KINGDOM BIBLE STUDIES
"Teaching the things concerning the kingdom of God... "
TO BE THE LORD'S PRAYER
"After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven..." (Mat. 6:9).
We have known so little of the scripture. We have been so busy arguing over it, formulating doctrines, creeds, and dogmas about it, that we failed to hear what it was saying. Sonship has been the theme of the scriptures from the opening scenes of Genesis to the closing dramas of Revelation. Sonship is the heart of God's great and glorious purpose from the shimmering mists of Eden to the dazzling glory of the New Jerusalem. The record begins with a son in a garden (Lk. 3:38) and ends with a son on the throne (Rev. 3:21). It is not our purpose to write the names of all God's sons, or repeat the story of each one's life on earth, but it is a beautiful story, beginning with a son "stepping down" and ending with a son "highly exalted".
What a difference one word makes! Jesus taught us to pray that wonderful prayer we call the Lord's Prayer by saying "our" rather than "my" Father. The word my implies exclusivity, as if God could be the personal property of one group or one individual over all others. Just the thought of "our Father," on the other hand, immediately recognizes God as the Father of all! The plural pronoun reveals that no son of God is an "only child." This does not mean that it is wrong, in our personal communion with God, to call Him "my Father," for Jesus Himself certainly did. But we must not approach Him feeling we have some special possession or position that excludes others we are one of a vast family of many sons of God with this same privilege.
Our Father which art in heaven is the greatest word on mortal tongue, and the truth of the Fatherhood of God is the greatest that ever dawned on the intelligence of man. But did it ever dawn upon the mind of man in such a way that other truths have done? When Peter made his great confession, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God, our Lord answered Him in joy and thankfulness, "Blessed art thou, Simon, son ofJonah; flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father who is in heaven." May we not say that flesh and blood never revealed this truth of God's Fatherhood? It is God's own direct, supreme revelation of Himself in Christ His first-begotten Son. That which marks off the message of Christ from every other is this teaching of the Fatherhood. It is unique in the history of man's troubled search for God. If we name the most barbaric of the world's religions, if we name the most refined of them, we shall Find that the revelation of Jesus quite infinitely transcends it, and does so by reason of its revelation of God's Fatherhood. It is the master-idea in the revelation of Christ, that which is the seed-bed of all that follows. It is the architectonic thought and the whole plan of God in Christ is the expression of it.
This thought is Christ's own. It is native and original with Him. In the world there had been nothing like it before. None of the world's religions knew of it. The Old Testament only vaguely refers to it. But the very first recorded words of Jesus in His earthly life and His last breathe the Father's name. The child is sought by His parents and found in the temple, and He asks them, "Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business?" Gethsemane lies behind; the agony of Calvary is ending; and the triumphant Sufferer with His last breath exclaims, "Father, forgive them...into Thy hands I commend My spirit." Whenever the Saviour speaks to God He calls Him Father. He never calls Him by any other name. Five prayers of His are recorded in the New Testament.
In each one God is addressed as Father and in no other way. Not as Yahweh. Not as Adoni. Not as God. Father! The Father is addressed by Jesus no less than sixty times in the prayer of Jesus in the seventeenth chapter of John. It is a remarkable thing. How wonderful it is that our Lord, in a prayer that covers only twenty-six verses, should make direct appeal at least sixty times to God as Father. The thought that I desire to impress upon your mind by this fact is how Christ glorified the Father and presented the love of the Father to creation through all His ministry. We should remember above all things, that He came to reveal and glorify the Father. "These things spake Jesus; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said. Father..." Father! Father! Get that word Father into your spirit. Not the word merely, but all that lies in it! Ask God to give you by the spirit of wisdom and revelation increasing knowledge of its meaning. It will take eternity to reveal all that is in that word.
Regeneration, begotten, new birth, being born again into the kingdom of God, becoming sons of God these are all principles with which every Bible student is familiar. The beautiful ANALOGY is accepted by everyone. But all this means to the average Christian is that he conjures up the nice religious feeling of thinking of himself^ //he were a real son of God, as Jesus is. The average Christian has absolutely no idea of the transcendental implications of this birth into the family of God. Most think of being a child of God as sort of an "honorary" title conferred on them by an indulgent God who accepts them as "little adopted human children" lo whom He plans to give as their reward for accepting His gift of eternal life, a beautiful park, a celestial Disney World, a spiritual playground in the sky called "heaven". This heaven is designed for them lo enjoy for eternity, loafing, romping, playing, shouting, visiting, rejoicing, playing harps, and floating about doing whatever sinless thing their hearts may desire.
But let us understand what it really means to be born into the very family of GOD. Let us turn that phrase around in order to better catch its significance. Rather than saying we are born into the family of God, it is just as proper to say that we are born into the GOD FAMILY! By way of illustration, I may say that I was, by natural birth, born into the family of Luke Eby. But this also means that I was born into the EBY FAMILY. I am of the EBY KIND. I AM EBY. Not only are men born into the family of God, but they arc born into the GOD FAMILY. Not only are we birthed into the kingdom of God, we have been birthed into the GOD KINGDOM, the kingdom which IS GOD. And startling as it may be, this GOD KINGDOM or GOD FAMILY is the ELOHIM of the scriptures! And to be born into this family means, literally, to be born into the GODHEAD!
