You sum up the whole of New Testament teaching in a single phrase, if you speak of it as a revelation of the Fatherhood of the holy Creator. In the same way, you sum up the whole of New Testament religion if you describe it as the knowledge of God as one’s holy Father. If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all. For everything that Christ taught, everything that makes the New Testament new, and better than the Old, everything that is distinctively Christian as opposed to merely Jewish, is summed up in the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God.1
The eternal and sovereign God of the universe is my Father.
This reality is not always comfortable for me. It has often been easier for me to think about God as Creator, Sovereign, and King rather than as my Father. God is the Father of Jesus – that I can get…but my Father? My mind tends to gravitate toward His lordship rather than His love…His power over me rather than His pleasure in me…His rule rather than our relationship. I am a functional reductionist, reducing God to those aspects to which I can better relate.
I suspect I am not alone in this struggle.
There are a variety of possible reasons for believers to struggle with approaching God on such intimate terms. Just a few of the more commons reasons include:
- Some have “daddy-issues.” We were abused or neglected by our earthly fathers and thus project these hurts upon God.
- Some are simply too scared to relate deeply to Him…maybe to anyone. Whether consciously or not, we attempt to keep Him at a distance; limiting Him to a portrait which is easier for us to see and embrace.
- Some see perversions of God’s Fatherhood which ignore His authority and swing the pendulum too far in reacting to those caricatures.
Regardless of the reason, He refuses to remain restricted to our safe and distant theologies. He insists that He be known by His children. He desires that He be known as Father. He is good, generous, loving, and kind. He is for His children. He disciplines us for our good. He is near.
One author even says of the Fatherhood of God that “there is no one concept of God which dominates the theology of Paul more than this.”2 The fatherhood of God is certainly central to the New Testament. Consider just a few passages:
- Matthew 7:7-11 Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
- Romans 8:14-For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
- Galatians 4:4-7 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
- Ephesians 1:3-14 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
Our confidence in prayer, our assurance of His love, our future inheritance, our redemption and sanctification, our understanding of God’s character, our perception of who we are…all are founded upon our sonship and His Fatherhood. We simply cannot miss, ignore, or suppress this as an abstract or peripheral concept. It is at the very heart of the Christian faith.
If this is true, I want to spend more time dwelling upon and seeking after a greater thirst for this reality and its many implications. I want to know my fears and frustrations which force me to the perceived peripherals of His love. I want to confess my self-protective measures and pray for greater grace to know the King, my Father.
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
1 J.I. Packer, Knowing God
2 Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin and Daniel G. Reid, Dictionary of Paul and His Letters (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 357.