Contrary to paganism, there is only "one God" (Jms. 2.19; Deut. 6.4; Eph. 4.6)—one "divine nature" or "Godhead" (2 Pet. 1.4; Acts 17.29; Rm. 1.20; Col. 2.9). God is not a fractured being, with different natures, wills, or purposes. He is a fully united being (cf. Gen. 1.1, 26).
At the same time, the Bible consistently declares that there are three distinct individuals who retain this singular divine nature. Under the New Covenant, they are known as, "Father" (Eph. 1.3), "Son" (Heb. 1.8), and "Holy Spirit" (Acts 5.3-4).
Although these three beings are one in nature, will, and purpose, they nevertheless have assumed different roles in the fulfillment of that will and purpose. It is widely known that the Son assumed the role of redeeming sacrifice (cf. 1 Cor. 5.7; 1 Pet. 2.24).
It is also generally known that the Spirit assumed the role of revealing the will of God to biblical writers (cf. 1 Cor. 2.9-13; 2 Pet. 1.21), as well as confirming that revelation through various signs, wonders, and miracles (cf. Acts 2.4; 1 Cor. 12.4-11).
But what is the role of God the Father? Consider some of the more significant divine "assignments" for which the Father is responsible.
Architect of the Human Race
There is certainly a sense in which God is the “Father” of all people, irrespective of their spiritual relationship with him.
The Father is the one who gave us all "life, breath, and all things" (Acts 17.25). The pagan poets of antiquity, whose mendacious assertions regarding the nature and will of the Almighty were often senseless, nevertheless correctly observed: "we are all his offspring" (Acts 17.28). His role in this respect is two-fold:
(1) He intricately fashions our mortal bodies.
The human body is not an accident of nature, nor a random product of macro-evolutionary "progress" (see Ardnt & Gingrich, 824; and Jackson). Rather, the Father deliberately scrutinized over how every single body part would be "arranged" and would function.
Consider 1 Corinthians 12—a chapter in which the apostle Paul compares the church of Christ to the human body. In verse 18, he said:
"But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as he pleased."
The church (the body of Christ) is ultimately in discussion here. Yet, the illustration itself is based on certain realities concerning the human body. Every single body part (or "member") has its place in the body, and was "set" (arranged) to serve in that place by God at creation. W. E. Vine noted that the aorist tense of the verb in this passage:
"marks the formation of the human body in all its parts as a creative act at a single point of time, and contradicts the evolutionary theory of a gradual development from infinitesimal microcosms" (173).
Thus, the human body was deliberately designed, not "naturally selected" as macro-evolution postulates.
It is important to note, however, that this passage addresses the formation of the human body in general, and does not discuss the Father's role in the formation of individual human bodies. Significantly, the Father not only pre-arranged the formation of the body at creation, but is intimately involved in the development of every individual body as well.
In Psalm 139, David affirmed,
“For you formed my inward parts; you covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (vv. 13-14).
The word, “formed,” is indicative of a skilled craftsman who fashions his work with immense precision and attention.
In the next verse, David wrote,
“My frame was not hidden from you, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth”
– this last phrase is a Hebrew idiom referring to the womb (v. 15). Observe especially the expression, “skillfully wrought,” which suggests that God takes great care in the formation of the body while it is in the womb, designing each one as he pleases. Indeed, his creation of the individual body is not haphazard. Rather, every human being is created "fearfully," "wonderfully," and "skillfully" (including those with significant birth "defects").
Job also declared (31.15):
"Did not he who made me in the womb make them (his servants)? Did not the same one fashion us in the womb?"
The emphasis on the individual care and attention God gives to each person's body cannot be missed. This aspect of the Father's role as architect of our race reminds us of God's astonishing personal love and interest for the entirety of the human population.
(2) He also forms our immortal spirits.
Before man became a “living being,” he was merely matter—made of the dust of the earth. But once the Lord breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, he was given a spirit.
Consequently, his flesh became alive (cf. Gen. 2.7; Job 32.8; 35.11; 38.36; Jms. 2.26). The writer of Hebrews describes him as “the Father of spirits” (Heb. 12.9). Like the fleshly body, the spirit of man is an intricately and carefully designed entity.
Zechariah 12.1 affirms that the Lord “forms the spirit of man within him.” The word, “forms,” is a derivative of the same word employed in Psalm 139.13, again suggesting skill and craftsmanship in design.
The precision and detail with which the Father created us demonstrates that we are not the product of random, natural occurrences. On the contrary, we were deliberately made “just as he pleased” — body and soul!
Sovereign Of All Things
“Sovereignty” alludes to the right to rule as one wishes, apart from outside interference.
Reference to the sovereignty of God is made in Psalm 115.3: “but our God is in heaven; he does whatever he pleases.” Too, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, in exaltation of the sovereign rule of God, boldly declared:
“For his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; he does according to his will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain his hand or say to him, what have you done."
Indubitably, the Father rules over all created things.
