Romans 8:15
For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(15) Spirit of bondage.—The Greek corresponds very nearly to what we should naturally understand by the English phrase, “such a spirit as would be found in slaves.” The word “spirit” varies much in meaning in these verses. Here it is the “dominant habit or frame of mind;” in the next verse it is used both for the Spirit of God and the spirit of man.

Again to fear.—So as to take you back under the old terrorism of the Law. The Law, if it contained promises, was still more essentially a system of threats; for the threats took effect, while the promises remained ineffectual, because the Law could not be fulfilled.

Spirit of adoption.—That spirit which is characteristic of those who are taken to be sons, who, like the Christian at his baptism, are admitted into this relation of sonship.

Whereby we cry.—The intensity of the Apostle’s feeling comes out in this simple definition. Instead of any more formal elaboration of his meaning, he says the Spirit of adoption is that which prompts the impassioned cry, “Abba, Father.”

Abba, Father.—“Abba” is the Aramaic equivalent for father. The repetition is one of endearment and entreaty, taken from the natural impulse of children to repeat a beloved name in different forms. Comp. Newton’s hymn—

“Jesus, my Shepherd, Husband, Friend,

My Prophet, Priest, and King,” &c.

8:10-17 If the Spirit be in us, Christ is in us. He dwells in the heart by faith. Grace in the soul is its new nature; the soul is alive to God, and has begun its holy happiness which shall endure for ever. The righteousness of Christ imputed, secures the soul, the better part, from death. From hence we see how much it is our duty to walk, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. If any habitually live according to corrupt lustings, they will certainly perish in their sins, whatever they profess. And what can a worldly life present, worthy for a moment to be put against this noble prize of our high calling? Let us then, by the Spirit, endeavour more and more to mortify the flesh. Regeneration by the Holy Spirit brings a new and Divine life to the soul, though in a feeble state. And the sons of God have the Spirit to work in them the disposition of children; they have not the spirit of bondage, which the Old Testament church was under, through the darkness of that dispensation. The Spirit of adoption was not then plentifully poured out. Also it refers to that spirit of bondage, under which many saints were at their conversion. Many speak peace to themselves, to whom God does not speak peace. But those who are sanctified, have God's Spirit witnessing with their spirits, in and by his speaking peace to the soul. Though we may now seem to be losers for Christ, we shall not, we cannot, be losers by him in the end.The spirit of bondage - The spirit that binds you; or the spirit of a slave, that produces only fear. The slave is under constant fear and alarm. But the spirit of religion is that of freedom and of confidence; the spirit of children, and not of slaves; compare the note at John 8:32-36.

Again to fear - That you should again be afraid, or be subjected to servile fear - This implies that in their former state under the Law, they were in a state of servitude, and that the tendency of it was merely to produce alarm. Every sinner is subject to such fear. He has everything of which to be alarmed. God is angry with him; his conscience will trouble him; and he has everything to apprehend in death and in eternity. But it is not so with the Christian; compare 2 Timothy 1:7.

The spirit of adoption - The feeling of affection, love, and confidence which pertains to children; not the servile, trembling spirit of slaves, but the temper and affectionate regard of sons. Adoption is the taking and treating a stranger as one's own child. It is applied to Christians because God treats them as his children; he receives them into this relation, though they were by nature strangers and enemies. It implies,

(1) That we by nature had no claim on him;

(2) That therefore, the act is one of mere kindness - of pure, sovereign love;

(3) That we are now under his protection and care; and,

(4) That we are bound to manifest toward him the spirit of children, and yield to him obedience. See the note at John 1:12; compare Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5. It is for this that Christians are so often called the sons of God.

Whereby we cry - As children who need protection and help. This evinces the habitual spirit of a child of God; a disposition,

(1) To express toward him the feelings due to a father;

(2) To call upon him; to address him in the language of affection and endearing confidence;

(3) To seek his protection and aid.

