Soteriology Lesson 13 - The Role of God the Father in Our Salvation

Thinking on Scripture with Dr. Steven R. Cook

Aug 13 2023 • 1 hr 1 min

God the Father is seen as the initiator, planner, and orchestrator of the salvation of mankind, and this because He is loving, merciful, and kind, and “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4), and is “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9). Salvation is necessary because of the problem of sin in the human race. All mankind is utterly helpless to bring about a remedy by human effort (Rom 3:10, 23; 5:6-10; Gal 2:16, 21; 3:21-22). Everyone is said to be “darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart” (Eph 4:18), and “dead” in their “trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1; cf., Col 2:13). This refers to spiritual death, which means separation from God. We are trapped in sin and stand guilty before a holy and righteous God and are completely unable to save ourselves. Wiersbe observes:

  • The unbeliever is not sick; he is dead! He does not need resuscitation; he needs resurrection. All lost sinners are dead, and the only difference between one sinner and another is the state of decay. The lost derelict on skid row may be more decayed outwardly than the unsaved society leader, but both are dead in sin—and one corpse cannot be more dead than another! This means that our world is one vast graveyard, filled with people who are dead while they live (1 Tim 5:6).[1]

If God had not made a way for us to be saved, we would be forever lost. Lightner states:

  • God is the only one who could solve the problem which man’s sin presented to Him. After man’s fall God the Father began in time the plan of salvation which He devised before time began. This divine plan centered in his divine Son: “He gave His only begotten Son” because He “so loved the world” (John 3:16). “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us” (1 John 3:16). “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only-begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:9).[2]

But God intervened. He broke into time and space and displayed His mercy, love, and grace upon mankind. The apostle Paul wrote:

  • But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph 2:4-9)

The Father’s actions are based on His love for all mankind. He loves because of who He is and not because of the beauty or worth of the object. Scripture reveals that “God is Love” (1 John 4:8), which means love is part of His nature. God loves because it is His nature to love.

The Father’s eternal plan for salvation

God the Father’s soteriological work is traced back to what He planned before time began. He was motivated to provide for our salvation before we existed. According to Lightner, “We are often led to believe that our salvation began when we made our decision to trust Christ as Savior. The fact is, God was at work on our behalf long before that time.”[3] Paul wrote that God the Father “chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him” (Eph 1:4). That the Father elected us to salvation is straightforward in this passage, and the doctrine of election will be addressed later in this work. For now, this passage is noted because it speaks of the Father’s salvation-work “before the foundation of the world.” According to Lightner:

  • God the Father’s work in salvation centers primarily in what he did before time began. With infinite love and compassion he acted on our behalf even before we were born. Paul told the Ephesian Christians that they had been chosen in Christ by the Father before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4). To the Roman Christians the same apostle wrote about the Father’s foreknowledge, predestination, and call of them before time (Rom 8:29–30). Peter, writing to saints scattered throughout Asia Minor, described them as “elect” of God the Father (1 Pet 1:2). While evangelicals differ on how these and other such passages are to be understood, they all agree that God the Father initiated the plan of salvation in eternity past.[4]

God’s election starts with His sovereign choice, but also includes the individual choices of those who trust in Christ as Savior. Both are true. Though there is tension at this point—and this because of limited information and limited human capacity to comprehend—both God’s sovereignty and human volition must be acknowledged at the same time. Lightner states, “God the Father is sovereign. He must be to be God. Human responsibility is just as biblical as divine sovereignty. Jesus stressed both. Jesus said no one can come to him unless drawn by the Father but he also said none who come to him would be cast out (John 6:37).”[5]And Paul Enns states, “While there is human responsibility in salvation, there is first a divine side to salvation in which God sovereignly acts to secure the sinner’s salvation.”[6]The Christian must be content to live with this tension and not try to force a solution one way or another.

The salvation of mankind, with all its details, was fully comprehended and planned by God the Father from eternity past. It’s not as though God was surprised by the fall of Lucifer and mankind. He is eternal, and His plan is eternal. Lightner states, “We must never view salvation as an afterthought or as the only possible way out of a hopeless dilemma on the part of God. The plan of salvation is as eternal as God is. God was not shocked when Satan and then man fell. He is eternal, and his plan is from eternity past to eternity future.”[7]

God the Father commissioned God the Son

God the Father commissioned God the Son to provide our salvation. God the Son agreed to the Father’s mission, came into the world, added humanity to Himself, and executed the Father’s plan perfectly. Though Jesus said and did many things during His time on earth, of which many books have been written, His primary mission was to save sinners. Jesus said, “the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10), and “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Jesus lived a sinless life and then sacrificed Himself on the cross as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of humanity. Through His death, burial, and resurrection, salvation is offered to all who believe in Him as Savior. Bruce Ware notes, “In eternity, the Father commissioned the Son who then willingly laid aside the glory He had with the Father to come and purchase our pardon and renewal.”[8]

God the Father sent the Son to die

It was the Father’s will for the Son to go to the cross to die for lost sinners, and the Son willingly went to His death and bore the Father’s wrath in our place. This was explained in Isaiah, where the prophet wrote about the Suffering Servant, saying, “But the LORD was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering” (Isa 53:10a). It is simultaneously true that the Father sent and the Son went. In the Gospel of John, we’re told, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:16-17). Jesus said, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent” (John 6:29), and “I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38). The apostle John wrote, “God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10), and “the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14). Walvoord states:

  • Jesus Christ’s main purpose in coming to the world…was to provide salvation for those who put their trust in Him. Jesus expressed this in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” In His public ministry Jesus spoke of many truths, and His teachings were so comprehensive that a systematic theology could be written based on what He said and taught. However, this was a background to His dying on the cross for our sins. In this supreme act of dying, He fulfilled His main purpose in becoming incarnate, of being “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).[9]

[1] Ibid., 18.

[2] Robert P. Lightner, Handbook of Evangelical Theology: A Historical, Biblical, and Contemporary Survey and Review (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1995), 189–190.

[3] Ibid., 192.

[4] Ibid., 191.

[5] Ibid., 191.

[6] Paul P. Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1989), 328.

[7] Robert P. Lightner, Handbook of Evangelical Theology, 192.

[8] Bruce A. Ware, “Tampering with the Trinity: Does the Son Submit to His Father?,” in Biblical Foundations for Manhood and Womanhood, ed. Wayne Grudem, Foundations for the Family Series (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2002), 248.

[9] John F. Walvoord, What We Believe, 73.