God the Father

I believe in God the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

 

The Apostles’ Creed properly begins, where all things must begin, with the doctrine of God, and, although its statement on the first person of the Trinity may be short, it does not leave us with a belief in God as some sort of ambiguous and ethereal force. Instead, with clarity and precision, it affirms that God is the Father, almighty, and creator of heaven and earth. As we examine these titles and attributes from the Scriptures, we come to see that God is not an energy to be acknowledged but a Person to be known.

Entire libraries can be filled with books written about God the Father, and even then, the surface of His immensity has yet to be scratched. For simplicity and clarity, we will devote our attention to the three descriptions given in the creed: Father, almighty, and creator. We will begin by testing these attributes to validate that they are presented and taught in the Scriptures, and we will then move into how the truths of God’s nature apply to us.

CREATOR OF HEAVEN AND EARTH

We will begin in reverse since this description of God is the first attribute of Him found in the Bible. Genesis 1:1 reads, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The phrase the heavens and the earth, both here and in the creed, is a merism that refers to the entire cosmos. Everything that exists came into existence because of God. He is the Creator and the only uncreated being. He gives matter itself its beginning, yet He has no beginning. Before the beginning ever began, He was. This means that, as Creator, God is also holy. He is uniquely distinguished from all other things in existence. Black holes, dandelions, quarks, ocelots, and humans all share the common trait that we were made. We were designed, and God is the designer. He is other, outside of creation. He is holy.

Also, as Creator, God maintains ownership over all things. In Psalm 50:10-12, God declares, “For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine.” Similarly, Psalm 8:3 calls the heavens the work of God’s fingers and that He put the moon and stars into place. As the creator of heaven and earth, the universe itself is His possession.

What then does it mean to believe that God is the creator of heaven and earth? Or perhaps more to the point, how do we know that we believe that statement? If He is the Creator, then we are not of supreme importance; He is. As the author of life, all living creatures owe Him their very being, including us. Believing this must, therefore, result in a life of active and willing obedience, a life modeled after Him. After all, when the Creator commands something of His creation, it would be best for us to obey. As the supreme being above all others, we should obey Him, if for no other reason, out of fear. That’s why Proverbs calls the fear of God the beginning of wisdom; it points us down His patterned path. Yet He is also a good God who wants what is best for His creatures, so we can trust that obedience will always be in our best interest. Our obedience to His commands displays our belief that He is the Creator who is worth obeying, while on the contrary, disobeying God is a declaration of our independence from Him.

Adam and Eve did that very thing. They rejected God as their authority, as their designer, and they asserted themselves into His place. All sin follows this same pattern. Every act of disobedience is an act of idolatry because we elevate ourselves above the Creator.

Consider an example. Viewing porn is a rejection of God’s pattern for sexuality. It is a declaration that the instant gratification of ones’ desires is better than sex within the institution of marriage. The same can then be said for every sin. Sin itself is an act of defiance against God as the Creator.

Do you believe that God is the creator of heaven and earth? If so, obey Him. Read His Word in order to hear and understand how He has designed the cosmos to function, and then conform your life to His pattern. Be holy as He is holy. If you are not actively attempting to shape, order, and structure your life around God’s revealed patterns and designs, I would challenge that you do not yet believe that God is the Creator. Sin will, of course, never be overcome fully in this life, yet our lives must reflect a steady growth in being conformed to the image of Christ, who is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15).

ALMIGHTY

What exactly is meant by describing God as almighty? Might, of course, is synonyms with force, power, and strength is being modified by the word all. So, almighty means that God possesses all might. He is all powerful, omnipotent, sovereign. The Bible makes this point very clear. Psalm 115:3 declares, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” Psalm 103:19 is similar: “The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.”

Or consider a few examples from Proverbs. “The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble” (16:4). “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (16:9). “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD” (16:33). “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand” (19:21). “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will” (21:1).

This attribute of God naturally flows from the first. If God is the Creator, it would stand to reason that He is the only being worthy of being called almighty. David affirms this connectivity in 1 Chronicles 29:11-12, where he prays: “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.”

