God The Father
by Matthew Cramer
Before we can engage in a fruitful study about God the Father, we need an attitude adjustment. Many have problems with the term “father”. Just the mention of “fatherhood” causes “old tapes” to dredge up memories, especially those acquired while growing up: fear; mental, sexual or physical abuse; heavy handed discipline; a lack of affection and affirmation; and constant fault finding, to name a few.
Ruth Ann attended a women’s retreat where the leader — attempting to put the women in touch with God the Father — told them to picture themselves sitting in their daddy’s lap, being loved and hugged. Now, Ruth Ann was subjected to significant abuse by her father while growing up, particularly while forced to sit in his lap. The image directed by the retreat leader was painful and repugnant to her. Having ministered to a fair number of the attendees with similar backgrounds, she stood and suggested to the retreat leader that his imaging technique might be offensive, painful and intolerable to many women there.
The leader, curt and mocking, summarily dismissed her remarks as being anomalous and speculative. However, Ruth Ann received many affirmations that afternoon, and in later phone calls, from women who thanked her for speaking out — as they had experienced considerable pain as well.
A standard “ice-breaker” in men’s gatherings is to break the attendees into groups and have each man share memories of his father. I’ve been in a number of these groups and observed a curious dynamic at work. (I usually try to share last because my parents were divorced when I was two years old, so I grew up with no memories of a father.)
In the first round, sharings are usually about positive memories of their fathers. When my turn comes, I apologize and tell them I grew up without a father and have nothing to share. My statement is followed by a long, silent pause; and then, in turn, each man again shares about his father. But, this time, the stories are about negative and painful memories.
I don’t get off scott-free, however. I may have no painful memories that instigate calumny against God the Father. But, since my father was missing as I grew up, it’s no surprise my early beliefs about God the Father, included His absence from my day-to-day affairs.
So, God The Father gets a bum rap from the pain experienced in many lives — a significant block in relationship with Him. Let’s look at The Father from three different perspectives: Theology to reveal some of His attributes; Bible history that reveals aspects of His personality; and What Jesus reveals to us about the Father. Please set aside any prejudices you may have acquired about fathers (or authority figures), and consider what I have to say with your mind as unencumbered as possible.
A LITTLE THEOLOGY
You and I are blessed to know God in two ways: intellectually — based on concepts and notions we were taught or read; and experientially — as we came to know God, following that moment of conscious decision to let Jesus be the Lord of our lives. We might refer to that moment as our metanoia, epiphany, baptism in the Spirit, getting saved, or being born again.
Good theology helps us learn about God, without having to wait until we experience Him in attributes He chooses to reveal. This layman’s review of several fundamentals will help us get in touch with important attributes of The Father.
There are several theological proofs of the existence of God. One — known as first cause, prime mover or the source of existence — begins with the observation “For every effect, there is a cause”.
If I see an orange rolling down the hill, I know it has been set loose from a tree, and something is pulling it down the hill — one effect, at least two causes. I exist, and I see things that also exist. My existence is an effect since I did not cause it. My parents may have been the proximate cause, but they have only passed along the existence they received from their parents. If I trace all existence backwards to its beginning, I must eventually arrive at the source of existence. If that source does not have a cause, it must possess existence in itself, without any beginning. We call this source of existence the Prime Mover, First Cause, God.
“For just as the Father has life in himself, so also he gave to his Son the possession of life in himself.” (Jn 5:26 NAB)
Since God is the first cause of our existence, and all things that exist, we know He is capable of decision because He has caused the existence of others. In other words, He has a will. And since He got the job done, He must know a lot, and is powerful enough to have created things, with nothing but Himself to start with. So He has an intellect. A being that exists, with an intellect and a will, we call a person. The Father is a person.
If The Father is existence in Himself, there can be no limits to Him — otherwise, He would have been caused by someone or something else. In other words, He is infinite. If He is infinite, He must possess the fullness of all we observe, and much more — the fullness of everything possible.
The Father is all knowing, all-powerful and He is everywhere. We say everywhere because each thing and person that exists is held in existence from moment to moment by His conscious, deliberate, specific intention. Were He to withdraw His power from our existence, we would disappear without a trace, as though we had never existed at all.
