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Two Spirits: Bondage And Adoption

Romans 5:15

The word "bondage" (Gr. douleia) occurs here for the first of five times in the New Testament.

  • It is found again in verse 21; Galatians 4:24; 5:1; and Hebrews 2:15.
  • Its simple meaning is "slavery."

    So the phrase, "the spirit of fear," means a slavish fear, of being afraid.
    This is what the Jews under the law had.
    They had a constant fear of breaking even one of a multitude of rules and regulations
    of the Mosaic law or the tradition of the elders.

    The Spirit Of Bondage

    The spirit of bondage is one of the first effects of the law upon the conscience giving us a sense
    of our lost and undone condition.
    A sense of sin is generally accompanied with a sense of wrath.
    The law demands perfect obedience and pronounces a curse against those who do not obey
    its many and continuous commands.
    It condemns and reduces all to the condition of a slave, who, after transgressing even the least command,
    expects nothing but punishment.
    All, who are under the dreadful curse of the law, know of no way to escape Divine wrath but to obey it.

    For this reason when God announces His law amidst thunderings and lightnings,
    the mountain trembled and the people feared and stood afar off.
    This demonstrated the fact that man could only tremble under the law, as he could not be justified by it.

    So, the one who pits his trust in the works of the law must live and toil like a slave.
    He must be at the beck and call of a master, who is a tyrant.
    This is true of all who have the mind of the flesh, whether they are aware of it or not.
    They serve "the law of sin and death." (Rom. 8:2)

  • They are secret rebels against the law, and the law condemns and commands.
  • They are sullen slaves under the law, and the law must subdue and control.
  • They remain "through fear of death...all their lifetime subject to bondage." (Heb.2:15)
    This is the state of all who wear the yoke of law.
    This is that state of mind in which men shrink from God as a Master who would bind them against their will.

    The spirit of bondage is unpardoned guilt which fills the mind with continual terrors. (Job 15:20-24)

  • It is a habitual fear of death and the expectation of future punishment.
  • It is the knowledge of our inability to deliver ourselves out of this sad situation - this spirit of bondage.

    Those enslaved with the spirit of bondage have a dominating love of money, pleasure, and sin.
    There are those who are enslaved who come to church regularly, utter prayers, sing songs,
    and read the Bible.
    These are bored by the worship and long for it to be over.
    Why do they come at all?

    They come because they feel that it is their duty, and if they don't attend, terrible things
    will happen to them.
    These people do not need the spirit of bondage described to them.
    They have it! They feel it!

    Those enslaved with the spirit of bondage also have the temper of a slave towards God.
    All the systems of heathenism are marked by such a spirit.
    The love of God never enters into them.

    Mohammedans have the same spirit.

  • They are sometimes told that if they obey the admonitions of the Koran, they shall have
        a sensual paradise.
  • They are more frequently told that if they violate the same directions, they expose themselves
        to the anger of God.
    There are other church groups who hold before their people a fear of excommunication,
    the indignation of their priest, and a purgatory that threatens them.

    All such bondage leads to fear and such fear torments constantly.
    Slaves of fear live in constant apprehension of the righteous judgment of God
    for they know that their inadequate obedience can only result in final condemnation.
    The scant service, which they try to render, finds its only motivation in the craven fear
    of what all failure deserves.
    Each fresh breach of the law is bound to increase their deep inner anxiety in view
    of the judgment to come.

    Bondage leads to:

  • A natural fear which the creature has of his Creator because of his own insignificance
        and his Maker's greatness.
  • A carnal fear which is the fear of man. From this God's Spirit delivers us, as believers.
  • The fear of a slave towards his master lest he should be beaten when he has offended.
    This is a fear which rightly dwells in every unregenerate heart.

    If the fear of slavery is not cast out, it leads to a diabolical fear -- that of devils who
    also believe and tremble.
    The fear of love which is never cast out of the mind.
    This is "the fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom."
    If the fear of man or of any evil from the world deter believers from doing their duty to God,
    this fear arises from the remains of carnal and unmortified fear.
    Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 1:7: "God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power,
    and of love, and of a sound mind
    This teaches us that slavish fear ought to be banished from the minds of believers.

    Those with the spirit of bondage do not see themselves as slaves.
    There is no fear of God in their minds.
    But sooner or later when a crisis of life comes or as death draws near, they reach a point
    where there is no further escape.
    Then, their state of mind is one of nervous anxiety and alarm
    because they now see that there is no way out of that bondage to sin and death.


    The word for adoption (Gr. huiothesia) also occurs here for the first of five times in the New Testament.

  • It is used only by Paul. (Rom. 8:15, 23; 9:4; Gal.4:5; and Eph. 1:5)
  • It means literally "a placing as son."
    This was a Roman practice, not a Jewish one.

