Chapter Five

Patriology: Doctrine of the Father

1. The Father is Primarily Revealed in the New Testament

Most Christians have the notion that the person of God in the Old Testament is the Father and that the Son rarely appears, if at all. The exact opposite is the truth, however. The person of God in the Old Testament is usually the Son. The Father is primarily revealed in the New Testament, not in the Old Testament. See Matthew 11:27:

"No one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

See also John 14:6:

"I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me."

The God of the Old Testament is primarily the Son. Consider:

No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known. (John 1:18)
No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. (John 6:46)

John 1:18 and 6:46 explicitly state that no one has ever seen God, and yet several times in the Old Testament people did see God:

Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself. But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank. (Exodus 24:9-11)
When the angel of Yahweh did not show himself again to Manoah and his wife, Manoah realized that it was the angel of Yahweh.
"We are doomed to die!" he said to his wife. "We have seen God!"
But his wife answered, "If Yahweh had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and grain offering from our hands, nor shown us all these things or now told us this." (Judges 13:21-23)
Then Job replied to Yahweh:
"I know that you can do all things;
no plan of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, `Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?'
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.
You said, `Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.'
My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42:1-6)
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory."
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
"Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty." (Isaiah 6:1-5)
Yahweh appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground....
"Where is your wife Sarah?" they asked him.
"There, in the tent," he said. Then Yahweh said, "I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son."
Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him....
When the men got up to leave, they looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. Then Yahweh said, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? (Genesis 18:1-2, 9-10, 16-17)

If people in the Old Testament were seeing God, and yet John claims that no one saw him, then there is an obvious question: who was it they were seeing and calling God? There is really only one possible solution, and that comes from the doctrine of the Trinity. The people of the Old Testament who saw God were seeing God the Son rather than God the Father.

This solution becomes inescapable when one considers some other passages and concepts.

Notice that John has consiously patterned John 1:1-2 after Genesis:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. (John 1:1-4)

In case there were any doubts, it is through the Son (verse 3) that the universe was created; yet Genesis 1:1 tells us that "God" made it.

So who is the God of the Old Testament who created the universe? The Bible is clear: it is the Son. Notice Colossians 1:13-17:

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (emphasis added).

Consider, too, that the even the nature of salvation requires that the God of the Old Testament be the Son. Peter reports:

...then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is
"'the stone you builders rejected,
which has become the capstone. `
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:10-12)
And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.' (Acts 2:21)
That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile-the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." Romans 10:9-13

The New Testament writers quote from the Old Testament, telling people to call upon the name of the Lord, meaning Jesus, in order to be saved. Clearly, they felt that Yahweh in the Old Testament, is the same as Jesus in their day. Look at the passage in Joel that they were quoting from:

And everyone who calls on the name of Yahweh will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as Yahweh has said, among the survivors whom Yahweh calls. (Joel 2:32)

Therefore the God of the Old Testament is principally the Son, and it is principally the Son that they interracted with. Sometimes the terms God or Yahweh may also apply to the Trinity as a whole or to the Father, as in the prophesies regarding the first coming of Jesus (cf. Isaiah 53 for instance; see also Deut. 32:6 and Mal. 2:10 where God is called "father"; also Isaiah 9:6 in a prophesy relating to the Son). In John 5:39 Yahweh again equals Jesus.

2. Usage of the term "God"

In the New Testament, the term "God" is used to refer to the Father when it is contrasted with "the Son" or "Jesus" or "Christ". Otherwise, the term "God" refers to the Trinity as a whole, to the Son, or to the Holy Spirit. An example of "God" being used for "Father" can be recognized in John 1:18, especially when it is compared with John 6:46.

3. The Father Sent the Son

The Father is described as the one who sent Jesus to the Earth. This is not to suggest, of course, that the Father made the Son do something that he didn't want to do. But it does indicate the relationship of the Son, in his incarnation, to the Father, which is of a subordinate to his master. Below is a listing of all the verses that describe the fact of the Father sending the Son.

That all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. (John 5:23)
"I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me. (John 5:36)
And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, (John 5:37)
"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:44)
Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. (John 6:57)
But if I do judge, my decisions are right, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. (John 8:16)
I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me." (John 8:18)
Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. (John 8:42)
what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, `I am God's Son'? (John 10:36)
For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. (John 12:49)
He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. (John 14:24)
that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:21)
"Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. (John 17:25)
Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." (John 20:21)
And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. (1 John 4:14)

4. The Father Empowered the Son

In his incarnation Jesus had access to no power in himself, any more than any other human being has power in himself. Jesus was utterly dependent upon the Father for his ability to accomplish miracles and his task here upon the Earth.

Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. (John 5:19)
The nature of his dependence upon the Father, which is the same dependence that we as human beings have to the Father, is expressed by the following:
I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)
If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:11)
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

5. The Son is Subject to the Father in the Incarnation

Jesus was subject to the Father in his incarnated form. It is important, however, to understand that subjection is a voluntary state; the Father did not subjugate the Son. The Son subjugated himself. Furthermore, it should be kept in mind that this relationship would not be along typical human lines. It must not be forgotten what the nature of leadership is in the Church (and hense among Christians). Subjugation is mutual, and it is not in the human sense of "lording it over others" (See 1 Peter 5:3; Mark 10:42-45; Matthew 20:25-28). Therefore, as we think about the nature of the subjugation of Christ to the Father, we must not forget the lessons taught about how such things work among people. It was likely not significantly different between Father and Son.

But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he "has put everything under his feet." Now when it says that "everything" has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:23-28)
By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. (John 5:30)
...but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me. (John 14:31a)
"You heard me say, `I am going away and I am coming back to you.' If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. (John 14:28)
He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. (John 14:24)

6. The Father Raised the Son From the Dead

The Father, like with all else that was done, was the active ingredient, the power that made everything that Jesus did happen. This is not to suggest that the Father was like an Energizer battery or some such thing. The Father is a person, and granted Jesus the wherewithall to accomplish the tasks that the Father had asked him to do.

Paul, an apostle-sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead- (Galatians 1:1)
We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:4)
...then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. (Acts 4:10)

7. The Father Loves

All that can be said about the love of Jesus can be said with equal force about the Father. The Father is not a stern-faced taskmaster, humorless and forboding. The Father, as much as the Son, is loving and kind. Repeatedly, the Bible speaks of his concern and care. We are told that not even a sparrow can fall without him taking notice of it, and that the Father cares about us so much that he went to the trouble of numbering the hairs of our heads (Matthew 10:29-31, Luke 12:6-7). It might be useful to review the section of this book about love at this point.

a. The Son

The Father is said explicitly to love the Son. Bear in mind that this means the contents of 1 Corinthians 13 applied to the Father's relationship with his Son. What Jesus did, living as a human being, dying for our sins, was what was best for the Son - not just what was best for us. Surely the Father's feelings for the Son were far stronger than his feelings for us. If his concern for us would result in an unloving action toward the Son, then would the Father have been able to send the Son to die for us? Certainly not. But how could it be that wishing the best for the Son would mean his sacrifice on the cross? Because we must factor in the love that the Son has for us. The Son would not have been happy if he could not do whatever it took to accomplish our redemption. Parents willingly die in efforts to save their children. Why would we think the Father or Son have any less feeling for us?

For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. (John 5:20)
The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. (John 3:35)
The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life - only to take it up again. (John 10:17)
"Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. (John 17:24)
For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." (2 Peter 1:17)
b. The World and Believers

As the selfish creatures that we are, the love the Father has for us is our principle concern. It is important, of course, that we never forget that the Father has intimate concern for us and care for us. There is no more or less love for us from the Father than there is from the Son.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. (John 16:27)
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, (2 Thessalonians 2:16)
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (1 John 3:1)
Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ: (Jude 1:1)
Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." (John 14:21)

8. The Father Lives with Believers

Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (John 14:23)

How does the Father (and Son) live with the believer? They do it through the agency of the Holy Spirit.

9. Father Answers Prayers

Technically, when we pray, we are praying to the Father, in the name of the Son, through the Holy Spirit. It is not really necessary, however, to be so careful about whom one is addressing, however; after all, the Holy Spirit takes our feeble babblings and translates and fixes them before they get to the Father, anyhow. But it is important to keep in mind that we are praying to the Father, and that he has this kind of concern for us. Sometimes, Christians seem to imagine that the Father doesn't really care, or at least not as much, or as strongly as the Son cares. That, of course, is nonsense. In Roman Catholic theology, both the Son and Father tend, at least in popular thinking, to become distant and hard to reach; thus, Mary and the Saints are brought in to become mediators, since they are thought to really care and be concerned, and then maybe the Father and the Son will listen to them.

Biblically, it is clear, that the Father and Son have the concern for us that the Saints and Mary do in Catholic theology. In fact, the Father cares more for us, and those around us, than we do.

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
"This , then, is how you should pray:
"'Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one. ` (Matthew 6:7-13)
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:7-11)
"Again , I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. (Matthew 18:19)
"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
"Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Luke 11:9-13)
In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. (John 16:23)

10. Father Involved in Creation

All three members of the Trinity were actively involved in creation. Usually no one doubts the work of the Father in the creation, but it is useful to list the verses that make this explicit.

Is this the way you repay Yahweh, O foolish and unwise people? Is he not your Father, your Creator, who made you and formed you? (Deuteronomy 32:6)
Have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with one another? (Malachi 2:10)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:1-3)

The Father worked through the Son when the world was created; however, based on John 1:1 and Colossians 1:16 it seems clear that the primary operative in the creation was the Son.

11. Father Draws People to Himself

The Father is the one that gets people saved. They do not save themselves, and their "seeking" is in reaction to the Father's work, not the cause of the Father's work in their lives. No one seeks God by themselves, and no one gets saved without the work of God.

As it is written:
"There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."
"Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit."
"The poison of vipers is on their lips."
"Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness."
"Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know."
"There is no fear of God before their eyes." (Romans 3:10-18)
"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:44)
We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)