[Jesus Said:]“My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” (John 5:17, NASB95)
I remember as a young boy 1 hearing my dad get up at 4:30 every morning in order to get ready for work. Some Saturdays I even got to get up with him on rare occasions and go to the office with him. Dad worked at AT&T in Chicago doing something with engineering working in a cubicle lovers paradise. On his office floor were rows upon rows of cubicles each containing a desk and a computer and who knows what else. He would set me up at a desk to play around while he did whatever work he was going to do. To this day I’m not certain what my dad actually did at work, but I know that it was fruitful. Every day he came home tired and every day we had food to eat on the table. The evidence of my father’s work was, for me, more clear than what he actually did for work.
Our heavenly father is a God who works.
The Bible starts with the creation narrative and then caps it off saying that on the seventh day, God rested from all the work that he had been doing. The pattern of rest on the Sabbath day was set by the Father for the benefit of his creation. Yet what is it that God the Father does?
It is the task of the Spirit to point to the Son, to convict the world of Sin and Righteousness and it is He who guides us through the Word and prayer. The great work of the Son was accomplished upon the cross, through the grave and unto the resurrection; so that through faith in Christ Jesus we might have access to the Father. So the Spirit points us to the Son, and the Son points us to the Father. It is all, then, for the glory of God the Father.
“Although it is something of an oversimplification, the division of labor between the three members of the Trinity can be generally described this way: The Father sends, the Son redeems, the Spirit applies. The Holy Spirit unites us to Christ, who reveals to us what the Father is like.” 2 But in all of this it is difficult to see, what is the work of the Father?
[Jesus Said:]“My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” ( John 5:17 , NASB95)
The gospel of salvation embedded in John 5:17-24 informs us that the things that Jesus the Son does, he does because he sees the Father doing them. (read John 5:17-24).
“Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. ” (John 5:19, NASB95)
John’s gospel begins with a phrase designed to invoke a memory of Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning was the word” turns us inevitably to the creation which is where we first encounter God: as creator.
The Father as creator:
Colossians 1:16 declares that by Jesus all things were created, both in the heavens and on the earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created through Him and for Him.
God the Father created the universe through the Word – His son. Everything that the Son does, he does in obedience to the Father. And so we first see the Father as the creator who created through Christ, and who rested on the seventh day. But the Father’s work didn’t begin at creation, that was only one step along the way.
The Father in Salvation
Before Creation even began the Father put salvation into motion. Ephesians 1:4 speaks of us being chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. Whatever else is embedded in that verse the reality is that before the earth was formed the Son was selected to die for sin.
Someone would ask, “When did God come up with this plan of salvation?” and the answer is that God conceived of all of history before a single day had come to pass. Indeed the very God who from eternity decreed when a sparrow would fall and when any hair would turn gray is the same God who orchestrated all of salvation historical, present and yet future to us still.
The Father’s role in salvation begins with the plan and extends to the orchestration of that plan. Romans 8:3 informs us that “What the Law could not do,… God did; sending His own Son…as an offering for sin.” The Father who planned Creation and chose the Son to be the Savior also sent that savior to us to die.
Today men ask, “who was it that crucified Jesus?” Some want to blame the Romans, some want to blame the Jews. Everyone Should blame themselves. But the reality is that God Himself is the one who sent His son to the cross so that according to Isaiah 53:10 “… the LORD was pleased To crush Him…” The Father’s role in salvation is to plan it, to orchestrate it, to accomplish it and to finish it.
The Father’s work involves not only a moment of creation, not merely an eternity of salvation but extends to constant providence today.
The Father’s Hand of Providence
Question 27 of the Heidelberg Catechism asks: What [do you] mean by the providence of God?
The almighty and everywhere present power of God; a whereby, as it were by his hand, he upholds and governs
b heaven, earth, and all creatures; so that herbs and grass, rain and drought, c fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, d riches and poverty, e yea, and all things come, not by chance, but be his fatherly hand. f 3
The father’s work is in preserving and presiding over every molecule of creation. The early deists and yet many Christians conceived of God as a clockmaker who yes was the creator of such a wonderfully intricate instrument of their own bodies and even the entire universe but who after “creating the clock” disappeared from view to let it run on it’s own. My dear brothers and sisters the Lord almighty, God the Father is no clockmaker God. He is immanent in his creation which runs because he ordains it to run according to his constant care.
Job 38-40 describes God’s intricate and constant control of his creation. Every storm cloud, every deer giving birth, every blade of grass in untouched meadow responds to His command.
The Father’s providence is also evidenced not merely in directing creation but in directing life.
The Father’s guiding hand does not mean fate. Our lives are not bound by a God driven fate that precludes our actions. The Father’s guiding hand of providence labors so that the choices we make are indeed our choices; but they are choices made within the confines of the wide open boundaries he has established so that we will make them.
The Father’s hand of providence completely destroys the concept of “luck”. There is no such thing as “You were lucky that happened.” Such a phrase betrays a belief that the events of the universe are haphazard and that we might have some charm upon us that prevents (or encourages) certain outcomes. Luck is an impersonal force, providence is the Father’s hand working. I do not believe nor condone “luck” but I wholeheartedly cling to providence.
Providence simply means that God is always and presently sustaining, guiding and providing for his creation.
The 28th question of the Heidelberg Catechism asks
What advantage is it to us to know that God has created, and by his providence does still uphold all things?
That we may be patient in adversity;a 4 thankful in prosperity; b and that in all things, which may hereafter befall us, we place our firm trust in our faithful God and Father, c that nothing shall separate us from his love; d since all creatures are so in his hand, that without his will they cannot so much as move. e
The Bible loudly declares with unalterable clarity that “In the Beginning God Created the Heavens and the earth.” The Father through the Son created all things. And by the power of the authority of His word everything came into being.
So perfect was His knowledge before even the utterance of command left that He had formulated a plan of redemption for the people he would create in His image. He knew before the Light was made that Lucifer would rebel and succeed in tempting Adam and Eve into that same rebellion incurring a death penalty on all of their descendants.
Before the first day was fashioned God the Father knew that He would send His Son in the fullness of time to die upon the cross. Through providence he decreed and orchestrated the substitutionary death of his own Son for our redemption. Through that same providence he irresistibly called us unto Himself, for no-one comes to the Son unless he is called by the Father. Through that same providence he decrees to keep what is His, until he again sends His son this time in glory and not in humiliation.
And by his providential care, God the Father is constantly and actively present in shaping our lives.
As the Creator of the universe we live in, the architect of salvation by grace through faith in Christ. And by his constant preserving and presiding over his creation we can trust the Father’s provident hand in every event.
It is here, in real life today that the evidence of the Father’s work is most visible. In this uncertain world, it is a comfort to know that whatever comes our way, God our Father is there.
1For inspiration I owe [Koessler, God the Father] and his similar introduction to the chapter.
2[Koessler, God the Father]p50
a a aActs 17:25–28; Jer. 23:23, 24; Isa. 29:15, 16; Ezek. 8:12.
b b bHeb. 1:3.
c c cJer. 5:24; Acts 14:17.
d d dJohn 9:3.
e e eProv. 22:2.
f f fMatt. 10:20; Prov. 16:33.
3 Historic Creeds and Confessions, electronic ed. (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).
a aRom. 5:3; James 1:3; Ps. 39:9; Job 1:21, 22.
b b bDeut. 8:10; 1 Thess. 5:18.
c c cPs. 55:22; Rom. 5:4.
d d dRom. 8:38, 39.
e e eJob 1:12; Job 2:6; Acts 17:25, 28; Prov. 21:1.
5 Historic Creeds and Confessions, electronic ed. (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).