Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Getting to know God the Father in Matthew 6

Image result for God the Father
Matthew 6:9 “Pray, then, in this way:
‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name."

Do you remember the first time you ever met the significant people in your life? I'm talking about your spouse, maybe when you first saw your newborn children or a lifelong friend. We always want to know what they are like and who they are in their identity. 

God is without question the most important Being we could ever know. He meets us where we are at. When we first trust in God, we come to understand that He is identified in the Bible as three Persons: The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Father is designated the First Person of the Trinity due to the fact He is the First Person we meet in scripture (Genesis 1:1). As is the case with the other two Persons, the Father is in and of Himself truly God in relationship with the other two Persons which are each truly God. All three Persons share in the One Divine "Godness" or "Divine nature", with the Divine nature located within all three Persons.  

Today's post aims to unfold the identity and nature of the First-Person of the Trinity: the Father. Matthew 6 will be our target text as we hear Jesus unfold the identity and being of the Father, and how we can know Him.

God the Father is the Heavenly Father. Matthew 6:1,9,14,26,32
On five occasions Jesus makes reference to the Person of God the Father being "the Heavenly Father". As the Heavenly Father, we find that the only way one can know God as his Heavenly Father is through faith in trust in Jesus Christ. Indeed, God as the Father is the source from whence all creatures here on earth derive their physical life and being, since He (along with the Son and Spirit) is God, Creator of all things. We could say God the Father exercises "Fatherly care" toward his creation as the Good God. Acts 17:28 notes for instance: "for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children." 

We mustn't read into Acts 17:28 or the other passages that speak of His providential care and goodness towards creation some sort of "Universal Fatherhood" idea which negates the exclusivity of salvation in Jesus Christ. The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 lays out clear distinctions with respect to how one truly knows God the Father: 

"God is Father in truth to those who become children of God through faith in Jesus Christ. He is fatherly in His attitude toward all men."

Just as I can be "fatherly" towards children in general and yet be only and truly the father of my own children, such distinctions roughly describe how we conceive of God the Father's relationship to creation and His people. 

Jesus' use of the title "Heavenly Father" clearly implies that the person who prays to Him and receive from Him is in relationship with Him in saving faith. 
The concept of "Heavenly Father" on the lips of Jesus would had been familiar to the Jews. Ben Witherington III and Laura M. Ice in their book: "The Shadow of the Almighty - Father, Son and Spirit in Biblical Perspective" list the following Old Testament texts that refer to God the Father: Deuteronomy 32:6; Ps 2:7; Ps 89:26-28; Isaiah 64:6-8; Jer. 3:19; Hosea 11:1-9; Malachi 2:10. 

What made Jesus' usage of this title so unique was the fact that He was encouraging his disciples to pray individually to the "Father in Heaven". 
In Jesus' use of the phrase "Heavenly Father", we find that God the Father is:

1. Personally known by saving faith (see discussion above and Matthew 6:9 where we see the personal pronoun "our Heavenly Father")

2. Perfectly Powerful, meaning He is omnipotent (Matt 6:33) and omniscient (six times Jesus mentioned the Father being able to "see in secret", as well as the Father "knowing what we need before we ask" in Matthew 6:8) and holy (Hollowed be Your name" - Matthew 6:9). The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 summarizes this point:
"He is all powerful, all knowing, all loving, and all wise."

So God the Father is the Heavenly Father, but notice also what Jesus says about God the Father, namely He is....

God the Father is the Kingly Father. Matthew 6:10 and 6:33 
Jesus unfolds the fact that there is a Kingdom, a realm over which God the Father exercises His reign. 

1. The Kingly Father has a Kingdom. 
This "Kingdom of God" concept dominates so much of the Four Gospels that it occupies the center of Jesus' preaching and teaching ministry. Jesus urges his listeners to make the Father's Kingdom a pressing matter of prayer. 

2. The Kingly Father exercises His will. 
Added to these admonitions is the fact of the Father's will. As Jesus operated through His humanity, He Himself possessed a distinct human will and a distinct Divine will in union with the Father. Jesus' remarks aim to show how the Kingly majesty of the Father includes the exercise of the Divine will of God, of which He as co-sharer with the Father operated. 

The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 notes the following about the Kingly majesty of the God the Father:

"God as Father reigns with providential care over His universe, His creatures, and the flow of the stream of human history according to the purposes of His grace."

Perhaps one of the most practical statements one can find regarding the Father's kingly rule and kingdom is in Matthew 6:33 - "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."

So we find that God the Father is identified as the Heavenly Father and as the Kingly Father. Let's consider today one final thought as we are getting to know God the Father from Jesus' teaching in Matthew 6....

God the Father is the Merciful Father. Matthew 6:11-34
It bears pausing here briefly to consider how one becomes convinced that God the Father is both Kingly or worthy of worship and merciful or truly and honestly good. Both concepts of general, overall fatherhood are often called into question in our culture. 

One of the main tasks of the Holy Spirit following our salvation is to reteach us what the concept "Father" means. Some reading this perhaps never had a father. Others may had a father, but that father was abusive, or left or passed away. Even if one had a so-called "good father" growing up, there were bound to be those times when one's earthly father disappointed or failed. Quite frankly, one of the devices of the enemy is to cloud people's concepts of God the Father and replace their conceptions with lies and deceit (after all, Jesus calls Satan "the father of lies" in John 8:44).

With that caveat, we briefly consider this last point of God the Father as a merciful Father. We can note several related thoughts in Matthew 6:11-34. 

1. The merciful Father is pleased to forgive sins. Matthew 6:12-15

2. The merciful Father provides for our needs. Matthew 6:11, 25-34

3. The merciful Father hears the prayer. Matthew 6:16-18, 21,33.

Closing thoughts:
Today we looked at what Jesus had to teach us in getting to know God the Father. We noted three truths about God the Father:

1. He is the Heavenly Father
2. He is the Kingly Father
3. He is the Merciful Father

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