Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
Welcome to the third week in our Advent series on the names of Jesus given in Isaiah 9:6 and 7:14. In considering these names we are considering the nature and work of the One whose birth we celebrate and whose return we anticipate this Christmas season. And we are doing all of this because in so doing, we find an inexhaustible supply of fuel to power birthday celebrations truly worthy of Jesus, the Isaiah messiah.
To that end, two weeks ago we considered and marveled at the fact that Jesus is our Wonderful Counselor. We saw that he always gives only wonderful counsel, that at the cost of his life he forgives our rejection of his counsel and all our resulting sins, and that this Wonderful Counselor gives us new hearts to love, and new strength to obey, his wonderful counsel.
Then, last week, we saw that Jesus is also Mighty God. He is mighty in that nothing can stay his hand and he is God in that he is the eternal second person of the Trinity. What’s more, it is because he is Mighty God that he can be Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace, Immanuel, and, as we will see today, Everlasting Father.
This morning, then, we are going to consider the third name given to the messiah in Isaiah 9:6: Everlasting Father. This is of course a rather strange title for Jesus for several reasons. Nevertheless, by God’s help I believe we will all find great truth and great hope in the fatherliness of Jesus.
This sermon has been helped by Spurgeon’s 724th sermon (on the same text) and so it seems appropriate to begin with his prayer: “This morning I cannot pretend to dive into the profound depths of the word, but can only skim the surface as the swallow skims the sea. I have no silver of deep learning and gold of profound thought; but such as I have, I give to you. If my basket contains nothing more than a barley loaf and a few small fishes, may the Master of the feast multiply the food in the breaking, so that there may be enough food for his people” (Spurgeon #724).
AN UNEXPECTED EVERLASTING FATHER
It would be odd to find out that Michael Jordan’s nickname is Hockeytown. Or that Donald Trump’s is Operaman. Or that Jack Antil’s is Nimblefoot. Even if Michael Jordan enjoys hockey or Donald Trump opera or Jack Antil dancing, it’s certainly not what any of these men are known for. Each of these men have a well developed and well known aspect of their personhood by which we have come to identify them. A nickname that doesn’t include, and seems in some ways even to contradict, the more defining aspect of who they are seems strange.
As I mentioned in the introduction, in a similar way, most people are likely to find Everlasting Father to be the most strange, or at least the most unexpected, title for Jesus. There are two immediately obvious causes of this.
First, it seems a strange name for Jesus because in both Isaiah 7:14 and in the first half of 9:6 the emphasis is on the fact that the messiah will come as a child.
Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son…
Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…
It is unexpected at best that a few words later in 9:6, without warning, the emphasis on the nature of the one who would rescue and restore God’s people changes from virgin-born child to “Everlasting Father.” Again, read in context, we’re at least caught off guard from the sudden switch.
Second, and even more obviously, Everlasting Father is a strange name for Jesus because his primary identity is, as we saw last week and as we all know, the second person of the Trinity, the Son of God. If Jesus is known for anything in addition to savior, it is that he is God’s only begotten Son—we have signs at every major sporting event reminding us of this (John 3:16).
For these reasons (and more), at first glance Everlasting Father really does seem like an odd name for Jesus. And yet, as we will see, it is certainly not inappropriate or without foundation.
The emphasis of 7:14 and the beginning of 9:6 is on the fact that the messiah would come as a child (which Jesus did), but not in order to suggest that this would be his only role. Rather, the coming-as-a-child emphasis is to highlight the power of God to save his people through any means, even through the child of a virgin.
Likewise, although it is true that Jesus’ primary identity is as the Son of God, the name Everlasting Father is meant to speak to the character of the man of Isaiah 9:6, not his role within the Trinity. In other words, the man of Isaiah 9:6 is fatherly, not the Father. And it is to the fatherliness of Jesus which we will now turn our attention.
A TRUE EVERLASTING FATHER
Again, Jesus would come as a the child of a virgin and eternally exists as the Son of God, but this aspect of his nature does not negate or cancel out the other equally important aspects of his nature. He came as a child and a son, but he is also described as a brother (Hebrews 2), as the wisdom of God (John 1:1), as creator and sustainer of all things (Colossians 1:16), and, as we see in this passage, he came as a child and a son but he is also described as a father.
