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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a thought on predestination & election

And the LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.”

Genesis 25:23

Here God provides an oracle declaring that Jacob would usurp Esau’s firstborn place. God chooses Jacob over Esau, while they are still in the womb. If that is not enough, Malachi 1:2-5 speaks about God loving Jacob and hating Esau:

“I have loved you,” says the LORD. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert” If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the LORD of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the LORD is angry forever.’” Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, “Great is the LORD beyond the border of Israel!”

As we will see in the next section of text, Esau becomes known as Edom; therefore, the nation of Edom came from Esau and Israel from Jacob. God declares that he loves Israel but hates Edom because He also loved Jacob and hated Esau. In case we try to lessen God’s words by thinking that God did not really mean hate, notice that God goes into detail about how He is actively against Edom. Of course, he does not mean the sort of emotional blind hatred that comes so naturally to us, but still God has a just and righteous hatred for Esau.

We should also note that this message of Malachi is not exclusively within the Old Testament. Paul quotes Malachi directly in Romans 9. Before providing a brief overview of Romans 9, it is important to avoid two extreme views that are both equally destructive.

First is the tendency to avoid the chapter like the plague. This happens because of the controversial nature of the text and its blatant proclamation of views that many Christians reject, such as predestination and election.

The second tendency to avoid is exalting the chapter above other Scripture, making it the centerpiece of the Bible. This is the opposite of the first, yet it is equally harmful.

In reading Romans 9, we can note Paul’s reluctance to write about the topic because it weighed so heavily on his heart. We cannot avoid Romans 9, nor should we gleefully run to it. Paul’s words possess great gravity because he is speaking about God’s sovereignty and the salvation or damnation of humans, both being thoughts that should be handled with great care and sobriety.

The message of Romans 9 is the sovereignty of God, particularly in His election of whom to save. Paul begins the letter by languishing over the thought that many of his fellow Jews were refusing to acknowledge Jesus as the promised Messiah. He even goes so far as to wish that he could be cut off from Christ in their place! But in verse 6, Paul begins to explain that God’s word has not failed because of their refusal of salvation. Instead, Paul argues that even in the Old Testament not all children of Abraham were brought into God’s divine covenant. Of all the children of Abraham, only Isaac was the son of promise. And the same happens with Jacob and Esau.

But in verse 6, Paul begins to explain that God’s word has not failed because of their refusal of salvation. Instead, Paul argues that even in the Old Testament not all children of Abraham were brought into God’s divine covenant. Of all the children of Abraham, only Isaac was the son of promise. And the same happens with Jacob and Esau.

Verses 11-13 tell us:

though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—she was told, “The older shall serve the young.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” God elected some of Abraham’s descendants to be participants in the covenantal blessing, while rejecting others.

If this is the case, how then can God simply choose whom to save, while still being good and loving? Well, Paul aims to address these concerns in verses 14-29. He asks if God commits injustice by choosing some to save and not others, and he then answers by citing God’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart in Exodus. “So then he has mercy on whomever he will, and he hardens whomever he will.”(v. 18)

Next comes the question of human responsibility. Why does God find fault, if He is the one who chooses? Paul’s answer is simply, “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’”(v. 20) Just as a potter has the complete right over his creations of clay, so God has total authority over His creation, which includes us. Though some may not see it as such, this divine election is truly a blessing.

Nick Ostermann preached a sermon on Genesis 25, in which he describes four views of salvation. First is a view called Pelagianism. This thought is named after a monk named Pelagius, who lived in the latter portion of the fourth century. He argued that people were inherently good and could save themselves by doing good works. So Pelagianism is unashamedly salvation by works.

Next, the Catholic view is more or less a fifty-fifty effort. No, humans cannot save themselves, but we still must essentially meet God halfway by our works.

Arminianism is third, which claims that God does all the work of salvation, but we must still choose for God to save us.

Finally, the Reformed view holds that God chooses to save by His mercy alone, with no works on our part needed.

It might be helpful to use the same analogy of these four views that Ostermann uses: drowning in a pool. Pelagianism would dictate that you have the ability to save yourself from drowning, so you should work hard to reach the pool’s ladder and live. The Catholic view would be the lifeguard diving into the pool but only going so far. You must swim your way to the lifeguard or work with the lifeguard at swimming in order to be saved. We could picture the Arminian view of salvation as the lifeguard coming out to you, but you must choose to whether to hold onto him until you reach the ladder or not. For the Reformed view, we must imagine that you have already drowned. You are at the bottom of the pool, lungs full of water with your consciousness gone, but the lifeguard swan dives to the bottom, swimming your limp body to the surface, where he pounds the water from your lungs until you can breathe again.

