Notes below based on sermon preached at One Church Home on October 30, 2022
Before the Prosper series, we spent eight weeks exploring the covenant names of our GREAT God:
- Yahweh (Jehovah)—the God of covenant relationship with His people worthy of being our LORD;
- Jehovah-Jireh, the LORD will provide;
- Jehovah-Rapha, the LORD who heals;
- Jehovah-Nissi, the LORD is our banner;
- Jehovah-Shalom, the LORD is peace;
- Jehovah-Raah, the LORD, my shepherd;
- Jehovah-Tsidkenu, the LORD, our righteousness; and
- Jehovah-Shammah, the LORD is there.
He is all these things (and more) all the time, even when we don’t see or recognize it.
These are not just names we call Him; they are how we know Him. Each name reveals something about God’s character, who He is, how He loves us, and how we relate to Him.
And each of these names, these attributes flow from His covenant relationship with us as our LORD and Father.
It is the name “Father” that we turn to this week and “Son” next week. From among the many names of God, these are the ones that are probably most familiar to us, yet they may be challenging to understand and perhaps even embrace fully.
To understand Father and Son (as well as the Holy Spirit that we’ll study in a couple of weeks), we need to begin with the Trinity. Our God is a triune being—three distinct, equal, and eternal Persons, each entirely and uniquely God, constituting the one and only true and living God.
Some use the phrase “tri-unity”—three Persons always acting in complete and perfect unity with one another. But each has particular roles (within the Trinity and in carrying out the work of the Trinity), and each has unique relationships—with the other Persons of the Trinity and eventually (beginning in Genesis) with the creation that the triune God together has made.
This means that when we talk about Yahweh or the other names of God, we are talking not just about God the Father but all the Persons of the Trinity, including God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
So in the very first verse of Genesis, when the Bible tells us that “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,” it was not just God the Father.
This Hebrew word for “God” used here is Elohim—one of the most common names for God in the Old Testament, a god of greatness and strength or power. Elohim is grammatically plural rather than singular (the “-im” suffix in Hebrew makes the word plural; the singular would be “Eloah“).
If we look closely, we see that each of the Persons of the Trinity was indeed present at the creation, each operating in a distinct role but in perfect unity. God the Spirit was hovering over the water as God the Father spoke the world into existence through the Word—God the Son, Jesus.
We read in the first chapter of the gospel of John that Jesus (the Word) “was” in the beginning—He already existed, that “He was God” and “was with God” in the beginning. John 1:3 tells us that Through him, all things were made; without him, nothing was made that has been made.
So Elohim—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit in all His fullness, strength, and power created the heavens and the earth.
And then, after Elohim’s good work, creating and filling the earth, a different name for God is introduced: Yahweh, the LORD. As we have seen, this is God in relationship; God in covenant.
It is the same one God, but He reveals a different aspect of who He is and why He made us. Still, even as He shifts His name to Yahweh, He refers to himself as “we” (plural) when He says in Genesis 1: 26, “Let us make mankind in our image.”
We were created, male and female, by our triune God and in the image of our triune God—with a body, a soul, and a spirit. We are not triune but tripartite. We are made of 3 parts, but they are not distinct persons, and they certainly do not always operate in unity with one another (in fact, they “war”).
Not so with our triune God. All three Persons of the godhead—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—have always existed in perfect relationship, love, and unity with one another as one God.
Dr. Henry Morris, considered by many to be “the father of modern creation science,” explains that the entire universe is trinitarian by design. The universe consists of three things: matter, space, and time.
- Matter = mass + energy + motion
- Space = length + height + breadth
- Time = past + present + future
The whole universe bears witness to the character of the triune God who created it.
But it can be challenging for our finite minds to comprehend. How can 1 + 1 + 1 = 1? Daniel Webster called it “the arithmetic of heaven.”
There is no mathematical symbol for “3 in 1” that can adequately convey the mystery that is God.
It has been said that “If you try to explain the Trinity, you will lose your mind. But if you deny it, you will lose your soul.”
Our goal today is that you will lose neither but instead, come to a place where you fully embrace the mystery that is the Trinity, experiencing in greater depth all that means about the love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for you.
Let’s begin this week with the Father. The late J.I. Packer wrote, “You sum up the whole of New Testament religion if you describe it as the knowledge of God as one’s holy Father. If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all. For everything that Christ taught, everything that makes the New Testament new, and better than the Old, everything that is distinctively Christian…is summed up in the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God.”
