Our Father in Heaven

Romans 8:15, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!'” father-and-son-1314627-1279x1923

Perhaps the most significant thing you can say about the one true and living God is that He is the Father of His people. Michael Reeves says “the most foundational thing in God is not some abstract quality, but the fact that he is Father.” The label Father is not limited to the New Testament, where Jesus so often spoke of our Father in heaven; it appears throughout the Old Testament as well. Even before God was seen as the Creator of the heavens and the earth, He was the God the Father — alongside Jesus the Son of God, and God the Holy Spirit.

Consider a few OT verses (esv) about the Fatherhood of God…

Exodus 4:22, “Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, Israel is my firstborn son…”

Deut. 32:6, “Do you thus repay the LORD, you foolish and senseless people? Is not he your father, who created you, who made you and established you?”

Isaiah 63:8, “For you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us, and Israel does not acknowledge us; you, O LORD, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name.”

Isaiah 64:8, “But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.”


The Word & the Spirit (Geoff Grogan)

by Geoffrey W. Grogan*

As we have seen, the Bible is the Word of God because it is “breathed out” by the Holy Spirit and the same Spirit also works within us to enable us to respond positively to the Word, for our hearts need to be softened towards God. it is the new birth that effects this. We can see this clearly if we look at different aspects of the Christian life.

So, when we consider conversion, it is evident that there can be no salvation without a Savior, and salvation comes to us in practical terms when we know Christ in our inner being. This is not, however, a mystical experience but is mediated to us through biblical truth, whether this comes directly from the Scriptures or through preaching or reading or personal witness or in some other way.

We must not, however, give the impression that salvation is by the acceptance of a formula, which is anything but true. Personal salvation is by the Spirit of God working in the human heart but in connection with the hearing of the Word. “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). Christ the incarnate Word meets us in personal encounter through the written Word, and it is the Spirit of Truth, of Grace and of Christ who so works in our hearts through that Word. Here, then, objective truth and subjective experience meet, with the former being used by the Holy Spirit to create the latter.

The Word and the Spirit are also involved together in assurance. Paul says, “You also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance” (Eph. 1:13–14). Objective fact and inner assurance answer to each other. So, then, assurance is not mystically conveyed but comes by actual contact with the Scriptures themselves, in the reading and hearing of them or in some exposition of their truth.

Christian assurance embraces not only conviction of personal salvation, but carries with it also convictions about the Word through which salvation has come. In 2 Timothy 3:14, Timothy is told to continue in what he has learned and been assured of, and the learning was presumably, through the work of the Spirit, the cause of the assurance. He would have learned these things from Paul as an authoritative witness to God’s truth.

It is through the Word and the Spirit, too, that sanctification takes place. The new birth is the first movement in inward sanctification, and in both the initial crisis and the consequent process there is a communication of Christ, for this is the purpose of all the means of grace. It is sadly possible to get to know the Scriptures better without knowing Christ better, but the reverse is never true. An examination of Ephesians 5:18 and Colossians 3:16 shows that they have remarkably similar contexts. For this reason it is surely significant that at the contextual point where in Ephesians Paul says, “Be filled with the Spirit”, (Eph. 5:18), in Colossians he ays, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col. 3:16), in both cases employing a continuous tense. It looks, then, as though the work of the Word and of the Spirit are two sides of the same coin. The Spirit constantly uses the Word in conforming us to Christ. [boldface added]

The God who works within us through his Word and Spirit in conversion, assurance and sanctification, is also at work in our perseverance. We read the Word, taking heed of its encouragements and its warnings, and as a result the Spirit of God preserves us as Christians and enables us to persevere in Christian discipleship.

This practical stress on the Holy Spirit’s use of Scripture in every aspect of the Christian life was a major theme of the Puritans, as it was also of the early Methodists and the continental Pietists. This serves to remind us that, important as a high doctrine of Scripture and its verbal inspiration is, we should never forget that God gave the Bible as his means to his end, which is not simply orthodox thinking (which is not unimportant) but sanctified living.

In relation to all these divine activities the Spirit works through means that are objective and that are found in holy Scripture. Will this be true even of that great moment when Christians are glorified at the second advent? It seems so, because Paul tells the Thessalonians that “the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God” (1st Thess. 4:16), and also the “he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you” (Rom. 8:11). So from conversion to consummation the Word and the Spirit are effectively at work together.


