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Romans 8:5-17 (Part 3)

Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 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.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. (verses 14-16)


What an amazing passage.

First off, don’t read it as being gender specific. Paul starts the passage by talking about “sons” and ends by speaking about “children.” He’s using the terms interchangeably to refer to all of us, whether female or male, who are “in Christ.”

The reason he starts by speaking of “sons” is because of the cultural context of his day. He’s wanting to communicate that the full legal rights and privileges of male children in Roman households is a picture for all of us regarding our place of privilege and belonging in the household of God. Amazing. He’s contrasting our standing with that of household slaves, just as Jesus himself stated: “A slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever” (John 8:35). No wonder a slave in such a household would have a spirit of fear and insecurity - they could be sold at a moment’s notice. But a son’s position was entirely different, absolutely secure.

When Paul goes further to say we have “received the Spirit of sonship,” he’s using a specific word that means “adoption as sons.” No, we weren’t actually born into the family in the first place. We started with “outsider” status. But we have been adopted, the Father having set us in his line of sights, deliberately choosing us, and legally making us a fully privileged part of the family. Again, this is in line with Roman law of the time. When someone was adopted as a son, they received the full legal rights of a natural born son of the family. This is Paul’s point. Each of us who is in Christ fully belongs, with all the rights and permanent status of membership in God’s family.

But it’s not just a legal transaction. No. We are embraced into the very heart of the Father. Indeed, he sends his Spirit into the core of our lives to cry out, “Abba, Father!” This is entirely relational, deeply intimate, and fully experiential, indeed emotional. That’s the sense of the word “cry,” being strong and emotive, coming from a “truth deeply felt and intensely experienced” (as one commentator puts it). This is heart-knowledge, not merely intellectual assent.

But the word that is most powerful in the cry itself is the little word, “Abba.” It’s an Aramaic word that would have been on the lips of any daughter or son when speaking with their own father. It is a word of love, affection, and deep belonging, a word that could only be used by those who had this unique relationship in the family. Significantly, it’s the word Jesus himself used in reference to God the Father. Such daring intimacy was not an established part of Jewish spiritual life. Yet Jesus used it unabashedly. It uniquely captured his own sense of privileged position and relationship with his Father.

Significantly, the Spirit of Jesus causes this very same word of intimacy to be cried out from our own hearts. We belong. We have received full adoption. “In Christ,” we, too, have a permanent place in the family, just like Jesus himself. What privilege. What wonder.

“Abba, Father!” It’s the cry of embrace and belonging.


Abba, Father. I cry out, under the anointing of your Spirit, using the very words of Jesus. Thank you for fully embracing even me, naming me your child, giving me eternal belonging. I love you, Abba. Praise your name.


Pray: Take this simple cry and make it your prayer all day long. “Abba, Father!” In moments of quiet, in moments of need, in the midst of crisis, in times of success and joy, cry out. “Abba, Father!"

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