Photo Credit: Photo Credit: “Holy Trinity” by Hendrick van Balen
It was Father’s Day a few years ago as I was working at a part-time job in addition to the church I worked at. Some of my coworkers and I gathered in a common “open office” every day to do some administrative work on the computers located there. As I walked into the room one of my coworkers who had a Catholic background and who knew that I worked part-time as a pastor said, “Happy Father’s Day to you.” I was a little surprised because I was not a dad at that time. I looked at my coworker and smiled saying, “Thanks but I’m not a dad. You are a dad. Happy Father’s Day to you.” Then my friend replied, “No, you are a man of the cloth-a ‘father’-happy Father’s Day.” I then realized what he was trying to say. I appreciated him wanting to be kind, but with my protestant evangelical roots I could not resist correcting him. I smiled and said, “Well thank you. But in my opinion, in the Christian faith there is only one true father-The Lord of heaven. I am a pastor but I am not a father to people.”
Let’s look at the Father described in the Bible.
God the Father
I. TO WHOM IS GOD THE FATHER[ref]This outline on God the Father is adapted from some notes I received from J. Scott Horrell while I was a student at Dallas Theological Seminary[/ref]
God is the father of the nation of Israel. God revealed this to the nation of Israel shortly after they had left Egypt by saying, “Israel is my firstborn son” (Exod 4:22, NLT).
There are at least three passages that make it clear Jesus is the Son of God, and God is Jesus’s Father. The first is a prophecy from God to David.
“For when you [David] die and are buried with your ancestors, I will raise up one of your descendants, your own offspring, and I will make his kingdom strong. He is the one who will build a house—a temple—for my name. And I will secure his royal throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. If he sins, I will correct and discipline him with the rod, like any father would do. But my favor will not be taken from him as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from your sight. Your house and your kingdom will continue before me for all time, and your throne will be secure forever.” (2 Samuel 7:12–16, NLT, emphasis added)
In this prophecy there are fulfillments in the life of Solomon as well as Jesus. For our concern, Jesus is the Son of God.
It was also made clear in the baptism of Jesus Christ that he was God’s Son.
“After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.’” (Matthew 3:16–17, NLT, emphasis added)
It was also made clear that Jesus was the Son of God the Father at the Transfiguration,
“But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This [Jesus] is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.”’ (Matthew 17:5, NLT, emphasis added)
With these three passages it is clear that God is the Father of Jesus Christ.
C. All Believers
As one who has faith in Jesus Christ as my savior, I am glad to know that God is the Father to all believers. Paul laid this out in Romans.
“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father.’ For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:14–16, NLT, emphasis added)
He also explained this in Galatians.
“But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.” (Galatians 4:4–7, NLT, emphasis added)
This passage in Galatians again shows that by placing our faith in Jesus Christ we are adopted as God’s children. In other words, God is Father to all believers.
II. CHARACTERISTICS OF GOD THE FATHER
Now that we know “to whom” God is father, let’s take a look at some of the characteristics of God the Father.
A. Divine Source and Creator
The book of Genesis is often called the “book of origins” or “book of beginnings.” The first three chapters of Genesis are are primarily focused on tell us who made the earth (not about how the earth was made or how long it took to make it). This is seen in the first words of our Bible.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1, NLT)
Again, the emphasis is on who not how. Further emphasis that God is creator of the world is seen in the Psalms.
“Let every created thing give praise to the Lord, for he issued his command, and they came into being.” (Psalm 148:5, NLT)
As Lewis Sperry Chafer once said, “The Fatherhood of God over creation is one of measureless extent” (Chafer, Systematic Theology, vol. 1, p. 312). There are many more examples of how God is the divine source and creator (Exod 20:11; Isa 40:26-28; 45:8, 12).
B. Sovereign Ruler
God created this world and everything in it; therefore he is ruler of his creation. David praised God in front of the nation of Israel when David had gathered materials for his son Solomon to use to build the temple.
“Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as the one who is over all things. Wealth and honor come from you alone, for you rule over everything. Power and might are in your hand, and at your discretion people are made great and given strength.” (1 Chronicles 29:11–12, NLT)
Everything belongs to God and he is in charge of it. One commentator writes, “Greatness, power, glory, victory, majesty, wealthy, and honor all find their origin in the Lord God” (Mark Boda, “1-2 Chronicles” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, vol. 5a, p. 220). In addition to 1 Chronicles 29:11-12, there are lots of examples of God being sovereign ruler in the Old Testament (Isa 45:9; 64:8; Jer 18:6; Dan 4:34-35; 7:10) as well as the New Testament (Matt 6:10; Eph 1:3-6; 1 Tim 6:15-16; Rev 4:2-5; 21:3).
