Pateriology: Study 5

11 11 2008

Clarifying our terms – once again

1John teaches that God—the Father—is Love (1John 4:8). Scripture does not say ‘Jesus is Love’. Rather, Jesus is the Son of His Love (Colossians 1:13) or his Beloved Son; The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God (Romans 8:9), and at the same time, the Spirit of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:19). Our focus, here, is the Father.

Gregory of Nanzianzus (330-390 AD) said:

 I cannot think on the one without quickly being encircled by the splendour of the three: not can I discern the three without being straitway carried back to the one”.

The Father – Patient and Kind

God is Love. Love is patient. Love is kind (1Corinthians 13:4a). That is, the Father is patient and kind. The One God and Father of us all, is kind, merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (Exodus 34:6).

Therefore, all human iniquity, evil and guilt are dealt with, justly, and fully in the wisdom and holiness of God. They are never overlooked, swept under the carpet, or merely by-passed.

‘The Lord, the Lord, …keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.’ (Exodus 34:6a; 7)

The Father’s wrath and displeasure is provoked by evil, and this is a matter for deep reverence, genuine concern and holy fear – for the Lord is an avenger (1Thess. 4:6). It is also a cause for great rejoicing, for it is the Father, who by the atoning death of Jesus, justifies the ungodly (Romans 4:5), thereby acquitting us, and as such, clearing – the guilty through the gospel. 

 The Father – Severe Toward Sin

Scripture reveals from the outset that the manner of God’s Fatherhood includes grace and judgment, kindness and severity (Rom. 11:22). Take careful note of God’s personal, gracious dealings with sinful people. The primal couple Adam and Eve­, doers or evil, received grace (Genesis 3:15-19; 21; 22-24); the murderer Cain, was preserved – ‘the LORD put a mark on Cain, so that no one who came upon him would kill him’ (Gen. 4:15b). The heroic David, God’s chosen leader, a man after God’s own heart—was yet an adulterer and murderer. He knew very deeply the terror of guilt (Ps. 32:3-5; 51; 2Sam. 12:14); and the utter joy of a clean heart.  He was elected and secured in the most significant, most awesome standing in history (2Sam. 7:5-19) — his greater son was to be the Messiah-King. His family-line, his house, was the future ‘charter for humanity.’ Such grace.

Jeremiah, the prophet knew the anguish of preaching the righteousness of God, of calling others to faith and repentance, and yet himself being a sinful person: ‘Correct me, O Lord, but in just measure; not in your anger, or you will bring me to nothing’ (Jer. 10:24). The Father wisely and personally deals with all human beings with mercy, yet with a holy firmness. The pages of the New Testament further reveal this Fatherhood, in the life of every person—amidst failure, fearfulness and rebellion. Some, like Peter, knew profound restoration (John 21:15-22), some died (Acts 5:5 ff.) The Father is ‘on our case’ as it were.  ‘God is a righteous judge, and a God who has indignation every day’ (Psalm 7:11). So, ‘make no provision for the flesh’ (Rom. 13:14).

Father Abraham – The Friend of God

And Stephen said: “Brethren and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, ‘Depart from your land and from your kindred and go into the land which I will show you.’ (Acts 7:2-3)

God’s gracious, glorious appearing to Abraham, and his call and election of him, (while he was yet an idolater) was with a view to his grand purpose for creation. This plan included displaying, and revealing his gracious nature as Father. It may seem obvious to say so, but God’s plan for Abraham is fatherhood. He said to Abraham: “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations”. (Genesis 17:4).

Abraham’s response to this gracious covenant-making God, who reckons righteousness to him as a gift (Gen. 15:6; Romans 4:3) is to be God’s friend (2Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23). Friendship is a powerful factor in all of life, and a rich theme through Scripture. In considering further, the relationship we have with the Father, the matter of friendship should always be kept in mind. ’What a friend we have Jesus….’ and in the Father.

We repeat that God’s Fatherhood is known and understood, through the ministry of Jesus, and not primarily through our parents, or other parents we know, or even our friends! God’s ministry involves a powerful, profound friendship:

No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another (John 15:13-17).

Friendship is Informing the Other of what One is Doing

The LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? No, for I have chosen him, that he may charge his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice; so that the LORD may bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.” (Genesis 18:17-19) 

Jesus said: ‘The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished’ (John 5:20). We are shown the plan for creation – so as to share in it! (Eph. 3:9-21)

The Enormous Power of True Friendship

The Father’s Friendship effects good changes in the lives of his family. Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:4c). Jesus said: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit” (John 15:1-2). The Father prunes. This is great friendship: Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful (Proverbs 27:6).

Discipline – the Peaceful Fruit of Righteousness

Righteousness is doing right acts. Grace trains us to do this:

1. Know then in your heart that as a parent disciplines a child so the LORD your God disciplines you (Deut. 8:5)

2. He who disciplines the nations, he who teaches knowledge to humankind, does he not chastise? (Psalm 94:10)

3. … the Lord disciplines those whom he loves, and chastises every child whom he accepts.  For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share his holiness (Heb 12:6, 10)

Read: Hosea 11:1-11 (…it was I who taught Ephraim to walk). This is an excellent picture of the Father, tenderly teaching a toddler to make their way on two legs. Very intimate, very joyous, very profound. 

Hosea 11

11:1 ¶ When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.

 2 The more I called them, the more they went from me; they kept sacrificing to the Baals, and offering incense to idols.

 3 Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them.

 4 I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them.

 5 They shall return to the land of Egypt, and Assyria shall be their king, because they have refused to return to me.

 6 The sword rages in their cities, it consumes their oracle-priests, and devours because of their schemes.

 7 My people are bent on turning away from me. To the Most High they call, but he does not raise them up at all.

 8 ¶ How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender.

 9 I will not execute my fierce anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.

 10 They shall go after the LORD, who roars like a lion; when he roars, his children shall come trembling from the west.

 11 They shall come trembling like birds from Egypt, and like doves from the land of Assyria; and I will return them to their homes, says the LORD.

 12 Ephraim has surrounded me with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit; but Judah still walks with God, and is faithful to the Holy One.


Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Toward an Old Testament Theology

Geoffrey C. Bingham, The Pastoral Power of Friendship, NCTM Pastors Study Group, 6th April 1992, p. 2

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