Father Revealed from 23.9.16
What is blocking of a fuller revelation of God’s Fatherhood to the Church? A vital answer appears at the climax of Jesus’ teaching ministry in John; “O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name…that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”” (John 17:25-26). Jesus teaches that the one who loves us is named “righteous Father”; but who teaches this about the Father today? Without such instruction there cannot be a substantial restoration of the Father presence. This story goes back to the beginning.
God’s plan was that as his children filled and subdued the earth they would have had a revelation of his righteousness in all of life (Gen 1:26-28; Ps 115:17). His good Fatherly character would have been revealed in all things (Acts 17:26-28; Rom 1:19-20). If Adam and Eve had been true to their vocation to rule the world they would have shared in Jesus’ revelation of the Trinity; “he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.” (John 3:34-35). Ruling over all things as God’s sons and daughters through the Spirit we would have known his just rule as Father in everything (Luke 3:38). Such rich revelation however awaited a test. As only the tree of knowledge is attached to special divine revelation; ““in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die””, faith in this Word was a test of whether Adam and Eve believed God was revealed as just in all his works (Gen 2:17). Satan appears as a snake challenging the truth of God’s Word by claiming that mere creatures can know the true intentions of the divine heart for themselves without direct revelation (Gen 3:1). The promise, ““you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”” asserts the human conscience can know good-and-evil by itself apart from fellowship with God (Gen 3:5). When Adam and Eve believed this they subjected the righteousness of God to human moral judgement. This primal sin reappears in the most unlikely places. The prodigal son is self-convinced that he knows what he must do to be restored to fellowship with his father; ““‘I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’”” (Luke 15:18, 21). These are his words even after the father has embraced him! The returned prodigal fails to appreciate that it is his father’s heart of forgiveness rather than his confession of sin that has brought about the restoration of his sonship. Nothing has changed. Today’s Church is full of sons and daughters who have returned to their Father but not knowing full forgiveness are starved of his righteous love. Only Jesus can heal a problem this deep.
Righteous in His Eyes
As the true Son of God Christ believed that God reveals himself as righteous in all things and that this revelation makes him to be a true Father (Mark 10:18). We in our idolatries turn to created things to understand spiritual reality, but Christ taught that “the flesh” of fallen humanity “is no help at all” in revealing the things of God (John 3:6; 6:63). So when Peter confesses Jesus as ““the Son of the living God”” the Lord immediately pointed to his Father, ““flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven”” (Matt 16:17). Knowing that he will fulfil the original human vocation to rule all things, Jesus prophesies, “Everything has been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Matt 11:27cf. Matt 28:18). “Everything” has become the sphere in which the Son reveals the Father. The gospel mystery is that whilst fallen “flesh and blood” cannot reveal the Father the crucified and resurrected flesh of the Son of God will (1 Cor 15:24, 50). Obeying his “Abba! Father!” Jesus endures the total evil of losing all revelation of Father in the cross; ““My God…why have you forsaken me?”” (Mark 14:36; 15:34). This is so that he might receive the total goodness of the Father’s Spirit of Sonship in resurrection from the death (Rom 1:4). It is this experience of final good-through-absolute evil which is the revelation to Jesus of the supreme righteousness of God as Father. This Spirit-inspired knowledge of good-and-evil is now made available by Jesus through the gift of the Spirit to the Church (John 7:39; Acts 2:33). Through the lens of the life of Christ’s suffering and glorification according to the will of the Father the children of God can receive a revelation of the Father’s just goodness in all things (Rom 8:28). However the notion of the revelation of a “righteous Father” in every circumstance of life is utterly foreign to the spiritually lazy contemporary Western Church. This is a tragedy that must be addressed.
Where has All the Wrath Gone?
Since “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness…” the Church should be seeing in the Spirit God’s judgement in same-sex marriage, the rise of Islam, floods, famines, relational breakdown etc. (Rom 1:18; Rev 1:10). Like the prophets of old, all who receive such revelations will be moved to earnest prayer pleading for the divine mercy (Ex 32:10-14; Am 7:1-6; James 2:13). This is NOT happening because a people who have not received a revelation of God’s complete righteousness in the humiliation and exaltation of his Son lack the moral stomach to accept that his Father could be so angry with a sinful world (Rom 1:16). In practice we deny that the wrath of God and of the Lamb are as completely one as their love (John 17:26; Rev 6:16). We should know that the Lamb has “taken away the sin of the world” and as forgiven sons we have nothing to fear from divine wrath (John 1:29. As “our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s” we can see the righteousness of his Father’s judgements as he sees them (1 John 4:17). The Spirit testimony to us is that whatever happens to us at God’s hands is righteous and true for we are his sons and he is our Father. Through this revelation of the “Righteous Father” we are one united with the love of Father and Son (John 17:25-26). To seek a revelation of love without a revelation of righteousness is spiritual stupidity. (Which is why God’s love is not directly preached in Acts).
By wanting to know nothing of the judgements of God working in the world today the comfortable Western Church grieves the Spirit and practically denies that the righteousness of God as the Father of Jesus is revealed in everything that happens. We are spiritual infants who utterly fail to understand why the most intense scenes of tribulation in scripture are accompanied by the highest acclamations of the divine justice; “I saw another sign in heaven, great and amazing, seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished….“Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”” (Rev 15:1, 3-4). This teaching is not abstract. Intensifying times of tribulation are coming upon us, and unless we have learned to see the revelation of the righteousness of our Father in everything there will be a great falling away. Jesus prophesied that in the last days, “the love of many will grow cold” (Matt 24:12). Hasn’t it already? It is time to be mature sons, to see in everything a revelation of the goodness of the Father, even in what he appears not to be doing (Rom 8:28)