No Longer Slaves to Fear- Romans 8:15
In this verse. Paul tells us that we “did not receive a spirit that makes us a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship”. Here he contrasts two “spirits”, fear and sonship, with sonship here used in the sense of a son being one who does the will of his father. He is telling us that if we do the will of the Father, we have nothing to fear. It must be noted here that the Greek word translated fear here is phobos, from which we get the English word phobia. It can be defined as “a terror or dread at the anticipation of harm.” This is one of two Greek words translated as fear in the Scriptures, with the other being eulabeia, which refers to the fear of the Lord, a reverence or awe for God. The fear which Paul refers to here then is phobos, terror or dread at the anticipation of harm. What is of interest to us is Paul’s use of the term “slave” here, along with the word “again”. What he is telling us here is that all of us (and all in the world apart from Christ) lived enslaved by fear, but as believers we no longer have to be, we have been freed from a spirit of fear and given a spirit of sonship. So how did we live enslaved by fear, and how do we go about living out our freedom from it? We turn to Hebrews 2:14-18 to find out. In this passage, the author is telling us that Jesus came as one of us, as fully human, and experienced the same things we all experience as human beings. He tells us, in verse 14, that “since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity”. Jesus was a genuine flesh and blood human being just like we are, subjected to all of the weaknesses, frailties and limitations of a human body, becoming one of us in order to die for us, and through that death “destroy him who holds the power of death- that is, the devil”. The word translated destroy here is the Greek katargeo, to make useless or ineffective. The devil is not “destroyed” here in terms of being annihilated, but his power over us, his hold on us, is made ineffective through what Jesus did on the cross. The word katargeo is used in the subjunctive here, which tells us that this freedom has been made possible, but that it is up to every one of us to make it actual by choosing to live out the freedom we have been given. In verse 15, then, the author tells us what we have been given freedom from, and it is the “fear of death”. Just as Paul does in Romans 8:15, the author here tells us that every one of us (and the world apart from Christ) lived as slaves to fear, and here we discover what we lived in fear of, death. Does this mean fear of physical death? Of course it does, but it means much more than just that. Death, in the Bible, is not annihilation but separation. To be dead is to be separated from the source of life, to be spiritually dead is to be separated from God, and to be alive is to be united with God. Those who live separated from God do not live with Him as their source of life, and will substitute someone or something else for God, and that someone or something else will become their source of life. So what the author is also telling us here is that all of us live in fear of being separated from our source of life, that we all live in terror or dread of the possibility of losing our source of life, of being separated from it. An example may help this become more clear. Say we have made our job our source of life. Success at work is what gives us our worth and value as a human being, is what gives meaning and purpose to our lives, is our source of life, our substitute god. If this is the case, then our lives will be “directed” by our job, it will be the top priority in our lives, and all of our decisions will be made with that in mind. Our lives will then be “driven” by the fear of being separated from our source of life, and our lives will be consumed by the fear of losing our job, we will be “enslaved by our fear of death”. What the author here, and Paul in Romans 8, want us to understand is that as believers we have been set free from all of this. It has been made a possibility, but each of us must make it an actuality in our own lives. How do we do so? By living in the”other” type of fear, in eulabeia, reverencing God as our source of life, getting our worth and value as human beings from Him alone, finding His purpose for our lives, living in a spirit of sonship. In this way, we are then enabled to live without phobos, for nothing can “separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39), and we can live our lives as “strangers here in reverent fear (eulabeia)” (1Peter 1:17). This has been made possible for all who are in Christ Jesus, but it is up to each us to make it a reality in our own lives, and we do so by having God as our source of life, getting our worth and value, meaning and purpose from Him alone, and not from any “substitute” god.2 Comments
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