Who is God the Father? Who is the one whom Jesus encouraged us to pray to as “Our Father in heaven”?
One way to introduce him is to note that God the Father and God the Son play their own distinct roles in the gospel. The “Triunity” of God is complex but that doesn’t make it untrue. Put simply, the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are each distinctly different from the other, and are all fully God in essence.
The Bible makes no mention of “the Trinity,” which was first coined by early Christian Tertullian in the Third Century. Nonetheless, it is essential that we grasp that YHWH is three separate persons in one, all divine in their own, and all completely God. As we seek to better understand the different persons of God, we will more fully understand the gospel and God’s role as Father.
What Role Does God the Father Play in the Gospel?
The Father sent the Son as the redeemer. Sin had to be atoned, and God’s divine plan was for God the Son to become a man in order to become the perfect sacrifice. The whole plan of redemption is set in motion because of how deeply the Father cares for his children. Theologian Gerald Bray summarizes it this way:
[Jesus] suffered and died, not just for our sake but also for the Father’s, because the Father’s justice was satisfied by his atoning death. The Father acknowledged this by raising him from the dead and taking him back into heaven, where he has placed him at his right hand as the ruler and judge of the world (Acts 2:32–33; Phil. 2:9–11; 1 Cor. 15:20–28).
“[The Father] has placed [the Son] at his right hand as the ruler and judge of the world.”
What Is Jesus’ Relationship with God the Father Like?
Jesus’ relationship with God the Father in the New Testament shows us a divine relationship between two persons of God. God is eternally love, and you cannot be love nor can you love someone if you are alone. Consequently, Jesus and the Father are one and have been together since the beginning (John 10:30, 17:5, 22).
Just as God is the Father of his son, Israel, in the Old Testament, so God is the Father of his Son, Jesus in the Trinity. Jesus’ claims about God as his own Father often antagonized the Jewish religious leaders in the New Testament. Though the Jews were familiar with God as Father (Is. 63:16-17, 64:8-9), they were usually uncomfortable addressing him in this way. Despite their hesitance, Jesus contended with the religious leaders about the Sabbath by calling God his own Father, “making himself equal to God” (John 5:18).
“Jesus contended with the religious leaders about the Sabbath by calling God his own Father, ‘making himself equal to God.'”
This special relationship that Jesus had with the Father is what he wanted to share with his followers. As Jesus said in John 14:9, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”
Reliance upon God the Father
From an early age, Jesus wanted to know his Father (Luke 2:49). Because Jesus was both fully man and fully divine, it was necessary that he rely on someone other than himself for spiritual growth and heavenly authority. After all, no human can become like God on their own. Jesus, being fully man, understood this well.
The most frequent evidence of Jesus’ reliance on God through the Father is seen in his prayer life. In fact, Jesus teaches us that we also should pray to the Father (Matt. 6:6-13).
What we discover in the New Testament about the Father is that our own relationship with him depends on Jesus. We cannot access God the Father except through the God the Son (John 14:6). So our prayer life is not exclusively focused on praying to the Father, but equally praying through Christ, as he is the mediator between our words and God the Father (Heb. 7:25).
“What we discover in the New Testament about the Father is that our own relationship with him depends on Jesus.”
Submission to God the Father
The Father’s function in the gospel is to be the God of everything, including Jesus. God made Jesus “both Lord and Messiah” (Acts 2:36). God raised Jesus to life (Acts 2:32). God exalted Jesus (Phil. 2:9).
This is where it can get tricky. The Father is God and Jesus is God, but Jesus submits to the divine will of God the Father. This is seen most clearly in the Garden of Gethsemane before Jesus goes to be crucified. He prays three times to the Father to ask for some other way to forgive the sins of the fallen world. However, Christ submits his own opinion, divinity, and authority to the Father, and humbly follows the Father’s lead. (Matt. 26:39-44; Mark 14:36-39; Luke 22:42).
Although Jesus was fully God, he “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped” (Phil. 2:6). The Son is subordinate to the Father, not to be confused with being any less God than the Father.
“Although Jesus was fully God, he ‘did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.'”
God the Father as ‘God’
When the New Testament uses “God”, it’s almost always referring to God the Father. Jesus does affirm his own divinity (John 8:58), and is recognized as God (2 Peter 1:1; Titus 2:13; John 1:1, 14) but is more commonly referred to as “Lord,” “Christ,” and “Messiah” throughout the New Testament. If the three persons of God were to be represented in an illustration of a triangle, the triangle would most appropriately be isosceles, depicting the Father at the head.