The Reformed view is that we have been saved one hundred percent by the effort and work of God because we could do nothing. As Paul told the Ephesians, “And you were dead in trespasses and sins.”(Eph. 2:1) We were dead, but Christ made us alive. Dead men can provide no effort for anything. I have heard it said that if even one percent of salvation is our doing, then one in every one hundred worship songs should be sung to us. Though our first moment of salvation appears to be our choosing to follow Christ, we begin to see as we study the Scriptures that we could only choose because God first chose us.

COPYRIGHT© B.C. NEWTON 2016
Wrestling with God

Jacob & Esau | Genesis 25

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

After the death of Abraham, God blessed Isaac his son. And Isaac settled at Beer-lahai-roi. (Genesis 25:11)

And Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren. And the LORD granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived. (Genesis 25:21)

And the LORD said to her, Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger. (Genesis 25:23)

OPENING THOUGHT

Much has transpired in Genesis thus far. The opening chapters describe God’s creation of everything good and humanity’s fall into sin. God struck mankind’s sinful pride twice: first with a global flood that killed all but eight people, and second by confusing their languages, causing them to scatter across the earth and form different nations. In chapter 12, the story narrowed down to one man, Abraham. God called him and his barren wife to settle in foreign land, where God would make his descendants into a great nation. Twenty-five years later, God gave Abraham and Sarah a son, Isaac. The epitome of Abraham’s faithful life is seen when God commands Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham is willing to slay his own son because he trusted the LORD’s word.

We now move into the third major section of Genesis. Abraham, the man of faith, dies, leaving behind Isaac to carry on the covenantal blessing that God made with his father. Yet the narrative will devote little time to Isaac, focusing instead upon his son, Jacob, who bears little resemblance to the great faith of his grandfather. The Bible is careful to paint the sins of Abraham for us to see, but the great displays of his faith make him feel larger than life. Jacob does not have this problem. His life is marked by the struggle to survive and thrive, yet beneath everything, Jacob is fearful, often running from his problems. Nowhere does Jacob show himself worthy of God’s favor, but God still readily gives it to him.

In this text, we read the beginning of God’s plan for Jacob. Before Jacob is born, God chooses him to usurp his older brother, Esau, as the inheritor of God’s covenantal blessing from his father, Isaac. The chapter ends with Jacob’s first step in securing the inheritance of the firstborn, which Jacob does through less than ideal means. Indeed, if there is any account in the Old Testament that displays the reality of unmerited grace, it is the story of Jacob. Yet as we will come to learn, we tend to be far more like Jacob than Abraham.

Read verses 1-18 and discuss the following.

  1. Death came even for the great man of faith, Abraham, yet even still he displayed a faith beyond his life by securing Isaac’s place as his inheritor. In what ways have you invested (or we might say discipled) the next generation to continue your ministry? Or how have you been discipled by previous generations to continue a ministry?

Read verses 19-28 and discuss the following.

  1. Isaac and Rebekah found themselves barren for twenty years, similar to Abraham and Sarah, and after they prayed, God granted them children. How does this show the necessity and importance of prayer? What can we say about God’s “delays” in answering prayer?
  2. Before Jacob and Esau were born, God chose Jacob to become greater than his older brother. Malachi 1:2-3 and Romans 9:10-13 both declare that God loved Jacob and hated Esau before either were born. How does this display God’s sovereign election?

Read verses 29-34 and discuss the following.

  1. Jacob was only able to con Esau out of his birthright because Esau had a low view of spiritual blessings, causing him to view soup as greater in value because it was physically there. In what ways do you act similarly, placing physical trivialities over spiritual riches?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Obey. Consider Abraham’s faithfulness to prepare Isaac for continuing God’s work. Likewise, plan out ways that you can disciple others into doing ministries that you do, or search for ministries where you can be discipled to continue the work.
  • Pray. Look toward the example of Isaac and Rebekah, who likely prayed twenty years for Jacob and Esau. Remain steadfast in prayer, knowing that God works according to His plan and is faithful in time.
COPYRIGHT© B.C. NEWTON 2016
The Man of Faith

The Birth of Isaac

Presently, I am entrenched in the twelfth week of studying the story of Abraham in Genesis. Analyzing the life of the man of faith has been an incredibly fruitful journey, yet as I now approach chapter 21, one word reverberates through my head: finally! We are, at last, able to read about the birth of Abraham’s promised son, Isaac!

Though only three months have passed since we first read God’s promise to Abraham, the wait has been excruciating. Of course, I believe that Moses (the author of Genesis) was trying to achieve that very effect by continuously reminding us of the promise in nearly every chapter. Through reading Genesis, we are supposed to experience a taste of Abraham’s longing for a son.

Still, our measly three months is nothing when compared to the twenty-five years that Abraham waited.

Can you imagine?

Twenty-five years.

And not even early in life.

No, twenty-five years on the backend of living.

Within those twenty-five years, Abraham and Sarah watched as their biological ability to bear children vanished.

After twenty-five years, Isaac was an impossibility.

