God the Father

1 Peter 1:3-5 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Last week we saw from this same passage (1:3-5) that our first and main duty in all circumstances (including times of significant persecution and suffering) is to worship God. This was Peter’s first charge to the persecution-scattered saints to whom he was writing. He wrote, in your suffering, in your fear, in your pain, in your loneliness, in your ignorance, in your uncertainty; before you feel sorry for yourself, before you call on your fellow Christians for help, even before you pray to God for deliverance, praise God, worship God, bless God’s name. Acknowledge and declare, Peter said, “blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

We then went on to see Peter’s reasons for this: 1) God’s glory is infinitely greater than all of your difficult circumstances, and 2) Your difficult circumstances don’t diminish or effect God’s glory in any way.

Now, for the next few weeks, I want to back up a bit and look at a few crucial phrases in this same text. The first of which is found in v.3. In it Peter refers to God as the “Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”. This week, then, we’re going to consider the fatherhood of God.

Recently, from someone I respect very much, I heard it said that understanding and experiencing God as Father is the most important thing you can understand and experience about God. I’m always a little skeptical when I hear claims like that (how would you measure or quantify or judge such a thing?), and yet even to have it mentioned as a possibility for such things demonstrates its significance.

Please pray with me that God would be pleased to help us grow in our understanding and experience of the fatherhood of God.

Again, very clearly 1 Peter 1:3 teaches that God is the Father of Jesus. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” 1 Peter 1:3, however, is not the only NT passage, and Peter is not the only NT figure, to teach such a thing.

Paul teaches the same thing in Ephesians 1:3 (and Romans 15:6 and 2 Corinthians 1:3). There he writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places…”.

More significantly, perhaps, Jesus himself refers to God as his Father many, many times throughout the gospels. In fact, “Father” is far and away the most common title Jesus gives to God.

John 6:40 provides one such example, (Jesus speaking) “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Of this, R.C. Sproul writes,

“In all existing books of the Old Testament and all existing books of extrabiblical Jewish writings dating from the beginning of Judaism until the tenth century A.D. in Italy—there is not a single reference of a Jewish person addressing God directly in the first person as Father. There were appropriate forms of address that were used by Jewish people in the Old Testament, and the children were trained to address God in proper phrases of respect. All these titles were memorized, and the term Father was not among them. The first Jewish rabbi to call God ‘Father’ directly was Jesus of Nazareth. It was a radical departure from tradition, and in fact, in every recorded prayer we have from the lips of Jesus save one, he calls God “Father.”

That the NT authors and that Jesus himself understood God as the Father of Jesus is plain. Historically, however, there has been a good deal of confusion concerning the exact nature of what that means. Therefore, before speaking to what it does mean, I want to quickly offer four things it decidedly does not mean.

False understandings of the Father/Son relationship.

(Much of the following section comes from Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology.)

First, that God is the Father of Jesus does not mean that God created Jesus or otherwise brought Jesus into existence. (This is a form on a heresy known as Arianism which denies the full deity of the Son and Spirit.) Several religions like Islam and Jehovah’s Witnesses falsely make this claim. And yet, early on (in the Nicene Creed in the 4th century) the Church rejected this position as heretical.

Second, that God is the Father of Jesus does not mean that God is superior to Jesus. (This is a heresy known as subordinationism; which is another form of Arianism.) Again, several religions like the Mormons teach this. And again the Church condemned this position from the beginning (by the 5th century).

A third mistaken understanding of the meaning of God as Father of Jesus (and a third form of Arianism, known as adoptionism) is the notion that God the Father adopted Jesus at his baptism. Jesus, in this view, was not eternal. Rather, he became the son of God by being adopted by the Father, symbolized by his baptism. Once again, this was rather swiftly dismissed by the early Church.

And finally, there’s a fourth heresy worth mentioning. It is the idea that God has revealed himself in three different ways (modes), Father, Son, and Spirit. (This heresy is known as modalism.) This mistaken understanding of the relationship between the Father and Son doesn’t actually define the relationship between Father and Son at all. Rather, it describes the revelation of God as Father and then Son. Indeed, according to this view there is no relationship between God the Father and Jesus the Son because they are not distinct persons, just distinct manifestations of the one God.

True understandings of the Father/Son relationship.

While God as the Father of Jesus Christ does not mean those things (or any other of the numerous perversions that have popped up throughout history), it does mean certain other things. It is important to grasp that the root of both the errors and truths concerning the Father/Son relationship is an understanding of three straight-forward affirmations concerning the Trinity: 1) God is three persons, 2) Each person is fully God, 3) There is one God. Another way to say this is that there is one God who is one in essence and three in person. The various errors and heresies surrounding the understanding of God as Father of Jesus have come when people get this wrong. And the various truths (which we’ll look at in a moment) come when people get this right.

