R. C. Sproul – The Privilege of Addressing God as „Father”

An older video of a much younger R. C. Sproul:

rc sproul 2Go with a group of Christians, listen to them pray at home, a prayer meeting, or Bible study and invariably, as Christians pray out loud, one after another will address God. How? They’ll start their prayer saying, „Father,” or, „Our heavenly Father.” It’s the most common expression that we as Christians use to address God. And why not? When our Lord taught us to pray, he taught us to say ‘Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name’.

What could be more basic to Christianity than to address God as Father? A German New Testament scholar (can’t quite make out the name through the audio- might be Hermann Samuel Reimarus (1694–1768)) has done a study on prayers  of the ancient Israelite people, and it is his conclusion that there’s not a single example anywhere in extant Jewish literature, including the Old Testament, the Talmud, the Targums, and so on, until the 10th century A.D. where a Jewish person addresses God directly- as Father. That simply wasn’t done. People would speak of the fatherhood of God among the Jewish people, but no one would address Him directly: „Father”. He says you don’t find it till 10th century in Italy. Yet, in the New Testament, we have the record of a Jew, a Jewish rabbi , who has many, many prayers recorded for posterity. And, that in every prayer that he prays, save one, he directly addresses God as Father. And that’s Jesus of Nazareth.

And what Reimarus demonstrates is that Jesus’ use of the term ‘Father’ for God was a radical innovation. Completely unheard of in Jewish liturgy! And what He did in His radical departure from convention, He invited His followers to be involved with. Because, what Jesus teaches about the human race is that by nature we are not the children of God. This was the dispute our Lord had with the Pharisees, who thought that just because they were born Jewish, that they were children of Abraham, that they were therefore the children of God. Jesus said, „You are of your father, the devil. God can raise up children of Abraham from these stones.”

..what Jesus does is defines Sonship in terms of obedience to God. And, because we are not by nature obedient to God, we are by nature children of wrath, the New Testament teaches us, and not universally children of the Father. The only way we ever have the right to call God „Father’, to cry Abba (Father) in His presence is because we have been adopted.   And the biblical message of sonship and daughterhood in the body of Christ is rooted and grounded in this concept of adoption. That only Christ is the natural Son of God, and only if you are in Christ do you become a member of the household of God. It is the church in the New Testament that is called the family of God. It is the church in the New Testament that is called the household of God. And that unique concept of redemption  through adoption is completely obscured when we talk about the universal fatherhood of God. Do you see that?

VIDEO by Ligonier Ministries

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