FOR YOU HAVE NOT RECEIVED A SPIRIT OF SLAVERY LEADING TO FEAR AGAIN: ou gar elabete (2PAAI) pneuma douleias palin eis phobon: (Ex
20:19; Nu 17:12; Lk 8:28,37; Jn 16:8; Acts 2:37; 16:29; 1Co 2:12; 2Ti
1:7; Heb 2:15; 12:18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24; Jas 2:19; 1Jn 4:18)
is a small word which is used over 7000x in Scripture and most often as
term of explanation
especially when it is found at the beginning of a sentence. If you want
to revolutionize your insights and discoveries of the rich treasures
hidden in God's Word, then learn to focus on for (F.O.F.).
Whenever you encounter for as term of explanation, "Stop! Look! And
Listen!" (so to speak), asking your Teacher, the Spirit, to illuminate
the text. One way is ask the question "What is the for explaining?"
which will force you to slow down and ponder the passage, which will
invariably force you to examine the preceding
to answer your question. As you begin
to practice F.O.F. you will are in effect also beginning to engage in
the blessed discipline of
In short, here "for"
is explaining our sonship and what role the Holy Spirit has in bring
about our sonship.
This is the third verse in succession
to be introduced by “for”. As Paul elaborates on sonship to God, he uses
a closely knit argument (The Epistle to the Romans: The Pillar New
expositor Donald Barnhouse focuses on for (undoubtedly a
discipline which contributed to his excellence in expositing Scripture)
our text begins with the word “for.”
This word is a hinge that
ties the whole passage together.
We have been brought out of death and into life. We have been
established in Christ as a new pivot around which all life is to
revolve. When God raised our Lord from the dead He raised us up together
with Him. Therefore we are debtors … because if we live after the
flesh the Christian life will be defeat and not triumph. But the
triumph is assured, because as many as are dominated by the Spirit of
God (Ro 8:13), they are the sons of God (cf Gal 4:5, 6); because we have
not received the spirit of bondage again to fear. In the technique of
motion pictures this would be called a “flash back.” There have been
motion pictures which began with the presentation of an old person and
then, in order to give the reasons why the person was in certain
circumstances, reverted to earlier scenes in life, a “flash back” to
things that have gone before. That is exactly what the Holy Spirit does
in the clause we are studying. For there was a time when God brought His
chosen people out of Egypt and put them into bondage under the law, and
that spirit of bondage brought great fear to their hearts.
Our text states plainly that the
believer in Christ is not to live in any such state of fear. We have
received the life of Christ—the resurrection of our Lord—and thus we are
to live in freedom from the fear that conscience inspires. The RSV
renders our text, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall
back into fear.” Is it not a great tragedy therefore, in the light of
this great truth, that the church has been brought back under the law in
so many cases? For whenever there is legalism there must, of necessity,
be the spirit of bondage to fear. It is heart-rending to read the
history of the church and to find the constant tendency to return to the
bondage of the law. On the pages of the New Testament we discover that
men followed Paul to tear down that which he was preaching. He would
arrive in a community and proclaim the doctrine of grace. He would tell
men that they could trust in Christ and know that all of their sins were
removed, both those they had already committed and those that would be
committed in future. For justification can mean nothing less than this,
that a believer is received by God in the totality of his life span, and
that he is instantly made accepted in the Beloved. (God’s Heirs: Romans
You have not
received - The word for "not" here signifies absolute negation!
For this truth we thank God!
We did receive the spirit of bondage
once. We felt that we were under the law, and that the law cursed us. We
felt its rigorous taxation, and that we could not meet it. Now that
spirit has gone, and we have the spirit of freedom, the spirit of
children, the spirit of adoption. I suppose that the apostle, when he
thus spake and said “ye,” felt so much of the spirit of adoption in his
own bosom that he could not talk of it as belonging to others alone. He
was obliged to include it thus, and so he puts it, “Ye have received the
spirit of adoption whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” He wanted to intimate
that he himself also was a partaker of this blessed spirit. And woe to
the preacher who can preach an adoption which he never enjoyed. Woe to
any of us if we can teach to others concerning the spirit of sonship,
but never feel it crying in our own souls. “Abba, Father.”
doulos - see word study)
means slavery, bondage, the condition of a slave, the opposite of
freedom (see studies on this word group "free, freedom" =
eleutheros). Douleia describes that state of man in which he is prevented from freely
possessing and enjoying his life, a state opposed to liberty. In the NT
douleia is only used figuratively to describe a slavish spirit.
The idea is that of an enslaved moral or spiritual condition
characterized by fear of breaking rules and thus experiencing bondage
and lack of freedom.
5x in 5v - Ro 8:15, Ro 8:21-note
Gal 4:24, 5:1 (= those enslaved to the Law), Heb 2:15-note
(= those enslaved to the fear of death)
the state or condition of being held
as chattel by another, slavery (the basic perspective of the ancient
world that one can be owned by only one master is expressed Mt 6:24; Lk
is used in Romans 8:21 of that
condition of the Creation into which it was brought by the Fall of man,
its appointed head, and in Ro 8:15 of that fallen condition of man
himself which makes him dread God rather than love Him, and, in Hebrews
2:15, that makes him fear death
Paul has been discussing the
flesh, so this must have reference to those
who are in the
(unbelievers) who are enslaved to Sin
and the Law and receive the wages of Sin which is death (a cause of
Paul is saying in essence...
The Holy Spirit, whom you have
received, does not produce a slavish and anxious state of mind, such as
those experience who are under the law, but He produces the filial
feelings of affection, reverence, and confidence and enables us, out of
the fullness of our hearts, to call God our Father.
No matter how cleverly they may manage to mask or deny the reality of
it, sinful men are continually subject to fear because they continually
live in sin and are therefore continually under God’s judgment for Jesus
He who believes in Him is not judged;
he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has
not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (Jn 3:18)
The lost, unregenerate men of this
present evil age (Gal 1:4) are governed by a slavish and anxious apprehension of
punishment (and ultimately fear of eternal death in the Lake of fire,
albeit they have no concept of its true "horrors"! Mk 9:48). Slavery to
slavery to fear, and one of the great and gracious works of the Holy Spirit is to
deliver God’s children from both sets of shackles, setting the captives
free (Lk 4:18, cp Col 1:13-note,
Acts 26:18), for when the Son sets a man free, he is free indeed (Jn
8:36, 31, 32, Ro 8:2-note). All unconverted
(unregenerate, not born again) men, whether Jews or
Gentiles, are in this state of enslavement to their deepest, innermost
(fully justifiable -2Ti 4:1-note,
Jn 5:22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, Acts 10:42, 17:31, Ro 2:16) fears because they
are all under the Law which kills
and the penalty for breaking that Law (which all do - cp Jas 2:10) is
death (Ro 6:23-note),
their ultimate enemy, which no amount of money or earthly power can
avoid (cp Mk 8:34, 35, 36, Lk 12:16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, A certain rich
man = Lk 16:19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31).
Paul reminded Timothy that our heavenly Father
has not given us a
spirit of timidity (fear =
[word study]), but of power (dunamis) and love
(agape) and discipline
John reminds believers of the truth
there is no fear in love; but perfect
love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who
fears is not perfected in love (1Jn 4:18).
Spurgeon - The spirit of bondage is the spirit
of servants, not of sons; but that servitude is ended for us who are
made free in Christ Jesus. We are no longer afraid of being called the
children of God. We are not afraid of our own Father; we have a filial
fear of him, but it is so mixed with love that there is no torment in
it. Whether Jew or Gentile, we cry, “Abba, Father.” You did receive it once (the spirit
of slavery). You needed it. You were in sin, and it was well for you
when sin became bondage to you. It was grievous, but it was salutary;
but you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear.
See related discussions -
Anxious, be anxious
Jesus' solution "Do not be worried"
Paul's Solution - Philippians 4:6;
Peter's Solution - Cast your cares on
God - 1 Peter 5:7
Fear, How to Handle It
Worry - What is it?
