Archive for June, 2011

God the Father

I’m currently writing a study on the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit in order to teach on this sorely neglected topic, vital to the Christian faith.  In one section of these notes describing the Holy Spirit as the “Spirit of adoption” I write the following, which I hope blesses you:

Additionally – of those names of the Holy Spirit that we have yet to mention – He is the Spirit of adoption (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:5-6), resulting in the Father’s desire for His children – a deep, personal and intimate relationship (e.g. Mt. 6:5-9).

Jesus’ use of “Father” or “Abba” (cf. Mk. 14:36) in Jewish society was revolutionary; no one in the OT had ever prayed to God using such familiarity – and yet Jesus was encouraging this to be the normal part of the prayer life of His followers.

Gerhard Kittel writes of this use of Abba for God that it “must have sounded familiar and disrespectful to His contemporaries because used in the everyday life of the family.  In other words, He uses the simple ‘speech of a child to its father.’”[1]

NT theologian Joachim Jeremias that

Abba as an address to God in the prayers of Jesus shows that it expresses the heart of Jesus’ relationship to God.  He spoke to God as a child to its father: confidently and securely, and yet at the same time reverently and obediently…Abba as a form of address to God expresses the ultimate mystery of the mission of Jesus.  He was conscious of being authorized to communicate God’s revelation, because God had made himself known to him as Father (Matt. 11:27 par.).[2]

And J.I. Packer writes,

You sum up the whole of New Testament teaching in a single phrase, if you speak of it as a revelation of the Fatherhood of the holy Creator.  In the same way, you sum up the whole of New Testament religion if you describe it as the knowledge of God as one’s holy Father.  If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father.

If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand
Christianity very well at all.  For everything that Christ taught, everything that makes the New Testament new, and better than the Old, everything that is distinctively Christian as opposed to merely Jewish, is summed up in the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God.  “Father” is the Christian name for God.[3]

And the critical import of this outstanding truth is that it is the Holy Spirit who enables us to address our Father as such!  This is vital, in part, because I’ve heard a number of people say that if someone had a poor or even abusive earthly father, that will guarantee that it will be difficult for such a believer to refer to God as his or her “Father.”

Here’s why I disagree with that statement: First, Jesus calls us to address God as our Father; surely people then — as now — had poor or abusive fathers.  The same holds true for the readers of Romans and Galatians.  Indeed, the Holy Spirit can heal us from any wound, however deep that may be.

Having grown up with an alcoholic father, I would certainly be a candidate to have a difficult time calling God my Father.  But by His grace, I’ve chosen to practice the child-like faith Jesus calls us to and therefore have addressed God as my Father for about 30 years now.  And like anything else in life, when we practice something, it becomes a part of us.

My relationship with my heavenly Father has been so special that He really has become the Father that I in a large sense missed out on.  May the Holy Spirit help you to thrive in this journey with the Father!

Gerhard Kittel, ed., Theological Dictionary
of the New Testament
, vol. 1, trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 1964), 6.

Joachim Jeremias, New Testament Theology
(New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1071), 67-68.

J.I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers
Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1973), 182.


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