A basic element in fatherhood is that it is related to origins, to bringing things into existence (Gen 17:5). Consequently, the Bible speaks about God as the Father of creation, for he is the source of all things (Num 16:22; Isa 64:8; Mal 2:10; Luke 3:38; Heb 12:9; James 1:17; see GOD). This is possibly one aspect of God’s fatherhood that Paul refers to when he points out that all fatherhood comes ultimately from God. Earthly fathers exist only because there is a heavenly Father (Eph 3:14-15). (For the responsibilities of fathers in human society see FAMILY.) People in Bible times used the word ‘father’ as a respectful way of referring to their ancestors (Ps 22:4; Heb 1:1; see ANCESTORS). They even used it to refer to their spiritual leaders, especially those who brought them to know God (2 Kings 6:21; 13:14; 1 Cor 4:14-15; 1 Tim 1:2,18; 1 Peter 5:13; cf. Matt 23:7-12). But the Bible’s most important use of ‘father’ is in relation to God.

Father of his people

When the Bible speaks of God’s fatherhood of his people, there is again a variety of meanings. In Old Testament times God was the Father of the nation Israel. He made Israel his people by covenant, and cared for them as a father cares for his children (Exod 4:22; Deut 1:31; 8:5; Hosea 11:1; Mal 1:6; John 8:41). In particular he was Father to the king of his chosen people, and more particularly still, of the Messiah, whom Israel’s king foreshadowed (2 Sam 7:14; Ps 2:7; cf. Acts 13:33; Heb 1:5; see MESSIAH). In addition to all this, God was Father in a special sense to the true believers within the nation (Ps 103:13; Isa 63:16; Mal 3:17; John 8:42). The New Testament shows that God is Father to all who believe in him – not just Israelites, but believers of all nations (Rom 1:7; 1 Cor 1:2-3). All people, regardless of nationality, are dead in sin, but those who repent of their sin and believe in Jesus are ‘born again’. They receive new life from God and so become God’s children (John 1:12-13; Eph 2:1; see REGENERATION). To use another picture, God adopts them into his family and gives them the status and privileges of full-grown sons (Gal 4:4-6; see ADOPTION). Believers therefore can speak to God confidently as their Father (Matt 6:9; Luke 11:9-13; Rom 8:15-16; see ABBA; PRAYER). Yet they must also reverence him, for he is their judge (Matt 6:14-15; 1 Peter 1:17). God, on his part, cares for his children’s needs and makes them heirs of his inheritance (Matt 6:32; Luke 12:32; Rom 8:17), though he also chastises them when they do wrong (2 Sam 7:14-15; Heb 12:7- 11; see CHASTISEMENT). God’s children are to develop lives whose character is like that of their Father (Matt 5:48).

Father of Jesus

Christ The highest sense in which God is Father is as the Father of Jesus Christ (John 1:18; 5:36; Rom 15:6; 2 Cor 1:3). But his fatherhood of Jesus is different from his fatherhood of believers (cf. John 20:17). God did not make Jesus his Son as he makes believers his sons. Jesus always has been the Son of God. There is no suggestion that God the Father existed first and God the Son came into existence later. The Father and the Son, both being God, have existed eternally, but they have existed eternally in this relationship of Father and Son. Though distinct persons, they are inseparably united (John 10:30; 14:10; see SON OF GOD; TRINITY). As the Son, Jesus alone has true knowledge of the Father. Therefore, only through the Son is the Father revealed to the world, and only through the Son can the world come to know the Father (Matt 11:27; John 1:18; 5:18; 10:15; 14:6-7).

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