BUT YOU HAVE RECEIVED A SPIRIT OF ADOPTION AS SONS: alla elabete (2PAAI) pneuma huiothesias: (Ro
8:16; Isa 56:5; Jer 3:19; 1Co 2:12; Ga 4:5, 6, 7; Ep 1:5,11, 12, 13, 14)
articles on Adoption - Smith's, ISBE)
Sons (not slaves) - Gal 4:5 Ep
not slaves Gal 4:7. Paul explains in the next verse
The Spirit Himself testifies
with our spirit that we
are children of God (Ro 8:16-note)
Warren Wiersbe comments
To live in the flesh or
law (and to put yourself under law is to move toward living in the
flesh) leads to bondage; but the Spirit leads us into a glorious life of
liberty in Christ. Liberty (see
word study on eleutheria = liberty) to the believer
never means freedom to do as
he or she pleases, for that is the worst kind of slavery! Rather,
Christian liberty in the Spirit is freedom from law and the flesh so
that we can please God and become what He wants us to become.
in the NT does not mean what it typically means today, the taking of a
child into a family to be a legal member of the family. The literal
meaning of the Greek word is “son-placing” —the taking of a minor
(whether in the family or outside) and making him or her the rightful
heir. Every believer is a child of God by birth (Ed: spiritual
birth, Jn 3:3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8) and an heir of God
through adoption (cp heir in Ro 4:13, 14-note,
Gal 3:29, 4:1, 7, 30, Ep 3:6-note,
Jas 2:5, 1Pe 3:7-note). In fact, we are joint-heirs with Christ, so that He
cannot receive His inheritance in glory until we are there to share it
with Him. Thank God, the believer has no obligation to the flesh, to
feed it, pamper it, obey it. Instead, we must “put to death” (mortify)
the deeds of the flesh by the power of the Spirit (Ro 8:13-note,
Col 3:9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15-see
and allow the Spirit to direct our daily lives. (Wiersbe,
W. W. Wiersbe's Expository Outlines on the New Testament. Wheaton, Ill.:
Adoption as sons (5206)
from huios = son + tithemi
= place) literally means "to place one as a son". Huiothesia thus
speaks of adoption or being placed in a position and rights as one’s
own child. It means to to formally and legally declare that someone who
is not one’s own child is henceforth to be treated and cared for as
one’s own child, including complete rights of inheritance.
Adoption bears a relationship to justification in that it is
declarative and forensic (inasmuch as it is a legal term). Adoption
bestows an objective standing, even as does justification
for like justification, adoption represents essentially a legal pronouncement that
never needs to be repeated. Once we are adopted as sons, our adoption is
Also, like justification,
adoption rests on the loving purpose and grace of God, not on any
meritorious works of the one adopted. Paul writes that God the Father...
predestined us to adoption as sons
through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His
will, to the praise of
the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
Though the term
adoption is used of Israel in relation to God (Ro 9:4-note,
Hos 11:1), it is doubtful that adoption was practiced in OT days. Much
more likely is the interpretation that Paul was drawing on the
background of Roman law both here and in Galatians 4:5. The readers of
both of these epistles, many of whom were Roman citizens, would be
familiar with legal implications of adoption in the Roman Empire.
not so much a word of relationship as of position. In regeneration a
Christian receives the nature of a child of God; in adoption he receives
the position of a son of God. Every Christian obtains the place of a
child and the right to be called a son the moment he believes (Gal 3:25, 26
4:6 1Jn 3:1-note,
1Jn 3:2-note). The indwelling Spirit gives the realization of this in
the Christian's present experience (Gal 4:6) but the full manifestation of
his sonship awaits the resurrection, change, and translation of saints,
"the redemption of the body" (Ro 8:23-note, Ep 1:14-note, 1Th 4:14,
15, 16, 17-note).
A formal definition Of what
adoption means is found in the Westminster Confession (chapter
All those that are justified, God
vouchsafeth, in and for His only Son Jesus Christ, to make partakers of
the grace of adoption: by which they are taken into the number, and
enjoy the liberties and privileges of the children of God; have His name
put upon them, receive the Spirit of adoption; have access to the throne
of grace with boldness; are enabled to cry, Abba, Father; are pitied,
protected, provided for, and chastened by Him, as by a father; yet never
cast off, but sealed to the day of redemption, and inherit the promises,
as heirs of everlasting salvation.
Greg Ogden -
As adopted children we can enjoy the
same favor that Jesus has with the Father. We too are the apple of God's
eye, the pleasure of his love, the delight of his focus. And if we
didn't get all that we wanted or needed in our human fathers, we are
invited even more deeply into the pleasure that the Father of heaven and
earth takes in his Son, and us. We have been included in the family and
hear the Father say, "You are my child, whom I love; with you I am well
pleased." We now have the Father we always needed and wanted.
(Discipleship Essentials-A Guide to Building Your Life in Christ)
Sinclair Ferguson rightly says
Understanding adoption should mean
that our own sense of the great goodness and love of God is immeasurably
John Murray writes that...
Adoption, as the term clearly
implies, is an act of transfer from an alien family into the family of
God himself. This is surely the apex of grace and privilege.
Vincent quotes a Mr. Merivale,
The process of legal adoption by which the chosen heir became entitled
not only to the reversion of the property but to the civil status, to
the burdens as well as the rights of the adopter—became, as it were, his
other self, one with him … this too is a Roman principle, peculiar at
this time to the Romans, unknown, I believe, to the Greeks, unknown, to
all appearance, to the Jews...We have but a faint conception of the
force with which such an illustration would speak to one familiar with
the Roman practice; how it would serve to impress upon him the assurance
that the adopted son of God becomes, in a peculiar and intimate sense,
one with the heavenly Father.
There are dozens of children and
young people and adults in this church who have been legally adopted.
You are all loved by your parents with a deep, true, unshakable love
just as much or more than if you had been born into your family. And
that is the way it is with God. This reality of adoption is a massive,
firm, legal reality. And it is a deep, strong, full-hearted emotional
reality. When the Holy Spirit is called in Ro 8:15 the Spirit of
adoption the meaning is the Spirit confirms and makes real to you
this great legal transaction of adoption. If you have trusted Christ as
your Lord and Savior and Treasure, then you are adopted. John 1:12,
To all who did receive him, who
believed in His name, He gave the right (authority) to become
children of God.
If you receive Christ, you are
The Spirit is poured out into our
hearts to confirm and make real our adoption. How does he do that
according to Ro 8:15? He does it by replacing the fear of a slave
toward a master with the love of a son toward a father. "You did not
receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have
received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!"
He is contrasting the fear of a slave with the affection of a son. The
work of the Holy Spirit in our lives is to change our slavish fears
toward God into confident, happy, peaceful affection for God as our
Now relate that to the leading of the Spirit in Ro 8:14. This is the
other question I said Paul is answering in Ro 8:15: How does the Spirit
lead? "All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God." How does
he lead? How does he move us and enable us to put to death the deeds of
the body – to kill sin? Answer: "For you did not receive the spirit of
slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of
adoption as sons." The Spirit does not lead by stirring up slavish fear.
He leads by stirring up family affection. He does not get you to kill
sin by making you a slave who acts out of fear. But by making you a son
who acts out of faith and affection.....
The Spirit brings about a response in
our hearts to the love of God that cries out, "Abba! Father!" The
witness of the Holy Spirit that you are a child of God is not a
testimony to a neutral heart with no affection for God's fatherly love
so that your neutral heart can draw the logical conclusion that it is a
child of God and then try to muster up some appropriate affections. That
is not the picture. No. The witness of the Holy Spirit that you are a
child of God is the creation in you of affections for God. The testimony
of the Holy Spirit IS the cry, "Abba! Father!"
And the reason Paul uses the word "cry" and the Aramaic word "Abba" is
because both of them point to deep, affectionate, personal, authentic
experience of God's fatherly love. He didn't say that the testimony of
the Spirit was that we affirm doctrinally that God is father. The devil
knows that doctrine. Doctrinal affirmations, as important as they are,
don't make children. What he said was that the testimony of the Spirit
that we are God's children is that from our hearts there rises an
irrepressible cry – a cry, not a mere statement, a cry: "Abba! Father!"
