God as our Father
Perhaps the greatest action of God’s grace has been to adopt us His own sons and enable us to call Him ‘Father’. The scriptures are full of references to God’s desire to have close and deep relationship with His people. This paper looks briefly at the new relationship with God that the Lord Jesus announced to Mary on resurrection morning.
The new relationship...
Some of the most wonderful words ever spoken in the scriptures are the words of the Lord Jesus to Mary on the morning of His resurrection: “but go to my brethren and say to them, I ascend to my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God” (John 20:17). The Lord Jesus gave Mary this wonderful message showing that things had changed forever as a result of His death and resurrection. The disciples and all those with them who had loved Him are now his brethren and God His Father is now also their Father. Up to this point the Lord had spoken about His Father on many occasions. He had described God His Father as being full of affection for mankind and as being the one who had sent Him to save us from our sins. “Jesus said to them, If God were your father ye would have loved me, for I came forth from God and am come from him; for neither am I come of myself, but he has sent me” (John 8:42).
The Lord Jesus Himself had perfectly revealed the Father and when Philip asked if they could see the Father the Lord said to him “Am I so long a time with you, and thou hast not known me, Philip? He that has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). We can see in the Lord Jesus every characteristic of the Father. The words and actions that came from Him, the feelings that He expressed were the Father’s feelings reflecting perfectly the one who “so loved the world” (John 3:16).
It is an amazing fact that God has loved us so much that He desired to be in such a close relationship with us as to be our Father and for us to be His sons. “See what love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the children of God. For this reason, the world knows us not, because it knew him not” (1 John 3:1). The word “children” in this quotation has also been translated “sons” and applies to those ‘with the right of inheritance’. In other words, we have been brought into the most privileged type of sonship; something we definitely don’t deserve though God the Father has delighted to lavish this honour upon us.
We have been made a son of God just like the Lord Jesus. We are able to share His place and experience the same love from the Father as the Lord Jesus knows from Him. “The Father himself has affection for you, because ye have had affection for me” (John 16:17). This is because we are now like Christ in the eyes of God. “Herein has love been perfected with us that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, that even as he is, we also are in this world” (1 John 4:17). This does not say ‘as he was’ but “as he is”. In other words, we are like Him now just as He is in glory now. We also know that we are to be like Christ in eternity: “Beloved, now are we children of God, and what we shall be has not yet been manifested; we know that if it is manifested we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For ye have not received a spirit of bondage again for fear, but ye have received a spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are children of God. And if children, heirs also: heirs of God, and Christ's joint heirs; if indeed we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:13-17).
“But because ye are sons, God has sent out the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:6).
We have become sons by adoption. We were born of Adam’s sinful race, but the Lord Jesus was Son of God. As a result of His paying the price for our redemption we have now been adopted as sons by God. These passages then also tell us that because of this adoption we have been given the Holy Spirit who enables us to appreciate this new blessed relationship with God. We are able to call Him “Abba, Father” which is a sign of close and intimate relationship just as the Lord did in Mark 14:36. We have been given the “Spirit of his son” so that we might have the same relationship with our heavenly Father as the Lord Jesus enjoyed and enjoys still.
The basis of our sonship
We receive this place as sons of God purely on the basis of the Lord’s own position as Son of God. God “sent forth His Son” (Galatians 4:4) for this purpose – that He might redeem us to make us Sons. He has shared with us this position. Another way of looking at this is in Ephesians 5:30-32 “for we are members of his body; we are of his flesh, and of his bones. Because of this a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall be united to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh. This mystery is great, but I speak as to Christ, and as to the assembly”. In this passage we see a different basis upon which we are brought into God’s house. We come as the bride/wife of Christ. The Church/Assembly is the bride of Christ (see papers on “The Church/Assembly”). When a woman marries in scripture she and her husband become one flesh in the sight of God. She takes her husband’s name (a practice that still exists in many cultures) and ceases to be separate from him. She becomes a member of her father-in-law’s household by virtue of the marriage she has with her husband. As a result she enjoys all the privileges of sonship that her husband enjoys and, through him, will also have the same rights of inheritance as he does. Her union with her husband makes her effectively ‘a son’ of her father-in-law. Marriage is given to us as a picture of this union between Christ and the Church, yet, we also enter a new relationship with the Father as a result. I add this to preserve the unique place of the Lord Jesus as the Son of God and our Lord. Peter says that “Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord” (1 Peter 3:6) demonstrating that although we are one with Christ and sons of the Father like Christ we still address Jesus Christ as Lord.1
“And it shall be, in the place where it was said to them, Ye are not my people, there shall they be called Sons of the living God” (Romans 9:26). .
We have been brought into an amazing privilege. Our union with Christ has brought us into the very same circle of affections as exists between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As one hymnwriter puts it, we have been brought “so near, we could not nearer be”. We are able to enjoy a relationship with the Almighty God that the ancient saints and prophets could not know nor enjoy. May we rejoice in the knowledge of God as our Father. May we glorify Him for the way He has desired to make us sons so that He could be our Father. Glory and honour be His for the love that He has displayed towards us.
“Wherefore come out from the midst of them, and be separated, saith the Lord, and touch not what is unclean, and I will receive you; and I will be to you for a Father, and ye shall be to me for sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:17-18).
1There is no basis for addressing the Lord Jesus as “our Elder Brother” as some do. This title does not exist in scripture and comes from a misunderstanding of the basis upon which the bible says we come into sonship of the Father. We are made sons through our union with Christ, but He is always and ever will be unique being the only begotten Son. Therefore, He will always be our Lord and Master (see Ephesians 6:9).