For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God (Rom. 8:14 NKJV).
I thought we were sons of God if we just made a confession of faith for salvation. The expression “sons of God” also includes women since often the Hebrews used the term “son” meaning “children” of both genders. I would like to read the context in which the above verse is found.
Therefore, brethren, we are debtors--not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 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 sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together (Rom. 8:12-17 NKJV).
As we can see from the context, Paul is comparing living according to the flesh with living according to the Spirit. Since many Christians still live according to their fleshly desires and are not being led by the Spirit, it becomes apparent that they are in fact not “sons of God.”
What does it mean to be led by the Spirit? In a nutshell, it means allowing the decisions we make to be influenced by the Spirit instead of our flesh, including our own mind and will. A person left to himself, will almost always go in a direction away from the Lord instead of towards the Lord, including most Christians. The decision process is relatively simple in theory: we have to constantly decide to be ruled by the Spirit and not the flesh. In reality this can be very difficult. For to be led by the Spirit requires hearing the voice of God, which many Christian denomination say does not happen today. Therefore, they claim we can only be led by the Bible. However, the Bible, although a spiritual book, is not the Holy Spirit.
Being led by the Scriptures alone is NOT being led by the Spirit. Here is the main example in the Scriptures to illustrate this point:
Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness (Luke 4:1 NKJV)
Here, Jesus was an aspiring young rabbi, who got baptized in the Jordan river, and the Holy Spirit came upon Him for ministry. In fact, it says He was filled with the Holy Spirit. Already, just from this one verse, we know He is more qualified for ministry than most people who go into the ministry—many of whom are never filled with the Spirit. On top of that, Jesus had the voice of the Heavenly Father Himself confirming that Jesus was ready. So we might expect Him to go straight into ministry at this point. Yet the Spirit led Him into the desert to be tested.
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him. When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:13-17 NKJV).
Already the Father is speaking audibly over Jesus that “This is My beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” We might think now He would go straight into ministry like most aspiring pastors after they get out of college and get their degree, which supposedly qualifies them for ministry. Instead of being led by His mind or will, Jesus was led by the Spirit to be tested in the wilderness while fasting. I doubt that going on a forty-day fast and being tested by the devil is any new rabbi’s or pastor’s human will. For starters, He is not even being payed for it. So being led by the Spirit here probably had nothing to do with Jesus’ will. Often the Spirit will lead us against our own will, if not most of the time, and many times against logic too.
Notice that Jesus did not get this guidance from the Scriptures; for there is no verse telling Him He must go to the desert, fast for forty days, and be tempted by the devil. This guidance came straight from the Holy Spirit. Oh, how often I have heard preachers say that if it is not in the Bible, it is not God’s will. When they say this, they give themselves away; and I figure they are not being led by the Spirit. Of course, the Spirit will not usually lead us to do anything against what the Bible says, except for special purposes like God telling Hosea to marry a prostitute.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner” (John 5:19 NKJV).
Jesus saw what the Father was doing and heard what the father was saying (5:30). He didn’t do His own will. This is what we need to do to be led by the Spirit as well. However, seeing what the Father is doing (I don’t mean literally) and to hear His voice (this may or may not be literally) takes an enormous effort. It may even require—God forbid—fasting. This is one reason we see Jesus beginning His ministry with a forty-day fast in the wilderness. We must learn to hear the voice of God to be led by the Spirit, and fasting helps to quiet our flesh.
How do we hear the voice of God? First, when I say “the voice of God,” neither the Bible nor I always means an audible voice. I am speaking of a variety of ways in which God communicates with us. Usually it can be just an impression on our mind or an inner intuitive notion. Hopefully it will be something a little more concrete, such as I have often heard people say, “This Scripture about jumped off the page while I was reading it!” When God gives me a scripture and I somehow know it, I call that a rhema instead of a logos. Both rehma and logos can mean a word in Greek; but rehma seems to include a special spoken word, whereas logos can refer to the entire Bible among other things.
Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words says about the word rehma:
The significance of rhema (as distinct from logos) is exemplified in the injunction to take "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God," Eph. 6:17; here the reference is not to the whole Bible as such, but to the individual scripture which the Spirit brings to our remembrance for use in time of need, a prerequisite being the regular storing of the mind with Scripture.
Thayer’s Greek Definitions gives as the first definition of rhema:
1) that which is or has been uttered by the living voice, thing spoken, word
When it comes to guidance on important decisions, I do not believe I am walking by the Spirit unless I have heard a rehma from the Lord and am obeying it. For,
“. . . faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word [rhema] of God” (Rom. 10:17 NKJV).
You cannot walk by the Spirit if you are not walking by faith, and you cannot walk by faith unless you have heard a rhema from the Lord.
The problem of walking by the Spirit instead of just the Scriptures is that the Spirit will continually lead you to the cross or in other words, a way that causes dying to our self-will. Since most Christians do not walk by the Spirit and use only the Bible (and often not even that), they tend to pick the verses they want to live by and avoid the ones that have to do with living the crucified life. The person living by the Spirit cannot avoid the Spirit’s guidance to the cross and towards death to our souls. However, as the soul dies we get more Spirit. When the Israelites first heard the voice of God, they knew it would cause death to themselves; so (like many Christians today) they ran from it.
Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” And Moses said to the people, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.” So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was (Ex. 20:19-21 NKJV).
So the Bible was originally written because the people did not want to live by the Spirit and hear the voice of God. In fact, the priests of Jesus’ day used the written word to kill the Living Word. They charged Jesus with blasphemy.
Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, “He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy! What do you think?” They answered and said, “He is deserving of death” (Matt. 26:65-66 NKJV).
(Note: It just happens to be a coincidence that the last verse in this passage that says “He is deserving of death” is verse 66—the number of books in the Bible!)
As Paul says,
“. . . who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (2 Cor. 3:6 NKJV).
The word for letter is this verse is the same Greek word used for “Scriptures” in the New Testament. The Greek word is gramma. It is the same word translated “Scriptures” in this verse,
“. . . and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15 NKJV).
The charge of blasphemy that the high priest accused Jesus of was against the written Law,
And whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall certainly stone him, the stranger as well as him who is born in the land. When he blasphemes the name of the Lord, he shall be put to death (Lev. 24:16 NKJV).
In one of the greatest ironies of all time, the priests who had received the written word from God used that very word to kill God when He came to save them! Such is the result of living only by the written word and not by the Spirit and voice of God. God is Spirit. God uses the Spirit to lead us into a spiritual death of the soul. Man uses the written word to kill God (the Spirit). Many Christians still use the written word to kill the Spirit in their own lives.
So am I saying that we should not use the written word? ABSOLUTELY NOT! We should use the written word to help lead us to the Living Word. I have already said we can get living words (rhemas) from the written word. We can also get them in prayer and worship and other ways of seeking the Lord.
Jesus rebuked the Pharisees saying,
You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life (John 5:39-40 NKJV).
I am speaking about being led by the Spirit as far a guidance in life is concerned. For daily living, living by the Spirit means practicing the fruit of the Spirit written in Galatians,
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law (Gal. 5:22-23 NKJV).
Use the written word to lead you to the Living Word and allow the Spirit to take you where He wills. Then you will be a “son of God.”