We don't infer logically the fatherhood of God from the testimony of the
Spirit. We enjoy emotionally the Fatherhood of God by the testimony of
the Spirit. The testimony of the Spirit is not a premise from which we
deduce that we are children of God; it is a power by which we delight in
being the children of God.
Don't Wait for a Whisper – Look to Jesus!
If you want to know that you are a child of God, you don't put your ear
to the Holy Spirit and wait for a whisper; put your ear to the gospel
and your eye to the cross of Christ and you pray that the Holy Spirit
would enable you to see it and savor it for what it really is. Romans
5:8, "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners,
Christ died for us."
The testimony of the Spirit is that when we look at cross we cry,
"Jesus, you are my Lord!" (1 Corinthians 12:3), and "God, you are my
Father!" So look to Christ! Look to Christ! (The
Spirit-Led Are the Sons of God)
C H Spurgeon...
We are regenerated, by the Holy
Spirit, and so receive the nature of children; and that nature, which is
given by him, he continually prompts, and excites, and develops, and
matures; so that we receive day by day more and more of the childlike
spirit. Now, beloved, this may not seem to you to be of very great
importance at first sight; but it is so; for the church is never happy
except as all her members walk as dear children towards God. Sometimes
the spirit of slaves creeps over us: we begin to talk of the service of
God as though it were heavy and burdensome, and are discontented if we
do not receive present wages and visible success, just as servants do
when they are not suited; but the spirit of adoption works for love,
without any hope of reward, and it is satisfied with the sweet fact of
being in the Father’s house, and doing the Father’s will. This spirit
gives peace, rest, joy, boldness, and holy familiarity with God. A man
who never received the spirit of a child towards God does not know the
bliss of the Christian life; he misses its flower, its savor, its
excellence, and I should not wonder if the service of Christ should be a
weariness to him because he has never yet got to the sweet things, and
does not enjoy the green pastures, wherein the Good Shepherd makes his
sheep to feed and to lie down. But when the Spirit of God makes us feel
that we are sons, and we live in the house of God to go no more out for
ever, then the service of God is sweet and easy, and we accept the delay
of apparent success as a part of the trial we are called to bear.
Now, mark you, this will have a great
effect upon the outside world. A body of professors performing religion
as a task, groaning along the ways of godliness with faces full of
misery, like slaves who dread the lash, can have but small effect upon
the sinners around them. They say, “These people serve, no doubt, a hard
master, and they are denying themselves this and that; why should we be
like them?” But bring me a church made up of children of God, a company
of men and women whose faces shine with their heavenly Father’s smile,
who are accustomed to take their cares and cast them on their Father as
children should, who know they are accepted and beloved, and are
perfectly content with the great Father’s will; put them down in the
midst of a company of ungodly ones, and I will warrant you they will
begin to envy them their peace and joy. Thus happy saints become most
efficient operators upon the minds of the unsaved. O blessed Spirit of
God! let us all now feel that we are the children of the great Father,
and let our childlike love be warm this morning; so shall we be fit to
go forth and proclaim the Lord’s love to the prodigals who are in the
far-off land among the swine.
F. F. Bruce says that...
The term “adoption” may smack somewhat of
artificiality in our ears; but in the first century A.D. an adopted son
was a son deliberately chosen by his adoptive father to perpetuate his
name and inherit his estate; he was no whit inferior in status to a son
born in the ordinary course of nature and might well enjoy the father’s
affection more fully and reproduce the father’s character more worthily.
The Spirit of adoption works in the
children of God a filial love to God as a Father, a delight in him, and
a dependence upon him, as a Father. A sanctified soul bears the image of
God, as the child bears the image of the father. Whereby we cry, Abba,
Father. Praying is here called crying, which is not only an earnest, but
a natural expression of desire children that cannot speak vent their
desires by crying. Now, the Spirit teaches us in prayer to come to God
as a Father, with a holy humble confidence, emboldening the soul in that
duty. Abba, Father. Abba is a Syriac word signifying father or my father
pater, a Greek work and why both, Abba, Father? Because Christ said so
in prayer (Mark 14:36), Abba, Father: and we have received the Spirit of
the Son. It denotes an affectionate endearing importunity, and a
believing stress laid upon the relation. Little children, begging of
their parents, can say little but Father, Father, and that is rhetoric
enough. It also denotes that the adoption is common both to Jews and
Gentiles: the Jews call him Abba in their language, the Greeks may call
him pater in their language for in Christ Jesus there is neither Greek
nor Jew. (Romans
has a detailed discussion of adoption in Paul's day writing that...
Roman adoption was always rendered
more serious and more difficult by the Roman patria potestas.
This was the father’s power over his family; it was the power of
absolute disposal and control, and in the early days was actually the
power of life and death. In regard to his father, a Roman son never came
of age. No matter how old he was, he was still under the patria
potestas, in the absolute possession and under the absolute
control, of his father. Obviously this made adoption into another family
a very difficult and serious step. In adoption a person had to pass from
one patria potestas to another. There were two steps. The first was
known as mancipatio, and was carried out by a symbolic
sale, in which copper and scales were symbolically used. Three times the
symbolism of sale was carried out. Twice the father symbolically sold
his son, and twice he bought him back; but the third time he did not buy
him back and thus the patria potestas was held to be broken. There
followed a ceremony called vindicatio. The adopting father
went to the praetor, one of the Roman magistrates, and presented a legal
case for the transference of the person to be adopted into his patria
potestas. When all this was completed, the adoption was complete.
Clearly this was a serious and an impressive step. But it is the
consequences of adoption which are most significant for the picture that
is in Paul’s mind. There were four main ones.
(i) The adopted person lost all
rights in his old family and gained all the rights of a legitimate son
in his new family. In the most binding legal way, he got a new father.
(ii) It followed that he became heir
to his new father’s estate. Even if other sons were afterwards born, it
did not affect his rights. He was inalienably co-heir with them.
(iii) In law, the old life of the
adopted person was completely wiped out; for instance, all debts were
cancelled. He was regarded as a new person entering into a new life with
which the past had nothing to do.
(iv) In the eyes of the law he was
absolutely the son of his new father. Roman history provides an
outstanding case of how completely this was held to be true.
W: The Daily Study Bible)
Charnock writes that...
Adoption gives us the privilege of
sons, regeneration the nature of sons.
Watson writes that...
Adoption is a greater mercy
than Adam had in paradise...God has made his children, by adoption,
nearer to himself than the angels. The angels are the friends of Christ;
believers are his members....Since God has a Son of his own, and such a
Son, how wonderful God's love in adopting us! We needed a Father,
but He did not need sons.
How binding was
"adoption" in Rome? Nero's father died when he was about 3 years
old. After Caligula confiscated their family wealth, he and his mother
found themselves quite poor for a time. Things changed dramatically when
Agrippina married her uncle, the emperor Claudius. That marriage was the
means of Nero's rise to power. Agrippina managed to get Nero adopted not
only as a son of Claudius, but the heir to the throne before Claudius'
actual sons. As believers adopted into God's family as God's children
(Jn 1:12 Ro 8:16) we are "heirs of God & fellow heirs with Christ" (Ro
A C Gaebelein
commenting on the Holy Spirit in Ro 8:14-16...
Here the Spirit of adoption, of
Sonship is made known. They are the sons of God, who are led by the
Spirit. The Spirit of God is in the believer as a Spirit of adoption. We
have not received a spirit of bondage to be again in fear, as it was
with the Old Testament believers, but a spirit that answers to our
sonship in Christ, and by that Spirit we cry, Abba, Father. He is called
a Spirit of adoption because He produces in the believer the reality of
divine Sonship as well as all which appertains to this relation- ship.
The Holy Spirit does not make believers sons, but He is given to them,
and is in the believer as the Spirit of sonship, because they are sons.
