“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” (Galatians 4:6-7).
Those who lived under the Mosaic Law were subject to a number of rules and regulations that regulated daily life and prescribed the manner in which sinful human beings were permitted to approach a holy God. Although the exact count varies, many sources report that there were as many as 613 individual commandments contained within the Old Testament Law.
While the Law permitted imperfect human beings to approach God and receive genuine forgiveness for their sins, it did not easily facilitate the kind of relationship that one might enjoy with a loving father or other close family member. However, that changed with Jesus’ sacrificial death on our behalf. Through Christ, we can now enjoy the kind of warm, loving, family-oriented relationship with God that is described for us in the passage quoted above.
This new kind of relationship is exemplified by the use of the Aramaic word “Abba,” a word that roughly translates to “Daddy” or “Papa” in modern-day use. Jesus utilized this term in relation to God during His final hours in the Garden of Gethsemane when He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will” (Matthew 14:36).
So Galatians 4:6-7 tells us that those who approach God through Christ can enter into the same kind of secure, loving, and intimate relationship with God the Father that Jesus enjoyed. Through Christ, our interaction with God can become much like the close, trusted relationship that one might experience with a beloved family member. This does not mean that we treat God casually, nonchalantly, or indifferently, for an attitude of respect and reverence should always characterize our relationship with Him. However, it does mean that we can relate to our heavenly Father in a warm, loving manner and not as a cold, remote, impersonal being.
One Biblical scholar places the use of the word “Abba” in perspective for us with the following observation: “It was natural for Jesus, God’s Son in a unique sense, to use this term. Now the Spirit puts the same word on the lips of men and women who are adopted in Christ (Rom. 8:15).” (1)
(1) Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 2080). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.