“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.’” Romans 8:15
Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis has a beautiful, stately auditorium. I’ll never forget the time I preached there. I was taken with the beauty of it all—the chimes of the carillon, the poetry of the liturgy, and even the majestic robes that the pastor Dr. Sandy Willson and I were wearing. It was all very ornate and regal.
I was soaking in the experience as I climbed the steps up to the platform, when I noticed something surprising—something that seemed strangely out of place. Perched on Dr. Willson’s robed lap was his four-year-old daughter! In the midst of all this majesty, my friend had welcomed his little girl to sit on the platform with him, right there in public. Incredible!
That wonderful picture is still etched in my mind.
I think about it when I read through our passage in Romans 8: 1-15. The apostle Paul has just reminded us that we are free from condemnation—that sin and death no longer have a claim on us if we have surrendered to Jesus (Rom. 8:1-2). Our minds are no longer held captive by sin and we are free to set them on what God desires (Rom. 8:5-8). And with the Holy Spirit now living within us, we are truly alive, able to live a life that better reflects Christ (Rom. 8:9-11). Then we get to the picture Paul paints in Rom. 8:15.
We no longer have to be slaves to fear, Paul says. Look at your world. People all around us are gripped by fear—fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of loss, fear of the future, and the fear of death. But in Jesus it’s all gone. Paul says that the Holy Spirit, living within the followers of Jesus, sets us free from our bondage to that fear.
And if that weren’t good enough, there’s more.
Paul then makes the staggering claim that we have the “Spirit of sonship.” We’ve been adopted into the family of God! He makes the claim explicit by giving us permission to call God—the Creator of the Universe—“Abba, Father.” In the language of Paul’s day, “Abba” was really the equivalent of “Daddy.” Imagine that! God says to you and to me, “You know what? Now that you’re my son (or daughter), I want you to call me Daddy!” Or, if you want a slightly more masculine metaphor, picture a father affectionately calling his son over and saying, “Give me a high five!” It’s intimate, close access with the Father because you’re a privileged child. He loves to be close to you. His own Son, Jesus, died to give you the privilege of being able to call the most important Person in the universe “Abba, Father”!
That’s why the picture of Dr. Willson with his daughter on his lap was so moving to me. Dr. Willson’s position hadn’t changed. He had a position of authority, of respect, and of honor. Nothing about that moment changed his position. But this little girl had immediate access to her father, and she felt safe with him. She was welcomed to his lap, and he was proud to be her daddy.
God’s position doesn’t change when we obey Scripture and call him our “Dad.” He is the ultimate authority, infinitely worthy of our honor and our respect. That never changes. But it makes the privilege of intimacy with the Father all the more incredible and all the more wonderful. Don’t waste another minute sensing that you are too small and insignificant to merit a special relationship with God. Jesus died to make you God’s child. Climb up on His lap and feel safe with Him.
Dare to call Him “Dad”!
- The privilege of calling God your Father is available to those who have placed their hope and trust in Jesus and His death and resurrection. Have you made that commitment and experienced His forgiveness and cleansing?
- List some of the privileges of being a child of God.
- How does being able to call the Creator of the universe “Dad” impact your attitude in prayer and in worship?