How should I understand God as Abba Father?
Abba is an Aramaic (or, at least, Semitic) word for "Father." There is some debate as to the connotations of the word. Many have translated it as "Daddy," denoting a small child's label for his or her father. Recent scholars have stated that Abba is not a childish word, but a term of respect. It is "Father" as used by an adult child. Certainly still familial, but also containing a sense of reverence and respect. These scholars add that the definite article often seen with Abba gives the term a sense of "the Father" or "my Father." Regardless, for God to be our Abba Father means that He is our Father. The term carries with it a sense of closeness. Followers of Christ are adopted into God's family. We are made His children.
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Romans 8:14-17 says, "For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, 'Abba! Father!' The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him." We have been fully accepted into the family of God. We are not outsiders, but true sons and daughters. We are heirs with Christ. We were not saved only to be God's witnesses or workers, but to be part of His family. Believers are granted the right to participate in the fullness of God's plan. We experience the rewards of redemption.
Ephesians 1:3-14 gives another description of what it means to be children of God:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
God chose us. We did not earn our status as adopted children. Before He created the world, God knew the plan of redemption. It is only by His grace that we have been made righteous (Ephesians 2:8-10). And only by His grace that God further chose to add us to His family.
When He brought us into His family, God gave us full rights. We are not viewed as guests, but as family. Therefore, God not only forgives us but makes things known to us. He does not keep "family secrets." Rather, He reveals His plan to us in as much as we are able to handle it, just as a father reveals things to his growing child at the appropriate developmental level. God speaks to us as a good father speaks to his children. God has also availed Himself to us. We can approach God with confidence (Hebrews 4:14-16). We need not fear approaching God in prayer. We pray to our Father, knowing that He is King, but also knowing that He loves us and calls us His own.
We also have an inheritance, one that is guaranteed to us. We are a permanent part of God's family. We are not merely included for a certain amount of time, but granted full sonship.
God does all of this "to the praise of his glory." As His children, believers represent God to the world. Just as human children are a product of their families and their behavior often reflects on their families, so does ours on God.
Many struggle with the concept of God as father. Earthly fathers fail their children. Even those who are good by human standards are not perfect. Sadly, there are many fathers who are abusive and neglectful. These men are not a reflection of who God is as Father. God is the perfect Father. He does not disappoint like our earthly fathers do. He does not abuse or shame. He disciplines in love (Hebrews 12:7-11). He deserves, and even demands, respect. He is also incredibly loving and intimately personal. He knows our needs, and He supplies them (Matthew 6:31-33).
God cares for us as a good father cares for his children. We belong to God as a child belongs to a father. The family name of God has been granted to believers. Our salvation is secure in Him. Our earthly life is secure in Him. We can approach Him as we would a gentle father, with familial closeness mixed with respect.
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