The Fatherhood of God
John 14: 1-14
It is indeed a true testimony, which we say during our Eucharist, that the Lord is forever the same, whose property is always to have mercy. Today’s Gospel reading is a perfect example. At no time did the heart of Jesus overflow with a more tender, merciful and sovereign love and compassion for his disciples, than when He said, ‘Let not your heart be troubled.’ Jesus knew that His disciples were distressed and uneasy about many things. He had told them that He was going to leave them; He had told them that one of them would betray Him and that another would deny Him – that they would all be offended because of Him that very night; and perhaps they may have even thought that He would be leaving them alone to fend for themselves, departing from them in anger. And so, Our Lord mercifully says to them, ‘Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.’
Yes, Jesus knew that they believed in God, that they were familiar with and believed the testimonies of the patriarchs and the prophets, of the promised Messiah and His Kingdom. These were no infidels that He was speaking to, but those who had abandoned all to follow Him as He traveled throughout the countryside, teaching the multitudes, confronting head-on the established religious elements of His day, and healing many. Yes, Jesus knew that these disciples believed in God. But Jesus also knew that believing in God is not enough, for ‘even the devils believe in one God and tremble’ (James 2:19). Jesus knew that simply a belief in God, an acknowledgement that He exists, was not sufficient to keep their hearts from being troubled. So, Jesus tenderly continues on by speaking to them of the Father, of the many mansions in the Father’s house, of knowing the Father and seeing Him, of the Father being glorified in the Son. In His farewell discourse, found in the 17th chapter of John, Jesus said while praying to the Father, ‘this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent’ and accordingly Jesus’ whole life, His words and all of His actions here while amongst us were a revelation of the Father, and of His union with Him.
With that in mind, it is my intent to speak today about the Fatherhood of God – especially in connection with a verse in our Gospel reading that has been the cause of much concern for many since that day it was first spoken by Jesus nearly 2000 years ago. Verse 6 reads, ‘Jesus saith I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.’ If we are to accept His words exactly as they are written here before us, then Jesus is undeniably saying that no man or woman, regardless of how earnestly they desire, or diligently they labor, or sincerely they believe in the existence of God, can be brought into the presence of God the Father, except through Himself, the Christ, the Eternal Son of God. This claim rankles and irritates so many people like no other. This is not some idle declaration that Jesus has spoken, not some arbitrary statement, and definitely not one upon which we can be ambivalent, non-committal, undecided, or without opinion.
Think about it for a moment; Jesus has told us that God is our Father – In what sense are we the sons and daughters of God? Some say that the Fatherhood of God is universal, and that every man and woman, from the fact of their being created by God may consider God their father. But did He not also create the mountains and the beasts that roam the earth and the stars that exist in the farthest reaches of the Universe, as well as the vermin and the parasites and those ghastly roaches we sometimes see scurrying around on the floor when we turn on the lights? If He is our father because He created us, then assuredly He is also their father, and they are our brothers and sisters. But such is not the teaching of the Holy Scriptures, for we are taught to come before God, looking upon Him not as our Father through creation, but as our Father through adoption and the new birth. To approach God as Father requires something beyond creation to constitute such a blessed relationship, and this is why Jesus was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary: suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried: Why He descended into hell and the third day rose again from the dead; why He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
The entire Bible, from cover to cover, bears witness to the fact that strictly by nature we have no avenue, no path to the Father. We are by nature full of sin, and God is, by nature, infinitely holy – and as such must turn away from sin for He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. This was undeniably revealed to Adam and all the patriarchs that were to follow. In the beginning, back in the garden of Eden, God dwelt with Adam, and walked with him, and communed with him; but when Adam fell, rejected God’s word as truth and disobeyed Him, he was ‘driven out of paradise; and God placed at the east of the garden of Eden, cherubim and a flaming sword, which turned every way to guard the way of the tree of life‘,(Genesis 3:24). This flaming sword between the cherubim signified that the doorway was closed, that direct communion between man and God no longer was possible. And if it had not turned every way – if it had left some slight entryway unprotected – then Adam might have endeavored to sneak in by that path, as so many have since tried, attempting in their own way to reach the tree of life. Yes, from the moment when Adam touched the forbidden fruit, the way from God to man became blocked, the bridge had collapsed, a great gulf was fixed, so that if it had not been for the divine plan of grace, we could not have ascended to God, neither could God in justice come down to us. Every way was blocked – for man by nature, in his own effort, will never find access to the Father. And as such man was constantly kept in remembrance.
