The Spirit Of His Son Who Calls Out Abba Father
Key Verse 4:6
“Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’”
Paul was broken hearted that the young and inexperienced Galatian Christians were so easily fooled by those who wanted to make them Law-abiding Jews like themselves. Here we’re talking about God’s laws, so when we say “Law-abiding”, it actually sounds like the right thing to do. But that’s where the trick is. The whole concept of the Christian faith confirms that no one is able to achieve righteousness (that is, no one is able to be accepted by God) through obedience to Laws of God; and for that reason God sent his Son Jesus to make the way for us to be accepted by God. He reconciled us with God through his death and resurrection. And when we believe this, trusting that his death brings us forgiveness and his resurrection justifies us, then we are truly justified. Then God give us his Spirit to live in us and to do his glorious work to purify and mold us on the inside to be like Christ. That is the sum of our Christian faith. After becoming a Christian, there is no need to once again rely on the Law for extra credit or merit with God. We are already Christians. You are already Christians, accepted by God, sons of God, heirs to the promises God made to those who trust him and live by faith in him. That is what Paul was desperate to have the Galatians understand. To become good Law-abiding Jewish Christians now was a farce, a false teaching, the work of demons, teachings from the pit of hell— fabricated by Satan to make you stumble; to make you fall; to make you slaves again after you had been set free. You need do nothing to grow in your righteousness because you are already righteous. All you need to do is bask and rejoice in your sonship and rely on the Spirit to grow in your inner person as children of God, ever closer to your Father God.
What Paul wrote here in this letter is our salvation from slipping back into slavery, which seems to be the case with so many Christians. The problem these people brought to the church is serious enough that Paul writes against it from every angel you can imagine. So the teaching in this letter is for all Christians of all time, and of all places. No one is immune to this heresy because by nature it is so sinister and underhanded, and one more thing: So appealing to our flesh— our sinful nature— that nature which loves to receive glory unto itself puffing up the self in a way that makes the “self” feel and look good in a way. That is why, Christians so easily sweep aside the one sided grace of Jesus for even one moment of “self” glory and praise. The Galatians fell for this kind of demonic heresy because the teaching appealed to their “self” glory seeking and their love for the praise of others. That was their problem!
Jesus gave his life on the cross so that our life— our “self”— our “sinful nature”— our corrupt flesh may die. The “flesh” and anything pertaining to the “flesh” is so utterly corrupt and cannot ever please God, even if what we do with the flesh— the “self” seems good and noble and holy in our eyes and to the eyes of the world. Jesus gave his life to rescue us from that original scam that tells us to be good and do good and on the judgment day God couldn’t but notice your efforts at being good and doing good, and will usher you in to the kingdom because you deserve at least some credit for being good and for doing good. But it’s scam— a scam that has deceived and misled all the world’s religions, and philosophies and teachings! It will never happen! It will never happen because the flesh and all that is of the flesh and what we do in the flesh is corrupt and cannot come into God’s presence nor be accepted by him. How foolish it is when men live within the cloud of darkness which engulfs this world— to think that anything done in the darkness— whether good or bad— is God-worthy. (Romans 3:10-18, 23; Isaiah 64:6) That is why Jesus died. He died that we might crucify the flesh and all its works and live by the Spirit, for no one can come into God’s presence nor please God except by the Spirit. But the flesh (that should be dead) still loves to score some points for itself, to feel good about doing something good and holy; to feel some worth and to gain some merit, no matter how small. And that is why Satan’s scam is so clever— it appeals to the “flesh” to the “self” which has no business to do anything but to die!
And so, the Galatians fell to that great scam. After being freed from the Law through the grace of Jesus, false Christians came and told them that now they ought to begin abiding by the Law, get circumcised and such, so that they might guarantee their inner growth, and ultimately their salvation. It didn’t seem as if it were scam, but seemed the good and right thing to do. It appealed to them because it was an opportunity for the flesh— the self— to gain some glory. It was an opportunity for them to boast in their Christian lives for the things they do as Christians. An opportunity to feel good about their Christian lives doing something that others were not doing. As I said before, the grace of Jesus would have us magnify only Christ in us, and leave that dead flesh on that cross. The grace of Jesus would have us completely rely on the Spirit, so that no one but God— the Spirit— receive glory.