Our God, indeed, is almighty, and there is none like Him.

But again, we must now ask: what does it mean to believe that God is almighty? First, if God is almighty, then we are not. While nearly everyone would admit the hard reality of our non-omnipotence, our lives often reflect a different view within our hearts. Our culture’s not-so-secret, love-hate relationship with busyness is one evidence of this. Many of us like the rush of being busy because it makes us feel in control, like we can order things how we like, and, since we are governing things, we cannot cease without everything collapsing into chaos. Our lives then proclaim the belief that we are almighty.

Yet our rejection of God’s omnipotence is most often seen in a subtler, but just as insidious, form: prayerlessness. The very essence of prayer is calling upon God, particularly to accomplish what we are unable to complete. Failing to pray, on the other hand, reflects a belief that we are all-sufficient and, therefore, do not need God’s aid. Prayerlessness is the rooted habit of a prideful heart, and it effectively amounts to a denial of, or at least rejection of, God’s supreme might. Prayer, however, is the opposite. It is a joyously freeing affirmation of the omnipotent God.

Do you believe that God is almighty? If so, do your prayers reflect that belief?

FATHER

Now we come to the third title of God within the Apostles’ Creed: Father. The burden of explaining the fatherhood of God here is lightened slightly by my plan to return to this doctrine in both the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments. Hopefully the three sermons across these three series will form a sort of trilogy around this fundamental teaching.

God as Father is a concept that is rooted in the Old Testament. Isaiah, when viewing the horror of his sin in comparison to God’s holiness, cried out, “But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand” (64:8). Or again the prophet wrote, “For you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us, and Israel does not acknowledge us; you, O LORD, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name” (63:16).

While there are other occasions in the Old Testament where God is described as fatherly toward His people and His creation, the New Testament takes this concept much further. Jesus, of course, teaches us to pray to God, calling Him our Father (Matthew 6:9). This is astounding since Jesus repeatedly refers to God as His Father throughout the Gospels. Indeed, particularly in the Gospel of John and the First Epistle of John, the apostle labors to make Jesus’ distinct and unified relationship with the Father known to us. Jesus is God’s only Son, the one who has eternally existed alongside the Father. In fact, Jesus states in John 17:24 that the Father was loving Him before the foundations of the world were established.

Jesus’ revelation of the eternal relationship between the Father and the Son is beyond significant. Both God as creator and almighty are attributes that can be discerned, to at least some degree, without special revelation. We can study creation and conclude the necessity of a creator, and, from the immensity and complexity of creation, we could also come to the assumption that the creator is also almighty. While we could then view the creator as having a fatherly relationship with his creation, it would be presumptuous to make that metaphorical picture into his defining quality. Indeed, to refer to God the almighty creator primarily as Father requires special revelation, which is what Jesus did.

Jesus displayed to us an attribute of God that transcends even His designation as creator. Even though God first reveals Himself as the Creator, He became the Creator whenever He created. Therefore, if being the Creator is the primary aspect of His character, then God needed to create in order to be what He is. He needed us. But Jesus reveals that the central attribute of God is His fatherhood because He has eternally been the Father of the Son, Jesus. In Delighting in the Trinity, Michael Reeves walks through how this eternal relationship is necessary for the statement “God is love” to be true. Just as the Father is eternally with the Son, He has also eternally loved the Son. To say that God the Father is love is an eternally true statement because He has always and will always be the Father to the Son and He is eternally loving the Son. God cannot, therefore, be love without also being Trinity.

We also depend upon the Trinity to know God as the Father and as love. Of course, we’ve already said that Jesus revealed the eternal nature of God the Father alongside His eternal nature as God the Son. But Jesus further clarifies that the Father cannot be known apart from the Son: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). It is impossible to know God as He is (that is, as the Father) without also knowing the Son because Jesus said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father… Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?” (John 14:9-10). The Father can only be known through the Son who is the exact imprint of His nature (Hebrews 1:3).

