This may be little long but ...
Three - Not One
There are not three Fathers but one Father, so says the Athanasian Creed. The glorious mystery of the Trinity so correctly stated in this creed reminds us that in the inner workings of the Trinity each distinct person of the Trinity has its own proprium. The Spirit holds neither the estate nor the function of giving life to the Son. Only the Son holds the estate and function of being the Christ, the Sacrificed One; neither the Father nor the Spirit. Only the Father has the estate and the function of generating the Son. This doctrine always remains a mystery for seldom does God, in His radiant Word, allow us a glimpse of this economy. But outside the Trinity their estate and function are not divided but indivisible
The second person of that Trinity catechizes us that God is our Father. He is in relationship to us. He, as Father, is and must be Giver. This is His nature; He is a Giver. In giving gifts He has established the means by which these gifts are given. In His wisdom, He has established this as another holy trinity. He has given to us, who are called His children, three gracious fathers. To those outside the Christian church, who are not called His children, He has only given two fathers. He has come to give us, His children, life and once we are generated as His son or daughter we receive the fullness of the three fathers, the three estates. Like the Trinity each are connected, yet each is distinct. Each has its own proprium and each has its peculiar function. Some functions are identical but many are unique.
God has established the first estate: the biological father. He commanded Adam to procreate. The command was given to our first parents in the Garden to be a father and mother. Once Adam had conceived a child and only after this had occurred did he hold the estate of being (esse) a father. Not only did he function as a biological father in the mere act of procreation but in that investiture he was given the estate (stand) of being a father. To this estate God commands the giving of honor and the duty of obedience. For this estate God commands the offering of prayers. This estate is passed from one father to son as the image of the father is genetically conveyed to the son. When the son has become a man he leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife with the desire to fill not only the function of fathering but the estate of being a father. He is to raise his children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. He is to be and to function as a parent, ruling his own household.
But once a child leaves the confines of his biological father’s house he passes into another estate, the estate of the world. In God’s care for the children of men he has established a second father, the father of the state. There are many names for this estate. Sometimes the holder of this estate is called king, emperor, dictator, ruler, president, etc., but the fact still remains that all authorities in this world are established by God. This estate is distinct and differentiated from the estate of being a biological father. Some biological fathers may also be king but not all. Sometimes this estate is called the governmental father, the economic father, the civil father or referred to as the powers, the authorities, the state. To this estate God has given unique powers. Only the father of the government can exercise capital punishment. This gift is given to the governmental authority for the preservation of life, but taking of life can never be exercised by the estate of the biological father nor by the spiritual father. To this governmental estate God not only has given His establishment but He has also given to it the right to be honored, to be the object of prayer, to be financially supported and to be obeyed.
As a child of man God has given to this male or female the protection and care provided by two estates, the biological and the civil, i.e. governmental. But the child of man, who has been birthed by Holy Baptism into the family of God, has now become the child of God. To this new member of the family of God, Christ commands that they alone are given not only the fact that but also the right to say God is our Father. When God rips out of His child a cold stony heart and gives to that child the living beating heart of Christ Jesus, pulsating with the blood of the Lamb, that offspring has been thrust into a third estate. When his Holy Mother, the Church, has delivered him by the rush of living waters conjoined with mighty Word, he is birthed a child of the Heavenly Father. Gloriously his Father has adopted him as His own, nurtured him with true Food and Drink, given to him ears that might hear the glorious proclamation of His eternal Gospel.
This third estate of this holy trinity is the spiritual estate. God has established the gnadenmittelamt, the means-of-grace estate. This estate is generally called the pastoral or ministerial estate. It is established by God. He is the One who anointed His prophets, apostle-ized His messengers, called and ordained His Seelsorge, soul care-givers. For the care of His spiritual lambs, God has commanded that the holder of this estate take charge of the flock over which the Holy Spirit has made him overseer, that is, bishop. It is not an estate created by the will of man but by the will of God. Even through the biological father whom we have been given by the will of God yet often may be perceived by us as evil, we must still acknowledge him as our father. Likewise even though the governmental father may be seen as wicked or even as an enemy of God, yet we are to acknowledge them as being placed in that estate by God. Just so your spiritual father must be seen as placed in this estate by our Father. That same spiritual father is the one to be to honored, the one for whom prayers are offered, the one to whom support be given and the one to be obeyed.
Thus we have three fathers not one father, three lords not one lord, and three gift-givers given to us by a generous God to provide for us in their three respective realms, not one gift-giver. We as children of the heavenly Father reside all the time in three distinct yet conjoined realms. We sit upon a sturdy, strong three-legged stool. The culture of the current day is no different than many other times of history. The ego has become the center of our lives. “I’m worth it after all.” We refuse to acknowledge the means which God has given for our care. The three estates, not oneself, bring gifts and blessings from our loving Father. We Lutherans are not Enthusiasts; we do not expect God to directly talk to or effect us. When we Lutherans hear talk of “Jesus did this” or “Jesus led me to do this”, we feel very uncomfortable. Lutherans uncharismaticly are able to rejoice as they move freely through the three estates. In each they receive the appropriated gifts that their loving Father wishes to give them through each respective gift-giver. The three work for one goal, led by one authority. Our Father has come to give life and life abundantly, so He gives a superabundant trinity to provide for His children.
Pr Georg Williams