The Father, commonly referred to simply as “God,” is the Source of all things (1 Cor. 8:6a). While this central truth about the Father came from Paul, much of what we know about the Father is from statements about Him made by Jesus, Who said that “...no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Luke 10:22c).
The Father “...causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt. 5:45bc). Also, the “...heavenly Father is perfect” (5:48b). He “will reward” those who privately do good things, pray, and fast, without boasting about it to others, when He sees that these things are “done in secret” (6:4b,6b,18). And He knows all of our needs (6:8b,32b) and will “...give good gifts to [His children] who ask him” (7:11b).
The Divine Authority of the Father gives Him the right to command and to judge, to be obeyed and to be praised. It is His prerogative to decide what will go on in heaven, in the universe, and in the lives of all of His creatures. Because He is the great “I AM” (see “YHVH or Yahveh, the ‘I AM’”: C-2, P-I), nothing or no one else in existence has absolute Authority except the Father and to whom He alone chooses or Wills to delegate it.
All of the heavenly hosts, including evil angels, can do nothing except by the approval or Authority of the Father. No one on the earth even takes a breath—much less eats, works, walks, or plays—without His permission, by way of His Authority. For a time, He has allowed (and will allow) His Authority to be questioned, because extreme patience is one of the Father’s many cardinal virtues. Often what we do does not agree with His perfect Will, but He still bestows upon us the right, by virtue of His Authority, to do it (because he has given us a choice, always hoping that we will choose to do things according to His Will).
Only someone who always does the perfect Will of the Father is worthy of having that same Authority bestowed upon him or her. However, there has never been anyone to have done this except for the Son, Jesus (see “Son and Holy Spirit subject to the Father” later in this part). King David said, “You [the Father] made him [the Son] ruler over the works of your hands; you [the Father] put everything under his [the Son’s] feet...” (Psalm 8:6). Jesus Himself claimed, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18). Jesus even had the Authority, given by the Father, to lay down His own life and then to take it up again (John 10:17,18). And Paul verified that one day Jesus would reign, by virtue of His Authority, until “...he has destroyed all [evil] dominion, authority, and power,” after which He will hand over everything in the Kingdom of God back to the Father (1 Cor. 15:24-28—see “reign of Jesus”: C-13, P-II).
No human, in the flesh, could gaze for even an instant at the Father without dropping dead from the sheer intensity and resplendence of His Majesty. Many have seen the exact image of the Father, which is the Son (Heb. 1:3a). In the burning bush, Moses saw the Angel of the Lord—the Son (see “the Angel of the Lord”: C-8, P-I), not the Father. No man or woman actually has seen the Father, at least with physical eyes, except for the Son (John 1:18; 1 John 4:12a).
How can we be sure the Son has seen the Father? It is because Jesus (see “Jesus, our High Priest”: C-5, P-II) “...was with God [the Father] in the beginning” (John 1:2) and has “...sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven...” (Heb. 8:1). Elihu, speaking to Job, gave us an idea of the significance of this “awesome majesty” (Job 37:22b): “The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power” (37:23a).
Picture immense, towering, blue and purple mountains (like the Tetons), with snow caps on a crystal clear day, or the vast expanse of churning, white-capped waves on the sea-green water of an ocean extending all the way to the horizon. Have you seen the multi-colored hot mineral pools and sparkling geysers in Yellowstone National Park or the General Sherman Great Sequoia (the largest living thing on earth) in Sequoia National Park? Or no doubt you have noticed the exquisite detail and design within a flower or in the photograph of a spiral galaxy (like our neighbor, Andromeda), or the mixture of brilliant green, yellow, red, orange, and brown pigments within some of the leaves which fall to the ground in the autumn. All of these awesome, majestic wonders were conceived in the Mind of God, the Father, who thought of the universe long before it was made and even before time began. His Majesty is incomparable. But those who claim Him as God and accept His wondrous Grace will see and figuratively touch Him—one great day, and then for eternity. Each day is one day closer to experiencing His Majesty firsthand.
Jesus said that a requirement for entrance into the kingdom of heaven is to do “...the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21b). Paul told us some of the things which are God’s Will:
It is God’s will that you should be holy [set apart from the world]; that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust...; and that...no one should wrong his brother [another person] or take advantage of him (1 Ths. 4:3-6a).
Other things in God’s Will are these:
Live in peace with each other..., warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ.
Do not put out the [Holy] Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil (1 Ths. 5:13b-22).
Obviously, no imperfect mortal constantly can do everything which aligns with the Father’s Will nor refrain from doing things which God forbids. (God allows many things to occur which do not conform to His perfect Will.) But we should ask forgiveness for the ways in which we know that we have fallen short of God’s Will. “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God [the Father] lives forever” (1 John 2:17).
One of the stipulations for receiving forgiveness from the Father for our wrongdoing is that we forgive others for their transgressions against us; if we do not forgive, we will not be forgiven by the Father (Matt. 6:14,15). Jesus made this clear when he said that, when we ask forgiveness of the Father, we must also forgive everyone who sins against and is indebted to us (Luke 11:4a). He later reiterated this and added, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins” (Mark 11:25).
Another stipulation for forgiveness by the Father is confessing our sins (which, I might suggest, includes acknowledging our faults and shortcomings) to God. John said, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Jesus said, “... [D]o not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven” (Matt. 23:9). He was implying that no man on earth—a rabbi in a synagogue, the pastor or priest of a church, nor even a biological father—is worthy to be loved, imitated, and honored as completely and totally as the Father in heaven. No created man is perfect; therefore, no such man can provide a pure, flawless example of God the Father. (Note: Jesus was not created; He always was with the Father and is the only man who ever afforded an exact, precise representation of the Father.)
The scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day were hypocrites who lorded their religious position and power over the people. But they did not exemplify the true attributes of the Father, because they really did not know nor respect Him personally; thus they did not “practice what they preached.” As such, they were not to be emulated nor to be called “father.”
Some thoughts of the Father, stated to Israel (and all people) are,
“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the Lord Almighty (Mal. 1:6abc).
Son and Holy Spirit subject to the Father
Jesus told His disciples that everything He said came from the Father. He said that He was going to leave (that is, be killed and ascend to heaven) but that He would return in the likeness and fullness of the Holy Spirit. He said,
He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. ...
You heard me say, “I am going away and I am coming back to you.” If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. ...I love the Father and...do exactly what my Father has commanded me (John 14:24-26,28,31a).
Now, although the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit each are fully and equally God, the implication here is that the Father is the one who is “in charge” and who directs the actions and motivations of Jesus and of the Holy Spirit (just as our minds and intellects are supposed to direct and control the deeds of our bodies and the ebb and flow of our emotions). It is the Father who “...exalted [Jesus] to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name” (Phil. 2:9). Also, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” (John 5:19). God the Son instantly and simultaneously follows the “lead” of God the Father.
David said, “You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet” (Psalm 8:6). Whereas the word “You” in this phrase unquestionably refers to the Father, “him” has a duplicate meaning. In the passage, David refers both to “man” (8:4a) and to the “son of man” (8:4b), the latter being the primary term Jesus used for Himself. Paul, though, has indicated that the one under whose feet God (the Father) has put everything is Jesus Christ; and, in the end, “...the Son himself will be made subject to him [the Father] who put everything under him [the Son, Jesus], so that God may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:27,28).
Another statement by David implies that not only is there is a distinction between the Father and the Son but that the Father is the one who ordains Authority: “The Lord [the Father] says to my Lord [the Son]: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet’” (Psalm 110:1; Luke 20:42,43; Acts 2:34,35; Heb. 1:13). The Son, Jesus, clearly is subject to and receives all Authority from the Father, though they both are equally God and have the same thoughts, feelings, goals, and motives. There never was nor ever will be a time in all eternity when they (along with the Holy Spirit Who, though as much God as the Father and the Son, also is subject to the Will of the Father) have disagreed nor will disagree on anything. This in itself reinforces the singular, unified quality of God.
No mortal ever will be able to adequately describe the Father. One day, though, those who believe in and willingly receive the Son (see P-III), and for whom “...the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality...” (1 Cor. 15:54—see “changed bodies”: C-12, P-V, S-1), will see and be able to describe the Father more fully and clearly. Yet, forevermore, aspects of Him will remain a mystery to every created mind. To know God’s Mind is to know ultimate Perfection.
As for us, here and now, we never should forget that we cannot think, feel, or do anything which escapes observance by the Mind of God, the Father. We cannot fool Him because He is “unfoolable” (and infallible). To be unwilling to admit to or take responsibility for any of our own ideas, emotions, or actions is to fool ourselves; the Father of the universe knows everything and retains all the evidence if we try to hide it from or to deceive Him or others. In the end, it will be useless for anyone to try to justify to the Father why he/she never got to know Him. But for those who, through allegiance and devotion, show that they do want to know Him, His Holy Spirit (see P-IV) will be patient and compassionate; and the Father ultimately will never bestow upon them riches and happiness beyond comprehension or measure.
Every good dream we could ever have has its fulfillment in the Father, Who will give bountifully of Himself forever to whoever longs to be with Him. Whereas the gifts the Wizard of Oz bestowed upon Dorothy and each of her friends were singular and specific, the gifts and treasures the Father wishes to give to those who truly love Him are infinite and spectral. And there is only one way to know the Father: through the Son, Jesus, who said, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6b).
When asked by a Pharisee what was the greatest commandment (Matt. 22:36), Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind [or strength—Deut. 6:5]” (Matt. 22:37). I believe God the Father’s greatest desire is to be loved (see “God’s Plan”: C-15, P-I) by His children, just as any father wants to be. When was the last time you told your heavenly Father that you love Him?
In addition to being loved by us, the Father desires for us to imitate Him. For instance, we are to be merciful as He is merciful (Luke 6:36), to forgive as He forgives (Matt. 6:12a,14), and even to strive to be perfect as He is perfect (5:48). These things demonstrate to others that we are of the family of God. Kurt De Haan notes, “The family resemblance is seen in our clean break from a godless way of life. We are to be clearly different from people who are not members of God’s family,”
Finally, the Father desires honor. “Honor your father...” (Exo. 20:12a), one of the ten commandments, applies not only to our fathers on earth but also to our Father in heaven. God declared to the Israelites, “A son honors his father, and a servant his master” (Mal. 1:6a) and then queried, “If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” (1:6bc). We must remember that the Father is Sovereign over all of Creation and recognize that He provides us with everything we have. Thus, we are to honor Him by obeying Him as an indication to Him that we prefer to be “slaves to righteousness” rather than “slaves to sin” (Rom. 6:16-18), and by “...always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:20).
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Copyright © 1998– by Ted M. Montgomery, O.D. Most rights reserved.