The Spirit of Adoption
Bible Reading: Romans 8
Romans 8:15, “For 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!’”
Galatians 4:6, “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’’”
I was there in the courtroom when the papers were signed, and their adoption was made official. The brother and sister had never known their father and their mom was a drug addict, not capable of parenting. The two had been in foster care and their foster parents decided to adopt them. In love, they were brought into a devoted, warmhearted family. Still, it wasn’t always easy for them. Both children made some poor choices which lead them in a bad direction. Yet they always were a part of the family. They never stopped being beloved children of their adoptive parents. Court papers witnessed to their identity as members of that family. Likewise, you, as a believer, have a witness to the truth that you are, in fact, a child of God!
Two contrary spirits are spoken of in our passage—the spirit of slavery and the Spirit of adoption. The spirit of slavery is what we are all born into, and what we sometimes revert to, in our thinking. It is a harsh and demanding thing, as Octavius Winslow noted: “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… 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 helping hand. It shows a man his sin, but not his pardon. 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 hope.”
It is from that which the child of God has been delivered and it is the Spirit of adoption which testifies to that newfound reality. In Bible times, an adopted son was deliberately chosen by his adopted father to perpetuate his name and eventually inherit his estate. Not at all inferior to a natural child, the adopted one would likely better appreciate his sonship, having gained it through the purposeful deliberation and benevolent actions of the father. We have been adopted by God—praise Him for it! Now the Spirit testifies to our Spirit regarding our blessed and true identity (1 John 3:1)!
Kent Hughes has commented on this: “We sense that we are God’s sons! So intense is the reality of our adoption that we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Aramaic word ‘Abba,’ which means ‘Dear Father’ in the sense in which that we might say ‘Dad’ or ‘Daddy,’ was never used by the Jews to address God, nor do they use it today…Can anything be more beautiful… Many have never known a meaningful relationship with an earthly Father. Or some have, but now he is gone. God offers his soul-satisfying paternity to all who come to him. ‘Abba Father!’” In the Spirit who indwells you, you’ve a witness to your own heart, to the glorious truth that you belong to God!
WHAT MANNER OF LOVE
Behold, what love, what boundless love,
The Father hath bestowed
On sinners lost, that we should be
Now called the sons of God!
Refrain: Behold, what manner of love!
What manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us,
That we, that we should be called,
Should be called the sons of God!
No longer far from Him but now
By precious blood made nigh,
Accepted in the Well beloved,
Near to God’s heart we lie. [Refrain]
What we in glory soon shall be,
It doth not yet appear;
But when our precious Lord we see,
We shall His image bear. [Refrain]
With such a blessèd hope in view,
We would more holy be,
More like our risen, glorious Lord,
Whose face we soon shall see. [Refrain]