From “Studies in the Lord’s Prayer,” by Pastor K. David Oldfield
If I brought a Minah bird to church tonight and told you that he could talk, you might be curious. Perhaps if I told him to say “hello,” and he said, “Hello, everyone,” you might be amazed. But it’s not unusual to be able to teach some birds to appear to talk. They aren’t really talking, however; they are only mimicking sounds that human’s make. They certainly don’t communicate among themselves with “hello, how are you?”
If I brought in one of our Pomeranians and told her to pretend to be a cat, you might be dubious. I have never heard of a dog who completely and permanently stopped barking and wagging its tail. I have never heard of a dog which began to meow, purr, use a litter box, and sleep all day. (Well, maybe the “sleep all day” part.) Dogs behave like dogs, Minah birds behave like Minahs, and cats behave like cats.
And likewise, if I exhorted a wealthy man like Bill Gates to pay off all the mortgages of all the scriptural Baptist churches in North America, he might have the capital to do that, but just because a man has wealth, doesn’t mean that he’s going to be generous. His wealth is not a part of his nature or his character; it is external to who he really is. He isn’t going to pay off all those mortgages unless he is wealthy, generous and a Landmark Baptist. (Bill Gates is a generous man, but not a Landmark Baptist). Money and generosity are the sorts of things left behind when we leave this world.
But who we really are, either by God’s grace, or by sin, stays with us throughout all eternity. The man of Luke 16, who had been very rich moments before, died penniless before God. But just as he was Christless before he died, after his death he was still Christless. The New Birth is a not like religion: some external cloak that we use to cover our sins. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature, old things are passed away, behold all things become new” – II Corinthians 7:14. A rich man may not behave in a rich fashion, but the Righteous God will always behave righteously.
“O righteous Father . . .”
Six times in His prayer, the Lord Jesus has called Jehovah His Father. It was just about every four verses, beginning with His opening words. But it wasn’t as many of us use the Title: Stuttering a mere empty word while we look for something else to say.
Every time the Lord Jesus addressed His Father in this fashion it was with a purpose. And proof of that is seen in the divine and royal adjectives that He sometimes used: “HOLY Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.” – verse11. “O RIGHTEOUS Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me.” – verse 25.
When Jesus appealed to the Father as Holy and Righteous, it was in order to strengthen His petition. Perhaps I should say that it was in order to show us how to strengthen our petitions. Did the Lord Jesus ever have a weakness in prayer? I think not.
God never decrees, promises, acts or even rests in a fashion contrary to His nature. And among the many attributes and characteristics of God, at heart, the Lord is holy and righteous. He never does anything that is not right, righteous, and absolutely just. Deuteronomy 32:4 – “He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.” Psalm 92:13-15 -“Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing; To shew that the LORD is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.”
Remember that the Lord Jesus, in this prayer, is primarily praying for the disciples and for us. This is a foreshadowing of His intercession for us which is going on at this very moment, and this intercession boils down, basically, to our salvation.
Now it has been often and properly declared that salvation is by grace and mercy, rather than justice and righteousness. If we received justice, then there wouldn’t be a single soul found outside of Hell. God has shown us great mercy in not judging us according to our sins. God has given us great grace in declaring us righteous and giving us the nature of His Son. But just because we have received mercy and grace that doesn’t mean that righteousness is not involved.
What does Titus 1:2 say? “Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, PROMISED before the world began.” To whom did the Lord make the promise of eternal life? Since we had not yet been born, and since Adam had not yet been created, there is a very strong argument that the promise was made to Christ, our Saviour, on our behalf. This promise involved the election, and thus salvation, of all those whom the Father gave to the Son. The Righteous Father made a promise to the Son to give eternal life to all who believe.
The righteousness and justice of God are very much a part of our salvation. If the covenant made with the Son, involving any of those whom the Father gave to the Son… If that covenant should be broken in any way, it would be unrighteousness on God’s part. “We are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last day” – I Peter 1:5. But we are also kept by the righteousness of God unto salvation. God could never again be called righteous if even the least of his chosen ones should be lost.
Christ here appeals to the righteousness of His Father, on our behalf, even as He is doing in Heaven at this moment.
“The world hath not known thee . . .”
This is somewhat of a strange, strange truth. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork” – Psalm 19:1. “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person” – Hebrews 1:1-3. “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?” – John 14:9.
God has from the day of Adam’s creation been revealing Himself to His creation in any number of ways, and yet the world, the creation outside of the Lord Jesus, has not known the Lord. This is not speaking only of the idolatrous Gentiles or the unbelieving Jews, but of all mankind. The whole world lieth in wickedness and sitteth in darkness. We are such as “sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron; because we rebelled against the words of God, and contemned the counsel of the most High” – Psalm 107:10.
Sure the “god of this world hath blinded our minds, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ should shine unto us,” but at the same time – or even before hand – Romans 3:10-11 was true: “There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.”
“The world hath not known the Father.” This is knowledge that is fundamental to all other kinds of knowledge.
What I have always said about the rejection of truth applies here. The reason that many people think that there are no absolutes, and no ultimate Truth is due to the fact that they have never met Him who is the Truth. The geologist is going to be befuddled by the geologic strata, if he denies the Creator. The archeological anthropologist will not understand the ancient civilizations until he compares them to the written revelation. The medical doctor cannot properly treat the body if he denies the existence of the God-created soul. The knowledge of the Lord is foundational to all real truth in this world, and in denying this root truth is the root of all evil in this world.
Yes, the world hath not known the Lord, but what is more problematic is the extent of the continued ignorance in the child of God. We know the Lord by grace, and we have been born again, but for the most part we are satisfied to know next to nothing more about him.
“But I have known thee . . .”
Since Christ and the Father are one, there is nothing in the Father that the Son does not know. It is almost a waste of breath to try to enumerate the things that the Son knows about the Father: His nature, His glories, His perfections, His promises. There is the covenant, the names of those whom the Father has given to the Son. There is little point to go on. There is nothing that the Son does not know about the Father.
“And these have known that thou hast sent me.”
Who are these who now know? They are those whom the Father hath given to the Son since before the foundation of the Earth. Assuming that they (we) know that the Son was sent by the Father, then we can assume that they know much more than this.
We know “that God so loved the world that He sent his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” – John 3:16-17.
And we know how God sent His Son: “When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law” – Galatians 4:4.
And how did we learn these things? They were revealed to us by the grace and kindness of God. The Lord Jesus has manifested God’s grace and truth to our hearts.