We’ve been looking at the names of God and how his names help us understand him better. This week I want to look at the name, ‘Abba’.
Abba means Father in Aramaic. But haven’t we already covered the name ‘Father’ in this series of articles. Yes. But the name ‘Abba’ increases our understanding of God even further.
But, firstly, when is God called ‘Abba’? Jesus calls God ‘Abba’ in the Garden of Gethsemane: ‘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”’ (Mark 14:35-36).
But not only does Jesus cry ‘Abba’, Paul encourages us to cry ‘Abba, Father’ too. Paul writes to the church in Rome: ‘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.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs– heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory’ (Romans 8:15-17). Paul also wrote to the churches in Galatia: ‘But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. 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’ (Galatians 4:4-7).
So what does calling God ‘Abba, Father teach us about God. It teaches us the great privilege given to us by God. When Jesus called God ‘Father’, the Jews were outraged: ‘Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God’ (John 5:17-18).
When we call God, Abba, Father, it demonstrates the intimacy that we have with God and the benefits that flow from that intimate relationship. A child of a King has access to the Father’s ear, affection, and resources that a citizen of the King does not. And so we as Christians have access to God’s ear and his affection and resources that other people who live on God’s earth do not possess.
This understanding is heightened by the Aramaic word ‘Abba’ which was used by the Jews within the family circle but never used to address God. Some would suggest that ‘Daddy’ is an English equivalent to ‘Abba’. Most of us grow out calling our fathers, ‘Daddy’, because it sounds too babyish. But if we take ‘Daddy’ as an English equivalent to ‘Abba’, it shows our childlike trust in God and his relation to us. For example, when a small toddler calls ‘Daddy’, the father responds in a greater way than he probably would to an adult son. God hears our small cry and responds rapidly and powerfully.
So do you call, God, Abba, Father? You can have that relationship with God if you will only repent of your sins and trust in him. Why wouldn’t you want God as your ‘Dad’?