Before you dismiss this thought as blasphemy, let us consider a dialog that occurred between Jesus and some Jews. It is recorded in John 10:30-36. "I and the Father are one. Again the Jews brought up stones to stone Him. Jesus said to them, My Father has enabled Me to do many good works I have shown many acts of mercy in your presence. For which of these do you stone Me? The Jews replied, We are not going to stone you for a good act, but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, make yourself out to be God. Jesus answered, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are GODS (Elohim)? So men are called gods by the law men to whom God's word came, and the scripture cannot be set aside or canceled or broken or annulled. If that is true do you say to Me, the One whom the Father has consecrated and dedicated and set apart for Himself and sent into the world, You are blaspheming, because I said, I am the Son of God?" The quotation of Jesus from Psalm 82:6 says simply, "I have said, Ye are gods (Elohim); and all of you are the children of the most High."
Oh! Let us see this thing as God sees it! Why do parents have children? Do they beget them for the benefit of the children that are to be born? Not at all. There is inherently a PATERNAL DESIRE within the heart of a husband and wife, in the union of the love they share. And it is this paternal nature that drives them to project the experience of the love they share into a new expression of their identity. Children are the projection of our life, our love, our union, OURSELVES, into an extended and expanded reality. If you had one son in whom you found unspeakable delight, would it not be normal to desire another? It is exactly so with the heavenly Father who by nature and choice has purposed to have a vast family of human-divine sons who are just like His first-begotten Son. God has not brought us into His family as a hobby to play at for pastime. He has birthed us out of His own paternal desire to extend and expand HIMSELF! God is our Father because He has from eternity been in the process of begetting and bringing sons to birth, sons to be born in His image, spiritually perfect as He is perfect, ever-living as He is ever-living, God as He is God the purpose of all creation, the goal of human life, the plan of God is sonship!
The four Gospels, written in Greek, preserve for us only a few of the Aramaic words from the everyday language spoken in Galilee in the days of Jesus. Abba is one of them. "And He said, Abba, Father, all things are possible to Thee; remove this cup Irom me; yet not what I will, but what Thou wilt" (Mk. 14:36). That Jesus in His native tongue addressed God as Abba reveals something essential about His identity as the Son of God and reveals something essential about our relationship to God as our Father. The apostle Paul wrote: "And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption (placement), whereby we cry, Abba, Father" (Gal. 4:6; Rom. 8:15). The word Abba does indeed mean "father," but it is the form of address a child would use in addressing his earthly father. The origins of the word are clearly in the babbling sounds made by an infant: "dada, mama, papa, abba." At the time of Jesus, older sons and daughters could refer to their fathers as "Abba," but the connotations arising from the origins of the word were never lost. If we were lo look for an English equivalent for abba today, "daddy" or "papa" would be nearer the mark than the mere formal term "father". The formal term for father, indicating a mature relationship between father and son, is found in the Greek word "pater". This is the term generally used by Jesus when speaking of or to His Father. Thus the word "abba" denotes a tremendous child-like trust without any reasoning, whereas "father" expresses an intelligent apprehension of the relationship.
The Lord's Prayer changes everything. Everything changes when our perception of reality changes. We learn through this prayer that God is, my Father. That changes my perception of myself. I'm not just an animal dressed in clothes. I'm not a highly developed ape. Nor am I just a "sinner saved by grace" as the preachers are wont to say. No! I am a son of God the Father in heaven. That makes my origin heavenly. God is more than a Creator. God is better than a friend. God is closer than a broiler. He's more than just a wonderful teacher or a great ruler and law-giver. He's my Father. My very own Father! Anybody who has that kind of close, intimate, loving relationship with God is somebody special.
Surely our Lord Jesus was teaching us a transcendentally important lesson when He told us that we should address the mighty Creator and God of the universe as "our Father." There is but one God. There are things that the heathen called gods, ugly, repugnant, often hideous and terrifying things, that are supposed to be gods. But there is but ONE GOD; and with reverence and great respect we address Him, not as Dear God, not as Almighty God, not as 0 Thou Great Jehovah, not as 0 Thou Unknowable, Unapproachable, Infinite, Most Efficacious, Eternal Sovereign, not as Yahweh, nor yet as Precious Jesus but in sincerity and truth as OUR FATHER. The wonder of this was expressed by a brother in telling of an incident that occurred in his. life. He said: "When my daughter was about Five or six years old and passing through a certain phase which a lot of children pass through, she heard other people calling my wife and me by our first names, Anne and Jim. She thought that sounded like a pretty good idea. So she began to call us Anne and Jim. I thought that she would soon pass through that phase so I didn't say anything about it. It was 'Jim' so and so, and 'Anne' such and such, and we let it go for a few days, then a week, then a couple of weeks. Finally, I thought to myself, 'Enough is enough!' I will never forget the day that I took her into the living room, sat down in an easy chair, and sat her on my knees. I said, 'Sweetie, daddy wants to have a talk with you.' 'Okay, Jim, what's your problem?' I said, It's about you calling me Jim. You see, there are millions of people out there in the world who call me Jim, but none of them can call me what you can call me. You are the only one who can call me Daddy.' You see, I had entered into a closer relationship with her than even on a First name basis. The first name basis is the realm of friendship. But Daddy is the realm of worship. She was losing that and I did not want her to lose it. That was thirteen or fourteen years ago. Do you know what my name is today? Daddy. That's right! And that is very dear." Praise God, we have gone beyond the first name basis! We have come into that intimacy of relationship OUR FATHER. How Filled with meaning, reality and glory are those words!