So they were tricked into becoming law-abiding. It made those who were teaching them this heresy happy— gained their approval. Now they were doing something that so many other Christians were not doing. They thought, how fortunate I am that I am such a good Law abiding Christian now, while others are not. How happy I am that I have some gauge now by which I can tell if I am pleasing to God or not. How great it is to do all these things that would honor God and make him happy with me. They were no longer Christians who glory in the grace of Jesus, but Christians who take pride in all that they do for God in the flesh. And if that is not simple to understand, let me make it very clear by giving you some examples. Look how easy it is to fall into that trap. Here in this church we emphasize mission and testimony writing, fishing and daily bread, feeding sheep and early morning prayer, faith marriage, fellowship meetings and one to one Bible study and Sunday attendance. (Some churches emphasize structure, method, ideology, practice, others emphasize sacrament and such.) Let me be very clear on this: These activities are not bad in and of themselves. They are absolutely in accordance with the Spirit and will of God who calls us to serve his purpose. But herewith lies the danger. These things can so easily become our source of righteousness. They can become the gauge by which we measure our Christian lives, our growth, the pleasure of God, our acceptance before God, our view of other Christians who may or may not engage in them. And that is how we move away from the grace of Jesus, from the righteousness that is by faith, and fall into slavery all over again. How do we know when they have become our source of righteousness? We know when we take pride in them and expect others to do as we do, and measure our lives and the lives of others by whether they are engaging in them or not. We know when they have become the sign of our or their “sonship” [of whether we or they are genuine Christian]. When we infer that without practicing such things, they are missing out on God’s blessing, or cannot grow spiritually to be effective and productive Christians. If and when we begin to glory in such things, then we know that such things (practices) have become our source of righteousness. We should know this is the work of demons who want us to trust in our works for our own glory rather than in Christ Jesus in whom we have righteousness.
Let me remind you one more time, that the “flesh” the “self” though crucified with Christ always wants to live again, even for moments and bits and pieces of glory. The “self”, if we do not keep it crucified and dead, would do anything to steal the glory from the Grace of the Lord Jesus. And it would even use the good Christian practices as a means to gain righteousness for itself. But you are righteous already by the work of Jesus Christ. You are already sons accepted by God, and there is nothing you can do or not do that would gain you more righteousness. You are no longer slaves, but sons and daughters of the Living God, and already heirs of all the promises. And that, by the work of Christ on the cross, where you too are crucified in him and you no longer live but Christ lives in you. So live in Christ and let Christ live in you so that you may fulfill your purpose in God. That is what Paul wants so much for the Galatians to understand and mature in this life giving knowledge.
Read 3:26-4:7. The emphasis is on sons. If you do not know that you are son, or a daughter of God already, and that by the work of Jesus, then you are in trouble. People perish without this deep truth ingrained on their hearts. Paul in these verses is teaching the church something very important. The whole concept of Law being a guardian until the son or daughter are mature to become an active member of the family is very interesting. In other words we need to mature and take our place as sons and daughters of God. There was a time when you were immature and unable to fulfill your role in taking care of family estate and business. You had guardians taking care of you. But now “when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” God had a two fold purpose here in sending his Son to us. To redeem those under the law, as well as to receive the full rights of sons. In 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 we read these words: “However, as it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’— but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.” God loves us, and has prepared something great for those who love him, who trust him, and put their faith in his Son. What did he prepare for us? He prepared for us “sonship” and this is the greatest thing that has every happened from the beginning of time. No human being had ever hoped to be a son or daughter of God. At best God’s people hoped to be redeemed, to be forgiven, to have a chance to escape God’s wrath and judgment. No one ever truly understood the full measure of God’s love. God sent his Son not only to redeem us but to make us sons and daughters of God.
