Isaiah 9:6 a devotional apologetic Re: “Everlasting Father” by Jack Kettler
“For to us a child is born, to us, a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6 ESV)
Isaiah 9:6 is one of the most beautiful passages of Scripture. This study is only going to focus on one phrase from this passage. The entire passage is worthy of study and meditation. Contemplate the cross-references to this prophetic passage as part of the devotional reading.
Matthew 1:1 “This is the record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”
Matthew 1:23 “Behold, the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel (which means, “God with us”).”
Matthew 28:18 “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.”
Luke 2:11 “Today in the City of David, a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord!”
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
1Corinthians 15:25 “For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.”
Ephesians 2:14 “For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has torn down the dividing wall of hostility.”
Ephesians 2:15 “By abolishing in His flesh the law of commandments and decrees. He did this to create in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace.”
Deuteronomy 10:17 “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, mighty, and awesome God, showing no partiality and accepting no bribe.”
Isaiah 10:21 “A remnant will return, a remnant of Jacob, to the Mighty God.”
Isaiah 11:1 “A shoot will spring up from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.”
Isaiah 11:2 “The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him–the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and strength, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.”
Isaiah 16:5 “In loving devotion a throne will be established in the tent of David. A judge seeking justice and prompt in righteousness will sit on it in faithfulness.”
Isaiah 22:22 “I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David. What he opens, no one can shut; what he shuts, no one can open.”
Isaiah 26:3 “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You.”
Isaiah 26:12 “O LORD, You will establish peace for us, for, indeed, all that we have accomplished, You have done for us.”
Isaiah 28:29 “This also comes from the LORD of Hosts, who is wonderful in counsel and excellent wisdom.”
Daniel 2:44 “In the days of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, and this kingdom will not be left to another people. It will shatter all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, but will itself stand forever.”
Daniel 9:25 “Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, until the Messiah, the Prince, there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks. It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of distress.”
Haggai 2:9 “The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former, says the LORD of Hosts. And in this place I will provide peace, declares the LORD of Hosts.”
Introduction the apologetic aspect of this devotional:
Unfortunately, due to inexcusable ignorance, and malfeasance, there is some controversy surrounding the phrase in this passage, “Everlasting Father.” What would this controversy be? Is Isaiah teaching that Jesus is the same person as God the Father? If so, this would, according some eisegetes (those who import or read into the text), have Isaiah promoting a form of modalism.
What is modalism?
“Modalism teaches that the three persons of the Trinity as different “modes” of the Godhead. Adherents believed that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not distinct personalities, but different modes of God’s self-revelation. A typical modalist approach is to regard God as the Father in creation, the Son in redemption, and the Spirit in sanctification. In other words, God exists as Father, Son, and Spirit in different eras, but never as triune.”
What did Isaiah intend to say in the passage? Was this verse a doctrinal treatise on the Trinity? Said another way, did Isaiah have the Trinity in mind when he says the Messiah will be called the Everlasting Father? There is nothing in the passage to indicate that Isaiah was teaching about the Messiah’s position within the Trinity. Isaiah was introducing Israel to the characteristics of Christ’s character. Isaiah was teaching that Jesus has the characteristics of God. Apart from establishing Christ’s deity, the passage has nothing to say about the Trinitarian nature of God. To go beyond this is to read and import unwarranted assumptions into the text. Doing this is called eisegesis or reading into the text.
To clear up any confusion, the apologetic feature of this study will to give the reader a sound understanding of the phrase “Everlasting Father” or “Father of Eternity” based on sound exegesis from recognized commentators.
The apologetic section on Isaiah 9:6:
Clearing up any confusion with a series of short selections from renowned commentators on what Isaiah meant by the term “everlasting father:”
“The Everlasting Father; rather, Everlasting or Eternal Father. But here, again, there is a singularity in the idea, which makes the omission of the article unimportant; for how could there be more than one Everlasting Father, one Creator, Preserver, Protector of mankind who was absolutely eternal? If the term “Father,” applied to our Lord, grates on our ears, we must remember that the distinction of Persons in the Godhead had not yet been revealed.” (1)
Barnes’ Notes on the Bible:
“The everlasting Father – The Chaldee renders this expression, ‘The man abiding forever.’ The Vulgate, ‘The Father of the future age.’ Lowth, ‘The Father of the everlasting age.’ Literally, it is the Father of eternity, עד אבי ‘ĕby ‛ad. The word rendered “everlasting,” עד ‛ad, properly denotes “eternity,” and is used to express “forever;” see Psalm 9:6, Psalm 9:19; Psalm 19:10. It is often used in connection with עולם ‛ôlâm, thus, עולם ועד vā‛ed ‛ôlâm, “forever and ever;” Psalm 10:16; Psalm 21:5; Psalm 45:7. The Hebrews used the term father in a great variety of senses – as a literal father, a grandfather, an ancestor, a ruler, an instructor. The phrase may either mean the same as the Eternal Father, and the sense will be, that the Messiah will not, as must be the case with an earthly king, however excellent, leave his people destitute after a short reign, but will rule over them and bless them forever (Hengstenberg); or it may be used in accordance with a custom usual in Hebrew and in Arabic, where he who possesses a thing is called the father of it.
