Father

by Mike Ratliff

16 οὕτως λαμψάτω τὸ φῶς ὑμῶν ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ὅπως ἴδωσιν ὑμῶν τὰ καλὰ ἔργα καὶ δοξάσωσιν τὸν πατέρα ὑμῶν τὸν ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς. Matthew 5:16 (NA28)

16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16 (NASB) 

15 οὐ γὰρ ἐλάβετε πνεῦμα δουλείας πάλιν εἰς φόβον ἀλλʼ ἐλάβετε πνεῦμα υἱοθεσίας ἐν ᾧ κράζομεν· αββα ὁ πατήρ. Romans 8:15 (NA28)

15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” Romans 8:15 (NASB) 

As Christians we must understand that we are indeed adopted children of God. We were of our father the devil (John 8:44; 1 John 3:8-10). Under him we were indeed, slaves, slaves to sin, under a sentence of death, already dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-3). But we have been adopted into the family of God. We are members of a new family, all the old debts are paid, and we are new people with a new Father.

In the New Testament there are two Greek words translated as Father. The first is πατήρ (patēr), from which are derived English words such as paternity and paternal. In Greek philosophy it referred to the patriarchal head of the family. Most notably however, the Jews of the Old Testament saw five basic principle concerning God’s Fatherhood.

First, they saw God’s Fatherhood in terms of His begetting. 1 Chronicles 20:10 gives Him a title, “Lord God of Israel our Father,” and views Him as the One Who has begotten the nations.

Second, Old Testament Jews saw God’s Fatherhood in terms of His nearness to them. They saw that , as a Father, He is closer than any relative or friend. In Psalm 68, God is viewed riding through the clouds with His 20,000 chariots and angels. But then the psalmist pulls back from this grandeur to view the personal trust–“a father of the fatherless” (v5). What a contrast!

Third, Old Testament Jews saw God’s Fatherhood in terms of His loving grace. The Jews saw God’s Fatherhood as something forgiving, tenderhearted, merciful, and gracious. “Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.” (Psalm 103:13).

Fourth, Old Testament Jews saw God’s Fatherhood in terms of His guidance. Jeremiah wrote, “With weeping they will come, And by supplication I will lead them; I will make them walk by streams of waters, On a straight path in which they will not stumble; For I am a father to Israel” (Jeremiah 31:9).

While those first four views might on the surface seem to sentimentalize God, the fifth view proves that was not the case with the Jews.

Fifth, Old Testament Jews saw God’s Fatherhood in terms of their obedience to Him. Here is the capstone, the view that balances the others. After much rebellion and corruption, Moses said to Israel: “Do you thus repay the LORD, O foolish and unwise people? Is not He your Father who has bought you?” (Deuteronomy 32:6). “After all that God has done for you,” Moses thunders, “this is how you repay Him? You dare to rebel and disobey His Word?”

Those views serve as great reminders of how we view our Heavenly Father. In my daily prayer time before I start my day, I often call out to our great God as, “My Dear Heavenly Father!” What do I mean by that? I mean all those things above plus an abhorrence for any semblance to what I read in the Bible of those who take Him and His grace for granted. I seek a very intimate relationship with Him.

By Jesus’ day God’s Fatherhood was through of more in terms of His overall care for Israel, the intimacy of personal relationship was gone. It even became blasphemous to mention His name–Yahweh.

In Romans 8:15 which I placed at the top of this post is ἀββά (abba), which is actually from the Aramaic ‘ab. While patēr is usually used to translate abba, abba itself appears three times in the New Testament (Mark 14:36; Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6). It was used among Jews as the familiar term children used for their fathers, and is used even today in Hebrew speaking families, not only by small children, bu by adult sons and daughters. An unfortunate English equivalent that has been popularized today is “Daddy.” This term has taken on a too sentimental tone and has given way to a somewhat “buddy-buddy” relationship with God. More precisely it means, “my father,” “Father, my Father.” or “Dear Father,” which emphasize the necessity of reverence. Historically, in fact, childish word (daddy) receded.

That provides us with both a comfort and a challenge.

First, the comfort is that we do have an intimacy with the Father. The Jews of Jesus’ day would never have used this term, thinking it too familiar and inappropriate. But it is quite possible that Jesus used it often, which would have astounded the Jews. He demonstrated that the true believer, as a son or daughter, does, indeed, have an intimate relationship with the Father. Paul captured this when he, too, used the term.

Second, abba also provides a challenge. While there certainly is an intimacy with the Father, there must also be a respect for who He is. This was, of course, the expression the Lord Jesus used as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:36), so both intimacy and respect are present. Yes, our Lord had an intimate relationship with the Father and made requests of Him, but there was still respect and reverence as He came into submission to the Father’s will. This challenges us to be very careful not to barge into God’s presence demanding our desires.

Soli Deo Gloria!