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TEXT: Hebrews 11:6

SUBJECT: Apostles' Creed #2: God the Father Almighty

This afternoon we'll continue our study of the Apostles' Creed. Last time we introduced the Creed, today we'll look at its first article, the Lord willing.

REVIEW

No one knows who composed the Creed, but a slightly shorter version can be traced back to the 2nd Century. The form we have is not quite that old, but it has been in constant use for more than 1500 years worldwide.

Like the Word of God, the Apostles' Creed is Christ-centered. Of the 109 words in it, seventy are about the Person and work of our Lord. He was the priority of the Early Church and He ought to have the same place in our theology and in our lives.

The Apostles' Creed can never replace the Bible, but it is very useful as an outline of Christian doctrine, as an easy way to spot heresy, and as a devotional aid. Martin Luther used it every day to warm his heart for Christ and to quicken him in the Lord's work.

Some think the Apostles' Creed is Roman Catholic, but it isn't. It was here long before there was a Roman Catholic Church, and-since the Reformation-Lutherans, Calvinists, Anglicans, and others have had no hesitation in affirming it and using it in their churches.

The opening words of the Creed are easy to recite: I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

THE BIG IDEA

What does the Article teach? You might say it teaches that there is a God and that believe in Him. This is true of course. But the words intend far more than this. What they chiefly do is to explain God's relationship to Christ and to everything else.

To the Lord Jesus, He is God the Father. To everything else, He is Almighty Maker of heaven and earth.

GOD THE FATHER

The Bible often calls God a Father. But in using the same word, it doesn't always mean the same thing. I thought of four separate meanings of the word.

In one sense, God is the Father of all humans and angels. Preaching to a pagan audience, Paul says of God "in Him we live and move and have our being, as some of your poets have said, for we are His offspring". If all men are the offspring of God, it follows that He is the Father of all men. The same is true of angels who, in Job, chapters 1,2, and 38 are called "sons of God" (this includes Satan, by the way).

In another sense, God is the Father of Israel. Isaiah 63:16 says, "Doubtless You are our Father.O Lord". The Lord Himself says "Israel is My Son, even My firstborn" (cf. Exodus 4:22). He appealed to His Fatherhood in rebuking the nation for their disrespect: "If I am a Father, where is My honor?" (cf. Malachi 1:6).

In a third way, God is the Father of Christians. The Lord said, "I go to My Father and to your Father". A few weeks later, the Holy Spirit was poured out on believers and to them He became "The spirit of adoption" and allowed them to pray, "Abba, Father".

But as true as these things are, they are not what the Creed is getting at when it says God the Father. Here, Father is used in a far richer sense than the ones I have listed above.

Here it means The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! This is not a quibble about words, but is of the highest importance. The word, God is meaningless. He/She/It can be anyone or anything you want Him/Her/It to be. God the Father is a little better. But as the Father of Jesus Christ God comes into sharp focus.

When the Creed was still a fairly new thing, a pastor in Milan, Italy, wrote a hymn with it in mind.

The Word in God the Father one,

The Father imaged in the Son.

He was right. Our Lord said Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father. His Apostle adds, No man has seen God at any time, the Only Begotten of the Father, He has declared Him. Hebrews 1 calls Christ The brightness of [God's] glory and the express Image of His Person. And, in Colossians 1:15, Paul says the Lord is The Image of the invisible God.

Thus, when we say God, we don't mean a Higher Power; we don't mean the one that Jews worship or that Muslims serve. We mean the Father of Jesus Christ-and no one else!

The Father and Son are distinct Persons, but their character is identical. I've heard the "gospel" preached in such a way as to make me think the Father is just and the Son is loving. That the Father punishes and the Son saves. That the Father is our Judge and the Son is our Friend.

Horse feathers! Father and Son are all of the above and equally so! Father and Son are both just. Father and Son are both loving. Father and Son are both Judge and Friend.

In saving us from our sins, the Father and Son play different roles, but they are not pitted against each other. Their character and their aims are identical-John 10:30:

I and My Father are one.

ONTOLOGICAL AND ECONOMIC FATHER

If you read an upper-end book of theology, you'll find the Father's relationship to the Son described in two different ways: ontologically and economically.

Their ontological relationship means what they are to each other by nature. Their economic relationship refers to the arrangement they made to save us from our sins.

By nature, the Father and Son are equal in every way. But, in choosing to save us, the Father and Son worked out a deal: the Father would take the superior role by sending His Son, taking care of Him, listening to His prayers, and the like. The Son would take the inferior role by being sent, becoming dependent, asking for help, and so on. Their Persons remained equal, but their roles did not.

