We have been talking about grace and how hard we work to earn that which we can not despite that grace. At the end we began looking at Grace and how Abraham was made righteous by faith through the grace that was made available to us from before time began in Christ. I would like to begin this section with a couple of questions. Why do we work so hard? Why do we strive day after day to achieve righteousness and show ourselves deserving of our eternal reward?
In part, it is a lack of faith; we don’t believe that it could really be all that simple. We have been brought up to believe that we need to do things to earn and deserve praise, to earn our position. This is nothing new really, Paul felt compelled to write to the Galatians:
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? — Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? (Galatians 3:1-3)
The church in Galatia was not embroiled in sin, they had not done horrible things, but they had allowed their eyes to be taken from Jesus. Their focus had shifted from grace to works, and they had begun to do stuff, religious stuff instead of relying upon the completed work of Jesus. Trying to justify themselves, to prove themselves worthy, they had in a sense, unplugged themselves from the tree of life and re-attached themselves to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
A little earlier in Galatians, Paul tells us that we have been crucified in Christ, and that it is no longer we that live, but Christ that lives in us. He states it even more specifically in 1 Corinthians 5:17:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
The term new creation is very interesting, the word used for new there is the Greek Kainos. It literally means: “of a new kind, unprecedented, novel, uncommon, unheard of.” When we accept the atoning grace of Jesus Christ the old person that we were, is no more, it has passed away. The old man burdened and condemned under the law of sin and death dies and is resurrected in Jesus as a new creation in Him. Indeed our very spiritual DNA is changed. We are no longer sons and daughters of man, but sons and daughters of the Most High God.
Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live, For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. (Romans 8:12-17)
And again in Galatians 4:4-7:
But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
We are no longer of this world, in bondage to the law of sin and death, but we are redeemed, adopted as sons and daughters of God. Our inheritance is not of this world but of the Kingdom of God. We didn’t do anything to deserve it, but it is a free gift received by grace. We don’t have to wait for an audience with the King to make our petitions known, but we can come boldly, confident in our relationship as a son or daughter to our Abba. Let’s pause and look at that word for a second. Abba is not just the name of a popular rock band in the 80’s. It is a name of God. It is actually not Greek, but Aramaic, and is not translated into Greek but coupled with the Greek word Pater, or Father, and so we see them together, but it does not mean Father in a strict sense. It is a less formal name, according to Vines Expository Dictionary (in part):
abba (Αββα̂) is an Aramaic word … It approximates to a personal name, in contrast to “Father,” with which it is always joined in the NT. This is probably due to the fact that, abba having practically become a proper name, Greek-speaking Jews added the Greek word pater, “father,” from the language they used. Abba is the word framed by the lips of infants, and betokens unreasoning trust; “father” expresses an intelligent apprehension of the relationship. The two together express the love and intelligent confidence of the child.
So then it is a more intimate expression of the relationship of parent and child, today we would say Dad, or Daddy, rather than Father, and in the Middle East it is still used so today. I want you to catch that it is not a formal, religious expression, but rather one born out of intimacy, familiarity, and confidence in the goodness and safety of the relationship. Let’s look at the words of Jesus:
If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:11–13)
This passage speaks of the Father giving the Holy Spirit to those who ask, but I want to establish a principle. We all have earthly fathers, some good, some not so much, but they all shared something in common, one way or another, they failed us, caused us hurt, disappointed us, misunderstood us, they were all human, and as good as they tried to be, they fell short. Yet our Heavenly Father, being God, will never fail us. If our earthly fathers, with all their failings, tried to provide for us, and give us good things, how much more so will our Heavenly Father do those things? We come before him with confidence, knowing not only are we accepted in the beloved, but that He will always give us not just good things, but the best, HIS best. We don’t have to beg, we don‘t have to flatter, or cajole, we don’t have to earn it, we simply have to ask.
So let us trust in our Heavenly Father who knows how to give us good things and whom we can always trust to do so. Let us rest in that trust and pause to ask ourselves why we do the “stuff” we do. Is it because God commanded it? Or is it because we were taught it was the right thing to do? Are we trusting, or trying? We will look further at that in part 3.