20. Our Father (Matthew 6:9a)Related Media
So pray this way: Our Father in heaven
Matthew 6:9a (NET)
How should believers pray?
In Matthew 6:5-8, Christ began to teach his followers how to pray: He commanded them to not pray like thez hypocrites, who pray long prayers with vain repetitions to be seen by others. If the prayers of the Pharisees and scribes were to be seen by others, our prayers must be to interact with God alone. If their prayers were thoughtless and heartless repetition, our prayers must involve both our heart and mind—for only these types of prayers will be rewarded by the Father.
The Lord’s Prayer
In Matthew 6:9-13, Christ continues to teach his disciples about praying by giving them what has historically been called the “Lord’s Prayer.” However, it is probably better called the “Disciples’ Prayer” or “Our Prayer.” This was not the Lord’s prayer for it has aspects our Lord could never pray. Since our Lord was sinless, he could never pray “forgive us our debts.”
It should be noted that Christ was not telling us the exact words to pray, but a pattern to pray. It is fine to repeat the Lord’s Prayer verbatim, as long as our hearts and minds are engaged. If not, it simply becomes another form of “vain repetitions” which Christ previously forbade (6:7). An early Christian writing called the Didache, written around 96 AD, recommended that the Lord’s Prayer be prayed three times a day1, and in many traditions, the prayer is still repetitiously prayed. However, the Lord’s Prayer is meant to be a pattern and a primer. As we follow the six petitions given, we should add our own thoughts and concerns.
It has been duly noted that the first three petitions are God-ward—may your name be honored, your kingdom come, and your will be done. And the last three petitions are us-ward—give us our daily bread, forgive us our debts, and lead us not into temptation. The order gives clear insight on the purpose of prayer. For many, prayer is often an attempt to selfishly seek their glory and get their will done. However, prayer is primarily about God’s glory and his will. In John 14:13, Jesus said: “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”
Therefore, true prayer should commonly conform our will to his, as we reflect on the Lord’s glory and will. It should make us see our circumstances and our world from God’s view. It is after spending time glorifying God and praying for his plan, that we should offer our petitions.
As we begin our study of the Lord’s Prayer, we will start off by focusing on “Our Father in heaven,” since this was revolutionary to the Jewish mind, and it should be to ours as well.
Big Question: Why was the invocation of the Lord’s Prayer— “our Father in heaven”—so revolutionary? What applications can we take from God being our Father in heaven?
Our Father in Heaven
Interpretation Question: What made Christ praying “our Father in heaven” so unique in that day?
As we study the invocation of the Lord’s Prayer, we must see it with Jewish eyes. In the Old Testament, God was called Father only fourteen times and never in a personal way.2 God’s fatherhood always was in reference to the nation of Israel. For example, Isaiah 64:8 says, “Yet, Lord, you are our father. We are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the product of your labor.” When God delivered Israel out of Egypt, he adopted them as his “firstborn son” (Ex 4:22). Therefore, occasionally, Jewish prayers would reference this. But no Israelites personally called God, “Father”—ever. In fact, out of respect for God, they even stopped using his covenant name, Yahweh, and instead, would simply say Adonai or some other name of God.3 For a Jew to call God, “Father,” would have been considered irreverent and even blasphemous.4 When Christ called God, “Father,” it aroused hatred in the Jews and made them seek to kill him. By calling God, “Father,” he was calling himself God’s Son and making himself equal with God. John 5:17-18 describes one such interaction between the Jews and Christ over this issue:
So he told them, “My Father is working until now, and I too am working.” For this reason the Jewish leaders were trying even harder to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was also calling God his own Father, thus making himself equal with God.
Just as the Jews were shocked at Christ calling God, “Father,” his disciples were probably shocked at his encouragement for them to call God, “Father.” By calling God, “Father,” it could have gotten them stoned as blasphemers.
