The Fatherhood of God.
by George Adam
IN writing out some thoughts on this subject, it is not my purpose to discuss what is known as the "Universal Fatherhood of God." That question has been settled by the Spirit, so no one needs to be in any doubt on that point, when we have such expressions as this, "In this, the children of God are manifest and the children of the devil" (1 John iii., 10). Again, "We are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness" (the wicked One). The subject heart can be in no difficulty regarding this matter. That God is the Author and Source of all life no one will question, but His Creatorship and Fatherhood must not be confounded. It is the relation which exists between God as a Father, and all those who are born again, which I purpose to look at in the following remarks.
First, let us look at the reality of this relationship. It is not a figure of speech. It is a vital union. The word "adoption," as it is now understood, does not convey the Divine thought. I see Mr. Newberry substitutes the word "sonship" in every instance where we have adoption in the text, except in Romans viii. 23, and there the subject is the redemption of the body. Believers are not the children of God by adoption as we understand that word in common use. All the saved are children of God by birth. Hence, the Lord Jesus is called the "first begotten" (Heb. i. 6). He is called the "firstborn from the dead" (literally, from among the dead), (Col. i. 18). And He is called "the firstborn among many brethren" (Rom. viii. 29). If He is the first born, then it follows that there are more children in the same family, and Romans viii. 29, tells us that there are "many" more who are children or sons of God in the same sense in which He is spoken of as "the firstborn from among the dead." Before His incarnation, He was the "only begotten in the bosom of the Father" (John i. 18). When the angel told to Mary the manner of His birth, he said, "Therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God" (Luke i. 35). It might almost be said that in that sense, He was the only begotten of the Father. But there is a third sense in which the Lord Jesus is the Son of God. That is in resurrection. "When He bringeth again the first begotten into the world, He saith: And let all the angels of God worship Him" (Heb. i. 6). It is into this relationship in resurrection that all believers are brought. "Quickened together with Christ" (Ephesians ii. 5). "Quickened together with Him" (Col. ii. 5). "Begotten again unto a lively (living) hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Peter i. 3).
There are many blessings and responsibilities flowing out of this relationship, but as children of God, we will never be able to enjoy the one, or fulfil the other, until we take in the truth in its sweet reality, that all who have received Christ by believing in His name (John i. 12, 13), are the veritable begotten, and born children of the living God. All who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints, are also all called unto the fellowship of the Son of God (1 Cor. i. 2-9). All who are thus born again, no more belong to this world than does the Firstborn of the heavenly family, who is now in the presence of God in Heaven. We were all born into this world by natural birth, and all believers have been taken out of this world by our spiritual birth. Hence, we are not of this world, even as He is not of this world. We will never be able to enjoy or live out this truth, until we are assured of the reality in our hearts, not only in our heads, but in our hearts. And God has given us the most perfect assurance of its truth. We have first, His Word for it. He has also sent forth the Spirit of His Son into the hearts of all who are born into His family, crying, "Abba, Father" (Gal. iv. 6). Again, "The Spirit [Him]self beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God" (Rom. viii. 16). This is something beyond the possession of eternal life, or even the assurance of eternal life. The written Word is the Divine assurance that all believers are in present possession of eternal life (see 1 John v. 13). We should never confound the "witness," or testimony, spoken of in this chapter from verses 9-11, with the witness of the indwelling Spirit in Romans viii. 16. The one is the written Word, testifying that as believers, we are now in possession of eternal life. The other is the Spirit of sonship dwelling in us, testifying with our spirit that we are children of God. It is true, we have this latter truth made abundantly clear in the written Word, as, for instance, in the message which the Lord sent to His sorrowing disciples by Mary Magdalene—"My Father and your Father, My God and your God" (John xx. 17). Again we read—"Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called sons of God" (1 John iii. 1). The best authorities add—"and we are such." It is not a mere title given to us; it is the expression of a blessed reality. God is so desirous that all His children should enjoy their sonship, that over and above the written assurance in His Word, He has given His Spirit to dwell in our hearts to confirm the testimony of the Word, and to enable us to enjoy our sonship. It is one of the sweetest joys which can fill the heart of a believer, to be conscious of the love and care of God as a Father. To believe the doctrine with one's intellect, or even to teach it to others in a theorizing way, tends to lead to a carelessness in walk; but if this endearing relationship is enjoyed in the soul, it has a most sanctifying and elevating effect over the heart and life of a Christian. I hope to write a few more thoughts on this theme, dwelling mainly on the Father's love to, and His care of His own beloved children.
PART II.—THE FATHER'S LOVE.