It must be noted that believers are spoken of as children of God and
also as sons of God. In our relationship we are children, born into the
family of God; in our position and future glory we are sons.
Indwelling the believer the Holy
Spirit bears witness "with our spirit, that we are the children of God."
The witness of the Spirit is in the Word of God, and because the
believer has accepted His witness as to redemption he knows therefore
that God is His Father, and, being born again, that be is in the family
of God. He produces in the believer the consciousness of being a child
of God, as well as the affections of a child. "We have this testimony in
our hearts in our relationship with God; but the Holy Spirit Himself, as
distinct from us, bears this testimony to those in whom He dwells. The
true believer knows that he recognizes in his heart God as his Father,
but He also knows that the Holy Spirit bears the same testimony to him.
That which is founded on the Word is realized and verified in the
heart." The witness of the Spirit is more than "a good feeling," it is
the deep consciousness produced by believing the Word in the power of
the Spirit of God that we are the children of God. (The Holy Spirit in
the New Testament)
William E Brown
The present reality of the believer's
adoption into the family of God is release from the slavery of
sin and the law and a new position as a free heir of God. Entering into
salvation brings the rights and privileges of free sonship: "For you did
not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you
received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father'" (Ro
8:15). Paul tells the Galatians that Christians were redeemed from the
law so that they might receive adoption as sons. As a result the Holy
Spirit comes into the believer's heart crying, "Abba, Father" (Gal 4:5).
The intimacy of a relationship with God the Father in contrast to the
ownership of slavery is a remarkable feature of salvation.
Like many aspects of salvation, there is an eschatological component of
adoption. Believers "wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the
redemption of our bodies" (Ro 8:23-note).
The full revelation of the believer's adoption is freedom from the
corruption present in the world. Being a member of God's family includes
the ultimate privilege of being like him (1Jn 3:2-note)
and being conformed to the glorious body of Christ (Php 3:21-note).
This is part of the promised inheritance for all God's children (Ro
- Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology)
ADOPTION. Ge 15:3.
Of Joseph's sons, Gen. 48:5,
14, 16, 22.
Of Moses, Ex. 2:5-10; Acts 7:21; Heb. 11:24.
Of Esther, Esth. 2:7.
Ex 4:22, 23; Nu 6:27 Dt 14:1; 26:18;
27:9; 28:10; 32:5, 6 2Chr. 7:14; Isa. 43:7; 2Sa 7:14; 1Chr. 22:10,28:6.
Pr 14:26; Isa 8:18; 43:6; 63:16, 8; Jer 3:19; 31:9, 20; Hos 1:9, 10;
Mt. 5:9, 45; Mt 13:43; Lk 6:35; Jn
1:12, 13; 11:52; Acts 15:17; Ro 8:14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 21, 29; 9:8, 26;
Heb 1:5. 2Co 6:17, 18; Gal. 3:26, 29; 4:5, 6, 7; Eph. 1:5; 2:19; 3:6,
15; Phil. 2:15; Heb. 2:10, 11, 13; 12:6, 7, 9; 1Jn 3:1, 2, 10; 4:4; Rev
in Israel, Ex 4:22; Hos 11:1;
BY WHICH WE CRY OUT
ABBA! FATHER: en o krazomen (1PPAI)
abba o pater: (Mark 14:36; Luke 11:2; 22:42; John 20:17)
believers are impelled
to cry out Abba! Father!
By which we cry
out - That is, on the basis of the incredible truth that sinners
otherwise destined for eternal separation from God (see 2Th 1:7, 8, 9,
10), have now been brought near (Ep 2:13-note)
by the blood of the Lamb of God (Jn 1:29, 1Pe 1:18, 19-note),
by grace through faith in Christ's full atoning, substitutionary
sacrifice (Ep 2:8, 9-note).
God's Holy Spirit now "fills" our lungs (spiritually
speaking [Ep 5:18-note],
as well as physically) with the air we breath and which allows us to
exclaim Abba! Father!, words we heretofore had no right or claim
to utter. Amazing, holy love, how can it be that God has saved such
wretches as we!
Whether in supplication, or in
praise. Observe the change again to the first person, suggesting St
Paul’s sense of the holy community of the family of God. (ibid)
Cry (2896) (krazo)
refers to a loud cry or
vociferation, expressing deep emotion. Krazo is one of those
onomatopoeic words, the very pronunciation of which imitates the hoarse
cry (or "croak") of the raven.
Krazo - 55x
in 54v -
Mt 8:29; 9:27; 14:26, 30; 15:22f;
20:30f; 21:9, 15; 27:23, 50; Mark 3:11; 5:5, 7; 9:24, 26; 10:47f; 11:9;
15:13f; Luke 9:39; 18:39; 19:40; John 1:15; 7:28, 37; 12:44; Acts 7:57,
60; 14:14; 16:17; 19:28, 32, 34; 21:28, 36; 23:6; 24:21; Rom 8:15; 9:27;
Gal 4:6; Jas 5:4; Rev 6:10; 7:2, 10; 10:3; 12:2; 14:15; 18:2, 18f;
translated (NAS) - cried(20), cries(2), cry(5), crying(12),
screaming(1), screams(1), shout(1), shouted(4), shouting(8).
Matthew 8:29 And they (demons Jesus
had just called out) cried out, saying, "What business do we have
with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the
Krazo - 88v
in the Septuagint -
Gen 41:55; Ex 5:8; 22:23; 32:17; Num
11:2; Josh 6:16; Jdg 1:14; 3:9, 15; 4:3; 18:24; 2 Sam 13:19; 19:4, 28;
Job 6:5; 19:7; 30:20, 28; 34:20; 35:9, 12; 38:41; Ps 3:4; 4:3; 17:6;
18:6, 41; 22:2, 5, 24; 27:7; 28:1; 30:2, 8; 31:22; 32:3; 34:6, 17;
55:16; 57:2; 61:2; 65:13; 66:17; 69:3; 77:1; 86:3, 7; 88:1, 9, 13;
107:6, 13, 19, 28; 119:145ff; 120:1; 130:1; 141:1; 142:1, 5; Isa 6:3;
14:31; 15:4; 19:20; 26:17; 31:4; 42:2; 65:14, 24; Jer 4:5; 11:11f;
22:20; 25:34; 33:3; 47:2; 48:3, 20; 49:3; Lam 3:8; Ezek 27:30; Hos 8:2;
Joel 1:14; Mic 3:4; Hab 1:2; Zech 7:13
One sign of a child
is that he or she knows their earthly father (tragically this maxim is
far from true in post-Christian America [circa 2009] where out of
wedlock childbirths are the rule rather than the exception and are
ravaging the nation, leaving many children without "on site" fathers! I
my own testimony
is integrally intertwined with the truth of an "off site", unknown
father!) One sign of the child of God is
that he or she knows their heavenly Father.
Does your spirit cry in that way
to-night? Even if you be in the dark, yet if you cry for your Father,
you will soon be in the light. There is no need to be distressed with
any form of doubt so long as the Spirit makes this continual breathing,
“Abba, Father, show thyself to me. Do what thou wilt to me. Let me taste
thy love. Let me at least bow under thy hand.”
Abba (0005 - click to listen to pronunciation
accentuating second syllable)
(Abba) is transliterated
as Abba into
English from the corresponding Aramaic word which was used in the everyday
language of families as a term addressing one's father. Children, as well as
adult sons and daughters, used Abba when speaking to their fathers.
And so Abba conveys a warm, intimate sense just as with our expression
Dictionary Articles on "Abba"
Abba is used
only 3 times in Scriptures and each use is the identical phrase "Abba!
Father!" which in Greek is "abba ho pater", literally "Abba, the Father", so
that "the Father" serves to "translate" the Aramaic word "Abba" to any
readers unable to understand Aramaic. In addition, each use is in the
context of calling on God in prayer.
