Romans 8:14-17 & John 1:9-18


There are a lot of ups and downs to being a Dad, and also quite a few ups and downs to having a Dad. This morning we’re beginning a series of sermons exploring the character and personality of the first person of the Trinity. Today we’ll be thinking about what God is like as Father God, and in coming weeks we’ll be looking at Holy God, Almighty God, Creator God, and Everlasting God.

It seems to me that one of the challenges we face when thinking about God is that we tend to try and work up to it from our own experience. So, for instance when we hear God described as Father God, we think about our own father, or ourselves as fathers and try and airbrush out the bits that aren’t so good, and polish up the bits that we appreciate or are proud of. It’s almost as if we’re trying to get to a picture of God as Father by producing a composite, photoshopped, picture of the best bits of all the human fathers we know. And this is not going to work. It’s not going to work, because it’s the wrong way round. We can’t reverse engineer God’s perfect fathering starting with our imperfect fathering. Rather we need to start with God’s perfect fathering, and then form our relationships in response to that. So, if we can’t start with our own experience of fathering, where can we start?

I would like to suggest that the best place to start is with what God has told us in the Bible. Now this does mean that I am going to be drawing on a fair few different Bible passages this morning, more than I normally do, but this is for a good reason. I like to think of God as Father, it’s definitely a lot more cuddly than thinking of God as Almighty or Judge. The risk though is that I get caught up in the sentimentality of that cuddliness and don’t have a deeply rooted understanding of what it actually means. The antidote to that risk is to have our understanding of God as Father truly rooted in the Bible, so that is what we are going to do this morning.

Now, the Old Testament is pretty sparse when it comes to describing God as Father. There are a couple of examples in Deuteronomy.

1:30 The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the wilderness. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.’

32:Is this the way you repay the Lord,
you foolish and unwise people?
Is he not your Father, your Creator,
who made you and formed you?

Here we have a Father who loves and rescues, as a father carries his son. God’s fathering is linked to God’s creation of all things. We also have hint of warning, of God’s fatherly disciplining of God’s children.

In the Psalms we hear of God’s love for those on the edge of society, those who are powerless and without a voice, the orphan and the widow:

Psalm 68 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.

As we move into the prophets, we get the idea of God’s fathering and rescuing work being linked again. Isaiah writes:

Isaiah 32:16

But you are our Father,
though Abraham does not know us
or Israel acknowledge us;
you, Lord, are our Father,
our Redeemer from of old is your name.

This is interesting because it holds up the idea that even when all links with human family and heritage are disowned or done away with, God’s fatherhood holds firm. This really is an astonishing verse. All the way through the Old Testament God is known as the God of our fathers, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. If you put the words God and Father into an online Bible search tool, as I did to prepare this, then virtually all the Old Testament verses with those two words in are to do with God being the God of the fathers, and therefore worthy to obedience, honour, worship and being a promise keeping God. And now Isaiah overturns that. Even though our ancestors disown us you’re still our God, our Father, who redeems us, who rescues us, who ransoms us.

So, even from the sparse Old Testament evidence, we are building this picture of God the Father who loves, who creates, who carries, who defends the defenceless, who disciplines, who rescues, who restores.

Then we move into the New Testament, and the references to God as Father start to come thick and fast, but one of the key questions in here is, “whose Father is God?”

To start with, we know that God is Jesus’ Father, not only from the accounts of his conception and birth, but also from his own words, for instance in John 5:17 we hear Jesus saying this:

“Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.’”

Jesus had a clear idea of God as his Father, and that he had been sent to earth to work like his Father.

But Jesus extends this idea, and insists that God is the Father of all that believe. We heard this summarised in our reading from John’s account of Jesus life, but it is there in his direct teaching as well, perhaps most obviously as he teaches us to pray, “Our Father…” Jesus would not have taught us to pray like this if he had not intended us to understand and know, deep in our bones, that God is our Father, both as individuals and as brothers and sisters in faith.

Towards the end of his time on earth, Jesus reiterates this as he gives instructions to Mary to go and tell his friends that he has risen from the dead, in John 20:

“Jesus said, Go to my brothers and tell them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”’

And what does the rest of the New Testament show us that Father God is like?

The story is told of a daft old man. He had two sons. One of them was hard-working, sensible, loyal, dependable. The other was a complete waste of space, foolish and selfish. The idiot boy wouldn’t wait for the old man to pop his clogs but insisted on taking his shares of the family business, cashing them in and heading off to live the high life. Booze and sex. They never heard from him, not a letter, not a post card. But the daft old man never stopped hoping, never stopped believing, never stopped watching. One day, in the distance, there came over the hill a lad in rags, eyes to the floor. The daft old man hitched up his cloak and ran, flung his arms round the wastrel, silenced his pleas for mercy with a kiss, and ordered the kitchen staff to cook up a feast to celebrate the return of the son that had been lost.

As Paul writes to the different churches and groups of Christians that he had met in his travels, the same phrase comes up again and again and again.

“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”

That is what the lost son found on his return to the Father. He found grace and peace. He found a grace that could forgive his sins and overlook his rags, and a peace that at last he was home again, that he was safe in Father’s arms, that he could rest.

So, what does the Bible say that God the Father is like? God the Father rescues us from the place of danger, goes before us, and carries us when we need it. God the Father created us, is the source and foundation of our existence, and will discipline us when we need it. God the Father is father for those who have no father, no family and no inheritance. God the Father is our Father, making us brothers and sisters with Jesus, his only begotten Son. God the Father is the source of all grace and peace, welcoming sinners with open arms and rejoicing with those who return home with repentance.

And so, how are we to respond to this Father? Have we found that peace and that grace, are we living in the freedom of it? Do we believe that God is our Father, the one who created us, who rescues us, who loves us whether or not our earthly families do, and even when we don’t have an earthly family. Will we listen to and abide in the testimony that the Holy Spirit gives to our spirit: that we are God’s children? Will we accept that invitation and call to be co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share his sufferings. You see, being a child of God is not always easy or pain free, it took Jesus to the cross. But being a child of God does mean that we are always held, because that is the kind of Father God is, one who carries us.

I have a bit of a confession to make. Sometimes I hear other Christians refer to Daddy God, and something in me cringes a bit, I’m not comfortable with it. But the thing is, if I am a Bible believing, Spirit filled Christian then the problem is in me.

Let me read verse 15 from that Romans reading for us again,

“The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father,”

That word Abba is the Aramaic equivalent of Daddy.

You see, we don’t need this book to tell us how the Dad works, because we have this book to tell us how the Dad works. And one of the things it tells us is that the way God the Father works is to give us the Holy Spirit that teaches and releases us to call God, Dad.

No Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email is never shared.Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.