Thus, the father of strength means strong; the father of knowledge, intelligent; the father of glory, glorious; the father of goodness, good; the father of peace, peaceful. According to this, the meaning of the phrase, the Father of eternity, is properly eternal. The application of the word here is derived from this usage. The term Father is not applied to the Messiah here with any reference to the distinction in the divine nature, for that word is uniformly, in the Scriptures, applied to the first, not to the second person of the Trinity. But it is used in reference to durations, as a Hebraism involving high poetic beauty lie is not merely represented as everlasting, but he is introduced, by a strong figure, as even the Father of eternity as if even everlasting duration owed itself to his paternity. There could not be a more emphatic declaration of strict and proper eternity. It may be added, that this attribute is often applied to the Messiah in the New Testament; John 8:58; Colossians 1:17; Revelation 1:11, Revelation 1:17-18; Hebrews 1:10-11; John 1:1-2.” (2)
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary:
“Everlasting Father—this marks Him as “Wonderful,” that He is “a child,” yet the “everlasting Father” (Joh 10:30; 14:9). Earthly kings leave their people after a short reign; He will reign over and bless them forever [Hengstenberg].” (3)
Matthew Poole’s Commentary:
“The everlasting Father, Heb. the Father of eternity, Having called him a Child, and a Son in respect of his human nature, lest this should be misinterpreted to his disparagement, he adds that he is a Father also, even the God and Father of all things; the work of creation being common and commonly ascribed to each of the persons of the blessed Trinity, the Maker and Upholder of all creatures, as he is said to be, John 1:3 Hebrews 1:3, and the Father of all believers, who are called his children, Hebrews 2:13, and the Father of eternity; either,
- The first author (such persons being called fathers, as Genesis 4:20, and elsewhere) of eternal salvation, as he is called, Hebrews 5:9. Or,
- As we render it, the everlasting Father, who, though as man he was then unborn, yet was and is from everlasting to everlasting. They who apply this to Hezekiah render it, the father of an age, and expound this of his long life and numerous posterity; which I the rather mention, to show what absurd shifts they are forced to use who interpret this text of any other but Christ. For he did not live very long, nor had he, that we read of, more than one son, Manasseh. And if both these things had been true of him, they were more eminently true of many other men. Besides, this Hebrew word being used of God, as here it is of him who was now called the mighty God, constantly signifies eternity, as Isaiah 26:4 57:15, &c.” (4)
Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible:
“The everlasting Father; which does not design any relation of Christ in the Godhead; and there is but one Father in the Godhead, and that is the first Person; indeed Christ and the Father are one, and the Father is in him, and he is in the Father, and he that has seen the one has seen the other, and yet they are distinct, Christ is not the Father; the Son and Spirit may be considered with the first Person as Father, in creation and regeneration, they being jointly concerned therein, but not in the Trinity: it is easy to make it appear Christ is not the Father, but is distinct from him, since he is said to be with the Father from eternity, to be the Son of the Father in truth and love, his own Son, his only begotten and beloved Son; Christ frequently calls the first Person his Father, prayed to him as such, and is our advocate with him, as well as the way unto him; he is said to be sent by the Father, to come from him, and to go to him; and many things are said of Christ that cannot be said of the Father, as his being made flesh, suffering and dying in the room of his people; and the Father is said to do many things unto him, as to anoint him, to seal him, to show him all he did, to commit all judgment to him, and give him to have life in himself as he had: but Christ is a Father with respect to chosen men, who were given him as his children and offspring in covenant; who are adopted into that family that is named of him, and who are regenerated by his Spirit and grace: and to these he is an “everlasting Father”; he was so from everlasting; for regeneration and faith do not make men children, but make them appear to be so; God’s elect are children previous to the Spirit’s work upon them, and even to the incarnation and death of Christ; adoption is an act of the will of God in covenant from eternity: and Christ is a Father to these unto everlasting; he will never die, and they shall never be left fatherless; he and they will ever continue in this relation; he as such supplies them with everlasting provisions, he clothes them with everlasting raiment, he gives them an everlasting portion, promotes them to everlasting honour, saves them with an everlasting salvation, bearing an everlasting love to them. Some render the words, “the Father of eternity” (s); the author of eternal life, who has procured it for his people, and gives it to them; or to whom eternity belongs, who inhabits it, and is possessed of it, is the everlasting I AM, was before all persons and things, was set up in an office capacity from everlasting, and had a glory with the Father before the world was, in whom eternal election, and with whom the everlasting covenant, were made. The Septuagint version is, “the Father of the world to come” (t); of the Gospel dispensation; so called, Hebrews 2:5 the legal dispensation, when in being, was the then present world, at the end of which Christ came; this is now at an end, and a new state of things has taken place, which with respect to the Old Testament saints was the world to come, and of this Christ is the Father or author; as the law came by Moses, and he was the father of the legal dispensation, grace and truth are come by Christ, the Father and author of the Gospel dispensation; the doctrines of it are from him, and the ordinances of it by him; and he is the father of that state or world to come after the resurrection, the New Jerusalem church state, and also of the ultimate glory.” (5)
“The everlasting Father — Hebrew, אבי עד, The Father of eternity: having called him a child and a son, lest this should be misinterpreted to his disparagement, he adds that he is a Father also, even the Father of eternity, and, of course, of time, and of all creatures made in time. Christ, in union with the Father and the Holy Ghost, is the God and Father of all things, the maker and upholder of all creatures, John 1:3; Hebrews 1:3; and especially the Father of all believers, who are called his children, (Hebrews 2:13,) and the author of eternal life and salvation to them, Hebrews 5:9. Or, this title may be given him because he is the father of the new and eternal age, that is, of the economy which is to endure for ever; for Christ is the father of a new generation, to continue through all eternity; the second Adam, father of a new race; the head of a new and everlasting family, in which all the children of God are reckoned.” (6)
Now, the most important section of this devotional apologetic.