The combined use of
the Aramaic Abba and Greek means something like "dear Father", "Daddy"
"Papa." Remember that in the Roman Empire of the first
century, adopted sons enjoyed the same privileges as
natural-born sons. So, instead of cowering in slave-like fear,
all sons and daughters by the new birth can confidently, boldly (and yet
humbly) approach God in an intimate way, reverentially calling Him Abba, Father.
Hallelujah! Amazing grace indeed!
Oh, blessed, blessed state of heart
to feel that now we are born into the family of God, and that the choice
word which no slave might ever pronounce may now be pronounced by us,
“Abba”! It is a child’s word, such as a little child utters when first
he opens his mouth to speak, and it runs the same both backwards and
forwards,—AB-BA. Oh to have a childlike spirit that, in whatever state
of heart I am, I may still be able to say, in the accents even of
spiritual infancy,” Abba, Father”!
The Spirit makes Jesus’ prayer our
prayer, enabling us to address God intimately and trustingly, even in
dire circumstances. This cry is the Spirit’s answer to the cry of Paul,
speaking for conflicted Israel as a whole under the law in Romans 7:24,
“Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this
death?” Answer: Christ, who clears the way for the Spirit, who inspires
the cry of free sons, not frustrated slaves. In this way, by enabling
and inspiring us to connect with God as our Father, the Spirit witnesses
to us that we are children of God. As children of God, we cry “Abba,”
not always, of course, using that word, but with a sense that we are
sons and daughters of God. (Sermon)
God the Father
God is the Father of all who believe in
Christ in a special sense not shared by unbelievers. God is called their
Father because they have a new standing before Him. To be sure all
unbelievers are the offspring of God because He created them (Acts
17:28, 29), they do not have the standing as sons of God. Their standing is
rather that of condemned sinners before God the Judge (John 3:18; Rev
20:11ff-note). When we believe in Christ as Savior, our estate is wonderfully
changed from grim condemnation to privileged sonship. This new standing
grants to all believers the legal right and spiritual privileges of
divine sonship: “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Ro 8:17-note).
God is the Father of believers also in the sense that He gives them new
life through the new birth by the Spirit (John 3:3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8). Their
new relationship is a family relationship and by analogy conveys many
of the same realities that exist between an earthly father and his
birth of the child (John 3:3); partaking of the father’s nature (2Pet
1:4-note), the father’s care for the child (Mt 6:32, 33-note;
Mt 7:9, 10, 11-note) and the
father’s discipline of the child (Heb 12:5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11-note). Furthermore, this new
spiritual family brings into our live new brothers and sisters (Heb
I was just talking with a worker on my house, and within minutes it
became clear that he, though a man of color, was more my brother, than
my own physical half-brother, who is not saved. Amazing grace breaks
down all barriers (or it should) in God's family.
According to ancient traditions no
slave might say, “Abba, Father,” and according to the truth as it is in
Jesus none but a man who is really a child of God, and has received the
adoption, can truly say, “Abba, Father.” This day my heart desires for
every one of you, my brethren, that because Christ has been born into
the world you may at once come of age, and may at this hour confidently
say, “Abba, Father.” The great God, the Maker of heaven and earth, is my
Father, and I dare avow it without fear that he will disown the kindred.
The Thunderer, the ruler of the stormy sea, is my Father, and
notwithstanding the terror of his power I draw near to him in love. He
who is the Destroyer, who says, “Return, ye children of men,” is my
Father, and I am not alarmed at the thought that he will call me to
himself in due time. My God, thou who shalt call the multitudes of the
slain from their graves to live, I look forward with joy to the hour
when thou shalt call and I shall answer thee. Do what thou wilt with me,
thou art my Father. Smile on me; I will smile back and say, “My Father.”
Chasten me, and as I weep I will cry, “My Father.” This shall make
everything work good to me, be it never so hard to bear. If thou art my
Father all is well to all eternity. Bitterness is sweet, and death
itself is life, since thou art my Father, Oh, trip ye merrily home, ye
children of the living God, saying each one within himself, “I have it,
I have it. I have that which cherubim before the throne have never
gained; I have relationship with God of the nearest and the dearest
kind, and my spirit for her music hath this word, ‘Abba, Father; Abba,
Father.’ ” (The
great birthday and our coming of age)
“A tree is known by its fruits. (Ed:
Cp "A son is known by his daily walk.") This is an infallible criterion,
both in the natural and spiritual realm. ‘Even so every good tree
bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit’
(Mt. 7:17). The test for love of Christ is obedience to His commandment.
Profession is proved or disproved by the daily walk. If a man has no
love for spiritual things, he is devoid of a spiritual nature. If a man
is in an utterly prayerless state, he has not received the spirit of
adoption whereby the saved cries ‘Abba, Father.’ If a man is
thoroughly wrapped up in the things of this world, then his eyes must be
closed to the glories of Heaven, ‘For where your treasure is, there will
your heart be also’ (Mt. 6:21). If a man prefers the company of
worldlings to that of God’s people, then he is a worldling himself. If a
man lives to please self rather than God, he is yet dead in trespasses
and sin. (God’s Freedom: Romans 6:1–7:25)
Wayne Barber explains
The family tree of
Adam had nothing but sinners and the destiny of each of them was
eternal separation from God (2Th 1:9). But we as believers in
Christ have a brand new family tree
and it begins at the Cross where Christ died (Ed: And then
rose as the first fruits from the dead - see 1Co 15:20, 21, 22) .
Now that we as believers are in Christ (see
in Christ Jesus
in Christ - pt 2),
we look back at the Cross and turn and look
ahead and all you can see is eternal life and living with Him -
what a marvelous family God has birthed us into! He took us out of
the family of Adam (Ed: cp our state in Adam = Eph 2:1-note) and placed us into the family of God, into
Do you know beyond a shadow of doubt that you are a part
of the family of God?
One way you can tell is that this new relationship
conveys a new disposition. Paul says we have not (ou = absolute negative = no
possibility) received a spirit of slavery. Spirit in
this context is
spirit with a "small s" and some people take this to be "demonic".
Absolutely no way! The word spirit in context means
disposition, mindset or
temperament. For example in Romans 11:8 (note)
Paul says God gave Israel a spirit of stupor, which speaks of an attitude or a disposition,
something so deep on the inside of one's being that it translates
outward in one's attitude and disposition.
In Adam we were subject to fear (phobos
where phobos is a word
used for lost people. What do they fear? They say they don't fear
God (Ed: And in a sense that it affects their actions or
behavior they don't according to Ro 3:18) but we know that their
"fearlessness" is a façade and that there is a sense in
which all men do fear God. Why? Because they fear death and if you
fear death you fear God because you know there is something on the
other side of death that you don't understand.
the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also
partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless
him who had the power of death, that is, the devil and might
deliver those who through FEAR OF DEATH were subject to slavery
all their lives. (Heb 2:14, 15-note)
Death brings separation and is the end of everything that they hope
for and want. In Christ we are no longer slaves from a spirit of fear but
out of a spirit
of love (cp 2Co 5:14). There is a new kind of fear that manifest itself in
reverential awe and devotion (cp 1Pe 1:17-note,
Job 1:1). Now you are a child of God and a
child does not fear his parent (usually this is true). There is a
new disposition toward God we never had before. We trust Him.
The phrase "adoption as sons" is one word in Greek (huios = sons)
and (tithemi = to place). Son means fully
grown and mature with full privileges in the family. All of
the privileges and sonship are in Christ Jesus.
Never separate privilege and position from the Lord Jesus Christ
we are nothing apart from Him (cp Jn 15:5, Col 3:4-note). When we surrender to Him out of a
love relationship, we enjoy the Son's privileges to the fullest!
(cp Ro 8:17)
Abba is Aramaic and comes from the first word that a little child
ever says…like our English "Da Da". The disposition of fear of
punishment is gone and replaced by a reverential awe. And now our
spirit can cry out "Abba…Father…I need help. Daddy…I'm going
through a difficult time." This is a beautiful picture for
every son (and daughter) of God.
