What does God say about Himself ? God only can reveal Himself. The Unknown and the Unknowable can only make Himself fully known.
There are three great names and their relatives in the Old Testament, and one in the New Testament, by which God has been pleased to reveal His character. The three in the Old Testament are “Elohim,” “Adonai,” and “Jehovah”; and the one in the New Testament is “Father.” These names form a beautiful and expressive cube of God’s nature. George Macdonald says: “The name of our Lord God should lie a precious jewel in the cabinet of our hearts, to be taken out only at great times, and with loving awe.” Jehovah Himself sets a great store upon His name. He prohibits us from taking His name in vain (Ex. 20:7), and attaches significance and meaning to the several names by which He calls Himself (Ex. 6:3).
In Elohim we have revealed the glory of God’s power, in Adonai the glory of the Lord’s possessions, in His name of Jehovah we have made known the glory of His Divine Person, and in Father we have brought to us the glory of His loving Paternity.
In the first there is made known the skill and strength of His hands as Creator; in the second there is made known the claim and call of His authority as Lord and Master; in the third we see the grace and constancy of His immutable purpose as the unchanging One; and in the fourth we have the hand and heart of our Father’s love and aid. “The Father of Glory” (Eph. 1:17) is one of the designations of Himself, but the glory of the Father is only known as we are in intimate fellowship with the Father of Glory.
“I cannot see,” Huxley once wrote to Charles Kingsley, “one shadow or tittle of evidence that the great Unknown underlying the phenomena of the universe stands to us in the relation of a Father — loves us and cares for us, as Christianity asserts.” If we only look where Huxley looked, we shall see that “Nature is red in tooth and claw with ravening,” but when we see Jesus we behold “the On1y Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
The Gospel of John is specially the Gospel which reveals the Father. In Matthew, “the Father” is mentioned 44 times, in Mark 5 times, in Luke 17 times, and in John 122 times. Tracing through John’s Gospel, a definite thought may be emphasized in each chapter where the Father is mentioned.
- The Father’s Unfolding (1:1-14). The Divine Word reveals the loving Father in His grace and truth. Christ is all He was in the living expression of what the Father is. The Gospel opens with the Son in the Father’s bosom, and before it closes it revea1s a saved sinner in the bosom of the Son (1:18; 13:25).
- The Father’s House (2:16) When the Son comes to the Father’s house He finds it polluted and possessed by religious sinners. Cleansing is the first act, for there can be no compact in grace till the usurper is cast out from his government.
- The Father’s Trust (3:35). The Beloved Son has given to Him the wealth of the Father’s treasure. Adam was trusted and failed. Christ was trusted and was faithful. This Gospel reveals Christ as constantly giving. Look up His “I gives.” He has so much to give the sons, because, as the Son, He has received all the treasures of the Father.
- The Father’s Worship (4:23). The spirit nature of the Father seeks the spiritual worship of His children. The locality of place and the hollowness of form are not recognized by Him, while the heart of faith and the reality of love’s gratitude are food and satisfaction to His being.
- The Father’s Will (5:17-42). There breathes through Christ’s references to His Father, working, loving, honouring, committing, sending, witnessing, and fitting, one thought, namely, His delight to do all the Father wishes. He wills and walks in His Father’s will, hence the Father is with Him in all His ways.
- The Father’s Provision (6: 27-57). As the Bread of God, Christ is God-sealed, God-given, and God-satisfying. He that wants Christ wants the Father and everything, while he that has Christ wants nothing, for in the Father’s provision he has everything.
- The Father’s Commission (8:16-54). Sent by the Father, His vocation was to please Him, He spake of Him, for He enjoyed His company, and the Father honoured Him in consequence.
- The Father’s Fellowship (10:15-38). Mutual knowledge, mutual love, mutual service, mutual preservation, mutual action and mutual possession are some of the heart throbs which the finger of faith feels as it is placed on the pulse of this chapter.
- The Father’s Response (11:41). The upward gaze of Christ’s appeal brings the unloosing act of God’s power, which causes the corrupting Lazarus to glide forth from the grip of death’s grasp in the vitality of Christ’s life. No power can withstand the Son’s prayer and the Father’s potency.
- The Father’s Glory (12:26-50). The goal of the Father’s command had its consummation in the gore of the fiery cross of Calvary. The hour of all hours was the hour of Calvary’s darkness, for then did Christ meet God’s claim and glorify His name, and fulfil every iota of the Father’s will.
