Such was the Old Testament idea of God. Now let us return to the teaching of Jesus. And at once we discover that Christ let go nothing of that earlier doctrine which was of real and abiding worth. The God of Jesus Christ is as holy, as sovereign—or, to use the modern term—as transcendent as the God of the psalmists and the prophets. Their favourite name for God was “King,” and Christ spake much of the “kingdom of God.” To them God’s people were His servants, owing to Him allegiance and service to the uttermost; we also, Christ says, are the servants of God, to every one of whom He has appointed his task, and with whom one day He will make a reckoning. But if nothing is lost, how much is gained! It is not merely that in Christ’s teaching we have the Old Testament of God over again with a plus, the new which is added has so transformed and transfigured the old that all is become new. To Jesus Christ, and to us through Him, God is “the Father.”
It is, of course, well known that Christ was not the first to apply this name to God. There is no religion, says Max Mueller, which is sufficiently recorded to be understood that does not, in some sense or other, apply the term Father to its Deity. Yet this need not concern us, for though the name be the same the meaning is wholly different. There is no true comparison even between the occasional use of the word in the Old Testament and its use by Christ. For, though in the Old Testament God is spoken of as the Father of Israel, it is as the Father of the nation, not of the individual, and of that nation only. Even in a great saying like that of the Psalmist:
“Like as a father pitieth
So the Lord pitieth them that fear Him,”
it is still only Israel that the writer has in view, though we rightly give to the words a wider application. But there is no need of argument. Every reader of the Old Testament knows that its central, ruling idea of God is not Fatherhood, but Kingship: “The Lord reigneth.” Even in the Psalms, in which the religious aspiration and worship of the ages before Christ find their finest and noblest expression, never once is God addressed as Father. But when we turn to the Gospels, how great is the contrast! Though not even a single psalmist dare look up and say, “Father,” in St. Matthew’s Gospel alone the name is used of God more than forty times. Fatherhood now is no longer one attribute among many; it is the central, determining idea in whose revealing light all other names of God—Creator, Sovereign, Judge—must be read and interpreted. And the God of Jesus Christ is the Father, not of one race only, but of mankind; not of mankind only, but of men.
It was indeed a great and wonderful gospel which Christ proclaimed—so great and wonderful that all our poor words tremble and sink down under the weight of the truth they vainly seek to express. By what means has Christ put us into possession of such a truth? How have we come to the full assurance of faith concerning the Divine Fatherhood? In two ways: by His teaching and by His life; by what He said and by what He did. And once more a paragraph must perforce do, as best it can, the work of an essay.