Part Two: The Father of Sinners
Part Three: The Father of Slaves
The greatest privilege bestowed upon a human is the glorious right to be called sons and daughters of God. However, sometimes the most blessed reality can cause immense challenges. In this broken world, because of death, divorce, or desertion, we probably all know someone who does not have a father. As one woman I met said, "How can I call God, 'my Father', when the word father means nothing but pain?" One of the greatest signs of a mature, godly, spiritually minded Christian, is not just that they pray, "my God", but they pray, "my Father". Over the next seven articles, I want to look at seven fingerprints of the Father throughout redemptive history, to help us better understand what it means to call God our Father. In this first article we begin by considering three glorious (yet counter-cultural) creation principles.
The first Fatherly creation principle we see in that he makes his children in his image (Gen 1:26-27). This is language that is very familiar to most of us I am sure. Yet, what does it mean to be made in the image of our Father in Heaven? There is much to be said, but to risk an oversimplification, it is like being made as an image, model, statue, or drawing of God. It is as though the Father in Heaven made a representation of himself upon this earth, like a piece of artwork. When one looks at the artwork, it is a little like looking at the real thing.
Picture a school class drawing apples. As you look around the class, you notice some drawings look like cricket balls, some like blobs of colour, others like real apples. Yet, no matter how good the drawing, only the real apple can satisfy your hunger. However, the best of drawings will cause you to salivate and begin to long for the apple that satisfies. When our Father makes Adam and Eve in his likeness, he is setting up little pictures of himself everywhere, so that we may look at them and long for the one that they represent.
Culturally, we are told our worth is bound up in society, the opinions of others, and our view of self. The truth of Genesis 1-2 is that we have been made gloriously splendid, because we have been made like our Father. The sexual and gender freedom movement is seeking to redefine what it means to be male and female and in doing so they are redefining the very value that we have obtained as image bearers of God.
The second Fatherly creation principle we see is that he puts his children in authority over the earth. In Genesis 1 and 2, God gives man dominion over the earth and tells him to keep the garden. As the Father's representatives, Adam and Eve were to rule over the creation. They were to govern it wisely and ensure that his world flourished. This is a very different message than we are being delivered today! We are told that man is to submit to creation. We are being scolded by extremist climate-change enthusiasts. We are being summoned to reduce the number of humans and start apologising to creation. We need to gain a proper biblical understanding of what it means to be children of the creator.
The Father created humans as gardeners to care for the garden and govern the world we live in. This does not mean we have the right to trash the place, but as the Father's image-bearers, we are to govern and keep it the way he would, as his representatives. Though I disagree with the extreme environmentalists, we must acknowledge, as Christians, that we have not always cared for the environment as we ought. As Christians we should be actively caring for the creation, not because we are fearful it will implode (God's in control!), but because we are our Father's children.
The third Fatherly creation principle we see is the command he gives Adam and Eve. Genesis 2:16-17 tells us that the Father told his children to eat of everything except one tree. He gave a positive command to express his goodness and bountiful privilege so that there would be no doubt as to the small requirement placed upon them. Why would a loving Father create a tree and command his children not to eat from it? There is no reason to think that the tree was poisonous or that it was inedible. In fact, quite the opposite is true we discover (see Genesis 3). The Father created the tree to give his children the opportunity to worship him through faithful obedience. He gave them an entire garden to enjoy and withheld only one tree.
God the Father made them in his image, with his authority, so that they had all things necessary to worship him through obedience. This is just what we do as parents. We do not lay down laws to be mean to our children; we do it out of love for them. For their good. For their benefit. Too often we believe the lie of the devil, and view the law as an unloving act, whereby God causes sin to come into being. The Father's call to obedience is always a gracious act of his love to us, for he knows what is for our best. The world may rail against God's commands to us, but we who are his children know we will flourish if we will follow them.
The Father made men and women perfectly in his image so that we would show his goodness and beauty and wonder and splendour, in short his glory. He gave us his authority over creation to tend and care for the garden so that people would see the work of our hands and give glory to our Father. He told us to thoroughly enjoy the world in all its full splendour and rejoice in his beautiful provision and reject the temptation of one singular tree with its beautiful looking fruit.
In an age that has twisted and maligned the reality of creation, we must look back to our roots as children of God. Let that radically change the way you view your Father in Heaven. You are a son or daughter of the one who created all things.
Part 2: The Father of Sinners
This article was contributed by Logan Hagoort, Pastor at Covenant Presbyterian Church, Manurewa.