If The Father is infinite, He must be the perfection of all existence. Since good exists, He must be the perfection of all goodness. Love exists, He must be perfect love; self sacrificing love that places the needs and the interests of the beloved first, as the highest priority, above all else. God is existence, all knowing, all-powerful, involved in everything — and God is Love.
The Father, Himself, has revealed this in scripture through Jesus and the Apostles:
“So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:48 NAB)
“Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.” (1Jn 4:8 NAB)
“We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.” (1Jn 4:16NAB)
If The Father is perfect love, there can be no evil in Him. Evil is a lack of, or an imperfection in, goodness. In a sense, The Father cannot do evil or commit unloving actions because they are an imperfection of love, and that possibility does not exist in His nature.
“Now this is the message that we have heard from him and proclaim to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.” (1John 1:5 NAB)
This does not deny the existence of evil beings, i.e. Satan And His Minions. It’s simply one way of getting at the notion that The Father’s nature is the infinite perfection of all that is good and loving.
We know from Scripture the Israelites thought physical sickness, birth defects, abnormalities and other illnesses were the result of sin — the sin of the individual or his ancestry. They were right, in a certain sense, in that all sickness, evil, and discord with nature came into human life through the sin of Adam and Eve. And once admitted into our world, evil entities are free to take advantage of our weaknesses, and the disharmony of nature.
Today’s culture tends to hold God responsible for evil, not mankind. We blame Him for injustices and rail against Him, asking questions like: “Why do You allow this? Why do You not intervene and stop cruelty, starvation, wars, etc?” This flawed logic reveals the modern tendency to duck personal accountability and responsibility, and make God responsible for our actions, and the free will actions of others.
So our theology review, supported by scripture, reveals The Father is a person, of infinite power, knowledge and perfection. He is infinite and perfect love and the source of all that exists. He is actively involved in our lives. He holds us in existence from moment to moment, motivated by love for us.
SOME BIBLE HISTORY
Why do we call God — The Father? I don’t want to stir up emotions here about patriarchy, matriarchy, women’s rights, men’s and women’s roles, etc. — all hot topics of the day in some circles. I’m just trying to get at what God has revealed about Himself through the Israelite culture and the Scriptures.
In the Israelite culture, a father was first, and foremost, the initiator of life. It was not until the father planted his seed that the process of life began. Women brought children to birth, and participated fully in raising them. But the Israelites assigned the responsibility for life, inheritance, and the successes and failures of past generations, to the father.
Being more powerful than the mother, the father provided food and shelter, and did the warfare necessary to protect the family and the larger community. He was the arbiter of order, justice, and punishment in the family. And he shared those same responsibilities — together with other males — in the larger society. He was responsible for the training and maturation of sons who would carry on the ancestry, the family line, the race, etc.
In no way, did this minimize the role of women who carried great responsibility, and without whom, the Israeli society could not function. Proverbs 31 is an excellent reference. Still, based on the Israeli culture, we can easily understand why God is called The Father, because their concept of father best describes an infinitely good and loving person, Who cared for them, and brought life.
Israeli culture is not the only source. Many times in scripture, God Himself uses the term Father. Here are examples as He speaks through Isaiah the prophet:
“…for you are our father. Were Abraham not to know us, nor Israel to acknowledge us, You, LORD, are our father, our redeemer you are named forever.” (Isa 63:16 NAB)
“Yet, O LORD, you are our father; we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hands.” (Isa 64:7 NAB)
The scriptures reveal God The Father as the source of life; our protector, our provider; He orchestrates our growth and maturation as He uses both the joys and vicissitudes of life to bring us closer to Him.
Let’s see what Old Testament history reveals about The Father. At creation, God made man in His image and likeness (the ability to know and love). Adam and Eve had a close relationship with God and a life of peace, joy and happiness — free of want or threat — in the Garden of Eden. God knew that if we were created and able to share in His life, we’d enjoy it. So, because He’s a God of love, He wills for us to exist so we can be happy. He doesn’t have a choice, so to speak. Because He loves, He creates. (More at A God Who Loves Us)
But, there’s a catch. Mankind cannot receive the fullness of existence The Father intends for us, unless we freely choose to be with Him. Choices require opportunities to select amongst alternatives; and mankind chose wrongly. The fall was catastrophic. Adam and Eve rejected God by accepting Satan’s word and authority, and put enmity between themselves, God, and nature.