Let us suppose that a man by the name of John Smith has a son named Mike. When Mike addresses his father he doesn't call him John Smith! Mike doesn't say, "John Smith, may I have a quarter?" or "John Smith, I love you!" No. Instead he will say, "Daddy, may I have a quarter?" or "Daddy, I love you!" Only persons who have no sonship relationship with John Smith will address him as John Smith or Mr. Smith or simply John. A son does not address his father by name, but by relationship. A son does not pray to an impersonal "God," nor lo the Old Testament "Yahweh," nor to the New Testament "Jesus." "And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father\" Jesus came to reveal the FATHER'S NAME. He came not to reveal some other name that the Father has had He came to reveal the name FATHER. To all those blessed ones apprehended of God to sonship there is a recognition, a conscious awareness, when we pray, or praise, or worship, that it is to our FATHER. What that holy name means is more than I can say in a thousand articles such as this, but this we may well know He who is called Father must of necessity have a relationship with His sons and daughters that transcends that of any father on earth that we have ever known. Every boy and girl in the world likes to be able to look up to his or her father as the most dear and exceptional man on earth. Unfortunately some are deprived of that love, but we will never be disappointed with our Father who is in heaven.
Christ taught us to pray what no one else ever did, what Abraham never did, what Moses never did, what David never did, what the prophets and priests of Israel never did; He makes us understand it still: that the mission of the Spirit is to cry, "Abba, Father!" and help us to know Him. How wonderful is the fact that in teaching us to pray Christ never taught us lo pray to Himself; never taught us to pray to the Holy C^ost; never taught us to pray to Yahweh; never taught us to pray to saint or angel, Virgin, or human being. How simple is the teaching, how simple is the prayer, "Our Father." Oh, that is it!
God has revealed Himself to us in a three-fold manifestation as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and He brings us into relationship with Himself in each of these three manifestations. All Christians have entered into a relationship with God as Son, experiencing Him as SAVIOUR in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, I am the door: by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved" (Jn. 10:9). In this "Saviour" relationship we come to know Him in the joy of sins forgiven and the blessed reality of redemption. Jesus as Saviour is the door, the gate the entrance into the Kingdom of God. As we go on in God we experience Him as the Holy Spirit the ANOINTING the presence and power of God working in and manifesting through our lives. But ultimately we must grow up to truly know and experience Him as OUR FATHER.
"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (Rom. 8:14). First we note this word "sons" is from the Greek "huios" meaning MATURE SONS, a fully developed one, strong to bear the responsibility and position to which he is appointed. There are different words used throughout the Greek text which speak of the whole range of growth and development from a babe, new born, on through the young lad, till one arrives at maturity, tint there is a GROWING UP into Christ, who is the Head, so that "when I become a man, I put away childish things." And God is indeed bringing forth SONS, mature ones, developed and disciplined, conformed to His image, which shall also give expression to HIS NATURE.
You can usually tell the difference between a babe in Christ and a more mature son by their terminology. The babe knows JESUS THE SAVIOUR, and will always be talking about Jesus, calling on Jesus, "Jesus...Jesus...Jesus!" This is quite natural, although unscriptural. However, as one grows up into Christ he receives a revelation of the FATHER. When a baby is born it knows nothing about its father. This understanding comes through growth and development, becoming more precious and meaningful as time goes on. The cry of a son is "FATHER!" Our sonship is the extension of Christ's sonship, the Spirit of sonship within us is the Spirit of THE SON. The new man within IS CHRIST. The Spirit of the Son, the Christ within cries not, "Jesus!", because it is the Spirit of Jesus. This Spirit causes us to cry, not Jesus, but FATHER! A simple truth is this: If there is a spirit within you that cries "Father!' then know, my beloved, that you are beginning to enter into your sonship to God!
In His great sermon on the mount Jesus was teaching His disciples not to worry about the future or the mundane things of this earthly existence. He said, "Take no thought for your life, what ye shall cat, or what ye shall drink, nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on, etc." He reminds them that our heavenly Father takes care of even the little birds and feedeth them, and then He says, "Are ye not much better than they." He tells them how God causes the lilies to grow, and has clothed them with such beauty, and the grass of the Field; and then He continues, "Shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith...for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things." Yes, it is our heavenly Father that is the source of our supply; He is the giver of every good and perfect gift; the supplier of every need on every level, and Jesus wanted us to know this and to know and trust this mighty God as our Father. Jesus said, "It is not I that doeth the works, but My Father who dwelleth in Me." So it was God the Father who healed the sick, it was the Father who stretched forth His hand and did signs and wonders, who cleansed the lepers, made the lame to walk, and raised the dead. Jesus Himself said so. It is still the Father who does the works today, and we know nothing of sonship until we thoroughly understand this principle. Though the Son and the sons are the channel through which the divine fullness flows, the Son and the sons are not the source, the Father is the source of all. From the Father flows the mighty river of divine fullness. Though two thousand years ago it flowed through the channel of His First-begotten Son, and today may flow through the channels of the sons of God, it does not originate with any of us; the Father is the source, and all emanates from God the Father. To know Him, the only true God, is to be joined unto Him, the fountain of Life; to be one with Him who is the fountainhead of all life, wisdom, love, power and goodness, is to i have eternal life, and to be a channel through which the divine fullness can flow. Truly, "There is but one God, the Father, of whom are are all things..." (I Cor. 8:6).