I want to point out to you four ways in which the bible describes Jesus as fatherly (the last three are inspired by Spurgeon #724). And as I do so, Grace, please remember that if we are going to celebrate Christmas, this is what and why we celebrate. Quickly, consider what’s going on here once again…
If I invited you to join me in celebrating a significant accomplishment tomorrow, your interest might be piqued. And yet you’d likely not put much thought into it, and any celebration you had would be minor at best. With that vague description of the reason for our celebration (a significant accomplishment), there are just too many unanswered questions to get too excited. What was accomplished? By whom? What do you mean by significant? How will any of this help me? Without concrete answers to these questions (and more), it’s pretty unrealistic to expect much celebratory enthusiasm. We might up for a party, but it’d be the party we’re celebrating more than the “significant accomplishment.” It is only once I began filling in details that the celebration has any hope of gaining appropriate traction.
This, I fear is how most people in the world approach Christmas. It’s more about celebrating the party than the birth of the messiah. This is what happens when we only have a vague idea of the nature of the messiah and the benefits he offers his people and the means by which we gain access to the benefits. And yet, it need not be like this. As we grow in our understanding of these things (who he is, what he’s done, and how we gain access to it), we have real hope of celebrating Him, rather than the celebration itself.
Therefore, with that, let’s consider another specific aspect of the nature and blessing of the messiah of Isaiah, Jesus of Nazareth: his fatherliness and its benefit to you and I. It is my hope and prayer (for my own heart as well as yours) that in so doing we will truly and increasingly be able to celebrate him this year.
Fatherly In His Imaging Of The Father
First, Jesus is fatherly in that he perfectly images the Father. We see this clearly in several passages.
John 10:30 I and the Father are one.
Hebrews 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.
Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God.
It would be impossible for one lacking a father-like nature to be a perfect picture of the Father. Again, Jesus is not the Father, but because he is fatherly he is able to be the exact imprint of the Father.
This is good news for great joy this Christmas season. Grace, in Jesus we have a fatherly savior who pictures for us the glory and nature and image of God, the invisible Father. If you’re going to celebrate something this season, celebrate that. And if you’re going to celebrate it, do so in a manner appropriate for the one who alone reveals the godhead to us.
But that’s not all…
Fatherly In His Federal Representation
Jesus is fatherly in that he represents us federally as only a father can. God has designed all mankind to be represented by their fathers. Jesus does that perfectly for his people.
By birth, that is by natural generation, Adam is our head, our representative father. But by new birth, that is by regeneration, Jesus is our head, our representative father. This is Paul’s clear and emphatic point in Rom. 5.
Romans 5:12-19 …just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned … 17 If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. 18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.
All people are ultimately represented by one of two fathers, Adam or Jesus. With Adam’s fatherly representation, all die. But with Jesus’ fatherly representation, all live. Because Jesus is our representative father, we are declared righteous. Because of Jesus’ fatherly representation we are acceptable to God. Because of Jesus’ fatherly representation we can approach God with freedom and confidence. Because of Jesus’ fatherly representation we are able to glorify God and enjoy him forever!
Again, Grace, if you cannot see how limitlessly superior this is to any and all gifts, food, family, friends, parties, everything!, then you cannot possibly celebrate Christmas rightly. But, with even the beginning of an understanding, which all Christians have at the least, we have cause for celebration that dwarfs all others. We have a fatherly messiah in Jesus who represents us in obedience and righteousness before the Father. And in that we have more than enough cause to celebrate in great exultation!
But that’s not all…
Fatherly As The Founder Of Our Faith
Jesus is fatherly in that he is the founder of our faith. Hebrews 12:2 makes this point precisely.
Hebrews 12:2 Jesus [is] the founder and perfecter of our faith…
But what does that mean? Interestingly, this concept of fatherhood is found in the first few chapters of the bible. Consider the following (probably) unfamiliar passage in Genesis 4.
Genesis 4:17-21 Cain… . Enoch…18 Irad… Mehujael… Methushael… Lamech. 19 … Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. 21 His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe.
In this sense, Jabal and Jubal are the fathers of tent dwellers and pipe players respectively in that they are said to be the first to engage in tent dwelling and pipe playing. That is, they invented those things. They came first in tent-dwelling and pipe-playing.
And again, this is exactly what the author of Hebrews means in chapter 12. Jesus was the first (and only) to trust fully and completely in the Father. In this sense he invented faithful faith in God. And in this way he is fatherly as the founder and perfecter of our faith.
On this point of Jesus’ fatherliness (John MacArthur writes,) “Jesus Christ is our preeminent example of faith…Jesus lived the supreme life of faith… [And] Jesus…is the one who carries it through to completion. He continued to trust his Father until he could say, ‘it is finished!”…On the cross Jesus’ work was both over and finished—perfected. It accomplished exactly what it was meant to accomplish.”
