Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Names of God: Father

I have heard it often said, that how one pictures their earthly father, is how one views the heavenly Father. There is some truth in that statement, however, that is not sufficient for me. I want to know the Father better and deeper. In my quest to know the Father, I have found books and references on Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit in abundance, but there seems to be a deficiency in resources on the Father—outside of Bible dictionaries and commentaries. So I am going to share as much with you as I can about the Father. I don’t know if it is possible to do that in one blog post, I will see how far I get.

There are three names for Father in the Bible; Ab, Abba, and Pater. Smith’s Bible Dictionary defines Ab as: (father), an element in the composition of many proper names, of which Abba is a Chaldaic form, having the sense of “endowed with,” “possessed of.” 

Easton Bible Dictionary describes the word Abba: This Syriac or Chaldee word is found three times in the New Testament ( Mark 14:36 ; Romans 8:15 ; Galatians 4:6 ), and in each case is followed by its Greek equivalent, which is translated “father.” It is a term expressing warm affection and filial confidence. It has no perfect equivalent in our language. It has passed into European languages as an ecclesiastical term, “abbot.” 

Finally, the third word for Father, Pater, in the KJV New Testament Greek Lexicon, defines the word in several forms; 1) generator or male ancestor; 2) metaph: the originator and transmitter of anything; one who has infused his own spirit into others, who actuates and governs their minds; one who stands in a father's place and looks after another in a paternal way; a title of honour as in teachers, as those to whom pupils trace back the knowledge and training they have received; the members of the Sanhedrin, whose prerogative it was by virtue of the wisdom and experience in which they excelled, to take charge of the interests of others; 3) a) God is called the Father: of the stars, the heavenly luminaries, because he is their creator, upholder, ruler; b) of all rational and intelligent beings, whether angels or men, because he is their creator, preserver, guardian and protector; c) of spiritual beings and of all men; d) of Christians, as those who through Christ have been exalted to a specially close and intimate relationship with God, and who no longer dread him as a stern judge of sinners, but revere him as their reconciled and loving Father; the Father of Jesus Christ, as one whom God has united to himself in the closest bond of love and intimacy, made acquainted with his purposes, appointed to explain and carry out among men the plan of salvation, and made to share also in his own divine nature by Jesus Christ himself and by the apostles.

Throughout the Bible, God is depicted as a father; the picture though, is rare in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, God is called the Father of the nation of Israel {Deut. 32:6; Isa. 63:16; 64:8; Jer. 3:4, 19; 31:9; Mal. 1:6; 2:10}. He is also called the Father of specific individuals {2 Sam. 7:14; 1 Chron. 17:13; 22:10; 28:6; Ps. 68:5; 89:26}. In other places the imagery of a father is used rather than the term Father, {Exod. 4:22-23; Deut. 1:31; 8:5; 14:1; Ps. 103:13; Jer. 3:22; 31:20; Hos. 11: 1-4; Mal. 3:17}.

The usage for Father in the New Testament was use by Jesus; Father was His favorite term for addressing God. It flowed from the lips of Jesus some sixty-five times in the Synoptic Gospels {Matthew, Mark, Luke} and over one-hundred times in John. The exact term Jesus used is found three times in the New Testament {Abba-Pater Mark 14:36; Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6}. Jesus usage of Father in addressing God was unique in several ways. One, the rarity of this designation for God is striking. There is no evidence in pre-Christian Jewish literature that Jews addressed God 
as Abba.[1] 

Another reason this term is so unique is the intimacy of the term. Abba was reserved for children addressing their father. Earlier scholars and interpreters found the nearest English equivalent to be “daddy,” however, recently, it has been found to have been used by children and adults, as a result it is best to understand Abba as father rather than daddy.[2] This usage of the Abba Father was also unique because of the frequency of the metaphor in the Old Testament and other Jewish literature. It is found over 165 times in the New Testament and fifteen in the entire Old Testament. This was not only a way in which Jesus taught His disciples to address God, it was the only way. When teaching the disciples to pray, He instructed them, “Father, hollowed be your name” {Lk. 11:2}. The Greek-speaking Gentile churches in Galatia and Rome continued to address God as Abba.