So, why did God wait so long? What purpose could there possibly have been for God dragging Abraham and Sarah through such an ordeal?

Providentially, we know that nothing happens apart from the will of God, and we understand that God works all things “together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”[1] However, that promise can be difficult to believe whenever we do not clearly see the evidence of God’s orchestrating of events.

The same must have been true for Abraham, but we have a benefit that Abraham did not. We have his entire life laid out before us on paper. We are, then, able to see many workings of God in Abraham’s life that he may never have witnessed himself. And in these workings, we can see some of the purposes with which God delayed in providing Isaac, and perhaps, we might be able to glean something valuable from these lessons for our own life.

1. Waiting Builds Patience

Possibly the easiest lesson to be learned from Abraham’s waiting for Isaac’s birth is patience. Galatians informs us that patience is a fruit of the Spirit.[2] This means that followers of Christ should exercise patience because of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, many today believe that patience is simply the ability to wait, making patience a much neglected virtue. The Oxford Dictionary, however, defines patience as “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.” Such a definition ought to also describe the temperament of a Christian.

Throughout the Scriptures, we witness the patience of God, and we are called to be likewise because patience correlates closely with faith. I mean, think about it. If I become impatient, it is almost always because things are not going how I would like them to go. Impatience almost always sees me trying to take matters into my own hands. Patience, on the other hand, understands that God is ultimately in control and, therefore, sees no reason to become upset or angry a circumstances. Our faith (or trust) in God enables us to be patient in trying times. Indeed, true patience can only proceed from faith.

It is no accident that Abraham was a great testament of both patience and faith. With the exception of the Hagar incident, Abraham displayed monumental patience as he confidently waited for the LORD to fulfill His promise.

2. God’s Timing Is Perfect

Chapter 21 begins by telling us that God did just as He promised to Sarah and Abraham “at the time of which God had spoken.”[3] This is, of course, a reference to Genesis 18:10, where God promised the birth of Isaac in one year. However, it also heavily reminds me of Galatians 4:4-5. In that passage, Paul writes that Jesus was born into the world at the “fullness of time.” Both Galatians and Genesis emphasize that God enacted His will with complete authority and sovereignty. Though God promised the coming of Jesus from Genesis 3:15 onward, the precise conditions of the early first century provided the perfect setting for the Son of God to enter the world. The births of both Jesus and Isaac reveal that God is in absolute control over life’s circumstances, and He uses them specifically for His glory.

3. God Displays His Power to Do the Impossible

If I needed to place one large reason on why I believe God let Abraham and Sarah wait so long to have a child, I would argue this point. God wanted to make certain that they had reached the age when child-bearing was a physical impossibility, so there would be no doubt that a miracle had been done. Essentially, God gave Abraham (and us, through his story) a lesson in God’s omnipotence, showing that there is nothing too hard for the LORD.[4]

This point, however, also develops into two applications in the remainder of Scripture. First, like the impossibility of Isaac’s birth, salvation is impossible for anyone. The account of Jesus and the rich, young ruler in Mark 10 gives evidence to this. The rich ruler was, by ancient standards, a very blessed man. Wealth was often associated with having the favor of God, but he also appeared to live a very moral, upright lifestyle. Yet Jesus turned expectations upside down by claiming that it is easier for camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God. The impossibility of the wealthy achieving salvation then caused the disciples to exclaim, “Then who can be saved?”[5] Jesus answers, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”[6] Every single salvation is a task of sheer impossibility, but God is the worker of the impossible.

Second, as with Isaac’s birth, the promised coming of Christ seemed to be a ridiculous notion. Abraham’s twenty-five years is nothing when compared to the millennia that humanity awaited the offspring promised in Genesis 3:15. As the events of the Old Testament unfolded, prophesies concerning the Christ continued to build. Just to name a few, the coming Christ needed to be born in Bethlehem,[7] descend from Abraham,[8] Judah,[9] and David,[10] live in Egypt,[11] and be born of a virgin.[12] The list goes on significantly, but even the last one listed alone makes Jesus’ birth impossible (virgins cannot have kids!). The birth of Christ was an entirely absurd idea that could only happen by the power of God.

The End of the Matter

Twenty-five years may seem like a long time for God to keep Abraham waiting (and to be fair, it was), but through that process, God grew Abraham into being the man of faith that he was. God’s timing is simply not our own, and it never will be. But through faith, we must understand that the LORD’s plans are perfect, so we can patiently trust in Him.

[1] Romans 8:28

[2] Galatians 5:22

[3] Genesis 21:2

[4] Genesis 18:14

[5] Mark 10:26

[6] Mark 10:27

[7] Micah 5:2

[8] Genesis 12:3

[9] Genesis 49:10

[10] 2 Samuel 7:12-13

[11] Hosea 11:1

[12] Isaiah 7:14