This truth ought to affect your attitude (and acceptance)
regarding whatever the Lord is
allowing to transpire in your life (cp 1Th 5:18-note,
Jas 1:2, 3-note). You are a child of God and He is
control of everything (cp
El Elyon: Most High God - Sovereign Over All) that you are experiencing…and you can cry
out to Him (cp Heb 2:18-note,
and run to Him and He is always there (Heb 13:5-note)
Rights of the Holy Spirit
Octavius Winslow on "The
Spirit of Adoption"...
"For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but
ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba,
Father." Romans 8:15
For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to
fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry,
"Abba, Father." Romans 8:15
So you should not be like cowering, fearful slaves. You should
behave instead like God's very own children, adopted into his
family—calling him "Father, dear Father." Romans 8:15
It is most distinctly affirmed in this passage, that the
children of God are emancipated from the spirit of bondage- the
present and mournful condition of all the unregenerate.
The question here arises, what
is the spirit of bondage of which the Apostle speaks? It exhibits
itself in various forms, yet, essentially, it is the same spirit.
The world, for example, holds in cruel bondage all its devotees.
It enslaves the intellect by its opinions, the heart by its
pleasures, the imagination by its promises, the soul by its
religion- leading it a willing captive, a victim garlanded for the
sacrifice. They are described as "walking according to the
course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the
air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience."
But it is the moral law- the spirit of bondage which genders fear-
to which the passage particularly refers. Its commands are
exceedingly broad, and the obedience upon which it insists
unqualifiedly perfect; and yet, with all the breadth of the
precept, and the rigidness of the requirement, it offers no
It shows a man his sin, but not
It teaches him his weakness,
but tells him not where his great strength lies.
It thunders in his ear his
misery and condemnation, but whispers not a word of mercy and of
Emancipated, as the justified
believer really is, from the condemning power of this law, yet,
alas! how much of its bondage spirit does he still retain! How few
of the sons of God realize the possession and largeness of their
birthright! How few rise to the dimity and the privilege of their
adoption! How few see their completeness in Christ Jesus, and read
the sentence of their pardon written in the heart's blood of
Immanuel! How few walk in a large place, and by the sunny
joyousness and lofty aspirations of their spirit, evidence that
they have "not received the spirit of bondage again to fear!"
"But you have received the Spirit of adoption." The Spirit
of adoption is the same as the Spirit of God. There are two
essential features which identify him as such.
The first is, he imparts the
nature of the Father to all the children of the family. In
this there is a wide difference between a human and a Divine
adoption. Man can only confer his name and his inheritance upon
the child he adopts. But in the adoption of God, to the name and
inheritance of God is added the Divine nature imparted in
regeneration; so that, in the words of our Lord, we become
manifestly the "children of our Father who is in heaven."
The second feature is-
having begotten the nature of the Father, he then breathes the
spirit of the child into the heart. He inspires a filial love.
The love which glows in the believer's heart is the affection of a
child to its parent. It is not a servile bondage, but a filial and
free spirit. Oh, sweet and holy emotion! How tender and confiding,
how clinging and childlike is it! Such ought to be our love to
God. He is our Father- we are his children. Why should not our
love to him be marked by more of the exquisite tenderness, and the
unquestioning confidence, and the calm repose of a child reclining
upon a parent's breast?
A childlike fear of God is
another inspiration of the Spirit of adoption. Love and fear
are twin graces in the Christian character. The Spirit of God is
the Author of both; and both dwell together and co-operate in the
same renewed heart. It is not the dread of the servant, but the
holy trembling of the child, of which we speak. It is a filial,
loving, reverential fear.
A childlike trust in God
also springs from the Spirit of adoption. The trust of a
child is implicit, affectionate, and unquestioning. Upon whose
counsel may he so safely rely, in whose affection may he so fully
confide, upon whose fidelity may he so confidently trust, as a
parent's? God is your Father, O child of a divine adoption, of a
heavenly birth! Let your trust in him be the result of the
relationship you sustain. It admits you to the closest intimacy,
and invites you to the most perfect confidence. You have not a
need, nor an anxiety, nor a grief which is not all his own. His
adoption of your person- an act of his spontaneous and most free
grace- pledged him to transfer all your individual interests to
To these we must add a
filial obedience: "If you love me, keep my commandments."
(Jn 14:15) Obedience, whether to the Savior's precept, or to the
Father's law, is the test of love; and love is the spring of
obedience. "All that the Lord God has spoken to us will we do,"
is the language of that heart where the Spirit of adoption dwells
(Ed: Unfortunately Israel's expression of willingness to
obey in Ex 24:3, 24:7 was their intention but not their practice).
Such are some of the features of adoption.
"Whereby we cry, Abba, Father." The Apostle employs in the
original two different languages. It may not be improper to infer,
that in using both the Syriac and the Greek form- the one being
familiar to the Jew, and the other to the Gentile- he would denote
that both the Christian Jew and the believing Gentile were
children of one family, and were. alike privileged to approach God
as a Father. Christ, our peace, has broken down the middle wall of
partition that was between them; and now, at the same mercy-seat,
the Christian Jew and the believing Gentile, both one in Christ
Jesus, meet, as rays of light converge and blend in one common
center- at the feet of their reconciled Father. The expressions,
too, set forth the peculiarity and intensity of the affection.
Literally, "Abba, Father," signifies "My Father." No bond-servant
was permitted thus to address the master of the family; it was a
privilege peculiar and sacred to the child. And when our blessed
Lord would teach his disciples to pray, he led them to the
mercy-seat, and sealed these precious words upon their lips- "Our
Father, who is in heaven." And after his resurrection, with
increased emphasis and intensity did he give utterance to the same
truth. Previously to his death his words were, "go to the Father."
But when he came back from the grave, every truth he had before
enunciated seemed quickened as with new life. How tender and
touching were his words- "I ascend unto my Father, and to your
Father; to my God, and to your God." No longer a bond-slave, but a
son, oh, claim the dignity and privilege of your birthright!
Approach God as your Father.
"Abba, Father!" How tender the relation! how intense the
affection! what power it imparts to prayer! What may you not ask,
and what can God refuse, with "Abba, Father" breathing in
lowliness and love from your lips? Remember, it is an inalienable,
unchangeable relation. Never, in any instance, or under any
circumstance the most aggravated, does God forget it. He is as
much our Father when he chastises, as when he approves; as much so
when he frowns, as when he smiles; as much so when he brims the
cup of adversity, as when he bids us drink the cup of salvation.
Behold the touching display of it in his gracious restorings:
"But when he was yet a great
way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell
on his neck and kissed him." (Lk 15:20, context = Lk 15:11-19)
In all his wanderings, that
father's love had never lost sight of his wayward child
(Ed note: Beloved
reader, perhaps you like me have a "wayward child" who is a "great
way off" and you too like me have not manifested the heart
attitude of the father Jesus describes. May God's Spirit grant us
amazing grace to love our "wayward child" with genuine
agape love in Christ. Amen). It
tracked him along all his windings, followed him to the very
swine-trough, hovered around him even then, and waited and
welcomed his return. We may doubt, and debase, and deny our divine
relationship, yet God will never disown us as his children, nor
disinherit us as his heirs. We may cease to act as a child, he
will never cease to love as a Father. To him, then, as to a Father
at all times repair. "Have faith in God." Confide in his heart to
love you; in his counsel to guide you; and in his power to sustain
you. Cast from you the fetters that enthrall, and pray to be
upheld by his free Spirit. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there
is liberty." (The
Spirit of Adoption in the book entitled
NO CONDEMNATION IN CHRIST JESUS by Octavius
Dr Ray Pritchard (www.keepbelieving.com)
has an instructive sermon on Adoption: Plenty of Room in the
January 2007 - When Leslie
Lynch King, Jr. died earlier this week, it made headlines around
the world. Commentators talked about his legacy, and in the United
States flags were lowed to half-staff in his honor. That always
happens when a president dies.
But who was President King? You can’t find any record of a man by
that name occupying the White House. But he did. Leslie Lynch
King, Jr. served as president during a crisis moment in American
history. He is remembered as a decent and honorable man whose
solid Midwestern values guided his political career. You can’t
find any record of President King because no one by that name ever
served as president.
