God the Father
THE FATHER’S PLAN OF REDEMPTION
God’s Ultimate Solution became an historical reality when He, as spiritual Father, offered His Son on the cross as a pure, priceless, perfect sacrifice for the sins of all humanity. This sacrifice is difficult to discuss. It has features that we can state but cannot comprehend. It shows a love with dimensions we cannot grasp. It illustrates the power and horror of sin as God sees it, in contrast to the human view that sees sin as a personality defect. It impresses us with the grim realism of God’s determination to be faithful to His promises. It shatters our egotistical inclination to work our way out of our sin somehow. It makes us stand in wonder at the integrity of a Father Who offers His Son as a sacrifice so He may remain pure and just, and still forgive the sins of those who accept and submit themselves to that Son.
This close affinity of the spiritual Father with His Son is spelled out in great detail in Scripture. For example, we read that: “when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).
The incredible virgin birth of Jesus to Mary was the way God’s Son was “born of a woman.” Mary was told by the angel, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).
Not only was Jesus born during the time the law of Moses was in effect but He also lived His life under that law. However, with His sacrificial death He “canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14; also, see Hebrews 10:5-10).
Not only was the sacrifice of Christ the fulfillment of the old law, but it was also the means of redemption for those who had lived faithfully under it. “And for this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, in order that since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9:15). Also, this offering was made “that we might receive the full rights of sons” (Hebrews 12:7-11). As we study the earthly life of Jesus, we are impressed with His close relationship with His heavenly Father. Even as a child, Jesus was aware that He must be engaged in His Father’s work (Luke 2:29). At the inauguration of Jesus into His personal ministry at His baptism, His Father was very attentive. He announced His love for His Son and His pleasure in Him (Matthew 3:17).
At the transfiguration of Jesus, the voice of His Father again stressed His love and pleasure in His Son – with the added emphasis: “Listen to Him!” (Matthew 17:5).
Jesus’ prayers reveal to us the close bond He had with His Father. Jesus’ most extensive recorded prayer shows His glorious presence with the Father before creation and how He had glorified the Father on the earth. He spoke of the eternal love His Father has for Him and of His desire for that love to be also in His followers (John 17, KJV). Jesus prayed that His Father’s will be done even in His most intensive experiences. As He approached His death on the cross, He prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39). While hanging on the cross, He prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Then, as He died, His final words were: “Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:34, 46). We learn that God was indeed the spiritual Father of Jesus Christ.
Although Jesus fulfilled the old covenant (law) of Moses and established a new testament by His death, He lived and died under the old covenant. This means that as a Jew of the human kingly lineage of David (Luke 3:23-31), who “was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24), He was teaching and preaching to His own people who were under the law of Moses. (Occasionally Jesus responded when Gentiles approached Him [e.g., Matthew 15:21- 28].) Much of His teaching about the Father, therefore, was to a people who knew God as selective Father. He often spoke to them about God as “your Father” (Matthew 5:16, 45, 48; 10:29).
As we have seen, God was opening up a far more comprehensive era in His dealing with sinful humanity. The time had “fully come” for everyone to have the opportunity to know God as spiritual Father through His Son, Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is not surprising to find that Jesus spoke to His disciples about His Father's will for them and the importance of observing that will (Matthew 7:21). He stressed this obedience to the Father as basic to the family relationship with God as Father and Himself as Brother (Matthew 12:48-50). The Father will not allow this family circle to be broken by intruders (Matthew 15:13).
Jesus often spoke of God as His Father. He stressed this to His followers with a specific possessive pronoun: “My Father!” (Matthew 18:35; 20:23). He even taught them: “Everyone therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33). Teachings like these – and there were many – should have alerted His disciples, and especially His apostles, that there was something unique in the way He referred to God as His Father.
Early on, Mary, the mother of Jesus, knew “the secret.” She was aware of His divine origin. She certainly knew the factual nature of His miraculous birth. Joseph, her husband, being a righteous man, was very discreet about Mary’s pregnancy. Also, when Jesus was of a tender age she heard Him speak of His Father without reference to Joseph. “And His mother treasured all these things in her heart” (Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38; 2:41-52).
Perhaps the followers of Jesus did sense a unique relationship between Him and His Father. However, the awareness seems to have been slow in coming. After all, did they not also have God as their Father? Had not God called Israel His Son? (Jeremiah 31:9). Could they not address God as “Our Father” just as Jesus had taught? (Matthew 6:9ff). Yes, they could, and they did.