However, this was exactly how Christ prayed throughout the Gospels. In fact, all his prayers (over sixty) used the title Father, except for one—when he prayed on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt 27:46).5 It was then that the only begotten Son was separated from the Father, as he bore our sins and judgment on the cross. When Christ encouraged his disciples to call God, “Father,” he was granting them his status as sons.6 In fact, Christ referred to all who obey God as family members. In Matthew 12:50, Christ said: “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Christ’s teaching on God being our Father was such a radical departure from OT law and Jewish tradition that many theologians call this the major difference between the Old Testament and New Testament.7
Father in a Redemptive Sense
Now as we consider God being our Father, it must be noted that Christ’s words are not referring to God being the Father of all people. God is indeed the Father of all people in the sense of creation. In Acts 17:28, Paul declared to the Athenians that all people are God’s “offspring.” However, most times Scripture refers to God being Father in a redemptive sense instead of a universal one. Christ said to Nicodemus that in order to enter the kingdom of God, one must be born again (John 3:3). This is the very thing Christ has been teaching about in his Sermon on the Mount. Throughout, he has been distinguishing those who are part of his kingdom and therefore are born again. He said that they are peacemakers who will be called sons of God (Matt 5:9). They are the ones who have a greater righteousness than the Pharisees and scribes and therefore enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt 5:20). They are the ones who love and bless their enemies and therefore are children of their Father in heaven (Matt 5:43-45). And finally, they are the ones who obey God’s will instead of practicing iniquity (Matt 7:21-23).
When each of us was born, we were born as children of the devil (1 John 3:10, Matt 13:38, John 8:44). Christ even called the Pharisees children of the devil (John 8:44)—they bore his likeness and had his character. That is how Scripture describes every person before salvation (1 John 3:10). We are born into the kingdom of this world—the kingdom of darkness. It doesn’t matter if we have Christian families, we are born into the devil’s kingdom and have the nature of our father, Adam—prone to sin against God and hide from him. However, when people recognize that they are sinners and therefore separated from God and under his wrath, repent of their sins, believe in Christ’s death and resurrection, and follow him as Lord, they are born again (cf. Rom 10:9-10). God gives us his Spirit and draws us into an intimate relationship with the Father. John 1:12-13 says it this way:
But to all who have received him—those who believe in his name—he has given the right to become God’s children—children not born by human parents or by human desire or a husband’s decision, but by God.
First John 3:10 says: “By this the children of God and the children of the devil are revealed: Everyone who does not practice righteousness—the one who does not love his fellow Christian—is not of God.” Galatians 4:6 says, “And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, who calls ‘Abba! Father!’”
When a person is truly born again, there is not only a change of position, as they are translated from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light, the fatherhood of Satan to the fatherhood of God, but there will be a lifestyle change. They begin to have an intimate relationship with their Father through the Spirit. They obey God and love other believers. Again, this is primarily what the Sermon on the Mount is about. If our righteousness does not surpass that of the Pharisees and scribes, we are not part of the kingdom of heaven.
Has there been a change in our lives—a change of allegiance? Are we still living for self or living for God? Are we consumed with gaining this world or expanding the kingdom of God? Have you been born of God? Do you bear his likeness? Has he changed your life?
Application Question: What is your experience with praying the Lord’s Prayer? In what ways have you found it helpful or not helpful?
Applications from God’s Fatherhood
The fact that Jesus authorized his disciples to call God, “Father,” was radical. As mentioned, this concept distinguishes the Old Covenant from the New. J. I. Packer considers the grasp of God’s fatherhood as essential to one’s spiritual life. He said:
If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all. For everything that Christ taught, everything that makes the New Testament new, and better than the Old, everything that is distinctively Christian as opposed to merely Jewish, is summed up in the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God. “Father” is the Christian name for God.8
Kent Hughes called the doctrine of the fatherhood of God “one of the most healing doctrines in all of Scripture.”9 Therefore, this doctrine is critical for one’s spiritual health and a good way to test our spiritual maturity and growth. We must continually cultivate our awareness, understanding, and practice of this essential doctrine.
Application Question: What should the reality of God being our personal Father teach or remind us of? Why is the understanding of God’s fatherhood essential to one’s spiritual health?