Charles Spurgeon explains why Isaiah called Jesus the “Everlasting Father” in this classic sermon:
A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, December 9, 1866, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
“The everlasting Father.” (Isaiah 9:6)
“1. 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 under standing the person of our Lord Jesus Christ! We must not suppose that we shall understand him at a glance. A look will save the soul, but patient meditation alone can fill the mind with the knowledge of the Saviour. Glorious mysteries are hidden in his person. He speaks to us in the plainest of language, and he reveals himself openly in our midst, but yet in his person itself there is a height and depth which human intellect fails to measure. When he has looked long and steadily the devout observer perceives in his Well Beloved beauties so rare and ravishing that he is lost in wonder; continued contemplation conducts the soul, by the power of the Holy Spirit, into an elevation of delighted admiration which the less thoughtful know nothing about. So deep is the mystery of the person of our Lord that he must reveal himself to us or we shall never know him. He is not discovered by research nor discerned by reason. “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona,” said Christ to Peter, “for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you.” “When it pleased God,” says the apostle, “to reveal his Son in me.” Another apostle asked the question, “How is it that you reveal yourself to us?” There is no seeing Jesus except by his own light. He is the door, but no man opens that door except Jesus himself; for “he opens, and no man shuts; he shuts, and no man opens.” He is the lesson, but he is also the school teacher. He is both key and lock, answer and riddle, way and guide. He is the one to be seen, for we are to look at him; but it is by him that we are enabled to see, for he gives sight to the blind. Let us then, dear friends, if we really desire to understand that most excellent of all sciences, the science of Christ crucified, entreat the Lord himself to be our Rabbi, and beg to be allowed to sit with Mary at the Master’s feet. May this be our prayer, that “we may know him”; and may this be our desire, that “we may grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ”; for “to know him is life eternal,” and to be taught by him is to be “wise to salvation.”
- The title before us is a somewhat difficult one. Some years ago I preached to you from “His Name—Wonderful.” (See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 214, “His Name—Wonderful!” 207) (See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 215, “His Name—the Counsellor” 208) (See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 258, “His Name—The Mighty God” 251) I felt I could expatiate upon that with ease. We advanced as far as “Counsellor,” and then we stopped a while. After a time we were led to preach upon “The Mighty God”; but we have been somewhat doubting our ability to expound on this particular title, for there is a depth in it which we are not able to fathom. 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. I have no silver of deep learning and gold of profound thought; but such as I have, I give to you. If my basket contains nothing more than a barley loaf and a few small fishes, may the Master of the feast multiply the food in the breaking, so that there may be enough food for his people.
- It is necessary at the outset to observe that the Messiah is not here called “Father,” by way of any confusion with him who is preeminently called “THE FATHER.” Our Lord’s proper name, as far as the Godhead is concerned, is not the Father, but the Son. Let us beware of confusion. The Son is not the Father, neither is the Father the Son; and although they are one God, essentially and eternally, being for evermore one and indivisible, yet still the distinction of persons is to be carefully believed and observed. We do not contend For the mere word “Persons”; it is only a makeshift word, although we do not know what better term to use; but the fact is all important that the Father is not the Son, and the Son is not the Father. 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.”
- The light of the text divides itself into three rays:—Jesus is “Everlasting” he is a “Father”; he is the “Everlasting Father.”
- I. First, Jesus Christ is EVERLASTING. Of him we may sing with David, “Your throne, oh God, is for ever and ever.” A theme for great rejoicing on our part. Rejoice, believer, in Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever.
- Jesus always was. The Babe born in Bethlehem was united to the Word, which was in the beginning, by whom all things were made. The title by which Jesus Christ revealed himself to John in Patmos was, “Him who is, and who was, and who is to come.” “His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow,” to indicate that he is the Ancient of Days.
Ere sin was born, or Satan fell,
He led the host of morning stars;
(Thy generation who can tell,
Or count the number of thy years?)
In his priesthood, Jesus, like Melchizedek, “has neither beginning of days nor end of life.” His pedigree is thus declared by Solomon:—“When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills I was brought forth; while as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth: when he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: when he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.” Do not think that the Son of God ever had a beginning.
Ere the blue heavens were stretch’d abroad,
From everlasting was the Word,
With God he was; the Word was God,
And must divinely be adored.
- 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. We were chosen in him from before the foundation of the world, and thus in our eternal election he shines forth gloriously. We bless and praise, and magnify him that the name “Son” does not at all import any time of birth or generation, or of beginning, but we know that he is as eternally the Son as the Father is eternally the Father, and must be looked upon as God from everlasting. For he is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: for by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they are thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”
- Just as our Lord always was, so also he is for ever more the same. Jesus is not dead; he ever lives to make intercession for us. He has not ceased to be; he has gone out of sight; but he sits at the right hand of the Father. Of him we read, “And, you, Lord, in the beginning have laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of your hands: they shall perish; but you remain; and they all shall become old like a garment does; and like a vesture you shall fold them up, and they shall be changed: but you are the same, and your years shall not fail.” Jesus is as truly the I AM, as that Jehovah who spoke out of the burning bush to Moses, at Horeb. He lives! He lives! This is the foundation of your comfort, “Because he lives you shall live also.” “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, who is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold our profession firmly. For we do not have a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted just like we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, so that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Resort to him in all your times of need, for he is still waiting to bless you. He is made higher than the heavens, but he still receives sinners, and effectually puts away their sins; and since “he ever lives to make intercession for them; he is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God by him.”
