|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
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
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
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
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"
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
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
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
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