June 21, 2024

The Spirit of the Father

Sinclair Ferguson
The Spirit of the Father

When the Holy Spirit indwells us, one of our first and highest privileges is to address God as “Abba! Father” (Rom. 8:15). Today, Sinclair Ferguson expresses the joy of becoming an adopted child of God by the Spirit’s power.


All this week on the podcast, we’ve been thinking about the person of the Holy Spirit, not so much about what He does, His work—although we’ve been thinking about that—but about who He is, His person. And I hope we’ve begun to see that just as we get to know the Father through the revelation of the Lord Jesus—remember He said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father”—the same is true of the Holy Spirit who’s been given to us. And so, our main focus has been getting to know and love the Holy Spirit through His relationship to the Lord Jesus because He is the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ. But He’s also the Spirit of the Father.

Remember how Jesus told His disciples that when they were persecuted or even brought to trial, the Spirit of the Father would help them to speak (Matt. 10:20)? And Jesus explained this also more fully in His final teaching session with the disciples before His crucifixion. He said He would ask the Father, and He would give the Holy Spirit to the disciples because He is indeed the Spirit of the Father (John 14:16). And later on, in John 15:26, He says that the Holy Spirit He sends will be the Spirit who comes to them from the Father. So who sends the Holy Spirit to us, the Father or the Son? Well, yes. But yes what—Father or Son? Well, it’s both, isn’t it? Not one or the other, but both together.

“The Spirit,” says Jesus, “proceeds from the Father.” He goes out from the Father. What Jesus means there is there has always been this wonderful relationship between the Father and the Spirit in all eternity. And now the Spirit who has gone out from the Father—perhaps He means gone out in love towards His Son—that Spirit the Father will send to disciples.

It’s mysterious, beyond our understanding. It stretches our minds. But that’s a good thing, really, isn’t it? We can’t put the Holy Spirit in a box. And Jesus, in these last hours, is apparently giving what He sees to be very practical teaching to the disciples—that if they understand who the Holy Spirit is, they’ll have a wonderful sense of the sheer privilege of being a Christian. They’ll be strengthened in every difficult situation, no matter how bleak it seems.

So, Jesus wanted the disciples to know that the Spirit who would come from Him came right from the very heart of the Father. Just as the Son of God was eternally in the heart of the Father, so the Spirit was eternally proceeding from the Father. Does knowing this really matter or is it significant? Well, why would Jesus teach this?

Well, remember what He said to Philip: “Philip, have I been with you all this time, and you don’t yet know the Father? He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” You see what the Father is like by watching Jesus. There’s nothing in the Father that’s unlike Jesus. And we’ve already seen that there’s nothing in the Spirit that’s unlike Jesus.

And that I think explains what Paul says in Romans 8, and in Galatians 4, that when the Holy Spirit comes to us, we not only say, as he says in 1 Corinthians 12, “Jesus is Lord” by the Spirit, but we also cry “Abba, Father” by the Spirit of the Father. You see, Paul is saying no one can instinctively cry out to God “Abba, Father,” unless they‘re indwelt by the Spirit of the Father and the Son. When we receive the Spirit, we come to confess Jesus as Lord, and we come to know God as our dear heavenly Father. We are actually able to address Him the way Jesus addressed Him, as “Abba, Father.”

I think this is a real test of whether someone is a genuine Christian. I know non-believers can say, for example, the words of the Our Father, the Lord’s Prayer, the Pater Noster. But what I’ve noticed is this, that in a crisis, when they really feel themselves pressed against the wall, the cry that emerges from their lips is, “O God,” at best, and never “Abba, Father.” Because unless we’ve been born again by the Spirit of the Lord Jesus, we don’t have the instincts of God’s true children.

So, in a way, this is our first privilege, our simplest privilege, and also our highest privilege when we are given the gift of the Father’s Spirit, who is also the Spirit of the Son. We call Jesus “Lord,” and we call the Father “Abba, dear Father.” There’s nothing more reassuring or marvelous than that. But it does leave this lingering question: Have you ever called God “Abba, Father”? In order to do that, you need to be able to call the Lord Jesus “Lord and Savior.” I hope you’re able to do that today.