- Jesus, our Lord, ever shall be. He could not be called everlasting if it were supposable that he must one day cease to exist. No, believer; if God shall spare your life to fulfil your full day of threescore years and ten, you shall find that his cleansing fountain is still opened and his precious blood has not lost its power; you shall find that the Priest who filled the healing fount with his own blood still lives to purge you from all iniquity. When only your last battle remains to be fought, you shall find that the hand of your conquering Captain has not grown feeble, nor his arm waxed short; the living Saviour shall cheer the living saint. Nor is this all, for when death has taken you away as with a flood, and all the men of your generation have fallen like grass beneath the mower’s scythe, Jesus shall live, and you, caught up to heaven, shall find him there bearing the dew of his youth; and when the sun’s burning eye shall be dim with age, and the lamps of heaven shall be paled into eternal midnight, when all this world shall melt as the winter’s ice melts at the approach of spring; then you shall find the Lord Jesus still remains the perennial spring of joy, and life, and glory to his people. You may draw living waters from this sacred well! Jesus always was, he always is, he always shall be. He is eternal in all his attributes, and in all his offices, and in all his might, and power, and willingness to bless, comfort, guard, and crown his chosen people.
- The connection of the word “Father” with the word “everlasting” allows us very fairly to remark that our Lord is as everlasting as the Father, since he himself is called “the everlasting Father”; for whatever antiquity paternity may imply is here ascribed to Christ. According to our common notions, of course, the Father must be before the Son, but we must understand that the terms used in Scripture to represent Deity to us are not intended to be literally understood, and rendered in their exact terrestrial sense; they are only descriptive as far as they may be but do not encompass the whole truth, for human language utterly fails to convey the very essence and fulness of celestial things. When God condescends to speak to men, who are only as infants before him, he adopts their childish speech, and brings down his loftiness of thought to the littleness of their capacities. Babes have no words for the thoughts of senators and philosophers, and such matters must be stated in childish language if babes are to know them, and then the statement must inevitably fall far short of the great fact. The relationship between the Father and the Son is a case in point; it is not precisely the same as the relationship between a father and a son on earth, but that happens to be the nearest approach to it among men. We must beware of stretching and straining the word in its letter, especially in points where it would make us err from the spirit of the truth. Christ Jesus is as eternal as the Father, or he would never have been called “the everlasting Father.”
- It is the manner of the Easterners to call a man the father of a quality for which he is remarkable. To this day, among the Arabs, a wise man is called “the father of wisdom”; a very foolish man “the father of folly.” The predominant quality in the man is ascribed to him as though it were his child, and he the father of it. Now, the Messiah is here called in the Hebrew “the Father of eternity,” by which is meant that he is preeminently the possessor of eternity as an attribute. Just as the idiom, “the father of wisdom,” implies that a man is preeminently wise, so the term, “Father of eternity,” implies that Jesus is preeminently eternal; that to him, beyond and above all others, eternity may be ascribed. No language can more forcibly convey to our minds the eternity of our Lord Jesus. Indeed, without straining the language, I may say that not only is eternity ascribed to Christ, but he is here declared to be the parent of it. Imagination cannot grasp this, for eternity is a thing beyond us; yet if eternity should seem to be a thing, which can have no parent, may it be remembered that Jesus is so surely and essentially eternal, that he is here pictured as the source and Father of eternity. Jesus is not the child of eternity, but the Father of it. Eternity did not bring him forth from its mighty bowels, but he brought forth eternity. Independent, self-sustained, uncreated, eternal existence is with Jesus our Lord and God.
- In the highest possible sense, then, Jesus Christ is “the everlasting Father.” I will only pause one minute to draw a practical inference from this doctrine. If our Emmanuel is indeed then eternal and ever living, let us never think of him as of the one dead, whom we have lost, who has ceased to be. What could be a greater sorrow than the thought of a dead Christ? He lives, and lives to care for us. He lives in all the attributes which adorned him upon earth, as gentle and kind and gracious now, as he was then. Come to him, Christian, rest upon him now, just as if he were visible in this place, and you could speak into his ear your troubles, and confess your sins at his feet. He is here spiritually; your eyes cannot see him, but faith will be better evidence to you than eyesight. Trust him now with your cares! Rest upon him in your present difficulties! And you, poor sinner, if Christ were on this platform would you not come and touch the hem of his garment, and cry, “Jesus, let your pitying eye look on me and change my heart?” Well, dear friend, Jesus lives; he is the same today as he was in the streets of Jerusalem; and although your feet cannot bear you to him, yet your desires shall serve you instead of feet; and although your finger cannot touch him, your confidence shall be instead of a hand to you. Trust him now! He whose love made him die lives on. His precious blood can never lose its power. Come now, humbly come, and confide in “the everlasting Father.”
- II. We come, in the second place, to the difficult part of the subject; namely, Christ being called FATHER.
