Romans 8:14-16 says,
All those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children.
The phrase “Abba, Father” was new and exciting for the first believers to receive Paul’s letter. The first believers were Jewish, and Jews never dared to utter the name of God. They would not refer to Him with an affectionate name like “Father.”
The Jews were afraid to utter His name. Theologians are not sure how Yahweh was pronounced in the Old Testament because there is no record of how people pronounced the proper name of God, the name He gave Himself. Even when the Jews wrote the name of God, they would leave out the vowels because they believed His name was too pure for human hands to write.
While Jesus walked this earth, He referred to God the Father with the intimate Aramaic term “Abba.” This was scandalous because the Jews viewed God as distant, too holy even to mention. Then Jesus enters our world and refers to God with the intimate term “Father.”
The apostle Paul wrote the book of Romans in Greek, but when he says, we cry “Abba, Father,” he grabs the Aramaic word “Abba” that Jesus used. He was boldly saying we now, by God’s grace, enjoy the same relationship with God the Father that Jesus enjoyed. He is our Father, just as He is to Jesus.
He is close to us because of one moment, one moment recorded in the Gospels, where Jesus does not use “Abba” in His reference to God. When Jesus is on the cross, He yells out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” In this moment Jesus was being condemned for us, becoming sin for us; thus He could not enjoy the close relationship with Abba. He experienced painful separation from the Father so we can experience joyful connection with Him.
The identity we have as His sons and daughters is a work done exclusively by God on our behalf. He sought us, suffered for us, and sent His Spirits into our hearts. He is our Father. We are His. And our increasing awareness of our identity as His adopted children results in greater gratitude and joyful obedience.
Adapted from Transformational Discipleship (B&H Publishing Group, 2012)