The apostle Paul wanted to make sure the church was not “uninformed” about the spiritual gifts, and so he wanted the church “to understand” the difference between things that were not of the Spirit, and things that were of the Spirit.
As I continually grow in my appreciation of how much God has written in his Book to give us certainty of our salvation, my heart breaks for all the uncertainty that is expressed by church-going folk regarding their salvation, and the experience of the Spirit’s work.
Paul knew that, “anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” He knew that the Corinthian church was in danger of receiving “another Jesus”, “a different spirit”, and even “a different gospel”, than what they initially received. He often had to write clear distinctions between the true and false in order to challenge the church to, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”
We must add to this the life-and-death distinction Jesus made when he spoke of people who would say to him in the judgment, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” and Jesus would have to say to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”
This is especially painful (and scary) since the things these people said they did in Jesus’ name are the things Paul lists as spiritual gifts in the church. They thought they were relating to Jesus as Lord, and using spiritual gifts in his name. And yet, Jesus did not know them as his own sheep. Somehow, they were “workers of lawlessness” even while portraying themselves as messengers of the kingdom. Did I say, SCARY?!
Paul also spoke of a characteristic of the end times in which people would have “the appearance of godliness, but denying its power”, and added that we are to “avoid such people.” Perhaps the people Jesus spoke of thought that the appearance of power in spiritual gifts equated to the power of godliness spoken of in the gospel. However, Jesus saw that they had denied the power of godliness while idolizing the power of miracles, signs, and wonders, and did not belong to him.
Knowing that we only have this brief earthly lifetime to settle whether we are the children of God, and knowing that pastors are responsible to keep watch over the souls of God’s children, I feel the need to make this my quest: that all my brothers in the Lord Jesus Christ would be so certain that we have the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our personal relationship with God, and in the life of our churches, that we would all know that God is both in us and among us.
This morning, this heart-burden focused on these wonderfully encouraging, and gracious, and uplifting words of God in Romans 8:15-17.
15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, (Romans 8)
Paul consistently tells believers we are not under law, but in the Spirit, therefore the fear of never being good enough is gone, and the assurance of peace with God has come. If we have confessed Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, but still live with deep-seated fear in our lives, what do we do? We take hold of this passage of Romans 8 and pray for freedom!
15 but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8)
Because the Holy Spirit is “the Spirit of adoption as sons,” everything about our relationship with God should be like little children calling out with joy, “Abba! Father!” In fact, God has given us his own Holy Spirit to help us cry out to our Father in this very way. If any of us cannot see the riches of God’s glorious grace in such a ministry, we need to pray for this until we know we have it.
16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, (Romans 8)
This is relationship with God, that he has given us his Spirit to “bear witness” with our spirits that we are the children of God. Our assurance of salvation does not come from other believers telling us we are saved, or signing a salvation card, or holding membership in our preference of denomination. Our assurance of salvation comes from the mutual testimony of the Spirit, and the truth of the gospel. If we do not have this, we simply need to seek it until we find it.
17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, (Romans 8)
There are no degrees of children in the household of God. This is why God calls all his children “sons”, and Jesus’ siblings as “brothers”. Every believer has identical standing with God. If we are children at all, we are completely children of God in all the same ways. We are all heirs of God, all equally inheriting the kingdom of God. We are all fellow heirs with Christ, meaning we are not only the same as one another in our relationship to the Father, but we have the same inheritance from the Father as Jesus has. What is his is ours.
17 provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8)
This is not laying down a work we must do in order to be saved (ie: if we do the work of suffering, we know we have the reward of salvation). Rather, it is one more way of speaking of those who persevere until the end and are saved. They are the ones who will keep living by faith even in suffering. If we disown Christ in our suffering (something the Spirit would never lead us to do), we have no assurance we would ever be with him in paradise.
The bottom line is that the Christian life can only be experienced by the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit of God, so we must be sure we are in the Spirit before we can even try to understand how spiritual gifts work in the church. If some people can be expressing things that appear to be the miraculous spiritual gifts Paul taught, and yet they did not have eternal life by grace through faith, we must settle the foundational issues of relationship with God in the Spirit before pursuing the evidence of both the fruit and the gifts of the Spirit in our lives. As Jesus said, first we “abide” in him, and then we will “bear much fruit”.
As I said, this is my quest, to help God’s children be so assured that we have the Spirit’s work in us, and among us, that we experience the “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” that is our right in the kingdom of God.
© 2016 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~ email@example.com
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)
 I Corinthians 12:1-3
 Romans 8:9
 II Corinthians 11:4
 II Corinthians 13:5
 Matthew 7:21-23
 I Corinthians 12:8-11
 II Timothy 3:5
 Hebrews 13:17
 Please read the whole chapter! In fact, read Romans 7:1-25 to see how deadly it is to live by the flesh (sark), and Romans 8:1-39 to see how liberating it is to live by the Spirit.
 Romans 5:1-2
 Romans 10:9-10
 Galatians 3:26 (Note: any translation that puts “sons and daughters” where God breathed-out “sons” is not only tampering with the words of God, but denying women the equality of being just as much sons as the men of the church)
 Romans 8:29 (Note: any translation that puts “brothers and sisters” where God breathed-out “brothers” is once again not only tampering with the words of God, but denying women the equality of being just as much brothers as the men of the church)
NOTE: the NT references to all believers as sons and brothers does not nullify any of the NT teaches regarding relationships between husbands and wives in marriage, and the role of men in shepherding the church. All fit together to glorify God in both his chosen order in creation, and his gracious gift in salvation.
 In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus began his list of Beatitudes with, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”, and ended the list with, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3-12), showing that those who are blessed the way the Beatitudes demonstrate have the same inheritance in our Lord Jesus Christ.
 Matthew 10:22; Matthew 24:13; Mark 13:13
 Luke 12:9
 Romans 8:9
 John 15:5
 Romans 10:17