- 1. In what sense is Jesus a Father? Answer, first. He is federally a Father representing those who are in him, as the head of a tribe represents his descendants. The apostle Paul comes to our help here, for in the memorable chapter in the Corinthians, he speaks of those who are in Adam, and then he talks about a second Adam. Adam is the father of all living; he federally stood for us in the garden, and federally fell and ruined us all. He was the representative man by whose obedience we should have been blessed, through whose disobedience we have been made sinners. The curse of the fall comes upon us because Adam stood in a relationship towards us in which none of us stands towards our fellows. He was the representative head for us; and what a fall was there when he fell! For every one of us in his loins fell in him. “In Adam all die.” Since his day there has been only one other here to the human race federally. It is true, Noah was the father of the present race of men, for we have all sprung from him; but there was no covenant with Noah in which he represented his posterity, no condition of obedience by which he might have obtained a reward for us, and no condition of disobedience for the breach of which we are called to smart. The only other man who is a representative man before God is the second Adam, the man Christ Jesus, the Lord from heaven. Brothers and sisters, we call Adam father mournfully, for we are cast out of Eden by him, and we till the ground with the sweat of our face; our mothers brought us forth in sorrow, and we must go to the grave in sorrow; but we who have believed in Jesus call another man father, namely, the Lord Jesus; and we speak this not sorrowfully but joyfully, for he has opened the gates of a better Paradise; he has taken away the sweat of toil from our faces spiritually, for we who have believed do “enter into rest”; he has borne himself the pangs which were brought upon us by sin, he took our sicknesses and bore our sorrows; while he has overcome the heaviest affliction, death itself, so that he who lives and believes in him shall never die, but pass out of this world into the celestial life.
- The grand question for us is this, “Are we still under the old covenant of works?” If so, we have Adam for our father, and under that Adam we died. But are we under the covenant of grace? If so, we have Christ for our Father, and in Christ, we shall be made alive. Natural generation makes us the sons of Adam; regeneration acknowledges us as the sons of Christ. In our first birth we come under the fatherhood of the fallen one; in our second birth we enter into the fatherhood of the innocent and perfect One. In our first fatherhood we wear the image of the earthy; in the second we receive the image of the heavenly. Through our relationship to Adam we become corrupt and weak, and the body is put into the grave in dishonour, in corruption, in weakness, in shame; but when we come under the dominion of the second Adam we receive strength, and quickening, and inward spiritual life, and therefore our body rises again like seed sown which rises to a glorious harvest in the image of the heavenly, with honour, and power, and happiness, and eternal life.
- In this sense, then, Christ is called Father; and inasmuch as the covenant of grace is older than the covenant of works, Christ is, while Adam is not, “the everlasting Father”; and inasmuch as the covenant of works as far as we are concerned passes away, being fulfilled in him, and the covenant of grace never passes but remains for ever, Christ, as the head of the new covenant, the federal representative of the great economy of grace, is “the everlasting Father.”
- 2. Secondly, Christ is a Father in the sense of a Founder. You know, perhaps, or at least you readily remember when I remind you, that the Hebrews are in the habit of calling a man a father of a thing which he invents. For instance, in the fourth chapter of Genesis, Jubal is called the father of such as handle the harp and organ; Jabal was the father of such as dwell in tents, and have cattle; not that these were literally the fathers of such people, but the inventors of their occupations. Jabal first took upon himself a nomadic tent life, and set the example of wandering around with flocks and herds; and Jubal first put his fingers to musical strings, and his lips to pipes from which the wind is breathed melodiously. The Lord Jesus Christ is in this sense the Father of a wonderful system. Now, our Lord Jesus Christ, who brought life and immortality to light, and introduced a new phase of worship to this world is, in that respect, a Father; he is the Father of all Christians, the Father of Christianity, the Father of the entire system under which grace reigns through righteousness. Jesus is the Father of a great doctrinal system. All the great truths, which we are in the habit of delivering in your hearing as the precious truths of God sent down from heaven, fell first, clearly and powerfully, from the lips of Jesus. These things were dimly hinted at in the ceremonies of the law, but Christ first of all put them into plain letter so that he who runs may read. Practically it is Jesus who teaches us the doctrine of electing love; it is Christ who reveals to us redemption by blood; it is Christ who reveals regeneration by the work of the Spirit, saying plainly, “You must be born again.” It is Christ who reveals the perseverance of the saints. In fact, there is no doctrine of the Christian system, which is not so clearly revelled in the light of his own glorious Spirit by his teaching that we may not fairly call him the Father of it.
- Our great Master is also the Father of a great practical system. If there are any in the world who “love their neighbours as themselves,” the Man of Nazareth is their Father; for, albeit that the law signified all that, yet men had not discovered it, but had misread the law. “Eye for eye and tooth for tooth” was their version of law; but Christ comes and says, “I say to you, ‘Do not resist evil; if any man strikes you on the one cheek, turn the other to him also.’” If any man can suffer with patience and can return good for evil, heaping coals of fire upon the head of his foes, this man is a child of Christ. If men worship God in the spirit and have no confidence in the flesh, if they know no holy place, but recognise every place as holy where a holy man is found, such are the true children of Christ, for he said, “Those who worship God must worship him in spirit and in truth.” He is the Father of spiritual worship. It has been common to call Socrates the “father of philosophy”; Jesus is Father of the philosophy of salvation; Galen, the “father of medicine,” Jesus is Father of the medicine of souls; Herodotus, “father of history”; but Jesus is the Father of heaven on earth. He is the Father of disinterested living, of true love for men; he is the Father of forgiving one’s enemies; the Father, in fact, of the divine system of the Christian life.
- The system of salvation claims Christ to be its Father. Who else said, “By grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God?” Who except the apostle of this man, Christ Jesus? Who told men that it was not by works of righteousness which they had done, but by the merit of his passion and his life that they were saved? Who revealed the way of faith to men but Christ, the great doctrine of “Believe and live?” and those who receive it may claim Christ as Father. He is the Father of the Christian faith—a faith, my brethren, which, albeit that it has done much already for the world, for in old Rome it ended the contests in the Coliseum, threw down the bestial gods of heathendom, and albeit that it is doing much for the world even now, and helping to purge the vast Augean stable (a) of humanity, is to do more still; it is to cast out war, it is to destroy error, it is to regenerate the human race. The Father of this purifying system which is doctrinal and practical, and which has already worked the best results for men, is the Lord Jesus, and since it was devised of old, and will be prolonged as long as the world stands, he is called “the everlasting Father.”
