There is agreement. And when the witnesses agree there is no uncertainty. Sometimes the Spirit has to do a little convincing. Sometimes, because we have sinned, our spirit wants to doubt that we are the children of God. At times like that the Holy Spirit, using God’s Word, convinces us that we are still the beloved children of God.
As the text continues, if we are children then we are heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ. Our inheritance is eternal life in heaven. As Peter says in I Peter, this is an inheritance that is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.”
As we all know, many things can go wrong with earthly inheritances. Wills can be changed. Riches can be lost. Nothing can touch or interfere with our heavenly inheritance.
An inheritance does not get distributed unless someone dies. Someone did die. Jesus died for us on the cross to pay for all our sins so that we can have our heavenly inheritance.
Being adopted as God’s children means that all that Christ has is ours as well. We are fellow heirs with Christ. If Christ has it so do we.
That’s the good news portion of this text. Our spirit testifies with the Spirit that we are the children of God and if children then heirs.
So what’s the bad news? Paul adds, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. Yes we are God’s beloved children but that does not entitle us to a life of leisure and comfort here on earth. It means we will suffer.
Or as Jesus himself says, Matthew 16:24: “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’” (ESV)
It says that we suffer with him. When we suffer we are never alone. In fact the times when we suffer are when he is the closest to us.
Jesus is the one who suffered alone. Before he even got to the cross all his disciples abandoned him. Then while he was on the cross, because he was truly carrying all of our sins, his heavenly Father abandoned him. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” he cried.
The second thing to remember about our suffering is that there is always a reason for it. God never just looks down from heaven and says, “I think I’ll mess with so and so today.” No, when God allows us to suffer there is always a reason.
The most common reason is to bring us closer to him, to purify our faith. When we can’t determine a specific reason why we are suffering then it probably because God is trying to bring us closer to him, to strengthen our faith. And we may not find out the reason until much later.
And our suffering is only temporary. And after we have suffered with him we will be glorified with him. And the glory will be so great that we will forget all about the suffering we endure in this world.
Paul writes in Romans 8:18: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (ESV)
We are the children of God. Our suffering, though temporary, always has a purpose and when it happens we are never alone.