*This excerpt is from an excellent, well-written theological book, which I highly recommend: The Faith Once Entrusted to the Saints? Engaging with issues and trends in evangelical theology, by Geoffrey W. Grogan, Inter-Varsity Press, 2010; pages 189-190. ISBN: 978-1-84474-478-7

The Death of Phillips Brooks — January 23, 1893

P Brooks tombstoneRev. Phillips Brooks (1835–1893) died in Boston 120 years ago today. It is said that Christians throughout the world mourned his death, and his funeral was “like that of a king.” Brooks has been called by some “the greatest American preacher of the 19th Century.”

Yet sorrow soon turned to songs of triumph and praise of God for Phillips Brooks’ life. Over his tomb they would erect these words: “A preacher of righteousness and hope, majestic in stature, impetuous in utterance, rejoicing in the truth, unhampered by the bonds of church or state, he brought by his life and doctrine fresh faith to a people, fresh meanings to ancient creeds.” [Dan Graves in Christianity Today online article, June, 2007]

Brooks was the Episcopal Bishop of Massachusetts when he died, having also served important churches in Boston and Philadelphia. Most Americans know him as the author of the popular Christmas carol, O Little Town of Bethlehem — which he wrote a couple years after visiting Palestine in 1865. While there, Brooks journeyed from Jerusalem to Bethlehem on horseback, and there assisted with a midnight service on Christmas Eve. He would later write, “I remember standing in the old church in Bethlehem, close to the spot where Jesus was born, when the whole church was ringing hour after hour with splendid hymns of praise to God, how again and again it seemed as if I could hear voices I knew well, telling each other of the Wonderful Night of the Savior’s birth.”

On his preaching, the Encyclopedia Britannica says

In Lectures on Preaching (delivered at Yale University in 1877), Brooks offered his most influential assay of his profession, defining preaching as “the bringing of truth through personality,” by which he meant a kind of radiant optimism. His own eloquence was matched by his commanding, handsome figure, standing six feet four inches tall and weighing (in his prime) 300 pounds. His charismatic preaching became so renowned that he was invited in 1880 to preach at Westminster Abbey in London and at the Royal Chapel at Windsor before Queen Victoria. In 1890 he conducted an acclaimed series of services at Trinity Church, New York City. Several volumes of his sermons were published during his lifetime and posthumously. [online EB article]

At the Trinity Church in Boston (which Brooks helped design) there was no pulpit until 1888, but Brooks preferred to preach from a modest lectern near the rector’s stall, typically only wearing his black academic gown. And later on, during communion, he would preach not from the pulpit but from the chancel steps.

It is said that he despaired of Anglo-Catholic ritualism, and championed more congregational singing. During his childhood, the Brooks family spent Sunday evenings singing hymns. He would grow-up to know over two hundred hymns by memory, and often quoted them in his sermons.

Brooks was also known for his vocal defense of the Trinity as Unitarianism was then on the rise throughout New England.

Phillips Brooks House at Harvard

Phillips Brooks House at Harvard

Brooks was a graduate of Harvard University and the Episcopal Seminary at Alexandria, Virginia. His close ties to Harvard led to the building of the “Phillips Brooks House” in the northwest corner of old Harvard yard (facing the small Holden Chapel). It was was dedicated on January 23, 1900, to serve “the ideal of piety, charity, and hospitality.” The Phillips Brooks House Association remains in operation to this day as a student-run consortium of over 80 volunteer organizations.

Phillips Brooks never married, or had children of his own. Dan Graves, in closing his Christianity Today article, observed that this famous preacher

…loved children and liked to romp on the floor and play with them. He often wrote delightful letters to his young friends. That explains why, when Brooks died on January 23, 1893, a five year old was upset because she had not seen her preacher friend for several days. Her mother told her Bishop Brooks had gone to heaven, and the child exclaimed, “Oh, Mama, how happy the angels will be.”

Yes, but happier yet would the man be, for he would now see Christ. He had written that the Christian’s goal should be “To know in one’s whole nature what it is to live by Christ; to be His, not our own; to be so occupied with gratitude for what He did for us and for what He continually is to us that His will and His glory shall be the sole desires of our life.”