The importance of Fathers

 When we think of the word “father,” many thoughts flood our minds and many emotions fill our hearts.  Some of us have amazing fathers who love us, care for us, provided discipline in our formative years and guidance as we got older.  They are excellent models for us, holding together strength and tenderness, firmness and kindness, authority and friendship.  For many of us, the word “father” fills our heart with fondness and joy, and perhaps even reverence and humility.

For others, our fathers were seldom involved in our lives, or altogether absent.  Rather than provoking fond thoughts and emotions, the word “father” may flood your heart with a sense of dread, resentment, pain, and apprehension.  The reality is that “father” is an important role within human community and healthy fatherhood is a blessing to every kind of social environment.  We can’t help but want fathers it’s wired deeply within us.  This deeply woven desire for fathers coupled with pleasant and unpleasant experiences of fatherhood naturally cause us to project our idea of “father” onto the heavenly Father–for better or for worse.

However, God is too honorable so as to have His reputation tarnished by a poor father, and too benevolent to be limited by comparisons to even the best fathers.  His Fatherhood is a Holy Fatherhood- unmatched and completely “other” than any fatherhood that we have ever encountered.

Our Heavenly Father

 God owns “fatherhood.”  It’s not as if God made human fathers and then thought to Himself, “Hmm, that’s a great way to describe myself!”  Fatherhood flows from God’s nature, and humanity gets the privilege of sharing in the joy of fatherhood.   The Fatherhood of God is no sidebar in the Bible, but a major reality.  God sent a Son into the world.  It’s as if He were saying, “He is the eternal Son, and I am the eternal Father!”

God wants to be known as “Father,” and the Son delights to make Him known as “Father”.  This has huge implications on ultimate reality.  The reality of Father and Son means that ultimate reality isn’t dark space and quasars.  Ultimate reality is not unsolved mathematical equations.  Ultimate reality isn’t cold and brutal chance.  At its very core, ultimate reality is fellowship!  Ultimate reality is a loving relationship!  Before there was a world or humanity, or angels there was the Triune God.

And what do we suppose that God was up to?  Try picturing a massive fountain of endless love and joy and then magnify it a billion times.  We’re not even getting warm.  The Father has always loved the Son by and through the person of the Spirit.  The Son has always received love from His Father and has loved Him back by and through the person of the Spirit.  Theologian and historian Michael Reeves puts it this way:

Before creation, before all things, we saw, the Father was loving and begetting his Son.  For eternity, that was what the Father was doing.  He did not become Father at some point; rather, his very identity is to be the one who begets the Son.  That is who he is.  Thus it is not as if the Father and the Son bumped into each other at some point and found to their surprise how remarkably well they got on.  The Father is who he is by virtue of his relationship with the Son. (Delight in the Trinity pg.35)

This is what it means when the Bible states that “God is love” (1 John 4:8).  God doesn’t just add love onto one of His many attributes.  God is in His essence–love; Triune love.  When that Triune love boils over, a universe is created (Colossians 1:16) and we receive grace upon grace (John 1:16).

The gospel narrative: A peek inside Fatherly love

In order to fully grasp how deep the Father’s love is for us, we should look at how deep His love is for His Son.  Jesus’ time on earth opens up a window for us to look inside that forever love. So what does fathering really look like?  What does it look like for the Eternal Father to love the Eternal Son?

 Matthew 3:16-17

“And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

When Jesus was baptized, an amazing thing happened.  We might be tempted to think that this was just pomp and show, but Matthew actually opened a window for us to see the joy of Triune fellowship.  All three persons of the Trinity are referenced here.  Let us observe how the Father speaks to the Son, because it is here that we see the “ground zero” of Fatherly love.  We will emphasize specific key words as we work through the passage.

 Exclusive relation

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Fatherly love affirms an exclusive kind of relation.  He delights to affirm that the Son is unique and uniquely in relation with the Father.  There is a kind of relational security that fatherhood protects and guards by virtue of just being “father”.  An earthly father who does not give his children a sense of relational security by virtue of his fatherhood is going contrary to the nature of what it means to be a father.  The heavenly Father says, “my Son-the one”.

Cascade of love

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Lest we brush by the idea of “Son”, we can see the thrust behind how God views “Son” in the word, “beloved”.  Fatherly love not only ropes off and protects relational exclusivity, but it does so out of a deep well of love!  To fatherhood, a child is the object of love!  The Son is the recipient of glory and honor (2 Peter 1:17) from the Father.  In this case, it is an eternal love flowing in everlasting measures towards the Son.  Jesus is beloved.

Delight in

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Not only does the Father pour out endless honor and glory to the Son, He also takes delight in the Son.  He draws pleasure and delight with Him.  Everything about His Son, from who he is to what he is like, provokes within God a satisfying delight and pleasure.  Fatherly love doesn’t just tolerate, but celebrates with joy.  Fatherly love is son-shaped, seeking to be filled with the pleasure of fellowship with the Son.  Fatherly love has an appetite that is only quenched by the abundant distribution of love to the Son.

Bubbling over to sons

Now, take a deep breath.  This love that the Father has for His Son is invading us!  This love that the Father has for the Son, He has lavished on us in Christ!

 John 17:22-23

“The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

 John 16:27

“For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.”

These words need to shape our sense of reality!  We would not fear if the magnitude of this love were to suddenly become apparent to our hearts.  We would take risks for the sake of the kingdom, without feeling as if we were heroic if the massiveness of Fatherly love were to all at once light our souls!  The love that the Father has for the Son is ours.  There is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ!  Nothing can separate us from the love of God!  The Father has not spared His own Son, but gave Himself up for us all.  These lines to Stuart Townsend’s song ring eternally true:

 How deep the Father’s love for us,

How vast beyond all measure

That He should give His only Son

To make a wretch His treasure

 How great the pain of searing loss,

The Father turns His face away

As wounds which mar the chosen One,

Bring many sons to glory.