Week 8: The New Testament and Adoption

Day 5: No Longer Slaves – Romans 8:15

I don’t know her name, but I remember her face. She was about fifteen years old. Pretty. Blonde. Thin. Dirty. Her clothes were in obvious need of laundering and repair. Her hair hung in greasy strings about her face. We met her in a McDonald’s on the outskirts of Moscow. It was an incredibly cold day, and she had gone inside for warmth. One of the men in our group saw that she was hungry and bought something for her to eat. We sat down together and began talking. She told us that she was waiting for her fiancé. She had recently met him. He had promised to take her back to Egypt with him and to marry her. Our hearts panicked at the thought. This was no honest man. We offered every kind of help we possibly could to try to convince her not to go with him. We warned her that most likely she would be used as a sex slave, but she would not hear us. Even the staff at the McDonald’s was concerned for her, having heard her story before we arrived. We tried to involve the appropriate officials, but it was too late. By the time we got back to her, she was gone.

“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

As I have read and studied this passage one picture repeatedly comes to mind: A father gently taking a child’s hand. This is part of the picture we find in the word translated “received” in this passage. It is different from the one used Matthew 18. This word has the idea of “taking hold” of something. God in His love has stretched out His hand to take hold of us as His children through adoption. In receiving Him, we have not “taken hold” of the spirit of bondage but of that precious Spirit of adoption, which allows us to call Him our Father. In order to take hold of something, we must let go of something else. This is where we see the choice that is set before each of us. Will we take hold of the adoption that is in Christ, or cling to the bondage of sin and death and all it’s deceitful promises?

The word translated “bondage” in this passage has the idea of slavery, of someone or something that is bound. It pictures exactly the sort of situation that young girl in Moscow was about to walk into. Looking back over the chapter, we see that the bondage it refers to is slavery to the law of sin and death. This is the position that each of us is in without Christ. We are slaves bound to the demands of these two fiendish masters. As long as we are in their service we have no hope. Is it any wonder that such bondage leads to fear? And not just any fear, the Greek word here is “fobos”. It means “fear, dread or terror, in a subjective sense.” The person in this state is living in constant terror of what will happen if he doesn’t meet the demands of the law that hangs over him.

But if we have accepted Christ, He has set us free!

Romans 8:2 says, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” We have not taken hold of that horrid captivity, we have taken hold of the freedom, the adoption, that is in Jesus Christ. This idea of being set free in Christ must have been particularly exciting and precious to Paul. Of the 95 plus pronouns that Paul uses in this chapter, he only uses the first person singular (me and I) three times. This is one of them. He cannot help but emphasize, “Christ has set ME free!”

The word adoption literally means “the placing as sons”. It has the idea of taking an adult and legally making them your child. Your heir. (We’ll get into that a little later.) Jesus has taken us out of the station of slave, out of the misery, the torment, the labor to please and appease the master, the fear of failure, the fear of death; He has taken us out of all that and adopted us. He has made us His own children. We are so undeserving. We could never hope to be good enough to satisfy the law. Romans 8:3 clearly tells us that the reason the law was weak was because of our flesh. Man could not, and never will be able to, keep the law. Because, as Romans 3:10 says, “There is none righteous, no, not one.” We were bound, fettered by sin and, because of sin, by death.  But Christ has both set us free and made us His own!

Because of His adoption, we no longer have to cower in fear, we can cry out to God as our Father in time of need. The word “cry” in this passage means to “croak as a raven, to scream”. I’m not particularly found of ravens. Just the same, there is something unmistakable about their cry. It isn’t the beautiful melody of a songbird. It really is a croak. Like someone took a frog by the throat until the pitch of it’s voice had permanently climbed an entire octave. It can be annoying: The same grating, single-noted Caw, Caw, Caw outside your window for hours and hours. And yet, God allows us to come to Him in that same manner. How many times has my cry of “Abba, Father” sounded like the croaking of a raven? I have gone to Him in tears. I have gone in pain. I have gone in fear of the unknown and in worry. I have cried out to him in sorrow. I have gone, simply needing His attention, needing to be reminded of His care. Every time, He has faithfully taken me into His arms, because I am His. I have called out “Abba, Father,” and He has answered.

In fact, it was a simple cry that led to my adoption in the first place. Romans 10:9,10,13 says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation…For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” The moment that I saw myself as a sinner in need of a Savior, knelt as a six year old little girl at the foot my of my father’s recliner, and called upon the Lord for salvation, He answered. God cannot lie. He does as He has promised. It is not His will that any would perish. He wants us to come to Him, to take hold of His hand so that He might adopt us into His family.

The word Abba is special. According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary “slaves were forbidden to address the head of the family by this title.”* Did you catch that? SLAVES were FORBIDDEN to use this name! We are no longer slaves! We are God’s CHILDREN!

Vine also says, “Abba is the word formed by the lips of infants, and betokens unreasoning trust.” My youngest niece just turned two. She has now learned to say my name almost correctly, but for the longest time I was “Daydel”. There are two names, however, that were never a struggle for her little lips: Mama and Dada. They are also the first words to come from her mouth when she is need or trouble, when she is tired or afraid. This is the relationship with God that is opened up to us through our adoption in Christ. It is one of trust, dependence and the comfort of the loving security found in a father. In the New Testament, this word “Abba” is always coupled with the word “father” which “expresses an intelligent apprehension of the relationship. The two together express the love and intelligent confidence of the child.”* The word “father” used here literally means “nourisher, protector, upholder.”** The child who understands who the Father is, that He will nourish, protect and uphold, can most certainly trust Him without giving it a second thought. They can crawl up into His arms and say, “Daddy, I’m trusting you. You made me yours. You have chosen by adoption to provide for my health and my safety and to encourage and guide me. I have nothing to fear.”

I think back to that girl in Moscow and wonder how many children like her have been led into captivity and slavery because of the deceitful promises of men like the one who made his promises to her. I wonder what ever happened to her. Did she go with him? Did she realize the danger before it was too late? Did he take her and sell her? Is she a slave now? Is she even alive? Before her were two choices. One would lead her into bondage the other into freedom and a place where she would be loved. The same choice is before each of us. Whose hand will we take?

There are 2.5 million child sex slaves in the world today. Runaways, orphans and the poor are some of the primary targets. God wants us to be living pictures of His redemption among the orphans of our world. He wants us to stretch out our hand to them. He wants us to show them that same amazing love that He poured out on us. He wants to hear them cry out with us, in their pitiful little croaking voices, “Abba, Father.”

*{Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, pg. 1}


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Also Check out Rachel Miller’s Book: The King’s Daughter: A Story of Redemption


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