But we still could not know the Father or the Son fully without the Spirit. Considers Jesus’ words to His disciples:

John 16:12-15 | I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

These roles are further deepened when we recall the gospel. Our rejection of the eternal Creator bore upon us an eternal judgment. We separated ourselves from His love, choosing instead His justice and wrath.[1] But thankfully, “for God [that is, the Father] so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Jesus, the Son of God, accomplished this exchange of death for life by taking death upon Himself. He substituted Himself for us, transferring the eternal debt of our sin into His account. In this way, Jesus fixed the problem of sin. He bridged the chasm that separated us from the Father.

Yet the Holy Spirit also has an essential role in our redemption. In John 16:7, Jesus tells His disciples that His ascension back into heaven is for their benefit. How can this be? His ascension fulfilled the work of the gospel, which the Holy Spirit was then sent to teach and bring to remembrance everything that Jesus had told them (John 14:26). Indeed, the Spirit instructs each believer in the gospel by indwelling them and teaching them to glorify the Father and the Son. In fact, twice Paul emphasizes that without the Spirit interceding in our prayers we could not call God our Father (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6).

How then do we know that we believe in God the Father?

First, to believe in God the Father requires belief in the Son and the Holy Spirit. No one can reject the Trinity and still cling to Christianity. To deny the Trinity is to reject the God of the Scriptures. Indeed, Jesus says about Himself, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (John 6:29). Therefore, our belief in God the Father is proven to be valid by our belief in the Son and the Spirit.

Such a statement may sound counterintuitive, but that impulse only reveals how much the Fall has alienated us from God’s ways. As Trinity, God is utterly selfless. The Father is constantly glorifying the Son and Spirit, just as the Son is always glorifying the Father and the Spirit and the Spirit is always glorifying the Father and the Son. They are eternally giving, which is why it truly is better to give than to receive. Giving imitates God. Likewise, in Philippians 2:3-5, Paul called for the Philippians to count others as more significant than themselves by being rooted in the mind of Christ. The sinful, human impulse is to seek and claim glory for self, while God (the only truly glorious being) is constantly pouring His glory upon others, particularly upon the Son and the Spirit.

Second, to believe in God the Father means trusting His love us. John Owen writes, “The chief way by which the saints have communion with the Father is love—free, undeserved, eternal love… Have no fears or doubts about his love for you. The greatest sorrow and burden you can lay on the Father, the greatest unkindness you can do to him is not to believe that he loves you” (12-13).

In contrast to Owen, the common view today is that God the Father is angry and vengeful, while Jesus is loving and gracious. But it was the Father who blessed us with Jesus (Ephesians 1:3). It is the Father who is called by Paul “the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3). It was the Father’s love that sent Jesus for us (John 3:16). When John states that “God is love,” the Father is particularly in view (1 John 4:16). And in the trinitarian benediction of 2 Corinthians 13:14, grace is attributed to Jesus, fellowship to the Spirit, and love to the Father.

Michael Reeves ties all of this together in how it beautifies the gospel:

And therein lies the very goodness of the gospel: as the Father is the lover and the Son the beloved, so Christ becomes the lover and the church the beloved. That means that Christ loves the church first and foremost: his love is not a response, given only when the church loves him; his love comes first, and we only love him because he first loved us (1 Jn 4:19).

Do you, therefore, believe in God the Father? Do you believe in His Son that He sent to die for you? Do you believe in His Spirit that He has sent to guide in you in all truth? Do you believe in His vast love for you?

This is the God all Christians believe: the holy, Triune, almighty Creator who is also our loving and merciful Father.

Do you believe?


[1] Despite what many proclaim, His justice and wrath are essential to His fatherhood and love. The work of a father is to discipline his children, to shape them into men and women of character and integrity, which often requires a strong, firm hand. Fatherhood should also invoke a certain degree of wrath as necessary for defending children from insidious threats. Likewise, God cannot look upon sin without His justice and wrath. Sin is not only a blight against His goodness; it is also a corrosive plague that consumes us from the inside out. If God did not hate our sin, He would not be our Father.

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