Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:4)
In conversation, in prayer, and even in evangelism, many of us default to using two titles to refer to our Creator and Redeemer: God and Lord. We are not wrong to use these titles, of course — Scripture does so over and over again. We are wrong, however, if we slowly allow them to replace the names that God has so graciously revealed to us.
We may even go so far as to say that a vocabulary where God and Lord predominate is slightly sub-Christian. For, as Paul reminds us, among pagans “there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’” (1 Corinthians 8:5). But Christians are not interested in adding simply one more God and Lord to the world’s pantheon. For us,
There is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. (1 Corinthians 8:6)
When we say God, we mean Father; when we say Lord, we mean Jesus. But before God revealed either one of them to us, he made himself known as Yahweh.
‘I Am Yahweh’
There at the burning bush, as Moses trembled with bare feet on that holy ground, God spoke: “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:15). Hidden beneath those four capital letters “Lord” is the name we know as “Yahweh,” which is related to the verb mentioned in the previous verse: “I am” (Exodus 3:14). The God of Israel is the God who is.
The claim wrapped up in this name could not be more sweeping. He is Yahweh, the one who always and forever was, and who always and forever will be. He is Yahweh, Maker of all matter, Sustainer of every atom. He is Yahweh, the One whom no one can manipulate or control. He is Yahweh, God over the so-called “gods” of Egypt and the idols of every other nation.
Most wonderful of all, however, he is Yahweh, “your God” (Exodus 6:7). In revealing himself to Israel as the great I am, Yahweh wanted them to know that they rested in his omnipotent arms. And for more than a millennium afterward, this was the name by which God’s people knew God. Until Yahweh took on flesh.
‘You Shall Call His Name Jesus’
When an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph, he told him what the Messiah’s name would be: “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Jesus is built from the Hebrew name Joshua, meaning, “Yahweh saves.” When the I am became man, it was to save his people from their sins. “Therefore,” the angel said, “call him Jesus.”
God cares so deeply about our salvation, and he wants us to remember it so regularly, that he put salvation in our Savior’s very name. When we say Jesus, we proclaim the one who fulfilled God’s holy law, who healed the sick and raised the dead, and who submitted himself to the cross, refusing to save himself. The name Jesus bids us to remember the whip that lashed his back, the nails that scarred his hands and feet, the spear that pierced his side, the tomb that held his body, and the stone that rolled away before his resurrection.
Our God is not only Yahweh, but Jesus: not only the God who is, but the God who saves. And because he saves, we get to know him by another name that, in some ways, is the sweetest of them all.
“When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son,” the apostle Paul writes. Yahweh put on flesh; Jesus our Savior was born. And why? “So that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Galatians 4:4–6). When the Lord Jesus saves us from the far country of our sin, he brings us home to a Father.
The significance of this name for God is perhaps best described by the late J.I. Packer:
You sum up the whole of New Testament religion if you describe it as the knowledge of God as one’s holy Father. If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all. . . . “Father” is the Christian name for God. (Knowing God, 201)
Yes, the God whom Christians worship is no vague “God,” but the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. And we love to say his name.