Leslie Lynch King, Jr. was born on Monday, July 14, 1913 in Omaha,
Nebraska. His parents separated sixteen days after his birth and
were divorced the following December. According to press reports
his father was abusive and had a drinking problem. His mother took
her baby and moved back to her parents’ home in Grand Rapids,
Michigan where she later married Gerald Ford, a paint salesman. He
later adopted young Leslie and gave him his own name. Thus Leslie
Lynch King became Gerald Ford, the 38th president of the United
States. As I write these words, he is lying in repose in
California, awaiting the formal state funeral in Washington next
I never knew he was adopted
until he died, and therefore I never learned his birth name until
I read it in the news reports. Born Leslie Lynch King, by adoption
Gerald Ford entered a new family and was given a new name.
Adoption is not a subject we talk about very much in church. We
don’t often think about it from a biblical point of view. But as I
begin this message, I realize that there are many people who are
intimately acquainted with adoption. You may have been adopted, or
you may have adopted a child yourself, or perhaps you were raised
in a family that included adopted children. If any of those things
is true about you, you probably have a better understanding of the
biblical teaching than those who have never experienced adoption
Many Christians don’t realize that adoption is a profoundly
biblical concept. It is one of the key words that the Apostle Paul
uses to describe our relationship to God. Let’s begin with a
Adoption is the legal act of permanently placing a child with a
parent or parents other than the birth parents. Adoption results
in the severing of the parental responsibilities and rights of the
biological parents and the placing of those responsibilities and
rights onto the adoptive parents. After the finalization of an
adoption, there is no legal difference between biological and
adopted children in most jurisdictions (from
We can summarize this further
in three statements:
1) There is a person who is not a member of your family by birth.
2) There is a legal process.
3) There is now a new member of your family as a result.
In a number of places, the New Testament uses the word adoption to
describe how we come into God’s family (Romans 8:15, 23, 9:4;
Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5). However, the meaning is not exactly
the same as our common English usage. The Greek word for adoption
means to place as a son within a family with full family
privileges as an adult member of the family. That’s the background
of Paul’s thought in Galatians 4:1-7.
The heir, as long as he is a
child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of
everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date
set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children,
were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when
the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of
woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law,
so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are
sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying,
“Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a
son, then an heir through God.
Verses one and two describe a common situation in the first
century. Imagine a son whose father is extremely wealthy. One day
the son will inherit the entire estate for himself. Under Roman
law, because he is a minor child, being raised as a minor child,
he is treated no differently than a slave. He is heir to all that
his father owns, but while he is growing up he has no more rights
than a slave does. Although he will one day inherit the whole
estate, he is subject to guardians, nannies, babysitters, tutors,
helpers, hired people and trustees who watch over him until the
time set by his father. Although he is an heir, he is treated as a
slave until the time his father decides to set him free.
In verse four we see what God did by sending his Son to the world
1) God sent him to redeem those under the law.
2) That we might receive full rights as sons.
When we come to Christ, God sends the Holy Spirit into our hearts
to give us new life and the assurance that we are God’s children.
This is the “still, small voice” of God that speaks to the soul
and whispers, “You are now a child of God.” That same Holy Spirit
within us cries out “Abba, Father.” The word “Abba” comes from an
Aramaic word that little children would use to speak to their
fathers. It is an intimate, personal word of endearing affection.
In English you might say “Dad” or “Daddy” or “Papa” or “Dear
Father.” It’s a very tender way of talking to our Heavenly Father.
No longer is he some distant God up in the sky. Now he is our
In all the world there was only one person I called “Dad.” When I
or my three brothers Andy, Alan and Ronnie said, “Dad,” our father
would turn and listen to our voices. The privilege of calling him
“Dad” was given to us and only to us. The same is true of my three
sons. Josh, Mark and Nick are the only people in the world who
have that unique relationship with me. Others may call me “Dad,”
but it doesn’t mean the same thing. I was one of my father’s four
sons; I am the father to my three sons. They have a unique claim
on me that other children don’t have. So it is in the spiritual
realm. If we know Jesus as Savior, God is now our Heavenly Father
and we can come to him in prayer anytime, anywhere, for any
reason, and he will never turn us away. When we are in trouble,
when the world has turned against us, when we are so discouraged
that we feel like giving up, when we are confused about what to do
next, the Holy Spirit whispers, “Talk to your Father in heaven.
He’s waiting to hear from you.” The Spirit within us brings us
back to our Father again and again and teaches us to say, “Abba,
Here are six blessings Paul mentions in Galatian 4 that flow to us
because Christ came.
1) We are redeemed (Gal 4:5a).
2) We are adopted (Gal 4:5b).
3) The Holy Spirit now lives within us (Gal 4:6a).
4) We call God Father (Gal 4:6b).
5) We are now God’s children (Gal 4:7a).
6) We are the heirs of God (Gal 4:7b).
Gal 4:5 is the heart of the matter. Christ came “to redeem
those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as
sons.” The NIV uses the phrase “full rights of sons” to
bring out the meaning of adoption. Christ came to redeem us and to
adopt us into God’s family. To redeem means to set free from
slavery by the payment of a price. You redeemed a slave by paying
the purchase price and then setting him free. Now suppose that in
addition to freeing that slave, you also said to him, “Come with
me to my home and live with me. I want you to legally join my
family, take my name, and take an equal share in my inheritance.”
As amazing as it sounds, that’s what God did for us the moment we
trusted Christ. He set us free (redeemed us) from the slavery of
sin with the purchase price of the blood of Christ. Then he
brought us into his family and gave us “full rights” as his own
children. The concept of “full rights” means that no matter how
badly we may have sinned before conversion, there are no
second-class children in God’s family. God has no stepchildren. In
the Jewish culture, young boys are considered men by going through
a ritual called a Bar Mitzvah. You might say that when we come to
Christ, we are “Bar Mitzvahed” into God’s family. We come in as
full members of the family with rights and privileges equal to
those who have been there for 40 or 50 years. We can pray and
claim God’s promises on the same basis as everyone else.
Let’s suppose that one of my three sons does something wrong and
later feels bad about it. So he comes to me and says, “Dad, I’m
very sorry for what I did and I’m going to try to do better in the
future. I’m going to try to be more of a son to you from now on.”
When I hear those words, I’ll say something like this, “Son, I
love you and I’m glad you feel bad about what you did and I know
you want to do better in the future. But I want you to know that
no matter what you do, you could never be more of a son to me than
you are right now. Being my son has nothing to do with what you do
or don’t do. You are my son by virtue of being a part of my
family. Nothing you do can ever change that fact.” Think about
that for a moment. If one of my boys should rebel against all that
I have taught him, and if he should move to some distant place and
change his name so that no one will know he is my son, and if he
should adopt some way of life that is far removed from what I
believe is right, I will be heartbroken and perhaps I will be
angry, but no matter what he does, he will always be my son and I
will always love him. Once a son, always a son. Nothing my boys
can do can ever change that fact.
The same is true in our relationship with God. Our standing isn’t
based on our performance. That’s good news because we all fail
sooner or later. Our standing is based on God’s grace, which means
it doesn’t depend on us. Once a child of God, always a child of
God. We may do things that displease our Heavenly Father. If we
persist in disobedience, we will be disciplined by the Lord. But
that discipline, painful though it may be, comes to us because we
are God’s children (see Hebrews 12:4-11). It is a mark of our
salvation. We are disciplined because we are the children of God,
not in order to stay in God’s family. Our standing is secure
because it is not based on our performance.
Paul get his concept of adoption? He did not get it from the Old
Testament because there is not much about adoption in the Old
Legal adoption was not prescribed in Jewish law or practiced by
the Israelites. In fact, the term “adoption” does not occur in the
Old Testament. While there are several possible allusions to
adoption, such as Moses (Exodus 2:10), Genubath (1Kings 11:20),
and Esther (Esther 2:7), the incidents recorded take place in
foreign societies (Egyptian and Persian) and there is no evidence
that legal adoptions were enacted
Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology).
