Article II-A of The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 reads:
“God as Father reigns with providential care over His universe, His creatures, and the flow of the stream of human history according to the purposes of His grace. He is all powerful, all knowing, all loving, and all wise. God is Father in truth to those who become children of God through faith in Jesus Christ. He is fatherly in His attitude toward all men.”
There is little dispute among professing Christians that our Heavenly Father is God. But if we fail to understand the Father correctly, and if we miss the clear teachings of Scripture with respect to his relationship with the other members of the Godhead, then the biblical doctrines of creation, redemption, and restoration suffer as well.
It’s important to note while the Father is a person, he is not human. Balaam – a scoundrel who prophesied for hire – nevertheless spoke the truth concerning God’s unchanging decrees when he said, “God is not a man, that he might lie, or a son of man, that he might change his mind. Does he speak and not act, or promise and not fulfill?” (Num. 23:19).
On another occasion, the prophet Samuel informs Saul that the Lord has torn away the kingship of Israel from Saul and given it to David. “Furthermore,” he says, “the Eternal One of Israel does not lie or change his mind, for he is not man who changes his mind” (1 Sam. 15:29). Other Old Testament passages make similar claims (Job 9:32; Isa. 31:2; Hos. 11:9).
In the New Testament, when Peter declares Jesus the Christ, Son of the living God, Jesus says to the disciple, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven” (Matt. 16:17). No human being revealed the truth to Peter. It was the Father in heaven.
Not only does Scripture deny the humanity of the Father; it affirms his divine, eternal nature as spirit. Jesus tells a Samaritan woman that “an hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth. Yes, the Father wants such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24).
When the Bible tells us that no one has seen God, it’s a reference to the Father, who is spirit (John 1:18; 4:24). Paul declares that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). The writer of Hebrews describes Jesus as “the radiance [or reflection] of God’s glory and the exact expression of his nature” (Heb. 1:3). Jesus puts it more plainly when He tells Philip, “The one who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
To summarize: The Father is a divine, eternal, non-human person who is immortal and invisible.
The Fatherhood of God
Now, let’s look at several ways the Bible describes the Fatherhood of God.
First, the Greek word theos is used of the Father. We see this in numerous passages, such as Galatians 1:1 and 1 Peter 1:2. While theos also is used of Satan (2 Cor. 4:4) and pagan idols (1 Cor. 8:5), the New Testament writers are clear that these entities are not God by nature (Gal. 4:8). In fact, Paul argues that the gods of the pagans actually are demons (1 Cor. 10:20).
Second, the Father’s divine attributes reveal his deity. The Father possesses eternal power (Rom. 1:20; 1 Tim. 6:16). He is almighty (Rev. 19:6); immortal (1 Tim. 1:17); all-knowing (Matt. 6:32); perfect (Matt. 5:48); and true deity (John 17:3).
Third, the Father performs the works of God. These include creation (Heb. 2:10); sovereignty (Matt. 11:25); providence (Matt. 5:45; 6:26); the authority to judge (John 5:22); the bestowing of life (John 5:21, 26); and salvation (Eph. 1:4).
Fourth, the Father speaks the words of God. In Romans 1, Paul claims he is “called as an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God – which he [the Father] promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures – concerning his Son, Jesus Christ …” (vv. 1-3). And in Hebrews 1, the writer declares, “Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. In these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son …” (vv. 1-2).
Fifth, the Father is worshiped as God. We are to “ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness” (Ps. 29:2); “worship and bow down” (Ps. 95:6); and “worship the Father in Spirit and in truth” (John 4:23).
Sixth, Jesus declares the Fatherhood of God. For Jesus, “God” and “Heavenly Father” are synonymous expressions. Jesus clearly has the Father in mind in many references to God. For example, as he is nailed to a cross and hoisted between two criminals, Jesus prays, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Then, just before he breathes His last, Jesus shouts, “Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit” (Luke 23:46).
Seventh, the Bible reveals God as the Father of all humanity. Scripture shows Yahweh to be the Father of all people through creation. Humans are fashioned in God’s image, so to the extent that we are his creatures, he is our Father (see Acts 17:28-29).
Next: Article II-B of the BF&M: God the Son
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