Summary: #5 in Romans 8 - What a Way to Live! series. Paul says that we can be better than just God’s servants - we can be God’s children.
Romans 8:15-17 – Do You Work for Your Father?
I’m going to give you 2 scenarios that sound almost alike but very different. This is scenario #1. Jimmy, an orphan, from a foster home, is fishing by himself on the end of a wharf. As many curious ten-year-olds would, he leans over the edge to look at the minnows swimming around in the water. He leans over too far and falls in. Unable to swim, he frantically splashes and screams, trying to paddle to a ladder. Just as he goes under and bobs to the surface again, a strong arm reaches down, grabs him up and sets him on the wharf. He is soaked to the skin and close to tears, but without the cocky attitude that allowed him to risk hanging over the edge. His rescuer scolds him about being so careless, turns, and walks off.
Now, this is scenario # 2. Jimmy, an orphan, from a foster home, is fishing by himself on the end of a wharf. As many curious ten-year-olds would, he leans over the edge to look at the minnows swimming around in the water. He leans over too far and falls in. Unable to swim, he frantically splashes and screams, trying to paddle to a ladder. Just as he goes under and bobs to the surface again, a strong arm reaches down, grabs him up and sets him on the wharf. He is soaked to the skin and close to tears, but without the cocky attitude that allowed him to risk hanging over the edge.
Sounds like the same story, doesn’t it? So what’s different? This time the rescuer firmly but gently pats him on the back, burping out the water he has swallowed, carries him to the showers to wash away the saltwater, and dries him off. Then he drives him to the mall, buys him new clothes, and takes him home with him, introducing him to his father and family. They feed him a hot meal and invite him to live with them. This wonderful loving provider mentors the newly adopted boy in the family’s beliefs and makes him one of his heirs. He’s delighted as the boy participates in the activities of his new family. Jimmy finally has a family has a home, a father, and brothers who love him. He is secure in his new father’s love.
Here’s the difference between the scenarios. In the 1st, we saw what it means to be rescued. In the 2nd, we saw what it means to be loved. (Illustration from a SermonCentral contributor...) And that’s what we will see in our Bible passage today. Let’s read 8:15-17.
As we have been going thru Romans 8, we have seen what salvation is meant to be: freedom, victory over sin, pleasing God, not living to make ourselves happy, and the hope of things getting better. And last week, we just barely touched on one more element in salvation: being children of God. Today’s verses help us see that more clearly.
Paul says that when we came to the Lord, we got a new spirit. But this spirit was not like what we had before. There was a change in our lives when we came to know the Lord. There was something different, not just in how we acted but in who we became. We received a new spirit, a different spirit. Well, what spirit is that?
Commentators believe that this passage is about moving beyond being God’s servants to becoming God’s children. I’d like to have a look at each of these situations. First, what does it mean to be a God’s servant? That, in itself, is not a bad thing. After all, Paul wrote in Galatians 1:10 – “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” A servant is simply one who aims to please another, or at least, to do the will of another. It is the servant’s job to wait on their master.
And in the context of Christians, we are God’s servants, He is our Master. We take orders from him. What He says, we are to do. Where He sends, we are to go. For all He has done for us, there is nothing He asks that is too big for us to do. We deserve nothing, and He’s given us everything we need. There is no part of our lives we deserve to withhold from Him. Paul prayed for the believers in Colosse: “And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way…”
But, as good as it is to be a servant of God, Paul says this about it: that it contains in it a spirit of bondage to fear – v15a. Fear is a powerful thing. It can cripple a person. And I propose that a servant would have 2 fears. The 1st fear that a servant would have is the fear of punishment. Nobody likes to be punished. I think of one mother who decided she would put the fear of a speeding ticket in the speeding drivers going past a local elementary school. Every morning she would park her car in front of the elementary school and point her black hair dryer - shaped like a radar gun, out of the window at speeding cars. The effect was dramatic as drivers slowed down fearing they might receive a speeding ticket.