The Gift of the Father

It seems striking to me that God is referred to as “Father” only three times in the book of Acts. Two of the three are in the first chapter and are from the lips of Jesus.  The third time is in chapter two when Peter says that Jesus, “being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured out this that you are seeing and hearing” (Acts 2:33).

Of the two times “Father” is used, it is in connection with the Holy Spirit.  “While staying with them, [Jesus] ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father … the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:4, 5); and the above quoted portion of Peter’s sermon. The second time we hear God addressed as Father in Acts is in relation to the establishment of the kingdom to Israel, something done by the Holy Spirit. It seems safe to say, then, that Luke wants us to think of the Father in relation to the giving of the Holy Spirit.

This makes sense considering that when Luke records Jesus’ words that the Father knows how to give good gifts to those who ask Him, he doesn’t use Matthew’s words of “good gifts” (Matt. 7:11), but specifically says that the Father gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.  The wording of Matthew and Luke are nearly identical, the “good gifts” and “Holy Spirit” being the biggest differences. (Also, Matthew says “your Father who is in heaven” and Luke writes, “the heavenly Father”.)

All the gospel writers record Jesus calling God “Father” in a great many places (John having the most).  So, too, do the letters of the apostles call God “Father”.  So calling God “Father” was not uncommon or strange. Why, then, don’t we find “Father” on the lips of the apostles or at the end of Luke’s pen in the book of Acts except these three times at the very beginning of the acts of the apostles?

I submit that the reason we don’t find “Father” in the acts of the apostles beyond the beginning and in direct relation to the Spirit, is so that when the Church thinks on the Father or considers Him, she must do so in light of the Spirit He gives, which is His good gift to those who ask Him in the name of Jesus. The Father’s direct involvement with Jesus’ apostles and Church is giving Jesus the Holy Spirit so that He can pour His Spirit out over all creation, and by His Spirit call the elect, the chosen of the Father, to Himself by His Spirit, who bears witness of Jesus through the ministry of the apostles.

So in John 16, when Jesus says to His apostles that the Father will give them whatever they ask in His name (v. 23), He is referring to the Spirit.  This is obvious in John’s gospel, which has the Spirit and the Father all over Jesus’ farewell discourse, but is not so obvious when we consider how asking the Fther has become some generic prayer with which we ask for everything and anything but assume that we have the Spirit and so don’t ask for it.  The Church asks the Father for the Spirit, which He gives to Jesus (Acts 2:33), who then pours the Spirit out, giving the good gift.

When the church gathers, she gathers not only to hear the words of Jesus or to hear about God, but to ask the Father for the Spirit.  Where the church does not gather, the Spirit is not given and the blessing of the Father is not received by men.  So Jesus’ words to the woman at the well (John 4) become sharper: “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him. God is spirit and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth” (John 4:23, 24, ESV). The ESV doesn’t capitalize “spirit” but we may certainly do so, understanding that we worship the Father in the Holy Spirit and in the Truth, which is Jesus.

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