Vertical or Horizontal? Master-Slave or Abba-Son?

Have you ever noticed that Jesus did not just say “Father,” but rather “Abba-Father?” The Hebrew word for “Abba-Father” is an affectionate term for addressing your Father used by a more mature child. It would be used by a child who was around 13 or 14 years of age and knew his or her father’s status, character and power.

For much of my Christian life, I struggled to see God for who He really is. I thought of Him as my “Master.” I felt like He didn’t really like me; He only tolerated me because of Jesus. Every time I made a mistake, it seemed that God Almighty angrily yelled, “I’m going to kill you!”

But then Jesus would fervently intercede, “The blood! The blood, Father!”

“Oh, I almost forgot,” God would say as He stayed His hand of execution.

Praise God that’s changed! Now I know that our Abba-Father actually loves and cares for us deeply. As long as we see Him as “Master,” we can’t experience Him any other way. Many Christians are still trapped in that Master-slave mentality. Even though a slave may know the status, character and power of his master, only a son or daughter can call Him “Abba.”

The Greek word for “master” comes from a combination of two other words: the first one meaning “to be the pilot or the steer man of a ship” and “to be the governor or the guide, to be lord.” Jesus is our Lord, but He doesn’t treat us like a slave-driving master!

The second Greek word means “to exercise lordship” or “to be down upon.” Jesus didn’t see God this way—He saw Him as Abba. In His view of His relationship with Abba, He (the Son) was equal to and loved by His Father.

Have you heard the terms commonly used in the church today vertical or horizontal relationships? We think of our relationship with God as vertical and our relationships with people as horizontal. This very terminology reveals the mentality that God is a “down upon” God. But to Jesus, being a Son was a horizontal relationship!

Jesus came to give us that same, horizontal, Abba-Son relationship with our Father! God will never point out your faults or failures. You can rest assured that you are accepted in the beloved!

To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. —Ephesians 1:6



    Arthur, I have been listening and watching you teaching the Gospel of Grace, no mixture with law and it helps me to understand His unconditional love, and removes guilt and condemnation. Thank you and Kathy.

  2. Carolyn MACK says

    Hi Arthur, I just want to say this is a very excellent message on Vertical or Horizontal. It wasn’t until a few months ago that I received Revelation knowledge that although God is Creator to all he is only Abba (Father) to those that are born again into his family. Thank you again for such wonderful messages. Blessings, Carolyn

  3. Ben Hunter says

    That’s interesting because this is something Andrew Farley talks about. God doesn’t just love us, but he likes us. He used the exact same verse to illustrate that point.

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