In the Father Part 2

I was made curious about the expression ‘in the Father’ by an article by John and therefore I wrote something about John 14, where the most concentrated discussion about being ‘in the Father’ is.  But there are other passages where being ‘in the Father’ is mentioned.  These are few, far fewer than passages about being ‘in Christ’.  I have included those which speak of being ‘in God’ on the basis that when the New Testament speaks of God it is generally referring to the Father.  I have also included passages which mention ‘to the Father/God’ and ‘with the Father’.  I have chosen to group these according to author[1]. More passages will be explored in part 3.

The first is in John 3:21.  I will quote this passage in context.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” (NRSV).  (Note that the NIV obscures this by translating this as “through God”.)

Some of the connections in John’s Gospel have been obscured by the way in which words are translated.  ‘Deeds’ is from the word ergon which is the same word Jesus uses in John 14:11 to demonstrate that he is ‘in the Father’ because of his works/miracles (ergon).  In this passage the criteria for showing that ‘works’[2] are done ‘in God’ are two-fold, but those two are really one.  1) Those who believe in the Son are not condemned; and 2) those who do the truth come to the light, and that light is Jesus.  In other words, those who willingly come into the light of Jesus show that their ‘works’ are done ‘in God’.  Therefore, in this passage, to be ‘in God’ is to be someone who believes in the Son and willingly exposes their deeds to the light, because he or she does not love darkness.

John 10:38

John 10:34 Jesus answered, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If those to whom the word of God came were called ‘gods’– and the scripture cannot be annulled– 36 can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. 38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” (NRSV)

Here it is Jesus who is said to be ‘in the Father’.  This is demonstrated by the fact that he does God’s works.  Again the NIV prejudices us to think that works must mean miracles, by translating ergon as miracle, but this is not necessarily so.  In the earlier part of chapter 10 Jesus spoke of being the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep.  It is quite possible that this is one of the works which he does to show that he is ‘in the Father’.  In the immediate context being ‘in the Father’ is linked with being ‘God’s Son’ and being the one sanctified and sent into the world.  Being ‘in the Father’ here is about doing the works of the Father, which is an action which is directed towards obedience to the Father.  Jesus does the Father’s works not his own.  He is sent by the Father and sanctified by the Father.  Jesus is the Son of God.  His being ‘in the Father’ involves having a life which is directed towards the Father.

John 15:10

John 15:9 As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love (NRSV).  This context of this passage is the discourse about the vine and the branches, which contains many exhortations to remain in Christ and let his word remain in us.  These two verses comment about Jesus abiding ‘in the Father’s love’.  The reason that Jesus abides in the love of the Father is that he has kept the Father’s commands.  Abiding ‘in the Father’, then, must involve obeying his commands.  This is consistent with the other passages which we have looked at so far.  It is not possible to be ‘in the Father’ without being taken into his love.  The Father and the Son have a strong love for one another (John 3:35; 5:20).

1 John 1:2-3, 6

1 John 1:1 We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life– 2 this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us– 3 we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. 5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; 7 but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (NRSV)

This passage is interesting first of all because, although the English word ‘with’ is used in verse 2 and verse 3 these are actually different Greek words.  In verse 2 “eternal life that was with the Father” is referring to Jesus who is the word of life (v 1).  The same word for ‘with’ is used of Jesus in John 1:1-2.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.”  [Wallace[3] says of the preposition pros: it “indicates movement toward the object”, but in the case of John 1:1 “the verb is stative and the preposition is transitive”.  Hence the “stative verb overrides the transitive force of the preposition”.]  It is only Jesus who can be said to be ‘with the Father’ in this sense.  He has a unique relationship with the Father as he is uniquely the divine, eternal Son of God.  We are given a share in the human sonship of Jesus, but we cannot become what he is as divine Son.

