THE SPIRIT CRYING “ABBA, FATHER” IN OUR HEARTS (Galatians 4:6)
Here we now come to Paul’s placing the final and triumphant arch-stone in his superb apology and argument that righteousness is alone by faith and not by works of law which we perform! It clinches the entire argument and returns to the beginning of this entire argument begun in Galtians 3:2, where he asks the questions: this only would I learn of you: Received ye (Galatians) the Spirit by works of the law or by the hearing of faith? This Spirit by which ye cry Abba, Father, and which works in your hearts, by the preaching of the Gospel and by the use of the Sacraments, a living faith? Surely your receiving of this Spirit was all a gift of grace, gifts of grace as to sons and daughters of adoption by sovereign grace.
Thus is the argument of Paul. Christ has redeemed you from the curse of the law. This is the Christ, Who, in the preaching, was evidently set forth before you as the crucified One. He was sent in the fulness of time by God, made of a woman and made under law to redeem us, in order that we might receive the adoption of sons, and legally have the right to be called the children of God, heirs of God, righteous before God in Christ. We have the right to stand before God justified as those who were ungodly. Thus was Abraham justified. (Rom. 4:5) The righteousness of God in Christ was imputed to Abraham and to His seed by faith!! And thus were all nations blessed in Abraham, justified by faith.
So now we are Sons of God!
We are sons and not slave-servants. Such is our legal status before God in His statute books of His judgment-seat and throne! And this is the point-of-departure here in our text: “And because ye are sons. . . .” We should notice that Paul speaks here in the second person: ye are sons. He is speaking directly to the Galatians and making an assertion concerning their legal status before God. He does not merely say: since the elect and all the children of God are sons, No, he says, “because ye are sons.” In that capacity you have received the Spirit of God in Christ. Calvary is the basis and reason for Pentecost! This truth Paul drives home here with great cogency and force of argument.
Let us not forget that the “Spirit” here is the indwelling Spirit in the hearts of these Galatians. If this were not true they would be none of Christ’s (Rom. 8:9, 10) He is the Spirit of God and also the Spirit of Christ. (Rom. 8:9) He is the Spirit of God as He is the Spirit of Christ, Who is the head of the church. This Spirit is the life-giving Spirit as the Spirit of Christ. By this indwelling Spirit also our mortal bodies shall be raised with Christ. (Rom. 8:11) By this indwelling Spirit we mortify the practices of the body, the indwelling sins, the workings of sin in our members. In this Spirit we are the temple of God, His dwelling-place in the Spirit. (I Cor. 6:19, 20; Eph. 2:21, 22) In this Spirit we grow into a holy temple in the Lord.
This is the Spirit of God which God sends into our hearts. The verb “sends” is the same verb in the Greek text which is used in verse 4 where we read that he “sent His Son in the fulness of time.” The verb is “exapesteilen.” It is a form which means not a repeated sending but refers to a one time action. There was a time when God sent His Son. It was in the fulness of time. There is also a time when God sent His Spirit into our hearts, crying Abba, Father. That was closely connected with this fulness of time; it was at the time appointed of God when the Spirit was sent forth from heaven on that day when “Pentecost was fully come.” (Acts 2:1) Then there came from heaven the sound as of a mighty rushing wind and cloven tongues like as of fire and sat upon each of them. It was the arrival of the abiding presence of the Spirit in the hearts of the believers of the New Testament Church, Jew and Greek. Everyone heard in his own tongue the wonderful works of God. (Acts 2:11) And this Spirit of God received a commission, a task to perform. He has a mandate from the throne of God and of the Lamb from which the living waters flow. (Rev. 22:1-5) He must dwell in the hearts of those who were redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, and dwell in their hearts and take the fulness of Christ and give it unto the church, each according to the measure of the gift of Christ. (Eph. 4:7) And He has a mission in these “hearts” of the saints; hearts from which all the life of these children springs forth as a fountain (John 4:14; John 7:37-39) and there he must cry in their hearts. The term to cry in the Greek is “krazon” and is a participle, and refers to a present, ever activity of the Spirit in the hearts of the sons of adoption. Lexicons tell us that the verb refers to an inarticulate cry, to cry out harshly. It refers to a very strong cry, a great cry of a child to his Father in heaven. It is a cry which only a child can cry for his loving Father. It is Spirit-wrought.