Grace, this is the man of Isaiah 9:6. This is the Son of God. This is Jesus of Nazareth. This is our Everlasting Father. Jesus is fatherly toward us in that he is the father of trusting in God; he has shown us what it looks like to trust wholly and effectively in the Father. This must be the cause of our celebration and joy and happiness this Christmas. It is all that we need and it warrants celebrations in the highest—celebrations that require our best food and people and music and gifts and creativity.
But that’s not all…
Fatherly As The Giver Of Life
Finally, Jesus is fatherly in its most basic sense of all: he gives life. If a father is anything, he is a life-giver. No human life has come apart from a father. What’s more, no spiritual life has ever come apart from a father. Jesus is the father of both—our life (Colossians 1:16) and our spiritual life (1 John 5:11-13).
Concerning Jesus as the father (giver) of our physical life, Colossians 1:16 says,
Colossians 1:16 by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities- all things were created through him and for him.
And concerning Jesus as the father (giver) of our spiritual life, 1 John 5:11-13 says,
1 John 5:11-13 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.
Again, Grace, rightly understood, we are left with a profound sense of amazement at this fatherly aspect of Jesus. In this role he gives life, new spiritual life, everlasting life. And again, rightly understood, we are left with fuel more potent than an atomic bomb for powering our Christmas celebrations.
And so again, I plead with you, don’t let counterfeit, puny, insufficient, imitations and imposters rule your Christmas. There is nothing else that can come close to satisfying us like the actual significance of Christmas.
But that’s still not all…
THE EVERLASTING MAGIC OF JESUS’ FATHERHOOD
What’s more, the perfect fatherliness of Jesus will never end. He will never stop being a perfect picture of the Father. He will never stop being our representative father before the Father. He will never stop being the fatherly founder and perfecter of our faith. And he will never stop being the father of our life.
Jesus, the one of Isaiah 9:6 and the virgin-born child of Christmas, is not just perfectly fatherly—though he is that. He is everlastingly perfectly fatherly! All of the benefits of his fatherhood last forever and ever in his children.
Where our earthly fathers have failed (sometimes miserably), and where we as earthly fathers have failed (sometimes miserably), Jesus’ fatherly nature never fails.
Grace, I want you to hear something clearly: we (all people) were created with what others have called “father hunger”—a continual felt-need (just like when we haven’t eaten food for a while) to be fathered well. The reason for this—the reason fathers hold so much power over us—is that God designed it that way. God has put magic in the role of fatherhood. He means those in the role of father to be able to provide magical blessing—blessing that doesn’t make mathematical sense.
How many men will you know or have some level of significant interaction with in your life? Hundreds for sure. Some will be terrible men. Some will be great men. Most will be somewhere in between. But, more than likely, all of them combined won’t be able to impact you to the degree that your earthly father will. That’s the magic God has placed in the role.
And yet, as some of you know all-too-painfully well, like all things God has put magic in, it can be used to bless or curse. Some use God’s magic for good and others use it for bad (sometimes great evil). The same magic that can bring exponential blessings, can also bring exponential pain. This magic, used rightly, is what leads to generational faithfulness to God. But this same magic, used wrongly, is what leads to generational depravity and pain.
Men of God, use God’s fatherly magic well. Use it to bless and not curse, as God designed. But above all, people of God, look ultimately to our Everlasting Father as the only perfect worker of fatherly magic.
And that, once again, is the good news of Christmas: regardless of how well or poorly our earthly fathers have treated us, Jesus, the Everlasting Father, is everlastingly sufficient in his fatherliness to overcome any lack or pain caused by the failures of our earthly fathers.
Indeed, in the sense Isaiah means in 9:6, there is only one father who is able to lead you to everlasting fellowship with the godhead, the Everlasting Father, Jesus Christ.
That Jesus is father means that he images the Father, represents us as our federal father, is the fatherly founder of our faith, and is the fatherly giver of our (physical and spiritual) life. That he is everlasting father means that these things will never come to an end.
This fatherliness of Jesus is worthy of celebrating, Grace. This is what has come at Christmas.
We cannot now see him, but he is no less alive today than he was in eternity past, when he walked on earth in Jerusalem, and he is no less alive today than when he will return to judge the living and the dead. He is alive at the Father’s right hand working in fatherly ways on behalf of his people just as truly and effectively as he did on the cross. And that, of course, is worth celebrating. That too is what has come at Christmas.
Again, Grace, we do not need to add anything to the coming of Jesus, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Immanuel, to make it worthy of celebrating. What’s more, all the gifts and food and friends in the world would still fall short of what it would take to make a party worthy of this birthday! And so let’s seek him in his glory. Let’s receive the names the Father has given him. And let’s commit ourselves to celebrating in a manner fit for the God-man, Jesus Christ. Amen.