We have studied the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) concerning the Israelites’ view of God as their Father. We also know that the Judaism of Jesus’ day reflected an intimate concept of God as Father. For example, included in their daily prayers was the plea: “Forgive us, O Father, for we have sinned against Thee, wipe out and remove our iniquities from before Thine eyes, for great is Thy mercy, Blessed be Thou, O God, Who forgivest abundantly.”
However, the full impact of Jesus’ unique Father/Son relationship with God was difficult for the Jews to grasp. How were they to know that Jesus, as the Son of God, was any different from others who were called sons of God? Had not great leaders before Jesus been called God’s sons? (2 Samuel 7:14; Psalm 89:26-27). Yes. We should not be surprised, then, to learn that it took a revelation from God the spiritual Father for them to learn the “full truth.”
The angelic messenger from God had told Joseph that the virgin Mary would bear a child: “For that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-21). Jesus experienced a miraculous birth into the world and was to receive legitimate recognition as God! As we have said, at that time Mary kept many things in her heart.
If we take all of this as seriously as it is presented, we will realize how stupendous it is. The history of the world was veering off its expected course. Times were changing. A new and glorious epoch was in the making. It is difficult for mere mortals to relate to events of such magnitude. It is no small wonder that Jesus’ entrance into history needed a divine explanation. Even that was slow to be recognized. After all, the people who struggled with the identity of Jesus while He was here on His great mission did not have the privilege, as we do, of opening the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John to discern these magnificent truths.
We, however, can read that the Father persisted in unfolding the true nature of His Son. For example, there is truth in describing Jesus in the words of Nathanael: “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel” (John 1:49). Jesus commended his sincerity – but do his words not smack of the old nationalism imbedded in the Jewish mindset of the times? Was Nathanael free from such influences?
The Jews yearned for a national revival and the glorious reign of a king whom they could look to as God’s anointed, chosen son, as their forefathers had enjoyed during the reigns of David and Solomon. The Jewish multitudes yearned for Jesus to be king (John 6:15).
On one occasion Jesus’ power over death led the observers to a remarkable conviction. “A great prophet has arisen among us!” they said. “God has visited His people” (Luke 7:16). This was a great declaration made while they were filled with awe, but did this praise acknowledge Jesus as God? We must remember that the Israelites had seen God’s visitation among them occurring in His words or His works, without implying the incarnation of God Himself. When Jesus forthrightly affirmed His deity, it elicited ridicule, contempt, and persecution from the religious leaders (John 8:42-59).
Nicodemus, a learned man, certainly spoke admiring of Jesus when he said, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher, for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (John 3:2). As one “teacher” to another “Teacher,” Nicodemus saw in the “signs” Jesus performed evidence of God’s power and blessing. Did Nicodemus see more? Not necessarily. We know, however, that God was building up to revealing the true nature of His Son. The progressive revelation of God continued.
In response to Jesus’ query, Peter made the notable confession: “Thou are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Was this confession more significant than those already mentioned? We know that it was pivotal. First, it was in direct response to Jesus’ inquiry. Second, we are told that Peter was able to make the confession because it came as a revelation from Jesus’ heavenly Father (Matthew 16:17). The truth of Jesus' full identity was latent in this confession.
However, we have some reasons for assuming that Peter himself was unaware of the full implications of the confession. Shortly after the confession we find him rebuking Jesus for teaching about His death and being sharply reprimanded! (Matthew 16:21-23). We also know that it was not out of the question for Peter to make statements, even by inspiration, the significance of which he did not fully understand (Acts 2:39; 10:28-34). We know that Peter could speak rashly in times of excitement (Matthew 17:4-5; Mark 9:5- 6; Luke 9:33). Even in a time of deep loyalty for his Master, Peter could utter a heartfelt conviction that would not stand up under stress (Matthew 26:33-35, 69-75). We conclude, therefore, that Peter probably did not realize the full significance of his true confession that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God.
Perhaps we should not be surprised that it was not until after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus that human lips declared Him to be Immanuel. How ironic that this earthshaking truth was uttered by the very person who had been skeptical! Thomas had seen the power of Jesus. He had heard His unparalleled teachings. Thomas had enjoyed the privilege of observing His perfect, righteous living. He had seen His deep compassion for those in distress. Perhaps he had even heard Jesus Himself say that He was “I AM” (John 8:58).
It is probable that all of this came into focus in the mind of Thomas as he stood before the resurrected Jesus. What he saw was no longer framed in a statement, doctrine, or propositional truth for his consideration. He saw the crucifixion scars on the body of Jesus. He knew that he was looking at resurrection – and he knew that no one had power over death but God. Therefore, “Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” (John 20:28).