When Paul talks about adoption, he is not referring back to the
Old Testament. He is referring to the Roman law of his day.
Wealthy childless couples often practiced adoption to provide a
legal heir for their wealth. They would adopt a slave and bring
him into their family so that their wealth could be passed on to
There are three keys to understanding Roman law regarding
1) The absolute right of the father.
Under Roman law fathers had absolute right over their entire
estate. They had rights over all that they owned, and their
children were considered to be their personal property. In fact, a
father in ancient Rome had the power of life and death over his
children and in the early days of the Roman Empire, if a father
wanted to put his children to death, he could legally do it and
nobody could say anything to him about it. So great was the power
of a father under Roman law that the son would never be out from
underneath his father’s authority as long as the father was alive.
A son could be 70 years old and the father could be 93 years old,
and under Roman law he was still under his father’s authority.
2) The right of the adopted son.
If a son was adopted into a new family, he was guaranteed legal
rights to his father’s property. That is always one of the
questions if you have biological children as well as adopted
children. How will it all work in terms of the family inheritance?
Roman law made it clear that an adopted child had exactly the same
rights as all other children and no one could come before the
adopted child–not the biological children and not other adopted
children. He gained full inheritance rights with all the other
children of the family.
3) The disappearance of the old life.
Adoption not only gave you a new name and a new family, it also
mean your old life was gone forever. So complete was the
transformation that if you were adopted into a new family and you
had old debts, at the moment of adoption all those old debts were
canceled, wiped away forever. The adopted son in Rome was regarded
as a new person, entering a brand-new life.
Scholars tell us that the adopted son went through a very serious
and impressive ceremony. Because the father had absolute power in
that situation, if the biological father was going to give up his
son for adoption, the biological father would go into a public
place carrying copper and scales. He would three times go through
an action that signified he was selling his son. The first time he
would buy him back. The second time he would buy him back. The
third time he would sell his son, but he wouldn’t buy him back.
That would signify the father was giving up his absolute right
over his son. Then the adopted father would go before the
magistrate and present papers proving he had the right to adopt
Here are the words of
It is Paul’s picture that when
a man became a Christian he entered into the very family of God.
He does nothing to deserve it. God, the great Father, in his
amazing love and mercy, has taken the lost, helpless,
poverty-stricken, debt-ladened sinner and adopted him into his own
family, so that the debts are canceled and the glory inherited.
To speak of adoption in these terms leads to a logical question.
Doesn’t the Bible say we are born into God’s family? The answer is
yes (John 3:3; 1 Peter 1:3). If that is true, how can we be
Are we born again or are we adopted? The answer is yes.
Both are correct because we are both born again and adopted
into God’s family. Here is the difference. The new birth
establishes a new relationship with God. That is why Jesus said to
Nicodemus, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of
God unless he is born again” (John 3:3 NIV). The new birth
emphasizes how we come into God’s family—as helpless children who
are born into the family only by God’s sovereign grace (John
John Fok helps us understand
the difference between adoption and other key salvation terms:
As the Greek word indicates, adoption (read Romans 8:15, 23; 9:4;
Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5) is literally “placing as a son.”
Regeneration has to do with our change in nature; justification,
with our change in standing; sanctification, with our change in
character; adoption, with our change in position. According to
Paul, the chief advantages of sonship are deliverance from the law
(Galatians 4:3, 4, 5) and the possession of the Holy Spirit, the
Spirit of adoption and sonship (Galatians 4:6; cf. Romans 8:15f).
We are born into Gods family through the new birth and through
adoption we are immediately advanced to a state of full privilege
and responsibility. From the moment of salvation God treats us as
full adults, not as little kids. The following chart makes the
From Spiritual Death
Children needing growth
Full rights and privileges
When you graduate from a college or university, you receive a
degree that is conferred with “all rights and privileges
pertaining thereto.” It means that when you graduate, you get all
the rights that go with having the degree.
When you become a citizen of the United States, you become a full
citizen. There is no second class citizenship. If you are a
citizen, you have the same rights any other citizen has. If you
become a citizen, it doesn’t matter whether you were born in the
United States or whether you are a naturalized citizen, by law the
same rights apply to everyone. It is the same way in terms of
adoption and the spiritual realm.
Adoption guarantees the
following seven things to every believer:
1) You are a full member of God’s family.
2) You have full rights and privileges in heaven.
3) You have immediate access to God.
4) You belong to his family.
5) You bear his name.
6) You have a full share in the inheritance he promises his
7) Satan has no claim on you because you are no longer a part of
his family and he is no longer your father.
1) Adoption means that you have a new family. The old
family is gone forever. The old master is gone forever. The old
name is gone forever. God is your Father, the Lord Jesus is your
Savior, and the Holy Spirit lives within you.
2) Adoption means that you have a new privilege. You have
the same right as the oldest saints of God. In our world there are
exclusive clubs with members dependent on who you know and how
much money you have. There is a children’s membership, a family
membership, associate membership, blue-level membership,
green-level membership, silver-level membership and for the
hoity-toity people on the top, there is a gold-level membership.
But God only has one level of membership. Everyone who comes into
the family of God comes in the same way because the ground is
level at the foot of the cross. He only has one class. Everyone in
God’s family has gold card standing. Everyone is born again.
Everyone has full rights. Everyone is at the head of the class.
Everyone comes in at the best possible level.
3) Adoption means you have a new responsibility. What God
says to any believer he says to every believer. The same Holy
Spirit who is given to the gray-haired Christian is given to the
new Christian. No one need feel like a second class citizen. No
believer can use that as an excuse. You can never say, “Well, I
don’t want to read my Bible. I am just a new Christian.” That
won’t wash with God. Nobody can say they can’t pray because they
are just a new Christian. God will not accept that excuse. You
can’t say you won’t testify for Christ because you have recently
been born again and aren’t as good as those who have been saved
for a long time. That is not a biblical thing to say because what
God says to any of his children, he says to all his children. The
responsibility that is laid on one is laid on all.
There are great advantages in being born again at an early age. If
you have been saved for a long time, you ought to have a deeper
understanding of God. You should be more skillful in walking by
grace. But God does not give anything to the oldest saint of God
that he doesn’t also give to the newest Christian. The moment you
come to Jesus Christ, all the resources of heaven are put at your
all this mean?
You are rich now. Don’t live like a pauper.
You have the Holy Spirit. Don’t live in the flesh.
You have access to God. Use it.
You have brothers and sisters. Lean on them.
You have spiritual gifts. Put them to work for Christ.
You have been set free from Satan’s power. Don’t mess around with
the devil anymore.
You have a new family. Stop living like you belong to your old
Earthly adoption offers a wonderful picture of God’s gift to us
because for adoption to happen, the parents must be willing to do
it and they must be able to do it. They must choose to do it. To
those of you who are adopted, God bless you. To those of you who
have adopted children, God bless you. Thank you for modeling for
us what God’s great love really looks like.
If they understand this truth, adopted children can say, “Someone
must have loved me very much.” Adoption never just happens. There
is no such thing as an accidental adoption. It takes trouble,
time, expense, effort, sweat, heartache and tears. Somebody has to
open their heart and their home for children to be adopted. In the
very same way, biblical adoption is only possible because God is
willing to add more children to his family. That is one of the
sweetest thoughts I have ever come across.
On earth, adoption gives a child a new name, a new home, a new
address, a new history and a new destiny. The same is true with
God’s adoption. It gives the child of God a new name, a new home,
a new address, a new history and a new destiny. The poet Robert
Frost defined home as “the place where, when you go there, they
have to take you in.”
Brothers and sisters, God is our true Heavenly Father because he
chose to add us to his family. Because of adoption, when we go to
him, he always opens the door and says, “Welcome, my child. This
is your home forever.” Amen. (Adoption
Plenty of Room in the Family - sermon by Dr. Ray Pritchard -