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God the Father

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
July 11, 2022 12:01 am

God the Father

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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July 11, 2022 12:01 am

To address God as Father is an unspeakable privilege given to Christians. Today, R.C. Sproul teaches on the biblical understanding of the fatherhood of God, a foundational truth of the Christian faith.

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When we ask people who Jesus is, we discover there are plenty of opinions.

Well, based on that, it's clear that we shouldn't assume that everyone understands the basics of Christianity. So this week on Renewing Your Mind, Dr. R.C. Sproul will explain the fundamental doctrines that we find in the Apostles' Creed. We call this series Basic Training.

Fortunately, there's no running required for this boot camp, no push-ups or long marches, but I think we'll come away better prepared to put on the whole armor of God. Here's R.C. I want to look at the first affirmation of the creed. It starts, I believe, then what?

What comes next? In God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. So that the first affirmation of the creed has to do with the central importance of God the Father. Now, we ask why the affirmation in God the Father?

Why is that there? I believe in God the Father. Why does this word occur in the early creeds? Well, from very early on, even before the Council of Nicaea, which came in the fourth century, the Christian community was self-consciously Trinitarian. Notice how the creed progresses, I believe in God the Father and in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord. And then you have a separate affirmation, I believe in the Holy Ghost so that all three persons of the Trinity are confessed in this very early creedal statement. So the allusion to the Father on the one hand is loaded with Trinitarian significance, and I'll come back to that in a moment.

But there's another reason why the term Father figures prominently in the foundations to the Christian faith. In the 19th century, where we saw the advent of 19th century liberalism, it was kind of an ongoing attempt with the birth of the science of comparative religions, for example, to seek the essence of religion. What is it that Christianity has in common with Islam or with Judaism or Buddhism and so on? And those who were disenchanted with the supernatural trappings of biblical Christianity wanted to penetrate to the core of the Christian faith or to what the thinkers called the essence of Christianity. Just a ton of books published in the 19th century, particularly in Germany, that spoke of the essence of religion, like Ludwig Feuerbach, or the essence of Christianity. The German word there is weizen, the weizen, or the being, the substance of what Christianity is. And the attempt later scholars were critical of, saying that it was reductionistic, that is, get down to the very lowest common denominator of what we find in religion.

What is religion all about? And Harnock, for example, in the 19th century published a book that is still in print and very influential, a simple little book entitled What is Christianity? And he boils Christianity down to this very basal common denominator that has two central affirmations, the universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man. Fatherhood of God, brotherhood of man, he said. That's the essential message of the New Testament.

Well, orthodox Christianity reacts with a jaundiced eye to that kind of reduction for several reasons. One is that it tends to obscure some of the other vital ingredients of Christianity, but not only that, we raise the question as to whether or not it's true that the Bible does teach the universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man. William Ellery Channing taught it, you know, as a creed for Unitarianism, and it's become part of the American way of life to assume a universal fatherhood of God and a universal brotherhood of man. And it may sound shocking to you if I suggest that maybe the Bible doesn't teach any such idea as the universal fatherhood of God or the universal brotherhood of man. Can you think of any place where the Bible teaches the universal fatherhood of God?

It's an inference that can be drawn from creation, and it's not just an inference. The Apostle Paul on one occasion at Mars Hill does say, quoting the secular philosophers, as your own poets have said, we are all God's offspring. In the sense that God is the creator of all people, there is this bleak sense in which the Bible does inferentially say that God is the creator of all men so that in that certain sense He's the Father of all men.

But that is a very, very rare indication, and you would think that if it's the essence of Christianity that it's something that'd be virtually on every page. But before I elaborate further on that, let me go to the second phase, the universal brotherhood of man. Where do we read that in the Bible? The Bible does not teach the universal brotherhood of man. What the Bible teaches is the universal neighborhood of man. Jesus makes it clear that all men are my neighbors, and I have duties to perform to my neighbors, that I am called to love my neighbor as much as I love myself.

And you say, well, maybe this is just a semantic game where we're distinguishing between neighbors and brothers, but I do it for a reason. In the New Testament, the concept of brotherhood is a very, very special kind of human fellowship. I mean, at the heart of the Christian confession, as we will see in a moment, that Jesus is the only Son of God. So that there is a unique sense in which Jesus is the Son of God, which is a unique sense in which God is the Father of Jesus. And we enter into the family of God not by nature, not simply by being born a human being.

In fact, the Bible says we're children of wrath, doesn't it? But in order to become a child of God, we must be adopted into the Father's family by virtue of our relationship with the only begotten Son, who is Jesus. Elsewhere, the Scripture says, as many as are led by the Spirit of God, those are the sons of God, or the children of God. In other words, in biblical language, particularly in Jewish categories, there is a specialness associated with this filial relationship of fatherhood and sonship and consequently of brotherhood.

