By Femi Aribisala
Jesus castigates the natural father-child relationship as evil. He asks: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” (Luke 11:13). Since men are deemed evil, sons of men must also be evil.
But since he says: “No one is good but One, that is, God,” (Matthew 19:17); therefore, sons of God are also good.
Jesus maintains natural relationships are bound to go from bad to worse: “Brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death.” (Matthew 10:21). He also insists natural family ties are inimical to discipleship.
Even David, speaking by the Holy Spirit, observes that man’s relationship with God is enhanced when his relationship with his parents collapse: “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take care of me.” (Psalm 27:10). Indeed, God takes special care of those without earthly parentage, which explains why he is known as “the Father of the fatherless.” (Psalm 68:5).
If God is the Father of the fatherless, he cannot be, at the same time, the Father of those with fathers.
Lineage of salvation
Therefore, one of the requirements of salvation is that the earthly father-child bond must be broken. The heir of salvation must take the initiative and forsake his earthly father(s) for Christ’s sake. Jesus says: “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! No, rather, a sword. I have come to set a man against his father..” (Matthew 10:34-35).
The earthly father-child relationship impedes the heavenly Father-child relationship. Some cannot love God as Father because their earthly father is hateful. Some cannot love God as Father because they already love their earthly father. Others cannot obey the Father in heaven because his instructions are at variance with those of the father on earth.
The complexities of these scenarios lead to a rather stringent condition for salvation. The earthly father must be repudiated completely and the heavenly Father embraced totally without reservation.
The living and the dead
When one of Jesus’ disciples sought permission to go and bury his father, Jesus objected because a true disciple cannot have any other father apart from God. Jesus said to him: “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:22).
When a man traces his identity through his earthly father, God regards him as a dead man. Since earthly fathers die, their children are also appointed to death. But when God becomes our Father, we pass from death unto life. (John 5:24). God says about us: “This my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (Luke 15:24).
This principle is brought out in Jesus’ discourse with the Sadducees. He says to them: “Concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” (Matthew 22:31-32).
If God is our Father, we belong to the living and not to the dead. Thus, Jesus says to Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26).
Confession of salvation
The good confession that Peter made, which earned him the high commendation of Jesus, was in identifying Jesus not as the son of Joseph, but as the Son of the living God. As a result, Jesus said to him: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:15-18).
Jesus’ church is built upon the revelation that he is, indeed, the son of God: “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” (1 John 4:15). However, although Jesus commended Peter, he nevertheless observed that Peter himself was not yet a son of God but a son of man. He was still Simon Bar-Jonah, which means Simon, son of Jonah.
This explains Peter’s shortcomings. When Jesus told his disciples he must go to Jerusalem to suffer and be killed, Peter pulled him aside and insisted such a bad thing would never happen to him: “Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.’” (Matthew 16:23).
If Jesus is the Son of the living God, and the Son says he is going back to his Father, why would Peter insist this must not happen? What good friend would deny a son the prerogative to go and be with his father? It could only have been because Peter had yet to accept fully that God is the Father of Jesus. He was still mindful of those things that pertain to the family of men instead of the family of God.
Cost of salvation
The salvation Jesus provides is anathema to earthly fatherhood and all its appurtenances. He says emphatically: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26).
If we don’t relinquish earthly fathers, in preference for the only true Father in heaven, we cannot inherit the kingdom of God. If we don’t relinquish earthly fathers, in preference for the heavenly Father, we would not be able to fulfil a cardinal principle of salvation, which is to lay down our lives out of love for God, in order to receive the eternal life.
Jesus says: “Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 16:25).
In short, exclusively divine fatherhood is the foundation of eternal salvation. If we were to have any other Father outside of God, we could not be saved in this dispensation of grace. I like to put it this way. Jesus is not the way to God. In the Old Testament, Moses, the servant of God, was the way to God. But Jesus is not a servant but the Son of God. Therefore, in the New Testament of today, Jesus is the way, and the only way, to the Father.
Jesus explains this dynamic in this manner: “All things have been delivered to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal him.” (Matthew 11:27). This explains our Lord’s categorical assertion: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).