At last God, the spiritual Father, had made it clear. Jesus of Nazareth is His spiritual Son – Deity, in the flesh!
We now come to the conclusion of the study of God the Father. You will recall that at the outset of our journey we spoke of how audacious it is to probe the nature of God. We hope that, in spite of formidable challenges along the way, we have made progress in our odyssey together. We confess that no progress could be made in our search for God if He had not revealed Himself in His creation, His Son, and the Scriptures. What God has not revealed about Himself we cannot know – period! This makes us acutely aware of two facts. First, we are utterly helpless in coming to know Him without His aid. Second, we may rest confidently in knowing from creation that there is a God. We can learn from the Bible what God is like and what He wants us to be and do. This explains our extensive use of the Bible in our study together.
We trust that you have been amazed and awed, as we have, at the multifaceted role of the Great Theme of God as Father. As we have turned the corners of time in our travels, the vistas have shown God to be eternal Father, creative Father, universal Father, selective Father, and spiritual Father.
Our hearts leaped for joy as we peered through those ancient mists in the Garden of Eden and saw man and woman in all their primordial holy perfection - creatures similar to their Father. We stood brokenhearted as we watched them disobey God, receive banishment, and suffer the consequences of being separated from Him. Our spirits were revived as we followed God’s patient work to revive fallen humanity. In spite of rampant corruption, God saved a few righteous souls from the flood by way of Noah and the ark. In spite of idolatry and paganism, God persisted in His grand design by calling Abraham as the person through whom He would begin to lead His people in a new direction (Galatians 3:6-9). In the person of Moses we saw God safeguarding His people with a law that was designed to lead them ultimately to the Messiah, Christ (Galatians 3:23-25).
Then we traced the arrival into the world of God’s uniquely born Son. When God’s view of “the fullness of time had come,” we saw His son come to the earth in greater splendor than the sun at high noon. In fact, His uniqueness, grandeur, person, and glory were so compellingly convincing, so overwhelmingly godly, that even the brilliance of the sun was shrouded in darkness when this pure and righteous man offered Himself in sacrifice for the sins of the world (Mark 15:33). The scene was so vivid, so piercing, so demonstrative of “other worldly” elements that even the Roman centurion who stood before Jesus and watched Him die said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39).
We have been on an incredible journey. We have, at last, seen God portray Himself as the spiritual Father of Jesus of Nazareth – but is that the end of the story? Did Jesus come into the world only to show that God is His spiritual Father? This is a mind-boggling revelation worthy of our greatest praise and wonder. However, there is more that stretches our minds to the utmost and causes our spirits to soar with gratitude and thanksgiving. We now know that as the spiritual Father of Jesus God offered His Son as a sacrifice for our sins so that we, too, may have God as our spiritual Father.
This is the climax of God’s work among us. As long as time shall last, no greater work is forthcoming. In centuries to come there will not be an era in which God will be described in another book like the Bible, taking on another role as Father. In the Christian Age, we are experiencing the culmination of His great plan of redemption. It is an astonishing plan. It is the apex of God’s reconciling work. God saw its consummation in Christ even before the creation of the world. “. . . just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:4-6).
What a grand and glorious work by a gracious, loving Father! He has provided a way for us to become His children. He wants to be our spiritual Father. Just as He created humankind pure in the beginning of the race, He yearns to create us again. He desires that we be in His family. He wants us to “come home.”
How do we respond to His gracious overture? We accept His incomparable love offering – Jesus Christ (John 8:24). Believing Him to be God’s Son, we turn to him in repentance (Luke 13:1-5) and are baptized into Him for the forgiveness of our sins (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 2:38-39). In this burial we die to sin, and in a rebirth we are raised to a new life (John 3:3-5; Galatians 3:26- 29; Romans 6:1-12). Having confessed our faith in Christ in this way, we know that we will be acknowledged by Him before our spiritual Father in heaven (Matthew 10:32-33). In Christ we have become the “new creation” of God. “Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Corinthians 5:17-19).
The transaction is done. God’s plan to offer His Son as a sacrifice for our sins has been gloriously accomplished. When we accept God’s offer of “reconciling the world to Himself in Christ,” He becomes our spiritual Father through His Son Jesus. What a grand prospect for our eternal destiny! With the spiritual Father as our Sovereign and Jesus as our Savior, Brother, and Friend, we become a part of God’s work that is so awe-inspiring that all the intelligent creatures of the entire cosmos are struck by the supernal wisdom of God. Note as we close Ephesians 3:10- 12: “. . . in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.”