This brings up a question: Is the Fatherhood of God an ontological thing or an economic one? In other words, was God always the Son's Father? Or-from the other side, was Christ always the Father's Son? Don't mistake what I'm saying: the question is not whether both Father and Son are fully Divine or eternally God. Yes the are-no doubt of it!

Most Evangelical scholars believe the relationship between Father and Son is an ontological one. They speak of the Son's Eternal Generation-that is the Father was begetting the Son before the world was.

Others deny this: while affirming the Eternal Deity of both Father and Son, they say God became the Son's Father and Christ became God's Son only with the Incarnation.

The views are polar opposites, but they have one thing in common: neither one of them has any Scripture to support them! Both are nothing but speculation. You're entitled to your guesses and I'm entitled to mine, but let's never forget what we're doing: we're guessing!

What the Bible has revealed about the Trinity ought to be studied with great care. What it has not revealed ought to be left alone and simply adored!

And so, what is God's relationship to Christ? He is the Lord's Father, and He and His Son share one Divine nature. The Shorter Catechism says they are:

The same in essence, equal in power and glory.

GOD ALMIGHTY

When it comes to Christ, the Father is an equal. But when it comes to created things, He is Lord.

The Hebrew word for "God" is Elohim or Elohah. This is how Genesis 1:1 introduces Him: In the beginning, Elohim created the heavens and the earth.

The word means the Strong One. Long before the Bible says God is a Spirit or God is light or God is love, it says God is Strong-not just stronger than we are, but possessing all power in heaven and earth. He exerts the kind of energy that creates the universe out of nothing. And He does it without lifting a finger. His bare word is enough. Genesis 1 is not so much about creation as it is about sovereignty.

If you read other creation stories, you find god or the gods struggling to bring order out of chaos. The darkness is fighting against them and is hardly put down. You find no such thing in the true story of creation. God calls everything into being and then shapes it all without breaking a sweat. Darkness here, light there; lower waters below, upper waters above; water here, land there; fish and birds, come out of the sea; land animals, spring out of the earth; for man, He takes special care-forming him from the earth and breathing life into him. But again, with no resistance!

What you find in Genesis 1 sets the tone for the whole Bible. God does not merely reign as a figurehead king, but He actively rules all things, down to the tiniest detail.

In his great book, The Sovereignty of God, Arthur W. Pink documents all this-giving chapter and verse where the Lord is said to rule over things material and immaterial: the stars and sun and moon; plants, insects and fish; birds, mammals, and of course, men.

The Flood is enough to show His Lordship over the weather, the seas, and the animals. Locusts and frogs obeyed Him in Egypt. Birds fed a hungry prophet; a donkey rebuked a witchdoctor. The earth opened up to swallow Korah and his people. The sun and moon stood still for Joshua; the sun moved backwards as a sign to Hezekiah.

But, of course, these are not the issues we worry about. What makes us nervous is God's control of people. If God is sovereign, we believe, man cannot be free. And if man is not free, then God can be blamed for our sins. Besides, it makes the Lord unfair, in saving one and not saving another.

Before sorting all this out, let's be clear on one thing: We have no right to pass judgment on God! He is holy and He cannot be blamed for our sins or for the sins of the devil!

Yet the Bible plainly teaches God's detailed sovereignty over man. The Lord controls the heart-"The heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord.He turns it wherever He wants" (cf. Proverbs 21:1). He controls the mouth-"The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord" (cf. Proverbs 16:1). He controls what we do-"I labored more abundantly than them all, yet not I but the grace of God that was in me" (cf. I Corinthians 15:1). He controls what we don't do. When Abimelech took Abraham's wife for his harem, the Lord prevented him from touching her-"I suffered you not to touch her" (cf. Genesis 20:6).

His sovereignty includes man's salvation and his damnation-"He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy and He will harden whom He will harden" (cf. Romans 9:18).

The sovereignty of God is not an abstract doctrine, but a practical one. If He is Lord over all, we must fear Him, obey Him, and trust Him. And more than these, we must celebrate His Lordship,

"The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice! Let the multitude of the isles be glad!"

MAKER OF HEAVEN AND EARTH

The Creed calls God Maker of heaven and earth. He is Lord, not only because He is stronger than we are, but because He made everything. I needn't go on here. In short, the Bible teaches He made everything out of nothing and He everything He made was good. Things are not wicked by nature-not men, not demons. Things are wicked by the abuse of nature. First demons and then men turned from the Lord and became wicked.

But not because God messed up or didn't foresee things clearly. No, we fell ourselves and we are lost forever. Unless an Almighty Maker of Heaven and Earth does something for us.

Which He did in His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

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