When we look at some of the prayers of the early disciples, we can see how, and lo whom, they prayed. "For this cause," wrote the apostle Paul, "I bow my knees unto the FATHER of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant to you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with His might by His Spirit in the inner man." Again, "I cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him" (Eph. 1:15-17). Every other prayer in the epistles and the book of Acts is prayed to the Father. And James pointed out that "Every good gift, and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights..." (James 1:17).
The Church world today has lost the cry, "Our Father!" Humanity never really had it, until Christ revealed the Father. "Have we not all one Father?" Yes, but men do not know it, and they do not pray to the Father. They pray to God, to Jesus, to Yahweh, to the Holy Spirit, to the blessed Virgin, to the saints; but few pray to the Father. Never shall the heart of mankind be turned, father to son, mother to daughter, until they know God as Father. Never shall we understand the mission of Christ, or the true value of our lives, until we know that He came from the Father to reveal the Father, because we too came from the Father, and He is the way to the Father, and will bring us back to God. Never shall men understand the mighty power of that word "Father" until they know that all things are from the Father; that all things subsist by the mighty operation of the power of the Father.
Let us not forget that God is our Father not the Father of some men, but the Father of all men. He was the Father of Adam (Lk. 3:38) and we are all the offspring of Adam; that is why it takes the second man, the last Adarn, lo bring us back to the Father. The propitiation which Christ made is not for our sins only, "But also for the sins of the whole world" (I Jn. 2:2). The Father's love is reaching out to all humanity, to every prodigal son, far away from Father's house. The message of Christ was a message from the Father, and when He left us He said, "I ascend unto My Father and your Father, and My God and your God."
Consider the scene with me. Up the victor's way, to the temple of Jupiter, swept the procession one Roman holiday. It was the procession of a victorious general who bore the title of Caesar. He swept on with all His panoply and pride, a victorious leader amidst the plaudits of the people. Standing in his chariot, he reined in his horses and bowed grimly from side lo side as the people proclaimed him, "Ave Caesar, Imperator! Ave Caesar, Imperator!" He heard their cry, "Caesar, lmperator!" and rode on with the captives chained to his chariot wheels, while behind him came the kings and princes of the lands he had conquered with his great generals and mighty soldiers. The music was ringing, the shields clashing, while the people shouted, "Ave Imperator Caesar!' Suddenly there is a hush. Out from the crowds comes a little child and raises his tiny hands, with a look of infinite satisfaction and love. He has burst from a mother's or a nurse's arms, he has leaped into the victor's way, almost beneath the horses' feet, and has uttered only one word. The little boy's cry is not "Caesar"', it is not "Imperator" but "O Pater! 0 Father!" Caesar reined his horses, held them in check, stopping the entire procession, and the little fellow, almost run over, kept up the cry, "O Pater!" Handing his reins to the charioteer the Imperator leaped from his chariot and raised the child in his arms and kissed him. Then louder than ever rang the cry, "Ave Pater! Ave Pater! Hail, Father!" They saw that the heart of the Caesar was the heart of a father; as he embraced his child and kissed him and mounted his chariot holding him to his breast, the people continued to shout amidst smiles and tears, "Ave Pater!"
Oh, great God! God is wonderful! God is all-powerful! He is the Imperator! He is absolute. But God is merciful! If you but cry, "Father, Father!" He will rein the chariots of the stars; He will reign the chariots of the suns; He will rein the planets in their courses, and He will leap from His heaven, and raise His child to His heart. He is your Father; He is my Father. He is our Father and "like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him."
Ray Prinzing, in his excellent little book SONS OF THE HIGHEST, wrote: "Jesus came to be The Way, The Truth, and The Life to save the world, this is true, but He also came to reveal the Father. He did not fence everybody in to a 'Jesus realm,' He came as our Saviour, yes, but also to be much more than that! When He declared Himself to be THE WAY, He did not mean just a way to escape hell and go to heaven, but that He was the way to the Father, and as the Man Christ Jesus, partaking of flesh and blood, He knew the limitations of our human realm. He also knew the Source of fullness, and so He said, "I go to my Father, for my Father is greater than I" (Jn. 14:28). The Father is greater than all manifested realms of sonship. Fatherhood is the position of being part of the life-giving force.