God’s Fatherhood Reminds Us of His Love
In Matthew 6:7-8, Christ warned the disciples to not pray like the pagans because God was their Father, and he knew their needs before they asked. Christ’s warning reflects the common belief system of pagans in that day, who worshipped many gods, and those who still worship them today. Pagans typically live in fear of the gods. Behind every rock, tree, stream, or star is a god that needs to be appeased. Out of fear, pagans would offer the gods their food, wealth, bodies, and even children. William Barclay shares a Greek legend that pictures the antagonism between the gods and humanity:
The most signiﬁcant Greek legend of the gods is the legend of Prometheus. Prometheus was a god. It was in the days before people possessed ﬁre; and life without ﬁre was a cheerless and a comfortless thing. In pity, Prometheus took ﬁre from heaven and gave it as a gift to human beings. Zeus, the king of the gods, was mightily angry that they should receive this gift. So he took Prometheus and chained him to a rock in the middle of the Adriatic Sea, where he was tortured with the heat and the thirst of the day and with the cold of the night. Even more, Zeus prepared a vulture to tear out Prometheus’ liver, which always grew again, only to be torn out again.
That is what happened to the god who tried to help men and women. The whole conception is that the gods are jealous, vengeful and grudging; and the last thing the gods wish to do is to help the human race.10
Clearly, the God of the Bible is not like pagan deities. He loves his people (John 3:16). He adopts them into his family (Rom 8:15). He is just and, therefore, died for his people so that they may have a relationship with him. Christ, the Son of God, daily prays for his children in order to save them to the uttermost (Heb 7:25). God is our Father, and he loves us. We don’t have to live in fear of him like the pagans feared their gods. We must respect and reverence him, but we shouldn’t live in a negative fear of him or even a fear of our circumstances. In fact, 1 John 4:18 says perfect love drives out fear. Realizing that our God loves us should remove fear about the past, present, and future.
For pagans who have come to Christ through the service of missionaries, the fatherhood of God has been one of the most attractive aspects about Christianity. There is one God and not thousands of warring deities that people need to fear. And this one God is a father who loves us.
Application Question: What types of fears do you struggle with? How does God’s fatherhood help you deal with your fears? Why is understanding God’s love so important for us?
God’s Fatherhood Reminds Us of Our Immediate Access to Him
Naturally, the concept of fatherhood makes one think of immediate access, which wasn’t wholly true of believers under the Old Covenant. Hebrews 10:19-20 says: “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the fresh and living way that he inaugurated for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh.”
In the Old Testament, only the high priest could enter the Most Holy Place—where God’s presence was—and only once a year with the blood of a lamb. However, because of Christ, every believer has full access at any time—a privilege Old Testament saints didn’t have. We can enter his presence while walking, talking, eating, driving, or working. We should always confidently enter his presence, because our perfect lamb—Christ—was slain for our sins.
Are you enjoying access? One of the things Satan commonly does to believers is condemn them for their sins and failures. First, he tempts believers to sin, and then he says, “Feel bad! Feel really bad! Now, don’t read your Bible. Don’t pray! Don’t go to church!” He condemns the believer, so he won’t access God’s presence. There is a difference between conviction and condemnation. The Holy Spirit convicts of sin, so we will turn from it and run to God. Satan condemns us, so we will turn away from God’s presence and continue in sin. However, we must remember that Christ died for all our sins—past, present, and future—and we could never earn the right to enter his presence. Even our righteousness is as filthy rags before God (Is 64:6). We cannot relate to God based on our sins or apparent righteousness—we’ll never be worthy. We can only enter because of the perfect righteousness of the Lamb. Enter! Repent, receive forgiveness of sins, and enjoy God’s mercy, peace, and grace!
