Scriptures

God Our Father

Introduction

The disciples once asked Jesus to teach them to pray. Jesus replied,

‘When ye pray, say, Our father which art 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 as 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. We know 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 study we shall study three of these, his holiness, his love and his mercy.

His holiness

The prophet Isaiah saw a vision in which a heavenly creature cried out,

‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: 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, Lord God Almighty, which 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 thy name.’ Luke 11:2

The Christian derives his holiness from God. Peter admonishes 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.

‘His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.’ 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.

His love

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’,

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,

‘For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.’ John 16:27

God’s love is manifested to us in many ways. We think first of the giving of Christ.

‘This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.’ 1 John 4:9-10

Further, those who accept Christ are adopted into the family of God.

‘See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!’ 1 John 3:1

Still another expression of divine love is that of repeated forgiveness. It was this which caused Hezekiah to sing,

‘Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. 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.

‘And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God.’ Romans 8:28

Even the chastening of God to make us do right is an expression of his love.

‘Because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.’ 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.

‘We love him, because he first loved us.’ 1 John 4:19

This in turn will make us love our brother.

‘Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.’ 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 commandments.’ John 14:15

His mercy As already suggested, God’s love is the basis of his mercy as is shown in John 3:16.

‘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.’

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.

‘The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.’ Exodus 34:6-7

Paul teaches,

‘But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.’ Ephesians 2:4-7

God’s mercy is rich and abundant as David declares,

‘Many, LORD my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.’ 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. Since he

‘is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.’ 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.

Our Father

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 of 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

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

Romans 8:28

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