What does it mean when we talk about God the Father? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
Last time, I just started us off with God and stated that the term at this point is not specific. Many people will say they believe in God, but God can be so vague as to mean anything that they want. I also gave arguments for God’s existence. From this point on, we are going to be assuming theism.
When we say God is Father, we have automatically now introduced a personal element. We can rule out a pantheistic viewpoint at this stage then. God is someone who can be treated as a person. Perhaps in some cases we could view out deism unless we want to assume God is some sort of deadbeat father.
The term Jesus used when He spoke about the Father was often, “abba.” This was a term that would also show familiarity and access. Jesus was one in a special position of access to the goodness of the Father due to His being the only begotten Son.
On the other hand, Jesus would often say “Abba, Father” which would include the familiar as well as the respect. In our modern age, we like to emphasize the familiar term, which we have all right to use, but to forget about the respect term. God is not often respected.
I look at this as the concept of how we treat Christ especially as the buddy Jesus. Unfortunately, this too often has us not treat Christ as someone who is our sovereign king and is our sole connection to the Father through the Holy Spirit.
We can do the same with the Father. God can be treated casually instead of as the strong reality that He is, and we’re all guilty of it. This is why the belief system of many young people today in regards to Christianity is described as morally therapeutic deism. God is there, but God’s purpose is to make sure you’re happy and that you feel good, especially about yourself.
It’s also important to note that in the ancient world, God would have been seen as Father along the lines of a patron. The patron was the one who provided the blessings to the people known as clients. These blessings would be seen as grace. The loyalty that the clients were to show the patron in return for His blessings was faith. The patron could be YHWH or Zeus or a slavemaster or a parent or the emperor.
God is the supreme patron and with regards to fatherhood, Paul reminds us that God is the father from whom all fatherhood comes. It’s not the case that a man has a son and God’s relationship with us is something like that. It’s that God has his Son and has us as His adopted sons (and daughters) as a result and a man’s relationship with His son is something like that. It is never the case that God is like us. It is always the case that what we have that is good is like Him.
That we can call God Father still does mean that we have access to Him and we should always make sure that we are not taking that privilege lightly. Many of us in the West are blessed beyond measure, even if poor. We have more Bibles than we know what to do with, unaware often that someone in a third world country or a place with heavy persecution like China would give anything to have even a page of a Bible they could understand. We have access to more information in scholarly works about God than anywhere else. We do not normally live in constant terror of other nations destroying us. We do not worry about having food to eat or water to drink or clothes to wear.
There is nothing wrong with our being blessed, but let us not lose sight that it is indeed a blessing. Our Father owes us nothing save what He has already promised and blessing in this life of a material sort is NEVER promised. He has promised us forgiveness and eternal life, both of which we often lose sight of, especially when those material blessings we aren’t promised are not being given. Of course, when we find ourselves in this situation, it is just fine to be honest about it, like the Psalmist often is, but let us try to change our attitude to realize as James says, that every good gift comes from the Father above. Every single one of them comes from God and each one is a gift of grace.
Knowing God as Father should be a reminder to us of the grace that has been bestowed on us. We have a rare privilege that we have access to God, something that would seem incredible to people in the Old Testament times who had to go through numerous intermediaries. We are a privileged people. Indeed, we who are the least in the Kingdom are said to be greater than John the Baptist.
Today, don’t lose sight of God as Father. Treat Him with the respect that He is due.