What should I call God?

For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15)

When we think of adoption, we think of small children in orphanages, but in Roman times powerful men adopted young men to make them their heirs. Indeed, the Roman world was ruled by a man who had been adopted in this manner.

As a young man, Gaius Octavius was adopted by his famous uncle Julius Caesar. With Caesar’s name, estate, and legions, Gaius was put on a fast track to royalty (or tyranny). We know him today as the emperor Augustus.

This is the sort of adoption that Paul has in mind here. As adopted sons we inherit a new name along with all the resources of heaven.

“We cry out, “Abba! Father!” Abba is the Aramaic word for father. It is a word of familial intimacy, not unlike Papa (which is how the Message Bible translates it).

Abba is also a word uniquely associated with prayer. On each of the three occasions Abba appears in the Bible, it is in the context of crying out to God in prayer (Mark 14:36, Galatians 4:6).

“We cry” suggests a boldness that comes from familiarity. “Father, I need you!” There is nothing timid in the petition of a child who knows that she is dearly-loved by her Father.

When we talk or pray or praise God, we are talking to our Papa-Father who loves us dearly. He is not a judge to fear or a distant and capricious deity.

He is our Father who hears the cries of his children and strides across the heavens to help us (Deuteronomy 33:26).

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Categorized as Sonship

By Paul Ellis

Author of award-winning commentaries

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