Christ spoke more fully on the subject of the Father than on any other. For this there is good reason. In Christ's day, as in our own, many misconceptions prevailed about the Father. It was needful that the world be enlightened in regard to the true character of God. Christ came to give the world a revelation of the Father that men might know what God is like.
An illuminating passage concerning the subject is found in John 14. Christ, in speaking to Philip says, “If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.” – John 14:7. Evidently Philip did not fully understand Christ's meaning, for he returns with, “Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.” – v:8. With gentle rebuke Christ answers, “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?” – v:9
According to this statement, Christ and the Father are one so complete that to see one is to see the other also. “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” According to the Bible, “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” – John 1:18. As the Father is “King eternal, immortal, invisible...whom no man hath seen, not can see,” it is not to be wondered at that men do not know Him or understand Him (I Tim. 1:7, 6:16). For this reason it became necessary for Christ to come to this world to reveal the Father. This He did perfectly.
Of the heavenly entities, none has been so misunderstood as the Father. This is still true in our present day. The Son we know, for He came to this world and lived among men, and men had opportunity to observe Him. The Holy Spirit we also know, for He was manifested in power on the day of Pentecost and has always been honoured as the provider of God's power and blessings, a Helper and a Comforter. But the character of the Father has been so misunderstood that many think of Him as being unmerciful, vindictive and even cruel. He has been pictured as one who could never be satisfied until He had extracted the last farthing, one who is always on the watch to catch an unwary soul and who would punish severely even little ones.
Certain preachers have taken delight in presenting the plight of “a soul in the hands of an angry God.” His love forgotten, and His strictness magnified out of all proportion. Christ has been presented as the One altogether lovely, the One to whom a sinner might flee in time of distress and find a refuge for the soul. But not so the Father. He has been pictured as watching to find some charge against mankind, and found it altogether too often.
It was not for their own sins only that men would suffer. If parents neglected to have their children ordered according to the rules of the church, not only would the parents suffer, but the little ones would be thrown into hell, there to burn forever and ever, world without end, through no fault of their own.
This doctrine of hell for many years has largely gone unchallenged, though it has given men a horribly distorted picture of the Father. Christ has been thought of as kind and good, the Father as hard and unmerciful. The sinner's only hope has been to flee to Christ for refuge before the Father could seize him. If the Father caught him, all hope was gone. God was conducting a hell where not only multitudes of creatures which God Himself had made were to suffer the torments of the damned, but millions of little ones who had died too young to be guilty of conscious sin were in torment because their parents had neglected some ordinance of the church. On the red-hot floor of hell these little one would writhe in agony and would do so throughout eternity, while the saints in glory would look on and praise God.
Christ and the Fatherhood
It was to correct such wrong doctrines and conceptions that Christ came to this world. He came to give to men a correct view of the Father and this was sadly needed. Of what use would it be if Christ was good and could and would draw all men to Him, but there still persisted in men's minds the old idea of the Father? Christ might save men, but if so it must be from the Father's wrath; and it was doubtful whether He could do this, for He admitted that the Father was greater than He (John 14:28).
It was therefore of supreme importance, not only to Philip, but to all mankind, when Christ stated that He and the Father were one. Man knew Christ and loved Him. If the Father was like Him, all was well. They would not then, need to fear Him, in the sense of being afraid of Him. If the Father loved them as Christ loved them, they in turn could love Him. The Father was no longer their prosecutor and judge. He was their friend, one who loved them so much that He had given His only-begotten Son to save them. The whole outlook of religion changed when Christ made His declaration concerning the Father.
As stated before, Christ came to this world to reveal the Father. This is clearly presented in John 14. There the supreme burden of Christ's heart was to acquaint the disciples with the Father, and to reassure them that the Father had the same interest in them that He did. The whole chapter deals with the Father. His name is mentioned twenty three times, and there are five other references, making twenty eight in all.
Christ begins by stating that in His Father's house there are many mansions (v:2). No man can come unto the Father but by Christ (v:6). If men had known Christ, they would also have known the Father, and now they know the Father and have seen Him, for they have seen Christ (v:7-9). Christ is in the Father and the Father is in Christ. Even the words which Christ speaks are not His own, but the Father’s (v:10). We are to believe that Christ is in the Father, and that the Father is in Christ (v:11). It is because Christ goes to the Father that His followers will be able to do what Christ did, and even greater things (v:12). The prayers which Christ promises to answer are granted that the Father may be glorified (v:13). Christ promises to pray the Father to send the Holy Spirit (v:16). We shall know that Christ is in the Father and we in Him (v:20). Christ loves whoever keeps His commandments, and so does the Father, and they will both come unto such a man and make their abode with Him (v:21,23). The words Christ says are not His own words but the Father’s which sent Him (v:24). The Father will send the Comforter in Christ’s name, and He will teach them all things and bring Christ's words to remembrance (v:26). If they really loved Christ, they would be glad that He was to go away, for He was going to the Father, which is greater than He and He will come again (v:28). Christ wants the world to know that He loves the Father, and that as the Father has given commandment, so He does (v:31).
This chapter does not exhaust Christ's references to the Father. The next three chapters continue the same theme. It is apparent that Christ is anxious that the disciples become acquainted with the Father and that they love Him as they do Christ. The Father, who is the husbandman, is glorified when the disciples bear much fruit (John 15:1,8) The Father loves Christ, who has kept His commandments, and Christ loves us (v:9,10). All that Christ receives from the Father He communicates to us (v:15). If we bear fruit and our fruit remains, we may ask what we will of the Father and He will give it to us (v:16). Persecutions will come to God's children, because the world does not know the Father (v:21; 16:3). The Father and the Son are so much one that whoever hates the one hates the other also (Ch.15:23,24). All that the Father has belongs to Christ. We may therefore ask the Father anything in Christ's name, and He will give it to us (Ch. 16:15,23). Although it is proper that we ask in Christ's name, and though Christ will pray to the Father for us; we should know that the Father Himself loves us, because we love Christ and believe that He came in place of the Father (v:25-27).