William Barclay shares a Roman story which is a good picture of our access to God. He says:
There is an old Roman story which tells how a Roman emperor was enjoying a triumph. He had the privilege, which Rome gave to her great victors, of marching his troops through the streets of Rome, with all his captured trophies and his prisoners in his train. So the emperor was on the march with his troops. The streets were lined with cheering people. The tall legionaries lined the streets’ edges to keep the people in their places. At one point on the triumphal route, there was a little platform where the empress and her family were sitting to watch the emperor go by in all the pride of his triumph. On the platform with his mother, there was the emperor’s youngest son, a little boy. As the emperor came near, the little boy jumped off the platform, burrowed through the crowd and tried to dodge between the legs of a legionary and to run out on to the road to meet his father’s chariot. The legionary stooped down and stopped him. He swung him up in his arms: ‘You can’t do that, boy,’ he said. ‘Don’t you know who that is in the chariot? That’s the emperor. You can’t run out to his chariot.’ And the little boy laughed down. ‘He may be your emperor,’ he said, ‘but he’s my father.’ That is exactly the way the Christian feels towards God. The might, and the majesty, and the power are the might, and the majesty, and the power of one whom Jesus taught us to call Our Father.11
This is true of us. Let us continually come into our Father’s presence.
Application Question: What’s the difference between condemnation and conviction? In what ways have you experienced both? In what ways do you feel God is calling you to more often take advantage of your immediate access to him?
God’s Fatherhood Reminds Us of Our Security
With my four-year-old daughter, there are many things she will not do unless I am by her side. Sometimes, she won’t even go to her friends’ house to ask if they can play unless I am with her. But when I am by her side, many times she is fearless. Similarly, our Father is always with us. Christ told his followers to go and make disciples throughout the earth and then said, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20). We can evangelize and teach God’s Word because he is with us. In Philippians 4:5-6a, Paul said, “Let everyone see your gentleness. The Lord is near! Do not be anxious about anything …” He told the Philippians to be gentle to their enemies because God was near them. He would empower them to love, serve, and respond gently to others. In addition, they didn’t have to be afraid, anxious, or worried about anything. Why? Because God was near, and that is true for us. The fatherhood of God gives us security and confidence in an evil world full of uncertainty.
This is also true when it comes to the believers’ eternal security. In John 10:29, Christ said that believers are in the Father’s hand, and nobody will be able to snatch them out. In Romans 8:38-39, Paul argues similarly that nothing will be able to separate believers from God’s love—not life death, angels, demons, or anything else. This is a normal, healthy relationship between a child and a father. It is not normal for a child to think that a father will ultimately reject them because of some sin or failure. Their relationship is eternal—nothing can change their relationship. A son will always be a son and a daughter a daughter, even when they lack intimacy and love. This is true with our Father as well. He will always love and care for us, even when we, his children, are in rebellion. Therefore, we should have a tremendous security in our relationship with God.
What are your worries? Do you know that God is near you? He will never leave nor forsake you. There is no valley too dark for the Lord and no mountaintop too high. For his sheep, his rod and staff comfort them. He guides them. He prepares a table before them in the presence of their enemies (cf. Ps 23). God’s fatherhood reminds us that we can have confidence and security on this windy and curvy road called life.
Application Question: In what ways have you experienced confidence and security because of your relationship with your heavenly Father? In what ways have you lacked this when distant from him?
God’s Fatherhood Reminds Us of Our Resources
When the disciples were worried about their futures—what they would eat, drink, and wear—Christ reminded them of their Father in heaven (Matt 6:25-33). He said that God provides for the lilies of the field and the birds of the air—there is no reason to worry. God knows of our needs. Paul said it this way: “And my God will supply your every need according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:19). He also said that we have every spiritual blessing in heavenly places (Eph 1:3) and that we are co-heirs with Christ (Rom 8:17). Every resource of God’s is ours. One day we will rule with him. And until then, he will supply all our needs, as we seek him and his kingdom first (Matt 6:33).
Do you know that God will supply all your needs? Do you need wisdom? God will give it if you ask in faith (Jam 1:5). Do you need peace? God gives it to those who choose to reject worry, pray, give thanks, and make their requests known to him in everything (Phil 4:6-7). Do you need finances? Seek first God and his kingdom, and it will be provided (Matt 6:33). God is your Father, and he will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory.
