Abba, Father , by Nathan James
Did you ever ask yourself, “Why did God
create the earth?” I have, and I’ve seen the answer
in God’s Word. In Genesis, we see clearly that the world
was made for mankind. Indeed, even the stars, so very far away,
are there for us.
1:14 and 15:
And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven
to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and
for seasons. and for days. and years:
15 And let them be for lights in the
firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was
sun, moon, and stars were all made for mankind, to give us light,
and seasons, and days, and years, and to be signs showing God’s
master plan. The stars announced the birth of Jesus Christ. That’s
how the wise men knew to come looking for “...he that is
born King of the Jews….” (Matthew 2:2) It wasn’t
because God lacked servants that He made the earth. He had the
angels to serve Him, and to acknowledge Him as God. What was it,
then, that God gained in mankind? It was the father-son relationship.
That is something God did not have with the angels.
For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my
Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him
a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?
heart’s desire was fulfilled in mankind, but not in every
man and woman. Although some teach that everyone is a child of
God, this is not what God says in His Word. God has said that
Jesus Christ is His firstborn. Christ, whose birth was foretold
in the Scriptures, and heralded from the sky, was the first to
truly be God’s Son. He is called the “only begotten”
Son of God (John 3:16) because He is the only one who is God’s
Son by physical birth. The Scriptures testify to the closeness
of the Father and the Son.
11:42a; and 16:32:
And I knew that thou hearest me always: ...
16:32 Behold; the hour cometh, yea,
is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own,
and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the
Father is with me.
Christ had great confidence in his relationship with his Father,
and he and God looked forward to a whole family of sons,
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed
to the image of his Son, that he [His Son] might be the firstborn
among many brethren.
now makes up this family? Who are these “many brethren?”
They are the men and women whom God knew would believe in Jesus
Christ. These are the sons for whom God lovingly prepared the
earth. When you and I believed and confessed Jesus as the Lord,
we became born again. Now, we are brothers of Jesus Christ and,
truly, sons of God.
The Lord has left us a phrase in the Word that highlights
the closeness of this father-son relationship which He so longed
for throughout the ages. This phrase is, “Abba,
Father.” It is rather amazing that the word abba has been preserved, and even carried into our modern English Bibles.
Abba is an Aramaic word, and it was transliterated into Greek
letters when it was written in the Greek manuscripts. It was later
transliterated into English letters. It is a foreign word that
God has preserved to draw our attention, and it shows us something
The Greek word for “father” is pater,
and it has a broad usage. Pater could mean a father,
or an ancestor, or a respected elder, or the inventor/originator
of something. It was also used as a title of honor for teachers,
and even members of the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of ancient
Israel. The Hebrew and Aramaic word that is equivalent to pater is ab. Ab is very formal, and was used in ways
similar to those mentioned for pater. Abba (from ab), on the other hand, was used very specifically of
one’s actual father. It is more intimate, like the English
word “daddy.” Some scholars say that Jesus, who spoke
Aramaic, not Greek, referred to God as his abba frequently.
Speaking to God in such an informal and familiar way would have
been seen as disrespectful by the religious leaders of the time.
That’s because the Jews never spoke to God as their father.
Throughout the Old Testament, the believers’ relationship
to God was that of servants to their lord. Jesus Christ, however,
was God’s only begotten Son. He had every right to call
his Father, “Daddy.”
There is only one place where abba is recorded
in the Scriptures as being spoken by a man to God. That is in
the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus Christ prayed privately
to His Father before His crucifixion.
And he said; Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee;
take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will. but
what thou wilt.
is not flowery, poetic speech. This is not a lengthy and ornate
prayer. This is God’s Son coming to his Father with a heavy
heart, saying, “Father (Dad), if there is any other way....”
If it were possible, Jesus didn’t want to be scourged and
mocked; he didn’t want to be beaten and crucified; he didn’t
W ANT to die. He went to God with the simplicity of a child to
his father, his daddy. “Nevertheless” he said, “not
what I will, but what Thou wilt.” He made his decision to
follow God’s plan.
Although this is the only place in the Bible where Jesus
is recorded as saying, “Abba, Father,” amazingly,
this phrase occurs two more times in the Word. Upon whose lips
has God put these words?
And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his
Son into your hearts. crying, Abba, Father.
who have been saved according to Romans 10:9, and are born again
of incorruptible seed (I Peter 1:23), are now sons of God
(I John 3:2). The essential part of this is the holy spirit that
God gave us at the moment we believed. It is a “sonship”
spirit, and it is by this spirit that we can call God our abba,
The final occurrence of abba is in Romans 8. Here,
again, we are told about the spirit we have received. In the King
James Version, it is called a “...Spirit of adoption (huiothesia).”
Adoption, however, is a poor translation of the Greek word huiothesia.
The problem is that we don’t have an exact English word
that matches it. It actually means, “the quality or state
of being a son,” or “sonship.” The term was
applied to adoptions during ancient Roman times, and that sense
of the word has carried over into our English Bibles. According
to Roman law, a man would give the huiothesia to another,
thereby making him a son by adoption.
For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear;
but ye have received the [“a”] Spirit of adoption
[or “sonship”], whereby we cry, Abba. Father.
under the law of the times, a Roman citizen could legally disown
a son by birth. If the son was a disappointment or a disgrace,
the father could disown and disinherit him. If the man, however,
picked out someone and made him his son by giving him the huiothesia,
he could never disown him. The thinking may have been that he
knew in advance what he was getting into.
James was brought up in a Christian home, and in 2001 he became
active in ministry service. During 2005-2006, Nathan participated
in “The Fellowlaborers” program offered by Christian
Family Fellowship Ministry of Tipp City, Ohio. Presently, he serves
as CFFM’s audio engineer.)
Brothers and sisters, God knew what He was getting into
when He made us His sons. He knew who we were, and who we would
become. He foreknew us, as we have seen from Romans 8:29. He chose
us, knowing what blessings we will be to Him in the ages to come.
We can never disappoint God, and He will never disown us. He has
written it in His Word, which He magnified above all His name
(Psalms 138:2b). We are children of God, and no matter what, we
can come to Him with open hearts and child-like simplicity. Just
like our Lord and elder brother, Jesus Christ, by the spirit,
we, too, can say, “Abba, Father.”
article originally appeared in The Ryburn Christian Chronicle,
Vol. IV No.2, Winter 2007]