Spirit of Adoption (Part 1) (Romans 8; Galatians 4)

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Romans 8:15“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.”

      1. The Spirit of Bondage leads to fear.

      2. At some point, the people Paul is speaking to possess the Spirit of Bondage and fear; this is expressed with the word “again.”

      3. The Spirit of Adoption does not lead to fear; rather, when it is received, it changes feelings of fear to feelings of belonging.

      4. Once people receive the Spirit of Adoption, they no longer have the Spirit of Bondage.

      5. The Spirit of Adoption allows the receiver to cry for the LORD God as “Abba, Father”

      6. The Greek word δουλεία (douleia) is used for the word “bondage.” It creates the condition of slavery and subservience.[1]

      7. The Greek word υἱοθεσία (huiothesia) is used for the word “adoption.”  It means to place someone in the position of, and give full inheritance rights, as the original children of a parent.  This feminine noun is descriptive and inclusive of both sons and daughters of God.[2]

      8. Scripture reflects the Greek word for bondage in this manner also in Romans 8:21, Galatians 4:24, Galatians 5:1, and Hebrews 2:15.[3]

             8a. Romans 8:20, 21 – “For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.”

                         (1) Corruption delivers people into bondage

                         (2) Bondage and liberty are exact opposite words

                         (3) Corruption is vanity and liberty is glorious

                                 aa. The Greek word ματαιότης (mataiotēs) is represented by the word “vanity.” It means emptiness, nothingness, futility.[4]

                                 bb. The Greek word φθορά (phthora) is the word “corruption.” It means rot, decay, and perishableness which is reflected in moral corruption, depravity.[5]

                                 cc. The Greek word ἐλευθερία (eleutheria) uses the word “liberty” in its translation.  It means freedom, which is the usual definition for liberty.[6]

                                 dd.  The Greek word δόξα (doxa) is translated “glorious.” It portrays the state of being wonderful.[7]

                         (4) Children of God receive glorious liberty from Him; thus they have a wonderful freedom in life.  They are not restrained by corruption.  Their lives have meaning with the ability to produce splendorous things that reflect their Father God.

                         (5) People not of God do not have liberty; thus they are slaves to corruption.  They do not have freedom. They are unable to produce lasting things. It is because of their immorality and depravity that they reflect nothingness from their empty lives.

             8b. Galatians 4:24“For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.”

                         (1) Abraham has a son with bondmaid Agar (Hagar) named Ishmael.

                         (2) Hagar, the bondwoman, is born after the flesh.

                                 aa. The Greek word παιδίσκη (paidiskē) is represented by the words “bondmaid” and bondwoman.  It means female servant (slave girl).[8]

                                 bb. The Greek word σάρξ (sarx) uses the English word “flesh.” Flesh describes the physical human nature of a person that develops naturally.[9] 

                         (3) Hagar is an allegory for the Covenant made with Moses by the LORD God at Sinai.

                                 aa. The Greek word for “allegory” is ἀλληγορέω (allēgoreō). It means “to talk figuratively.”

                                 bb. Paul connects the making of the Covenant to Moses by God with fleshly bondage.

                                 cc. Figuratively, this states that the Covenant of God that He made with His Chosen people at Mt. Sinai, when He established the nation of Israel with compulsory servitude through the keeping of His Law. This agreement is based upon bondage requiring them to obey His voice without question (Exodus 19:5).

                         (4) The “freewoman” in Galatians 4:24 is identified as Sarah, the wife of Abraham, that gives birth to Isaac. Their son leads to the line of David, which eventually brings the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, from the line of Abraham (Genesis 17, 21).

