“Abba, Father!”

November 9, 2017

McIntosh Woods State Park, Iowa (Photo by Georgia)
McIntosh Woods State Park, Iowa
(Photo by my cousin, Georgia)

“Abba, Father!”

Message summary: Let us heartily express thanks today to our heavenly Father for His love for us and acting on that love in adopting us, and making us His sons and daughters!

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“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'” (Romans 8:15). I find it helpful to change the pronouns to personalize this text, “For I did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but I received the Spirit of adoption by whom I cry out, ‘Abba, Father’.”

You’re a good good father
It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are
And I’m loved by you
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

Years ago Brooksyne watched a TV program about international adoptions that was very touching. Ester, who is adopted from Guatemala, watched the program with her. I was working in my home office at the time and when the program was over Ester came into the room where I was working. She had that serious look, indicating she wanted to receive a hug. When I did so she said, “Thank you for adopting me.”

That sure stirred my heartstrings and is something that is of great value which I store in my emotional storehouse. This expression of thankfulness meant a lot to me and I draw strength from it whenever I consider it.

But I consider another lesson from this. How often do we express thanks to our heavenly Father for our spiritual adoption? I am not merely speaking of general thankfulness but rather a specific thanksgiving for this act of grace of being adopted into God’s family. We did this often during the days following our adoption (new birth) and the early years, when the striking contrast of our life before Christ was fresh in our memory. However the longer we walk with Christ the distance grows greater from our former way of life and we may simply take this marvelous act of mercy for granted.

The daily Scripture portion tells us what we have and have not received:

1) We did not receive “the spirit of bondage again to fear.”  Paul is saying in essence…The Holy Spirit, whom we have received, does not produce a slavish and anxious state of mind, such as those experience who are under the law, but He produces feelings of affection, reverence, and confidence and enables us, out of the fullness of our hearts, to call God our Father. (from Precept Online Commentary)

2) We did receive “the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father’.”  Elsewhere Paul writes of our previous condition and what happens at our spiritual adoption, “without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:12,13). The word for adoption indicates a new family relation with all the rights, privileges and responsibilities. Hallelujah!

The apostle Peter describes this adoption so succinctly, “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:10).

As a result of receiving this “Spirit of adoption” “we cry out ‘Abba Father.'” It’s very hard to convey the powerful way that this would have impacted the initial recipients of the letter. The Amplified version words it this way, “in the bliss of which we cry. Abba! Father!”

There are three references to “Abba Father” in the Bible (standard translations). Two of them are in Paul’s letters (today’s text and Galatians 4:6). But only one of them is from the gospels and the direct words of Jesus. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus said, “Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36).

“Abba” is a direct transliteration. In other words in the Greek New Testament the word is “Abba”. Most Greek words are translated and look entirely different in the Greek. (see here for Greek interlinear of Romans 8). It is an Aramaic expression that was used in the family like “Daddy” or “Papa” is used today. Until the day of my father’s death in 1998 I always called him “Daddy” even though I was in my mid-forties. I don’t believe I ever addressed him directly as “Father” although when speaking of him to others I did. Perhaps “father” sounded too formal while “daddy” was a more intimate, personal and yet still respectful title. (Brooksyne’s note: It was the same with my father, I always called him Daddy though many in our age group in Lancaster County do address their parents as “Mother” and “Father”.)

Let us heartily express thanks today to our heavenly Father for His love for us and acting on that love in adopting us and making us His sons and daughters.

I have a Father
He calls me His own
He’ll never leave me
No matter where I go

He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
And hears me when I call

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, once we were slaves to sin, but because of Your all-consuming love for us, we are now children of the Most High. We shed the former way of life when we lived unto ourselves and allowed the malignancy of sin to spread like cancer.  Now we walk in newness of life and gratefully bear the name of Christ and identify ourselves as Christians. We are renewed daily by the power of Your Spirit that is within our new nature. Our hearts are now predisposed to loathe sin and love righteousness because we are children of the Heavenly Father.  May we bring honor to our identity as a Christian as we represent the name of Christ in our words and actions.  Amen.