Yet, interestingly, the Father also acts as “sovereign” or “head” of the other constituents of the Godhead – viz., the Son and the Holy Spirit. While many passages make mention of the fact that Jesus is the head of all things (cf. Mt. 11.27; 28.18; Eph. 1.20-23), others explain that there is just one exception to this rule.
Paul, in speaking of this very subject, wrote,
“For he [the Father, AP] has put all things under his [the Son’s, AP] feet. But when he says all things are put under him, it is evident that he who put all things under him is excepted” (1 Cor. 15.27).
In other words, the Father, who gave Jesus all authority, is the only one to whom Christ is subordinate.
Paul is even clearer in this assertion in chapter 11 of the same epistle. In verse 3 he writes:
“But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.”
The subordination of Jesus to the Father is affirmed in his earthly ministry (Jn. 14.28; 8.28), during the current dispensation (1 Cor. 11.3; 15.27), and even after the end of time arrives (1 Cor. 15.24, 28). The same is true with reference to the Holy Spirit (Jn. 16.13).
"Father" of Jesus
One of the most important roles performed by the Father has to do with the conception of Jesus. While God has many sons (Gal. 4.6-7; Heb. 12.7), Jesus is the "Son" of God in a very unique sense. John refers to him as the “only-begotten son” (Jn. 3.16), an expression that literally means, “one of a kind.”
First, Jesus is not a created being (cf. Micah 5.2; Jn. 1.1-3). He, with the Father, has always existed. He is fully God (cf. Col. 2.9), which means he is "from everlasting to everlasting" (Ps. 90.2; cf. Isa. 9.6) and was not formed (cf. Isa. 43.10-11).
Yet, it was the will of the Godhead that the divine nature should "become flesh and dwell among us" (Jn. 1.14). To accomplish this, the Father miraculously impregnated a virgin named Mary (Mt. 1.18-25). Mary had not "known" a man intimately (Lk. 1.34), and yet by the "power of the highest" she conceived (cf. Mt. 1.20; Lk. 1.35).
The offspring of this union (Jesus) was known as, "Immanuel," meaning "God with us" (Isa. 7.14; Mt. 1.23). In other words, Jesus was deity in the flesh (cf. Jn. 1.14; 5.18; 10.30) — a unique offspring of the Father.
Second, though the Father is now the "head of Christ," it must be observed that this divine "hierarchy" was not always in effect. Before the incarnation, Jesus was “the Word” (Jn. 1.1) – not "the Son." Although numerous Old Testament passages portray the then-coming Messiah as a “Son” (cf. Ps. 2; Hos. 11.1), he was only a "Son" in a prophetic sense—he was not "the Son" in fact until the miraculous conception. Consider:
Before Mary conceived Jesus in her womb, the angel of the Lord announced that Jesus “will be called the Son of the highest” (Lk. 1.35). Note the future tense of the statement — he was not yet "the Son."
The grammar of this text is also illuminating. It indicates that it was because of the miraculous conception that Jesus was to be called, the "Son of God" (note: therefore, also…as in, because of this [the Spirit over-shadowing Mary in conception], he will be called that). Hence, it was the conception of Christ that made him a "Son" to God the Father.
Furthermore, in referencing two Old Testament passages (Psalm 2.7 and 2 Samuel 7.14), the book of Hebrews alludes to the fact Christ would become "begotten" of the Father (i.e., made flesh by the Father) on a specific day — "Today, I have begotten you." He observes: "I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son." These passages accentuate the different roles which the first and second persons of the Godhead would assume with each other, beginning the day of his miraculous conception.
Hence, Jesus was not always a subordinate "Son" to the Father. The first person of the Godhead was not always the "Father" of the second person of the Godhead.
Instead, before the incarnation, Christ was equal with the first person of the Godhead (cf. Zech. 13.7—"companion" signifies one who is equal in rank, a fellow-citizen). Paul affirmed that although Christ was “in the form of God” (i.e., divine in nature), he nevertheless “did not consider it robbery to be equal with God” (Phil. 2.6). The phrase, “did not consider it robbery” in the original text signifies “something to hold onto” [Strong, 1595] or a thing to be “retained” [Thayer, 74].
The force of the passage is this: although Jesus possesses the divine nature and was "equal" with the first person of the Godhead, he was not compelled to retain that equality.
Instead, he “made himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant…” (v. 7). Although Jesus certainly maintained his divine nature (cf. Heb. 1.8; Jn. 20.28), he nonetheless divested himself of an equal role with the Father, making himself subordinate to the Father’s will.
Because of the birth of Christ, then, the Father became "the head of Christ," and Christ became obliged to do his Father’s business as a submissive "Son" (cf. Lk. 2.49; Jn. 9.4).
Arbiter of the End
The Scriptures repeatedly make reference to a final day in which the “end of the world” will come (Mk. 13.39; Jn. 12.48). In fact, this event will occur immediately after the second coming of Christ (1 Cor. 15.23-24).
But while the fact of the end of the world is known, the time at which it will occur, however, is not.
