ISSUE: 2007, Volume 4, Issue 2
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‘Our Father, which art in heaven’, are the opening words of the prayer. It is this expression, ‘Father’, which reminds us that this is a family prayer; children are calling upon their father. In this first section of this familiar prayer we invoke, or ‘call upon’, the name of the Father. Dispensationally, it is true that the Jews are to call Him Father. But so are we believers today. The Holy Spirit Himself teaches us to call upon God using the gentle words, ‘Abba, Father, Rom. 8. 15; Gal. 4. 6. This is a title even the Lord Jesus used of God when He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt’,Mark 14. 36. All true believers show this family desire to call upon God as their father.
We all have fathers, and some of us are fathers, so we know what fathers can be like. God, however, is like no other father in that He is a perfect father.
The Lord Jesus Himself called God ‘Holy Father’, John 17. 11.God, and God alone, can be called Holy Father. He says of Himself,‘I am holy’, Lev. 11. 44; 1 Pet. 1. 16. He is called the ‘Holy One of Israel’, Ps. 78. 41. He is perfect, sinless, spotless and pure, unable to lie and unable to deny Himself, Tit. 1. 2.
Again it is the Lord who calls the Father ‘righteous Father’, John 17. 25. If God is holy in His nature, without sin, then He must be righteous in His behaviour: what He does is holy and right. So we read ‘the Lord our God is righteous in all his works which he doeth’, Dan. 9. 14. He is ‘the Lord God almighty, true and righteous’ in His judgements, Rev. 16. 7. ‘Gracious is the Lord, and righteous’, Ps. 116. 5.
Sometimes we think the title ‘heavenly Father’ means that God is in heaven and not on the earth. That He is there in heaven is quite true; heaven is God’s throne, Acts 7. 49. But the title means more than just that, for though God is in heaven, in another sense He is everywhere, filling heaven and earth, Jer. 23. 24.The phrase ‘heavenly Father’ refers to His majesty, His power, His holiness, His transcendence (separation from the world). Someone has written, ‘The words ‘‘who art in heaven’’ denote not the place of His abode so much as the authority and power at the command of the Creator and Ruler of all things. He combines fatherly love with heavenly power’.
So much for the father of the family. But what about the children of the family? It is a popular thing to believe that all mankind are God’s children. If by this we mean that we are His creatures, this is true; we come from Him. In a spiritual sense, however, we are not all God’s children. The Bible in fact teaches the exact opposite.
If we are not all born God’s spiritual children at birth, how do we become His children? We become God’s children ‘by faith in Jesus Christ’, Gal. 3. 26. It is when we come to believe in God’s Son, Jesus Christ, that we become children of God. ‘As many as received him, to them gave he power (the right, or authority) to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name, which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God’, John 1. 12- 13.We become God’s children by new birth. We are ‘born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God’, 1 Pet. 1. 23.‘Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth’, Jas. 1. 18.
Being the children of God means that we are born into God’s family by spiritual birth. This gives us both privileges and responsibilities. The privileges lie in being God’s sons. ‘Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God’, 1 John 3. 1. We have used verses in our study so far that have interchanged the words ‘children’ and ‘sons’. Sonship, (being sons of God) refers to our spiritual position and inheritance as God’s children. ‘For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ’, Rom. 8.14- 17. What a privilege it is to call the Creator of the world ‘Father’, to be known as His children and His sons!
Yet, the responsibility of being children is that we are to be like our father.That is why God frequently says, ‘Be ye holy, for I am holy’. If God is holy, and we claim to be His children, we should be holy too; there should be that family likeness. We are to be ‘blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world’, Phil. 2.15. Because God our Father does not love the world we are not to love it. ‘Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father’, 1 John 2. 15-16. The child of God, though he or she may sin, should not live a life that is characterized by sin. ‘Whosoever is born of God doth not [habitually] commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him and he cannot [habitually] sin because he is born of God’, 1 John 3. 9. This is our responsibility; to be like our heavenly Father.
We know that there is a very real sense in which this is not going to be possible while we live in this world.We still have sinful natures, we are tempted by the world, the flesh and the devil every day, and we sin every day. Yet the tenor of the Christian’s life is that we try hard to be holy, unlike non-Christians round about us who could not care less about being holy and probably try very hard not to be. The aim of the Christian’s life is to become more and more like God each day and to grieve over sin when we fail. So the Bible says,‘My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin,we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous’, 1 John 2. 1-2. The Lord Jesus reminds His disciples, and us through them, that when we invoke the name of God as Father, we call upon one who is holy, righteous, benevolent and good, and one whose power, as a heavenly Father, is far greater than ours. And should we ever call upon God as our Father, let us not forget the mercy which has made us His children, the grace which has made us His sons, and the privileges and responsibilities that are ours to be like Him in a world that hates Him. So the first request, for the world around us and for ourselves, is simply this, ‘Hallowed be thy name’.