Abba, Father — Galatians 4:1-7

Abba, Father

After Christ had celebrated His last Passover and instituted His Supper, He went with His disciples to the garden of Gethsemane. On the way they spoke of many things and as they entered the garden, Christ became very sorrowful. He left most of the disciples near the entrance to the garden and continued on with Peter, James and John. As they walked, He said, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch.” He then went further into the garden and prayed to the father. He knew it wouldn’t be long before the weight of the sins of the world would be upon Him. Then, He would cry, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” As his humanity shrank from what He would be facing, He knows there is only One Who can comfort Him. There is only One to Whom He feels close enough to talk. The disciples He leaves behind, and he cries, “Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.” The word “Abba,” is a transliteration. The word “Father,” is a translation. There is no English word that adequately conveys the meaning of the Aramaic word, “Abba.” This is why the translators gave us this transliteration “Abba.” The word conveys a close intimacy that is reserved for parents and children. We might compare the word to dad, but this doesn’t do it justice. This (Mark 14:36) is the first use of the term in the Scripture. The next time (chronologically) it is used is in Galatians 4:6, which is the focal point of this study through Galatians 4:1-7.

Galatians 4:1-2
Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.

The apostle Paul continues the thought of chapter three with an illustration of position. The heir in “nonage” is no different than a servant. He is dressed to look like a servant child; he obeyed rules like a servant child; he was under the rule of another servant. If you were to see all the children of a household, you would not be able to distinguish the cook’s child from the master’s child. There would be no recognizable difference. All that would change at the time appointed of the father.

Galatians 4:3-5
Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

The heir is compared to the Jews. Paul says that when they were children, they were in bondage under the elements of the world. The Jewish laws were a bondage that they were held under until the appointed time.

Here we come upon one of the most thrilling verses of the Bible “but when the fullness of the time was come.” Why did there need to be a fullness of time? Prophecies needed to be made. We know the prophet had nothing to do with manipulating the fulfillment of his words if he has been dead for several hundred years when it comes true. A nation needed to be prepared with a kingdom and a priestly system. Mankind needed to be distressed; creation needed to be groaning for His coming. The world needed to be peaceful and ready for the coming of the Savior and the spread of His gospel.

At the appointed time the child became a son. There was a ceremony of putting on the toga. It was a predetermined event of the father. The child was a son already, but now he was recognized as such.

So at the appointed time, God sent His Son. 1 John 4:9 tells us it was not just any son, but “His only begotten Son” and that He sent Him “into the world, that we might live through Him.” We recognize the economy of the trinity. The Son is in no way inferior to the Father, but in the administration of the trinity, the Father sends and the Son and Spirit are sent.

This Son was “made of a woman.” This shows Christ’s humanity and deity. While made of a woman, no other human has been made only of a woman. This happened because the Spirit of God brought about the virgin birth of the Son of God. We may also reflect that just as sin entered the world through a woman, so did the Savior!

This Son was “made under the law.” He submitted to all the law. He was circumcised the eighth day; His parents provided all the proper sacrifices for him. He fulfilled all the law. He did this to “redeem them that are under the law.” Christ satisfies all the law. He met its every demand. The law can demand no longer!

Through Christ, at this appointed time, we receive the adoption of sons. The “we” here is the same “we” as in verse three. The Jewish religion was no longer a “child” but was recognized as a “son,” realizing that all the demands of the Jewish laws had been met in Christ and no longer had any strength against mankind.

In a similar vein, those that trust Christ receive the adoption of sons. We are placed in the position of a son. Physically, my home is now heaven; my body is going there. Emotionally, I have an intimate relationship with the Father illustrated by my privilege of calling Him “Father.” Socially, He has put me into the household of faith (Ephesians 3). Spiritually, His Spirit bears witness with my spirit (Romans 8:16). We are his son — a joint-heir with Jesus Christ. This is an incomprehensible thought. Its truths are quite inexpressible. We have the same standing with the Father as His own only begotten Son.

To summarize Paul’s argument, Jewish law (any law system) is for children who are not yet recognized as sons. We contrast that with John 1:12 which says,

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

Those that have received Him, are no longer under the law.

Galatians 4:6-7
And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

In just the same way as he sent His Son, God sent the Spirit. We have do not doubt that the Son came; we should not doubt that the Spirit is here. We love the Son because He “became flesh, and dwelt among us.” The Spirit dwells in our flesh and has been for thousands of years.