                         (5) The Sinaitic Covenant – The Sinaitic Covenant is one of at least seven Covenants that God has made between Himself and human beings. Basically, the conditional Sinaitic Covenant includes the unconditional Abrahamic Covenant that promises Abraham and His Chosen People the Promised Land with generations of Abraham to serve Him (Genesis 15 and 17). But, the Sinaitic Covenant goes beyond the Abrahamic Covenant by addressing specific obligations that demands consistent obedience to God’s law, and adds nationalism into the mix and amplifies the laws of God.[10]

                             The Sinaitic Covenant, also called the Mosaic Covenant, does not void the Abrahamic Covenant (Galatians 3:17). It is a sovereign-vassal treaty that establishes the relationship between King (God) and His servants (Israel)[11] (Exodus 19:1-24:18, 34:10-27). Attached to this Covenant are the tables of stone, a law, and commandments that God writes with His finger and gives to Moses to teach Israel. These stone tablets are placed in the Ark of the Covenant in the Holiest of Holies room inside the Tabernacle.  It was this place, at this time that God’s presence came to the Ark, and He dwells with Israel and is ministered to by Priests.

                              Dispensationalists claim the Sinaitic Covenant to be a different covenant from the Abrahamic Covenant in essence and form, but, Reformists like L. Berkhof claims[12] it to be mostly the same.[13] Regardless, mention of the Sinaitic Covenant in Galatians 4:24 demands we address the differences between Covenant made between God and Moses at Mt. Sinai and the New Covenant that comes to men through Christ’s fulfillment of God’s plan.  It should also be noted that the comparison with Abraham’s Sarah and Hagar makes it likely that God’s Covenant with Abraham would be linked; since it is not, and the Sinaitic Covenant becomes the important allegory connection, we must assume that it is a separate Covenant that contains significant details to guide understanding to the depth the allegorical reference requires.

                              It has the nature of a national covenant where the Church and State become one; to leave the Church is to leave the nation.  It evolves into a covenant of works, i.e. obeying the law of God stringently, in contrast to the covenant of Grace which approaches God with faith alone. Before the Sinaitic Covenant, God’s people live upon the promises of God reflected through the Covenant of Abraham; though there are sacrifices, they are obligatory.[14] After the Sinaitic Covenant, sacrifices are demanded by God and strict adherence to His laws enforced with rewards for obedience, and punishment in response to disobedience (Deuteronomy 6).

                              Of course, God, in His omniscience, is fully aware of the impossibility for humans to follow His laws. He establishes rigid rules for sacrifices to teach His Chosen People and to bring awareness to their shortcomings in their attempts; thus, sacrifice is implemented with ceremonial laws, with an element of grace contained within them, a familiar motif later when Christ sacrifices his life for sinners and belief alone in Him brings full grace of God and salvation to eternal life.[15]

                         (6) The New Covenant – The New Covenant, explicitly described in Jeremiah 31:31-34, is initiated with the arrival of the Lord Jesus Christ.

                         (7) Understanding of the two different Covenants, both the Sinaitic made with Moses and the New Covenant established with Christ allows for a deeper understanding of the allegorical comparison of Hagar and Sarah.

                         (8) Bondage makes God’s people subservient to the law under His Covenant made with Moses and His chosen people.  Everything the Israelites did physically is based strictly on God’s law, and they had no freedom to do anything but obey the law of God. Thus, the children of God, the Israelites, were under the Spirit of Bondage because the law spoken by God controlled their lives, and they had no freedom to deviate from that.

                        (9) Hagar represents this fleshly bondage as a slave woman to Abraham.  She had no choice but to allow Abraham to plant his semen in her to create an offspring.  She was not free to say no.  Her flesh is in bondage to Abraham. Thus, Ishmael is born into bondage.[16]

                        (10) Abraham has a son with freewoman Sarah named Isaac. This represents the freedom that will one day come to the Israelites upon the arrival of the Messiah, Lord Jesus Christ.  But, it is important to note that Jews remain bonded to the Laws of God until Christ’s arrival.  But, in the sense that one day the Jews could receive freedom through their acceptance of the Son of God as Messiah and the offspring of Ishmael would not be free because of their position as servants based upon the allegory of Hagar and Sarah.

                              This becomes very significant in modern times. Today, there are Jews that convert to Christianity and place their faith in Christ, there are Jews that deny Jesus Christ is the resurrected Messiah and Son of God and follow only the laws of God taught through Prophet Moses, and there are Muslims, as descendants of Ishmael, that are required to pray seven times a day, bow upon their heads and knees in subservient fashion, and follow the religion developed by their Prophet Muhammed through the offspring of the bondwoman Hagar. Converted Jews are made free by God through their faith in Christ.  Blind Jews that fail to perceive Christ as Messiah remain slaves to the law with requirements of obedience reflected in the Sinai Covenant with His Chosen people Israel, as do Muslims who are servants of God based upon strict adherence to the laws of Islam.