Abba This word is Chaldee (אבא abba), and means "father." Why the apostle repeats the word in a different language, is not known. The Syriac reads it. "By which we call the Father our Father." It is probable that the repetition here denotes merely intensity, and is designed to denote the interest with which a Christian dwells on the name, in the spirit of an affectionate, tender child. It is not unusual to repeat such terms of affection; compare Matthew 7:22; Psalm 8:1. This is an evidence of piety that is easily applied. He that can in sincerity, and with ardent affection apply this term to God, addressing him with a filial spirit as his Father, has the spirit of a Christian. Every child of God has this spirit; and he that has it not is a stranger to piety.

15. For, &c.—"For ye received not (at the time of your conversion) the spirit of bondage," that is, "The spirit ye received was not a spirit of bondage."

again—gendering.

to fear—as under the law which "worketh wrath," that is, "Such was your condition before ye believed, living in legal bondage, haunted with incessant forebodings under a sense of unpardoned sin. But it was not to perpetuate that wretched state that ye received the Spirit."

but ye have received—"ye received."

the spirit of adoption, whereby—rather, "wherein."

we cry, Abba, Father—The word "cry" is emphatic, expressing the spontaneousness, the strength, and the exuberance of the final emotions. In Ga 4:6 this cry is said to proceed from the Spirit in us, drawing forth the filial exclamation in our hearts. Here, it is said to proceed from our own hearts under the vitalizing energy of the Spirit, as the very element of the new life in believers (compare Mt 10:19, 20; and see on [2227]Ro 8:4). "Abba" is the Syro-Chaldaic word for "Father"; and the Greek word for that is added, not surely to tell the reader that both mean the same thing, but for the same reason which drew both words from the lips of Christ Himself during his agony in the garden (Mr 14:36). He, doubtless, loved to utter His Father's name in both the accustomed forms; beginning with His cherished mother tongue, and adding that of the learned. In this view the use of both words here has a charming simplicity and warmth.

This verse proves the former, that we are led by the Spirit of God, and are his children, and that by an effect of the Spirit in them, which is to enable them to call God

Father. He doth not here speak of two distinct Spirits, but one and the same Spirit of God, in different persons and at different times, is both

the spirit of bondage and

the Spirit of adoption.

The spirit of bondage seems to respect either that state of servitude, which the people of God were under in the time of the ceremonial law; see Galatians 4:3,9; or it respects the publishing of the moral law upon Mount Sinai, which was with horror and fear. Compare Exodus 19:16, with Hebrews 12:18-21: see Galatians 4:24. Or else it respects that horror and slavish fear, which the Spirit of God doth work in men’s hearts and consciences, by the ministry of the law, when he opens the eyes of men to see they are in bondage and slavery to sin and Satan, and that they are subject and obnoxious to the wrath and vengeance of God; this is many times preparatory and introductory to their conversion; but when they are regenerated they are delivered from it: see Luke 1:74 Hebrews 2:15 1Jo 4:18.

Objection. Many of God’s children are full of doubts and fears.

Answer. These are not always from the suggestions of God’s Spirit, but the misgivings of their own spirits. Some distinguish between the spirit of bondage and desertion; the children of God are delivered from the former, but exercised with the latter. The Spirit of God is called the Spirit of adoption, both because he works and effects it in us, and because he testifies and assures it to us. He might have said, the Spirit of liberty; the antithesis required it; but he said as much, when he called him the Spirit of adoption, for children are free.

Whereby we cry, Abba, Father; or, by whom we cry. Acceptable prayer is wrought in us by the Spirit, Romans 8:26.