It is not my purpose to write a theoretical disquisition on this subject, but rather to seek to help those who are already in possession of eternal life, and who know it, to press "further ben” [through], by unfolding some of the joys, and precious blessings, which belong to all the saved in their relationship to our God as "The Father." This endearing title, and the precious blessings which flow out of it, were not revealed until the Only Begotten Son, who always dwelt in the bosom of the Father, came to declare it, or to tell out the Father's heart (John i. 18). God was known in Patriarchal days as the "Almighty God." He was known to Israel under the last dispensation as "Jehovah." He is now revealed to the Christian as "The Father." The first thought that strikes one regarding a Father, is a Father's love. This special love of God as a Father to His children, must not be confounded with the love of God to a world of lost sinners. The love of God spoken to in John iii. 16, embraces the whole human family. I once heard a teacher express it thus—"God loved the world, Christ loved the churches, and the Father loves the children." These varied aspects of divine love to man do not conflict with each other, just as the love of a man to his parents does not conflict with his love to his wife, or his children. Strictly speaking, the believer does not belong to the world. We were once the objects of God's love to the world; but having believed in that love and having received Christ as the expression of that love, we then became the children of God. "But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the children of God,
even [not in the original] to them that believe on His name" (John i. 12). By receiving the Lord Jesus, we passed out of the wide circle of God's love to man, into the narrower circle of the Father's love to those who are His children. Our souls should never get away from the power of God's love to us as lost sinners. We ought always to be able to say—"We love Him, because He first loved us" (1 John iv. 19). But when the Lord Jesus is telling out the Father's love, He says—"The Father Himself loveth you, because ye have loved Me, and have believed that I came out from God" (John xvi. 27). With God, there is no past, present, and future, as there is with man, but God speaks to us in language that we can understand, and the words Christ used in John xvi. 27, would imply that when we were born into the family of God, we became the objects of a new love, that is the Father's love to His children as such. I believe this is the aspect of divine love spoken of in 1 John ii. 15—"If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." It would not be safe to say, that if any man love the world, the "love of God" is not in him. It is to be feared that many who have known and believed in the love of God to lost sinners, have gone back in heart to the world. The divine antidote for keeping the "love of the world" out of the heart of the child of God, is faith in, and enjoyment of the Father's love. I will go into this more fully in the next paper. We get a wonderful revelation of the Father's love in John xvii. 23: "I in them, and thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them as Thou hast loved Me."
It could not be said that God loves lost sinners as He loves His well-beloved Son. This special love might be called the inner circle of love. It takes in all who are within the family circle, and it takes in no one else. Many have believed in the love of God as revealed in John iii. 16, who have never gone on to know His love as revealed in John xvii. 23. We do well also to remember, that the human soul cannot apprehend and take in the love of God by trying to do it. We needed a divine illumination by the Holy Spirit to enable us to appropriate God's love to us as lost sinners, and nothing but the same spiritual enlightenment will enable a child of God to take in the marvellous truth, that all the children in the heavenly family are loved as the First-born is loved of the Father. But it is not God's way to impart spiritual blessings to those who have no desire for them. "Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord" (Hosea vi. 3). That is God's principle in leading His children into clearer light, and a fuller enjoyment of spiritual blessing. "If thou seekest for her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God" (Prov. ii. 4-5). There are mines of spiritual wealth and enjoyment to be found in Christ, if we would only go in for them, as the worldlings go in for gold and silver.
One other aspect of this subject we must look at before we close this paper. Will the reader look carefully at John xiv. 21-23. We have the expressions "shall be loved of My Father"; and again, "and My Father will love him." This must be a different aspect of the Father's love from the birthright, unconditional love which He has towards all His children. The love here spoken of is conditional on our obedience. It is not only love to us as His children, but the love of His approval of our ways, including also the manifestation of His love to our hearts (see verse 22). Whilst our God and Father loves all His children as He loves His Son; yet there are those who are so careful to know His will, and to do it, that He can come in to them, and dwell with them, and give them the consciousness of His presence and of His approval. And there are those amongst His children, that neither His own glory nor their good, could admit of His coming to them and abiding with them. The Lord Jesus loves all His disciples as the Father loves Him (see John xv. 9). But there were those in whose company His loving heart was more at home than in the society of the rest, such as John, "the disciple whom Jesus loved," and the Bethany family (see John xi. 5, xiii. 23). Probably He was more drawn to them because they confided more fully in Him, and drew more largely on His love. May we learn to go and do likewise.
PART III.—THE FATHER'S CARE.