- The Father’s Confidence (13:1-3). The consciousness of the Father’s confidence was the fuel that kept the flame of Christ’s continuance burning brightly. The hate of men, the desertion of friends, the blackness of the cross, and the ire of God’s judgment could not hide the smile of the Father’s face.
- The Father’s Image (14:2-31). The Visible Son was the Invisible Father. There is no question about God, the past, the present, the future, the claim of love, the coming of the Spirit, and the unknown, but finds its answer in Christ.
- The Father’s Ministry (15:1-26). The ministry of the Fatherly Husbandman is the cause of the fruitfulness of the vine and the branches. The sap of the Spirit’s life, the glow of the Divine love and the flow of the Son’s joy are all due to the grace of the Father’s attention.
- The Father’s Love (16:3-32). The income which Christ has brought to us, the outcome of Christ’s work for us, all we have become in His grace, and all the enemies we overcome in His power, are because the Father has come to us in His love, and lives in us in His power.
- The Father’s Keeping (I7:1-24). The priestly prayer of Christ is a portraiture of His pleading as He now pleads for the Father’s preservation of His own. The finished work of the cross is the basis of His prayer, and the final entrance into His glory is its terminus.
- The Father’s Cup (18:11). The cup of our woe was pressed by the hand of love to the lips of grace, that grace and love might press to our lips the cup of blessing and salvation.
- The Father’s Presence (20:17-21). To the sublime heights of the Father’s presence He ascends, after going into the depths of intense suffering, and now He sends us forth to make known the riches of His grace.
The Father’s Specific Acts
In addition to the general survey of the Fatherhood of God in Christ as revealed by the Spirit in John, we find the Father’s specific acts severally mentioned.
- His definite seeking (4:23).
- His earnest working (5:17).
- His ardent loving (5:20; 10:17; 16:27).
- His powerful raising (5:21).
- His specific sending (5:36; 8:16-18).
- His Divine sealing (6:27).
- His holy giving (6:32,37; 10:29; 13:3).
- His attractive drawing (6:44).
- His recognized honouring (8:54; 12:26).
- His appreciative knowledge (10:15).
- His distinct command (10:18; 14:31).
- His consecrating act (10:36, R.V.).
- His unmistakable message (12:50).
- His manifested indwelling (14:10).
- His sufficient bestowment (14:26; 15:26).
- His fruitful tending (15:1).
- His safe keeping (17:11).
And further to these specific acts, which speak of the Father’s active ministry on behalf of the Son and the sons, we have certain things which are said to belong to the Father.
- The “Only Begotten of the Father,” or what Christ became for us (1:14).
- The bosom of the Father, or the affection in which the Son lives (1:18).
- The home of the Father, or the place in which He dwells (2:16; 14:2).
- The life of the Father, or the vitality of His being (5:26).
- The will of the Father, or the desire of His heart (5:30; 6:39).
- The name of the Father, or the expression of His nature, or His authority (5:43; 10:25; Matt. 28:19).
- The hand of the Father, or the keeping of His power (10:29; Luke 23:46).
- The works of the Father, or the activities of His ministry (10 37).
- The commandment of the Father, or the requirement of His love (15:10).
- The cup of the Father, or the requirement of His holiness (16:11),
- The knowledge of the Father, or the tenderness of His care (Luke 12:30).
- The face of the Father, or the consciousness of His presence (Matt. 18:20).
- The pleasure of the Father, or the intention of His love (Luke 3:22).
- The glory of the Father, or the display of His worth (Matt.
- The grace and peace of the Father, or the gift of His mercy (I Cor. 1:3).
- The blessings of the Father, or the provision of His grace (Eph. 1:3)
- The promise of the Father, or the enduement with His power (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4).
- The love of the Father, or the affection of His heart (I John 2:15; 3:1).
- The witness of the Father, or the appreciation of His Son (John 5: 36, 37)
- The foreknowledge of the Father, or the purpose of His grace (I Pet. 1:2).
- The kingdom of the Father, or the future of His plan (Matt 24:34; I Cor.
There are several relative expressions which shine out in the New Testament, and which bring out the many-sidedness of the Fatherhood of God.
- “Father.” Christ’s revelation of God as Father (John 1:14-18).
- “A Father.” God’s relationship to the Son and sons (Heb. 1:5; II Cor. 6:18).
- “The Father.” Personal glory of the Father (I John 1:2; 3:1; 4:14).
- “My Father.” Christ’s personal relationship to the Father (John 15: 1, 8).
- “Your Father.” Responsibility of the children to the parent (Matt.