Abba is a Hebrew or Syriac word, signifying Father; why then is the word Father added in the Greek? To signify, that God is the Father both of Jews and Gentiles, Romans 3:29 10:12; or to show the double paternity that is in God, he is the Father of all men by creation, of believers only by grace and regeneration: or, rather, to denote the importunity and earnestness which ought to be in prayer; and so it agrees with the former word, crying. Ingeminations carry an earnestness with them. There are two places more where these two words are repeated or used together, Mark 14:36 Galatians 4:6. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear,.... By "the spirit of bondage" is meant, not the Spirit of God: for this is just the reverse of his character, who is a "free Spirit", or , "a Spirit of liberty"; and is contrary to his work and office, which is to show a soul its state of bondage by nature, and to deliver out of it; and though fear may arise from the convictions of sin, yet this he removes by discoveries of love; moreover, his work is to make application of grace and righteousness to sensible sinners, and to administer comfort to distressed minds, and make them meet for glory; and it is also contrary to the character of the persons in whom he dwells, who are the sons of God; besides, the Spirit of God, as a spirit of adoption, is in the text itself manifestly opposed to this spirit: but by it is intended a man's own spirit whilst in a state of unregeneracy, and particularly whilst under a work of the law; and it refers to that "pharisaical" spirit which prevailed among the Jews. Men in a state of nature are under a spirit of bondage to the lusts of the flesh; by these they are captivated and enslaved, and the consequence of it is a fearful apprehension, when convicted, of death, judgment, and wrath to come. They are in slavery to the god of this world, who leads them captive, and by injecting into them fears of death, are subject to bondage. The Jews in particular were in bondage to the law, ceremonial and moral; to the ceremonial law, as circumcision, observation of days, and multitudes of sacrifices. This law was an handwriting of ordinances against them; it obliged them to keep the whole moral law; the sacrifices of it could not take away sin; the breach of it, being punishable with death, must unavoidably induce a "spirit of bondage unto fear": they were in bondage to the moral law, which naturally genders to it, as it demands perfect obedience, but gives no strength to perform; as it shows a man his sin and misery, but not his remedy, as it accuses charges with sin, and curses and condemns for moreover, a spirit of bondage is brought upon persons through it, when they seek for justification and salvation by the works of it, for such obey it with mercenary views, not from love, but fear; and their comforts rise and fall according to their obedience: now these believers, though they had formerly been under such a spirit of bondage, were now delivered from it; nor should they return to it again:

but ye have received the spirit of adoption, by which is designed not a spirit of charity, or love, or inherent grace: adoption is not owing to inherent grace, or is any part of it: regeneration and adoption differ; adoption makes men the children of God, regeneration makes them appear to be so by giving them the nature of children; adoption is not a work of grace in us, but an act of grace without us, having its complete being in the mind of God; it is antecedent to a work of grace, inherent grace is a consequence of it, though no man knows, or has the comfort of his adoption, until he believes: rather a filial child like spirit, such a spirit as becomes the children of God is here meant; a spirit of freedom with God, of reverence of him, and of love of him, and of obedience to him; springing from filial affection and without mercenary views; a meek, harmless, and inoffensive spirit. Though it seems best of all to understand by it the Holy Spirit of God, who is distinguished from the spirit of believers, Romans 8:16, and is called "the Spirit of his Son" in a parallel place, Galatians 4:6, and stands opposed here to a spirit of bondage, and may be so called because as a spirit of grace he flows from adoption; and is the discoverer, applier, witness, and ratifier of the blessing of adoption; and is the pledge, earnest, or seal of the future adoption or eternal inheritance: now the Spirit is received as such from the Father and the Son into the hearts of believers, by the means of the Gospel, in order to make known their adoption to them, which is an instance of grace, and ought to be acknowledged; for

we cry Abba, Father: by the help of the spirit of adoption; we, the saints under the Gospel dispensation, in opposition to the legal one, under which they had not that freedom; "cry" which denotes an internal vehemency and affection of soul, and an outward calling upon God, as a Father, with confidence; "Abba, Father, Father" is the explanation of the word "Abba", and which is added for explanation sake, and to express the vehemency of the affection, and the freedom and liberty which belongs to children: the words in the original are, the one a Syriac word in use with the Jews, the other a Greek one, and denotes that there is but one Father of Jews and Gentiles. The word "Abba" signifies "my Father", and is expressive of interest and of faith in it; and read backwards is the same as forwards, God is the Father of his people in adversity as well as prosperity; it is the word used by Christ himself in prayer, and which he directs his people to; to say no more, it is a word which the Jews did not allow servants, only freemen to make use of, and to be called by;

"it is a tradition; (say they (b),) that servants and handmaids, they do not use to call , "father such-a-one, or mother such-a-one";''

in allusion to which the apostle suggests, that only freemen, such as have the spirit of adoption, and not servants or bondsmen, can make use of this word "Abba", or call God their Father.