Application Question: In what ways have you experienced God the Father’s faithfulness to meet your needs? Share a story about his faithfulness.
God’s Fatherhood Reminds Us of Our Worth
God’s fatherhood not only reminds us of who God is but also who we are. We are his beloved and the apple of his eye (Zech 2:8). In Ephesians 1:18, Paul prays for the believers’ hearts to be awakened to know that we are his glorious inheritance. In Ephesians 3:14-19, he prays that believers would have power to comprehend the depth, height, and width of God’s love for them. We have great worth to the Lord—no matter what others think about us, nor what we think about ourselves. When we understand our worth, it will transform us. It will deliver us from the depths of discouragement and depression over our failures. In Psalm 139:13-15, David said:
Certainly you made my mind and heart; you wove me together in my mother’s womb. I will give you thanks because your deeds are awesome and amazing. You knew me thoroughly; my bones were not hidden from you, when I was made in secret and sewed together in the depths of the earth.
Satan tries to make us think that we are an accident of evolution instead of the Father’s purposeful and wonderful creation. Every part of our frame was fashioned by him, even the parts that we are insecure about. They are not accidents—they were crafted for his glory. About the blind man, Christ said he was made that way so the works of God might be displayed in him (John 9:3), and this is true of each of us.
The devil speaks lies in our ears about who we are and our worth by using the world’s standards instead of God’s. He seeks to discourage us and pull us away from God’s plan and purpose for our lives. However, our Father speaks destiny over us (Jer 1:5). He quiets us with his love and rejoices over us with singing (Zeph 3:17).
Do you know that God is your Father and you have a purpose? You are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works (Eph 2:10). Like every parent who expectantly plans for their child’s future, God has good plans for you. Even your failures and the evil done to you by others, he will redeem (Rom 8:28, Gen 50:20). Do you know your worth as a child of God?
Application Question: In what ways does Satan continually assault the self-worth of people, including believers? How can we know our worth in Christ in order to battle negative self-images or negative comments from others?
God’s Fatherhood Reminds Us of Our Need to Obey
We are not the father, as though we could tell God what to do. Sometimes this is unwittingly emphasized in popular Christian theology: “Speak it! Declare it! God will do whatever you say as long as you believe!” No, he is the potter, and we are the clay. Our job is to obey and trust him. His will is always good for us. Therefore, we must constantly study his Word and sit at his feet, so we can know and do his will. Matthew 12:50 says, “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Doing the Father’s will proves that we are part of the family and not illegitimate.
Are you obeying the Father’s will? In the last days, many will say, “Lord, Lord,” but Christ will say, “I never knew you. Go away from me, you lawbreakers!” (Matt 7:23). Only those who obey are God’s children. God’s fatherhood reminds us of our need to obey him.
Application Question: How can believers daily discern God’s will, so they can obey it? In what way(s) has God been recently calling you to obedience?
God’s Fatherhood Reminds Us of His Discipline
Every good father disciplines his children, and this is true of God as well. Discipline does not just include correction for committed sin, but also training in righteousness. Hebrews 12:5-11 says:
And have you forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as sons? “My son, do not scorn the Lord’s discipline or give up when he corrects you. “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves and chastises every son he accepts.” Endure your suffering as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? But if you do not experience discipline, something all sons have shared in, then you are illegitimate and are not sons. Besides, we have experienced discipline from our earthly fathers and we respected them; shall we not submit ourselves all the more to the Father of spirits and receive life? For they disciplined us for a little while as seemed good to them, but he does so for our benefit, that we may share his holiness. Now all discipline seems painful at the time, not joyful. But later it produces the fruit of peace and righteousness for those trained by it.
Four aspects of God’s discipline and our response to it should jump out from this text:
(1) First, we must remember all true children receive discipline. If we don’t receive discipline, then we are not children of God—we are illegitimate (v. 6-8). A person who can continue in sin without receiving the correction and chastening of God may not be a child of God at all. Every child of God receives fatherly discipline.
