“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons,
by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
Paul was a frequent flier when it came to the topic of grace versus law. Riddled throughout Paul’s letters in the New Testament are the revelations of grace Paul himself realized. He was a man whose life had been spent being raised up in the Jewish law, knowing it backwards and forwards– his mind imprinted the do’s and don’ts of righteousness and a life of holiness. This study of the law led him to a particular brand of religious zeal adopted by many of the Pharisees in Jesus’ time, knowing the law but lacking love. A supernatural encounter with the grace of God led Paul to a complete turnaround from the role of persecutor to the persecuted: from the role of slave to his own adoption as a son of God.
This passage in Romans 8:15 gives believers insight into Paul’s renewed identity under grace. Using opposing concepts of slavery and adoption, Paul highlights the differences between a life of law and a life lived in grace. His words and his testimony are an exhortation to the emerging church to leave behind their identities as slaves as he did, and receive a new identity as sons and daughters.
The concept of slavery itself evokes the idea of being sold to someone, for a price where your life becomes subject to the owner’s whims and wants. Paul describes this past life as a slave to the law as being one of fear. His own pursuit of righteousness through the law had led him down a road where he was living in fear of the day he would fail to live up to the standards towards righteousness. His goal was intimacy, but in the process, his direct line to the Father had been redirected to the voice of fear.
In contrast, we are encouraged to take hold of what it means to be a son calling our God “Abba, Father”. In this new identity as adopted, we are taken into an entirely new realm of having been chosen, accepted, and received into a new relationship where we move from living down the street in a small house in the outskirts of town, to having a room in the palace next to the king. Paul’s words, to be read as a declaration over every season of our lives are a reminder to readers in all walks of their faith journey that a bold life — a righteous life — are not found in a pocketbook of do’s and don’ts, but in a life of intimacy. When we fail, as we often do, let us be bold in our embrace of grace and face the One who chose us to call Him “Abba”.