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Recovering God: The Father
“I praise you Father, Lord of heaven and earth.”
by Paul Sumner
Av—father—consists of the first two letters of the Hebrew alphabet (alef, beit), and it is the first word in a Hebrew Bible dictionary.
One might say that all things—in heaven and on earth—begin with Av. This is so in the stories and messages in both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament.Is He not your Father who formed you?
He has made you and established you.
Remember the days of old.
For us there is but one God, the Father,
from whom are all things
and for whom we exist.
(1 Corinthians 8:6)
Time, space, human history all begin with Av. Everything will also end with him—and with the One whom he sent. For in the end of Old-Earth time, his Lord-Son will remit his rule over heaven and earth back "to God, even the Father," in order that the Father "may be all in all" (1 Cor 15:24, 28).
This future retransfer of lordship from Son to Father is not what we would expect. Usually, it's a father who remits his inheritance to his son (John 3:35; 13:3).
When NT readers grasp this end-time investiture reversal, they will perceive a central biblical teaching about Yeshua's identity. For while the NT focuses on him as Savior, Lord and Messiah, it never forgets that in "the fulness of time" it was God himself who "sent forth his Son" (Gal 4:4), and that Yeshua "belongs" to Av (1 Cor 3:23).
The NT does not relegate the Father to a wing of some virtual Jerusalem Museum of Theological Antiquities that houses relics of faith once adored by pre-Christian Jews.
As Scripture says,This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased.
Hear him! (Matthew 17:5)
He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David.
And I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God, the Almighty,
and the Lamb, are its temple. (Rev 21:22)
Time and again the NT portrays Yeshua as seated at the right hand of God, an image based on Psalm 110:1 (Heb 1:3, 10:12, 12:2). We are told the angels and martrys currently worship "Him who sits on the throne and the Lamb" (Rev 5:13). One day, "the water of life" will flow "from the throne of God and of the Lamb" (Rev 22:1).
Is Messiah our Father?
Some Christians refer to Yeshua as "Father." Some call him "Abba Father."
They cite the prophetic text Isaiah 9:6 as validation for this practice: "His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace." Since the Messiah is here called both "God" and "Father," it seems logical to simply join the two: Jesus is "God the Father."
But this is not a sound interpretation. In the NT, Yeshua is never addressed as "Father," and "Abba" refers only to his Father God."Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will but what you will." (Mark 14:36)
"You have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, 'Abba! Father!'" (Rom 8:15)
"God has sent forth the spirit of his son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father!'" (Gal 4:6)
"Abba" is Aramaic, not Hebrew, though it is related to Hebrew Av. In the NT, the word is transliterated exactly into Greek.
[See the studies Yeshua bar Abba and Is Yeshua, Abba the Father?]
Fathers of Old
In the ancient world it was customary to call a king the "father" of his nation. In Israel, the founder or head of a tribe was the physical progenitor and father-head of the whole family. Other men of authority were considered fathers too.In Egypt, Joseph said God had made him "a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt" (Gen 45:8).
Job said he was a "father [i.e., provider, protector] to the needy" (Job 29:16).
When Elijah ascended into heaven in the divine whirlwind, his protégé Elishah called out, "My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen" (2 Kings 2:12).
King Joash later used this expression for Elishah the prophet of God and addressed him as "my father" (2 Kings 6:21).
If patriarchs and counselors, prophets and kings were "father" to their people, how much more can be it said that Messiah is "father" to his people.
"Lord, show us the Father."
And yet—that is not the whole story. Yeshua is not our father. He taught his disciples to pray to their Father in heaven: to God His Father. Note his words to Mary Magdalene after his resurrection:Stop clinging to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brethren and say to them, "I ascend to my Father and your Father, and my God and your God." (John 20:17)
Yeshua's prayer to his Father in John 17 should silence the misleading idea that Jesus is God the Father.
God, the Father of Many Children
The NT says Yeshua is "the firstborn among many brethren" (Grk, adelphoi, Rom 8:29). In fact, all these people "are from one Father" (Heb 2:11), and "drink one Spirit" (1 Cor 12:13).
Yeshua's "brothers" (a term that often includes females) are those to whom "he gave the right to become children of God" (tekna theou, John 1:12). His believing followers come from the same Father as he. They, however, are adopted and their re-birthing is contrary to nature.
In contrast, Yeshua was not adopted: he is "the one and only" or "unique" son of his father (monogenes, John 3:16, 18).
In the gospel accounts, Yeshua refers to "Father" some 180 times; 112 in John alone. The focus of his work, ministry, and redemptive purpose is to bring all people to the Father, to bring Israel back to the Father of their fathers.