Front lawn oak 11/7/17 (Photo  by Ester)
On a drizzly Tuesday Ester took this photo of our front lawn oak.

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“No Longer Slaves”  Video  Voices Of Lee  Apart from enjoying the lyrics and crisp sound we appreciate the way these young people are so expressive!

“Good, Good Father”  Video  Casting Crowns

“He Knows My Name”  Video   by Maranatha Singers

“Chain Breaker”  Video  Gaither Vocal Band Brooksyne is looking forward to joining the 200 voice Calvary Church Choir (and guests joining them) as they back up the Vocal Band next month in a special Christmas concert at the Santander Arena in Reading, PA. See here for tickets (local readers).

Finally today:  For those who may want to dig deeper here are some thoughts on spiritual adoption by Pastor John Piper.

There are dozens of children and young people and adults in this church who have been legally adopted. You are all loved by your parents with a deep, true, unshakable love just as much or more than if you had been born into your family. And that is the way it is with God. This reality of adoption is a massive, firm, legal reality. And it is a deep, strong, full-hearted emotional reality. When the Holy Spirit is called in Romans 8:15 the Spirit of adoption the meaning is the Spirit confirms and makes real to you this great legal transaction of adoption. If you have trusted Christ as your Lord and Savior and Treasure, then you are adopted. John 1:12, To all who did receive him, who believed in His name, He gave the right (authority) to become children of God.

If you receive Christ, you are adopted…

The Spirit is poured out into our hearts to confirm and make real our adoption. How does he do that according to Romans 8:15? He does it by replacing the fear of a slave toward a master with the love of a son toward a father. “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!” He is contrasting the fear of a slave with the affection of a son. The work of the Holy Spirit in our lives is to change our slavish fears toward God into confident, happy, peaceful affection for God as our father.

Now relate that to the leading of the Spirit in Romans 8:14. This is the other question I said Paul is answering in Romans 8:15: How does the Spirit lead? “All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” How does he lead? How does he move us and enable us to put to death the deeds of the body – to kill sin? Answer: “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons.” The Spirit does not lead by stirring up slavish fear. He leads by stirring up family affection. He does not get you to kill sin by making you a slave who acts out of fear. But by making you a son who acts out of faith and affection…

The Spirit brings about a response in our hearts to the love of God that cries out, “Abba! Father!” The witness of the Holy Spirit that you are a child of God is not a testimony to a neutral heart with no affection for God’s fatherly love so that your neutral heart can draw the logical conclusion that it is a child of God and then try to muster up some appropriate affections. That is not the picture. No. The witness of the Holy Spirit that you are a child of God is the creation in you of affections for God. The testimony of the Holy Spirit IS the cry, “Abba! Father!”

And the reason Paul uses the word “cry” and the Aramaic word “Abba” is because both of them point to deep, affectionate, personal, authentic experience of God’s fatherly love. He didn’t say that the testimony of the Spirit was that we affirm doctrinally that God is father. The devil knows that doctrine. Doctrinal affirmations, as important as they are, don’t make children. What he said was that the testimony of the Spirit that we are God’s children is that from our hearts there rises an irrepressible cry – a cry, not a mere statement, a cry: “Abba! Father!”

We don’t infer logically the fatherhood of God from the testimony of the Spirit. We enjoy emotionally the Fatherhood of God by the testimony of the Spirit. The testimony of the Spirit is not a premise from which we deduce that we are children of God; it is a power by which we delight in being the children of God.

If you want to know that you are a child of God, you don’t put your ear to the Holy Spirit and wait for a whisper; put your ear to the gospel and your eye to the cross of Christ and you pray that the Holy Spirit would enable you to see it and savor it for what it really is. Romans 5:8, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

The testimony of the Spirit is that when we look at cross we cry, “Jesus, you are my Lord!” (1 Corinthians 12:3), and “God, you are my Father!” So look to Christ! Look to Christ! (The Spirit-Led Are the Sons of God)

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