God sends the Spirit of His Son into our hearts crying, “Abba, Father.” Just as the Son prayed intimately to the Father in the garden, the Spirit of the Son comes to our hearts and prays in the same intimate way with the Father. And, this is how we should address God in prayer — Father — Abba, Father. The Lord’s model prayer uses the phrase “our father, which art in heaven.” When the spirit prays for us, he addresses the father. We should, as a son, we go to our father with our needs. In heaven’s economy, the Father is the “administrator,” and He is the One Who receives requests. He is the One Who did the sending.

We should be bold in prayer; we should also develop a respectful familiarity. Be precise in your prayers. Who are you praying to? Is that Who Jesus prayed to? Is that Who Jesus taught you to pray to? Is that Who the Holy Spirit prays to when you haven’t the words? Jesus is our Savior and brother, but God is our Abba, Father who sent our Savior. The Holy Spirit is our Comforter and dwells in us, but God sent Him to us. God the Father directs the workings of the trinity and we should bring our petitions to Him.

And we can!!! Not as a petitioner before a court or board; not as a citizen before a king; not as a servant before his lord; not as a friend to another able friend; not as a brother to a willing brother; not as a customer to a responsible provider; but as a son to a father.

“Abba, Father.” The Son cried, “Abba, Father” in the garden. The Spirit, witnessing the adoption in us cries, “Abba, Father.” Led by the Spirit of God, and out from under the bondage of the flesh, we cry, “Abba, Father.” We are heirs of God. Boldly, pray to the Father; relate to Him in an intimate way, as only a son and father could do; and live in the confidence of sonship, not the fear of servanthood.

You can listen to this sermon here.



  1. I preached shorter than normal last night. Someone else who was there would have to say whether it is complete or not.

    Speakers typically repeat themselves a lot. When you do that in print, it doesn’t make as much sense.

  2. Nice ‘fresh’ blog. I have heard that ‘Papa’ is a better definition to Abba than ‘dad’ or ‘daddy.’ I know at least in the some cultures the term ‘Papa’ denotes both reverence and affection.
    Anyway, Blog on!

  3. Yes, ‘papa’ is a better definition. In fact, it seems that ‘abba’ is in the development of the term ‘pope.’ Nevertheless, our ‘papa’ still does not convey the meaning of ‘abba.’ Thus, the transliteration.

  4. I’m confused you said that sin entered into the

    world by one woman(Eve),. but Romans 5:12

    says one man( Adam). Are’nt all of us sinners

    because we are all in Adam(I Cor 15)? If just

    Eve had sinned and Adam had not would the

    human race still be in a state of inoncence?

    1. Hi Phil, Thanks for commenting. I can see how you would be confused by this statement. I had to go back and read the post and then also listen to my sermon to clear it up for myself. My statement is really more of a reflective one. A reflection that while life comes through Christ; Christ was a man that was made of a woman. And while death comes from Adam; Adam sinned by following a woman. I’m not trying to change our theology, just considering a devotional thought.

  5. Thanks,last year I went through a special time with our Father. The spirit came to me last year and woke me up one evening with the message: to call Him ABBA Father. I started to cry of joy and that special feeling to be his intemate son. Cannot descripe his present that moment. I felt He cover me with so much love and affection. From that night He is my ABBA FATHER.

    Daniel (south Africa)

  6. Quite inspiring and needs to be further developed into a universal message, to kindle an end-time revival among bible believers, as well as kindle regeneration among non – believers! We have a fellowship and a TV program in the serene small city of Jos in Nigeria dedicated to “Knowing and Worshipping our Abba Father, as the only true GOD(John 17:3, 1Cor.8:5-6); and Knowing and conforming to the Messiah, as the true Firstborn and our High Priest (Romans 8:29; Hebrews 7: 20-25)”. I would love to interact with you more, to enjoy mutual revelations of this critical subject. The True Worshippers are being found by Him and are arising! (John 4:23-24). Shalom! brother Joshua

  7. Thanks for the definition. Others have replied that Abba is best defined as “Daddy”.

    I feel, from my research, that Abba could be described as a completely informal, close and comfortable term of endearment reserved for a significantly acceptable elder–especially an elder male from which a younger male received valuable, easy, guidance. Thus it may be applied to fathers, brothers, uncles, and village elders alike.

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