Why is God referred to as a Father? Whose Father is He? How does He act as a Father to each of us? What should we learn from this important aspect of God?
The book of Revelation chapter 4 gives us a glimpse of God’s throne. In verse 8 impressive created beings address the One on the throne as Lord God Almighty. Two verses later 24 elders fall to the ground, remove their crowns and cast them before the throne. They do so to demonstrate great humility and to recognize the Almighty as the One who created all things.
The Bible reveals God to be all powerful—a Being of great strength. Psalm 62:11 says, “God has spoken once, twice I have heard this: That power belongs to God” (emphasis added throughout). Further, Hebrews 12:29 records, “Our God is a consuming fire.”
Even though God is shown to be the omnipotent Creator and ruling authority who must be respectfully revered, He also describes Himself as a Father. That title carries several revealing connotations that give clarity and insight into God’s character and plan for mankind.
Many meanings of father
The word father is used to describe one who passes on life or who creates, originates or founds something. For example, James Naismith is the “father” of basketball because he created the game over 100 years ago. Abraham is called the father of the faithful since the promises of eternal life through faith originated with him (Romans 4:16).
We each have a physical father who gave us life, and thus it is customary in most cultures to carry the surname of our male parent, and most naturally call him “Dad” or “Father.”
However, being a father does not always project something positive. Jesus told some of the hypocritical people of His day, “You are of your father the devil” (John 8:44). He did not mean Satan had given them physical life, but that they were following his example of spiritual wickedness. Satan is the father of lies and murder, inspiring others to do the same.
Father through creation
Ephesians 3:14-15 states, “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.”
These two verses show that God’s overall household or family is both in heaven and on earth. Through creation, God is the Father of both the angelic world (Job 1:6; 38:7) and humans (Malachi 2:10; Luke 3:38). Almighty God is responsible for everything that exists; thus He rightfully is a Father to all who have life (1 Timothy 6:13). So, it was natural for the apostle Paul to refer to God as the head of a vast family.
Jesus: His own begotten Son
Jesus Christ is the Son of God in a unique and special way. He is identified as the “Son of the Most High God” (Mark 5:7). Psalm 2:7 says, “You are My Son, today I have begotten You.” Jesus referred to God as His Father on numerous occasions. The very well-known John 3:16 states, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.”
Adam and Eve were created by God from the dust of the ground and given life by God, but they did not have a mother, nor were they conceived. Jesus Christ is the only Being that was born of a virgin by God’s own Spirit overshadowing Mary, resulting in a conception (Luke 1:35). Jesus is literally the only begotten Son of God. All other humans have a physical father. So God is a Father to Jesus in a way that He is not to any other living being.
Our spiritual Father
The gospel message brought by Jesus Christ reveals another vital message about fatherhood and God’s role in our lives. Though we all have physical life when we enter this world, God plans to offer all human beings the chance to experience an additional spiritual beginning that can result in eternal life in God’s Kingdom.
This aspect of the gospel message reveals how, through repentance, baptism and the receiving of God’s Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), God Almighty can actually become our Father in a very personal way. He becomes our Father, and we become His children, when we are spiritually converted. Romans 8:14 tells us, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”
The apostle Paul tells us in Romans 8:9, “You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.” Of course, we are still literally flesh, but Paul was speaking of this from God’s perspective. We begin our spiritual life as babes (1 Peter 2:2), but we are to grow in Christian maturity until our death or until Christ returns (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).
Through this new life based on God’s Spirit living in us, we can begin to not only grasp spiritual truths and values (1 Corinthians 2:9-11), but also have a very personal, close relationship with God our Father. Paul says that we are now able to address Him as “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15).
The Holman Concise Bible Commentary says, “Abba is the transliteration of the Aramaic term for father, implying great familiarity and intimacy.” Easton’s Bible Dictionary says it is “a term expressing warm affection and filial confidence.”
God reveals through the New Testament that we can have a warm, affectionate, personal relationship with Him that goes far beyond just acknowledging Him as the One who created us and who gives us beneficial rules to make our lives happy and complete. We are children in God’s eyes and enjoy the special connection and love only a father and his children can enjoy. We are not just servants having a master, but sons and daughters having a Father.
This brings us back to the first chapter of Genesis, where Moses records God’s desire to “make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (verse 26). Christians are able to share in the divine nature of God Himself (2 Peter 1:4)!
A loving Father
God reveals Himself to mankind in the role of a Father in several contexts. The most important is that of a spiritual Father. Thus, Christians experience a God who expresses all the qualities of a loving Father. He gives us life (John 3:3); He loves us (John 3:16); He rewards our efforts (Hebrews 11:6); He communicates with us through His Word (John 17:17; Ephesians 1:13; Colossians 1:5; 1 Thessalonians 2:13); He corrects us lovingly (Hebrews 12:3-11); and, most important, He will grant us the ultimate gift of life—eternal life in His Kingdom through His grace (Roman 6:23; Ephesians 2:5)—if we repent of our sins and obey His commands (Acts 2:38).
If you have not yet experienced God as a personal, caring, loving Father, then you are yet to begin the fulfillment of the reason you were created by God. For more information about who God is and how you can become a child of God, be sure to read the articles:
Another resource that can be helpful is “Knowing God,” our free seven-day Journey. Let us be your guide as you spend a week discovering who God is and what He has in store for you—in this life and the next.