It would be easy to think that Paul has changed his subjects from those in chapter 8. However, as Paul explains his lesson about Abraham, he returns again to the same subjects. So, he writes not about the children of Abraham here, but the children of God as in Romans 8:15-17. Also, he writes again about the flesh (the soft parts of the body), which Paul uses as a word-picture for human nature and its weakness (8:12-13). In particular, we do wrong things when we allow our natural desires and feelings to control our lives.
The life of Abraham teaches us about these things in a very practical way. God had promised a son to Abraham, but his wife Sarah was unable to have children. They tried to work out a solution to their problem. There was a custom at the time for a man to take his wifeís maid as a second wife. Abraham did that, and Ishmael was born. He had found a natural answer to his desire to have a son. That solution did not depend upon trust in God; it depended on natural, human behaviour.
However, we remember Abraham mainly because of his trust in God, in other words, his faith. Even after Ishmael was born, Abraham believed Godís promise (4:18-22). So, although Sarah was much too old, she gave birth to Isaac. He, and not Ishmael, was the son whom God had promised to Abraham.
So the lesson is that, in order to become children of God, we cannot simply behave in a natural, human way. We cannot simply allow our natural desires and feelings to control our lives. Instead, we must trust God, and we must believe his word. We must allow him to direct our lives by his Holy Spirit. People do not become the children of God by any act of human effort, but by the power of Godís Spirit (John 1:12-13).
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© 2017, Keith Simons.