Previous posts in the series:
- Part 1 – Introduction (defining the unity and diversity of Christian mission)
- Part 2 – The Mission of the Triune God
The Mission of God the Father
God the Father, the first person of the Trinity, is supreme in rank among the persons of the Godhead. Paul clearly teaches that God (the Father) is the “head” of Christ (the Son) (1 Corinthians 11.3) meaning that the Father is “ruler” having “authority over” Christ. Paul reminds the Corinthian believers that the Father is the one person/thing that is not subjected to Jesus the Son (1 Corinthians 15.27-28). But what is the Father’s specific mission to be accomplished as steps to the wider mission of the Triune God?
The Mission of God the Father is to glorify himself by being the ultimate agent in creating, purposing, and overseeing all things and sending his Son and Spirit. By ultimate agent I mean that the Father is the one who finally and primarily stands behind the tasks of creating, purposing, and overseeing all things. For example, in Matthew 1.22, it says, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet.” Who spoke? The Lord or the prophet? Both. But one was the ultimate agent who was finally speaking and one was the intermediate agent who was speaking as an instrument of the ultimate agent. The prophet spoke. But finally and ultimately, it was the Lord speaking through the prophet.
In the same way, the Son can be said to have created all things as the intermediate agent, means, or instrument through whom the Father created the world (John 1.3; Col 1.16, Heb 1.2). So Hebrews 1.2 says, “in these last days he (God) has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” Through whom did “he” create the world? The Son. Who created the world through the Son? “God” (Heb 1.1). Clearly, God the Father is the ultimate agent who created the world.
But the Father did not only create the world for his glory in the mission of the Triune God, he also sets his purpose for redemption. Reading Ephesians 1.9-11, we see the Father’s role and mission of purposing all things in the universe in general and redemption in particular. Paul writes, “making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory” (emphasis mine). Whose will is it? Whose purpose is it? And for what ultimate mission? It’s the Father’s will. It’s the Father’s purpose. The Father wills and purposes redemption, the uniting of all things in Jesus Christ (v. 10), to the praise of the Father’s glory which is the ultimate (wider) mission of the Triune God.
The Father also uniquely sends the Son and the Spirit as part of the Father’s mission. He sends his Son to accomplish redemption through his death, securing forgiveness of sins (Eph 1.7). God “gave” his Son to the world because he loves the world (John 3.16). Jesus tells us plainly, “I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me” (John 7.29). In seeking to define what the Father sent the Son to do would be to describe the specific subordinate mission of the Son which we’ll look at next. It’s important to note here that part of the Father’s mission in glorifying himself is sending the Son. The Son does not send himself. The Spirit did not send the Son to the earth.
The Father also sends the Spirit into the world, who seals the church as the down payment of the coming inheritance (Eph 1.13-14). Jesus tells us the Father gives the Spirit and sends him to the church, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14.26). Bruce Ware comments,
Clearly, then, the Father has primacy in what is pictured here, for the Spirit is sent from the Father… it must be the case that the ultimate Sender of the Spirit is the Father, and the subordinate Sender is the Son… The primary sending agent, then, is the Father, and the Father enjoins the Son’s participation in sending the Spirit, since the Spirit comes to “bear witness about me,” as Jesus puts it.
As members of God’s people sent by him on our particular subordinate mission, consistent with the specific mission of the Father, tied consistently into the ultimate mission of the Triune God, we should celebrate the fact that the Father chose us in Christ (Eph 1.3). He didn’t have to choose and predestine those of us he has, but he did as part of his mission for his glory. What an unshakable foundation for joy and gladness! We should marvel at the fact that this “missional” Father loves us with a great and particular love that is even distinct from his love for the world. In John 3.16 God expresses his love for the whole world, elect and non-elect, by giving his Son with the free and genuine offer of salvation for all who would believe. Then God tells us in Ephesians 2.4 that because of God’s great love for his elect, he made them alive together in union with Christ to display the glories of his grace (Eph 2.7). God the Father has a deep, powerful, active, life-giving love that he lavishes on his people in Christ. This helps us to feel and receive God’s great love without losing the focus that it’s all for the glory of the Father. Indeed, though the Father oversees all things in the universe for his glory in Christ, he doesn’t do it at the expense of our joy and benefit, but in accordance with it. Every good and perfect gift we ever receive is from God the Father (James 1.17) and God will give freely and abundantly all that we need for our ever-increasing and full satisfaction in him along with Jesus Christ (Rom 8.32). The mission of the Father employed and accomplished is a constant celebration of his adopted children.
 Bruce Ware, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles, and Relevance, (Crossway, 2005, 46-51). I add, “in rank” to keep a clause in the statement that points to functional role and not divine essence where the Father, Son, and Spirit are equal.
 For the meaning of kephale (“head”) in the Koine Greek see Wayne Grudem in “Appendix 1: The Meaning of Kephale” in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism ed. by John Piper and Wayne Grudem, (Crossway, 1991), 425-68.
 Bruce Ware, Father, Son, and Spirit: Relationships, Roles, and Relevance, (Crossway, 2005), 95-6, emphasis his.