After affirming the biblical doctrine of the Trinity, Friendship’s statement of faith confesses our understanding of God the Father in more detail: “God as Father reigns with providential care over His universe, His creatures, and the flow of the stream of human history according to the purposes of His grace. He is all powerful, all knowing, all loving, and all wise. 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 Baptist Faith of Message teaches that God the Father reigns with providential care and grace, is perfect, and is Father of all people, especially Christians.
The Father’s Reign with Providential Care and Grace
The Baptist Faith and Message connects God’s Fatherhood to his reign over all things. God reigns over the universe, his creatures, and the flow of human history.
Scripture repeatedly affirms God’s providential reign over the universe. This reign begins with his act of creation but persists throughout history. Even after the Fall, God reigns over the universe with providential care and grace. David praises God’s reign over the daily cycle of the sun, “which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat” (Ps 19:5-6). God makes the sun rise every morning. He daily gives all the earth its heat. Another Psalm similarly teaches, “Say among the nations, ‘The Lord reigns! Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity'” (Ps 96:10). God reigned with care by establishing the earth and sustaining its continued existence. This providential care assures us that one day he will fully judge all the people of the world throughout history. One of the final “Hallelujah” Psalms especially emphasizes God’s ongoing care for the universe as abundant cause to praise him (Ps 147). We should praise God because he created the stars (v. 4), he provides rain (v. 8), he provides food for wild animals (v. 9), he makes the seasons pass one into another (vv. 16-18).
The Bible also teaches that God providentially cares for his creatures. We’ve already considered this from Ps 147:9, but it is taught throughout Scripture. It is a major theme of God’s first speech to Job in Job 38-39. Psalm 146 similarly affirms God’s care for the people he has created. He provides justice for oppressed people, food for hungry people, and freedom for captive people (v. 7). He gives sight to the blind, lifts the heads of those bowed down, and loves righteous people (v. 8). He protects sojourners, widows, and orphans, even as he punishes the wicked (v. 9). Well did Jesus comfort us, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matt 10:29-31).
God also providentially reigns over the course of human history. This truth is a major theme of Daniel. Daniel interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s troubling dream as a vision of the succession of world empires until the beginning of God’s own eternal kingdom from heaven (Dan 2:36-45). Daniel later reveals the meaning of an even more personally troubling dream to Nebuchadnezzar: he will lose his mind and kingdom until he learns that God “rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will” (Dan 4:25). Daniel’s prophecy is fulfilled, and Nebuchadnezzar confesses at the end,
At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever,Daniel 4:34-35
for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?”
Paul later makes the same point: God “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place” (Acts 17:26). God the Father is sovereign over all things, from the stars in the sky, to the number of hairs on our heads, to the course of human history.
The Father’s Perfections
God’s eternal power and infinite knowledge were the subject of previous blog posts. Left to be treated are God’s perfect love and perfect wisdom.
God’s perfect love is a major theme of the New Testament. It is especially prevalent in the writings of the apostle John. One of the most well-known verses in the Bible teach us about God’s love: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). But the Father’s love for the world is rooted in his love for Jesus Christ: “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand” (John 3:35). Jesus prayed that he wanted the world to “know that you sent me and loved them [Jesus’ disciples] even as you loved me” (John 17:23). And God is constantly answering this prayer: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1). John even gives us the most sustained teaching about God’s love in the Bible:
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins1 John 4:7-10
We Christians are to love one another because God has loved us by saving us from our sins.
God is also perfectly wise. His wisdom is evident in his creation of all things (Ps 104:24-30; Prov 3:19-20; 8:22-31). God’s wisdom is also manifest throughout salvation history:
Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generationLuke 11:49-51
Jesus taught that God’s wisdom mercifully sent prophets and apostles to Israel to warn them to repent and fear him. And God’s wisdom also determines to avenge himself against those who sinned against him. The glorious salvation and judgment of God regarding both Israel and Gentiles makes Paul exclaim, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Rom 11:33). God is so wise that Paul elsewhere says, “the foolishness of God is wiser than men” (1 Cor 1:25).
The Father’s Fatherhood
God the Father is Father not only of Jesus Christ eternally, but he is also the Father spiritually of all who have faith in Jesus Christ. In addition to texts considered regarding this in the last blog post, consider also Romans 8:14-17,
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
We Christians are not slaves but sons.
But by virtue of creation, God is also the Father of everyone on earth, as mentioned in the previous blog post (cf. also Matt 5:44-45).
What can we learn from the Fatherhood of God for our own lives as Christians? The repeated refrain concerning God’s Fatherly reign in the Psalms was to worship him and to give thanks to him. Jesus also teaches us to pray to God as our Father, which is also a point Paul makes in the passage above. Finally, the Fatherhood of God is a truth that should comfort us in the midst of the various trials we face. If God is in providential control over the course of human history, then he is also in providential control over the twists and turns in our own lives.