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15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”


The latter part of this verse contrasts the legalistic approach to Christianity and that of a believer who rests in grace. We render our service to God as sons, not slaves.

but [strong contrast]

The word “but” here is a very strong contraston the contrary. In contrast to the slavery of trying to measure up to the law, the Christian has eternal status with God.

you received

Paul picked up the word “received” from the phrase “did not receive the spirit of fear” earlier in this verse. Every believer has received the Holy Spirit at the moment of believing in Jesus as his Savior.

the Spirit of adoption [sonship]

Our English word adoption refers to bringing into a family someone who was not born naturally into that family and making him legally a member of the family. That is not adoption in the New Testament. Biblical adoption means something different.

During the time of the New Testament, a father adopted a son born in his family and declared him an adult at age 14. During the first 14 years of his life, the son was under a tutor who managed his affairs by taking him to school and making sure he developed properly. The child wore a toga of youth. At his 14th birthday, the whole family would gather together to give him the toga of adulthood, the toga virilis. From this point the young man was deemed an adult. He now had the privileges of voting, managing money, choosing a wife (unless one was chosen for him), and entering military service for the first time. The community also regarded him as an adult. Thus, biblical adoption is when a naturally born child becomes an adult.

The Greek word “adoption” means to place as a son. The Holy Spirit places the believer into the status and position of sonship or adult privileges before God. This word occurs only five times in the New Testament and none in the Old Testament. True believers are “sons” already, not slaves as the previous phrase indicates.

The metaphor of adoption occurs only in the Pauline epistles (Ro 8:15, 23; 9:4; Ga 4:5; Ep 1:5). This is the process whereby God takes unworthy people and gives them high status with Himself. There is a double gulf between slavery to the law and sonship. Not only has the believer been freed from the slavery of the law to the status of being free but, in addition, God gave him something more than freedom—an adult son’s status with God forever.

Ga 4:5, 7, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons…7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

Eph 1:5,having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,


God adopted us into a new status at the point of salvation.


God took us out of one family and placed us into another; He took us out of Adam’s family and placed us in His own family. This is regeneration or spiritual birth. However, regeneration has to do with new life or a new nature, while adoption has to do with a new status.

Something unique happened to the child of God at the moment of his salvation. God gave the believer adult status with Himself. Biblical adoption always relates to positional truth. At salvation the Christian enters into union with Christ. God provides 33 things for the believer which gives him status quo. Note those 33 things here: God wants us to share in His very own estate. He receives us in the full sense of the idea. The work of Christ on the cross is complete in its fullest sense.

This does not mean the believer is spiritually mature at salvation. There is a need to grow up, but at the point of salvation we have the adult status with God.

The Christian has to have principles on a launching pad to readily deal with specific situations in his life. We can then apply a principle to a temptation at any moment. When we come to grips with a given principle, then God will bring it to our remembrance as a tool for fighting enticement to sin. If we do this often and regularly, we will mature in our faith and experience.