    God gives "adoption."
    He follows the gift with the Spirit of adoption.
    In nature as soon as a branch is grafted into a tree, the sap begins to flow into that branch
    and they become one.
    So, in Christ, the Spirit of adoption following the adoption seals the union by making
    the affinity close, happy, and eternal.
    The Spirit of adoption is not a spirit of doubt and anxiety - it is all hope.

    Adoption is that act whereby we are received into the family of God.
    The way in which this is brought about is this: Christ is the one Son of God, and the Son God
    elects and engrafts members.
    As soon as the union takes place, God sees the soul in relationship in the same manner
    as He sees Christ.
    He gives it a partnership with the same privileges.

    The Scriptures employ different expressions to denote the love relation of His people to God,
    and they are calculated to aid their conceptions and to elevate their thoughts to that
    great and unspeakable gift of God.
    One mode of expression serves to supply what is lacking in another.
    The origin of the spiritual life and the re-establishment of the image of God in the soul of man
    are expressed in these words: "born of God".
    So that they may not forget the state of their natural alienation from God,
    and in order to indicate their title to the heavenly inheritance, it is said that they are adopted by God.

  • The Spirit of adoption consists in the Holy Spirit bearing witness with our spirit
        that we are the children of God.
  • The Spirit is not only a witness to Christ without us, but also to Christ within us.
    Therefore, our conscience bears us witness to the Holy Spirit.

    Adoption is an act whereby one person takes another into his family and calls him his son
    and treats him like a son.
    Moses was the adopted son of Pharaoh's daughter.
    Esther was the adopted daughter of Mordecai.

    I have also been adopted by God into His heavenly family.

    So, in a spiritual sense, adoption is that act of grace whereby God chooses every true believer
    and makes him a child of His.
    The very term, "adoption," implies that we were by nature not His son.
    We were strangers and enemies when He took us into His holy family.
    A man who adopts a stranger for his child cannot bestow on him a spirit suitable to that new relationship.
    He may give him a son's portion, but he cannot give him a son's feelings.

    Now this is what the Lord does.

  • He gives us the "Spirit of Adoption."
  • He puts into us, by His grace, a fitness for this glorious relationship.
    We are not only the Lord's children, but we know and feel we are. (Verse 16)

    Unlike the spirit of bondage, the Spirit of adoption is a relationship dominated, not by fear, but by love.
    It is made effective by the indwelling of God's Spirit, and from the Spirit's presence within.
    In verse 16, Paul makes a point that adoption is so real that it brings about an actual likeness to God.
    Verse 17 explains further the meaning of this adoption as joint-heirs.

    Here, as elsewhere, is a blend of present eschatology and future eschatology.
    It is the Holy Spirit who places children of God as adult sons in a legal standing before God
    and in relation to Him.
    The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of Adoption by which God makes us His children,
    and is the earnest and seal of our adoption.

    Adoption confers the nature of sons, and a title is the inheritance.
    Regeneration confers the nature of sons, and a fitness in Christ is the inheritance.

    The Holy Spirit, as the Spirit of Adoption, also influences the prayers of believers
    as to their manner and earnestness for by Him they not only say, but cry, "Abba, Father."
    The word, "Father," also indicates the substance of our prayers, for when we can say
    no more to God than, "O God, Thou art our Father," we have said all that we can say.
    When we have said, "Father," we have said it all and comprehend in this all we can ask.


    So, we have not a spirit of bondage that leads to fear, but a Spirit of Adoption by which we are
    no longer slaves but sons.
    We do not have a fear of dread of the wrath of God.
    Do you think that the poor prodigal, all ragged and worn arriving at his father's house and feeling
    his father's arms around him and his father's kiss upon his cheek, had any dread?

    Not on your life!
    The dread was past.

  • He was no longer in a pig's pen!
  • He was no longer a slave!
    He was a son!

    The child of God loves every requirement of His all-wise and loving Father.
    His obedience is now unfettered, unrestricted, unreserved, cheerful, grateful, and generous.
    When we receive any temporal blessing, we receive it from the hand of our heavenly Father.
    All of the promises of life come to us as promises of our heavenly Father.
    All of the painful experiences of life are made by our Father to work for our good.
    The spirit of love pervades all we do and all we are.
    And when we come to a place that no one else can go with us -- our heavenly Father can
    and does! (Psalm 23:6)

    "I trust in God wherever I may be,
    Upon the land or on the rolling sea,
    For come what may, From day to day,
    My heavenly Father watches over me.

    I trust in God, for, in the lion's den
    On battle-field, or in the prison pen
    Through praise or blame,
    Through flood or flame,
    My heavenly Father watches over me.

    The valley may be dark, the shadows deep,
    But O, the Shepherd guards His lonely sheep;
    And through the gloom He'll lead me home,
    My heavenly Father watches over me.

    I trust in God - I know He cares for me,
    On mountain bleak or on the stormy sea;
    Though billows roll, He keeps my soul,
    My heavenly Father watches over me."

    Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
    You can email Dr. White at