27 May 2016

Romans 8:12-17

“For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption.” (v. 15)

Psalm: Psalm 148


In this passage the Apostle Paul seeks to assure new Christians that their relationship with God should not be a lifestyle based on fear of what might happen to them if they do not keep the law. Rather they are people who have received the Spirit of God into their lives and know themselves to be in a loving relationship.

Paul uses the concepts of slavery and freedom to help people understand the nature of the relationship into which they are called. For most of us this is symbolic language - though sadly even in our own country there are people who are kept in virtual slavery by others. Slavery in Paul's time and in ours means fear, no hope and no real feeling of belonging. The opposite is to be free, a person in your own right, part of a family by birth or adoption with all the rights and responsibilities that go with the membership of a family.

The point which Paul wishes to emphasise to the new Christians in Rome is that Christ is the Son of God and we have been adopted to become his brothers and sisters. What a liberating and empowering message this is.

This freedom in Christ which we enjoy could be taken as licence by some, but later on in this passage Paul makes it clear that as joint heirs with Christ we can expect to share not only in the joys of the kingdom, but also in Christ's sufferings. Being God's very own children and heirs comes with responsibilities as well as assurances.

To Ponder

  • To what extent do you find the concepts of slavery and freedom helpful as you seek to live a Christian life and witness to others? Why?
  • For many decades Protestant churches including our own preached a gospel which quite literally put 'the fear of God' into people. The pendulum has now swung and sin and judgement are rarely talked about in many churches. Has the pendulum swung too far? Why, or why not?

Bible notes author

The Revd Jennifer Potter

The Revd Jennifer Potter is a Methodist minister at Wesley's Chapel, City Road, London. Prior to being appointed to serve there she worked in the Connexional Team from 1996-2002 as the secretary for international affairs.