I wrote earlier that one views their earthly father, is how they view their heavenly Father. If this is true, and you don’t have a good relationship with your earthly father, there is a deficiency in your relationship with God. How then can we get a healthy Biblical perception of the Father? We must remember, our earthly fathers are only a snapshot of who our true Father is. We cannot judge God by the example of our earthly fathers—whether they were good fathers or not.

When we address God as our Father, we come by relationship; no one can approach God as Father but by Jesus Christ His Son, and His sacrifice at Calvary {Jn. 14:6}. The love the Father has for all that He created is matchless. He loves us so much that He sent Christ to redeem and restore us.

Divine Fatherhood begins not with man, but with the Godhead, in whose eternal depths is found the spring of that Fatherly love that reveals itself in time. It is first of all in relation to the eternal Son—before all time—that the meaning of Fatherhood in God is made clear (John 1:18). In ‘God the Father’ we have a name pointing to that relation which the first Person in the adorable Trinity sustains to ‘Son’ and ‘Holy Spirit’—also Divine (Matthew 28:19). From this eternal fountain-head flow the relations of God as Father (1) to the world by creation;(2) to believers by grace.[3]  

Man was created so that his true nature resembles the Father, and revealed in sonship. Sin unfortunately, frustrated mans relationship with God, and now can only be restored by Christ’s redemption. That is why the place of sonship in the gospel is a privilege not to be taken for granted, and we should bow in humble worship at His love, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him” {1 Jn. 3:1 NASB}. Our sonship was obtained by grace {Jn. 1: 12-13 NASB}, and through adoption by the Father {Rom. 8: 14, 19 NASB}. We are Sons of God which is true of no others. It is a relation, not of nature, but of grace. For this reason I bow my knees before the Father {Eph. 3:14}.

God our Father is the source of all life—all creation. Take time and admire all that God has created—the vast, beautiful, world—it would not exist without Him. God is the Father of Lights—the light of the natural world, the sun, the moon, the stars, shining in the heavens. “He is the light of reason and conscience; the light of His Law; the Light of Prophecy, shining in a dark place.”[4]

He lovingly corrects us, true discipline is always done out of love for His children {Heb. 12:3-11}, if He did not, we would not be true children. As our Father, He provides for our needs, and He desires for us to enjoy everything He has provided through His marvelous creation:

For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” {Matt. 7:8-11 NASB}.

His provision is not only for our material needs, but for our spiritual needs as well. Jesus said that if we ask for the Holy Spirit, God will give Him abundantly. Luke’s Gospel gives a similar account:

For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? 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: 10-14}.

The Father loves you so much; Sometimes it is hard to fathom. Whatever you have done and however far you have run from the Father, He will take you back. He is the ultimate model of forgiveness. He will stand out on the porch and stare down the road—waiting for you to come back to Him. Upon first glance of your return He will run to meet you. He will put a clean robe on your back and a ring on your finger {Luke 15:11-32}. He will protect you and shelter you. He will feed you and take care of you. He will wash you clean and restore you as His son or daughter.

The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt

God revealed through Christ that it is possible to have a personal relationship with Him that goes far beyond just acknowledging Him as the One who created us. We are children in God’s eyes and enjoy a special relationship and love that only a father and his children can share. We are no longer servants having a master, but sons and daughters having a Father.

But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God” {Gal. 4: 4-7 NASB}.

[1] Walter A. Elwell ed., Baker Theological Dictionary Of The Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996), 247.
[2] Ibid.
[3] James Orr, ed., “Father, God” in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 1915.
[4] Herbert Lockyer, All The Divine Names And Titles In The Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), 67.