Daily Bible Reading Reflections

“Abba”: The Childlike Cry of an Adopted Heir

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (Gal 4:4-7)

“Abba!” It’s the Aramaic word for “father.” But this letter of Paul was written to churches throughout the region of Galatia in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). These weren’t typical Aramaic-speakers. This was Greek and Latin territory. Aramaic was the common language of much smaller towns like Nazareth in Galilee or Bethlehem in Judea. So why would Paul, writing to disciples in thoroughly-Gentile territory, use an Aramaic word?

Aramaic was the everyday language of Jesus.

One dark night, years before Paul wrote his letter to the Galatians, Jesus led his apostles to the Garden of Gethsemane.

And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:32-36)

On the darkest night of his life, from the depths of great distress, Jesus spoke the word any little boy from Nazareth would have used as he reached for his father. “Abba.” The same word Paul uses to teach disciples in Galatia about their own relationship in Christ with the Father in heaven.

How extraordinary that we–former slaves of sin–might receive adoption as sons and daughters of God! And because we are his adopted children, we are heirs. God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba!”

Slow down, take a moment, and personalize this incredible truth: because Jesus has intervened for me, I can address my Father in heaven with the same childlike cry as the Son of God himself! I am no longer a slave. I am a child of God. When I bow my head and lift my heart in prayer, the first word on my lips doesn’t have to be “Judge,” “Executioner,” or even “Lord.” In Jesus’ name, my prayers as an adopted heir are welcomed to begin with “Abba, Father.”

“Pray then like this:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.'” (Matt 6:9)

What an indescribably precious gift.