How much does God love me? Today, I unravel a mystery hidden inside a familiar Bible verse. And discover the startling truth about God’s love for us.
“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.””
(Romans 8:15, NIV)
How Much Does God Love Me? A Startling Truth
I recently asked the question “Why are there so many versions of the Bible?”
Today, I’d like to follow up on that by sharing my detective story in Romans 8:15.
This is a verse that has always fascinated me since I first read it because it reveals something startling about our relationship with God.
The Lord brought it back to mind in this current season, to crystallise my understanding. And to me, it’s all the more surprising when it’s put into the context of the Bible as a whole:
In Exodus 20:7, the Israelites are told not to “take the name of the Lord in vain”. Or “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God”, as newer translations have it.
A serious commandment, taken seriously
Judaism has always taken this commandment very seriously, to the extent that modern Jewish publications always obscure the name of God.
Our Christian bibles follow suit: they always translate God’s name YHWH (usually pronounced “Yahweh”) as “Lord”.
To distinguish YHWH from the Hebrew word Adonai (which literally means “Lord”) they are printed in the Bible like this:
Such is their reverence for his name that Jewish publications go a step further: “God” becomes “G_d” in all text.
Let’s take that reverence with us as we investigate the question, “How much does God love me?”
How Much Does God Love Me? A Romans 8 Detective Story
What do I mean by detective story?
As I have read and re-read Romans 8:15, I've always been struck by a couple of details which you can only see by looking at the original Greek.
Here it is in a literal translation:
“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!””
(Romans 8:15, English Standard Version)
Here’s Romans 8:15 in the interlinear bible:
Don’t worry too much about the apparent complexity, just focus on the middle Greek line, the transliteration line just above it and the text in red.
In particular, check out these words:
Check this post
Not sure what you’re looking at or want a refresher on interlinear bibles?
How Much Does God Love Me? What I Believe God Is Saying
Pneuma = Spirit
What does Romans 8:15 teach us about spirit?
This is amazing in itself. That God’s own spirit lives within us and enables us to relate to God as our father is incredible.
Remember, this is the God whose name is so precious and holy that it cannot be spoken!
Pneuma also means “breath” and reminds us of how Jesus “breathed on his disciples” and said “receive the Spirit”.
It also mirrors how God first breathed life into Adam. I believe this means that Holy Spirit is like the breath of life: without him, it’s impossible to live Christian lives!
But there’s more.
Abba, Father or… what?
At the end of the verse you can see that the translators have done some interpretation for us in the words “Abba, Father”.
Pater is translated as Father, but they only transliterated Abba to give us the pronunciation of the Greek word.
That leaves me with an important question:
Why didn’t they translate Abba into English too?
If you do a bit of research, you’ll find that Abba literally means “Daddy”.
Intriguingly, Abba is the first word a Hebrew baby learns (or “Ab”, if you’re Arabic).
Could it be that the translators don’t want us to know that you can call God “Daddy”? Or perhaps they don’t want to offend the sensibilities of those who think you can’t possibly talk to God like that?
On the other hand, as my lovely wife pointed out to me, “b” or “ba” sounds are the first sounds that a baby is able to make. And words beginning with or containing “b” (like Abba) are the easiest for them to get to grips with.
So, maybe the translators got it right, after all?
Only a few of the paraphrase versions have dared to use the word “Daddy”, but even The Message is a little coy:
“This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?””
(Romans 8:15, The Message)
How Much Does God Love Me?
Romans 8:15 is an example of a passage that may be saying more than what we thought it did.
My message today is that you can approach God as your Daddy: he loves you that much.
Yes, we need to revere him because that’s in scripture too. But Jesus’ death on the cross means that we can know him not only as Father but also as Daddy.
What has this got to do with prophecy? In one word: everything!
The Bible has precedence over prophecy. It was received direct from God through the authors, his people.
The fact that he used people to write the Bible means that we too can learn how to interpret God’s words to us. We can learn to understand prophecy by studying how the bible is interpreted.
We also test prophetic words against the truth of the Bible, not the other way around.
God is unlikely to tell us he is not our father or that he is distant and unreachable, because that’s not what he says in the Bible.
He might remind us that he is our father through Romans 8:15. He might even tell us that he is our Daddy when we really need to hear it!
F. F. Bruce
“God is the archetypal Father; all other fatherhood is a more or less imperfect copy of his perfect fatherhood.”
(Courtesy Grace Quotes)
How does God’s love for you make you respond to him?
Let Us Know Your Answer In The Comments Area, Below.
Awesome article, Tim. If we have a twisted picture of an earthly daddy, our expectation of our Father God daddy may be limited, but even then, He is able to transform our expectations and teach us above imagination who He is to us. He has done that for me. He is a good, good Father!