Of the time of the end of the world, Jesus said, “no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mk. 13.32). Not only does this passage demonstrate the difference in individuality between the Father and the Son (for the Father knew something the Son didn’t), it also refutes the notion that anyone can identify the precise time of the end of the world. Those who are asserting that they know the year, month, and day at which Jesus will return are claiming to know more than Jesus himself knew! The Father – and “only the Father” – knew when that day shall be, and he alone has the prerogative to decide and effect it.
Provider of Blessings
Everything we enjoy in this life — whether of an empirical or spiritual nature — is ultimately derived from the providence of the Father. He is the source “from whom all blessings flow.”
In James 1.17, the Bible says,
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”
In the first place, the Father blesses all of his creation temporally. Amazingly, the Father will bless even those who defy his council, deny his existence, and blaspheme his holy name.
Consider a few ways in which these temporal blessings are manifested.
(1) Through Life. Here, we are speaking specifically of physical life. Paul said that the Father “gives life to all things” (1 Tim. 6.13). Notably, while God knows every person individually, even when we were in our mother’s womb (cf. Jer. 1.5; Isa. 49.1-5), and although he is fully cognizant of the kind of life we will live even before we were born – some good, some evil – he nevertheless permits all to live (at least for a time), for he is a God who “shows no partiality” (Acts 10.34).
(2) Through Sustenance. Life requires sustenance, and the Father provides abundantly in this respect. In fact, through the provisions of life, the Father speaks to his creation, demonstrating that he exists and cares for them.
Paul and Barnabas testified to the pagan priests and people of Lystra that God
“did not leave himself without witness, in that he did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14.17).
Regardless of how we live, the Father
“makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Mt. 5.45).
(3) Through Pain. Pain, from the human point of view, may not seem like a blessing. After all, “no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful” (Heb. 12.11). But not all blessings are immediately apparent. Although Hebrews 12 pertains to a specific group of individuals (i.e., the saved), the principle therein advocated is equally applicable to all. Suffering is “for our profit” (v. 10). By it, we learn of our own mortality (Ecc. 8.8), as well as our lack of self-sufficiency (1 Cor. 4.7). It “trains” us to “yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness” (Heb. 12.11) so that “we may be partakers of his holiness" (v. 10).
(4) Through the Preaching of the Gospel. After the birth of Christ, an angel of the Lord visited a few shepherds in the fields. The angel assured them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people” (Lk. 2.10). The phrase, “good tidings,” is translated from the word, euangelion, which in other places is translated “gospel.” Observe that this blessing was for “all people.” The “good tidings” of verse 10 is identified in verse 11.
“For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
Jesus is the "Savior" — this was the blessing for "all people!" Through the preaching of this gospel, "all people" are blessed with the opportunity to live eternally in the salvation of God (Lk. 3.6; Mk. 16.15-16). However, only those who accept and obey that gospel may actually obtain it (Titus 2.11-12; Heb. 5.8-9).
In the second place, the Father blesses only those who are saved. These blessings are chiefly spiritual/eternal in nature.
In Ephesians 1.3, Paul wrote,
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.”
While God is, in a certain sense, the Father of all creation, he is, in a very special sense, the Father only of those who are “in Christ” — who have been “born again” by obeying the word of truth (cf. Jn. 3.3-5; 1 Peter 1.22-23; James 1.18).
Many of these “spiritual blessings” are identified in the context of Ephesians chapter one. For instance, only Christians can “be holy and without blame before him” (v. 4). Only Christians are adopted “as sons by Jesus Christ to himself” (v. 5). Only Christians are made “accepted in the beloved” (v. 6).
Too, the Father blesses his peculiar people with “redemption…the forgiveness of sins” (v. 7). Furthermore, because of our redemption, the Father offers us “an inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession” (vv. 11, 14). Receiving the salvation of the Father also provides us with a special avenue of prayer (Heb. 4.16; Phil. 4.6), peace and confidence (Phil. 4.7; 2 Tim. 1.7), and a sense of “newness” that no one outside of Christ can ever truly appreciate (2 Cor. 5.17; Rom. 6.1-6; 1 Pet. 3.21).
A final observation is warranted. The fact that God even assumed a role is suggestive of his magnificent love for humanity. After all, God very well might have operated after the pattern of deism, which suggests that God simply set the universe in motion, but refuses to interfere with how it runs.
Conversely, God operates in the affairs of men (Dan. 4.17; Ps. 22.28)!
Recognition of these diverse operations of God – particularly the Father – reminds us of the fact that he is very much interested in the destiny of Man! May we, therefore, learn to be interested in him, expressing that interest in prompt gospel obedience.
Arndt, William and F.W. Gingrich. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicogo, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1967. Jackson, Wayne. The Human Body: Accident or Design?—Expanded Edition. Stockton, CA: Courier Publications, 2000. Strong, James. The Strongest Strong's: Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001. Thayer, J. H. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. New York: American Book Company, 1889. Vine, W. E. First Corinthians. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1951.