A sermon by Steve Cooper
If you’re a father, or a father figure like a step-dad, carer, or foster father – I hope today you feel appreciated and affirmed by your children on Father’s Day.
It’s important for us fathers to keep working at being good fathers, for dads these days face many challenges. Fathers can feel inadequate and insecure. Maybe you and your father were not close, and you find it difficult to get close to your children. Perhaps life is busy and demanding, and it’s hard to carve out adequate time to be with your children. Maybe you don’t find it fulfilling to hang around children and youth, and it’s hard to have the patience to be present with them. When our children become adults and leave home we fathers can find it difficult to maintain a warm relationship with them.
This morning I want to share a verse with you that’s special to me as a father. It’s a verse that’s important for everyone to consider – I hope it will encourage and inspire you if you’re a father.
There’s a verse in the Bible which is special to me, and inspires me in my role as a father. Today on Father’s Day I hope you, especially if you’re a dad, will find it encouraging too. It’s written by the apostle Paul, and it’s found in Romans chapter 8 verse 32. Paul writes: ‘He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?’
To me this Bible verse tells me so much about God – especially God as the Father of his own Son, Jesus, and the Father of all his children who trust in Jesus. It inspires me as a father to get my priorities right – with God first and my wife and children second. All the other people and things in my life can take their place after those two big priorities.
The placement of this verse is important. As Paul comes to the end of Romans 8 he reflects back on all he has described about God’s love for his children. Paul explains that we are all sinners. We have failed to live by God’s standards. We justly deserve his condemnation.
But God still loves us – he sent his Son Jesus to die on the cross to be our Saviour, and be raised from the dead as the victorious Lord. If we turn from sin and have faith in Jesus, God gives us the gift of forgiveness, he makes us members in his family, he promises his protecting presence, and God’s hand leads us safely through life to a glorious eternity after death.
Paul wants to assure his audience that God’s love is steady, steadfast and reliable. If we’re trusting in Jesus we can be assured we are pardoned, and no person and no experience can accuse us of being unworthy or inadequate. Nothing can separate us from God’s love.
In verse 32 Paul is deliberately echoing a famous story in the Old Testament. He writes in verse 32: ‘He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all …’ Genesis 22 contains the moving narrative of Abraham taking his son Isaac to be sacrificed. The Lord gives Abraham a test. God tells Abraham to take his dearly loved son, Isaac, to a mountain, and sacrifice Isaac as an offering to the Lord.
Abraham at this stage of his life had learned to trust God and obey God, and he obeys without reservation. The journey takes three days before father and son reach the mountain. We can imagine Abraham’s pain as he takes each step, wondering if he can carry through on this strange request. They climb the mountain together, and Abraham binds his son, lays him on the altar, and raises the knife. The angel of the Lord calls out and stops Abraham from killing his son, and a ram nearby is used as the sacrifice.
The Lord commends Abraham for his obedience and faith, and says ‘you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son’ (Gen 22:16). The Lord’s test for Abraham was primarily a test of love. Who came first in Abraham’s life and affections: the Lord God or his son Isaac? Abraham was in danger of putting his son first, and this test helped him sort out his priorities. Let’s explore the implications of that after the next song.
This morning on Father’s Day we’re thinking about a statement written by the apostle Paul. He wrote: ‘He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?’ Paul is deliberately echoing language from the Old Testament story of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his own son at God’s command, and the Lord was pleased that Abraham put God first.
This is a challenge to all of us, including fathers. Do we love God more than anyone or anything else? That’s the key issue Abraham had to settle with this unusual request from God. Abraham in his pilgrimage had seen enough of God’s goodness and mercy to know that he could trust God and obey him, regardless of the cost.
If you’re a father, the best thing you can do is to be committed to Jesus Christ as your Saviour and King. If you commit to follow him, love him, and serve him, you’ll find that God will fill your heart with love for your children and for others too. It’s an irony. We might think that if we put our children first and God lower down the list, we’ll be better fathers. But it’s the opposite. If we put God first and get to know him, we’ll have more capacity to be loving and wise fathers.
The other irony that’s working in this story about Abraham and his son Isaac is that it’s a foretaste of what God himself would do with his own dearly loved Son. Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his son on the mountain. The traditional location of that mountain is the temple site in Jerusalem, which is the vicinity where Jesus would be sacrificed on the cross.