"Although He was actively doing the works of His Father, so that He was able to say, 'Son, thy sins be forgiven thee...' (Mk. 2:5), yet when it came time for Him to pour out His life at Calvary, and He faced those who would crucify Him, though He was well able lo forgive them, still He said, 'Father, Forgive them; For they know not what they do" (Lk. 23:24). He knew that while the eyes of the multitude were riveted upon Him, yet they saw only the outward human form, and recognized Him as the 'Son of man," and though it would have sounded noble to a few, for Him to have uttered His own words of forgiveness, yet even in that moment He sought to raise their consciousness to a higher level, and thus He directed their attention TO THE FATHER, for total forgiveness comes from Him. And in due time man would understand 'that God was in Christ, reconcilling the world unto Himself. (II Cor. 5:19).
"There is a ONENESS WITH THE FATHER, a relationship that He would have us enjoy, where we receive directly from Him all that we need. Jesus also spoke of that deeper dimension when He said, 'In [hat day ye shall ask Me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you. Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My Name, He will give it you' (Jn. 16:23). This surely bespeaks of a deeper relationship with our God. The evidence of our salvation being clearly revealed, the mediatorial work of the Son being complete in our personal behalf, we shall have DIRECT ACCESS TO THE FATHER. This does no despite or injury to our Saviour, rather it redounds lo His glory, for it reveals that His workings in us have been successful, and that we are now prepared to enter into a deeper relationship with Him, able to approach the Father in His name, we stand in the character and nature of all that His name implies" end quote.
To the above Paul Mueller adds these instructive insights: "There is another significant slop for us in our spiritual growth in God. It is the maturity of our worship and devotion to the Father. Although Jesus accepted the worship of others, He clearly directed those who were more spiritual to worship the Father. He said, 'But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him' (Jn. 4:23). Many Christians see Jesus as their advocate with God, and it is scripturally correct for them to do so. They call on Him to deliver them out of their tests and trials. They seek an escape from those trials, for they cannot sec what we sec. Father has not opened the eyes of their understanding as He has done for us. But there is a realm in God that is above and beyond that realm of immaturity: it is the realm of the worship of the Father. In this higher spiritual realm of greater maturity, we relate directly to the Father.
"The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father. Yea, the hour is here now, and a people are now worshipping the Father in spirit and in truth. It is not that a certain date was reached, and the hour arrived. It is that we matured in God to the point where we now worship the Father. When we grew sufficiently in the Spirit, the hour of our more mature worship of the Father came. Now we can say we are 'true worshippers'. We speak directly to the Father and relate to Him in all things. In this higher realm of worship, our Father reveals His secrets and mysteries plainly to us (Jn. 16:25). We have now come into the greater son relationship with our Father. Now the scripture is fulfilled in us. We are sons marked for the adoption of sons. 'And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son (huios, a mature one); and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ' (Gal. 4:5-7). That we are sons of God is certain. But though called to be sons, we were once babes, then young children, then servants, then young, immature sons, and now, we are more mature sons by virtue of our spiritual growth. But we are not merely more mature sons, we are sealed sons. We are marked and identified by our Father as those who shall receive their adoption (Rev. 7:3-4).
"Jesus also said, 'At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: for the Father Himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God' (Jn. 16:26-27). Let us understand clearly what Jesus was saying here. He plainly declared that He would nol pray to the Father for us, for the Father Himself loves us. In this new relationship with the Father, Jesus would not intercede for us. Our Father Himself would take our petitions, for we have been raised to the level of 'kings and priests unto God and His Father' (Rev. 1:6). Our union with God has increased! By our spiritual maturity and growth in God, we arc kings and priests unto our Father. Speaking of our relationship with the Father, Jesus made this amazing statement: 'And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, He will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall show you plainly of the Father' (Jn. 16:23-25).
"We have entered a new relationship with our Father. The old form of worship is being replaced. We arc now walking with our Father as His sons. Our sonship relation with Him is being confirmed. We are now privileged to ask of our Father that our joy may be full. By the Spirit, we are believing for the heathen as our inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for our possession (Ps. 2:8). This is the purpose of the kingdom of God. Our new relationship with the Father confirms us as kings and priests in His throne and kingdom. Our Father is no longer speaking to us in proverbs. He is no longer treating us as children or servants. In this new relationship with the Father, He is now dealing with us as His sons in a one-on-one relationship (Rev. 3:20). He is now showing us things to come which are being revealed plainly of the Father" end quote,
THE FATHER OF SPIRITS
The reverent heart is made to wonder at the unmistakable simplicity of the ways of God. Long centuries ago the apostle penned these meaningful words, "We have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the FATHER OF SPIRITS, and live?" (Heb. 12:9). This verse tells us that just as our natural, earthly father is the father of our flesh, so is God the FATHER OF OUR SPIRITS! Ah, He is not the Father of your empty religious rituals and static creeds; He is not the Father of your denomination; He is not the Father of your flesh; He is not the Father of your carnal mind, your self-will, or your fleshly emotions. You can never meet God in any of those realms He is not there. God is the God of your spirit, you must be in your spirit to be with God and touch God. Today I am silting in my office in El Paso, Texas. If you go to Dallas you will miss me. If you go on any other street, you will miss me. If you stand outside my house on the street corner, you will miss me. You must come to the door and enter my dwelling to be where I am and know me. And you must enter into where God is to know Him. God is the God of our spirits! We all need to turn to the spirit. From thence is the fountain of all life!
