Last week, I met a Gambian man named Abba. We were out together playing cornhole and riding “crazy bikes”, an activity that we do from time to time in an effort to connect with people and share the Gospel with them.
I asked Abba what his name meant in his mother tongue language as we sat together and talked and he explained that it was like someone who did good for other people.
I thought that was interesting, so I asked him to explain it a little bit further.
He explained that it was like when someone was sick and you take them to the “Abba” and they use magic to heal them.
Hmm… How interesting it is that this same term can be used in such different ways. Here we have an Abba that, in the mouths of man, can be used to mean something that is the exact opposite of the way that it is used to address God in the Bible. It speaks of someone who does black magic, who performs spells, even creating a spiritual slavery, in an attempt to heal and hold sway over the people of that town or village.
On the other hand, the word Abba is used in Romans 8 in a very different way. Instead of a term for someone who creates fear and enslavement, it is a term that means “father” or “dad” and can be used even when we are speaking about, or to, God our Father.
Why is this term used in this way? Because God, as our Father or Daddy, makes us his children. We are not his servants or his slaves, but instead as followers of Christ and those who therefore have the Spirit of God within us, he treats us as his children. Here is what Paul said:
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs —heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.Romans 8:14-17
As we can see from what Paul has written here, the presence of the Spirit of God in our lives makes all of the difference. We are not slaves, but instead we are God’s children. And because we are his children, we can cry out to him, “Abba, Father”! How amazing is it that we can cry out to God and he will hear us and respond. The God of the universe, the God that made everything wants to know us and hear from us as his children. Wonderful!
But wait, there is more… Paul goes on to say that if we are truly God’s children because of the Spirit that God has placed within us, we are also God’s heirs. In fact, we are co-heirs with Christ. Yes, we will suffer, but we will also be with Christ in his glory.
Thanks be to God for his wonderful grace and mercy to us. Through Jesus, we have a way to know God and we are so thankful for this because we can call our God our Father, we can call him Abba.