I’ve been reading about the doctrine of God the Father, a doctrine which has no handy name. Following the model of christology (the doctrine about Jesus Christ) and pneumatology (the doctrine about the Holy Spirit), we ought to call it patrology, but that word is already in use, and refers to the study of the church fathers.
Though it lacks a handy technical name, though, the doctrine about the first person of the Trinity, God the Father, is a distinct and important area of theology. He’s not God-in-general, and he’s not God the Son nor God the Spirit. He is the Father. What specific content does the doctrine of God the Father have?
Most of what should be said in a doctrine of God the Father is positive. There is a large amount of biblical revelation about him, if you approach Scripture with an open mind and a few of the right questions. As John Owen points out in the first part of his great book of evangelical trinitarian spirituality, Communion with God, when you search through the New Testament to gather up the concepts that are associated with the first person of the Trinity, one key idea stands out as the most frequently occurring: love. Owen says that love is the thing “wherein peculiarly and eminently the saints have communion with the Father… free, undeserved, and eternal love.” This is what Christians should think of first when they think of the Father, “this they are immediately to eye in him.” (Read Owen on this subject in this short section of Communion with God.)
God the Father is the one who loves us. Notice that the key idea is not wrath or justice, not even discipline or provision, though these are the associations that spring to mind for many of us. Those associations are present in Scripture, but towering above them is the main message about the Father that the New Testament teaches: that it is God the Father who takes the lead in loving his people. This is a far cry from the angry-Father-friendly-Jesus caricature.
Once you pick up the trail of this New Testament doctrine of God the Father, you’ll start to see it everywhere. It can improve your approach to prayer immediately if you draw together some of the key passages about the Father, meditate on them, and make them your own.