4.vii) ‘Our Father…’

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus, in teaching his disciples, constantly refers to ‘your Father’, ‘your heavenly Father’, ‘thy Father’ and ‘our Father.’ But among the people of the Gospel Standard it is deemed almost the height of sinful presumption to use such language; and yet, the Lord Jesus taught that whether it was the individual Christian – ‘when thou prayest’, or the gathered saints – ‘after this manner pray ye’, they were to address God as Father, Matt. 6:5,6, 7-9. But, despite the teaching of chapter 7:21-23, many will freely address Jesus as ‘Lord’, something which I would have thought was much more to be avoided by those that fear to presume than the using of ‘Father.’[1]

At the end of the discourse Jesus makes the previously referred to distinction between the wise man and the foolish; the former ‘hears these sayings of mine and does them’; the latter hears the same sayings but does them not. But in all my years in the denomination I don’t think I ever once heard a man in the pulpit ‘do these words’ of the Lord Jesus and address God directly as ‘Father’; the closest I heard in prayer was ‘the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; the God and Father of thy people.’ The reason for this, well, disobedience, is, again, the well worn cry, ‘fear to presume’, lack of assurance, or fear of bestowing assurance upon some in the congregation to whom it does not apply; never mind those to whom it does apply!

But spurred on by hymns like ‘And can my heart aspire so high to say, My Father, God?’ – 260, and ‘My God, my Father, blissful name! O may I call thee mine?’ – 1083, those who (while in chapel) like to think of themselves as feeble worms of the earth ‘humbly’ cry to the heavens with their plaintive plea. The answer to these questions, of course, is No. No, they cannot and will not address God as their Father, and few will assuredly call him theirs. But can these be described as suitable utterings for the body of Christ to be singing in assembly? Really these are faithless cries, but because people like to portray themselves as ‘small’ they fit very nicely into their beloved and, to be honest, comfortable low views: but actually their low views are not, as they think, of themselves, but of the power of God to work salvation and any level of assurance in them.

Perhaps of all the traditions I’ve sought to counter in this treatise this is one of the most serious; for it is a denial of the Father. Quite simply, if God is not our Father then we are not his children, regardless of any ‘blessings’ we may think we have received. God begets sons not just servants, cp. John 1:12,13; Gal. 4:1-7, John 15:15; therefore his children only know him as Father. Furthermore, refusing to call God ‘Father’ is a denial of any spiritual relationship to Christ, including that of Lord; for Jesus in his declared unity of himself with his disciples – whom he calls ‘brethren’, no less, Matt. 28:10 – is therefore not ashamed to refer to the Father as ‘my Father, and your Father’, and to God as ‘my God, and your God’, John 20:17.

But among the Gospel Standard Strict Baptists this spirit of sonship seems to be totally missing. But if they will not refer to God as ‘Father’ then where do they stand? They cannot be ‘in Christ’, for Christ and his Father are one. Do we not believe that Christ is in the Father and the Father is in him? John 14:10. In the previous verse Jesus says that those who have ‘seen’ the Son have seen the Father also. Likewise, verse 7, to know the Son is to know the Father also, cp. John 8:19. Jesus said that it is ‘the Father’ to whom we come by him, John 14:6. Indeed, true fellowship can only be with the Father and with the Son, and not with the Son only, 1 John 1:3. Why? Because the Son reveals ‘the Father’, Matt. 11:27, John 1:18. And it was not until the Son came that the Father was revealed; for this is particularly a new covenant revelation, as under the old the Father was not revealed and known. Thus if we abode in the doctrine of Christ we would have both the Father and the Son, 2 John 9, and as ‘true worshippers’ we would worship ‘the Father’, John 4:23; indeed, true worship is worship of the Father. Again, being in Christ, and by the Spirit, we have ‘access unto the Father’, Eph. 2:18.

Isn’t this wonderful! These scriptures, among others, prove that if we refuse to acknowledge the Father then we cannot know the Son, and therefore, we cannot confess in any way to have eternal life, John 17:3; cp. also 1 John 2:21-25. Perhaps some are again seeking to find and stand in that imagined but unscriptural and untenable ‘third way’ position discussed earlier. But beware, for in that last reference, 1 John 2:22, we actually read that ‘he is antichrist, that denieth the Father and [consequently] the Son’. What a state to be in!

But further to this is the fact that to deny the Father is actually to deny the work that Christ accomplished upon the cross. How can the ‘gospel’ and the ‘Christ’ which the GS ministers declare be the same as the apostles preached if the Father is not being revealed thereby, nor access to him gained? Their denial of knowing the Father, or of addressing God as Father, exposes the fact that their preaching is not new covenant preaching at all, as the Father is as yet unknown – which is, more or less, the professed fruit of their preaching.

But the verse quoted above, Ephesians 2:18, reveals that all the work of Christ mentioned in that chapter really does bring access to the Father. We, the Gentiles, with the Jews, are now ‘made nigh by the blood of Christ’, verse 13. Christ has made peace and broken down the middle wall of partition by his dying on the cross and crying, ‘It is finished’, verse 14. The ‘enmity’ that was between us and God has been ‘abolished in his flesh’, in his broken body upon the tree, verse 15; and he has reconciled us unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby, verse 16; all issuing in peace with God, and access to the Father, verses 17,18. Again, how wonderful! Oh, don’t deny the work of Christ by denying the Father.