(b) T. Hieros. Niddah, fol. 492. T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 16. 2. Massecheth Senachot, c. 1. sect. 13. Maimon. Hilch. Nechalot, c. 4. sect. 5.

{17} For ye have not received the {p} spirit of bondage again {q} to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of {r} adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

(17) He declares and expounds (as an aside) in these two verses by what right this name, to be called the children of God, is given to the believers: and it is because, he says, they have received the grace of the gospel, in which God shows himself, not (as before in the proclaiming of the law) terrible and fearful, but a most gentle and loving Father in Christ, so that with great boldness we call him Father, the Holy Spirit sealing this adoption in our hearts by faith.

(p) By the Spirit is meant the Holy Spirit whom we are said to receive, when he works in our minds.

(q) Which fear the Spirit stirred up in our minds by the preaching of the law.

(r) Who seals our adoption in our minds, and therefore opens our mouths.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Romans 8:15 assigns the ground for Romans 8:14 in application to the readers. For ye received not, when the Holy Spirit was communicated to you, a spirit of bondage, that is, a spirit such as is the regulating power in the state of slavery. This view of the genitive (Fritzsche, de Wette, Philippi) is required by the contrast; because the υἱοθεσία, when the Spirit is given, is already present, having entered, namely, through faith and justification (Galatians 4:6). Hence it cannot, with others (Köllner, Rückert, Baumgarten-Crusius, Hofmann, Reithmayr, following Theodore of Mopsuestia and others), be taken as the genitive of the effect (who works bondage). This also holds against Lipsius, Rechtfertigungslehre, p. 170.

πάλιν εἰς φόβον] again to fear, conveys the aim of the (denied) ἐλάβ. πν. δουλ., so that πάλιν, as its very position shows, gives a qualification, not of ἐλάβ., but of εἰς φόβ.: “in order that ye should once more (as under the law working wrath) be afraid.”

πνεῦμα υἱοθες.] i.e. a spirit which, in the state of adoption, is the ruling principle. Υἱοθεσία is the proper term for adoption (θέσθαι υἱόν, Plat. Legg. xi. p. 929 C; Arr. An. i. 23. 11); see Grotius and Fritzsche, in loc.; Hermann, Privatalterth. § 64. 15; comp. on Galatians 4:5; also Weiss, bibl. Theol. p. 340. Therefore not sonship in general (the Patristic υἱότης), as is the view of the majority; it is rightly rendered in the Vulgate: “adoptionis filiorum;” it does not represent believers as children of God by birth, but as those who by God’s grace (Ephesians 1:5-8) have been assumed into the place of children, and as brethren of Christ (Romans 8:29). Those thus adopted receive the Spirit from God, but are not begotten to sonship through the Spirit (Hofmann); comp. Weiss, l.c.

The repetition of ἐλάβετε πνεῦμα has a certain solemnity. Comp. on 1 Corinthians 2:7; Php 4:17.

ἐν ᾧ] in whom, as in the element that moves our inner life. Comp. on 1 Corinthians 12:3; Ephesians 2:18.

κράζομεν] we cry, the outburst of fervid emotion in prayer. Comp. on Galatians 4:6. The transition to the first person takes place without special intention, under the involuntary pressure of the sense of fellowship.

