3. God Our Father


The disciples once asked Jesus to teach them to pray. Jesus replied, “When you pray, say: our ‘Father,’ which in heaven … ” Luke 11:2. This beginning of the model prayer stresses the emphasis in the New Testament on the fatherhood of God.

While God is known to the patriarchs as “God Almighty” and to the Jews as “Yahweh”, we know him primarily as “Our Father.” Of course, he is still as much “God Almighty” and “Yahweh” as he ever was, but the expression “Father” tells us that he is a moral God.

In a previous lesson, we learned that God is unlimited in time, in space, in power, in knowledge. These attributes do not by themselves make God good, but the moral characteristics which enable us to address him as “Our Father” show us that he is good.

In this lesson, we shall study three of these, his holiness, his love and his mercy.


The prophet Isaiah saw a vision in which a heavenly creature cried out, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” Isaiah 6:3.

A similar picture is described in Revelation 4:8 in which the heavenly beings exclaim, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.”

What is the holiness of God? It is that characteristic of his being which takes pleasure in everything pure and holy and hates everything which is morally evil. Just as God is unlimited in other ways, so he is unlimited in his goodness.

Since there is nothing in his being which is evil or which sanctions evil, it is impossible for him to be impure because this would be contrary to his divine nature.

James declares, “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.” James 1:13. It is his perfect holiness which makes it impossible for sin to tempt him.

The holiness of God is also the basis of his abhorrence of evil. Habakkuk declares, “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing.” Habakkuk 1:13. The Psalmist sings to God, “You hate all who do wrong.” Palm 5:5.

What is a small sin to man is a great sin to God. A beautiful woman dressed in her finest clothing detests dirt far more than a digger of ditches. And why? Because the former is clean while the latter is contaminated by the soil.

Even so, God hates sin with a hatred which man, who is polluted with it, can hardly appreciate. The more one frees oneself from the shackles of sin, the more one abhors its presence.

And since God is completely holy, his loathing of evil is the greatest of all. The destruction of the world by the flood, the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the final destruction of the earth by fire are all expressions of God’s hatred of sin because of his perfect holiness.

The holiness of God should cause us to praise him. David sings, “Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his footstool; he is holy.” Psalm 99:5. A part of prayer to God which is too often neglected is such praise as that expressed by Jesus in the model prayer when he said, “Hallowed be your name.” Luke 11:2. The Christian derives his holiness from God.

Peter admonishes the disciples of Christ, “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:14-16.

In Christ, God has given us the perfect pattern of holiness and as we conform our lives to his we become holy and in truth partake of the divine nature, 2 Peter 1:3-4. We may then be called “saints” which simply means “Holy ones”. Every child of God who is living a holy life is a saint.


Probably no scriptural topic has been the basis of more sermons and essays than the love of God. A subject of such infinite depth can only be touched on here. It is extremely difficult to define love, but we shall describe it as the ardent affection which one holds for another which in the case of divine love reaches its highest form.

Love cannot be separated from the personality of God. Although we read that God is merciful and just, we are never told that he is mercy or justice. But John informs us, “God is love.” 1 John 4:8.

Therefore, we know that the extent of his love is so great that his actions are motivated by this characteristic. When we read in John that “God so loved the world…”, John 3:15, we conclude that the giving of his Son to save men was the result, not just of love, but of overwhelming love.

Other attributes of God, such as his mercy, have their basis in this phase of his personality. God’s love is contrasted with that of human beings in that it is always intelligent. Sometimes we are moved by blind passion or silly infatuation. Not so with God. His infinite wisdom always governs his love, and that love therefore always works for our best interests.

The objects of God’s love are many. He, of course, loves Christ. Jesus told his disciples, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.” John 15:9. Christ and the heavenly creatures may be considered worthy of the love of God because they have not sinned.

But the measure of God’s love also extends to those who are wholly unworthy of his benevolence. It includes the whole world as the golden text of the Bible informs us, “God so loved the world…” John 3:16. This, therefore, means that God loves sinners who by their actions might be thought to have alienated his affections.

The contrast between human and divine love is expressed by Paul. “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8.

Truly, such a love cannot be measured in human terms. Furthermore, if God loves sinners, he also loves his children. Jesus taught, “The Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” John 16:27.

God’s love is manifested to us in many ways. We think first of the giving of Christ, 1 John 4:9-10. Further, those who accept Christ are adopted into the family of God, 1 John 3:1.

Still another expression of divine love is that of repeated forgiveness. It was this which caused Hezekiah to sing, “In your love, you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back.” Isaiah 38:17. Each time the Christian sins, and with a penitent heart asks forgiveness, he may be assured that God will grant it.

The providence of God in caring for the saints is a blessing resulting from divine love, Romans 8:28. Even the chastening of God to make us do right is an expression of his love, Hebrews 12:6. Finally, the promise of an eternal home as a reward for faithful service is a blessing stemming from God’s love.

Jesus promises, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:2-3.

God’s love for us should cause us to love him, 1 John 4:19. This in turn will make us love our brother, 1 John 4:11. And if we have the love for him that we ought to have, we will obey him. Jesus taught the disciples, “If you love me, keep my commands.” John 14:15.


As already suggested, God’s love is the basis of his mercy as is shown in John 3:16. It was his love for men that caused him to extend his mercy.

The mercy of God is the disposition of his nature which leads him to help us when we are in misery and to pardon us when we have offended him. Mercy and grace are closely akin in meaning, grace implying unmerited favour. God extends grace because he is merciful.

Many passages teach the mercy of God, Exodus 34:6-7 / Ephesians 2:4-7. God’s mercy is rich and abundant, Psalm 40:5. The grandest expression of the mercy of God is found in the offering of his Son to atone for our sins.

Even as he answers our prayers when we offend him and forgives us freely, we are receiving his mercy, 2 Peter 3:9, he expresses his mercy as he patiently bears with us in our weaknesses. Of course, God’s mercy does not contradict his justice as will be shown in the next lesson.


Because God is holy, loving and merciful, he is truly a father to us. He cares for our material and spiritual needs. He answers our prayers, always in accordance with what is best for us. When we are in trouble, we may go to him for comfort and strength.

In return, he expects obedience from us and sometimes chastises us for our own good. We must honour him in godly living and worship, as a faithful child honours his parents.

And in the end, if as children we have been faithful, we shall receive our Father’s inheritance and shall hear the king say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” Matthew 25:34.


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