We’ve been going through an old list of questions and answers contained in the Westminster Larger Catechism published in the 17th Century. In particular, we’ve been looking at the communion the church has with Christ and the mediation Christ brings. We saw that part of Christ’s mediation involves adoption, which is an act of God’s free grace whereby God’s name is put upon you. But what else does adoption involve?
The apostle Paul teaches us that, if we are children of God, God has given us the Holy Spirit. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, we read ‘So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father”’ (Galatians 4:3-6).
What does it mean to have the Holy Spirit in you? One thing it means is that you are able to draw close to your new Father and speak to him with a real intimacy.
Notice what Paul says, it is by the Spirit that we can now cry out ‘Abba, Father’. The word ‘Abba’ is Aramaic for ‘Father’. But originally this was a term of endearment that was rarely used in reference to God – it was considered too intimate. A modern English equivalent might be ‘Daddy’.
You just don’t call God ‘Daddy’. It sounds disrespectful. To call God the Father ‘Abba’ is even more outrageous when you consider who you are and who God is. He is a holy God, you are a rebellious sinner. How could you approach God with such a term of affection?
We would be happy to make an exception for Jesus to call God ‘Abba’. He is the sinless one. So we read, with approval, in Mark’s gospel: ‘“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you”’ (Mark 14:36)
Yet we would also agree that the Holy Spirit is close enough to God the Father that he can call God, ‘Abba’. After, all they have been in a perfect loving relationship with one another for all eternity. The Spirit and the Father know a loving intimacy that is beyond our imagination.
So if we are adopted into God’s family and receive the Spirit of Christ, it is reasonable that we can join both Jesus and the Spirit in calling God ‘Abba’. Through both the Son and the Spirit we can enjoy an intimacy with God that few could have dreamed of enjoying.
Why is such an intimacy enjoyable? We no longer fear God because of our sin. This is what Paul teaches the church in Rome: ‘For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father”’ (Romans 8:15). Our adoption drives out fear by the Spirit of Christ.
How can you enjoy such an intimacy with God by the Holy Spirit? Turn to God by repentance and faith. If you truly turn from your sins and trust in Jesus for your salvation, then you can enjoy adoption into God’s family. And if you are adopted into God’s family, then you can cry ‘Abba, Father’ by the Holy Spirit and no longer fear God’s wrath for sin.