THE KING IS A FATHER
BFM: God is Father in truth to those who become children of God through faith in Jesus Christ. He is fatherly in His attitude toward all men.
The Great Either/Or
All humanity stands on a side of a great chasm, a great either/or. All mean are either “in Adam” or “in Christ.” Those in Adam still bear the guilt of sin upon their souls and stand under God’s wrath. God the Father relates in two different ways to these two groups. Those in Christ have been forgiven of their sin and now live to God.
The Father and those in Christ: Adoption.
1. Some have called adoption the pinnacle of salvation. Jesus explains the reality of adoption in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15); likewise, Paul explains in Galatians “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal 4:4-5). Paul explains that the reason God send his Son was to redeem those under the law; and he explains that the reason God redeemed those under the law was so that he might adopt them as sons.
2. Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains the comfort that this doctrine of adoption provides: “My relationship to God is not a variable one. The case is not that I am a child of God, and then again not a child of God. That is not the basis of my standing, that is not the position. When God had mercy upon me, He made me His child, and I remain his child. A very sinful, and a very unworthy one, perhaps, but still his child! And now, when I fall into sin, I have not sinned against the law, I have sinned against love. Like the prodigal, I will go back to my Father and I will tell Him, “Father, I am not worthy to be called your son.” But He will embrace me, and He will say, “Do not talk nonsense, you are My child,” and He will shower his love upon me! That is the meaning of putting on the breastplate of righteousness! Never allow the devil to get you into a state of ccondemnation. Never allow a particular sin to call into question your standing before God. That question has been settled” (The Christian Soldier: An Exposition of Ephesians 6:10-20, 255).
The Father and those in Adam: Fatherly.
1. Another way to explain this reality is the theological reality of common grace. “He sends rain on the just and the unjust” (Matt 5:45). It important to recognize, however, that there is an infinite chasm between God being the Father of someone and being fatherly toward someone. One is a settled relational reality, a permanent salvation; the other is an attitude that does not ultimately change someone’s eternal state. My dad is nice to a lot of people, even a “father-figure” to them; but only his sons are truly his sons. I am his son, and he is my father.
2. There is a deep tension in the Bible expressed in two true statements. First, God is angry at sinners and they stand under his wrath. Second, God is patient with sinners and does not desire to damn them. Much of this reality goes beyond the scope of this section, but the important part to recognize here is this: God is patient with sinners. He is fatherly toward them. This, however, does not save them, anymore than my dad being “fatherly” toward someone makes them his son.
3. This statement, in part, combats the teaching of Protestant liberalism, which taught the universal “Fatherhood of God” (as seen in the writings of someone like Adolf von Harnack. Compare this to John Calvin’s deep doctrine of God’s adoption of sinners and fatherhood).