William Andrew Dillard
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF “ABBA”
In contrasting Old Testament and New Testament covenantal life, notice how Paul details it quite clearly in Romans Chapter Eight. The possibility of saved people walking after the flesh is real and warned against in strong terms. The warning begins in Verse One which restricts the “no condemnation” status to a spiritually correct walk. The possibility of that occurring is underscored in Verse Fifteen, “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” What is the significance of “Abba?” Think with me for a moment!
“Abba” is a Hebrew term which translates as “Father” in English as indicated in the text. This is a new term for first century church members who were largely Jewish. They formerly called upon the Creator as “Lord God” and that always in fear as they learned their sinfulness in contrast to the total righteousness of God. They had a long history of learning the severity of the Law, and the punishment associated with breaking it. So, the term “Abba” or “Father” is new and peculiar to the New Covenant.
The spirit of the Old Covenant was one of bondage. The Spirit of the New Covenant is one of loving endearment, and an understanding of the Lord God of the Old Testament now as “Our Father.”
This reality is directly attributable to the Spirit of adoption so noted in the text. But to the English reader, “adoption” is a legal term which denotes admitting one to a family as a legal heir who is not such by birth. This is NOT what is meant by the text. The term “adoption” here is a translation of the Greek word “Huiothesia” which mean to place in the position of a mature son. That position of maturity in spiritual matters is intricately linked to the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, the pillar and ground of the truth, even the same body on which the Holy Spirit came to take up tutorial residence on Pentecost, Acts 2. Therefore, the term is not a term of relationship, but a term of position.
How blessed are modern, dedicated, members of New Testament Churches! Here, they are led to spiritual maturity by which they are enabled to make correct decisions and judgments as the bride of Christ in the absence of the bridegroom. We do not cower before Him as the stern Lord God, but humbly bow before our loving Heavenly “Abba!”