5:16, 45, 48).
- “Our Father.” Responsibility because of common relationship (Luke 11:2).
- “God the Father.” His exclusive relationship (II Tim. 1:2; II Pet.
- “God our Father.” The saints’ commonwealth and confidence (Eph.
- “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The relationship of Christ and His own (Eph. 1:3).
- Holy Father.” Christ’s priestly service for His saints (John 17:11).
- “Righteous Father.” Christ and the world (John 17:25).
When “Father” is used alone it speaks of intimate relationship, hence, when Christ speaks to His Father He says, “Father” (Luke 22:42; 23:34,46; John 11:41; 12:27, 28;17:1,21,24); or “O Father” (Matt. 11:25; John 17:5); or “Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6).
In the above Scriptures, Christ as the Son is seen in seven relations to the Father, as —
- The Willing Son (Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42; John 12:27,28).
- The Confident Suppliant (Matt. 11:25).
- The Satisfied Intercessor (John 11:41).
- The Earnest Worker (John 17:1).
- The Holy Priest (John 17:5,21,24).
- The Pleading Substitute (Luke 23:34).
- The Surrendered Spirit (Luke 23:46).
II. “My Father”
Christ uses the words, “My Father,” in one or two relationships, either in the fellowship of their mutual love or service, or else as they are mutually acting for believers.
- Mutual Work. Christ speaks of “My Father’s business” (Luke 2:49), and the works He did as done “in My Father’s name” (John 10:25), and says, “My Father worketh hitherto and I work” (John 5:17). The sphere of His service, the authority for His action, the plan which He followed, the business in which He was engaged, and the fellowship of His work, were all begun, continued and ended from, in, through, with, and to the Father.
- Mutual Purpose. The requirement of the Father was met by the ransom of the Son, hence, in referring to the direction of the Father in relation to His substitutionary death, Christ says, “This commandment have I received of My Father” (John 10:18). Christ’s death was no accident, it was Love’s sending and suffering, and thus the accomplishment of Divine decree.
- Mutual Keeping. The double grip of grace tells us that Love’s
fingers are interlaced in the warmth of their embrace for the keeping of the
sheep in the place of the Lord’s preservation, for the Lord assures us we are not only in His hand, but “My Father,” Who gave them, He is greater than all: and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand” (John 10: 29). Preserved in the hand of Power, we are kept safe from sin’s pollution.
- Mutual Indwelling. There is a mystic union between the sons and the Son with the Father. Wonderful are the words, “Ye shall know that I am
in My Father, and ye in Me and I in you,” and to those who know
Him by their obedience, Christ further says, “If a man love Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him” (John 14:20-23). The word “abode” is the same as rendered “mansion” in John 14:2. God’s home is in the obedient child, and the obedient child is at home in God.
- Mutual Obedience. The Son and the sons have one path to tread,
namely, the way of obedience. The appreciation of love’s complacency comes
through response to Love’s commands. “If ye keep My commandments ye
shall abide in My love, even as I have kept My Father’s commandments
and abide in His love” (John 15:10).
- Mutual Bestowment. “Behold I send the promise of My Father
upon you” (Luke 24:49). The purpose of the Father culminated in the Passion of the Son, and the Passion of the Smitten Son brought the Power of the Spirit’s grace, even as the struck rock of Horeb resulted in the gushing water.
- Mutual Thought. ” In My Father’s house are many mansions, if it were not so, I would have told you” (John 14:2). The place Christ is
preparing is in the house of the Father’s many abodes. The home-coming of the children from the school of life will find many surprises of the Father’s thinking and the Son’s working.
III. “The Father”
When the Father is referred to as “The Father,” the exclusiveness of His being is emphasized as, “He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father” (John 14:9); to the sovereignty of His grace: “No man can come to Me, except the Father draw him” (John 6:44); to the claim of His Deity: “Worship the Father” (John 4:21); to the revelation of His love: “The only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14); to the holiness of His love: “The Father loveth” (John 3:35; 16:27); to the power of His Spirit: “Whom the Father will send in My name” (John 14:26); and to the character of Christ’s service: “the Father which sent Me” (John 12:49; 14:24).
The Father as “the Father” is referred to again and again in the Gospel of John. Take but one section, namely, John 5:19-21, as illustrating the Father in relation to the exclusiveness of His being as the source of things.
- Source of Action (verse 19). Being in the subordinate position as the Son, He cannot act apart from the Father as His servant, therefore all His actions were the acts of the Father. The lowly dependence of His Spirit declares the holiness of His character and His fitness for His Father’s service, for as all independence of God is in the virus of sin, so dependence upon Him is the virtue and vitality of service.