(2) We must have the right attitude when experiencing God’s discipline. We must not “scorn” it or “give up” when he corrects us (v. 5). Essentially, we must not complain or grumble in seasons of discipline, and we must persevere through them because of their purpose. God is using them to make us holy.
(3) All hardship should be viewed as God’s discipline. The author says, “Endure your suffering as discipline” (v. 6). Since our Father is in control of everything: random circumstances, temptations from the devil, and various trials, we should view all hardship as God’s training. In the context, this includes persecution, as these Hebrew Christians had experienced public insult, imprisonment, and even the confiscation of their property for proclaiming Christ’s name (Heb 10:32-34). In Hebrews 12:4, he reminds them that their struggle against sin had not yet led to the shedding of blood. Even these trials, which were clearly evil, were being used by God to discipline or train them. We should remember this, as we consider that the God of the universe is our Father. He uses everything for our good (Rom 8:28-29).
(4) Discipline is ultimately meant to increase our righteousness and give us more peace. Hebrews 12:11 says, “Now all discipline seems painful at the time, not joyful. But later it produces the fruit of peace and righteousness for those trained by it.” It’s not pleasant, but as we’re trained by it, it makes us more like God.
Do you realize that our Father doesn’t waste anything—trials at work, with family and friends, or even with our bodies? It’s all for the purpose of training us and making us holy. Therefore, we must guard our attitudes in the trial (don’t scorn them), and we should not faint in them. Let them train us. James 1:2-4 says,
My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect effect, so that you will be perfect and complete, not deficient in anything.
Every father disciplines his children for their good and so does our heavenly Father.
Application Question: Why is it so important to see God as controlling all trials, including ones seemingly caused by evil people or the devil? What happens if we don’t recognize his sovereignty over hardships?
God’s Fatherhood Reminds Us of Our Christian Familial Relationships
Christ doesn’t say, “My Father”—though it is certainly OK to pray that way. He says, “Our Father.” The Lord’s Prayer makes us not only look vertically towards God but also horizontally towards others. It doesn’t just ask for God’s glory and our personal benefit, but also seeks the benefit of others. Throughout the Lord’s Prayer, Christ continually uses the plural instead of the singular: “our Father,” “our daily bread,” “our debts,” “deliver us from temptation.”
This reality should deliver us from selfishness in prayer. We should constantly bring before God what’s best for others and not just ourselves. In addition, we should also continually pursue opportunities to pray corporately. Christ not only went to the mountain by himself but also at times asked others to come and pray with him. We must do the same. We are part of the family of God and, therefore, must continually pursue their benefit, even before ours. Philippians 2:3-5 says:
Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well. You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had,
Are you continually bringing petitions for others before God? Or are your prayers mostly self-centered—offered for yourself, by yourself, and apart from others?
Application Question: How can we practice the reality of being a family within the church? Give practical examples. How is God calling you to better practice the family-hood of all believers?
God’s Fatherhood Reminds Us of God’s Power and Sovereignty
God is not only our Father, he is our Father “in heaven.” “In heaven” focuses not only on God’s geography but also his power and sovereignty. Psalm 103:19 say, “The Lord has established his throne in heaven; his kingdom extends over everything.” He is God of the heavens and everything under it. Theologically, “our Father” represents God’s immanence—he is near us and wants to be intimate with us. “In heaven” represents God’s transcendence—he is above us, and there is nothing like him in this world. The Jews focused on God’s transcendence and lost his immanency. However, many contemporary Christians have swung in the other direction. They focus on God’s immanency to the exclusion of God’s transcendency. God is their friend and big buddy in the sky, and therefore, they lack reverence. We must hold both of these in tandem. We must be both intimate and reverent. Proverbs 9:10 says, “The beginning of wisdom is to fear the Lord.” Psalm 147:11 (ESV) says, “but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.” Hebrews 12:28-29 says, “So since we are receiving an unshakable kingdom, let us give thanks, and through this let us offer worship pleasing to God in devotion and awe. For our God is indeed a devouring fire” (emphasis mine).
