Chapter 3: GOD THE FATHER


Seventh-day Adventists Believe...

God the eternal Father is the Creator, Source, Sustainer,

and Sovereign of all creation. He is just and holy, merciful

and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love

and faithfulness. The qualities and powers exhibited in the

Son and the Holy Spirit are also revelations of the

Father.--Fundamental Beliefs,3

 

GOD THE FATHER

The great day of judgment begins. Fiery thrones with

burning wheels move into place. The Ancient of Days takes

His seat. Majestic in appearance, He presides over the

court. His awesome presence pervades the vast courtroom

audience. A multitude of witnesses stand before Him. The

judgment is set, the books are opened, and the examination

of the record of human lives begins (Dan. 7:9,10).

The entire universe has been waiting for this moment. God

the Father will execute His justice against all wickedness.

The sentence is given: "A judgment was made in favor of the

saints" (Dan. 7:22). Joyful praises and thanksgiving

reverberate across heaven. God's character is seen in all

its glory, and His marvelous name is vindicated throughout

the universe.

Views of the Father

God the Father is frequently misunderstood. Many are

aware of Christ's mission to earth for the human race and of

the Holy Spirit's role within the individual, but what has

the Father to do with us? Is He, in contrast to the gracious

Son and Spirit, totally removed from our world, the absentee

Landlord, the unmoved First Cause?

Or is He, as some think of Him, the "Old Testament

God"--a God of vengeance, characterized by the dictum "`an

eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth'" (Matt. 5:38; cf.

Ex. 21:24); an exacting God who requires perfect works--or

else! A God who stands in utter contrast to the New

Testament's portrayal of a loving God who stresses turning

the other cheek and going the second mile (Matt. 5:39-41).

God the Father in the Old Testament

The unity of the old and New Testaments, and of their

common plan of redemption, is revealed by the fact that it

is the same God who speaks and acts in both Testaments for

the salvation of His people. "God, who at various times and

in different ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the

prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son,

whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also

He made the worlds" (Heb. 1:1,2). Although the Old Testament

alludes to the Persons of the Godhead, it doesn't

distinguish Them. But the New Testament makes it clear that

Christ, God the Son, was the active agent in Creation (John

1:1-3, 14; Col. 1:16) and that He was the God who led Israel

out of Egypt (1 Cor. 10:1-4; Ex. 3:14; John 8:58). What the

New Testament says of Christ's role in Creation and the

Exodus suggests that even the Old Testament often conveys to

us its portrait of God the Father through the agency of the

Son. "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself" (2

Cor. 5:l9). The Old Testament describes the Father in the

following terms:

A God of Mercy

No sinful human being has ever seen God (Ex. 33:20). We

have no photograph of His features. God demonstrated His

character by His gracious acts and by the word picture He

proclaimed before Moses: "`The Lord, the Lord God, merciful

and gracious, long-suffering, and abounding in goodness and

truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and

transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty,

visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and

the children's children to the third and fourth generation'"

(Ex. 34:6,7; cf. Heb. 10:26,27). Yet mercy does not blindly

pardon, but is guided by the principle of justice. Those who

reject His mercy reap His punishment on iniquity.

At Sinai God expressed His desire to be Israel's friend,

to be with them. He said to Moses, "`Let them make Me a

sanctuary, that I may dwell among them'" (Ex. 25:8). Because

it was God's earthly dwelling place, this sanctuary became

the focal point of Israel's religious experience.

A Covenant God

Eager to establish lasting relations, God made solemn

covenants with people such as Noah (Gen. 9:1-17) and Abraham

(Gen. 12:1-3,7; 13:14-17; 15:1,5,6; 17:1-8; 22:15-18; see

chapter 7 of this book). These covenants reveal a personal,

loving God interested in His people's concerns. To Noah He

gave assurance of regular seasons (Gen. 8:22) and that there

never would be another worldwide flood (Gen. 9:11); to

Abraham He promised numerous descendants (Gen. 15:5-7) and a

land wherein he and his descendants could dwell

(Gen. 15:18; 17:8).

A Redeemer God

As God of the Exodus, He miraculously led a nation of

slaves to liberty. This great redemptive act is the backdrop

for the entire Old Testament and an example of His longing

to be our Redeemer. God is not a distant, detached,

uninterested person, but One very much involved in our

affairs.

The Psalms particularly were inspired by the depth of

God's loving involvement: "When I consider Your Heavens, the

work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have

ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the

son of man that You visit him?" (Ps. 8:3,4). "I will love

You, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my

fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I

will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my

stronghold" (Ps. 18:1,2). "For He has not despised nor

abhorred the affliction of the afflicted" (Ps. 22:24).

