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KJV Rom 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.

Westcott and Hort / [NA27 variants] οὐ γὰρ ἐλάβετε πνεῦμα δουλείας πάλιν εἰς φόβον, ἀλλὰ ἐλάβετε πνεῦμα υἱοθεσίας, ἐν ᾧ κράζομεν Ἀββά ὁ πατήρ·

What are these "spirits"?

NOTE: There is no definite article for "spirit" in either place in the Greek.

  • These are descriptions of what the Spirit is and is not rather than individual spirits. – Perry Webb Jul 27 '18 at 20:00
  • Perry: are you saying "spirit of bondage" is a description of the Holy Spirit? – fumanchu Jul 27 '18 at 20:57
  • @fumanchu the "not" says that the Spirit is not of bondage. In other words "spirit of bondage" is a description of what the Spirit is not. – Perry Webb Jul 27 '18 at 21:08
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    @PerryWebb So, is Paul saying "the [Holy] Spirit which you received does not bring bondage and thus fear but rather brings adoption" and by the Spirit we cry out Father"? – Ruminator Jul 27 '18 at 23:56
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    Jesus' words: "15 I do not call you slaves anymore, because a slave doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from My Father." The Holy Bible: Holman Christian standard version. (2009). (Jn 15:15). Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers. – Perry Webb Jul 28 '18 at 18:56
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As usual, @Ruminator's comments and questions are exceedingly good and this is no exception.

In my observation "Spirit" (=pneuma in Greek) is used in the New Testament in different senses that approximately parallel the modern English usage with an important twist. (This list will not be exhaustive - ANLEX has a longer list.)

  • "spirit" can refer to the Holy Spirit, part of the Godhead and often (but not always) distinguished by the use of the definite article
  • "spirit" can refer to some other spirits such as angels (this is the subject of another question in this forum)
  • "spirit" can refer literally to a wind or breath (John 3:8a, 2 Thess 2:8)
  • "spirit" can also be used in the sense of disposition or an attitude of mind such as, "that child displays a selfish spirit" (eg, 1 Cor 14:32.) But here is the twist. In ancient times, almost everything was thought to be connected, somehow, with the gods or spirits. Thus, an attitude of mind was often attributed to the influence of a corresponding spirit. The extent to which each person attributed a person's attitude of mind to either personal choice and life experience vs "spiritual" influence varied from person to person and situation to situation. The same is true today. The Bible also blurs this distinction as well.

See: ANLEX at https://www.logos.com/product/1788/analytical-lexicon-of-the-greek-new-testament

Allow me to venture an opinion: I think that the quoted example (and others in a closely related question but the same enquirer) actually intends both - The influence of the Holy Spirit, and the training of the Christian life, produces an attitude of freedom that is displayed in the Christian life. This, I suggest, is one of Paul's contentions - that we develop the "mind of Christ" (2 Cor 2:16).

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  • Hi. Can you please supply the source (hopefully a lexicon) for your list of usages for PNEUMA. Thanks. You can get to a good lexicon online for free here: biblehub.com/romans/8-15.htm – Ruminator Jul 27 '18 at 23:41
  • @Ruminator - see ANLEX by Friberg, et al. – user25930 Jul 27 '18 at 23:43
  • So are you seeing the 1st and 4th usages in your list being what Paul is using? – Ruminator Jul 27 '18 at 23:52
  • @Ruminator - approximately yes. See also W E Vine's Expository Dictionary "SPIRIT" entry. However, I would allow that sharp distinctions between these shades of meaning are not always possible but are often (deliberately??) blurred. – user25930 Jul 28 '18 at 0:53
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What makes the “spirit of bondage” appear to be an actual spirit is the word, πάλιν, translated “again” by the KJV and “to fall back” in the ESV; thus, the idea of returning to a previous state. That’s where some take it to be the law. In the previous verses in chapter 8 Paul contrasted the Spirit with the flesh. However he never uses the term spirit in relation to the flesh. The question also arises, what does Paul mean by the flesh? While this could be an enormous discussion in itself, in Galatians 4:21-31 Paul used the example of Hagar and Sarah. Hagar was also associated with bondage or slavery. Hagar’s son was the result of human effort while Sarah’s son was the result of God promise and beyond human ability to conceive. Thus the flesh represents human effort and ability independent of the Spirit.

Thus, if we identify the spirit of bondage with something, it is the flesh or human effort or self-will. This is how Jews attempted to keep the Mosaic Law. But, of course, human effort fails and all have sinned (Romans 3:23). Note Jesus’ words:

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:34–36, ESV)

Paul also has this theme in Romans 6.

It is clear that the Spirit of Adoption is the Holy Spirit:

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. (Romans 8:9, ESV).

While if we can identify the spirit of bondage, it is the unregenerate spirit of human will and effort. However, "spirit of bondage" tells us that the Holy Spirit does not return us to the bondage of requiring us to keep the Mosaic Law. Our salvation is not a matter of futile human effort and self-righteousness.

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Paul seems to be clarifying that the role of the breath of life in producing holiness is not characterized by preaching the law (with its attendant fear of punishment). Instead the breath of life's ministry is characterized by strengthening the believer's confidence in the death, resurrection and return of Christ. Instead of saying "Hey, you aren't keeping the law so you are condemned" it says "you have been adopted by God. Your flesh has been condemned to death. You are a child of God and a co-heir with Christ of everlasting life in his God's family with endless blessings. You am not a debtor to sin but are am debtor to God." And so on.

Paul is clarifying and expanding on the role of the holy spirit in the new humanity as one who does not repeat the failures of the law but instead advances the ministry of the gospel in our lives by reinforcing our position and hope in Christ.

So one could translate:

Rom 8:15  For ye have not received [from God] the spirit [the inner advocate] of bondage [to the law] again to fear [its punishments]; but ye have received the Spirit [inner advocate of our new relation to God of] adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

This teaching enables the believer to distinguish between the "dead end" natural thoughts, Satanic thoughts and old habits that result in old patterns of defeat from the powerful confidence that comes from the ministry of the holy spirit calling to our attention the power of God at work through the cross and the newness of life to which the believer has been called. This leads directly into the crescendo of perfect trust that is the brilliant triumph of the gospel at the end of the chapter.

KJV Rom 8:23  And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.  Rom 8:24  For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?  Rom 8:25  But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.  Rom 8:26  Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.  Rom 8:27  And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.  Rom 8:28  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.  Rom 8:29  For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.  Rom 8:30  Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.  Rom 8:31  What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?  Rom 8:32  He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?  Rom 8:33  Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth.  Rom 8:34  Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.  Rom 8:35  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  Rom 8:36  As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.  Rom 8:37  Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.  Rom 8:38  For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,  Rom 8:39  Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

"Think on these things":

KJV Php 4:6  Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  Php 4:7  And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  Php 4:8  Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.  Php 4:9  Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

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Rom. 8:16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,

The first Spirit here refers to the Holy Spirit, the second to our human spirit. (We are spirit, soul, and body (1 Thes. 5:23, Heb. 4:12)).

In verse 15, we have received a spirit of sonship. This spirit is our human spirit.

Gal. 4:6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!"

Our spirit is a spirit of sonship because the Spirit of His Son is mingled with our spirit. We are not merely adopted but we have His life and nature (2 Pet. 1:4).

Now, concerning the spirit of bondage, I like Brother Perry's explanation.

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