The word for ‘with’ in verse three (and six) is a different word (meta), having the nuance here of association.  To fellowship with the Father (and the Son) is the result of response to the gospel.  The gospel is proclaimed to make this possible.  But this passage also makes clear that fellowship with the Father involves walking in the light.  This is an echo of John 3:21 (see above).  Fellowship with the Father is therefore equivalent to being ‘in the Father’.  It involves living according to the Father’s commands and being obedient to his will.  Fellowship with the Father, just as being ‘in the Father’ does not make sense outside of the obedient relationship of sonship.

1 John 2:1

1 John 2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate (paraklētos) with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; (NRSV).  The word for ‘with’ here is pros, which is the word used in 1:2 and John 1:1.  The advocate we have who is ‘with the Father’ is Jesus, and his relationship ‘with the Father’ is one which cannot ever be divided.  Since the Father and the Son are one (John 10:30) they are inseparable.  Thus Jesus is ‘with the Father’ in a way which is unique.  This verse does not tell us what it means for us to be ‘with the Father’, but it does tell us something of the benefit we have that Jesus is ‘with the Father’.  This is the Johannine equivalent of Paul’s statement: “For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human,” (1 Tim 2:5).

1 John 2:24

1 John 2:18 Children, it is the last hour! As you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. From this we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. But by going out they made it plain that none of them belongs to us. 20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and all of you have knowledge. 21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and you know that no lie comes from the truth. 22 Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father; everyone who confesses the Son has the Father also. 24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is what he has promised us, eternal life. 26 I write these things to you concerning those who would deceive you. 27 As for you, the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and so you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, abide in him. 28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he is revealed we may have confidence and not be put to shame before him at his coming. (NRSV)

This short passage contains the verb menō several times.  This means ‘remain’ or ‘abide’.  Abiding ‘in the Father’ surely cannot be understood without examining the connections in this paragraph which are involved in abiding.  There were certain people who proved to be antichrists.  They demonstrated this by going out from the church.  If they had been for Christ instead of against him they would have remained, or abided with the church, that is, they would have still been abiding with the people of God.  This is the first mention of abiding.  Abiding ‘in the Father’ is therefore connected with abiding with the people of God.  Those who are ‘in the Father” are people who are part of the community of God’s people.  This is not simply a matter of church membership, as if being a member of an institution would put us in relationship with God.  Those who do not love the people of God cannot love God.  Those who do not abide with those who love the truth must abide with those who do not.[4]

The second mention of abiding is in verse 24, “Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you”.  This might be the gospel because it is something which was heard.  Jesus is the one who was from the beginning (John 1:1-2).  John mentions at the beginning of the epistle that he declared what was from the beginning, “what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life” (1 John 1:1).  What was heard, seen and touched was the person of Christ, who is now declared in the gospel.  The word of life does not abide in those who do not believe in Jesus (John 5:37-38).  So this exhortation in verse 24 may be to let Jesus Christ abide in you or to let the gospel of Christ remain in you.  If this – the gospel or Christ himself – remains in you then, “you will abide in the Son and in the Father”.  Abiding ‘in the Father’ is the result then of having the gospel, or Christ declared in the gospel, abide in you.  If Christ does not abide in us we cannot be ‘in the Father’.

Thirdly, we are told that the anointing which we received from him abides in us.  “You have been anointed by the Holy One” (verse 20).  The only other mention of “the Holy One” in John’s writings is in John 6:9.  “We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”  This is a clear reference to Jesus.  The Spirit first remained/abided on Christ.  “And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him.  I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit’” (John 1:32-33).  The abiding of the Holy Spirit is also connected here to abiding ‘in the Father’.  The anointing teaches the believer all things.  Surely one of the things which the Spirit abiding in us teaches us is the reality of abiding ‘in the Father’.

Abiding ‘in the Father’ is the opposite of two things which are mentioned in the Gospel of John.  John tells us that “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36 NAS).  Those who are not abiding ‘in the Father’ have the wrath of God abiding on them.  Those who are abiding ‘in the Father’ have life.  And secondly, those who are not abiding ‘in the Father’ must abide in the darkness.  Jesus said, “I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness” (John 12:46 NRSV).  Those who abide ‘in the Father’ are in the light.

