by Gamaliel Ortiz
As elders, we have reviewed our Constitution to recommend updates and edits, as appropriate. In a couple of weeks, we’ll vote on some proposed changes to what we might call operational aspects. Apart from the operational matters that are intended to preserve and/or improve function and order, there are some matters of doctrine that could use updating. To be clear, it’s not that we are changing our position on any of the doctrinal matters in our statement of faith. Rather, it’s to clarify those positions to still communicate them well in light of changing times and culture.
One of the changes we’re proposing within the statement of faith is a statement on God the Father. Up to this point, we have a statement on God Himself, which states He exists, “in three distinct persons – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit...” This is followed by individual statements on the Son and the Holy Spirit, but there is no explicit statement on the Father alone. In order to be consistent and clear, we propose adding the following statement:
“We believe in the Father, the first person of the Triune God, who orders all things according to His own purpose and grace and who continually upholds, directs, and governs all creatures and events for His own glory. His Fatherhood is fundamental to His divine being. He is the Father of all people as their Creator. He is uniquely the Father to our Lord Jesus Christ as well as to all who believe in him. He has appointed his Son to judge humanity and will one day hold us accountable to His standard.”
Isaiah 64:8; Malachi 2:10; Matthew 5:45, 48; John 1:12; Acts 17:31; Romans 8:14-17; 15:6; II Corinthians 1:3; 11:31; Galatians 3:26; 4:4; Ephesians 1:3, 11; 2:18-19; 4:6; I Peter 1:3; I John 3:1.
Each person of the Trinity is fully God, though they are distinct persons. Since their essence (and nature and attributes) is the same, the differences are in their roles and how they live in relationship. Scripture reveals the role of the Father as ordering or planning. The Father’s role can be articulated more clearly in comparison with the other persons of the Godhead as it relates to our salvation. The Father planned for our salvation, the Son purchased it, and the Spirit effectuates it. Ephesians 1:3-5 tells us that God the Father chose us and predestined us according to the purpose of His will. Then in verses 11 and 12, it reiterates that He predestined us “according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will... to the praise of His glory.” God works and orders all things in accordance with His will and for His glory. This highlights His role.
In relationship, one of the primary ways that God has chosen to reveal Himself to us is as Father. All throughout Paul’s writings in the New Testament, He is identified as the Father of Jesus, the second person of the Trinity. This is important in shaping our understanding of the relationship that exists within the Godhead, between the persons of the Trinity. In the Old Testament Scriptures listed, as well as in Ephesians 4, God is also identified as the Father of all. Isaiah specifically connects his Fatherhood to the fact that we are all the work of His hand. However, there is a further extent of that Fatherhood reflected through those who have been saved. John (1:12) says that those who believe in Christ are children of God. Paul adds (Romans 8:14) that those who are led by the Spirit are sons of God. He has given us His Spirit so that we may call Him “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:16). So, while He may be functionally the Father of all as Creator, He is relationally Father to those He has redeemed.
Why is this important? Among other things, it establishes a framework from which we can understand how we are to relate to God as Father. I have several things hanging up on the walls of my office. Some are paintings and other artwork from Haiti, which remind me to pray for the people I had the privilege of discipling there. But there is also quite a bit of artwork made by my kids. These are continual reminders that I am an earthly picture of our Heavenly Father to my five children. Two art pieces use the name “Papi” on them, which is the Spanish equivalent of “Daddy.” Another does say it in English. Perhaps you’ve heard the adage that “any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a daddy” – or something close to that. Being their father implies that I physically contributed to their existence here on earth. That alone is hardly relationship-building material. But the fact that they call me “Papi” and “Daddy” reveals the personal nature of the relationship we have.
The belief that Yahweh has created us and placed us here on earth is hardly unique either. Many religions of the world believe in a creator god who made everything, but then stepped back, inaccessible to anyone. But our God has made a way by which we may come to Him and call Him Father, through Jesus. “But to all who did receive him (Jesus), who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). We serve a personal God who desires an intimacy with you and me as our Father, which we can enjoy because of what Christ has done on our behalf, and is effectuated through His Holy Spirit.