There is certainly mystery here, but both Scripture and Church history are clear on these affirmations as the basis of the relationship of God the Father and God the Son. With that, let’s consider what it does mean that God is the Father of Jesus.

First, it does mean that there is a difference in role among the persons of the Trinity. While the Father and Son (and Spirit) are equal in essence, power, and glory, they are distinct in person and role. If you want some fancy words to explain this, it is right to say that there is both an ontological understanding of the Trinity (where the persons are equal in being) and an economic understanding of the Trinity (where the persons are distinct in role).

Again, R.C. Sproul writes, “We distinguish among the three persons of the Godhead in terms of what we call the economy of God. It is the Father who sends the Son into the world for our redemption. It is the Son who acquires our redemption for us. It is the Spirit who applies that redemption to us. We do not have three gods. We have one God in three persons, and the three persons are distinguished in terms of what They do.”

Further, while it is false to say that the Son is lesser than the Father in being (subordinationism), it is true to say that the Son willfully and joyfully subordinates himself to the Father in role. That is, one significant meaning of the fact that God is the Father of Jesus is that they have distinct roles, where the roles of the Son (and Spirit) are given to him by the Father.

This is at the heart of Jesus’ words in John 8:28-29, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. 29 And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”

This is a beautiful display of unity in the midst of diversity. In the godhead, particularly in the relationship between the Father and Son, we see clearly how distinct persons can be of equal value and honor and glory but distinct in role. And we see how there can be joyful submission among equals.

Let us, therefore, praise God for this, Grace. Where we are prone to pride and selfishness, it is never the case among the persons of the Trinity. Let’s praise Father and Son for their perfect example. Let us, therefore, look to the Father and Son and joyfully submit to one another, eagerly giving up our “rights” or “liberty” when appropriate to serve others. And let us, therefore, esteem people, not for the role they play, but for playing the roles assigned to them by God.

Another key to understanding the nature of the Fatherhood of God as it relates to his Son Jesus, is the fact that the Father loves his Son. In Matthew 3:16-17 we read, “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.'”

That the Father loves the Son means he delights in giving that which is best to the Son. What’s more, in his love, the Father’s joy is in the Son. That is, not only does the Father love the Son, he also finds pleasure in the Son—He is “well pleased” with him.

Again, that God is the Father of Jesus means that he loves and is well pleased with Jesus. What a beautiful picture of what all relationships are meant to be, especially family relationships. Let’s praise God for this and seek to imitate it in our relationships. Parents, love your kids. Love them well. Seek that which is best for them continually. Find joy in them. Let them know you’re well pleased with them as God’s creatures. And let them know that your love and joy in them is not based on their performance, but in the fact that they have been made in God’s own image.

A third aspect of God’s fatherhood concerning Jesus is the fact that he glorifies his Son, Jesus. Jesus himself speaks to this in response to the disbelieving Jews in John 8:54. “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.'”

Every parent, I imagine, has boasted about their kid at some point. For many, they’re so impressed with their children that it’s all they can do. First time parents, I’ve noticed, tend to be especially proud of their kids—as if their kids were truly the first to ever hold their head up or smile or crawl or walk or talk or read or hit a ball. It’s fun to see parents proud of their children and the joy it brings them—even when their kids aren’t quite as special as the parents believe them to be.

The entire situation is a bit different, however, when it comes to the Father and Son. The Father always rightly boasts in the Son, for the Son possess true, eternal, infinite glory. The Father, then, always rightly works to make it known to His creation. The Law and the prophets and the apostles testify to this. The signs and wonders performed by Jesus testify to this. Above all, Jesus’ death and resurrection testify to this. This is the glory of the Son which is the glory of the Father (and Spirit) and the Father is making that known to every tribe and tongue and nation.

Finally, another significant aspect of God as the Father of Jesus is the fact that they are of one mind. Jesus stated this simply in John 17:11 as he prayed for unity among Christians, “Keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.”

As we saw earlier, there is more to the oneness of the Father and Son (oneness in essence) than simply oneness in mind, but in the context of John 17 Jesus mainly has in mind oneness of mind; that is, oneness of understanding, purpose, and love. The Father and Son share these things perfectly.

Unfortunately, in many families it is obvious that although everyone belongs to the same family, each person is only out for their own selfish interests. Kids obey as long they can see a clear benefit to themselves, but where no such benefit exists, they mutiny. Parents are quick to demand service and obedience but slow to give it (to God or their kids). Everyone is in it for themselves.

It is never this way between the Father and Son. The aim of the Father is the aim of the Son. And the joy of the Son is the joy of the Father. And because of this, according to the Father’s purpose and direction, the Son was willing to take on flesh and become a man, the Son was willing to suffer the mocking of his own creation, the Son was willing to sacrifice himself for the glory of the Father and the salvation of mankind.

