In part 1 and part 2 I examined several passages in the Gospel of John, the epistles of John and the Revelation of John about being ‘in the Father’. There are three more passages which are important to examine about this topic. Then I will come to a conclusion about what it means to be ‘in the Father’.
1 Thess 1:1 and 2 Thess 1:1
“Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace” (1 Thess 1:1).
“Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess 1:1-2).
The two letters to the Thessalonians begin with “To the church … in God the/our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” There are several things to note here. The first is that it is impossible to separate being ‘in the Father’ from being ‘in the Lord Jesus Christ’. This is quite consistent with the passages in John. This is because Jesus is ‘in the Father’ eternally and can never be other than ‘in the Father’. We cannot be ‘in the Father’ except for the fact that Jesus, as the incarnate Son, unites himself with us and shares with us his relationship with the Father. This is only possible because of the hypostatic union (the union of God and human being in the person of Christ). As human beings we could never be ‘in the Father’ unless God the Son became a human being, thus making it possible for the union of God and our humanity to take place. This is something profoundly amazing, and something which is the subject of great praise to the Father, who planned this from before time (Eph 1:4).
The second thing of note is that this is not about individuals being ‘in the Father’, but it is the church which is ‘in the Father’. The Father is a God who desires for himself a people. This is an often repeated refrain in the Bible.
Exodus 6:7 I will take you as my people, and I will be your God. You shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has freed you from the burdens of the Egyptians.
Jeremiah 7:23 But this command I gave them, “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk only in the way that I command you, so that it may be well with you.”
Ezekiel 36:28 Then you shall live in the land that I gave to your ancestors; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.
1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.
Revelation 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them;”
Since being ‘in the Father’ is corporate (as well as individual) we experience this oneness together as the church. The Father desires many sons to come to glory (Heb 2:10). He does not want only a few people to be ‘in the Father’, but many. This fact is reflected in the first command to Adam and Eve: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen 1:28). It was always the Father’s intention to have the earth full of his sons and daughters, because he wants his house to be full (Luke 14:23). Thus we experience intimacy with the Father together, rather than separately.
“Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, To those who are called, who are beloved in God the Father and kept safe for Jesus Christ. May mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance” (Jude 1-2). This (underlined) might be more literally translated as “to those in the Father beloved and in Jesus Christ kept, to the called.” The word order in Greek is often to emphasise something. Here it is to emphasise that it is ‘in the Father’ that we are loved. This is, of course, something which was first true of Jesus, who was in the Father before us and who is the beloved Son, something which was declared at his baptism (Matt 3:17). This tells us that being ‘in the Father’ is a place where we are loved, and loved like his Son Jesus Christ. Being ‘in the Father’ involves participating in the love relationship between the Father and the Son in the Spirit.
The conclusion of the matter
Being ‘in the Father’ is a relationship of deep intimacy. We are given a share in the intimacy which Jesus has with his Father. The relationship of Jesus with the Father is the most intimate relationship possible. Therefore, in giving us a share in this, Jesus has opened the way for the most intimate relationship which human beings could ever enjoy. This intimacy with the Father is what human beings are made for. Since humanity is in rebellion against the Father, (even those who are ‘in Christ’ are not excluded from this, because we are not yet fully sanctified), human beings try to find intimacy in other relationships, sometimes with people and sometimes with things. These can only ever be substitutes for the real destiny of humanity. When we realize that being ‘in the Father’ is the only way that we can experience the intimacy we all crave, then we will be able to rest from our searching, and repent of our substitutes for intimacy.
Since we are beloved ‘in God the Father’, being ‘in the Father’ is a place of safety. Nothing which God our Father does or brings into our lives is ever against us, but only ever for us. In knowing this fact, in knowing that we are beloved, we can feel safe to bring our deeds into the light (John 3:21). In other words, we must allow the Father to expose what we are and what we do and what we think, so that we can experience this intimacy with him without fear. The sinful substitutes for intimacy which we cling to must be brought into the light. We must come to a realisation that all that we long for is found only ‘in the Father’. Since our Father does not desire to condemn us, but he does desire to fellowship with us, we can only gain from bringing our deeds into the light. Since intimacy with God is the goal of human existence, the only appropriate response is to repent of sin so that we may fully experience being ‘in the Father.’