It’s difficult to grasp how significant was the fall of mankind. It was more traumatic, more significant, more horrendous, and left us in a much more dysfunctional state — than if our current culture, with all its sophistication and civilization, were to suddenly revert back to the pre-Neanderthal age.
The Bible tells us death entered the world by Adam and Eve’s disobedience. I count five modes of that death: (For a more detailed discussion of this subject, see the Sandbox postings entitled The Train Wreck Of Humanity and What Jesus Did.)
- Death in our relationship with God
- Death of our physical bodies
- Death in our relationship with nature
- Death in the inner harmony of our being
- Death in our spiritual authority
So, exactly how does one repair an offense against an infinite being? How do you restore a severed relationship with an infinite being? To be sure, mankind did not have the capability to do so. We are not infinite. Nevertheless, out of love for us, The Father promised a new Adam who would mend the breech in our relationship with God, restore our authority in ourselves and nature, and put us back on the path to spend eternity with Him.
The following, brief Old Testament history reveals The Father’s loving, untiring, relentless pursuit and preparation of mankind for our redemption. The dates are approximate references, to keep it simple. I don’t intend to validate or propose dates, especially the early ones — that’s the province of scholars and historians. My purpose is to reveal the incredible patience and investment by The Father to bring mankind back into relationship with Him.
- 4,000 B.C. Our history begins with creation, the fall, Cain and Abel and the tower of Babel. These stories all reveal the incredible, dysfunctional condition of mankind after the fall.
- 2,500 B.C. Fifteen hundred biblical years later, with Noah and the flood, mankind’s history starts over.
- 2,100 B.C. God spent four hundred biblical years teaching and maturing mankind, so He could call Abram and begin the formation of His chosen people to receive the Messiah.
- 1,500 B.C. Six hundred biblical years later — after the Israelites had been enslaved in Egypt — God called Moses and delivered the Israelites from the Egyptians. During their formation in the desert, The Father gave them the Ten Commandments, religious and dietary laws, organization, government, judges and prophets, and led them to the Promised Land.
- 1,000 B.C. Another five hundred years, and at the Israelites’ insistence, The Father gave them a King. David fought for and unified the country. He brought the Ark to Jerusalem and his son, Solomon, built a temple in which to house the Ark — so that all would know The Father was present among them.
- 0,000 B.C. One thousand years after David and Solomon, a baby named Jesus was born in Bethlehem. He was destined — through His suffering, death and resurrection — to restore, even improve, The Father’s original plan for us.
For more than four thousand biblical years, The Father relentlessly selected, formed and made mankind ready to receive the ultimate healing and forgiveness through Jesus’ defeat of Satan — healing and forgiveness that would mend the incredible breach between the Creator and His created. Then, after all the formation and pursuit, The Father’s love for us is so great, He sacrifices His own Son to restore the breech.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NAB)
The Father is a God of love. He’s not an egotistical potentate, sitting on a throne, who issues lifeless rules. He’s a God who pursues us, is actively involved with us, and wants us to succeed.
These scriptures demonstrate my point. Catch the sense of a father who agonizes over his people when they stray, and rejoices over them when they return — a loving father in pursuit of, and involved with, his loved ones.
