I’ve decided to take a break from our series of articles on the Westminster Larger Catechism and commence a series on the names of God.
One of the joys of being a Christian is learning more about the God who made us and saved us. And one of the ways we can learn more about him is by looking at his names.
Today we often name our children with names simply because we like their sound – not their meaning. My daughter is named Philippa which means ‘lover of horses’. But we didn’t name her that because we thought she would be a horse whisperer (although she has become a great fan of toy unicorns as she has grown up). We simply thought it was cute and could be shortened to the even cuter names, Pippa and Pip.
Even so, we recognise that some names carry much meaning. For example the names ‘mother’ and ‘father’ are used frequently and are most significant.
And, interestingly, that same name is used of God. The Bible describes God as the Father of his people in many places. One example is in Psalms: ‘As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust’ (Psalm 103:13-14). The book of Proverbs also describes God as a Father: ‘My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in’ (Provebs 3:11-12).
In the New Testament God is regularly named as ‘Father’, particularly by the Apostle Paul. Thus, we learn that the first member of the trinity is God the Father. Jesus also taught his disciples to address God as Father: ‘One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray….” He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come”‘ (Luke 11:1-2).
But what does it mean to us if God is named ‘Father’? At a minimum, it means we have a very special relationship to God – a relationship not everyone shares. A child’s relationship to a father is a unique relationship. Sadly, earthly fathers or earthly children can taint this relationship and make it seem not so special. Fathers are often absent, physically or emotionally. Children are frequently rebellious. Sin terribly obscures fatherhood.
But the fatherhood of God is the perfect fatherhood to which even the best earthly fatherhoods are simply distant shadows. God is the Father who always cares for his children in everyway. Providing what they need to grow. Exhorting them with encouraging words. Giving advice on how to live. Protecting them from serious harm. Thus, knowing that God is a Father to his people gives great assurance and joy!
But how do you become a child of God? John’s gospel tells us that those who believe in Jesus can call God Father: ‘Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God–children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God’ (John 1:12-13). Have you received Jesus and now have God as your Heavenly Father? Joel Radford