In utter anguish as he contemplated his death, Jesus fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).

It was their perfect unity in understanding, purpose, and love that caused Jesus to remain true to the Father’s will even as he awaited the forsaking of the Father.

Again, families, let this be an example to us all. One of the most essential aspects of the definition of a family (remember, families were designed and purposed by God) is to make visible the kind of unity of understanding, purpose, and love that exists invisibly between the Father and Son. Seek to imitate this in your homes.

There are many other aspects to the reality that God is the Father of Jesus, but these things are chief among them: 1) they are one in essence but different in person, 2) the Father loves the Son and is well pleased with him, 3) the Father glorifies the Jesus because of the glory of Jesus, and 4) because they are Father and Son, the Father and Son are of one mind, in complete unity of understanding, purpose, and love.

Grace, it is an amazing thing to think of God as the Father of Jesus. It is amazing to consider all of the mystery and blessing and glory that this means for the persons of the godhead. This remarkable relationship between the Father and Son has countless blessings for the world, including the facts that it is what allows God to be both just and justifier (Romans 3:26), that we have a model for our earthly father/son (parent/child) relationships, that we have a picture of genuine unity, and that we have an example of equality of value and distinction in role.

But Grace, as good as the news is concerning God as the Father of Jesus, the news gets better still. Not only is God the Father of Jesus, but God is our Father as well. And there are countless more blessings that flow from that.

Jesus teaches us to pray, “Our Father in heaven…”. John speaks of being given the right to be called children of God. Paul urges us to understand that God is our “Abba, Father”.

I’m going to close this morning by very briefly drawing your attention to two aspects of God as our Father.

First, God becomes our Father only by adoption through faith in the Son, Jesus. It’s important to recognize that God is not the Father of all people in the same way. While many people think of God as the father of the entire world, this is not how the bible speaks of the fatherhood of God. Of this R.C. Sproul wisely notes,

“Certainly, the Bible refers to all human beings as God’s “offspring” (Acts 17:28), but in so doing it speaks only of our Creator’s role in bringing us into existence. There is a Creator-creature relationship between the Lord and all of humanity. This is far different, however, from the father-son relationship that the Bible has in mind when it refers to the Lord as our Father—a relationship in which we have personal, loving communion with our God and enjoy access to His presence (Rom. 5:1–2; Eph. 3:11–12). We are not born into this relationship simply by emerging from our mothers’ wombs; rather, God must adopt us. This relationship is ours only when we are united to Christ by faith and receive “the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). We must be united to the only One who is the Son of God by nature, the Lord Jesus Christ. If we do not trust in the Savior, our relationship to God is merely that of a creature to its Creator, and we are under the Lord’s holy wrath (Rom. 1:18–32).”

What a remarkable distinction, one taught clearly in Galatians 4.

Galatians 4:4-7 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

That God is our Father means that God has granted us faith in His one true Son, and through that faith, adopted us as his children. We are not his children by nature. We are children of the devil, of sin, and of wrath by nature. But God in his grace and mercy rescues us from our old family of death and misery and brings us into his family of life and joy.

And second, that God is our Father means that we too (along with the Son) are loved by God and pleasing to God. It is mercy, grace, and love that allows us to become his children and to have him as our Father. That’s the point of 1 John 3:1, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”

Ponder anew the love displayed by God in adopting us even as we continued to wage war against him. Ponder anew the love of God that caused us to become His Children even as we continued to reject him.

But, Grace, God’s love for us is such that He doesn’t just love us to make us his children, he also loves us as his children. In this is protection and provision purpose and meaning and identity and significance and healing and comfort and acceptance and strength and security and stability and instruction and correction and example and joy and freedom and an inheritance that is beyond measure—eternally and perfectly providing for us all the things our earthly fathers are meant to provide.

Grace, God is the Father of Jesus and God is the Father of all who believe in Jesus. The blessings of the Father/Son relationship between God and Jesus are inestimable and the blessings of having God as our Father are beyond measure.

Given the significance and magnitude of the fatherhood of God, this sermon feels woefully inadequate. I’ve barely named the glories of this reality, much less plumbed the depths of them. When I read certain authors talk about the holiness of God it pricks me enough to realize that there’s so much more to be grasped and praised, and that drives me to pray and think and study. It is my prayer that this sermon might have the same effect on you all—driving you to dig deeper into the fatherhood of God.

Those who grew up without a father or without a godly father, press into this and find in your Heavenly Father all that you missed in your earthly Father. Parents, look to the relationship between the Father and Son as an example of what you are called to do and be for your kids. Kids, consider what God is like as Father and learn how to pray for your parents. Christian, consider the fact that God is your Father and find rest. Non-Christian, consider God’s offer to be your Father through faith in the Son and receive this gift.