For as many are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.-Romans 8:14
The apostle Paul here (who by the Spirit wrote the book of Romans), makes an astonishing statement about those who belong to the family of God, and that is that they are led by the Spirit of God. In other words: a hallmark trait of the children of God is that they are led by God’s Spirit.
Of course, we, as believers, are all children of God. It’s impossible to be a Christian and not be a child of God, for as many as have received Christ have been adopted into His family – given the right to be called a child of God.
And part of this great privilege is the gift of the Holy Spirit, who is given unto us at the moment of conversion. This Eternal Guide comes to live inside of us and is an ever present help. He desires to be a vital part of our lives – to bless us and to enrich us. This is the big new feature that belongs to us as New Testament believers that our brethren from the Old Covenant did not have.
In the Old Testament we see that Moses received the 10 Commandments; they were written on stone by the finger of God. These 10 Commandments (along with a host of other laws) became the terms of what we call the Old Covenant (or the Mosaic Covenant). In this covenant God promises to bless Israel exceedingly if they kept these laws, and to curse them if they broke them.
Unfortunately, despite God’s extreme leniency and grace, they still reject Him and His covenant time and again. And so, finding fault with them, He says:
Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah- not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws into their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. – Hebrews 8:7 (quoted from Jeremiah 31:31-33)
Of course, we now live in this new covenant. It is the covenant that God established with mankind through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus speaks of it during the Last Supper:
Then He took the cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and said to them, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many.” – Mark 14:23-24
Its important to understand what dispensation we are living in, so we can live the way God desires us to live. Since the foundation of this new covenant the devil has done his best to push people back into the old, for those who live under the old are under a curse:
For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” – Gal 3:10
The devil wants us under a curse, but God desires to bless us. And in order for God to bless us, we must abide by the terms of His covenant.
But what are the terms of the New Covenant? What is it that we are to do?
The answer is found in Jeremiah 31. First, He says what this new covenant is NOT:
not according to the covenant I made with their fathers…which they broke – Jer 31:32
God makes it clear that this new covenant is not like the old one. But what was the covenant He made with the fathers?
You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them – Lev 18:5
In other words, “Keep my rules, and you shall live.” That’s the Old Covenant- rule keeping. But the New Covenant is not about rule keeping, because God knows that we are terrible rule keepers.
But how are we to conduct our life under the New Covenant?
But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel in those days, says the Lord: I will put my law in their minds, and write in on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. – Jeremiah 31:33-34
There is still a law under the New Covenant, but it’s not the law written and engraved upon stones (2 Cor 3:7). This new law is written in our hearts and minds. How does God do this? He does it by giving us His Spirit. Ezekiel prophesies of this:
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. – Ezekiel 36:26-27
This brings us back to our title scripture. We are no longer under the law, but, instead, we, as children of God, are led by God’s Spirit. This is how we conduct our lives under the New Covenant. The Old Covenant is rule-keeping, the New Covenant is Spirit-led living.
As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God. Romans 8:14
Many times this verse is used to speak of being led by God’s Spirit in regard to decision making. This can certainly apply, but the immediate context shows us that this Spirit-led life is really about overcoming sin, and walking in righteousness. Look at the verse previous:
For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.- Romans 8:13-14
The old testament way of overcoming sin and walking in righteousness was to try to keep all the rules of the written law. The way of the New testament is to be led by God’s Spirit:
If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. – Gal 5:18
In other words, our actions (whether moral decisions or otherwise) are to be dictated by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and not by written laws.
This is New Testament living.
Now, to the carnal mind, this seems dangerous. Do we really think it’s a good idea for each person to be led by God’s Spirit in regards to their moral actions? Won’t there be many who deceive themselves?
I answer, yes, many do deceive themselves, but these are the same that would be no different under any other system. They love their sin and so desire to live in darkness in order to continue in it.
But this Spirit-led living is not for them anyway. Spirit-led living is for those that love God and desire holiness. Those that desire otherwise get the law:
knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust. – 1 Timothy 1:9
There is plenty of law for those who want to deceive themselves. And to those who do, Paul has sharp words for them:
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. – 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
This is straight forward and simple talk for those who want to turn the grace of God into a license to sin.
But as for us, we desire to please God, and not ourselves. For us, God has given us His Spirit as a moral guide.
We see this best illustrated in Acts chapter 15, when the question came before the elders on whether or not the new Gentile believers should be circumcised and commanded to keep the law. Look at the response letter, written by the elders:
They wrote this letter by them: The apostles, the elders, and the brethren, To the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia: Greetings. Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, “You must be circumcised and keep the law”—to whom we gave no such commandment— it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell. – Acts 15:23-29
Notice how they said, “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things.” In other words, “This is what the Holy Spirit is leading us to tell you.” I can guarantee that these same things were being witnessed by the Spirit in the believers who received this letter before they received it. It was these outside forces that were causing the confusion. But when they received the letter, they rejoiced, for it bore witness with what was already in their heart.
This New Testament way of living is not understood by many modern Christians. Too many Christians are either carnal, or still living under the old, rule keeping system. Both are ditches that we need to stay out of. We need to stand fast in the liberty of this New Covenant way of life – freedom from the flesh and freedom from the law. The devil will seek to push us into one ditch or the other. We must resist him both ways.
Listen to the voice of the great apostle:
Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage – Galatians 5:1
It is a freeing thing to live under the ‘newness of the Spirit’ rather then the ‘oldness of the letter’ (Rom 7:6). You will find that those who truly conduct themselves in this ‘new and living way’ are among the holiest of people you will ever meet (Heb 10:20).
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