Then again the work of the Spirit is denied by this refusal to confess sonship. How so? Because Paul, in two of his epistles, states very clearly that to receive ‘the Spirit of adoption’, that is, ‘the adoption of sons’, is a work of the Spirit of Christ, who causes you, therefore, to cry ‘Abba, Father’! – this being the natural and elemental cry of sons. Therefore if one is in Christ, is indwelt and led of the Spirit of God, then they cannot but know God as Father, and address him as such: see Rom. 8:9-17, and Gal. 3:22-4:7. To deny this work of the Spirit is to ‘speak evil in regard to’ his work – that is to ‘blaspheme’ against him. What a sinking down into a morass of unbelief this denial of the Father produces!

To deny the Father, also, is to exclude us from the number of the brethren; for who are brethren but children of the Father. But as in the denomination the words ‘brethren’ and ‘sisters’ are frequently used to describe ‘members of the church’, then why not address God, who supposedly has begotten them, as Father? Regeneration, therefore, is again denied; for sons are begotten only by a Father.

But if one did feel that he was begotten of the Father then certain other confessions would have to come about as a result. First of all he would be saying that, as a child of God, he was now ‘saved’. This would be a breaking through the barrier of ‘fear of presumption’ onto the ground of ‘I know.’ In some places where, perversely for a professing Christian church, something approaching agnosticism holds sway, this would bring forth a deep sigh, a frowning countenance, and a doubtful questioning that someone could actually attain to such a testimony: ‘sparks of their own kindling’, for sure. Also it would detach the assured individual somewhat from most around him, as the vast majority never expect to ‘rise so high’. Therefore the poor saved soul would experience feelings of isolation, for not many others can share in his experience; and as he is now one of ‘the favoured few’ then ‘we wouldn’t presume to be able to converse with him in spiritual things, especially as our own experience is so…’ what, non-existent?

But then the person brought to this level of assurance is going to have to confess the Lord openly in the waters of baptism, and ‘join the church’. And if he is a man, that will mean being called upon to pray at the prayer meeting. You see, one cannot just call God ‘Father’ without consequences. Never mind the wonderful liberty he might be feeling; never mind the sense of joy and gladness that might be filling his heart; never mind the fact that God has been merciful to him in granting him faith to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ; never mind that the goodness of God has led him to repentance; never mind that ‘the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made him free from the law of sin and death’, that the power of God has broken into his soul – despite being in a system which emphasises so much the traditions of men, and is therefore actually designed to hinder the power of God; never mind that the man is therefore an evident recipient of a veritable miracle of grace; no, above and beyond all these things, he has to sign the book as well!

And this is why I believe there are some, perhaps more, who will not openly rise so high, because they know the consequences. After all, it is much easier to leave the ‘wrestling in prayer’ at the prayer meeting to others[2]; much safer to remain silent and yet speak, in private conversation, of a few ‘spots and places’ where they ‘hope’ the Lord has met with them, but yet still not willing to declare it to all. It may be that many simply like the ‘safety’ of anonymity and non-commitment, with copious declarations of their ‘little faith’, of their barely being able to attain, of their fear of presuming: but they really should be saying, if honest before God, their denial of the Father and disobedience to his word.

But the great failing of the denomination in this regard, as I said, is a denial that the spirit of sonship could actually be manifested, known and walked in, in the chapels. This hearkens back to what we wrote of earlier in dealing with the difference between You and Thee; for saying ‘our Father’ would expose them to the necessity for corporate thinking, thereby diverting them from their quest for some ‘sweet’ or ‘precious’ experience of the Saviour’s love for themselves. But there is a body of Christ, and all the members of it are ‘brethren’, Matthew 23:8. Just read the opening salutations of Paul’s epistles to see that the apostle constantly refers to God as ‘our Father’. As that is the case, and as it is also the case that the GS will not even get that far, then how can they presume to bypass these opening verses of the epistles and go on to preach from, and seek to apply other truths from those same epistles to themselves? Unless God is their Father, unless that is their stated and professed relationship to him then nothing else written thereafter is addressed to them, or applies to them.

Therefore one can see that this denial of God as being their Father tears most of the New Testament writings out of their hands. It is ironic that although one of their great worries is fear of presumption, they walk proudly in that very path when they ‘take a text’ from any epistle which is only written to sons of the Father. What repentance is needed. Indeed, Truth calls upon the denomination to repent; for again, God will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name, and useth his word in vain.

To give one more example of this dreadful misuse and misapplication of the word of God, we can go to Romans chapter 8. Not one verse of this chapter, including the well-beloved and hoped for closing verses, can be made to apply to anyone in pulpit or pew who is not found in verses 14-17. Judge ye yourselves how the Father is dishonoured, and denied, in these things; and see how the deniers condemn themselves.

To some, perhaps, some of the things I’ve been writing here have been an encouragement. Well, be encouraged. The apostle John declared that even the little children knew God as Father, 1 John 2:13. Yes, brethren and sisters in Christ, there is a joy and liberty in the spirit of sonship; there can be a following of the Lord in faith; there can be a return to the simplicity that is in Christ; and there can be a fellowship in the body of Christ, with the Father and with the Son, without joining a man-made denomination. But I feel persuaded that to know and experience these things scripturally, one must ‘come out from among them and be separate’. Now although this will be a costly thing to do, still, remember that the Lord does build up Jerusalem, he does gather together the outcasts of Israel. That is my hope and expectation, and it will be yours as well.

 

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[1] Again, I wonder if part of the reason for this is that Christendom in general so readily, and mostly presumptuously, addresses God as Father. Well, what of it? Surely that is no reason for those truly born of the Father to refrain from expressing their true sonship. Many legalists and Arminians use the God-honoured version of the scriptures, but that would be no reason for lovers of the truth to throw it away.

[2] Although in the end I came to suspect that the vast majority of these ‘prayers’, being ‘vain repetitions’, ascended little higher than the chapel roof, for all the holy sounding, ‘solemn’ tones in which they are uttered.

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