As Children of our Father, we have the privilege of intimacy.
“By him we cry, ‘Abba’” (Rom. 8:15b). In the original language, “Abba” was an Aramaic term which is best translated “Daddy”—a term of the greatest intimacy. Most children don’t always (or even often) address their father as “Father”; likely, he/she has a different term that expresses a loving, trusting familiarity such as “Dad” or “Papa” or “Daddy.” As our children became adults I inherited a new form of greeting: “Hey Pops!” Paul gives us insight into approaching the all-powerful Creator of the universe with the simple humility of a child.
As Children of our Father, we have the privilege of assurance.
“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Rom. 8:16). When we cry out to God as “Abba,” the Spirit of God in some way comes alongside us (“with our spirit”) and gives us assurance that we truly are in God’s family. Debate exists about the nature of this “testimony,” but it appears to be an inner witness in the heart, a sense that yes, he really loves me.
Notice, Paul says our spirit is already testifying: “The Spirit … testifies with our spirit.” This means we already have evidence that we are Christians. We know we trust Christ. We have his promises. We see our lives changing and growing. All these pieces of evidence lead our “spirit”—our hearts—to have a measure of confidence that we really are his. But Paul says that the Spirit can come alongside us and, in addition to all we see, “testify.” This seems to refer to a direct testimony of the Spirit in our hearts. The sense of God’s immediate presence and love that sometimes comes to us (something Paul has already spoken of back in 5:5). We may not sense this all the time, but there will be times when, as we cry out to Abba, we find ourselves deeply assured that he really is our Abba. That is the Spirit’s work, testifying for us and to us that we truly are sons of the living God.
As Children of our Father, we have the privilege of inheritance.
“Now if we are children, then we are heirs” (Rom. 8:17). We have an incredible future. In more ancient times, the first son was the heir. There may have been many children, and all were loved, but the heir got the largest share of the wealth and carried on the family name. This was the way a great family kept its influence intact and did not have it divided and dissipated. (Paul’s reference should not be read as either supporting or rejecting this practice. It is simply illustrative.) There were many practices in Israel’s patriarchal history that were not intended to be the norm for society or for the church for all times, but often we are able to see how these practices pointed to Christ, the firstborn of many brethren, heir to the entire estate. Now, in a breathtaking turn, he calls all Christians “heirs of God.” This is a miracle, of course, because the heir got the lion’s share of the parent’s wealth. Paul is saying that what is in store for us is so grand and glorious that it will be, and will feel, as though we each had alone gotten most of the glory of God.
We experience this intimacy with God as we believe who He is revealed in Jesus. This intimacy is never turned on and off. We have the privilege of being able to meet with God every day, to call Him by name, and ask for His guidance. As Christians we are assured in our faith that once Christ is in our lives, He is in our lives forever. This intimacy, assurance, and inheritance are not won by merit or any effort of good works—but it is the gift of God that those who believe become part of the family of God. Every moment of this life has been given to us through grace. When we know who we are as children of God, we can work for God’s kingdom until He takes us home.
The psalmist in Psalm 71, most likely King David, wrote, “O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come. Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you?” (Ps. 71:17-19).
From the NIV study Bible: “The psalmist knows that it was critical that the faith be passed down through the generations. God told the Israelites to teach their children of him at any time of day or night (Deut. 6:7), and he stressed that each generation needed to enter into the covenant anew (Deut 5:2-3; 29:14-15; Josh 24:25-27). It was not enough to be born an Israelite; each generation had to appropriate the faith for themselves, and it was the responsibility of the entire community to proclaim the faith boldly and to pass it down: parents, priests, and even the king (as here).”
In whatever way God has placed people in your life, whether it’s through teaching, preaching, parenting, governing, or just being in relationships you can proclaim the goodness and truth of God’s Word and the amazing privilege of being a child of God.