Study Guide


Everyday Theology - Romans 8:15-17 - Study Guide

Posted by Kim Stiver on

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Throughout the Everyday Theology sermon series, we will explore foundational principles of the Christian faith in chapters 5-8 of the book of Romans. Rather than giving us only knowledge
about God and His plan for restoring our relationship with Him through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, we will learn from Paul what it means to have more of God Himself and the life Jesus died to give us — right now and for eternity. 

The study guide includes a warm-up question designed to help your group focus on the primary Scripture passage and its theological implications. (Note: there is no video teaching for this week.) The discussion section will jump into the meaning and impact of Paul’s major points. We’ll wrap things up with questions that explore how the passage applies to us today as followers of Jesus in a modern and chaotic world. For more info and ideas on leading your group, visit our sermon series resource page.

Please also encourage your group members to check out Daily Steps, Cornerstone's companion devotional guide for individual reflection, prayer, and meditation on related Scripture selections throughout the week!


J.L. Packer said in his book, Knowing God, that a Christian is best summed up as someone who knows God as his Father. “You sum up the whole of New Testament religion if you describe it as the knowledge of God as one’s holy Father. If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father,” he wrote. “For everything that Christ taught, everything that makes the New Testament new, and better than the Old, everything that is distinctively Christian as opposed to merely Jewish, is summed up in the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God. ‘Father’ is the Christian name for God. Our understanding of Christianity cannot be better than our grasp of adoption.”

As you think about your own understanding of what it means to call God your Heavenly Father, share what makes your relationship with Him so special.

What does having Him as a father mean to you? In what ways do you want to draw even closer to Him as your father? 


This week, we are jumping right into our discussion time without a study guide video. 

In this portion of Romans 8, Paul spends time contrasting what life is like before and after a person comes to know Jesus and places his or her trust in Him. As he does throughout most of his books, Paul draws on the current cultural and governing practices of the Roman Empire to make his point. In this case, he draws a direct comparison between the life of a slave and the life of an adopted child.

According to historian Kyle Harper, 10 to 15 percent of the population of ancient Rome was slaves, who were captured as spoils of war, forced into servitude to pay off debts, or were purchased from slave traders. With such a high percentage of people in bondage, the Christians Paul addressed in Romans would be very familiar with his analogy. 

Read Romans 8:14-18 in four different translations of the Bible — ESV, TPT, NLT, and The Message. (Leader Tip: Click the link to see all four versions in parallel.)

In his sermon, Pastor Steve Madsen addresses three critical points from this passage and we will dive in together to discuss each of them in more detail: 

  • Before knowing Jesus, we all were slaves to sin and fear

  • Because of Jesus, we are adopted as sons and daughters of God and became heirs to His glorious inheritance

  • As sons and daughters, we can call God “Abba, Father” and have nothing to fear

Moving from slavery to courageously living in freedom

Read the first part of verse 15 in all four of the translations again. Notice the different nuances of each version.

  • In what ways are they similar? Share with the group which version you relate to the most and why. 

The ESV version talks about slavery followed by the phrase “fall back into fear” and the TPT refers to the “spirit of religious duty” that “leads you back into the fear of never being good enough.”

  • When you think of your past before you knew Jesus, did you have any awareness of being a slave? Do you relate or not to Paul’s use of the slavery analogy? 
  • As a follower of Jesus today, what still makes you feel fearful — falling back into sin, punishment for your sins, not doing enough for God, or something else all together entirely? Share with your group as you feel comfortable doing so. 

Adoption as sons and daughters with a beautiful inheritance

Pastor Steve Madsen said in his sermon this week, “Paul uses the word ‘adoption’ to describe what God does for us and the Roman audience would naturally think about this new Father-child relationship where our old sin-debts are paid, we are given a new name, and we are set up to inherit everything of the Father’s.” 

  • The TPT version of verse 15 describes our holy adoption as “full acceptance” and being “enfolded in the family of God.” What does adoption mean to you? What rights and privileges come with it?

  • Verse 14 says, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” How would you describe what it means to be led by the Spirit of God?

  • He often guides each of us in a unique, personal way. What are some ways that you know God is leading you? Conversely, how do you know when you are not being led by God and need to make a course correction?

  • Romans is not the only book to speak about our royalty as children of God. Read these verses together: 1 Peter 2:9, Luke 22:24-30, Isaiah 62:3.

  • What additional insights jump out at you about our holy adoption into God’s family? What is expected of us? 

God’s heirs have nothing to fear

Pastor Steve reminded us that Jesus taught His disciples to pray by beginning with, "Our Father,” which was scandalous for that time period. The idea that a person could be so intimate and familiar with God as to approach Him crying, “Daddy,” was unheard of, especially for the Jews. Even today, however, many people still struggle with the intimacy that comes with thinking of God as their tender and loving Father. Pastor Steve said, “As wonderful as it is to revere Him, until we see Him as our Dad there is too much distance between us and Him.” 

  • Does it feel comfortable for you to address Him that way? Why or why not?

  • How has your trust and intimacy with God as your father changed through the years of being a Christian? If you are a new believer, what has it been like to think of Him that way? 

Verse 15 in the ESV says that we have received the spirit of adoption, not the spirit of fear. The Message version describes that kind of courage this way: "This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who He is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance!”

  • When something scary or difficult comes your way, do you think it would help you to say to God, “What’s next, Papa?” How does asking this question with positive exuberance change things? 

  • For you personally, does knowing that God will take care of you with a glorious inheritance in the future help you be more courageous?

  • If so, describe the feelings that you get when you think of yourself as the child of a King compared to a child in bondage. If you are feeling fearful, what do you think would help you feel braver? 

Approach your Father as Jesus did

As you close your time together, spend a few minutes praying The Lord’s Prayer found in Luke 11:1-4 or reciting the traditional full-length version. Take the time to go around the room to allow each person to say it or read it individually. As you listen to other people read or pray, notice the different inflections of their voices and how personal it sounds to them. 

Everyone has a next step with Jesus...What's yours?

Spend Time Alone with God

Daily Steps is a weekly devotional message designed as a companion to this sermon study guide. You will be guided as you spend time with God through personal reflection, Scripture readings, and prayer prompts. 


Get Your Worship On!

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