Viewed superficially, one might gain the impression from the text that we have here some mysticism in which the Spirit is the only subject of the crying in us, and that there is not the subject of the person of the children of God also crying: Abba, Father! Paul’s purpose in our text is not, to teach everything concerning this mystery of godliness in the sons of adoption. He is merely clinching his argument that they are sons because the Spirit cries in them so loudly. What comes from their lips is fruit of the Spirit. (I Cor. 12:3) It is really the perpetual sacrifice of praise from the lips, confessing His name. (Heb. 13:15, 16) However, Paul teaches more explicitly on this mystery in Rom. 8:15, 16, 17. There he speaks of the Spirit as the Spirit of adoption. Formerly the church in the Old Testament had a Spirit of bondage to fear. Such we have not received now. We are adopted sons. And we need the Spirit of the Son of God, as the “Spirit of adoption.” And this Spirit of adoption cries in our hearts “Abba, Father.” However, the mode of operation of the Spirit is that He works in such a mysterious way in our hearts that He “testifies with our spirit.” Hence, there are two subjects crying in the redeemed Christian. The spirit of the Christian whereby in his soul and mind he is adapted to God, and the Holy Spirit Who dwells in him as in His temple. The Holy Spirit testifies with our spirit in such an assuring way that we stand before the God of heaven and earth and “cry” Abba, Father. It is a child’s cry which comes forth from our lips! It is not the cry of a servant, a slave in the house of his master. But it is the cry of the prodigal, who comes to himself, and says, “I will arise and go to my father, and I will say: father, I have sinned against heaven and against thee, I am no more worthy to be called thy son; make me as one of thy hirelings, servants. . . .” (Luke 15:18, 19) It is the Spirit Who so applies the words of Jesus, when He teaches us to say, “Our Father,. Who art in heaven,” that we have a childlike trust and confidence that He is our God and Father for Christ’s sake. (Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 41, Question 120). And the Spirit of adoption so testifies in our hearts that we from out of the depths of our heart cry: Abba, Father! And therefore we both cry. The Spirit works in us both the willing and the doing of this cry of our lips.
Now this is the fruit from which the tree is known. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit. A good and well-born son of the Spirit cannot but say: Father. That is his great privilege of election of grace. For this purpose was the church formed that she might sing the Father’s praises in many sonnets and hymns and spiritual songs, making melody in her heart. Of these Isaiah says, “This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise.” (Isaiah 43:21)
TRULY SONS, AND NOT SERVANTS (Galatians 4:7)
Sons of God who are free-born must not ever let any would-be preacher tell them that they must return to where they have the “spirit of bondage again unto fear.” All their lifetime they must not be in fear of death and of Satan’s bondage. Christ came to destroy the power of the devil. (Heb. 2:14-16) He made an open shame of principality and powers. He nailed the handwriting which was against us to the Cross. He triumphed over every foe which would hold his people into bondage. (Col. 2:14-16)
The ironclad test that we are no longer servants of sin, but that we are sons of God by adoption is in the fact that God has sent His Spirit into our hearts crying: Abba, Father. That is the final confirmation that we are heirs of the promise by faith alone. It stops the mouth of all contradiction. If we have the Spirit we are sons of God. Hence, the finality of Paul’s brief “and if a son, then an heir through God.”
There are two different readings here in the Greek text. We prefer the shorter and more striking reading over the longer and more commonplace reading, which is given us in the KJV text of our Bible. This text in our Bible reads, “then an heir of God through Christ.” The shorter and more striking reading is “then an heirthrough God.”
The great truth is that we are “heirs” of eternal life. We receive it merely as a free gift of grace. It is not merited. We are elected to be sons of adoption. To these the Spirit is given; and in the receiving of the Spirit we receive the inheritance. The promise is then realized, and that unconditionally in sovereign grace and mercy.
For we are heirs through God. It is His sovereign will and good-pleasure that we are heirs. It is not of him that willeth, nor of Him that runneth, but of God Who giveth mercy. In this will of God the purpose of election stands!
Paul has a very great way of bringing this point home to the Galatians. In verse 5 he says that “we might receive the adoption of sons.” Here he evidently refers to the entire church: Old and New Testament, Jew and Greek might receive the adoption. There is no difference here between Jew and Greek. In verse 6 he refers to the entire church at Galatia. Ye have received the Spirit which cries, Abba, Father. However, here he makes this very personal. He says, “wherefore thou art no more a servant but a son.” Each believer is here assured and admonished by this admonition of the Gospel that we are not to reckon ourselves to be mere servants, but to stand in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and glory in our sonship of adoption, crying in the Spirit: Abba, Father.