We've been studying the Names of Christ in Isaiah 9:6 (Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace) and we now arrive at Everlasting Father. It's hard to find a better opening on this topic than Spurgeon's sermon:
How complex is the person of our Lord Jesus Christ! Almost in the same breath the prophet calls him a “child,” and a “counsellor,” a “son,” and “the everlasting Father.” This is no contradiction, and to us scarcely a paradox, but it is a mighty marvel that he who was an infant should at the same time be infinite, he who was the Man of Sorrows should also be God over all, blessed for ever; and that he who is in the Divine Trinity always called the Son, should nevertheless be correctly called “the everlasting Father.” How forcibly this should remind us of the necessity of carefully studying and rightly understanding the person of our Lord Jesus Christ! We must not suppose that we shall understand him at a glance. (https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/his-name-the-everlasting-father/#flipbook/)
Of all the members of the Godhead, Jesus is the Person for whom we probably have the greatest risk of thinking we understand and can accurately describe. That's one reason I love the Everlasting Father designation. It throws us for a loop and shows us that our pat answers can't fully describe the indescribable.
Still, we can rely on the study and scholarly activities from others to try to understand what this name means a little more, although with some trepidation. Spurgeon himself said, in his sermon on Everlasting Father, "This morning I cannot pretend to dive into the profound depths of the word, but can only skim the surface as the swallow skims the sea. Silver of deep learning and gold of profound thought have I none; but such as I have, give I you."
It's a good reminder of how we should always approach the study of God.
First, regarding Everlasting Father, Spurgeon and others are clear that this passage does not confuse Father and Son. Jesus is the eternally begotten Son and the Son is not the Father. Spurgeon again says it so perfectly: "Our text has no bearing upon the position and titles of the three Persons with regard to each other; it does not indicate the relation of Deity to itself, but the relation of Jesus Christ to us. He is to us “the everlasting Father.”
Everlasting Father, along with all the Names in Isaiah 9:6 are all in relation of Jesus to us. He is a Wonderful Counselor to us. He is a Mighty God for us. And He is an Everlasting Father to us.
This is a very important concept. Jesus didn't appear on the scene as a baby in a manger. That was when He became human. Prior to this, He created the world, He appeared to humans (i.e. examples of theophany in the Old Testament), He always WAS. He is everlasting. The Nicene Creed begins:
We believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, begotten from the Father before all ages, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made; of the same essence as the Father. Through him all things were made.
Again, Spurgeon explains,
If he were not God from everlasting, we could not so devoutly love him; we could not feel that he had any share in the eternal love which is the fountain of all covenant blessings. He must be eternal who has a part in the eternal purpose. Since our Redeemer was from all eternity with the Father, we trace the stream of divine love to himself equally with his Father and the blessed Spirit.
I've had Colossians 1:15-20 in my heart all year, and I just attended a fantastic worship conference where Colossians 1-3 was the source passage. Here are verses 15-20:
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 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 and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
I was always somewhat confused by the "image of the invisible God" part, but after studying Trinitarian theology, I understand that when we look at Christ, we see God. When He came to earth, we got to see more concretely what God was and is like. This is why when Philip asks Jesus, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us," (John 14:8), Jesus replies,
Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves (verses 9-11).
That's pretty clear. Jesus says that when we see Him, we see the Father. He and the Father are One.
On top of that, Christ is a Father to us. Spurgeon says that Christ is the Father of all Christians and the Father of spiritual worship--the new covenant and the "divine system of Christian life;" that is, the Way that he teaches us through his life and teachings.
Also, GotQuestions.org (https://www.gotquestions.org/Everlasting-Father.html) says that Jesus is our Father because He is our Protector and Provider, and this will not be hampered by aging or death in any way. He is our Father for all time: "He is God in the flesh, the second Person of the Trinity who would protect and provide for His people by His death and resurrection on their behalf."
Finally, scholars have noted that another way that Christ is Father is through His rule and reign. In Hebrew, Everlasting Father is Abi-Ad (you can see the shortened form of Abba here), and many have noted that the reference seems to refer to the Messiah's rule and reign. For example,
In ancient times, the ruling monarch was viewed (at least ideally) as a benevolent father to those he ruled—protecting them from their enemies and providing for their needs. Here the Messiah is not a temporary king, whose rule will terminate in death, but one whose benevolent rule is perpetual, having no end, as v. 7 expressly affirms twice: “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David & upon his kingdom, to order it and to establish it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth and forever." (https://sharperiron.org/article/isaiah-96-7-hebrew-text-ancient-versions)
Like Spurgeon, I'm not sure I can entirely wrap my mind around thinking of Christ as Everlasting Father. Maybe what would make this more real to me would be seeing where Jesus is Father-like in the Gospels. As we saw earlier, the apostle John seems particularly attuned in noting this. In addition to John 14, a number of other passages in John (and some in the other Gospels as well) can help us to understand Jesus as Father.
For example, right off the bat in John 1, where John establishes that Jesus is God, he explains that, "But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave the power to become children of God..." (verse 12). We conflate the persons of the Trinity if we fail to attribute to Jesus the power to make us His children.
Also, it is not uncommon for teachers in the past or present to have a parental-type stance toward their students. Apparently, rabbis in the ancient world followed this same tradition. John quotes Jesus as referring to his listeners as "Little Children" (for example, John 13 and 21). John himself continues this tradition throughout his letters when he is writing to his own disciples. This is consistent with Spurgeon saying that Jesus is the Father of the Way; He is a father to those of us who are His disciples and follow in his footsteps. He is our Great Teacher.
Speaking of someone describing his listeners as children, Paul uses this term a lot. He does so as a form of address, as well as a status designation--he's talking to the "children of God."
It's a good reminder and check on our Trinitarian approach--do we picture God the Father in every one of those uses (i.e. we are the children of God the Father only??) or is the Holy Trinity the God to Whom we belong? Do we listen to Spurgeon who tells us that this is a tough, indescribable mystery, or do we cheapen Scripture, read it quickly and accept whatever mental images or thoughts come our way?
Let's worship God in spirit and in truth, and understand that a more Trinitarian understanding of God will help us to do that.
Speaking of Indescribable, I mentioned Laura Story in a recent post (https://www.christianmusingsfortoday.com/post/mighty). She wrote the song, "Mighty to Save," which so perfectly aligned with talking about Jesus as Mighty God. She also wrote the song, "Indescribable," and you can listen to her version here: https://youtu.be/kEQqYMc4Yw0
As you listen to this song about God and God's unfathomable power in creation, remember that all was created by God--Father, Spirit, Son.