Liz cried for joy when she and her husband received the birth certificate and passport for their child, making the adoption legally binding. Now Milena would always be their daughter, forever part of their family. As she pondered the legal process, she also thought of the “true exchange” that happens when we become part of Jesus’s family: “No longer are we held down by our birthright of sin and brokenness.” Rather, she continued, we enter into the fullness of God’s kingdom legally when we are adopted as His children.

In the apostle Paul’s day, if a Roman family adopted a son, his legal status would change completely. Any debts from his old life would be canceled and he would gain all of the rights and privileges of his new family. Paul wanted the Roman Christians to understand that this new status applied to them too. No longer were they bound to sin and condemnation but now they lived “according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:4). And those the Spirit leads are adopted as God’s children (vv. 14–15). Their legal status changed when they became citizens of heaven.

If we have received the gift of salvation, we too are God’s children, heirs of His kingdom and united with Christ. Our debts have been cancelled by the gift of Jesus’s sacrifice. We no longer need to live in fear or condemnation.