- 3. Now, there is a third meaning. The prophet may not so have understood it, but we so receive it, that Jesus is, in the third place, a Father in the great sense of a Life Giver, That is the main sense of “father” to the common mind. Through our fathers we are called into this world. Now it is by Christ that there is a communication of divine energy to the soul, it is through him, through his teaching, through the Spirit that he has given, through the blood that he has shed, that life is given to those who were dead in trespasses and sins. He who sits upon the throne says, “Behold, I make all things new.” “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” “This is the record, that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” “For as the Father raises up the dead, and quickens them; even so the Son quickens whom he wishes. Truly, truly, I say to you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear shall live. For just as the Father has life in himself; so he has given to the Son to have life in himself.” We know that through Jesus Christ the divine life is given to us. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” He gives the living water, and then it is in us “a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” He is that living grain of wheat, which was cast into the ground to die, so that it might not abide alone, but become a root that brings forth fruit, which fruit we now are, receiving life from him as the stem receives life from the seed from which it sprang. Jesus is our Father in that sense. It is the Spirit of God who operatively quickens the soul and makes us live, but Jesus Christ’s gospel is the channel through which the Spirit works, and Jesus Christ is the true life to us. Receiving Christ we receive life, and without him we cannot have life. “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” Just as through the energy of Adam this vast world is populated until hill and dale are covered with a teeming population, so through the life energy of our Lord Jesus Christ the plains of heaven and the celestial hills shall be populated with a throng that no man can number. Out of every realm, all people, speaking every language, having been bronzed by the heats of the torrid zone, or frozen amidst the frosts of the frigid north, Christ shall find a people into whom his quickening shall come, and they shall live through the energy of his Spirit, and he shall be their everlasting Father. It is in this sense, because that life is everlasting and can never die out, that Jesus Christ is called “the everlasting Father.”
- Everything in us calls Christ “Father.” He is the author and finisher of our faith. If we love him, it is because he first loved us. If we patiently endure, it is by considering “him who endured such opposition of sinners against himself.” It is he who waters and sustains all our graces. We may say of him, “All my fresh springs are in you.” The Spirit brings us the water from this well of Bethlehem, but Jesus is the well itself. Spring up, oh Well! Spring up, oh Well! Divine Father, blessed Jesus, prove your Fatherhood by requickening our souls this morning according to your word!
- 4. Fourthly, I do not think that we have yet exhausted this title of “Everlasting Father.” The term implies that Jesus Christ is to be in the future, the Patriarch of an age. Many translators render the passage, “the Father of the future age.” So Pope in his famous poem of the Messiah (b) understands it, and calls him, “The promised Father of the future age.” It has been the custom with men to speak of ages as “the age of brass or iron,” and “the age of gold.” We are always looking for this age of gold; the world’s face is constantly turned to it; so much so that quacks play upon the simplicity of men and tell them when this golden age is coming, and fleece them of their pence, and sometimes of their pounds, under the notion that they can tell them something about the good times which are coming. They know nothing about it whatever; they are blind leaders of the blind: but this one thing is clear to everyone who cares to see it, namely, that such an age of gold shall come, that a period brighter far than imagination paints will dawn upon this poor, darkened, enslaved world. I am always jealous with a godly jealousy lest you should forget this doctrine, or throw it up in disgust, because of the shameful way in which it is made merchandise of by others. Brethren, calculate no dates, sit down to devise no charts, but in your heart be satisfied with this, that there will be a kingdom and a reign, and that in that kingdom there shall be no strife to vex the nations, there shall be no affliction to grieve the people; in that kingdom Jesus, the King, shall be conspicuous, and his refulgent glory shall be the light of all the inhabitants; it shall be a New Jerusalem coming down from heaven, prepared by God, as a bride is prepared for her husband, worthy of her Lord, and a fit reward for the crown of thorns, for the flagellation of his shoulders, for the shame, the spitting, and the cross. Lift the cross high my brethren, for it shall be lifted high. Do not speak of Christ with bated breath, for he comes to be a King. You Christians, do not think yourselves, though despised and rejected of men, to be men of a lowly birth, for “it does not yet appear what you shall be; but we know that when he shall appear you shall be like him, for you shall see him as he is.” Joyfully drink the cup of bitterness, for you shall soon drink the wines on the lees well refined; cheerfully pass through the darkness, for the morning breaks, and the day dawns, and the shadows flee away. Be content to be the offscouring of all things, for one day, when kings shall bow down before him, and all nations shall call him blessed, you shall partake in his honour, and shall be as princes upon the throne with him, Yes, he is to be the Father of a future age. Men have called certain great patriots the fathers of their country. Today let us call Christ the Father of our world. Oh Jesus, you have given to earth far better than a creation. You have not only formed it from chaos into order, and then brought it from darkness into light, and then from death into warm life and beauty, but you have recovered it from worse than pristine chaos, and saved it from a darkness worse than the primeval gloom, and a death more horrible than the primeval shades. You have descended into the depths into which this pearl, the world, was cast, and like a mighty diver all the waves and billows have gone over you, but you have come up again bringing this pearl with you, and it shall glisten in your crown for ever when you shall be admired by angels and adored by all created spirits. This shall be the sweetest part of their admiration and their adoration, you were slain and have redeemed us to God by your blood, and therefore to you be glory for ever and ever. He shall be in this sense, then, the Father of an everlasting age.