A God of Refuge

David saw God as One in whom we can find refuge--very

much like the six Israelite cities of refuge, which harbored

innocent fugitives. The Psalms' recurrent theme of "refuge"

pictures both Christ and the Father. The Godhead was a

refuge. "For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His

pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall

hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock" (Ps. 27:5). "God

is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble"

(Ps. 46:1). "As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the

Lord surrounds His people from this time forth and forever"

(Ps. 125:2).

The psalmist expressed a longing for more of his God: "As

the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for

You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God"

(Ps. 42:1,2). From experience, David testified, "Cast your

burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never

permit the righteous to be moved" (Ps. 55:22). "Trust in Him

at all times, you people; pour out your heart before Him;

God is a refuge for us" (Ps. 62:8)--"a God full of

compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in

mercy and truth" (Ps. 86:15).

A God of Forgiveness

After his sins of adultery and murder, David earnestly

entreated, "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your

lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender

mercies." "Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do

not take Your Holy Spirit from me" (Ps. 51:1,11). He was

comforted by the assurance that God is wonderfully merciful.

"For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is

His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is

from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from

us. As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities

those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers

that we are dust" (Ps. 103:11-14).

A God of Goodness

God is the One who "executes justice for the oppressed,

who give food to the hungry. The Lord gives freedom to the

prisoners. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind; the Lord

raises those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the

righteous. The Lord watches over the strangers; He relieves

the fatherless and widow" (Ps. 146:7-9). What a great

picture of God is given in the Psalms!

A God of Faithfulness

In spite of God's greatness, Israel wandered away from

Him most of the time (Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 28). God is

depicted as loving Israel as a husband loves his wife. The

book of Hosea poignantly illustrates God's faithfulness in

the face of flagrant unfaithfulness and rejection. God's

continuing forgiveness reveals His character of

unconditional love.

Though God permitted her to experience the calamities

caused by her unfaithfulness--attempting to correct Israel's

ways--He still embraced her with His mercy. He assured her,

"`You are My servant, I have chosen you and have not cast

you away: Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for

I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you,

I will uphold you with My righteous right hand'" (Isa.

41:9,10). In spite of their unfaithfulness, He tenderly

promised, "`If they confess their iniquity and the iniquity

of their fathers, with their unfaithfulness in which they

were unfaithful to Me,...if their uncircumcised hearts are

humbled, and they accept their guilt--then I will remember

My covenant with Jacob...with Isaac...with Abraham'"

(Lev. 26:40-42; cf. Jer. 3:12).

God reminds His people of His redemptive attitude: "`O

Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me! I have blotted out,

like a thick cloud, your transgressions, and like a cloud,

your sins. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you'" (Isa.

44:21,22). No wonder He could say, "`Look to Me, and be

saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is

no other'" (Isa. 45:22).

A God of Salvation and Vengeance

The Old Testament description of God as a God of

vengeance must be seen in the context of the destruction of

His faithful people by the wicked. Through "the day of the

Lord" theme the prophets reveal God's actions on behalf of

His people at the end of time. It is a day of salvation for

His people, but a day of vengeance on their enemies who will

be destroyed. "Say to those who are fearful-hearted, `Be

strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with

vengeance; with the recompense of God; He will come and save

you'" (Isa. 35:4).

A Father God

Addressing Israel, Moses referred to God as their Father,

who had redeemed them: "`Is He not your Father, who bought

you?'" (Deut. 32:6). Through redemption, God adopted Israel

as His child. Isaiah wrote, "O Lord, you are our Father"

(Isa. 64:8; cf. 63:16). Through Malachi, God affirmed, "`I

am the Father'" (Mal. 1:6). Elsewhere, Malachi relates God's

fatherhood to His role as Creator: "Have we not all one

Father? Has not one God created us?" (Mal. 2:10). God is our

Father through both Creation and redemption. What a glorious

truth!

God the Father in the New Testament

The God of the Old Testament does not differ from the God

of the New Testament. God the Father is revealed as the

originator of all things, the father of all true believers,

and in a unique sense the father of Jesus Christ.

The Father of All Creation

Paul identifies the Father, distinguishing Him from Jesus

Christ: "There is only one God, the Father, of whom are all

things,...and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all

things, and through whom we live" (1 Cor. 8:6; cf. Heb.

12:9; John 1:17). He testifies, "I bow my knees to the

Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family

in heaven and earth is named" (Eph. 3:14,15).

The Father of All Believers

In New Testament times this spiritual father-child

relationship exists not between God and the nation of Israel

but between God and the individual believer. Jesus provides

the guidelines for this relationship (Matt. 5:45; 6:6-15),

which is established through the believer's acceptance of

Jesus Christ (John 1:12,13).