"No one comes to
but through me."
The Son is Never without the Father
What is clear in the gospels is that Yeshua doesn't talk as though he were God the Father, as though he alone is the supreme deity. In his teaching and prayers, he always, eventually, includes his Father in all that he does and say. This is particularly true in John.He who sent me is with me. (John 8:29)
The Father loves me. (John 10:17)
I am not alone, because the Father is with me. (John 16:32)
Note his direct address:I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth.
(Matt 11:25, Luke 10:21)
Father, I thank you that you heard me.
Peter explicitly mentions the "Through (Yeshua)—To (God)" pattern of the Gospel. "Messiah also died for sins once for all…in order that he might bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18). He says it is "through" Messiah that "you…are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God" (1 Peter 1:21).
Most of Paul's letters begin with a similar greeting:Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Yeshua Messiah. (Rom 1:7, 2 Cor 1:2 , Eph 1:2)
John wrote: "Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Yeshua Messiah" (1 John 1:3). This truth inflames hatred from the enemy. For "the antichrist…denies the Father and the Son" (1 John 2:22).
In contrast to this extensive New Testament witness, too often God the Father is missing in Christian venues. To our peril, human history reveals the shattering effects of eclipsed, absent, or dead fathers.
Humans without Fathers
Following the Sho’ah, the German pastor and theologian Helmut Thieleke wrote of "the dreadful lawlessness of a fatherless world" that he witnessed in the demonic rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis (Silence of God, p. 6).
Historian Paul Vitz tracks the consequences of fatherlessness in the lives of destructive atheists such as Hitler, as well as Friedrich Nietsche, Bertrand Russell, Sigmund Freud, Joseph Stalin, and Mao Zedong (Faith of the Fatherless, 1999). We could also cite contemporary Communist and Muslim despots of our time.
We should also shudder at the activities of the atheistic, anti-Bible political Left. Their current war that seeks to destroy Western cultures involves, in part, the tearing apart of father-led family units and genociding their unborn.
In his book Father and Son (1992, p. 6), Gordon Dalbey notes:Every male child—now as always—longs to be one with his father, like Jesus with His Father God, and thus receive fatherly protection, affirmation, encouragement, affection, provision, guidance and strength.
Fatherless males share a common, dreadful destiny, unless they establish bonds with the loving God through his unique Son, Yeshua, who learned himself to trust his Father, an example that witnesses to every man and woman:Yeshua said, "I love the Father." (John 14:31)
Within conservative branches of both Catholic or Protestant Christianity striking examples can be found of inadvertent disregard of the Father.
Note this comment by a well-known American evangelical Bible teacher, Chuck Swindoll, who rarely engages in hyperbolic remarks about Scripture:An authentically Christian ministry must have Christ as the sole object of worship and devotion.
[from his published commentary on Acts 8:6-8, emphasis added].
He says Christ must be the sole object. Even an experienced teacher such as he can forget the entire testimony of Scripture. In contrast, hear the vital conjunction used by the occupants of heaven during their worship:To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever. (Rev 5:13)
Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb. (Rev 7:10)
When the Son Replaces the Father, The Son Will Disappear Too
Whatever the motive or exegetical habit of mind, the Father Silence eventually has a corrosive effect. For when God the Av disappears behind the Son's exalted status—expressed in such phrases as "Jesus is God" or "God is Jesus"—an avalanche of doctrinal consequences begins…ending in the total sweeping away of Biblical faith.
Ironically, it is a Catholic historian who informs us:"Roman Catholicism…has tended increasingly to favour belief in Christ over belief in God…. Belief in God is viturally hidden… [Some within Catholicism] have come to talk of a 'Christianity without God'." [Jean Milet, God or Christ: The Excesses of Christocentricity (1999), pp. 2-3]
Political history tells us that assassins of a King will always go after his Prince who would succeed him.
To be blunt: doctrinally diminishing the Av is Patricide or Deicide—eliminating him, killing him off—an act that will inevitably lead to denial then expulsion of the Son himself.
When God is dead, Yeshua his Son no longer has identity or purpose in the universe as Son. For us human beings, for whom he laid down his life as an eternal saving sacrifice for our sins, we lose all hope.
In contrast to the wide-world demonically-inspired human wars being waged against Heaven, the Scriptures depict the eventual end of human history. That will occur when God—through Yeshua—puts down the final rebellion of demonic and unbelieving human forces. That event will be voiced in the triumphant testimony of Heaven:
The kingdom of this world has become
the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah.
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