Connections 05.30.2021: Family Resemblances

Romans 8:12-21

Family resemblances can be strong.

My father died four decades ago, so it has been a long time since I witnessed any of his mannerisms. But when I see video of myself talking, preaching, or teaching, the similarity of the expressions on my face and of the inflections of my voice to those of my late father make our family connection obvious. There is no denying that I am my father’s child.

My mannerisms also reflect those of another person who influenced me. That person was my teacher, mentor, and adoptive (in every sense but the legal one) father. I can see his expressions and hear his inflections in mine as clearly as I can those of my father. We weren’t biologically connected beyond the way that all human beings are, but his influence on me is undeniable.

One reason for my mentor’s strong influence is his prolonged presence in my life. He lived to be much older than my father did, so his influence on me had time to take root and spread.

There is a very real sense in which all human beings are children of God. There is also a very real sense in which Christians are adopted children of God. Because of the saving work of Jesus Christ, those who are God’s adopted children have the privilege and opportunity of developing a much stronger family resemblance to God. But how can we know what such resemblance looks like?

We know by looking at Jesus. His life, death, and resurrection make it possible for us to be adopted into God’s family by grace through faith. As a result of that adoption, we become Jesus’ siblings. As we grow closer to Jesus, we develop a stronger family resemblance to him. And as we develop a stronger family resemblance to Jesus, who is the Son of God, we develop a stronger family resemblance to God.

But what does that mean? One thing—maybe the main thing—it means is that we grow toward practicing extravagant grace and abundant love, no matter what it costs us. Paul says that as God’s children and Jesus’ siblings, we become “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him” (v. 17). To suffer with Christ is to suffer for the sake of what he suffered for, and he suffered for the ways of God that caused him to give himself away for God’s sake and for people’s sake.

We are members of God’s family. We are God’s adopted children. We are Jesus’ siblings. How do our lives demonstrate our family resemblance?


  • What does it mean to live by the Spirit?
  • What does it mean to be led by the Spirit of God? How do we know that God’s Spirit is leading us?
  • What does it mean to suffer with Christ?
  • How does creation share in our suffering?
  • What will it mean for the children of God to be revealed (v. 19)?

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra, father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara (Benjamin), grandfather to Sullivan and Isabella. A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. He is the Connections Series Curriculum Editor.


For further resources, subscribe to the Connections Teaching Guide and Commentary. Additionally, the Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary series is a scholarly but accessible means for enhancing your study of each lesson.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email