In the burning bush, God appeared to Moses as a consuming fire and warned Moses not to come any closer for he was on holy ground (Exodus 3:5). When God condescended to dwell among the children of Israel, He dwelt specifically in the Holy of Holies – the innermost area of the Jewish temple. There the visible sign of His presence rested between the cherubim – described to us as a light inaccessible and full of glory or as a cloud that filled the temple. But this innermost area, what is referred to as the secret place in the Psalms, was separated from the holy place by a curtain or veil, and through that veil no man was allowed to pass, lest he should die; no man that is except the High Priest, who entered in, but once a year, and not without blood for his sins and the sins of the people. A more clear picture could not be painted expressing that the way into the holiest did not exist – that indeed sinful man had no way of entering into the presence of God.
No man could find out this path of life; but Jesus says, ‘I am the way.’ He did not leave mankind, the poor sons and daughters of Adam, to vainly struggle without success in their attempt to find a way into paradise and communion with God, but rather He left the bosom of the Father, so that He might open up a way for us, in Him, into the bosom of the Father. And how did He do it for God had placed the flaming sword to protect the tree of life. Was it by exerting his divine authority, and commanding the flaming blade to withdraw? No, for that would have been to dishonor His Father’s law, instead of magnifying it. The eternal Son became a man in our stead – took our sin upon Himself and bore our iniquities. He approached that blade, and fell beneath its piercing blow and paid the penalty. And what of the veil, did He pull it aside that we might steal in secretly and easily into the presence of the Father? No; but rather, He made by His one oblation of Himself once offered, a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world – an offering to satisfy Divine justice and reconcile us to God. When He said from the cross, ‘It is finished’, and bowed his head and gave up the ghost, the veil of the temple was rent in twain, from the top to the bottom. The punishment of the law was borne – the demands of the law were answered – the way to the Father was accomplished! He has prepared the way by going before us as our Head and Representative, and taking possession of it for all the members of His mystical body. He has prepared the way to the Father by carrying our names with Him as our High Priest into the holy of holies.
But what about those who are not in Christ, not members of His mystical body? Ah, that is the question, is it not? It avails nothing that a man is clever, learned, highly gifted, amiable, charitable, kind-hearted, or zealous about this or that religion. All these will not save his soul if he does not draw near to God by Christ’s atonement, and surrender himself to God’s own Son as his Mediator and Savior. God is so holy that all men, regardless of their deeds, thoughts or intentions, are guilty and debtors in His sight. Sin is so sinful that no mortal man can make satisfaction for it. There must be a mediator, someone to pay the ransom, a redeemer, between God and ourselves, or else we could never be saved and stand in His presence. There is only one door, one bridge, one ladder, between earth and heaven – Jesus, the crucified Son of God. Whosoever will enter in by that door shall be saved; but to him who refuses to use that door the Bible holds out no hope at all. Without the shedding of blood there is no remission. Let us beware of supposing, from the limited vantage point of our finite reasoning powers, that mere earnestness will take a man to heaven, though he knows nothing of Christ. The idea is a deadly and ruinous error. Sincerity will never wipe away our sins. But that is not all that the Bible has to speak on the matter.
Psalm 9:17 says, “The wicked shall be cast into hell with all the nations that forget God.” It is not necessary that one must hate or despise God, or contend and struggle against Him in order to inherit destruction; the simple neglect of God is sufficient to ruin one’s soul forever. Thus has the author of the book of Hebrews so aptly stated, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? (Hebrews 2:3).” Stand still and do nothing; regard Him not; shut your eyes to His existence and engross and entertain yourself with the temporary toys and allurements of this earth, and you have as surely ruined your immortal soul as if you had defied and rejected Him to His face.
Jesus said ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.’ It is as true today as it was the day He spoke it. So if it is your desire to be one with Christ and the Father through the Holy Ghost, to be sanctified through the truth, to be with Christ where He is that you may behold His glory and the love wherewith the Father has loved Christ be also within you, then yes, through Christ and Christ alone shall you come unto the Father. But, if it is not the Father you seek, but rather another God, one that more strikes your fancy, one that is not concerned with the issue of sin, then indeed there are many, many diverse ways in which you may pursue the Omnipotent; and there is no doubt that in that final day, regardless of which path you chose, you will encounter the All Powerful One – for in this one thing all these other paths do share a commonality – they will assuredly lead you to the same end – that of destruction and ruination of your immortal soul.
… Paul G. Stanley
originally given on April 24, 2005