Abraham didn’t need to kill his son in the end, but God did. As Abraham said to his son: ‘God himself will provide the lamb’ (Gen 22:8). Abraham called that mountain ‘The Lord will provide’, and a saying circulated about that mountain: ‘On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided’ (Gen 22:14). Jesus came as God’s Lamb, ready to be sacrificed for the sins of the world (cf. Jn 1:29).
So Paul wants the readers of Romans to reflect on the story of Abraham. Just as Abraham went through the terrible pain of the journey, and faced the agony of killing his own son, so God ‘did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all’.
Every father can imagine how hard it was for Abraham to sacrifice his own son – well, at least we can begin to imagine. But it’s more difficult for us to grasp how hard it was for God to send his own dearly loved Son to die in our place.
The two persons of God, Father and Son, had lived together from before time in love, delight and intimacy, and now the Father sent his Son into a broken and lost world. The Father had to watch his Son suffer in many ways. Jesus was rejected and despised. The Father watched as his dearly loved Son died such a cruel death on the cross. It was all so that God’s justice and love could be satisfied, so we can be set free.
This love of God is a great inspiration for all of us, including fathers. Our own love for our children is so frail and faltering. By contrast the love of God the Father in not sparing his Son is a great encouragement to us to let his love fill our hearts and be expressed through us to our family and the world.
How is it possible for a father to love his children with a steady, strong, stable love? How is it possible for any of us to love people that way? An important answer is given in Romans 8:32. Paul describes the love of God for his children: ‘He did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all.’ As we contemplate the sacrifice of God the Father in sending his dearly loved Son to die in our place, we see what true love is, and it assures all who trust Jesus that we are deeply loved by God.
Paul continues his statement with a question. How will this loving Father God not also, along with his Son Jesus, graciously give us all things? Paul’s argument is from the greater to the lesser. If God was prepared to sacrifice his own dearly loved Son for us, why do we worry about our own small needs? Surely a God who loves us so deeply will provide for us.
That’s a great reassurance for us dads. We often feel inadequate as fathers. We are anxious about the future – will there be enough funds, will we be able to provide for our wife and children? We might be afraid of what’s happening to our teenagers, as they deal with hormones, peers, self-image, and mood swings. Paul’s statement reassures us that this God who loves us so deeply, who sacrificed his own Son for us, will look after our needs and the needs of our family. We can trust God. We can relax and leave these worries in the hands of our very capable Father God.
The concept of God as our Father should mean a lot to us. In Romans 8 Paul emphasises that if we have faith in God’s Son Jesus, we have been adopted by God into his family. We are sons and daughters of God, with huge privileges. We can call upon God in prayer, calling him ‘Abba, Father.’ If we see ourselves as children of God it helps us to trust that our Father God will provide for our needs. His love is steadfast and sure. He will never let us go, and will bring us safely home to his glorious kingdom (Rom 8:14-17).
I enjoy reading the biographies of men and women who trusted God. Two men in particular took Paul’s assurance about God’s love and provision seriously. George Muller was called by God to look after orphans in England, and Hudson Taylor extended the church of God in China into the inland provinces. Both men staked everything on the promise of God – that the Lord will provide.
There was no human source of supply committed to financing these men and their work. As they relied on the Lord they saw God providing not only the spiritual resources but also such tangible gifts as buildings and daily bread for hundreds of people committed to their care. The way of faith was no easy option, and they faced many dilemmas and tests, but God provided.
Yes, if you’re a father with responsibility for your children, or anyone else, you can trust God your Father, who gave his own Son, to graciously give us what we need to do the work he calls us to do.
Today on Fathers’ Day I hope you, if you’re a father or father figure, will feel encouraged. We dads are human, and a bit of gratitude and appreciation goes a long way! I hope you’ll consider this verse from the apostle Paul about the steadfast love of the Father God for you. Paul wrote: ‘He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?’ (Rom 8:32) It’s a great verse for everyone, including fathers, to meditate on.
Let me pray for you: ‘Heavenly Father, how we thank you that you gave your Son for us, to die on the cross and deal with the penalty of our sin. You are the gracious giver, the great provider. Give us deep assurance of your love for us. Help us to trust you. Enable those of us who are fathers to love and care for our children, as you call us to do. Help us rely on you to provide for our needs. In the name of Jesus, your Son. Amen.’