About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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Papa God


"The Shack" is a book many people are reading these days.  God appears as a woman who is called "papa" in the book.  In the early 1970's I heard some people call God "daddy".  This concept comes from Romans 8:15 which reads, "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 word "Abba" is Aramaic and is used three times in the New Testament.  Jews addressed God in their prayers as "Abba".  The word denotes God as being a loving and affectionate Father.  Our English words "papa", or "daddy", could easily be a substitution for "Abba".  Both Romans 8:15, and Galatians 4:6, state that we no longer have to "fear" God because He is "Abba", our loving Father.         


The third place "Abba" appears is in Mark 14:36.  Jesus expressed the loving and caring nature of His Father when He cried out for help to "Abba Father" while in the garden of  Gethsemane in severe agony.     


Notice "Abba" is followed by the word "Father" in these verses.  This came about when Greek speaking Jews added the Greek word "Pater" (father) after "Abba".      


I assume Romans 8:15 is why the author of the Shack calls God "papa".  You might be uncomfortable with this, but he does have some Biblical support.  That being said, a balancing word is needed.  I believe many Christians in the western world take God for granted.  We don't "fear" Him as we should.  Some Christians treat God as if He were their buddy.  He is no man's buddy.  He is "Elohim", the All-powerful Master Creator of all there is and ever will be.  Our imaginations cannot begin to fathom His existence, something the author of the Shack agrees with, but doesn't seem to demonstrate in his book in my opinion.          


Proverbs 1:7 says that the "fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge."  If you really want to know what is important, you had better fear God.  Fearing God is  a major theme in Proverbs and throughout Scripture.  I suggest that fearing God means being afraid of Him, not just reverencing Him.  


Do you remember when God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on the altar?  We've been taught that God was testing his faith, but  that's only partly true.  When Abraham pulled out his knife to slit Isaac's throat, God did not say, "stop, now I know you trust me."  He said, stop, "now I know you fear God." (Genesis 22:12)  The reason for the test was to get Abraham to "fear God".   Once he feared God, he could then trust Him.  I suggest that to the degree you fear God is the degree you can trust Him.  


Some people say fearing God is an Old Testament concept.  It's not for New Testament Christians because God is love.  That's not so.  A quick reading of the book of Revelation proves that God is still one to be feared, and that's a New Testament book, written for New Testament times.  The God of Revelation is all-powerful and just.  He expresses this power and justice in judgment.  "Abba Father", our loving Father, is therefore one to be afraid of.  How can this be in light of Romans 8:15?  Is the Bible schizophrenic? 


I'll explain this way.  The book of Revelation opens with a portrayal of Jesus actually "being God", having no beginning and no end. (Revelation 1:8)  The image of Jesus that follows is one of a powerful and devastating man of war.  John is so overwhelmed by His presence that he falls to the ground as if he were dead.  John was afraid of  this all-powerful God man, also known as the "Lion of the tribe of Judah".  John wasn't afraid of a "good old boy woman God" as seen in the Shack.    


In Revelation 5 we see John again. This time he is weeping uncontrollably because he can't find anyone in the universe who can open a certain important document.  A heavenly elder encourages John to stop weeping because the "Lion of the tribe of Judah "  has the authority to open the scroll.  John turned around, and I'm sure he expected to see a lion-like figure, like that mighty man of war he saw in chapter 1.  He didn't see a lion.  He  saw a lamb, an unimpressive lamb that looked like he had just been slain on a sacrificial altar.  The lamb in chapter 5 is the same mighty man of  war in chapter 1.  The truth of the matter is that Jesus is both a lion and a lamb.  He is both one to fear and one to love.  Do you see the balance between lion and lamb, between fear and love?


Chapter 6 of the Shack opens with this statement.  "No matter what God's power may be, the first aspect of God is never the absolute master, the Almighty.  It is that of the God who puts Himself on our human level and limits Himself."  Now that's interesting.  The first aspect of God we see in the very beginning of the Bible is that of the Almighty Master Creator.  The same aspect of God appears at the very end of the Bible.  I'm not discounting the loving nature of "Abba Father" who did place Himself into the limitations of humanity.  In today's way too familiar "God is my buddy" world, we need to balance "Abba" with "Almighty".    


God is both "Abba" and "Almighty".  Jesus is both "lion" and "lamb".  Both are to be feared, and both are to be loved.  John was afraid of Jesus in Revelation 1.  He probably wanted to escape His presence as quickly as possible, yet there was no place he could hide.  The one he feared was the one he loved.  The one who caused him to fear, was the one who loved him. 


If you understand the Genesis account, you'll notice that there are two revelations of God that are expressed in His names.  The first revelation of God seen in Genesis is expressed in His name "Elohim", which denotes the Almighty Master Creator.  The second revelation of God seen in Genesis is expressed in His name "Yahweh".  Yahweh means "I AM", as in , "I am the God of love and mercy that is demonstrated in my covenantal promises."  There are the two paradoxical, but equally valid aspects of God.  God is both Elohim and Yahweh. You must not ignore one aspect of God at the expense of the other. We shouldn't humanize "Elohim", by thinking of Him as our buddy.  If He wants to humanize Himself, that's His choice, and He has done that in Jesus.  We don't do that for Him.  Elohim is still Elohim.  He is sovereign,  and He is almighty.  You may call Him "papa", as long as you understand your "papa" is a consuming fire, and one to be feared as well as to be loved. (Hebrews 12:29) 


I am absolutely convinced that we cannot begin to understand the love of God without first understanding God being the Almighty Master Creator, who is just, and demonstrates His justice in judgment.  So, the degree to which we can begin to understand the almighty and sovereign nature of God, will be the degree to which we can understand his love.  If this is true, then many of us don't understand the love of God as we say we do. 


I'll close with these words of Paul found in 2 Corinthians 5:12 and 14.  He said, "since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men…"  In verse 14 he said, "God's love compels us…"  So there you have it. The paradoxical, but vital balance between fear and love that drove Paul to serve Jesus.       

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