Are you cultivating a healthy fear and reverence of God?
Application Question: In what ways have you seen or experienced how the contemporary church has focused on God’s immanency and lost his transcendency? Why has this happened? How can the church (and us individually) practice both God’s immanency and transcendency? What is the difference between a healthy fear of God, which God commands, and an unhealthy one?
Brief Thoughts on Parenting
As we consider the fatherhood of God, we must remember that our experiences with our earthly parents can negatively or positively affect our relationship with our heavenly Father. None of us had perfect parents, though many of us had great ones. Our relationship with them, or lack of one, often affects how we relate to God. If our earthly parents were emotionally distant or not around, we tend to think of our heavenly Father in that same way. If our earthly parents were friends but not disciplinarians, again, we often approach or think of God in the same way. For many (if not all of us, in some sense), their concept of God the Father has been corrupted because of experiences with their earthly parents. We need to develop the theological concept of the fatherhood of God wholly from Scripture, and hopefully our experiences with our earthly parents will enhance that understanding and not detract from it.
With that said, as we rightly understand God as Father, we must try to mimic him in our parenting. As mentioned, God’s fatherhood reminds us of our immediate access to him. Therefore, parents must not be unapproachable or so focused on work and hobbies that children can’t, as often as possible, benefit from their presence. Parents must also seek to emulate the immanency of God the Father and his transcendence. Many cultures tip one way over the other in this regard. Some parents are just friends with their children and fail at cultivating discipline and respect. Others are disciplinarians who are not approachable. In one sense, we must be friends with our children—approachable and always willing to lend a listening and empathetic ear. At the same time, we must cultivate respect and discipline in our children. In addition, we must aim to be totally just and at the same time merciful—just like our heavenly Father is with us.
None of us will perfectly model God the Father, but we must always aim to do so. And where we have failed with our children, we must trust and pray that our, and their, heavenly Father will fill in the gaps.
Application Question: How is/was your relationship with your earthly father? Can/could you approach him at any time and talk to him about anything? How does/did your relationship with your earthly father affect your relationship with your heavenly Father? How should those with negative earthly father experiences overcome those memories so they don’t negatively affect their relationship with their heavenly Father? What are some other ways that parents can mimic the heavenly Father in their parenting?
Understanding the fatherhood of God is crucial to our spiritual health and spiritual growth. It should change our relationship not only to God, but also to others, ourselves, our circumstances, and our future. Our view of everything should be radically changed by understanding and growing in our relationship with our heavenly Father.
Are you growing in your understanding, appreciation, and practice of the fatherhood of God? He is ‘your’ Father and ‘our’ Father. Thank you, Lord! Amen!
Application Question: When you think of God as a Father, what aspect of his fatherhood stands out to you most? What aspect of God’s fatherhood do you most want to grow in your understanding of?
Copyright © 2019 Gregory Brown
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1 Hughes, R. K. (2001). The sermon on the mount: the message of the kingdom (p. 199). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
2 Hughes, R. K. (2001). The sermon on the mount: the message of the kingdom (pp. 154–155). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
3 Hughes, R. K. (2001). The sermon on the mount: the message of the kingdom (pp. 154–155). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
4 Boice, J. M. (2002). The Sermon on the Mount: an expositional commentary (pp. 167–168). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
5 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (p. 376). Chicago: Moody Press.
6 The New International Version. (2011). (Mt 12:50). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
7 Hughes, R. K. (2001). The sermon on the mount: the message of the kingdom (p. 155). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
8 Hughes, R. K. (2001). The sermon on the mount: the message of the kingdom (p. 156). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
9 Hughes, R. K. (2001). The sermon on the mount: the message of the kingdom (p. 158). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
10 Barclay, W. (2001). The Gospel of Matthew (Third Ed., pp. 230–231). Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press.
11 Barclay, W. (2001). The Gospel of Matthew (Third Ed., pp. 233–234). Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press.