It is likely that most Christians have heard God referred to as “Abba Father” throughout their lives: in prayers, at church, while reading the Bible in quiet time, etc.
However, God’s title of “Abba Father” is only found referenced in the Bible three separate times, in the passages of Romans 8:15, Mark 14:36, and Galatians 4:6, which are all in the New Testament. Only two speakers utter these words in these passages: Jesus and the apostle Paul.
So why would a title mentioned so sparingly in the Scriptures be so monumental in describing not only Jesus’ and Paul’s relationships with God but our relationship with God as well?
This name of God is rich with meaning and implications for our lives. Read on to learn more about the meaning of Abba Father and why this title of God is so important for our theology and relationship with Him.Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/beerphotography
What is the Meaning of “Abba Father”?
To begin our exploration into God as Abba Father, let’s begin by understanding what “Abba” means in definition. As stated from Dictionary.com, “Abba” is the defining term for father in the Aramaic language, spoken by Jesus and Paul as an intimate term to characterize their personal relationships with God. It is also a term of reverence for bishops and patriarchs within the Coptic, Syriac, and Ethiopian churches.
We will view the definition of Abba as father in Aramaic, as this is how it is shared in the three Scripture verses in the New Testament:
Mark 14:36: “And He [Jesus] said, ‘Abba Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.’”
Romans 8:15: “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’”
Galatians 4:6: “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba Father!’”
The scripture from Mark is stated by Jesus, while the verses from Romans and Galatians are shared by Paul. Both had deep relationships with God that emerged in miraculous ways, and both met one another in a miraculous way. Hence, this would explain one reason why they would share the same intimate name for God that is not mentioned by any of Jesus’ disciples or those found in the Old Testament.
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Abba Father in Jesus’ and Paul’s Eyes:
With countless names of God in the Bible, why is Abba Father only referenced by Jesus and Paul? To answer this question is to look more at what Jesus and Paul represent in the Christian faith.
One is the Son of God and savior for all mankind; the other was once determined to destroy the belief about Jesus and who He is, until Jesus changed his life on that dusty road to Damascus.
The two men couldn’t be more different in the eyes of those around them, but in the eyes of God they were created from the same cloth; closer than physical brothers as they had become spiritual brothers for eternity.
Their stories display deep connections with God, following guidance to live lives on earth that placed them in danger but facing that danger knowing God conquers all in the end.
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“He was tethered to God in a way that no one ever could or ever would be able to undo.”
Jesus was God in the flesh, letting the Father speaking through Him as He went about His ministry of spreading the Word of God to all who would hear and obey. Because of His intimate connection with God in heaven, before He was placed on earth, shows why Jesus would refer to God as Abba Father. He was tethered to God in a way that no one ever could or ever would be able to undo.
When He calls God “Abba Father” in the garden of Gethsemane in Mark 14:36, He says it as a way of acknowledging the power of God and the greatness that will come for Him through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. It’s an expression of humble admiration for His Father, as well as an intimate request asked of God, for God’s will to be shown in this “cup” of sacrifice, that Jesus wouldn’t ask of anyone but God.
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Paul's Encounter Changed His Perspective Forever
For Paul, witnessing his transformation from Christian-hater to a lover of Christ was ground-breaking to him as he was a highly educated, well-to-do man from Tarsus. After encountering Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul endured three days of blindness that changed his whole perspective about Christ-followers and faith in God in general.
He went on to embark on a ministry that witnessed to several churches around what is considered Europe today, including the church of Rome and churches of Galatia where the verses with Abba Father were written. Paul’s letters to these churches proclaimed to them that they were now all children of God, like he had become. They all now had the Spirit of Jesus within them, as he did, and were close to God as the Savior, justifying the reason for calling God “Abba Father.”
Photo credit: Wikimedia/Public Domain:Valentin De Boulogne
Why We Should See God as Our “Abba Father”
Jesus Christ and the apostle Paul had their obvious reasons for seeing God in an intimate manner compared to others in the Bible. But why should God be viewed as Abba Father to several of us who may not have had the transformational encounters that our Savior and His beloved follower had? Why should we also praise God as our Abba Father when we are not Jesus and we may not have witnessed God while temporarily blind as Paul did?
Well, each one of us was created in God’s image, similar to how Jesus was fashioned to represent God on earth (even though He was one and same with God in heaven). Making us as Himself was God’s plan from the beginning, as quoted from Genesis 1:27: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
Knowing that we are made in the same image as God, this establishes an unbreakable bond we share with the Father and a solid form of intimacy that cannot be replicated with any other god or human. The potter made the clay, us, and with the making of us, He put time, attention, and love into us that He also placed within our Lord and Savior Jesus and in the beloved apostle, Paul.
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Abba Father Knows Our Greatest Strengths and Weakenesses - And Loves Us
This is the reason for why we should view God as Abba Father, as He made and molded us as an earthly father does. But He does so in a way that is closer and more personal than an earthly father ever could. He knows us more than we know ourselves and handcrafted our personalities before we were twinkles of thoughts in our parents’ eyes.
So, the term “Abba Father” is not one that is just to exclaim in praise or recognition, such as with heavenly Father or Father God. Abba Father, as conveyed through Jesus and Paul, reflects the knowledge of knowing that God knows us better than we know ourselves and that He established paths for us before we took our first steps as humans.
When you state “Abba Father” in prayer or hear it referenced in a sermon, you should envision a Father who knows your greatest strengths, your greatest weaknesses, and knows your beginning and end: but instead of forcing His will on you, He allows you to meet Him in your own way, with intimacy that can only be felt between the Creator and the created.
For these reasons, that is why God is our “Abba Father.”
Blair Parke is a freelance writer for BibleStudyTools.com and editor for Xulon Press. A graduate of Stetson University with a Bachelor's in Communications, Blair previously worked as a writer/editor for several local magazines in the Central Florida area, including Celebration Independent and Lake Magazine in Leesburg, Florida and currently freelances for the Southwest Orlando Bulletin.
Debbie McDaniel is a writer, pastor's wife, mom to three amazing kids (and a lot of pets). Join her each morning on Fresh Day Ahead's Facebook page, for daily encouragement in living strong, free, hope-filled lives.
Photo credit: Unsplash/Dino Reichmuth
Photo credit: Unsplash/Dino Reichmuth