What does Romans 8:15 mean?
ESV: 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!”
NIV: 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.'
NASB: For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons and daughters by which we cry out, 'Abba! Father!'
CSB: For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear. Instead, you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father! "
NLT: So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, 'Abba, Father.'
KJV: 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.
NKJV: For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”
Verse Commentary:
Romans 8:15 is one of Scripture's most beautiful verses about our relationship with God through faith in Christ. It describes how God has changed every Christian's relationship with Him through the power of the Holy Spirit.

In the previous verse, Paul wrote that all who are led by the Spirit of God are His children. Now he gets more specific. Earlier in this letter to the Romans, Paul wrote that through faith in Christ we are freed from slavery to sin and that we become "slaves to righteousness" (Romans 6:18) or "slaves to God" (Romans 6:22). Paul is not backing away from that in this verse. The word used for slaves—doulos—describes what was once known as indentured service: when a person swore their allegiance to remain in the service of a specific master.

Here, though, Paul assures us that God does not view us as His slaves or even just good servants. He did not free us from slavery to sin simply to add us to His team. He rescued us from sin to make us His children. That involves the Holy Spirit.

God did not give us the spirit of slavery, by giving us the Holy Spirit. Abused slaves often live in fear of their masters, and that is not the relationship God wants from us. No, Paul insists, God gave us the Spirit of adoption as his children. In other words, God legally changed the status of those who come to Him by faith in Christ to sons and daughters.

This is not a distant or strained parent/child relationship, either. This Spirit of adoption, another name for the Holy Spirit, allows us to cry out to God as little children call out to a loving daddy. The word Abba is a Greek and English adaptation of the Aramaic word for father. It was often the word used by young children for "papa" or "daddy." That's the relationship God wants with us, and He has made it possible through the Spirit.
Verse Context:
Romans 8:12–17 describes our position in Christ as God's children; those who have been saved through faith in Christ. First, though, Paul warns us that we owe nothing to our old lives in the flesh. That's not who we are any longer. No, since we are led by God's Spirit, we are God's children. God has not given to us a spirit of slavery, but a spirit of adoption into His family. By God's Spirit, we cry out to Him as our ''Abba,'' which is an informal term for ''Father.'' He confirms in our spirit, too, that we are His children.
Chapter Summary:
Romans 8 begins and ends with declarations of the Christian's absolute security before God. There is no condemnation for those in Christ, and nothing will ever be able to separate us from His love. Having believed the gospel, we now live in the Spirit of God. That allows us to call God Abba Father. We suffer with Christ, and we suffer along with all creation while we wait for God to reveal us as His sons. With the help of the Spirit, we are confident that God is for us and loves us in Christ.
Chapter Context:
In Romans 7, Paul revealed his frustration of trying to do good only to be thwarted by his sin. He begins Romans 8, though, with the triumphant statement that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. We live in the Spirit, and we relate to God as a child does to a father. The Spirit helps us in this season of suffering along with all of creation while we wait for our adoption to be complete with the redemption of our bodies. We are confident, though, that God is for us and nothing can separate us from His love.
Book Summary:
The book of Romans is the New Testament's longest, most structured, and most detailed description of Christian theology. Paul lays out the core of the gospel message: salvation by grace alone through faith alone. His intent is to explain the good news of Jesus Christ in accurate and clear terms. As part of this effort, Paul addresses the conflicts between law and grace, between Jews and Gentiles, and between sin and righteousness. As is common in his writing, Paul closes out his letter with a series of practical applications.
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