- 5. Once more—for the text is very prolific—Christ may be called a Father in the loving and tender sense of a Father’s office. Here is a text to show what I mean. God is called the Father of the fatherless, and Job, I think, says of himself, that he became a father to the poor. You know what it means, of course, at once; it means that he exercised a father’s part. Now, albeit that the Spirit of adoption teaches us to call God our Father, yet it is not straining truth to say that our Lord Jesus Christ exercises to all his people a Father’s part. According to the old Jewish custom the oldest brother was the father of the family in the absence of the father; the firstborn took precedence over all, and took upon him the father’s position; so the Lord Jesus, the firstborn among many brethren, exercises toward us a Father’s office. Is it not so? Has he not helped us in all times of our need as a father helps his child? Has he not supplied us with more than heavenly bread as a father gives bread to his children? Does he not daily protect us, indeed, did he not yield up his life so that we his little ones might be preserved? Will he not say at the last, “Here I am, and the children whom you have given to me; I have lost no one?” Does he not chastise us by hiding himself from us, as a father chastens his children? Do we not find him instructing us by his Spirit and leading us into all truth? Has he not told us to call no man father upon earth in the sense that he is to be our true guide and instructor, and we are to sit at his feet and make him our Rabbi and our authoritative Teacher? Is he not the head in the household to us on earth, abiding with us, and has he not said, “I will not leave you orphans (that is the Greek word); I will come to you?” As if his coming was the coming of a Father. If he is a Father, will we not give him honour? If he is the head of the household, will we not give him obedience, and say in our hearts, “Other lords have had dominion over us, but henceforth, you everlasting Father, we will give you reverence.” If he is in all these senses “the everlasting Father,”
Then let us adore, and give him his right,
All glory and power, and wisdom and might,
All honour and blessing, with angels above,
And thanks never ceasing, for infinite love.
- III. Lastly, we weigh the words, “EVERLASTING FATHER.” I have already explained what this means. Christ is called “the everlasting Father” because he does not himself, as a Father, die or vacate his office. He is still the Federal Head and Father of his people; still the Founder of gospel truth and of the Christian system; not allowing archbishops and popes to be his vicars and to take his place. He is still the true Life Giver, from whose wounds and by whose death we are quickened; he reigns even now as the patriarchal King; he is still the loving family Head; and so, in every sense, he lives as a Father. But here is a sweet thought. He himself neither dies, nor becomes childless. He does not lose his children. If his church could perish, he would not be the Father. How could he be a Father without a son? And this is the best of all, that he is “an everlasting Father” to all those to whom he is a Father at all. If you have entered into this relationship so as to be in union with Christ, and to be covered with the skirts of his garment, you are his child, and you shall forever be. There is no unfathering Christ, and there is no unchilding us. He is everlastingly a Father to those who trust in him, and he never does at any one moment cease to be Father to any one of these. This morning you may have come here in trouble, but Christ is still your Father. Today you may be much depressed in spirit and full of doubts and fears; but a true father never ceases, if he is a father, to exercise his kindness to a child; nor does Jesus cease to love and pity you. He will help you. Go to him, and you shall find that loving Friend to be as tender as in the days of his flesh.
- He is the author of an eternal system. As I glanced at the words “everlasting Father,” and thought of him as the Founder of an everliving system, I said to myself, “Ah then, the Christian religion will never die out!” It is not possible that the truth as it is in Jesus should ever be put away if he is “the everlasting Father.” I feel as if I could quote again Master Hugh Latimer, when, standing back to back with Ridley, “Courage, Master Ridley,” he said, “today we shall light such a candle in England as shall never be put out.” Look over there at Christ on the cross! He did that day light such a candle as never can be put out. He is “the everlasting Father.” He set rolling that day as it were a snowflake of truth as he died upon the cross; and you know what the snowflake does upon the high Alps; a bird’s wing perhaps sets it rolling, and it gathers another and another and another, until, as it descends, it becomes a mass of snow; and by and by as it leaps from crag to crag, it grows greater and greater and greater, until ponderous masses of ice and snow cohere together, and at the last, with an awful thundering crash the avalanche rolls down, fills the valley, and sweeps all before it; even so this Everlasting Father on the cross set in motion a mighty force which has gone on swelling and increasing, gathering to be a ponderous mass of mighty teaching, and the day shall come when, like an irresistible avalanche it shall fall upon the palaces of the Vatican and upon the towers of Rome, when the mosques of Mohammed and the temples of the gods shall be crushed beneath its stupendous weight, and the Everlasting Father shall have done the deed.
- “The everlasting Father,” last of all, because he is the Father, in all his people, of eternal life. Adam, you are a father, but where are your sons? If you could return to earth, oh Mother Eve! where would you find your children? I think I see her as she paces around the earth and finds nothing but little grassy mounds, heaps of turf, and sometimes a valley sodden blood red where her children have been killed in battle. I hear her weeping for her children; she will not be comforted because they are not! But hush, Mother Eve, what life did you give them? What kind of life was that which Father Adam conferred upon your sons and daughters? Why, it was only terrestrial life, a bubble life, that melted and disappeared. But Jesus as he comes again will find none of his children dead, none of his sons and daughters lost; because he lives they live also, for he is the everlasting Father, and makes those to have everlasting life who live and breathe through him. Thrice happy are those who have an interest in the truth of our text!