Ἀββᾶ] See on Mark 14:36, and Buxtorf, Lex. Talm. p. 20. From the three passages, Mark, l.c., Galatians 4:6, and our present one, it may be assumed that the address אַבָּא (ܐܟܳܐ) was transferred from the Jewish into the Christian prayers, and in the latter received the consecration of special sanctity through Christ Himself, who as Son thus addressed the Father. This ἈΒΒᾶ gradually assumed the nature of a proper name; and thus it came that the Greek-praying Christians retained the Chaldee word in a vocative sense as a proper name, and further, in the fervour of the feeling of sonship, added along with it the specifically Christian address to the Father, using the appellative ὁ πατήρ in the appositional nominative (Kühner, II. 1, p. 42); so that the “Abba, Father,” now became fixed. It has been frequently supposed (and is still by Rückert, Reiche, and Köllner) that Paul added Ὁ ΠΑΤΉΡ by way of explanation. But against this view it may be urged, that in passages so full of feeling as Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6, an interpretation—and that too of a word which, considering the familiarity with Jewish modes of expression in the churches of Rome and Galatia, undoubtedly needed no explanation, and was certainly well known also through the evangelistic tradition as the form of address in prayer that had flowed from the mouth of Jesus—seems unnatural and out of place. Besides, in all three instances, in Mark and Paul, uniformly the mere Ἀββᾶ ὁ πατήρ is given without any formula of interpretation (τοῦτʼ ἔστι or the like) being added. Other views—destitute, however, of all proof—are: that the custom which insinuating children have of repeating the father’s name is here imitated (Chrysostom, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret, and Grotius); or that the emphasis affectus (Erasmus) is here expressed (either view would be possible only in the event of the passage standing as Ἀββᾶ, Ἀββᾶ); or even that it is meant to signify the Fatherhood of God for Jews and Gentiles (Augustine, Anselm, Calvin, Estius, and others). With our view Philippi is substantially agreed. Against the objections of Fritzsche, who regards ὁ πατήρ as an explanatory addition grown into a habit, see on Galatians 4:6.

The Father-name of God in the Old Covenant (Exodus 20:2; Isaiah 63:16; Hosea 11:1; Jeremiah 3:19; Jeremiah 31:9) only received the loftiest fulfilment of its meaning in the New Covenant through the υἱοθεσία accomplished in Christ. Comp. Umbreit, p. 287 f.; Schultz, alttest. Theol. II. p. 98.Romans 8:15. Sons, οὐ γὰρ ἐλάβετε πνεῦμα δουλείας. The aorist refers to the time of their baptism, when they received the Spirit. It was not the Spirit proper to slaves, leading them again to shrink from God in fear as they had done when under the law of sin and death, but πνεῦμα υἱοθεσίας, a spirit proper to those who were being translated from the servile to the filial relation to God. υἱοθεσία is a word used in the N.T. by Paul only, but “no word is more common in Greek inscriptions of the Hellenistic time: the idea, like the word, is native Greek” (E. L. Hicks, quoted in S. and H.), see Galatians 4:5, Ephesians 1:5. The word serves to distinguish those who are made sons by an act of grace from the only-begotten Son of God: τὸν ἑαυτοῦ υἱὸν Romans 8:3, τοῦ ἰδίου υἱοῦ Romans 8:32. But the act of grace is not one which makes only an outward difference in our position; it is accomplished in the giving of a spirit which creates in us a new nature. In the spirit of adoption we cry Abba, Father. We have not only the status, but the heart of sons. κράζομεν (often with φωνῇ μεγάλῃ) is a strong word: it denotes the loud irrepressible cry with which the consciousness of sonship breaks from the Christian heart in prayer. The change to the first person marks Paul’s inclusion of himself in the number of those who have and utter this consciousness; and it is probably this inclusion of himself, as a person whose native language was “Hebrew” (Acts 21:40), to which is due the double form Ἀββᾶ ὁ πατήρ. The last word certainly interprets the first, but it is not thought of as doing so: “we cry, Father, Father”.15. have not received] Better, did not receive; a reference to definite past bestowal. See on ch. Romans 5:5, last note.

the spirit of bondage] of slavery.—The verse practically means “Ye received the Holy Spirit not as a Spirit of (connected with) slavery, but as a Spirit of (connected with) adoption.”—See Romans 6:19, where we have a seeming discord, but real and profound harmony, with this verse. The Holy Spirit’s influence leads the regenerate to “yield their members as slaves to righteousness;” but his method of compulsion (see ch. Romans 5:5) is such as to make their real subjection “perfect freedom,” because divinely filial.

again] As in the old days of their “ignorance,” when they knew God only as a justly offended King and Judge. Cp. Hebrews 2:14-15; 1 John 4:18. It is scarcely needful to point out the difference between the “fear” of the unwilling slave, or criminal, and the reverent and sensitive “fear” of the child of God; (1 Peter 1:17).

adoption] Same word as Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5. The relationship of God’s children to their Father is sometimes viewed as generative, for the change in their wills amounts to a change, as it were, of life and person—a new birth (see 1 Peter 1:3; &c.): sometimes as adoptive, in respect of the divinely legal redemption which procures to them this inner change, and also in distinction from the essential and eternal Sonship of Christ, the “Own Son” of the Father.

whereby] Lit. in which; surrounded and animated by His influence.

we cry] Whether in supplication, or in praise. Observe the change again to the first person, suggesting St Paul’s sense of the holy community of the family of God.