We are adopted into the family of God by virtue of faith in Christ and through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. And so if we talk about a universal brotherhood, universal fatherhood, we obscure that very special relationship that Christ has made possible for those who believe in Him. Now, in the Old Testament, there are times when God is referred to as the Father, that nowhere in the Old Testament or in any existing Hebrew documents do we ever find a Jewish person addressing God directly in the form of personal address as Father until the tenth century A.D., till a thousand years after Christ in Italy. With one notable exception, a Jewish rabbi from Galilee in the first century whose life is recorded in history, many of his public and private prayers are recorded, and in every single prayer this rabbi prays, except one, he directly addresses God as Father, who is that mysterious Galilean rabbi, Jesus. The reason I say it is that Jesus' contemporaries were shocked to their boots that Jesus would walk around calling God Father directly. In fact, some of His enemies took that as grounds enough to convict Him of blasphemy. But if you listen to Christians praying in a group and each one speaks his prayer, you can depend that 90% or more will begin their prayer by saying Father so that it is so universal among us today, so commonplace that we tend to take it for granted and miss the radical significance of Jesus addressing God as His Father.

We also miss the significance of the Lord's Prayer at that point. Jesus said, when you pray, pray like this, what? Our Father.

Jesus is saying, what I have done, I am the first Jew to do it. I have done something radical, a major innovation, and now I am inviting you to participate in that personal, filial relationship that I have with the Father. You can address Him as Father too. But you see, if it's assumed that that just goes with the baggage of being human, that it's built into nature, that the essence of religion is the universal Fatherhood of God and universal brotherhood of man, you miss the significance of that invitation to stand in the presence of God and say to Him, Abba, Father. So there is the sense in which the Father refers to the Trinity and the other dimension of it, which we ought not to miss, is this filial relationship that is special and which is personal. Christianity affirms the existence of a personal God with whom we have a personal and filial relationship.

We don't utter our prayers to the great mystery of cosmic dust. Again, this is so elementary that it's often overlooked, that the God that we worship is a God who has a name and who has a personal history. If I say, do you believe in some kind of supreme being? That's one thing.

That's one kind of a question. The other question is do you believe in God the Father, that is a personal God? Do you believe in Yahweh, a God who has a name and who has a personal history?

That's all the difference in the world. Alright, well of all of the adjectives and descriptive terms that is used for God in the Old Testament and in later creeds, eternal, invisible, immutable, omniscient, omnipresent, and so on, when we go down to the very basic confession of the Apostles' Creed, we see that God is described, and again in the earliest Roman symbol, as, I believe in God the Father Almighty. Of all of the descriptive terms that could be used about God, I wonder why it is that that one is selected for the earliest formulation.

God the Father Almighty. Well, remember in the patriarchal period in the Old Testament, the ancient traditions of Israel, God was known by several names and by several titles. The supreme name, of course, Yahweh, I am who I am. But He also was known by other names, Elohim, for example, and one that was very important in antiquity was the name El Shaddai.

Again we find in the patriarchs in the period of Abraham and we find it throughout the book of Job, which is set in the period, the time period of the patriarchs, the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And this title or name for God means the one who overpowers, the one who has all strength and power. Now here in the ancient world there is a sense in which the term Almighty calls attention to monotheism.

Why would the term Almighty be a confession of monotheism? Critical scholars in the nineteenth century developed what was called the religious historical school and they applied a scientific principle that was widespread and very influential to the culture of Western civilization in the nineteenth century and it was the concept of evolution. So often people think that the debate between Christianity and secular science focuses on biological issues about evolution, but in the nineteenth century in the intellectual world evolution became a buzzword and it wasn't restricted to questions of biological development, but there were all sorts of evolutionary theories developing, coming out of the massively complex philosophical system of Frederick Hegel, for example. We see it in Spencer's Social Darwinianism, his view of political theory and government and so on, and it also was applied to religions.

And the basic thesis was this, that everything, all patterns of life, all forms of culture, all aspects of society, whether they're biological, psychological, governmental, economic, whatever it is, everything follows the same pattern, an upward movement of the nature of things from the simple growing up to the complex. And the theory was the same thing happened with the development of religion. So that all religion began with very simple ideas of God and the theory was this, that religion begins with animism and then progresses to polytheism and then progresses to henotheism and then progresses to monotheism. So the theory is monotheism, the belief in one God, is something that comes very, very late in the history of the world. And the critics even said that it's late in Jewish history. It doesn't come until the 8th and 7th century prophets of Israel. They don't believe that Moses was a monotheist. They don't believe that Abraham was a monotheist and so on.

But they say rather it went through this same progression. Well, what's animism? Where do you find animism today? In primitive tribal societies, animism believes that inanimate objects like trees and rocks and so on are inhabited by spirit beings, usually of a negative inclination, demonic spirits, so that all of nature is animated. So you pray to the stone, you pray to the tree, you pray to the moon. That's the most primitive form.

