Previous article in this series: January 1, 2011, p. 152.
Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 9
Question 26. What believest thou when thou sayest, “I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth”?
Answer. That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (who of nothing made heaven and earth, with all that is in them; who likewise upholds and governs the same by His eternal counsel and providence) is, for the sake of Christ His Son, my God and my Father; on whom I rely so entirely, that I have no doubt but He will provide me with all things necessary for soul and body; and further, that He will make whatever evils He sends upon me, in this valley of tears, turn out to my advantage; for He is able to do it, being Almighty God, and willing, being a faithful Father.
What is a father?
On a natural and physical level, a father begets, he gives life. But being a father goes beyond that. Sadly, many today who father children fail to see this. For them, fatherhood is simply physical, conceiving a child with a woman, and then they drop out of the child’s life. We must not let experiences of this sort cloud our vision of who God is as Father.
A father is one who loves and cares for his children, who has a relationship of protection and nurture, of guidance and provision, with his children. When we say, “God is our Father,” we are speaking of His loving relationship to us. Our understanding of fatherhood must begin with who God is as Father.
All Our Boast Is in Him
When the sailors in the storm awakened Jonah and asked him to explain who he was and why the storm, Jonah said, “I fear Jehovah, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land” (Jonah 1:9). At this, the sailors were “exceedingly afraid.” Jonah’s God was the “Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.” The God who had sent this storm.
Perhaps you remember from your childhood-days the boasting of children about their dad: “My daddy is a policeman,” or “My dad is stronger than yours,” etc.
The boast of the believer in this beautiful Lord’s Day is, “My Father is the one who of nothing made and upholds the universe, and my Father is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” What a remarkable confession.
For consider how insignificant you are. “All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity” (Is. 40:17). Think of the expanses of the universe, and your size, your vulnerability, your insignificance even among men. God is your Father. How remarkable!
And consider, too, who you are by nature. Our natural parents are Adam and Eve, and their fall into sin would, following its natural course, lead them and all their children to become children of the devil (John 8:44). By nature we are all the children of wrath (Eph. 2:3). And yet, God is your Father. How remarkable.
The parentheses shows how amazing it is that God is my Father. His might is seen in the great work of creation. He made the heavens and the earth and all they contain—the spiritual world of angels and souls as well as everything tangible. From the vast expanses of the universe, down to the tiny details of the functions of the human body, he not only made it all, but He holds it all together. He made it all “out of nothing,” by the Word of His power. In the creation we see the greatness of God. This creator God is my Father. How remarkable!
The Father of Jesus Christ
Even more remarkable is that my Father is the “eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
He is the eternal Father. Eternal means He didn’t become a Father. Rather this is a part of the essence of His being as God. He always was the Father of the eternal Son. When we call Him Father, this is not a simile or a manner of speaking, but it describes Him as the ultimate Father, not patterned after an earthly father, but the other way around. As eternal Father, He is my eternal Father, the one who elected His sons and daughters in eternity to glory.
He is an exclusive Father. First, He is the Father of Jesus Christ, and through Jesus Christ He becomes my Father. He is not the father of all mankind. We become the children of God only through Jesus Christ and faith in Him.
But how extensive, also, is His fatherhood? How many are the children of God (Heb. 2:10)? The New Testament expands the Fatherhood of God to people from all the nations of the earth, the spiritual seed of Abraham (Gal. 4:4-6).
At a great price, God becomes my Father. How expensive? God gave all that He could to make me one of His children! The price was the blood of His own, only begotten, Son. “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten son into the world” (I John 4:9). It means I can be confident of His love. It means that He loves me with the same eternal love that He has for His own Son. He brings me into a position of sonship by adoption, adoption sealed with the price of His Son’s blood.
How remarkable, that the eternal Father, who is Father of some only and not all, should send His own Son, and that His gospel should reach me, to make me one of His children! How amazing that I can stand with Jesus and call God “my Father!”
This Lord’s Day has been called “The Psalm” of the Heidelberg Catechism. How similar it is to the first question and answer: personal, rich, and filled with comfort. Two great promises are ours as the children of God.
The first is that God will provide me with all the things I need for both body and soul. “Need” refers to things that I really cannot do without. When we expect more than what we need and are disappointed, the fault lies with us, not God. He promises what we need, and often goes beyond that, but we should never see the extras as part of our need. “Body and soul” shows the completeness of His fatherly care. A cruel father will spoil his children with physical things, without any care for their souls. But God’s care is complete. Without this care, we would be empty. All we need for our earthly life comes from Him, and He also gives our souls all the care they need, salvation and grace, which bring us to glory.
The second promise is that God as Father will make whatever evils He sends on me in this valley of tears turn out to my advantage. What is true of all good things is true also of the evilsthat come to me in life; they are all from Father’s hand. Evil does not just happen to us, but God sends it (Amos 3:6). Not only has He decreed it, but in His love He brings it to us, just as a loving parent would tell his resistant child, “Son, eat your vegetables, they’re good for you,” or “Take these meds, they will help” (Heb. 12:5-6). “This valley of tears” refers to our life, our human existence. None of us will escape the evils that bring tears. Grief, disease, death, pain, spiritual struggles, family woes—all these things are realities. But, “all things work together for good” under Father’s sovereign, loving hand and purpose.
Can you be sure of this? How can we know that the Father will always provide? How can we be sure that evil will turn to our good?
Because of who our Father is. He is willing, and He is able.
Some fathers have the will, but they lack the power. They would do anything and everything for their children and their well-being, but an earthly father cannot do anything and everything. In some instances, fathers cannot even feed their children. Every earthly father knows this helplessness from his experience. “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear” (Is. 59:1).
Other fathers have it in their power to help their children, but they lack the will. Then, instead of the father’s heart bleeding for the child, the child’s heart pines away and longs to be satisfied, but there is no response of love. The child is abandoned.
With God there is complete ability and complete willingness. He is able, because He is almighty God, and He is willing, being our loving Father.
Knowing this, we can be confident and comforted in this valley of tears.
Questions for Discussion
1. Define fatherhood. What does it teach earthly fathers?
2. List some things that make the confession, “God is my Father,” such a remarkable confession. Now thank God for these things.
3. How did God create the heavens and the earth? How does this display His might?
4. Can a believer (a person with faith) be an evolutionist? Why/why not?
5. Is God the Father of all mankind? Why/why not?
6. What price did God pay to secure our adoption?
7. What does God promise to supply us? Why is it dangerous for us to expect more than this from God?
8. How does God turn evil for our good?
9. Discuss the willingness of God. What has God done for you that shows you His willingness?
10. Discuss the ability/power of God. Where is His ability evident to you? What is God willing to do for you?
11. Find some Bible passages that demonstrate the greatness of God, our Father, toward us.