Father is sometimes used in a broader sense to describe one who has created or originated something. Still, it is primarily about relationship—the unique and intimate relationship between a father and his child.
The KJV Dictionary says a father is “he who begets (or reproduces) a child.” It is synonymous with the Latin word “genitor” which means biological father.
Father can also mean a race or family’s first ancestor or “progenitor.” Adam was the father of the human race, and Abraham was the father of the Israelites.
But it is the verb that I love the most:
“To father” means not only the process of biologically reproducing a child (truly one of life’s most incredible miracles) but “to adopt, or to acknowledge or take as one’s own.” This is pure gold for those who may not have had the kind of relationship with your earthly father that your heart longed for, and even for those who did.
All that God is, He has always been. He has always been God the Father—before He began to create the world, before He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus, into the world.
And God the Father has always lived in community, in perfect relationship with God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. They have always loved one another. That loving relationship is bound up in the very nature of God Himself; it is perfect and complete. This means He didn’t need us to be His children; He chose us.
How incredible is it…almost beyond comprehension that before you took your first breath, even before the world began, God the Father chose you, wanted you, even pursued you, and then took you to be His own, adopting you as His child?
We have looked at this Scripture before, but we should look at it again, meditate on it, allow it to seep into the pores of our heart. It’s worth reading in a few different translations.
New Life Version
4 Even before the world was made, God chose us for Himself because of His love. He planned that we should be holy and without blame as He sees us. 5 God already planned to have us as His own children. This was done by Jesus Christ. In His plan God wanted this done.
The Living Bible
4 Long ago, even before he made the world, God chose us to be his very own through what Christ would do for us; he decided then to make us holy in his eyes, without a single fault—we who stand before him covered with his love. 5 His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by sending Jesus Christ to die for us. And he did this because he wanted to!
4 Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. 5 Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!)
4 just as [in His love] He chose us in Christ [actually selected us for Himself as His own]before the foundation of the world, so that we would be holy [that is, consecrated, set apart for Him, purpose-driven] and blameless in His sight. In love 5 He predestined and lovingly planned for us to be adopted to Himself as [His own] children through Jesus Christ, in accordance with the kind intention and good pleasure of His will—
Adoption is a legally binding contract by which an adult becomes the guardian of a child and thereby incurs the rights and obligations of a parent, while the child receives all the rights, protections, and entitlements of a biological child.
But the Bible speaks of another kind of adoption, accomplished not through a contract but a covenant. This is better than a contract, for human contracts are essentially promises, and as we know, human promises can be broken. But God’s promises never fail, and though it was not necessary, He has sworn them with an oath.
Let’s read Hebrews 6:16-20 in the New Living Translation.
16 Now when people take an oath, they call on someone greater than themselves to hold them to it. And without any question that oath is binding. 17 God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind. 18 So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. 19 This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. 20 Jesus has already gone in there for us. He has become our eternal High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.
In the ancient world, covenants established kinship—family relationships. The covenants God makes in the Bible do the same thing. By His irrevocable covenants, He was (and still is) fathering a family, making those who will enter into the covenant—making you, making us—His sons, His daughters.
I John 3:1
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
Our understanding of Christianity cannot be better than our grasp of adoption. Packer says that “Adoption is the highest privilege of the gospel. The traitor is forgiven, brought in for supper, and given the family name. To be right with God the Judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father is greater.”
It is a love that cost Him dearly.
I Peter 1:18-20
18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world but was revealed in these last times for your sake.
The Easy-to-Read Version says, “You were bought with the precious blood of Christ’s death. He was a pure and perfect sacrificial Lamb.” Other translations say “purchased.” No matter the specific translation, the meaning is the same, God bought you with the blood of His only Son, Jesus. You are blood-bought, and you belong to Him.
I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your naked body. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign Lord, and you became mine.
It is the covenant formula, woven through the Scripture, showing us God’s love:
I will be your God.
You will be my children.
And I will dwell with you forever.
If we trace God’s covenants through the Bible, we see the unfolding of God’s perfect plan to redeem His children and make Himself a family. All that a father should be God is and more, for only God the Father could redeem you by His Son.
And just as in creation, each of the Persons of the Trinity played an essential but unique role in redemption.
God the Father was the planner. We see it in Ephesians 1:4-5 above. Motivated by His agape love for us, the Father planned, decided, chose, and predestined that we would be His children. He covenanted with the Son to fulfill His plan and sent Him to redeem us, giving us to the Son.