And then it graduates to a more sophisticated level. Instead of just having lots of separate little spirits inhabiting objects, you have a belief in many gods, like you had in the ancient world, where you have in each nation a separate god with a separate job description for some specific task, like you have the god of war, you have the god of fertility, you have the god of hearth and home, you have the god of wisdom, you have the god of strength, the god of speed, and all of that. You have a different god.

The Greek gods, the Roman gods, god for everything. Then you move from polytheism to henotheism. Now what's henotheism?

That may be a new term for some of you. Henotheism is sort of a transitional stage between polytheism and monotheism. Henotheism teaches the idea that there is one god for every nation who has sovereignty over a certain geographical or ethnic sphere, so that the Jews have one god and that one god takes care of everything, war and peace and fertility and hearth and home and wisdom and so on, but he's just the god of the Jews, and next door the Philistines have their god, who's the god over the Philistine neighborhood, but the Canaanites have Baal, Philistines have Dagon, the Jews have Yahweh. That would be the idea, that there's one god for every people until finally you emerge with the concept of a god who is almighty, the god who is over everything. But from the earliest times in Hebrew religion, which disputes this evolutionary process, is the idea of monotheism because not only do we find in the patriarchal records the name of God as El Shaddai, the Almighty One, but you have the concept of God as the Creator, not just the Redeemer of Israel, but the One who creates heaven and earth. So what would be His sphere of authority?

Not just over the geographical boundaries of Palestine that run from Dan to Beersheba, but they go over the whole world. So that the term almighty is rooted and grounded in the concept of God as being sovereign over all the world. It is a clear affirmation of monotheism. Now, I mentioned earlier that in the catechetical questions, the interrogation, do you believe in God the Father Almighty? Then when that was reversed to become a positive creed in the old Roman symbol, the old Roman symbol simply said, I believe in God the Father Almighty, period, and in Jesus Christ, so on.

There was no clause maker of heaven and earth. That came in presumably in the second century. Now, we talked already about the crisis of the second century that made it necessary for the church to even have creeds because of the influence of Gnosticism. And we remember one of the most important reasons why the church declared its canon of Scripture, the Bible, was because of the work of Marcion. The very first collection of New Testament books was done by Marcion, but he was a heretic. What was his heresy? What did he do with the New Testament writings? He produced a truncated, expurgated version of the New Testament. Matthew's gospel was gone, and any reference to the God of the Old Testament was scratched out so that he tried to create a line of division between Jesus and the Old Testament God.

And you still find that tendency today. People will say, well, Jesus I like, you know, but it's that God of the Old Testament that I can't stand. Well, the Gnostics in the second century argued, some of them argued, that Jesus' Father was the true God, but He was not the Creator. It was at that stage that the church inserted in its creed, I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, to dispute this idea of a distinction between the God who is and the Creator. The Father of Jesus Christ, according to Christianity, is the Creator of heaven and earth, that our redemption is brought about by the activity of our Creator, and that there is only one God, no demiurges, and that there is no disjunction between the God of the New Testament and the God of the Old Testament. That brings to mind what the Lord God declares in Revelation chapter 1, I am the Alpha and the Omega, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. Thanks for joining us for Renewing Your Mind on this Monday.

I'm Lee Webb, and all week we are featuring Dr. R.C. Sproul's series Basic Training. In six messages, R.C. walks us through the Apostles' Creed to explain the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. If you're a new Christian and you'd like to learn some of the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith, or perhaps you're teaching a church membership or confirmation class at your church, I think you'll find this series helpful. We'll send all six lessons to you on a single DVD for your donation of any amount to Ligonier Ministries.

You can make your request online at renewingyourmind.org, or you can call us with your gift at 800-435-4343. You know, even as we cover these basics, the truths that we find inevitably go much deeper. Today's lesson on the fatherhood of God is helpful no matter where you are in your Christian journey. So again, request Basic Training. It's a series by Dr. R.C.

Sproul. Our phone number again is 800-435-4343. Our online address is renewingyourmind.org.

And in advance, let me thank you for your generous donation. We simply can't do this work without the faithful support of friends like you. In 2020, Ligonier Ministries reached more than 20 million people. That's an amazing number until you consider that we reached more than 56 million people last year.

That's surprising growth. And for those of you who give monthly as ministry partners, please know how much we appreciate your prayerful support. But many more outreach opportunities are presenting themselves to us. So if you're not a ministry partner, you can join this special group of people by giving a gift of $25 or more each month so that we can reach even more people. If you would like to join, just mention it to my colleague when you're on the phone with us. Tomorrow we'll continue Dr. Sproul's series with a lesson on the person and work of Jesus. What is it about Jesus Christ that sets Him apart? Dr. Sproul will explore that Tuesday here on Redoing Your Mind. Dr. Sproul will explore that Tuesday here on Redoing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-26 05:48:05 / 2023-03-26 05:56:20 / 8

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