One of the great joys of life is feeling useful. Whether it’s feeling as if you make a difference at work, or with friends and family, there’s something wonderful about a sense of accomplishment. I am a father of small children, and one of the ways I’ve been called to be useful is by caring for my little ones especially in the middle of the night. Parents are often beckoned to save their little ones from the mad titans of shadows, dehydration, and midnight potty runs.
As children age, the needs change but the parental function does not. Perhaps you are no longer wiping their chins, but are helping them clean their vehicle or apartment. There is an abiding sense where parents are called to care for their own, and when they do, it is a truly beautiful thing. Likewise, it is a tragedy when you see neglect in this area and observe its consequences. The Apostle Paul proclaims in the Scriptures that bit of common-sense wisdom that parents are called to provide and care for their young.
The Christian’s chief guide in understanding the role of parenting comes from God the Father. It is within the opening verses of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians that we find one of the most stunning displays of parental love from none other than God Himself. Ephesians 1:3-14 is a treasure-laden display of the depths of God’s unconditional love for His elect. There we see most clearly the outworking of the Father’s unchanging, predestinating love for His precious children.
There is a sense where such declarations are not new. Every week countless churches around the world testify to the faith once for all delivered and confess without fail, “I believe in God the Father …” (The Apostles’ Creed) We testify with all true Christians in all times and places that one of the divine persons of the Holy Trinity is God the Father.
But what sort of Father is He? As many of you know, not all fathers are made equal. There are some fathers who are made so by nature and not by intention. There are other fathers who have stepped in the gap in place where biological fathers may have failed. There are some fathers who are selfish, violent, wicked, and abhorrent in every manner. Yet, there are others who are selfless and wise, men who demonstrate an excellence of character even to their own detriment. Such individuals have the ability to showcase the sort of love God the Father has for us in Christ.
What does Scripture say? The Apostle Paul wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,” (Ephesians 1:3 ESV) The blessings chiefly in view cannot be captured with a camera, nor can they be measured with our palms. These blessings of the Father are not found in our bank accounts, nor are they subject to anyone or anything. The blessings God bestows upon those who have been united to Christ by faith cannot be taken away, as our physique, material goods, and health can. These blessings are not subject to decay in any form. The blessings God bestows upon us as His covenant people, O church, are eternal in duration and infinite in value. They are forever good. They are forever yours, as the people of God.
But we do not always see God’s blessings in this way. It may be because we do not esteem God rightly, nor the benefits which have been bestowed upon us in Christ. Paul’s letter then comes to reorient us that we might learn to gaze at God the Father rightly. With God the Father in view, we return to these words, which describe Him to us. “[God the Father is the one] who has blessed us in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3 ESV) Notice this little phrase: “in Christ”. Why is this phrase so important? Paul teaches us that there are no spiritual blessings apart from Christ. You may have every form of spirituality and religion apart from Christ. You can have liturgies, rituals, and superstitions. But God only blesses those who approach Him through Christ with the gift of His grace. As theologian Ian Hamilton notes, “Salvation is not so much a state as a person.” Notice that the blessings of God the Father are never separated from God the Son. You cannot purchase these heavenly blessings. You cannot earn them by piety, presence, or performance. All that we have is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone to the praise and glory of God alone. May we cherish this gift of God bestowed upon us in Christ by His Spirit. May we rejoice that God has approached us in mercy and favor for the sake of Christ. May we thank Him today, not only in our prayers and hearts, but with our lives.