God is both Creator and Father. There is a vast and distinct difference between the two. A scientist may invent and construct a robot that walks, talks and works. Is he then the father of the robot? No one would impute fatherhood to the scientist because of his invention. He is clearly the creator, but not the father. Should another scientist invent an egg that hatches a bird, would we then characterize the scientist as the "father" of the bird? Certainly not! In the beginning God said, "Let us make man in our image, and after our likeness" (Gen. 1:26). God made cattle to reproduce "after their kind," after the cattle kind. He made every winged fowl to reproduce "after his kind," after the bird kind. That was the standard of parenthood in that long-ago beginning, and still is, ONE'S OWN KIND must be brought into being before parenthood is conceded. It was clearly God's purpose to make man AFTER HIS KIND. Incredible as it may seem to those who have no understanding of the revelation of God, God is a FAMILY. "I have said, Ye are gods, and all of you are children of the most High" (Ps. 82:6). "For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named" (Eph. 3:14-15).
Is God, then, a man?. Unless we can establish that God is a physical and corporeal Being with a body composed of flesh and bone, then His creation of man did not make Him a "father" any more than did oceans full of fish, or mountains filled with bear and elk. The book of Genesis gives two accounts of the origin of man. As I have studied the Word of God, many things have become very evident, one of which is that there are two distinct creations or works of God revealed in chapters one and two of Genesis. In Genesis 1:26-27 the first of these creative acts, in respect to man, is presented, and as we consider the wonderful advent of man created "in the image and likeness of God" we can only conclude that this is a SPIRITUAL MAN brought forth out of the very spirit-substance of God Almighty and bearing His own divine nature, character, and attributes. The image of God is the nature of God reproduced in man. The second work of God wrought upon man is related in Genesis 2:7 where we see this significant action taking place: "And the Lord God FORMED MAN OF THE DUST OF THE GROUND, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." Reading this passage we have the definite assurance that, as man has first been "created" in the spiritual image of God, a further work is being carried forth and the man is now being "formed" into another expression "FORMED of the dust of the ground," thus becoming a "living soul" manifest in the earth realm. The First is the created man, the second reformed man. The first is out of God in the spirit, the second is out of the earth after the flesh. The first is a spiritual man bearing God's image, the second a physical man resembling the animals. The First bears the image of the heavenly, the second bears the image of the earthly. The first is known unto God in the Spirit, the second is known by the creatures of earth. The very fact that the scripture states that Adam became a living soul, reveals that there was a process from pure spirit existence, into a lesser realm.
The Lord Jesus in His resurrection said, "A spirit has not flesh and bone as ye see Me have" (Lk. 24:39). He also said that "God is a SPIRIT" (Jn. 4:24). Therefore, in order to become a "father" it was necessary for God to bring one or more spirit beings into existence. Then, and only then, could He be classed as a "father". Paul speaks of this Fatherhood of God in his teaching on the discipline that God applies to His sons. "Furthermore we have had Fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the father of spirits, and live?" (Heb. 12:9). God is here declared to be the Father of SPIRITS. This is clearly not speaking about either angels or demons, for the whole subject of this chapter is SONSHIP. God is not the Father of angels any more than the scientist would be the father of his robot, for they are created spirits, not begotten. "For unto which of the angels said He at any time. Thou art My Son, this day have I BEGOTTEN THEE? And again, I will be to him a Father" (Heb. 1:5). Only spirits which are born spirits arc the children of God. All others are created spirits, a different "kind" of spirit life than God. God is the Father of OUR SPIRITS! What a glorious reality!
"For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named" (Eph. 3:14-15). You see, everybody came out of God. Your spirit came out of God's Spirit. It's a part of God's Spirit. But you'll never know anything about your spirit until the inspiration of the Almighty gives you understanding. "There is a spirit in man, and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding" (Job:32:S). The word "inspiration" in the Hebrew means "breath, wind, or spirit." When you receive the Spirit of Christ into your life, He quickens your spirit. His Spirit then "bears witness with your spirit that you are a son of God" (Rom. 8:16). Only when your spirit is quickened by His spirit are you awakened to your true identity to know the true value of your life.
The prophet Zechariah declared that from the beginning God "stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundations of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him" (Zech. 12:1). Who can gainsay the obvious truth that the outward physical form we recognize as man is indwelled by a spirit? The mighty Moses declared that God is "the God of the spirits of all flesh" (Num. 27:16). The apostle Paul said, "For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him"? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the spirit of God" (I Cor. 2:1 1). And again, "And I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Thes. 5:23). These passages, and many more like them, lead us to the inevitable conclusion that God, as "the Father of spirits," has begotten myriads of spirit beings. God did not become our "father" by virtue of the physical body being fashioned in His own image. Did not God Himself command that IMAGES were not lo be worshipped or revered? That is, the image should not be confused with the living reality. It is not the outer man, the physical-body-image that made God a Father, but that spirit which He exuded into the face of that image when He "breathed into his nostrils the breath (spirit) of life."
