15 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!”(ESV)
In this verse Paul is contrasting two ways we people relate to God: slaves and sons. Slaves relate to God as a master to be feared. Sons relate to God relationally, intimately, as a Daddy! The distinction depends upon the spirit received. A spirit of slavery produces a fearful way of relating to God as master. When the Spirit of adoption is received, the result is intimate, familial, affectionate relationship.
The word “adoption” is an interesting word. It means “to place as a son”. Take a look at what Wuest says about this term.
“Adoption” is huiothesias (?????????), made up of “son” and “to place.” Thus, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit who places children of God (teknon(??????) born ones) as adult sons in a legal standing before God and in relation to Him. Vincent quotes a Mr. Merivale, “The process of legal adoption by which the chosen heir became entitled not only to the reversion of the property but to the civil status, to the burdens as well as the rights of the adopter—became, as it were, his other self, one with him Wuest, K. S. (1997, c1984). Wuest’s word studies from the Greek New Testament : For the English reader(Ro 8:14). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
Notice that this kind of adoption is not necessarily the receiving of one outside the family into the family. Huiothesias (adoption) involves the setting in of a teknon (a child born into the family) as a huios (a mature son ready to manage the family business). Notice the connection Paul makes between this adoption and inheritance.
16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.(ESV)
A huios (mature son) still remains a teknon (born child) once the status of huios is conferred upon him (adoption). In both stages he is the chosen heir, but once his maturity is recognized, he is fully authorized to do business in the family name as a full heir. Now, take a look at the following passages from Galatians through this lens.
24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.(ESV)
1 I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father.(ESV)
In these verses you can see the same idea. While young, the child, though fully an heir, relates within the household much like a slave would. But there is a time appointed by his father when he no longer relates to the father as a master and begins to live within the household as a son and heir. Taking these passages together it seems that the transition into mature Sonship is both a function of justification by faith and the indwelling of the Spirit.
The implications of this are staggering. Every believer justified by faith and indwelt by the Spirit of God has access to this way of relating to God as Daddy! Though this is available to every believer, my own experience tells me that many choose to continue on within the household as slaves. What is needed is a fresh revelation of grace and a fresh experience of the Spirit which together will release us from a life of bondage into the full experience of Sonship. What we need is to experience the Father’s love.