- Now, dear hearers, may I ask you whether Christ is an everlasting Father to you? There are other fathers. The Jew said, “We have Abraham for our father,” and to this day certain divines teach that we have covenant rights because of our earthly fathers. They believe in the Abrahamic covenant much after the manner of the Jews. “We have Abraham for our father”; therefore we have a right to baptism, therefore we are church members; “born into the church.” Yes, I have heard it said, “born into the church.” Let no man deceive you; this is not Christ’s teaching. “You must be born again.” If not, though your mother would be a saint in heaven, and your father an undoubted apostle of God, you should derive no advantage, but a world of solemn responsibility from the fact, unless you yourself are born again. Do not then say to yourself, “we have Abraham for our father,” for God is able from the very stones to raise up children to Abraham. We had a very remarkable instance not very long ago in this Tabernacle, of how God does sometimes bless the outcasts and leaves some of you, the children of godly parents, in the hardness of your heart to perish. There was a man known in the village where he lives by the name of Satan, because of his being so thoroughly depraved. He was a sailor, and since another sailor in that town had been the means of the conversion of all the sailors in a vessel that left the town, this man desired to sail with him to try and beat his religion out of him. He did his best, but he failed miserably; and as they happened to be coming to London, his friend asked him whether he would come to the Tabernacle. He did not mind coming to hear me, for as it happened, I was brought up near the place where he lived. This Satan came here on the Lord’s day morning, when the text was upon soul murder, (See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 713, “Soul Murder—Who is Guilty” 704) and he sat (some of you noticed him that day), and sobbed and cried under the sermon at such a broken hearted rate that he could only say, “People are noticing me, I had better go out”; but his companion would not let him go out, and that man from that day forth was begotten by the Everlasting Father, and is living and walking in the truth, an earnest believer, doing all that he can for the spread of the kingdom, and singularly clear in his doctrinal knowledge. Here is a man who had been everything that was possible in the way of badness, yet God met with him; and some of you who have Abraham for your father, and are related to godly people, are just all the more hardened for all the preaching you have heard. May God have pity upon you and save you yet! Do not be content with fleshly fatherhood; get the spiritual fatherhood, which comes from Christ.
- Others of you are today perhaps saying, “Well, we can trust in our good works.” Well, then, Adam is your father, and you know what will become of you. Adam was driven out of Paradise, and you will never be admitted there. Adam lost all his hopes, and you will lose yours. On the basis of the law no flesh living shall be justified. Alas! I fear that many here have another father. How does Christ put it? “You are of your father, the devil,” he says, “for you do his works.” Not works merely of open sin in the form of adultery, uncleanness, theft, and such like, but opposition to Christ is particularly a work of the devil, and unbelief in Christ is the devil’s masterpiece. If you do not then trust the Lord Jesus, do not say tonight when you kneel at the bedside, “Our Father, who is in heaven,” for your father is not in heaven, your father is in hell. Go to the blood of Jesus and ask that you may be cleansed from all iniquity, and then you may say through the everlasting Father, “Oh God, you have made me your child, and I love and bless your name.” May God be pleased to give you all his blessing for Jesus’ sake. Amen.” (7)
In conclusion, E. J. Young’s recent contemporary observation on Isaiah 9:6:
“The Father of Eternity”
“To discover the precise significance of the epithet is not easy. The word ‛ad signifies perpetuity or duration. It may have the sense of eternity, as when Isaiah speaks of the “high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity . . .” (57:15). Possibly that is the force here, for it is stated that there will be no end of the Messiah’s kingdom. In what sense, however, may the Messiah be designated the Father of Eternity? We may perhaps bring on the thought by paraphrasing, “One who is eternally a Father.”
The word “Father” designates a quality of the Messiah with respect to His people. He acts toward them like a father. “Thou, O Lord, art our father, our redeemer; thy name is from everlasting” (Isa. 63:16). “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear hi.’ (Ps. 103:13).
The quality of fatherhood is defined by the word eternity. The Messiah is an eternal Father. If this is correct, the meaning is that He is One who eternally is a Father to His people. Now and forever, He guards His people ad supplies their needs. I am the good shepherd,” said our Lord, and thus expressed the very heart of the meaning of the phrase. What tenderness, love, and comfort are here! Eternally – a Father to His people!” (8)
A summary to deliver if ever challenged or asked about the meaning of “Everlasting Father” in Isaiah 9:6.
“And again, ‘I will put my trust in him.’ And again, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.” (Hebrews 2:13 ESV)
According to Hebrew 2:13, Jesus is the father of the children God has given him.
Thus, it can be said, this son prophesied by Isaiah will become a Father to His people, and His reign will be forever!
“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy, he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5).
“To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen” (Romans 16:27).
- H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Isaiah, Vol.10., (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 167.
- Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Isaiah, Vol. 7, p. 295-296.
- Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 518.
- Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, Isaiah, Vol. 2, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 347-348.
- John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, Isaiah, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), 2011, p. 149-150.
- Joseph Benson, Benson Commentary of the Old and New Testaments, Isaiah, (New-York, New York, Published By T. Carlton & J. Porter, 1857), online page reference unavailable.
- Charles Spurgeon, The Everlasting Father, A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, December 9, 1866, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
- Edward J. Young, The Book of Isaiah Volume 1, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, Publishing Company, reprinted 1993) pp. 338-339.
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks. Available at: THERELIGIONTHATSTARTEDINAHAT.COM