God is spirit. Get a Fix on this one grand truth God IS SPIRIT! Spirit is not His memory, spirit is not His afterglow, nor is spirit merely something He created. Spirit is what God IS. It is what He was before there was the "beginning". There was a time when there was only God. "And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist" (Col. 1:17). "The spirit is life" reality. Going on within our God are so many wondrous things, and they are all spirit reality. Fellowship is there. Life is there. Wisdom and knowledge and power arc there. Love and mercy and goodness are there. These arc not merely aspects of God they are God.
Hans Christian Anderson was a great storyteller. He could spin a yarn and tell a talc with the best of writers. He also recognized a greater writer, the storyteller of life. "Every man's life is a fairy tale," he wrote, "written by God's fingers." When do our tales begin? Many say, "Why, at birth of course, when the cord is cut and the child draws its First breath and sees the light of day." God, the storyteller of life, tells us His "fingers" were busy long before that. Long before your conception in a physical world, you existed, because you are the children of the Father in heaven. If you did not exist before your conception, then, my friends, you have no spirit ) within you, and God, the Father of spirits, the Father in heaven, is not the Father of the spirits of all men. The question begs an answer: From whence came your spirit? From God? From the devil? Did God by a special act of creation form it at the moment of your conception or your birth? Was it pro-created in the physical union of sperm and ovum? If you did not exist before your conception you are merely a beast and you do not belong to the celestial family of God, nor arc you the sons of God, nor did Jesus descend from the heavenly realms to redeem you and bring you back to the Father, and there is not much that I can tell you that will do you any good.
I turn to the passages of scripture which with divine certainty relate this. In Ephesians 1:4-5 we Find, "According as He hath chosen us IN HIM BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children (placement as mature sons) by Jesus Christ lo Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will." Blessed be God! The apostle Paul informs us that God chose and pre-destinated a company of sons before the foundation of the world. The word "before" translates the Greek word PRO meaning "to go before, precede." Hence, the Father's act of choosing the first-fruit sons preceded the laying of the foundations of the world (that is another story, but I will not deal with it here). How, I ask, could God choose you IN CHRIST and predestinate you in that long ago eternity IF YOU DID NOT THEN EXIST? Now, therefore, when I talk to you, I am talking to a household of God's sons and daughters; I am talking to a celestial race, a divine household; and these are the people of whom the apostle spoke when he wrote to the saints in Rome, saying, "For whom He did FOREKNOW, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren" (Rom. 8:29). Yes the Father in heaven FOREKNEW you, knew you beforehand, my beloved brother, my precious sister in Christ. And that can mean nothing else but that He KNEW YOU BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD and at that time when He KNEW YOU BEFORE He pre-destinated you to enter this earth experience and thereby be conformed into the image of the First, unique, and preeminent Son, Jesus Christ.
We were in Christ before the ages began. There was something in God spirit marked off with your name on it, you were chosen in Him before the garden graced the eastern slopes of Eden. You began in that long ago eternity that is the first you that was ever seen. You, my beloved, must expand your view of you.. Spirit is superior to matter. Spirit is superior to physical. The things which arc not seen existed before the things that are seen, and the things which are seen arc temporal, whereas the things which are not seen are eternal, saith the Lord. Spirit was before matter came to be. Spirit outlasts the physical. Your body did not yet exist, nor your present strange personality but God was before all things and you and I were back there in Him!
Spirit is superior to physical. Eternity is superior to time. Non-dimensional is superior to dimensional. God, the eternal spirit, created something that would not last. I have no desire to detract from the material creation, but words fail me to explain how momentarily unimportant the natural realm is in comparison to heavenly and eternal things. The natural creation is here for a short visit it began and it will end. Some fundamentalists believe that the material creation has been in existence for only 6,000 years. Scientists believe that it is some twenty billion years old. But even twenty billion years is but a moment, an infinitesimal time in relation to God and eternity. It is so insignificant in the greater scheme of things. And you were marked out in Him, I was marked out in Him, before the worlds began and that makes the part of me that is spirit very, very important!
I do not hesitate to say that only that which is spirit is real. "The things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" (II Cor. 4:18). "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing" (Jn. 6:63). "Except a man be born of...the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (Jn. 3:5). "For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the spirit shall of the spirit reap life everlasting" (Gal. 6:8). "God is spirit" (Jn. 4:24). There is something within you, there is something within me that is crying out across time, longing, yearning, searching for that which we were and are and shall be. But caught within the limitations of time and space it is so difficult to put your hand through that wall and reach back into a realm that you can't see, fee] or hear. If you can penetrate that wall, what you touch on the other side is real. It is invisible, but very real.
As poor Job sat on the ash heap in the midst of trial and suffering the Lord commanded him lo stand up like a man and respond to the questions He, the Lord, would put to him. The Lord then asked forty questions, none of which Job could answer. Among the questions was this one: "Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth...when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" (Job 38:7). Job was speechless, for he had no idea where he was in that time of long ago, if ever he knew his memory had failed completely. The truth, however, it seems to me, was that Job was there among the company of the sons of God, beholding with wonder the plan of God on earth with its sufferings and testings and the glory that should follow. These sons of God that shouted for joy on that primeval morn understood the wisdom of a plan by which they should gain the enlightenment of perfection by experience instead of an inherent and innate perfection guided only by divine instincts, and that the sufferings of this world are not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to follow as a result of them, and so awesome was the prospect that they shouted for joy in holy expectation. We do not shout unless there is something to shout about. The message is clear there was a time before the foundations of the earth were laid; there were sons of God who already existed in that ancient time; and those young sons of God lifted their voices with the morning stars in contemplation of the marvelous purpose they were to fulfill. It is precious to know that God's first Son, our own Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, is named the Bright and Morning Star.
