Summary: We see God, not as a harsh master, but as a loving father, who offers us a close, personal relationship and a secure inheritance.
Sermon Series> Romans 8, Reasons to be ENCOURAGED
Reason #4: We’re sealed as co-heirs with Christ, 8:15-18
Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
We’re part of the family! Paul points out that, although once were in bondage to sin, we’ve been purchased from that slavery and adopted into God’s family. In Roman society, adopted children lost all rights in their former family and gained all the rights of a legitimate, biological child in their new family. Once adopted, they became full heirs. When we trust Christ, we gain all the privileges and responsibilities of God’s family.
Our spirit is no longer enslaved to sin or to fear--verse 15. The word “spirit” here means disposition or attitude. Some people are terrified of God; they live in fear of life, death, and beyond. They’re afraid that if they make one mistake, God’s going to cast them into a fiery hell! This view of God as only a harsh judge fails to recognize His loving-kindness. God could justifiably condemn all of humankind; instead He freely offers us salvation, purchased by His Son. He bought us from the slave-market of sin. Why would God want to continue to accept us, even when we fail Him? Because we’re members of His family. He will not disown us. Paul later tells Timothy, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power…” (II Tim 1:7).
We’re all familiar with the horrific practice of slavery in our country, a part of American history we’re not very proud of, and which tore our nation apart. Slaves were treated as property and regarded as non-persons. Families were torn apart as husbands, wives, and children were callously sold to different owners. Slaves were physically abused and denied basic human rights. No wonder Paul states that slave-traders cannot inherit the Kingdom of God (I Tim 1:10). In the Roman Empire, slavery was a widespread and a deeply rooted part of the economy and social structure. Slaves were usually acquired as captives of war, although indebtedness forced some to sell themselves into slavery (indentured servitude). Few people served as slaves for an entire lifetime (unless they chose to, and some did). There were laws of release based on a variety of conditions. Normally a person remained a slave for seven years (which explains why Scripture counsels slaves to obey their masters and wait for their freedom). The slaveholder would establish his former slave in a business or trade and become a shareholder. Some prospered and became wealthier than their former masters. Slaves would live in quarters provided by their owners, and often had affection for their owners, but they were never regarded as true members of the family…now compare their status to ours.
We’ve not received a “spirit of slavery” but rather a “spirit of adoption.” The word “adoption” (huiothesia) means “to be placed as an adult son”. When couples adopt children, the children gain all the legal rights and privileges, but their nature is not changed. No genetic transformation occurs. Yet when we are adopted into God’s family, we are regenerated. A new life is breathed into us by God. We are infused with a desire for godly living; we’re given a hunger to learn and obey God’s word. Our character undergoes a transformation, which is why Scripture calls this change a “new birth” and a “new creation”. When we’re adopted into God’s family, we’re “born-again.”
When the Prodigal Son came to his senses and returned home to his father, in humility he asked to be made a servant; he didn’t feel he deserved to be reinstated as a son. But the loving father wouldn’t hear of it, and brought him back into the family fold. This illustrates what Paul is saying in Romans 8. We’re no longer the devil’s children; we’re God’s sons and daughters. In spite of our failings, by the Spirit we have the right to call God our Father.
Nearly every human language has two words for Father: a formal word, and a very familiar and gentle one, usually used by small children. In German, the word for father is “der Vater”, but children use the word “vati”. In verse 15 Paul uses the Greek word for Father, “Pater”, and the Aramaic word “Abba”, which is the word Jewish children living in Jesus’ day would call their daddies. The first 2 words a Jewish child would learn are “Abba” (daddy) and “Imma” (mama). A friend of mine visiting Israel heard a young child in the Tel Aviv airport shouting, “Abba, Abba, Abba, Abba!”
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day didn’t like even the more formal word “father” used in connection to God. Jesus often referred to God as “My Father”, and the religious leaders disapprovingly argued that such familiarity was improper. In the Garden of Gethsemene Jesus addresses God as “Abba”. Today we take the privilege of calling God our “Father” for granted, but in Jesus’ day most people couldn’t conceive of such a close relationship with God. The Old Testament has but few instances of regarding God this personal way. A rare example is Isaiah 64:8, “O Lord, You are our Father; You are the Potter, we are the clay, the work of Your hand.” Jews were reluctant to even pronounce the holy Name of God. Jesus overturns this reluctance and brings us into a warm, family relationship.