(Historical Note)  When Christ is made human and walks upon this earth, there are several groups of people that touch his ministry and are influenced by Him.  The legalistic, slaves to the laws of God, reject Christ’s presence; they are known as the “Pharisees” in Scripture. Those Jews alive in His time that argues against the miracles that Christ performs, as well as His Resurrection, are called the “Sadducees” in Scripture.  But, there are also Jewish converts; the Apostle Peter is assigned to teach them the things of Christ, while the Apostle Paul is assigned to the non-Jews, usually referred to as the “Gentiles” in Scripture. 

These “Gentiles” receive the Spirit of Adoption because they are not part of the Chosen people of God known as the Jews that fall under the Covenant made at Sinai; rather, they become sons and daughters of God through accepting Christ as their Savior. Thus, the Spirit of Adoption includes Gentile Believers into the family of God, giving each full rights and inheritance with their born again Jewish brothers and sisters.  As we study deeper into this subject, consider these questions:

Deep Dish Discussion

 Why or why not would Jewish or Muslim converts to Christianity also receive the Spirit of Adoption?

 Does moving from the Covenant of Sinai to the Covenant of Faith in Christ, with the born again aspects of Christian conversion, change them from being fully Jewish or fully Muslim to being fully Christian, thereby requiring the Spirit of Adoption to fully belong to God?

What spiritual freedoms do Christians have that Muslims and Jews do not possess?

Describe the differences between the prayer positions of Jews, Muslims, and Christians.  How do these different prayer positions help explain the differences between spiritual bondage and spiritual freedom?

Is there a condition of physical bondage or physical freedom associated with the religious practices of Jews, Muslims, or Christians?


Berkhof, L. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1938.

Dockery, David S., Trent C. Butler, Christopher L. Church et al. Holman Bible Handbook. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 1992.

Scott, James M. "Covenant." In The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism, edited by John J. Collins and Daniel C. Harlow. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010.

Swanson, James. Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament). Vol. 1997. electronic ed. Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997.




[1] James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament), electronic ed., vol. 1997 (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), Strong G1397, Greek 1525.

[2] ibid., Strong G5206, Greek 5625.

[3] ibid., Strong G1397, Greek 1525.

[4] Ibid., Strong G3153, Greek 3470.

[5] ibid., Strong G5356, Greek 5785.

[6] ibid., Strong G1657, Greek 1800.

[7] ibid., Strong G1391, Greek 1518.

[8] Ibid., Strong G3814, Greek 4087.

[9] ibid., Strong G4561; Greek 4922.

[10] James M. Scott, "Covenant," in The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism, ed. John J. Collins and Daniel C. Harlow(Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010), 492.

[11] David S. Dockery, Trent C. Butler, Christopher L. Church et al., Holman Bible Handbook (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 1992), 148.

[12] L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1938), 297-298. L. Berkhof separates the Abrahamic Covenant from the Sinai Covenant through only minute differences that include Sinai making it a national covenant, with a conditional element added that addresses Israelite theocratic standing in the nation with external blessings dependent upon keeping the law.  Sinai also includes a detailed ceremonial process, the establishment of a separate priesthood, and a message of salvation to all people. That the Sinai Covenant establishes moral, civil, and ceremonial or religious laws to govern Israelites lives with a national standard reveals in Berkhof’s opinion, that the Sinai Covenant is merely the Abrahamic Covenant with national implications attached and an expanded movement toward works for salvation, with the element of grace underlying the Covenant that is offered by God to them mostly ignored.

[13] ibid., 297.

[14] Ibid., 297-298.

[15] ibid., 299.

[16] It should be noted that Abraham is the father of the Islam nation through his son Ishmael; thus those Muslims continuing in their Islamic religious practices receive the presence of the Spirit of Bondage that the Sinaitic Covenant, law-following Jews, possess.

Last modified: Sunday, 10 November 2013, 1:17 PM