In John 17, it contains the high-priestly prayer of Christ, which is addressed to the Father. In it Christ uses such expressions as “Father,” “holy Father,” “righteous Father”(v:1,5,11,25). He states that to know the Father and the Son is eternal life, and that He has manifested the Father's name to those given Him (v:3-6). The whole prayer breathes submission to the Father, and asks Him to bless and protect those for whom Christ is referred to more than fifty times, either under the title Father or by a pronoun which alludes to Him.
It seems evident that Christ was anxious to have His disciples know the Father, and to have them understand that the Father loves them even as He does. He emphasised the fact that He had come into the world to reveal the Father, and that this was His first work. “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world...“I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it” (John 17:6,26). These statements mean that Christ has revealed to men the character and nature of God, and given a demonstration of what God is like, so that men no longer will need to be ignorant of the fact that “God is love.”
Such a demonstration needs to be made to each generation; for men are not acquainted with the Father as they should be. Too many have not as yet caught the meaning of the word Father. They still think of God in terms of medieval theology, and fear Him more than they love Him. Jesus wants all to know that the Father loves them as dearly as does Christ Himself, and He takes every opportunity to impress this upon their mind. Even the well-known text of John 3:16 stresses the fact that is it God the Father who so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to save perishing souls. This is the height of love.
To Know The Father
There is no word which Christ used more in speaking of God than “Father.” To Him it meant a peculiarly intimate relation. To Him God was Father, Friend, Counsellor, Protector, Provider – all that is true, noble and good. It may indeed be said that Christ gave the word 'Father' a new significance, and lifted it from all that is earthly and common to everything that is noble and beautiful. He not only gave man a new concept of God. He gave every father a new concept of what he should be and might become. In this He immeasurably lifted the whole concept and standard of human relationship.
Many have but a slight acquaintance with the Father. He is almost a stranger to them. In many churches Christ is exalted and the Holy Spirit honoured, but the Father barely gets a mention. Were it possible for the Father to die, His passing would not seriously disturb them or affect their worship. They are accustomed to being without Him, He is so seldom mentioned. He must be given His rightful place. And His place is first place. This is the place Christ assigns Him.
There has been some age-long dispute as to who suffered more, who loved more – the Father or the Son. We are unable to settle the dispute, for the Bible throws no light on it. But it is certain that the Father suffered with the Son, that the Father sacrificed to the limit when He gave His Son and that He so loved the world that He withheld not the dearest that He had. With the Father not present in visible form to the world at the time of the suffering of Christ on the cross, we must not take on the thought that the Father is an absentee landlord, a transcendent God, a faraway potentate, a stranger to mankind. God Himself is anxious that this misconception be removed.
The subject of the Father rightly holds a large place in the teaching of Jesus. Christ always gave the Father the pre-eminence and spoke of Him in the highest terms of respect and love. It is not for us to determine the respective gradients in the Godhead -- if indeed there are any -- but it would be natural that Christ, instead of taking honour to Himself, should give honour to the Father, and this He does. We might likewise expect the Father to be of the same mind, and this He is. Note how respectfully the Father speaks of the Son in Hebrews 1:8-10. 'Unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom... And, Thou, the Lord, in the beginning has laid the foundation of the earth and the heavens are the works of thine hands.' God the Father here calls the Son both God and Lord, and attributes to Him the making of the heavens and the earth. Thus each gives the other due honour and reverence, speaking terms of deepest reverence and respect. Were we speaking of human personalities, we would consider such relationship most beautiful and touching. True courtesy is one of the gifts from God. It smooths the path in many ways. It might not be appropriate to speak of God as being courteous and submissive, for that might be misunderstood; but in human language that is what God is. Christ and the Father have been together from the days of eternity. Yet each addresses the other in the most courteous and respectful way. It is founded in the deepest mutual respect and intimate love.
It would be well if more courtesy, respect and mutual love were manifest in human relationships. How easy it is for a married couple to take each other for granted! After being married for some years, there is danger that some things are done that would not have been done when newly married; and some things are omitted that should not be. Life becomes humdrum, and expressions of love and respect become non-existent. Courtesy and love are closely connected. It would be well if all remembered this.
Christ's respect and love for the Father were deep and sincere. He knew who the Father was. He knew His character, His plans and the means by which He expected to accomplish His plans. He was sure that if only men knew the Father, they would love Him. He made it His great mission to the world to make known the Father.
Throughout history God the Father has not generally been thought of or presented as a kind, heavenly parent whose chief delight is the welfare and happiness of His children. Christ referred to this when in the parable He made the unfaithful servant say of the master, 'I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown and gathering where thou hast not strawed." – Matt 25:24. How different this concept is from what God actually is! God is not a hard God. He is more willing to give good gifts to His children than earthly fathers are to give good gift to theirs. He is kind, long-suffering, forgiving, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
If the church of today is to have the faith of Jesus, if this faith includes a profound reverence for the Father and an anxiety that He be given His rightful place in men's thinking and life, it is then well for men to see what Jesus believed and taught about His Father. This must on no account be neglected.
Based on The Faith of Jesus p. 493-513 by M L Andreason