Never were words more sublime uttered by sage or prophet than those spoken by king David when lie lifted up his heart to God in a prayer of thanksgiving and adoration saying, "Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever Thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting. Thou art God" (Ps. 90:1-2). Here the prophet David assures us with great plainness of speech that the Lord has been our dwelling place in all generations. Even before the mountains were brought forth or God had formed the earth, from everlasting to everlasting He is our God and in Him we dwelt and from Him we came. Our spirits were with Him before the creation of the earth, for the Father was then our dwelling place. We were sent to this earthly realm for a wise and glorious purpose for testing, learning, instruction, training, discipline, and perfection preparation for our part in that magnificent work of deliverance of the whole creation from the tyranny of darkness, decay and death. The Psalmist said, "Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men" (Ps. 90:3). The Lord turned man to destruction, which is to say, He sent us down to this earth realm of dust, sin and death, and then said to us, "Return! ye children of men." What a revelation that is!
Far away in the depths of my spirit today there is a chord that still vibrates to that wondrous shout of joy before the foundations of the earth were laid, when, in that long forgotten past we were there with the Father in spirit, and there is an inward sense of assurance that much of the truth we now possess was known to our spirits since that early beginning. Because the spirit is burdened down with the earthly and visible, man has come to the place in his experience where the inner sanctum wherein God lives in man's spirit is veiled by the flesh and his spiritual consciousness is imprisoned by this gross material realm. We remember not the things of old until that heaven blest day when Christ comes in quickening power and touches the mind of our spirit, restoring the memory of those former things. For lack of true understanding we call this restored memory "revelation". When by the eyes of spirit we see Jesus, crowned with glory and honor, the powerful attraction kindled in our hearts for Christ and reality is, in fact, just the beginning of the wonderful RENEWING OF THE MIND to recall again the things of that high and holy realm from whence we came. The "re-newing" of the mind means to make the mind new again and can be nothing else but the restoration of the mind to a realm of knowledge and understanding previously enjoyed. The renewing of the mind is our deliverance from spiritual amnesia. "But God who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus...for we arc His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath BEFORE ORDAINED that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:4-10).
From out of eternity, Before time began; In the bosom of the Father, While the morning stars sang, I shouted for joy, While beholding His great plan; God's purpose on earth, His election in man!
While meditating upon the wonder of these things, I was struck by the Lord Jesus' statement in Matthew "Call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven." It seemed to be asking me if I was thinking of God as my Father or if I was instead simply thinking of myself as the outcome of a whole network of human beings who stretched back through time to our proverbial ancestors Adam and Eve! In other words, instead of thinking of ourselves as the outcome of materiality, we can all relate to our Father in heaven, just as Jesus told us to. And since God is spirit, it follows that in our true nature we must all be spiritual because we arc His children. Looking at ourselves from this spiritual basis can really bring about a great change in our lives. It can set us free from inherited tendencies or from a checkered past. For instance, if one's human family has been a bit on the shady side of the law, or with a disproportionate number of alcoholics, this knowledge of our true identity and the true value of our life can help to free us from believing we're stuck with repeating the same mistakes.
I saw this very clearly during the time when I traveled to the Alps of northern Italy to visit the area where my family originated many centuries ago among the ancient Waldensians. While this research was historically and personally interesting to me, I saw that I needed to reject any belief that I was a mere mortal with a whole history of material inheritances. Otherwise, I would be allowing myself to be vulnerable to whatever hereditary weaknesses that might be uncovered in my family tree at one point or another. This is where a deeper understanding of man as being truly spiritual is a great help. The belief that we are physical and the outcome of a long line of physical beings tends to us and our families into an identity in this gross material realm. This life is one that is subject to sickness, breakdown, moral weakness, and a host of other troubles, including death. In this mental and physical environment, heredity has almost omnipotent influence, as your medical doctor will be quick to point out to you. So when someone says that you have a nasty temper "just like your father," or are scatterbrained "just like your mother," or that "cancer runs in your family," take a minute to stop and think about which heritage you want lo accept for yourself. As God's child, as God's son, we can know the freedom that the truth brings. And as the offspring of God you can have the peace, blessing, life, power and order of the Kingdom of God! The truth shall set you free! Knowing that you are from above, the child of your heavenly Father, will cancel all fear, frustration, weakness and limitation. What a wonderful Father! What a glorious Kingdom! What a beautiful Reality!
Surely this is what Jesus had in mind when He gave us this most spiritual, yet practical, teaching: "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall sec God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall cat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? For after all these things do the Gentiles seek: for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him?" (Mat. 5:3,8,9; 6:19-20,25,32-33; 7:11).
To be continued...
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