Abba, Father] Same words as Mark 14:36; Galatians 4:6.—The first word is the Chaldee for “Father.” St Paul places the Gr. equivalent after it, not for explanation, (which was surely needless, in view of the well-known use of the word by the Lord,) but probably because in prayer and praise the Gentile Christians themselves did so. To them the Chaldee word would sound as a quasi-Name, and would be as it were supplemented by their own word; q. d., “Our Father Abba.” So Meyer; who suggests that the word “Abba” was already familiar in Jewish prayers, but now specially sanctified for Christians by the Lord’s Gethsemane-prayer.—The present verse does not, of course, mean that the view of God as the Father of His People was unknown in O. T. (see e.g. Psalm 103:13; Isaiah 63:16), but that the Gospel had both extended this view to others than Jews, and had intensified and glorified it by fully revealing the Eternal Son as the Firstborn among Brethren (Romans 8:29). The knowledge of the Father as our Father because the Father of the Son is among the greatest of the treasures of grace.Romans 8:15. Γὰρ, for) This word has reference to sons in the preceding verse.—πνεῦμα δουλείας, the spirit of bondage) The Holy Spirit was not even in the Old Testament a Spirit of bondage; but He so unfolded His power in the case of those believers, in whom He then dwelt, that there however was lurking, beneath, a feeling and sense, which carried with it something of bondage, inasmuch as being in the case of those who [under the law] were still but children, Galatians 4:1.—πάλιν, again) as formerly [under the law]. The Romans in their state as Gentiles had had groundless [vain] fear; but not the spirit of fear, as those had had, into whose place the Gentiles had come. The Church of all ages is, as it were, one individual, moral person; so the word, again, Galatians 4:9; Galatians 5:1.—εἰς φόβον, to fear) See Hebrews 2:15, note.—υἱοθεσίας, of adoption) See Galatians 4:1, etc.—κράζομεν, we cry) one and all. Cry is a word implying vehemence, accompanied with desire, confidence, a just claim, perseverance. And the Holy Spirit himself cries: Abba, Father, Galatians 4:6, note. [If, while you are alive, you have not attained to this experience, it ought to be the subject of lamentation to you, and you ought eagerly to seek it; but if you have attained it, see that you joyfully continue in it.—V. g.]Spirit of bondage (πνεῦμα δουλείας)

The Holy Spirit, as in Spirit of adoption. The Spirit which ye received was not a spirit of bondage. See Romans 8:4, under πνεῦμα, 7.

Spirit of adoption (πνεῦμα υἱοθεσίας)

The Spirit of God, producing the condition of adoption. Ὑιοθεσία adoption, is from υἱός son, and θέσις a setting or placing: the placing one in the position of a son. Mr. Merivale, illustrating Paul's acquaintance with Roman law, says: "The process of legal adoption by which the chosen heir became entitled not only to the reversion of the property but to the civil status, to the burdens as well as the rights of the adopter - became, as it were, his other self, one with him... this too is a Roman principle, peculiar at this time to the Romans, unknown, I believe, to the Greeks, unknown, to all appearance, to the Jews, as it certainly is not found in the legislation of Moses, nor mentioned anywhere as a usage among the children of the covenant. We have but a faint conception of the force with which such an illustration would speak to one familiar with the Roman practice; how it would serve to impress upon him the assurance that the adopted son of God becomes, in a peculiar and intimate sense, one with the heavenly Father" ("Conversion of the Roman Empire").

We cry (κράζομεν)

Of a loud cry or vociferation; expressing deep emotion.

Abba (Ἁββᾶ)

Compare Mark 14:36. A Syrian term, to which Paul adds the Greek Father. The repetition is probably from a liturgical formula which may have originated among the Hellenistic Jews who retained the consecrated word Abba. Some find here a hint of the union of Jew and Gentile in God.

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