To “Owe no one anything…” according to Paul’s written admonition (see Romans 13.8) is but one of the moral and ethical rules that ought to govern our lives. However, the believer is in debt from the time he or she commits the first sin until death takes us away. This debt is not a material indebtedness from which we can extricate ourselves by working really, really hard; it is a spiritual debt that can only be erased by the biblical application of God’s grace to our lives.
However, the point that I wish to make just here is this: The lifelong indebtedness of the believer is in no way contrary to nor does it contradict the Spirit of adoption in which we also share. Some see debt as somewhat akin to a spirit of bondage, and therefore, conclude that believers are not under law nor do we owe anything. Such is simply not the case. Believers are free, but we are in debt; we are under law, but we are dependent upon grace; we abide in the blessed hope of God’s eternal adoption, but we strive to enter in to that strait gate. These seeming paradoxes are not contradictory they are complementary! The debt to God which we willingly acknowledge is but a burden which makes the Spirit of adoption all the more desirable and pleasant.
Once again we cite Paul’s words: “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.” (Romans 8.12-17; emphasis mine - jeb).
The contrasts between the flesh and the spirit permeate this entire section of scripture. Never were these differences more evident than they were in the era in which Paul lived. Note a poignant passage from his letter to the Corinthians: “Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Corinthians 1.20-25). Just as these principles applied in the mother city of Grecian commerce, so did they also apply to the capital, Rome. Wisdom was at a premium, but it had many, many counterfeits. Men loved to be seen as wise, all the while belittling those who were really wise! Paul speaks facetiously when he says, “…the weakness of God is stronger than men!”
The Spirit of adoption is a spirit that knows whereof it speaks. Its message is confirmed and its Champion has forever been crowned. Others may deride that Spirit, but none can dethrone Him! When the Son comes to claim His own, those who deny Him in word and/or deed will not be a part of that gathering. Those who were once the “insiders” will sadly find themselves on the “outside looking in.” The Spirit of adoption seeks God, while perpetually revering and modeling godliness. The Spirit of adoptions makes us "joint heirs with Christ!"
1. What factors prevent the debt we owe from becoming burdensome?
2. How is it that this perpetual debt is borne by those who are absolutely free? What is the solution to this paradox?
3. Concerning the flesh, how did it manifest itself among the disputers of this world during Paul’s day (see 1 Corinthians 1.20-25)? How did such false wisdom usually see the preaching of the cross?
4. How are we different today? How are we similar? In our culture, who is seen as wise; those who know earthly things, or those who are confident in heavenly things?
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