- Source of Love (verse 20). The love of the Father to the Son shows itself in three ways — in His confidence in Him (John 3:35), in His communion with Him, and in the communication through Him. His tender regard is manifest in the feelings of His heart’s love, and in the fulness of hand’s liberality, for all that comes from the Father to the Son comes through the Son to us.
- Source of Power (verse 21) The “as” and “so” of the verse show
community of action. “The work belongs to the Father,” as Luthardt says, “in so far as it proceeds from Him; to the Son, in so far as it is accomplished by Him in the world.”
The student will find ample reward for his pains if he will ponder the Paternity of God along this line. For instance, take John’s epistle for a further study.
IV. “Your Father”
These words embody with them the thought of responsibility. Fourteen times the couplet occurs in Matthew’s Gospel:
Shining to glorify (5:16).
Proving the relationship by kindness to persecutors (5:45,48).
Helping the needy, unseen (6:1).
Praying to purpose (6:8).
Forgiving to be forgiven (6:14,15).
Trusting to be fed (6:26,32).
Praying and receiving (7:11).
Allowing the Spirit to speak (10:20).
Trustful because cared for (10:29).
Looking after the little ones (18:14).
The One to be recognized (23:9).
The privilege of being God’s children brings a corresponding responsibility, but when we respond to His ability we can fulfil every responsibility.
What does this Christly relationship to the Father mean to those who are the children of God?
- Nature of the Father. There are two principal words translated “sons,” or “children,” in the New Testament,
- Named by the Father. ” Called the sons (children) of God” (I John
3:1), that is, we are named children. The word (Kaleo), rendered “called,” is frequently used in the giving of names: “called His name Jesus” (Matt. 1:25), “called the Son of The Highest” (Luke 1:32), “call his name John” (Luke 1: 60), ” Mary, called Magdalene” (Luke 8:2), ” A man named Zacchaeus” (Luke 19:2), “a place which is called Calvary” (Luke 23:33), “that old serpent called the devil” (Rev. 12:9). The title by which believers are designated is that of children. Life makes us children and character and conduct prove we are such.
- Provision from the Father. There are three New Testament Scriptures beginning with the sentence, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ ” (II Cor. 1:3 R.V.; Eph. 1:3; I Pet. 1:3), which accentuate the largeness of the Father’s provision. All comfort in all tribulation is found in the first, so every circumstance in the outer life is met; all blessing for all need is assured in the second, so every requirement of the inner life is bestowed; and all the future for all time and eternity is provided for in the third, so the life infused is the earnest of the life to come, in all its incorruptibility and purity.
- Fellowship with the Father. “Our fellowship is with the Father” (I John 1:3). The word for “fellowship” (Koinonia) is rendered “communication” in Philemon 6, “communion” in II Cor. 13:14, “distribution” in II Cor. 9:13, and “contribution” in Rom. 15:26, and comes from the word “Koinonos”, which means one who shares something with another, hence we read of those who were “partners“ with Simon (Luke 5:10). Fellowship with the Father
means mutual communication, for we bless Him with our grateful praise, and He blesses us with His gracious provision; mutual distribution, for He gives to us the blessing of His love, that we may love others with the love of His blessing; mutual contribution, for He makes us partakers of His holiness, that we may by our holiness prove we are partakers of His nature. We are partakers in all His business, and He is a partner in all ours, so there is fellowship, fellow-help, fellow-feeling, fellow-work, fellow-purpose, fellow-company, and fellow-care.
- Assurance in the Father. ” Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son in your hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (Gal. 4:6; Rom. 8:15) The Spirit by the Word assures the surrendered sinner that He is God’s own child. The act of our faith, acting according to God’s Word, meets the assurance of God’s voice in that Word, that the believers are God’s children. The witness within is the entrance of the Word of God without, even as the sun lighted and sun-warmed room is proof positive of the shining sun outside.
- Obedience to the Father. “If ye call on Him as Father” (I Pet. 1:17 R.V.), then certain obligations rest upon us, and especially the obligation of obedience, for we cannot have the privileges of the Gospel without their attendant responsibilities. Obedience is the medium of blessing (I Pet. 1:2,22), the meaning of faith (Rom. 15:18; 16:19), the soul of love (John 14:15), the evidence of holiness (Rom. 6:16), the heart of consecration (Rom. 6:17, margin), the answer of trust (Heb. 11:8); and the secret of confidence (I John 3:19) The word “assure” is given “may obey” in Jas. 3:3, and “confidence” in Philemon 21. The word in Heb. 11:8, rendered “obeyed,” is rendered ” hearken” in Acts 12:13. Literally it is “to answer.” “Rhoda came to the door, to ask who was there” (R.V., “came to answer”; margin, “to ask who was there”).
