God the Father — Daddy, Papa, Abba

I hope you were (or are) blessed as I was to have loving Christian parents in your life. What a difference that makes! Both of them are in glory now, but their influence remains in my life and the lives of our children. But if we are a child of God – if we have received Jesus Christ as our Savior, believing His death on Calvary covered our sins and made us right with God – then we also have another Father, who is even more loving, compassionate and forgiving. We often think of God as simply God or maybe even as Father, but how often do we think of Him as ‘Daddy’?

Using three references, I want to look at Abba in the Bible; it is the word used for Daddy or Papa at that time. It is only used in the New Testament since Jesus was the first to use it in addressing God, the Father. Because of His substitutionary death for us, we are now given the privilege to use this special word in addressing the God of the Universe. Mark 14:35-36 is the first use of that special word: Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “Everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

A reference on these verses by IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament states: “Abba” is the Aramaic word for “Papa,” a term of great intimacy and affectionate respect. It was normally the first word a child would utter, but adults could use it for their fathers as well, and students sometimes used it of their teachers. Perhaps because it implied such intimacy, Jewish people never used it of God (though they did call him a heavenly father) except in an occasional parable by a charismatic teacher.

Romans 8:13-15 gives us the next use of Abba: For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

From the same commentary, we read about these verses: Although only a few Roman Jews spoke Aramaic, Jesus’ special address for his Father as “Papa” had become a name for God in early Christian prayers (Gal 4:6), perhaps by Jesus’ design (Matt 6:9). Roman adoption — which could take place at any age — canceled all previous debts and relationships, defining the new son wholly in terms of his new relationship to his father, whose heir he thus became.

Galatians 4:6-7 says: Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.

Referring once more to that commentary about these verses, we read: Roman adoptions required a witness of the transaction: the Holy Spirit performs this function here. That the Spirit should testify is natural, because Judaism understood the Spirit especially as the one who inspired the prophets; the Spirit here inspires believers, speaking to them as he did to the prophets, to remind them of their calling as God’s children. (From IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament by Craig S. Keener Copyright © 1993 by Craig S. Keener. Published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.)

Now that we understand the special relationship that Abba means, are you ready to address Father God as your Papa or Daddy? He has been waiting for you to take that step. He intends each of His children to have such an intimate relationship with Him that we fully come for each of our needs and also for each of our thanksgivings and praises. Then we can approach Abba on behalf of other children of God as well.

What a special place! As much as we may respect and love our earthly fathers, so much more does our heavenly Father want to be our Abba, our Papa, our Daddy. Doesn’t it absolutely amaze you that the Lord God Almighty, the Creator of the universe and all else that is, implores you and me to call Him our Abba, our Papa, our Daddy? Will you give Him that opportunity?


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