God the Father Almighty
The Apostles’ Creed is structured around the key Christian belief of the Trinity, that there is one God who exists eternally in three persons. This is monotheism as we believe there is only one God, not multiple gods, which was especially common in the ancient world. This monotheism, however, is different from what you find in Islam as we believe God has revealed Himself in three persons. These three persons are not three gods or three modes of being, and these three persons are equal in power and glory (so there is no hierarchy within them) who are distinct without division. This idea is difficult to comprehend (for more on the doctrine of the Trinity, see my discussions of Articles 8 and 9 of the Belgic Confession), but it is the way God revealed Himself in His Word (see Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 25) with passages like Matthew 28:19 and 2 Corinthians 13:14 putting all three persons on the same plane (showing their equality), and all three persons being present at the baptism of Jesus (showing that the persons are distinct).
While all persons work together in the story of creation and redemption, there is also a particular focus on the work of each person, with Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 24 noting the three parts of the Apostles’ Creed are structured around discussions of “God the Father and our creation; God the Son and our deliverance; and God the Holy Spirit and our sanctification.” The creed begins by focusing on the first person, the Father, which we will look at in the next two posts, focusing first on the idea of God as the Father and Almighty (this post) and then on the idea of Him as the Maker of heaven (next post).
We often begin our prayers by addressing God as Father, so the idea of God as Father is something we believe and know, but might be something we don’t understand or consider. While God is called Father in places in the Old Testament, this is often tied to the idea that God is the father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5) and father of the people of Israel (see Exodus 4:22; Deuteronomy 23:5; Jeremiah 31:9; Hosea 11:1). It doesn’t seem that calling God “Father” and praying to Him as Father was a common thing for God’s people before Jesus came. This changed, however, when Jesus called God his Father, and outraged the religious leaders of the day (John 5:18). He then instructs his followers to call God “Father” (as made clear in the prayer that he taught his disciples, which begins with “Our Father”), as through our union with Christ God is our Father as He is the Father of Jesus. This is why Jesus can say that he returns to “my father and your father” (John 20:17). Because Jesus cries out “Father”, we, too, can do the same (see Galatians 4:16; Romans 8:15). This sense of God as Father is unique to those who know Him through the work of the Son and shows us that God is not just a force or an abstract idea, but a person.
This idea of God as Father does not mean that God is a male -- God is beyond gender, with both genders being made in His image. At times, God uses feminine imagery to describe His work (see Isaiah 42:14, 49:14-17, 66:13) but has not chosen to be revealed or called “Mother”; rather, God’s revelation invites us to view and call Him “Father”. This language of God as Father does not exhaust all of His nature or activity, but it does help us understand who He is and how He works.
Some have noted that the language of God as Father can be troubling to those who may have had bad experiences with fathers. We have an innate sense that a father should love, care, and protect his children; however, earthly fathers are not perfect, and their imperfections should point us to the perfection of God.
The creed also highlights how the Bible speaks about God as being “Almighty” (see 1 Samuel 4:4; Psalm 24:10 among other places); it is not just that He is mighty but Almighty. The idea that God is “Almighty” means that He is able to do all things, that He has limitless power -- the concept of omnipotence. Of course, this brings up the old question of whether or not God can create a rock so big that He cannot lift it. This question is actually absurd, in that it presupposes,things that by definition mutually exclusive. As Michael Bird notes in What Christians Ought to Believe, “God’s omnipotence means that God has power to do all that is intrinsically possible, not the intrinsically impossible” (page 67). God is able to heal, not make a square circle. I don’t really have a use for a square circle or a big rock, I have need of salvation and care, and I have a God who is able to do immeasurably more than I could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
This shows us that God has the power to do all things. This should be comforting in the face of a world in which we see problems around us and often feel helpless. Is there anyone who can bring rescue? Of course, we have to remember that God might choose to work in ways that we do not understand, and we see as the Apostles’ Creed goes on that God’s activity of salvation and display of power comes through a cross.
Why This is Important for You Today
These two ideas -- God as Father and God as Almighty - are not at odds with each other but work together. Knowledge of God as both the Father and the Almighty helps us to know both His care for us and His ability to act and do all things, and thus has great value for us each day. That idea is highlighted by the last two sentences of Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 26:
“I trust God so much that I do not doubt he will provide whatever I need for body and soul, and will turn to my good whatever adversity he sends upon me in this sad world. God is able to do this because he is almighty God and desires to do this because he is a faithful Father.”
If we know God through Jesus Christ, we can know that as our Father, He cares for us in all circumstances of life. We also know He has the power to do all things, so it is not just that He has good intentions, but also the ability to follow through. We know that when He does not act immediately, it is not out of a lack of care, but rather because of His care for us. Therefore, may we not just say that we believe in God the Father Almighty, but be comforted by this truth.
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