October 31, 2017, marks the 500-year anniversary of the day Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Luther’s burning conviction was to preach that salvation came to God’s people only by miraculous grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Now, there were other monks and priests at the time with similar convictions, but it seems clear that Luther’s intense study of Romans was his tipping point. In passion and in conviction, he penned and posted a document that would change the face of the Church in the West forever.
Luther knew from Paul’s letter to the Romans that the Spirit of God alone could mark us as children of God. Good works, good intentions, and good gifts to the church or the poor weren’t without value, but they could never stand as being able to save anyone in and of themselves.
The very good news of Romans is the same very good news of the Gospels: God entered the world, a world that He had created perfectly and that we, through sin, had marred. God sent His Son to bring us life everlasting. This life, as Paul so clearly points out here in Romans 8, comes with and through the gift of the Spirit, Who produces spiritual fruit in our lives.
Jesus said to His disciples that we could be recognized by our fruits. There seems to be a very similar thread here in Romans 8. Life in the Spirit is marked by the fruits of the Spirit. Paul is not only giving a promise here, but also a quick spiritual litmus test for our own lives. When we, as believers, examine our hearts, actions, and decisions, do we see a pattern of Spirit-filled movement? Of course, we will still see sin. In fact, both Jesus and Paul acknowledge this. But it should be troublesome to us if we see a continuous pattern in our lives incongruent with the marks of the Spirit.
The good news is that if you choose to be led by the Spirit, you can have confidence in your place as a child of God. Paul proclaims: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you” (Romans 8:11).
There should be evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in the Christian’s life. But as Martin Luther contended, that spiritual fruit does not come through our work. In today’s passage, Paul encourages us that we have the power of God—the same power that raised Jesus from the dead—living in us to help us produce that spiritual fruit.
When you’ve placed all of the good, the bad, and the ugly in your life at the feet of Jesus, you have the Spirit of God as your advocate. He is the one Who testifies with our spirit that we are the children of God.
Written by Andrew Stoddard