C. Holy and Chief Judge
In the book of Isaiah there are mighty Seraphim (Seraphim literally means “burning ones” in Hebrew, which are a special class of angels)[ref]See C. Fred Dickason, Angels: Elect and Evil, 65-66[/ref] attending to God and singing,
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory!” (Isaiah 6:3, NLT)
These mighty angels knew that God is truly holy. In the Hebrew language there was no way to say “very” or “extremely.” If you wanted to express the degree of something or emphasize it you would use the word more than once. Here the mighty Seraphim say “holy” three times to express who God is.
As the book of Revelation begins it contains a seen in which some mighty angelic figures are around the throne of God in a similar way to Isaiah.
“Each of these living beings had six wings, and their wings were covered all over with eyes, inside and out. Day after day and night after night they keep on saying, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty— the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come.’” (Revelation 4:8, NLT)
God is about to send his mighty judgments on the world in Revelation 6, yet in Revelation 4 there are angelic figures singing praises to the Lord God Almighty about how he is holy and chief judge.
“The living creatures in Revelation 4 and the seraphim of Isaiah 6 have a similar function in that both ascribe holiness to the Lord Almighty, or Lord of hosts (cf. Isa. 6:3). In any case, the ministry of the living creatures emphasizes the holiness and eternality of God. Their presence in this heavenly scene does much to add to the overall impression of the majesty, holiness, sovereignty, and eternity of God” (John Walvoord, Revelation, p. 105)
Other examples of God the Father being holy and chief judge are seen in Gen 18:25; Exod 12:12; John 3:17-18, 36; 5:22; Acts 10:42; 2 Tim 4:1; Heb 12:23; James 1:17; 2 Peter 3:9-10; Rev 20:11.
D. Loving and Compassionate Reconciler
The most memorized verse in the entire Bible shows us how God the Father is a loving and compassionate reconciler.
“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NLT)
God loves us and gave his Son for us in order to reconcile us back into a relationship with him.
The apostle John in his first letter provides a thorough explanation for why the Father sent his Son Jesus Christ into the world.
“And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. All who declare that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.” (1 John 4:13–16, NLT)
God the Father loves us so he sent his Son so that we could come into a right relationship with him. “This new birth is wrought by God the Holy Spirit and results in legitimate Fatherhood on the part of God, and legitimate sonship on the part of the one who believes” (Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, vol. 1, 317).
There are other passages about God the Father being loving and compassionate reconciler (Rom 3:24; 4:24; 5:1-2; 1 Cor 1:9; 2 Cor 5:17-19; 13:11; Gal 4:6-7; Eph 1:13-14).
E. To Whom All Things Will Return To
The book of Revelation is primarily about how God judges this world and takes back what rightly belongs to him. In that book it is clear that all things return back to God the Father (Rev 1:8; 21:6; 22:13). With that said, there is a final judgment in which all things will return to God the Father which Paul describes in his first letter to the Corinthians.
“After that the end will come, when he [Jesus] will turn the Kingdom over to God the Father, having destroyed every ruler and authority and power. For Christ must reign until he humbles all his enemies beneath his feet. And the last enemy to be destroyed is death. For the Scriptures say, ‘God has put all things under his authority.’ (Of course, when it says ‘all things are under his authority,’ that does not include God himself, who gave Christ his authority.) Then, when all things are under his authority, the Son will put himself under God’s authority, so that God, who gave his Son authority over all things, will be utterly supreme over everything everywhere.” (1 Corinthians 15:24–28, NLT)
After Jesus Christ judges the earth and rules on earth, Jesus will turn things back over to God the Father (Col 1:20).
III. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION
A. God the Father is both righteous and loving.
Just talking about God as father can be difficult for some people. Many people in America and probably around the world have had fathers that abandoned them, made false promises, and abused them physically, sexually, and emotionally. I want to be sensitive as I talk about God as Father to some people while at the same time I want to explain God as the perfect heavenly father.
I have been blessed to have a great father, Ken Scott. He’s not perfect, of course, but he has been a loyal and faithful father for my entire life. I could not have been given a better man to grow up with and model. As I began to have faith in God, there were many times. I just accepted God simply and easily because I had a good dad at home. Not everyone has that same luxury and I want to be sensitive to that as I talk about God as Father.
B. Learn to parent from the perfect Father.
God our Father is sovereign ruler, chief judge, as well as loving and compassionate. As fathers we too should employ some of the same characteristics that God exhibits. If you are a dad I hope that you can learn to parent from the perfect Father.