- Loved and Preserved by the Father. ” Beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ” (Jude 1, R.V.). One of the fundamental principles
brought out in the New Testament is the unity of operation of the three persons of the Godhead, and yet their distinctive ministries. The Father bears witness to the Son and the Son to the Father, the Spirit reveals the Son and the Son speaks of the Spirit. The Spirit leads to the Son that we may know the Father, and the Father keeps us for the Son that we may share His glory. The redeemed are not only kept in Christ as the place of their safety, but they are preserved for Him as a trophy of His grace.
namely, “Huios” and “Teknon.” The former is always used in an
adoptive sense, and refers to the dignity of son ship, and the latter expresses kinship, a descendant, and denotes nature. “Huios” is used in Rom. 8:14,19; Gal. 3:26; 4:6; Heb. 12:5,6,7,8; and “Teknon” in I John 2:12; Rom. 8:16,17,21; I John 3:1,2,10. As the child owes its being to its parents, so being begotten from above by the Spirit we possess the nature of God, and that nature is love.
There is a threefold way by which Christ is glorified in His saints: (1) In what He has done for them, for the Father, hence He says, “I am glorified in them” (John 17:10); (2) In what the Spirit does in them, as they know Christ in the effectiveness of His grace, hence the Apostle prayed, “That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you ” (II Thess. 1:11,12); (3) and what the Father is yet going to do when He recompenses His own at the coming of Christ with His saints in judgment, when “in that day” He shall “be glorified in His saints” (II Thess. 1:6-10). To the time of His return when we shall be mutually satisfied, and to the day of His manifested glory when we shall be admired by the world, we are kept by the Father.
We may come to a sixfold conclusion from this study:
- That the Father is made known in Christ alone, therefore if we would know the Father we must know the Son, for “no man,” He explicitly says, “cometh unto the Father but by Me” (John 14:6).
- That while all men are the “offspring of God” (Acts 17:29) by creation, they are only His creatures and not His children, for all humanity has sinned and all are under condemnation (Rom. 3:23), hence the necessity of a new birth to become members of the family of the Father (John 3:3,5; 1:12,13).
- That is was essential the Son of God should taste death in a substitutionary sense for those who should become the sons of God, for the mystic key to open the door of sonship, as well as salvation, is the atoning death of Calvary. Christ’s word was, “The Son of man must be lifted up” (John 3:14). The Son of man on the cross is the procuring cause to make the sons of men one with Him in the commonwealth of His Fatherhood.
- That believers in Christ are the children of God in a double sense: spiritually by the new birth, for by the Spirit we are born into God’s family (John 1: 12,13; 3:3,5), and receive His nature (II Pet. 1:4); and adoptively we are the children of God as to place, for He has given us all the privileges of sonship (Rom. 8:15-17).
- That the evidence we are the children of God, is not by profession, but by following two things: (1) Negatively, separation from sin, for we read, “He that committeth sin is of the devil… whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin… in this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil” (I John 3:8-10). (2) Positively, love to the Lord in loving others. “Every one that loveth is begotten of God” (I John 4:7 R.V.; 5:1).
- That it is the privilege of every child of God to experience all that is meant by God being the Father. A Father thinks of His children, cares for them, watches over them, succours and keeps them. Our Father provides for our need (Matt. 6: 8,26,30), answers our requests (Matt. 7:11; John 14:13), watches over our welfare (Matt. 10:29-31; John 13:1), takes pleasure in giving (Luke 12:32), protects in danger (John 10:29), secures a home (John 14:2), loves His own (John 16:27), and trains in discipline (Hebrews 12:7-9).
When the second son of the writer was lying on his death bed in Sunderland, as we surrounded his bed, we thought he had fallen asleep, when he suddenly opened his eyes, and, seeing me, quietly said, “Father!” O that in all our life we might ever look up to the Lord, and say to Him in the love of obedience and the trust of faith, “Father”!
This page Copyright © 2000 Peter Wade. The Bible text in this publication, except where otherwise indicated, is from the King James Version. This article appears on the site: https://www.peterwade.com/. Check out our Bookstore.