Why is God called a Father? Whose Father is He? How is God a Father to us? What does God’s role as a Father teach us about His character and purpose for us?
The book of Revelation chapter 4 gives us a fascinating glimpse of God’s throne. In verse 8 impressive angelic beings address God on His 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 worship, honor and recognize the Almighty God as the One who created all things and rules with authority over all.
The Bible reveals God to be all-powerful—a being of great, unmatched strength. Here are some Bible verses on God’s unlimited power:
- “God has spoken once, twice I have heard this: that power belongs to God” (Psalm 62:11).
- “Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite” (Psalm 147:5).
- “Our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29).
Even though God is shown to be the omnipotent Creator and ruling authority who must be revered, He also describes Himself as a loving Father. That title teaches several truths that give us clarity and insight into God’s character and plan for mankind.
What does it mean to be a father?
The word father describes one who gives life or who creates, originates, exemplifies or founds something. For example, James Naismith is considered the “father” of basketball because he created the game over 100 years ago. Abraham is called the father of the faithful since his faith exemplifies what all need to strive for (Romans 4:16).
We each have a physical father who gave us life. In most cultures it is customary to carry the surname of our father, and most naturally call him “Dad,” “Father,” “Papa” or the like.
However, being a father does not always mean 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.
Sadly, many people have had very negative experiences with their physical fathers—sometimes due to abuse, neglect, absence or other factors.
God the Father, on the other hand, is the source of truth and love (John 17:17; 1 John 4:16).
God the Father is the source of all life
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 family (or household) is in both heaven and on earth. In heaven, the family has two members: the Father and the Son (Jesus Christ). On earth, the family includes God’s begotten sons and daughters—those who have His Spirit (Romans 8:14; Galatians 3:26; 4:6).
In a more general sense, God is also Father over all life in heaven (the angels) and on earth (all people) because He is the source of all life (Job 1:6; 38:7; 1 Timothy 6:13).
The Bible reveals that the Father is the supreme authority and source of all life, but did the actual work of creation through the Word, the One who later became Jesus Christ (John 1:1-3, 14). The Bible says that God created “all things” through Jesus (Colossians 1:15-18). In a sense, we could say God the Father directed the creation, while the Word carried out the creation.
The apostle Paul described it this way: “God [the Father] who created all things through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 3:9).
“The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”
The apostles Paul and Peter both referred to the Father as “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:3; 11:31; Ephesians 1:3; Colossians 1:3; 1 Peter 1:3). Jesus Christ is the Son of God in a unique and special way. Many scriptures identify Jesus as the Son of God the Father:
- “The LORD has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You’” (Psalm 2:7).
- He is identified as “Jesus, Son of the Most High God” (Mark 5:7).
- “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16).
- “All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Matthew 11:27).
- “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30).
How exactly is Jesus Christ the “only begotten Son” of God?
First, we must understand that Jesus’ begettal in Mary’s womb was not the origin of His existence. He had existed for eternity as “the Word” (John 1:1-3) and was the being who acted on behalf of the Father in Old Testament times. God the Father created all that exists through the Word, and it was the Word who interacted with people in the Old Testament. To learn more, read “Jesus in the Old Testament?”
The Word became Jesus, the Son of God, when He willingly gave up His divine spirit power and existence to come to earth as a human being (Philippians 2:6-7). When Jesus was begotten in Mary’s womb, the prophecy in Psalm 2:7 was fulfilled: “I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You.’”
At this point, the supreme God was now His Father, and He was now “the Son.”
God created Adam from the dust of the ground, and He created Eve from one of Adam’s ribs. Both were created as adults and given life by God, but they did not have a mother, nor were they conceived. All other human beings have been begotten by the process of human procreation.
Jesus Christ is the only being that was born by God’s own Spirit overshadowing a virgin, 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.
After living a perfect life and dying for the sins of humanity, Jesus was resurrected and “declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4). His spirit existence and power was restored, and He now lives as the “Son of God” for eternity.
How God is our Father
The gospel 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. That new spiritual beginning includes our entering a new family—God’s family.
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 real and personal way. He becomes our Father, and we become His begotten 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 8:16, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (King James Version). We begin our spiritual lives as babes (1 Peter 2:2), but we are to grow and develop in Christian maturity until our death or Christ’s return (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17). At that time, we will be resurrected to spirit life and become fully born sons and daughters of God (Romans 8:19; Hebrews 2:10; 1 John 3:1-2).
Through this new life based on God’s Spirit living in us, we can begin to understand spiritual truths (1 Corinthians 2:9-11) and grow closer to God our Father.
To learn more about the biblical teaching on entering God’s family, read our booklet God’s Purpose for You: Discovering Why You Were Born.
We can have a personal relationship with God the Father
God the Father wants to have a close, “father-child” relationship with us.God the Father wants to have a close, “father-child” relationship with us. Paul wrote that God’s Spirit allows us to address the Father 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.” Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words says it is “a term of endearment used within the family circle” (p. 1).
God doesn’t want us to view Him as a Father who is cold, distant and difficult to relate to. The New Testament reveals that God wants us to have a warm, affectionate, personal relationship with Him. He wants us to recognize His gentle concern and desire to bless us.
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 of a master (though He certainly is our Master as well!), but sons and daughters of a loving Father.
People who never had a loving physical father can struggle to relate to God as a loving spiritual Father. But through prayer and study of His character, we can see and relate to our Father as He is, without imposing our experiences on Him.
This brings us back to the first chapter of Genesis, where we read of God’s desire to “make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). God created us similar to Himself with the potential to share in His divine nature (2 Peter 1:4)! His entire plan is about bringing us into His family because of His great love for us.
God is 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. God expresses all the qualities of a loving Father.
Here are some characteristics of God the Father:
- He gives us life (Acts 17:25; 1 Timothy 6:13).
- He loves us (John 3:16).
- He rewards our efforts (Luke 6:35; Hebrews 11:6).
- He communicates with us through His Word (John 17:17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13).
- He allows us to communicate with Him through prayer (Matthew 6:9; Colossians 1:3).
- He corrects us lovingly (Hebrews 12:3-11).
- He desires to grant us the ultimate gift—eternal life in His family (Roman 6:23; Titus 1:2)—if we repent of our sins and obey Him (Acts 2:38).
If you have not yet experienced God as a personal, caring, loving Father, then you have much to look forward to. To learn more about who God is and how you can become His child, 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.