There are two relevant passages in Revelation.  The first is not clearly about being ‘in the Father’, because none of the English translations make this connection.  For this purpose the New American Standard is probably the most helpful in its literal translation.

Rev 1:6

Revelation 1:4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come; and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne; 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the first-born of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us, and released us from our sins by His blood, 6 and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father; to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

The Greek words “to his God and Father” are in the dative case, which can be translated as ‘to’, ‘in’ or ‘with’.  There is no specific word ‘in’ (or for that matter ‘to’) in this verse.  This means that I may be stretching a point here.  But I might not.  Regardless of the translation of these words, it is correct to say that this is made possible by the blood of Christ shed on our behalf to release us from our sins.  If this is translated as “in his God and Father” then this would connect being ‘in the Father’ with the shed blood of Christ and forgiveness.  This is not an outrageous idea, even if this potential translation is not one which is endorsed by Bible translators.

Rev 3:21

The final passage tells us that Jesus is ‘with the Father’ on his throne.  “To the one who conquers I will give a place with me on my throne, just as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne” (Rev 3:21 NRSV).  Here the word ‘with’ is meta, the word which was used in 1 John 1:3 about fellowship with (meta) the Father and the Son.  Jesus is seated ‘with the Father’ because he has conquered.  That which he has conquered is the world.  “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33).  The world which Jesus refers to is the unbelieving world, the world which is hostile to the creator.  So being ‘with the Father’ is set against the unbelief and rebellion of the world.  Christians are also said to have conquered.  They have conquered the evil one (1 John 2:13-14), they have conquered the antichrists who denies Jesus (1 John 4:3-4), and they have conquered the world through faith (1 John 5:4-5).  This suggests that those who have ceased their hostility to God and rebellion against him are ‘with the Father’ as Jesus is ‘with the Father’.  This is in fact the promise of Rev 3:21 above.

Summary and conclusion

1)      Being ‘in God’ involves bringing your deeds into the light.

2)      Being ‘in the Father’ involves doing God’s works in obedience.

3)      Being ‘in the Father’s love’ is the result of obedience to his commands.

4)      Being ‘in the Father’ is a synonym of having fellowship with the Father.  This can only take place within the context of obedient sonship.

5)      Those who are ‘in the Father’ have an advocate ‘with the Father’, that is, the one who cannot be separated from the Father, Jesus Christ.

6)      Abiding ‘in the Father’ happens as a result of having Christ and the gospel abide in us.

7)      Abiding ‘in the Father’ is connected with abiding with the people of God, and connected with having the Spirit abide in us.

8)      The Spirit teaches us about being ‘in the Father’.

9)      Abiding ‘in the Father’ is opposite to abiding ‘in the darkness’ and having the wrath of God abide on you.

10)  Being ‘in the Father’ is connected to being forgiven by the shed blood of Christ.

11)  Being ‘with the Father’ involves having overcome hostility and rebellion against God.

Those who are ‘in the Father’ or ‘with the Father’ obey God, do his will, experience his love, fellowship with him, have peace and forgiveness of sins, adhere to the gospel, abide with the people of God, listen to the teaching of the Spirit, are in the light and have life, and have ceased their rebellion against him.  In part 1 I concluded that being ‘in the Father’ was the goal of knowing Christ.  So although the Bible speaks far more about being ‘in Christ’ than it does about being ‘in the Father’, the work of Christ is to unite us with his Father so that we might experience the same wonders of being ‘in the Father’ as Jesus experiences.  Since the goal of believing in Jesus is to be people who are ‘in the Father’ and ‘with the Father’ we must question why so many Christians have so much difficulty with praying to the Father and fellowshipping with him as Father.

[1] I am assuming that John wrote the Gospel, the epistle and Revelation.

[2] Works is not used in a negative sense in John.  A work is an action.  It can be good or bad.  The works of Jesus are always good.

[3] Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics p 359.

[4] Compare the statement of Cyprian, 3rd C Bishop of Carthage: ‘he cannot have God for his Father who has not the Church for his mother.’

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