There is no part of the inspired Word where this blessed truth is so fully revealed as in the sixth chapter of Matthew. It is also well to notice that when the Lord is unfolding the minute care of our God for the temporal wants of His children, He always speaks of Him as "your Father." In speaking of the necessities of this life, such as food and clothing, the Lord says: "Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things" (Matt. vi. 32). The Lord also pledges His word, that, if believers give the things of God the first place, He will look after their temporal needs.
There is no truth which the children of God are more slow to take in, than the special care which God has for the physical, and circumstantial well-being of His children, whilst they sojourn on earth. One who knows the Lord well, and also knows well the human heart, has said: "That there are many believers who have trusted their souls to the Lord Jesus for eternity, who would not trust the Father for their breakfast if they did not see where it was to come from." Did we, who are born into the family of God, see the truth of the Father's care as it is revealed in the Scriptures, we would be astounded at the amount of practical atheism which lurks in our hearts. We delight to often sing, "It is well, it is well with my soul." But if I have trusted the Father with my body as I have trusted the Son with my soul, it is well with my body, as it is with my soul. The body is redeemed as well as the soul. "For we are bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body" (1 Cor. vi. 20). "Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ." Again, "What, know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost?" (verses 15-19). Man is composed of three parts: spirit, soul, and body (1 Thess. v. 23). The spirit is the knowing part of man. "For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him?" (1 Cor. ii. 11). The soul is the loving, and longing part of the man. "My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God" (Psa. xlii. 2). Again, "Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest" (Songs of Sol. i. 7). The body is the tabernacle, or dwelling-place of the spirit, and the soul. I have heard it taught that the Holy Spirit takes charge of a believer's spirit. The Lord Jesus is the object which meets the need of the soul. And "the Father" has charged Himself with the care of the bodies of His children. It would not be safe to press this distinction too far, yet there is truth in it, for as already noticed, it is the FATHER who is specially spoken of, when God's care for His children in this life is the subject in hand. What a world of anxiety, and unbelieving fears, the children of God would be saved from, did they but believe in the Father's love and care for His own. The Lord said to His disciples: "Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten of God. But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows" (Luke xii. 6-7).
If Christians would accept such precious assurances regarding God's care of them for this life, as they have rested on the Word of the Lord for eternity, what a different life many of them would live. The way in which many—if not most Christians—believe in God's providential care of them in this life, is very much akin to the way in which some unsaved sinners believe in the Lord Jesus as the Saviour. They believe in Him as "our Saviour" in a general way, but they have never come to the end of their own self effort, and consequently they have never taken the vital step of the "committal of faith" so as to give the Saviour an opportunity of saving them on His own terms and saving them completely without their own hand being at it at all. So the children of God believe in their heavenly Father's providential care in a general way, but they so fail to take the all-important step of the "committal of faith," so as to give God a free hand in ordering all their circumstances as to their bodily needs, and everything else concerning their temporal well-being. And God never acts fully according to the fulness of His grace, until there is the complete surrender of a broken will on the part of His child. Trusting Christ for eternal salvation might be said to be an act of faith that never needs to be repeated.
Many allow the blessed joyful sense of safety for eternity which they felt "when first they knew the Lord," to degenerate into a carnal security sense of safety; but a Christian's circumstances in the journey of life are so continuously changing, that there is not the same danger of one's faith becoming inactive, so as to degenerate into a carnal confidence. To trust God for "time's things" requires a fresh exercise of faith to meet each fresh emergency. Also to trust in "the Father" for time, involves other conditions which nature shrinks from. It involves being satisfied with His ordering. And in bringing out the moral image of His Son in a believer's daily life according to Rom. viii. 28-29; our Father may have to use painful means to accomplish His precious purpose, and it needs much grace for a believer who is passing through the fire to say, "Not my will, but Thine be done." This trust in the Father also involves heart and life separation from the world, and from all worldly fellowships. That passage in 2 Cor. vi. 14-18, has a direct reference to the Fatherhood of God, and it is those who had been "sanctified in Christ Jesus," "called saints" to whom (1 Cor. 2), He says, "I will receive you," "and will be a Father unto you" (verse 17-18). He was their Father already, but He would act a Father's part if they would take the place of separation in following the Lord Jesus in His rejection, and also in following Him in His trustful confidence in, and dependence upon, His Father for all His daily needs, as well as for daily strength for service.
To sum up what we have gone over on this subject; we have first, the reality of the relationship between God as a Father, and all believers as His children. Second, we noticed that all the children in the heavenly family are loved as the First Begotten is loved by the Father. Third, there is as much warrant in Scripture to trust in God as a Father for time, as there is to trust in Christ for eternity, and those who do so are as safe for time as they are for eternity.
“The Believer’s Magazine” 1900