How do we know we have become his sons and daughters. Paul tells us here that God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. This is marvelous. We know we are now sons and daughters by his Spirit who lives in us. No human being can ever know such a deep and wondrous thing on their own. Even holy men tried to search the deep things of God, and mutilated their bodies and lashed themselves, and climbed mountains, lived in the sorrow of repentance, did all these things, and still could not for a moment get a glimpse on whether God has accepted them or not, or if what they did or were doing for God is enough or not. People lived and died without knowing if they were even accepted by God, if they would ever make it to heaven, if they are even known by God. But here is our glory. Jesus redeemed us, that is, Jesus not only removed the stain of sin from our hearts and the guilt and shame of it, but he has fully forgiven us completely! And we have the assurance of forgiveness so that we are not unsure day by day whether we are forgiven or not. We have an assurance that though we are still sinners, that Jesus has granted us full pardon and forgiveness. We know this how? By the Spirit he has put in us. The Spirit of God is the gift of God for those who believe. The Spirit assures us of our redemption from sin, and the forgiveness of God. It is an assurance that no one can get just by wishing it. It is the Spirit who tells us in our hearts that we are forgiven.
In the same way, not only redemption is our assurance, but sonship as well. We know by the Spirit of God that we are his sons and daughters. That is the great and glorious thing we have, the assurance that we are his sons and daughters. We know this, and no one need to tell us. The Spirit reveals many things to those who are in Christ Jesus. Mostly the Spirit reveals our sonship. We are children of God, we belong to him, we are his most precious possession. Look at verse 6. “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’” In Romans 8:16 Paul also says: “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” He also says: “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation— but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Romans 8:11-14) It is our inheritance and assurance that we are led by the Spirit of God, because we are his sons and daughters. You have no obligation to satisfy the flesh desires any longer— those desires that cater to the sinful nature— but especially those desires that are for self glory, and the boasting of the flesh. As a child of God you have the Spirit of God and your desire is to live for God and his glory. Here is what else Paul says as confirmation: “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.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:15-16) What Paul is saying here is the complement to what he is saying to the Galatians and us. You are sons who have the Spirit of God— not just any spirit— but the Spirit of God who lives in you and is with you, who enables you to put to death your flesh, and to live for God. More than anything else, the Spirit himself is the one who testifies that you are God’s children— you call him “Father”. What a glorious assurance we have in this! Yes we have many things in Christ, but by far, the seal of our sonship is supreme. God is our Father. We are his children. And our righteousness has nothing to do with anything we do, but we are righteous by his work— forever.
Most Christians have an experience in this truth that they are sons and daughters of God. Usually the experience comes due to some hardship or difficulty. Of course, they do not need an experience. But usually the experience brings them to full impact with “Abba, Father”. In difficult times when we are struggling with undesirable feelings and emotions, in difficult times of unwanted fears, and failures, and trouble where we are left unsure about today or tomorrow, what can we do? Christians who are helpless in their situation, fearful of something, troubled and distressed, they find themselves broken. They turn their head down and cry out “Father, Lord, Abba, my Father, I am helpless and troubled and do not know what to do, I do not know who to turn to, I do not know what will happen next, but Father Lord I trust you. I trust that you love me and will do whatever it is that is best for me, even if I do not like it, I trust you.” That itself is an assurance that no ordinary human being can ever achieve, unless they have the Spirit of God, and by that Spirit they can pray and cry out to their Father God, Abba, my Abba. God makes himself real to us during times of our distress and trouble. Paul was in prison many times. But one time it must have been really bad because he felt all alone. Listen to what he tells us about his experience. “At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth.” (2 Timothy 4:16-17) God our Father stood by Paul when no one else would. How glorious it is to have such a father as ours who stands by us and takes good care of us in all our needs. Hebrews 13:5 says: “… God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” I trust I am his son, and I trust that you also are his sons and daughters if the Spirit of God lives in you. And for those who have no assurance that the Spirit of God lives in them, God our Father wants them to come into his family through faith in his Son Jesus.
Look at verse 7. So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.” An heir to all that is in and of Christ such that whatever Christ Jesus has also belongs to us, his children, namely the Spirit, the inheritance of eternal life and of the kingdom of God. We also have all the assurance in heaven and on earth that God will fulfill in us his great and glorious purpose. Just don’t become slaves again to the flesh and to things that appeal to the flesh, even if they should disguise themselves as good Christian practices. Good Christian practices are good because they are part of God’s great plan to advance his kingdom, but not for the sake of righteousness. That is the freedom we have in Christ, that we are righteous and are sons and daughters without having done or needing do anything, that it was all done by his grace, for his glory. As John the Baptist said, we ought to make it our prayer too now that we are sons and daughters of God. “He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30) Read our key verse again. Gal 3:6. “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’”