His Name Shall Be Called...Everlasting Father
As we approach this Christmas Eve service, let us consider Isaiah 9:6-7 which says,
"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this." (ESV)
These powerful and prophetic words were recorded by the prophet Isaiah approximately 700 years prior to their fulfillment. We have the privilege of reading these words over 2,000 years after their fulfillment was found in Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, the Messiah, Emmanuel- God with us. In this sermon series at Coastal, we have been considering the names that Isaiah ascribes to Jesus and what they teach us about who he is and how he relates to us. This week we will consider Jesus as our "Everlasting Father."
If you're anything like me, you've asked yourself, "How can Jesus, the Son of God, be our Everlasting Father?" It is important that we not interpret this in Trinitarian terms, lest we arrive at what is commonly referred to as Modalism, the belief that God is one person that reveals Himself in three "modes" rather than as existing eternally in three distinct persons of the Trinity. Orthodox Christians reject Modalism as heresy. God is one God, existing in three distinct persons- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. How then can Jesus Christ, the Son and second person of the Trinity, be called our Everlasting Father? In the Hebrew language and culture, there are numerous ways to understand this. Translated literally, this phrase means "the Father of eternity." Colossians 1:15-18 tells us,
"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent." (ESV)
In his 1866 sermon (724), Charles Spurgeon offered several possible ways of understanding this name given to Jesus, which are summarized below (Some have been omitted for the sake of length, see the full sermon here):
1. Jesus is federally our "Father". (1 Corinthians 15:45-49 and Romans 5:12-21)
"Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous." (Romans 5:18-19, ESV)
Here we see the Apostle Paul comparing and contrasting Adam, the "father" of the human race with Jesus Christ, the "second Adam." When the first Adam sinned, he brought about Original Sin for all of humanity because he was our federal representative. One man's sin brought death to the entire world. In the same way, the righteousness of Christ brought life to all who believe under his federal headship.
2. Jesus is our "Father" in that he is our founder.
In much the same way that one might refer to George Washington as the "father" of the United States of America, Chuck Berry as the "father" of rock n' roll, or Richard Dawkins as the "father" of modern atheism, Jesus Christ the "...founder and perfecter of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2) is the founder or "father" of all Christians. His teachings, life, death, and resurrection all inaugurated the faith and practices of Christianity. He is the father of the Church age of grace which enables us to "...draw near to the throne of grace [with confidence], that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16, ESV)
"This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him." (Ephesians 3:11-12, ESV)
3. Jesus is our "Father" in that He deals with us in a fatherly way.
Perhaps the most compelling and the most practical interpretation of the term "Everlasting Father," Sam Storms calls it “a descriptive analogy pointing to Christ’s character . . . he is fatherly, father-like, in his treatment of us.” Alistair Begg asserts that "...the term "everlasting" is not referencing the eternal nature of the Messiah's being...but rather it is referencing the never-ending nature of his care...He is Father, forever."
The word "father" undoubtedly conjures up a plethora of different ideas and emotions. Loving fathers, abusive fathers, active fathers, absent fathers, tender fathers, distant fathers- we all have a story when it comes to our earthly fathers. For some, Christmas can be a painful reminder of a strained or non-existent relationship with a father. Perhaps it can be a reminder of the loss of a father. It is important for us to understand that at best, our earthly fathers serve as a flawed representation of our perfect Father.
Charles Spurgeon said, "And this is the best of all, that he is “an everlasting Father” to all those to whom he is a Father at all. If you have entered into this relationship so as to be in union with Christ, and to be covered with the skirts of his garment, you are his child, and you shall for ever be. There is no unfathering Christ, and there is no unchilding us. He is everlastingly a Father to those who trust in him, and he never does at any one moment cease to be Father to any one of these."
In this Sunday's sermon we will explore further what it means that Jesus is our "Everlasting Father." As we approach this Christmas Eve service, let us prepare our hearts and minds by having a right understanding of what this prophecy means, as well as what it does not mean. Our right understanding of God's Word results in our right understanding of who Jesus is, how he relates to us, and how we relate to him. Let us worship our Everlasting Father in spirit and in truth this Christmas season.