Slaves to Fear?

nick   September 3, 2017   Comments Off on Slaves to Fear?

Last week Mike was talking about fear.

Romans 8.15

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”


I was intrigued by this verse and wanted to look more deeply into what it is truly saying.


Paul was writing this letter that we call Romans to the church in Rome. He’d never been to the city of Rome although he was a citizen of the Roman empire. Now in Rome as well as the whole empire it was normal for people to have household slaves. It’s hard for us to imagine. In fact probably 30% – 40% of the population were slaves

In many households there would be both family members  and there would be slaves. Some would be well treated, some badly treated.

So slavery was a concept the recipients of this letter were very familiar with. Not just something they read about in history books. Vivid contrast. It’s not so vivid for us because we don’t know any slaves and slavery is not a normal part of our culture! The average person in the Roman congregation would know someone who is a slave or maybe would actually be a slave. They would realise that slaves often lived in fear – fear of punishment.

Paul uses this vivid picture of slavery that people could relate to to illustrate what being a Christian is NOT like.


BUT he takes it further – he says not only are you not slaves but you are sons

Not just that you are free, but you are part of God’s family.

The holy spirit does not make you slaves it makes you sons.

But also he is using slavery as a picture of the old covenant. He does in Galatians too.  The law- the old covenant is a covenant of fear and is contrasting it with the new covenant.



Whenever I read about sonship in the bible I think of the story of the prodigal son. He went off, turned his back on the father, wasted his life, did a lot of bad things. When he hit rock bottom and came to his senses he wanted to come back as a servant. BUT he was not a servant he was a son. The father could never have him back as a mere servant. His identity is as a son. That’s the real him. Even when he is not living like a son he is a son.

The older brother is resentful – all this time I’ve been slaving away. Here is a son who has a slave mentality. Christians should never have a slave mentality at the expense of a son mentality. It almost seems very worthy, very holy to just slave away for God. But we are first of all sons.


Now I’d like to talk a bit about fear.

  1. As Christians fear should never be our master

The song says I am no longer a slave to fear

Now a healthy fear is not a bad thing. If I climb a ladder and have no regard to the possibility of falling off that would be foolish. Equally foolish would be to climb two steps and go no further in case I fall off.

Too many Christians are afraid to take risks. Why – because they are afraid of getting it wrong, afraid of looking foolish, afraid of letting God down. Stop focusing on what might go wrong! We want to take out an insurance policy against everything. I have the minimum insurance I can get away with.


I am by no means the most fearless person I know


Illustration – 2 years ago we went to turkey. Saw these people doing paragliding. Next year we went back and I had a secret plan – to go paragliding. I’m not a lover of heights. Up to over 6000ft. What could go wrong? Strapped in with someone who knows what they are doing.


Here’s a picture.

As a Christian you are strapped in with your heavenly father. What can go wrong.

Alpha – afraid no one will come. BBQ – maybe no one will turn up, what if it rains, what if everyone gets food poisining, what if its invaded by drunken yobs…. Maybe it will be a failure. What is dominating this thinking? Fear. Fear of looking stupid, fear of letting God down, fear of what people will think.


So back to our verse


The spirit does not take you back to living under fear like the old covenant with its laws and regulations.

Paul is saying your relationship with God is not based on fear which is what the Law produces – it is based on Sonship. Looking back to the role of the law. The law led to fear. Obedience was brought about by fear of punishment Romans 8.1 – there is now no condemnation – You are now declared not guilty – so don’t go back to being afraid of being found guilty – that’s not the work of the spirit. The work of the spirit is to bring you into sonship – a relationship with your heavenly father that is not based on fear but is based on love.


Why does Paul say adopted sons?


So Paul is bringing this contrast not slaves with all the fear that is attached to that but SONS


He is saying that our primary relationship with father is as sons. Now to pick up on something that mike alluded to last week. The reason that it says adopted sons is because it has Paul is reaching into HIS culture to explain our relationship with God. Not just children. Adopted sons. Sons who have achieved majority and have responsibility.


Modern concept of adoption is to look after  the child – support, care, nourishment. Roman adoption was to pass on an inheritance.

Adoption –an adult male with the view that that person will inherit. Roman adoption was a legal procedure to pass on an inheritance. The caesars adopted their heirs. It was a choice.

When he is saying we are adopted sons, he is not using the general terms for children or offspring. We have been adopted into his family to be heirs and joint heirs with Christ. We have the same legal rights of sonship as Jesus. So that’s why it says sons, not just children. We talk about Jesus as the Son of God not the child of God – so in this respect all Christians, male or female are described as sons.


There is very little in the old testament about God being a father. Very little about hios people being sons or children. The father son relationship was achieved by Jesus at the cross. When jesus tauight them to pray our father that was revolutionary


So what do we conclude?

Don’t live as slaves – live as sons.

Gal 5.1 do not go back to a yoke of slavery. Do not go back to rules and regulations. Do not go back to religiousness. Do not go back as Paul says to revering special days in the calendar.

You are not slaves but sons.

And as Sons you do not have to live in fear – you are strapped in with your heavenly Father


Wherever you go, whatever you do, you do it as a son and heir of God


Whatever you read in the bible read it remembering you are son. Revelation – should not lead to fear. Read it as a son and heir. Read it as a joint heir with Christ..




Being a slave is incompatible with being a son. You need to make a choice – How are you going to live your life?

A slave to fear, a slave to negativity, a slave to emotional hurt?

or a beloved, chosen, adopted son?