God the Son voluntarily entered into the covenant and submitted to the will of His Father. He came to earth, being supernaturally born of a virgin, becoming fully human (while remaining fully God), and living an obedient life so that He would meet the qualifications to be our kinsman redeemer. He gave His life as the once-and-for-all sacrifice for our sins, fulfilling the law and the covenant.
God the Son was the accomplisher of redemption. But He did not act alone. All Jesus did was willed by the Father and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
God the Holy Spirit is the one who applies the finished work of Jesus in our lives. It is God the Spirit who brings conviction that causes the unbeliever to hear and understand the truth of the gospel. It is the Holy Spirit who renews and regenerates the life of the person who responds to that conviction by placing their faith in Jesus Christ, being born again. And it is the Holy Spirit that indwells believers, empowering us to will and act according to God’s good purpose for our lives.
There is more…so much more. More that we will learn about in the weeks to come. But for now, to bring it full circle, we should know that God the Holy Spirit gives us our sonship and allows us to relate to God as our Father.
15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
Paul goes on to say in verses 16-17 that 16 “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ…”
When we come to Him by faith in Christ, God legally changes our status from unbelievers to believers, from enemies to sons and daughters.
God’s Holy Spirit testifies with our spirit to this Truth. We are adopted children and full heirs with all the rights, privileges, and protections of a biological child. And because we are now sons, we can cry out to God the Father in the most intimate of terms—Abba, my dearest Father, in the assurance that He hears and that He will answer.
Abba expresses a close, personal, intimate relationship with God as one’s Father, the unhesitating trust and dependence of a child who is wholly secure in the loving arms of their Father. It is the name used by Jesus in His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane as He faced His imminent crucifixion (Mark 14:36) and only two other times in the New Testament—a crying out to God by His adopted children or by the Spirit on their behalf (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6). On our most challenging days and our happiest days, God our Father is near.
He is so near that He sent His Spirit to indwell us when we were adopted. This means He is our Abba, our dearest Father, in a way no human parent can be. It is a gift to adopt a child—for the child and the parents. Human parents can adopt children and love them as much as they do their natural children, but still, they cannot impart their spiritual nature to their adopted children. Yet that is precisely what God has done for us as His adopted sons and daughters! Because He sent His Spirit to live inside of us, we have become “partakers” of His “divine nature” (II Peter 1:4).
We need to live out our identity as His children: Not acting out of selfish ambition,
But looking out for others before ourselves,
Being defined by our humility,
Loving and serving people,
Laying down our lives.
We bring glory to God the Father by emulating God the Son through the empowerment of God the Spirit.
Close your eyes. See yourself climbing into the Father’s lap, resting your head on His chest, hearing His heart speaking to your heart through these words:
“I love you, and I chose you. Before you were ever born, knowing everything about you, everything you would ever do, I planned and willingly gave everything for you to be mine. Live from your identity as my son, my daughter, and receive the fullness of all that means in your life.”
May we, His children, know Him as our loving Father, and may that be a healing salve for the wounds of our souls and the highest hope of our redeemed hearts.
Note: all scripture references are from the New International Version. (2011) BibleGateway.com
Questions for reflection or discussion:
When you think of God the Father, what is the first image that comes to mind? Is it a harsh judge or a tender, compassionate, loving Father?
Will you allow the Holy Spirit to use the Truth you are learning about God the Father to replace the lies and heal any broken images you have about your dearest Heavenly Father, Abba? Say or write a prayer asking Him to do that right now.
If you or someone you know has ever undergone an adoption process, you know it is often lengthy, complicated, and expensive. And there is a risk…that even after doing it all, the adoption might fall through. Think about the unimaginable sacrifice God made to adopt you as His child, that He actually planned it all before you were born, knowing everything that would happen. He was willing to risk everything, giving you the free will to choose. Does that help you see how much God the Father wants and loves you as His son/daughter?
How does His love and sacrifice for you make you want to live out your identity as God’s child?
What would it look like for you to live every day for the rest of your life as the blood-bought, Spirit-filled son or daughter of the Father and King?
When you pray, to whom do you address your prayers? Do you pray to Abba, your Father? Can you confidently and boldly approach His throne as His son/daughter and ask for and gratefully receive what you need from Him? Do that right now, thanking Him for that amazing privilege.
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