Through the redemption Christ has wrought, believers are

adopted as God's children. The Holy Spirit facilitates this

relationship. Christ came "to redeem those who were under

the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And

because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His

Son into your hearts, crying out, `Abba, Father!'"

(Gal. 4:5,6; cf. Rom. 8:15,16).

Jesus Reveals the Father

Jesus, God the Son, provided the most profound view of

God the Father when He, as God's self-revelation, came in

human flesh (John 1:1,14). John states, "No one has seen God

at any time. The only begotten Son...has declared Him"

(John 1:18). Jesus said, "`I have come down from heaven'"

(John 6:38); "`He who has seen Me has seen the Father'"

(John 14:9). To know Jesus is to know the Father.

The Epistle to the Hebrews stresses the importance of

this personal revelation: "God, who at various times and in

different ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the

prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son,

whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also

He made the worlds;...being the brightness of His glory and

the express image of His person" (Heb. 1:1-3).

1. A God who gives.

Jesus revealed His Father as a giving God. We see His

giving at Creation, at Bethlehem, and at Calvary.

In creating, the Father and the Son acted together. God

gave us life in spite of knowing that doing so would lead to

the death of His own Son.

At Bethlehem, He gave Himself as He gave His Son. What

pain the Father experienced when His Son entered our

sin-polluted planet! Imagine the Father's feeling as He saw

His Son exchange the love and adoration of angels for the

hatred of sinners; the glory and bliss of heaven for the

pathway of death.

But it is Calvary that gives us the deepest insight into

the Father. The Father, being divine, suffered the pain of

being separated from His Son--in life and death--more

acutely than any human being ever could. And He suffered

with Christ in like measure. What greater testimony about

the Father could be given! The cross reveals--as nothing

else can--the truth about the Father.

2. A God of Love.

Jesus' favorite theme was the tenderness and abundant

love of God. "`Love your enemies,'" He said, "`bless those

who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for

those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may

be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise

on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and

the unjust'" (Matt. 5:44,45). "`And your reward will be

great, and you will be sons of the Highest. For He is kind

to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as

your Father also is merciful'" (Luke 6:35,36).

In stooping down and washing the feet of His betrayer

(John 13:5, 10-14), Jesus revealed the loving nature of the

Father. When we see Christ feeding the hungry (Mark 6:39-44;

8:1-9), healing the deaf (Mark 9:17-29), giving speech to

the dumb (Mark 7:32-37), opening the eyes of the blind (Mark

8:22-26), lifting up the palsied (Luke 5:18-26), curing the

lepers (Luke 5:12,13), raising the dead (Mark 5:35-43; John

11:1-45), forgiving sinners (John 8:3-11), and casting out

demons (Matt. 15:22-28; 17:14-21), we see the Father

mingling among men, bringing them His Life, setting them

free, giving them hope, and pointing them to a restored new

earth to come. Christ knew that revealing the precious love

of His Father was the key to bringing people to repentance

(Rom. 2:4).

Three of Christ's parables portray God's loving concern

for lost humanity (Luke 15). The parable of the lost sheep

teaches that salvation comes through God's initiative, and

not because of our searching after Him. As a shepherd loves

his sheep and risks his life when one is missing, so in even

greater measure, does God manifest His yearning love for

every lost person.

This parable also has cosmic significance--the lost sheep

represents our rebellious world, a mere atom in God's vast

universe. God's costly gift of His Son to bring our planet

back into the fold indicates that our fallen world is as

precious to Him as the rest of His creation.

The parable of the lost coin emphasizes what immense

value God places on us sinners. And the parable of the

prodigal son shows the enormous love of the Father, who

welcomes home penitent children. If there is joy in heaven

over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:7), imagine the joy the

universe will experience at our Lord's second coming.

The New Testament makes clear the Father's intimate

involvement with His Son's return. At the Second Advent the

wicked cry to the mountains and rocks, "`Fall on us and hide

us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the

wrath of the Lamb!'" (Rev. 6:16). Jesus said, "`For the Son

of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His

angels'" (Matt. 16:27), and "`you will see the Son of Man

sitting at the right hand of the Power [the Father], and

coming on the clouds of heaven'" (Matt. 26:64).

With a longing heart the Father anticipates the Second

Advent, when the redeemed will finally be brought into their

eternal home. Then His sending of "His only begotten Son

into the world, that we might live through Him" (1 John 4:9)

will clearly not have been in vain. Only unfathomable,

unselfish love explains why, though we were enemies "we were

reconciled to God through the death of His Son" (Rom. 5:10).

How could we spurn such love and fail to acknowledge Him as

our Father?