Question: In What Sense Is God A Father?
Answer: The term “Father” is employed in both testaments in describing God. Why? Does it mean that we are all children of God and that God is the Father of all humankind? What does the Bible have to say about God being the “Father?”
1. He Is The First Person Of The Trinity
The one God, by nature, is a Trinity consisting of three distinct Persons, or three distinct centers of consciousness. They are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. God the Father is the First Person of the Holy Trinity. He is the One who sent and commissioned Jesus, God the Son, to the earth. Therefore, God is a Father in the sense that He is the First Person of the Trinity.
2. He Is The Unique Father Of Jesus Christ
He is referred to as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is another distinction. Paul wrote to the Ephesians.
How we praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we belong to Christ (Ephesians 1:3 NLT).
However, He is not the “Father” in the same sense as earthly Fathers. Indeed, God the Son did not have a mother who gave Him birth in eternity past.
In the gospels, we find God the Father acknowledging Jesus as His beloved Son. Matthew records what occurred at Jesus’ baptism.
And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17 NRSV).
The Father acknowledges the Son.
The Son, likewise, acknowledges the Father. We also read in Matthew.
My Father has given me everything, and he is the only one who knows the Son. The only one who truly knows the Father is the Son. But the Son wants to tell others about the Father, so that they can know him too (Matthew 11:27 CEV).
Again we must understand that the terms Father and Son are used to describe the unique relationship between the first two Persons of the Trinity. The Bible makes it clear that both the Father and Son have existed together eternally. There was not a point in time when the Son came into being.
Therefore, we should not try to make an exact analogy between a human father, and a human son, when we speak of God the Father, and God the Son. The terms are given to describe the unique oneness, and unity that exists between these two Persons of the Godhead.
3. He Is The Father Of Israel
In the Old Testament, God is said to have been the Father of the nation Israel. We read in the Book of Jeremiah.
Tears of joy will stream down their faces, and I will lead them home with great care. They will walk beside quiet streams and not stumble. For I am Israel’s father, and Ephraim is my oldest child (Jeremiah 31:9 NLT).
Israel was a special son to God in the sense that the Lord supernaturally began the race through the elderly Abraham and Sarah. Their child Isaac was born after they had passed the child-bearing years. Thus, their own existence is a miracle.
4. He Is The Father Of All Creation
A further way in which the Bible designated God as the Father has to do with the created universe. He is the Father of creation in the sense of the Creator, source, and sustainer of the universe. In the widest meaning of the term it has the idea as God being the Producer of all things. This includes His role as Creator of humanity. Therefore, in the creative sense, God is the Father of all humanity. The Apostle Paul said.
For in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we are also His offspring. Being God's offspring, then, we shouldn't think that the divine nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image fashioned by human art and imagination (Acts 17:28,29 HCSB).
Paul made God’s creative ability clear when he addressed this crowd in Athens. He provides everything to everyone.
James said something similar. He wrote about good gifts that come from God the Father. He put it this way.
Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change (James 1:17 RSV).
In a certain sense, all creation can look to God as their Father.
5. He Is The Father Of All Who Believe
Another designation the Bible uses of the Father is that He is the Father of all those who put their faith in Him. The Scripture makes it clear that God is not the intimate Father of all humankind. Indeed, He is only the Father to those who believe in Him. While it is true in a general sense that God is the Father, the Creator of every living thing, the intimate relationship a father has to his son is only experienced by those who believe in Him.
The Bible explains the way which one enters into this intimate father-child relationship with God is not through natural birth, but through the “new birth.” This happens when an individual believes and puts their faith in Jesus Christ. The Bible says.
Yet some people accepted him [Jesus] and put their faith in him. So he gave them the right to be the children of God (John 1:12 CEV).
Those who did receive Jesus became God’s children in a unique sense, a spiritual sense.
The Apostle Paul told the Galatians they were God’s children because of their faith in Jesus Christ. He put it this way.
So you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26 NLT).
We are God’s children through faith in Christ. Previously to coming to faith, we were not His children.
In the letter to the Ephesians, we read of Paul testifying that believers are part of God’s family or household.
O now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God's holy people. You are members of God's family (Ephesians 2:19 NLT).
Therefore, God is the Father to believers in a unique sense.
6. The Father Provides Benefits Through Jesus Christ
We also find that God the Father provides a number of benefits for those who believe in God the Son, Jesus Christ.
For example, the Father gives those who trust in Him “all things.” He showed this by not sparing His only Son. Paul wrote the following to the Romans.
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? (Romans 8:32 RSV).
The “all things” include the following.
A. There Is A Special Relationship Between God And His Children
First, there is a special spiritual relationship between God the Father and His spiritual children. Jesus said.
And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father-- the one in heaven (Matthew 23:9 NRSV).
Believers are part of a huge family with God as their Father. A believer can now have intimate fellowship with God the Father through God the Son.
John wrote about the fellowship which we can have with the Father.
We are telling you about what we ourselves have actually seen and heard, so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3 NLT).
He is our Father while we are His children.
B. The Believer Is Secure In Jesus Christ
We also find that believers are now in the secure hand of God the Father. Jesus made this very clear when He spoke of the Father’s care for His children. We read His words as follows.
My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand (John 10:29 NKJV).
We are His. Nothing can break that relationship. Nobody can snatch us out of the hand of our loving Father.
C. Everything In The Universe Is Ours
Those who are God’s children are entitled to all that is His. The good news is that everything in the universe belongs to God. Therefore the believer will inherit all these things.
Paul wrote the following to the Romans.
And since we are his children, we will share his treasures-- for everything God gives to his Son, Christ, is ours, too. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering (Romans 8:17 NLT).
All things which are His also belong to us because of our faith in Jesus Christ. This is one of the wonderful truths of Scripture.
Therefore, as we examine the Scripture we find that God is Father in a number of different senses. The context must be looked at to determine in which sense it is used.
Summary To Question 2: In What Sense Is God A Father?
The God of the Bible is designated as the Father in a number of different ways. It is important that we understand the various senses in which He is a Father.
First, God is called the Father as the First Person in the Holy Trinity. This shows that He is a distinct Person, or center of consciousness, from God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. While only one God exists, the one God is made up of three distinct persons. This First Person is known as the Father.
He is also the eternal Father of Jesus Christ, God the Son. Theirs is a unique relationship. This does not mean that God the Son is His actual offspring. Indeed, it is that way in which this truth of the nature of the one God is explained for our benefit.
In the Old Testament God is called the Father of the nation Israel. He is the One who allowed the nation to begin in a supernatural way with the birth of Isaac, the son of the aged Abraham and Sarah. Since their beginning God has been a Father to them looking after them wherever they have wandered.
God is also the Father of all creation. He is the Father in the sense of the “Begetter” or “Maker” of everything. In other words, all creation ultimately comes from His creative hand. In this way God is the Father of all people.
However, God is the Father in a different sense to those who believe in Him. Scripture says that God is the loving Father to all those who put their faith in Him. This caring Father has an intimate relationship with those who are His. Indeed, God the Father has made a number of provisions for believers. He alone is their spiritual Father. He allows them direct access to Himself through the Person of Jesus Christ. The Father has provided an eternal inheritance for His children. They will be heirs to everything that is His. Meanwhile, He is keeping them secure while here upon the earth. These are some of the benefits the Father gives to His children.
Therefore, the term Father, when applied to God, finds various meanings in Scripture.
This question comes from my forthcoming book “The Personal Attributes Of God”