“…for not by their own sword did they win the land, nor did their own arm give them victory; but thy right hand, and thy arm, and the light of thy countenance; for thou didst delight in them.” (Ps 44:3 RSV)
“… Listen to my voice; then I will be your God and you shall be my people. Walk in all the ways that I command you, so that you may prosper.” (Jer 7:23 NAB)
“…Listen to my voice and do all that I command you. Then you shall be my people, and I will be your God.” (Jer 11:4 NAB)
“You shall be my people, and I will be your God.” (Jer 30:22 NAB)
“You shall live in the land I gave your fathers; you shall be my people, and I will be your God.” (Ezek. 36:28 NAB)
“I will set my Dwelling among you, and will not disdain you. Ever present in your midst, I will be your God, and you will be my people;” (Lev 26:11,12 NAB)
“Though the mountains leave their place and the hills be shaken, my love shall never leave you nor my covenant of peace be shaken, says the LORD, who has mercy on you.” (Isa 54:10 NAB)
“My lover is like a gazelle or a young stag. Here he stands behind our wall, gazing through the windows, peering through the lattices. My lover speaks; he says to me, “Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come! For see, the winter is past, the rains are over and gone.” (Song 2:9-11 NAB)
“They departed in tears, but I will console them and guide them; I will lead them to brooks of water, on a level road, so that none shall stumble. For I am a father to Israel, The LORD shall ransom Jacob, he shall redeem him from the hand of his conqueror. Shouting, they shall mount the heights of Zion, they shall come streaming to the LORD’s blessings: The grain, the wine, and the oil, the sheep and the oxen; They themselves shall be like watered gardens, never again shall they languish.” (Jer 31:9,11-12 NAB)
“Sing out, O heavens, and rejoice, O earth, break forth into song, you mountains. For the LORD comforts his people and shows mercy to his afflicted.” (Isa 49:13 NAB)
JESUS REVEALS THE FATHER
The Father’s revelation of Himself continues in the New Testament in two ways: through descriptions of Him by Jesus and the Apostles, and in the person of Jesus. There are more than 200 references to the Father in the Gospels; through parables and by direct revelation. Here are a few in which Jesus describes aspects of The Father:
- A Father of mercy: “… While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.” (Lk 15:20 NAB)
“Be merciful, just as [also] your Father is merciful.” (Lk 6:36 NAB)
- A Father who is actively involved with His children: “But Jesus answered them, “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.” (Jn 5:17 NAB)
“See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are…” (1Jn 3:1 NAB)
- A Father who will share His inheritance and His life with His children: “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.” (Lk 12:32 NAB)
“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him [on] the last day.” (Jn 6:40 NAB)
“Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. (Jn 6:57 NAB)
- A Father who will provide for and protect His progeny: “Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?” (Mt 6:26 NAB)
Perhaps the most important revelation of The Father in the New Testament is in the person of Jesus, i.e. what He said, what He did. He knows what The Father wants; and He obediently follows His will to the cross.
From The Father’s perspective, it’s as though Jesus is saying The Father is whispering in His ear: “Look Jesus, heal that person, … teach them about this principle, … now they’re ready to learn this, … show them how to deal with evil here … and so on.”
“The Father and I are one.” (Jn 10:30 NAB)
“For the Father loves his Son and shows him everything that he himself does…” (Jn 5:20 NAB)
“…Amen, amen, I say to you, a son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees his father doing; for what he does, his son will do also. (Jn 5:19 NAB)
“Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (Jn 14:9 NAB)
“Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.” (Jn 14:10 NAB)
I believe that, until the crucifixion, everything Jesus did — healing, teaching, forgiveness, deliverance, relationships, and so on — was done with the active involvement of The Father. But The Father’s unwavering zeal for mankind doesn’t end at Jesus’ resurrection. Just before His Ascension, Jesus bid us join with Him to complete the task of bringing all mankind into relationship with Him and The Father.
“[Jesus] said to them again, ‛Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (Jn 20:21 NAB)
“…All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt 28:18-20 NAB)
Let’s finish with the prayer Jesus taught us to say to The Father:
Our Father — You are the source of all existence, a person who is infinite, prefect love. You have given me existence, and continue to hold me in existence, because you love me. I count you as my daddy, and myself as your adopted son.
Who art in heaven — Your existence is far beyond my own. You are surrounded by majesty and glory befitting your infinite power and goodness.
Hallowed be thy name — May all creation and all mankind give you praise and hold your goodness above all things.
Thy Kingdom come — You sacrificed your Son to get me back. You have invited me into your Kingdom and assigned me responsibilities. May the rest of your plans for creation and me be fulfilled.
Thy will be done — Only your will is good for me. I know you will tax the remotest star and the last grain of sand to bring me close to you. My inheritance is a share in your eternal life.
On earth as it is in Heaven — We desperately need your will to be done on this earth. We need the order, the love, the justice, the mercy; and most of all, your presence.
Give us this day our daily bread — You are my provider and protector, actively involved in my life. Dependent on You, I know you are with me, now and always.
And forgive us our trespasses — I trust, that in your mercy and compassion, you will forgive me.
As we forgive those who trespass against us — Let your love for me in sacrificing your Son, and the forgiveness Jesus earned for me, flood my heart, and lead me to the generous forgiveness of those who offend me.
And lead us not into temptation — You protect me and provide for me in my struggles. I trust in your promise never to be tempted beyond my capability to resist. I trust your grace will be with me in my darkest times.
But deliver us from evil — You share your power and authority with me to cast evil away and break any bondages from the past.
Amen — For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory now and forever.