When the privilege of writing this article fell to me on the week of Father’s Day, I took it as inspiration to draw us back to the idea of the Father in Fatherhood. While we have a great deal of instruction in Scripture concerning fatherhood, we need a model of fatherhood. As children of God, we find that prefect model in God the Father. The idea of calling God “Abba” is almost unthinkable. In fact, Scripture tells us that it is a Divine privilege, But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:12). Later, 1 John 3:1 makes clear that this privilege is the result of God’s love for us, Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!
Nothing should be clearer to the believing father than the fact of the perfection of His heavenly Father. However, there has been an evangelical inhibition toward the Fatherhood of God. Therefore, as we look to this Father’s Day weekend, we must hold fast a biblical doctrine of the fatherhood of God. And we do not have to look far, as we immediately find God the Father speaking with His Son and Spirit in creating mankind in Genesis 1:26, Let us make man in our image according to our likeness. In this, the paradigm of fatherhood is set, as we see in the institution of the family. Here, man both leaves his father and mother, and cleaves to his wife, in order to multiply in his own image as a father.
Though the fatherhood of God is developed throughout the Old Testament, we should look to its full development in the New Testament. The gospels explode with revelation concerning the fatherhood of God. However, Jesus is the fulfillment of all of the biblical illustrations of divine fatherhood. In fact, John 1:18 tells us, No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, has explained Him. The author of Hebrews amplifies this point saying, Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. Jesus Himself makes it most clear by simply stating in John 14:9, He who has seen me has seen the Father. As we look to Jesus as the full revelation of the Father, and our full understanding of fatherhood, we see three evident essential characteristics of fatherhood displayed in Jesus prayer in John 17.
First, fatherhood is the source of identity. Jesus acknowledges that His position as a son has been given to Him by His father. “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.” (1-2)
Second, fatherhood is seen in unity and submission. The unity between god the Father and God the Son is seen in Jesus’ declaration that He had accomplished the work the Father gave Him to do. “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.” (3-4)
Third, fatherhood results in an intimate bond. Jesus prayed to the Father for the full harmonious effects of sonship to be displayed in Him as the Father glorifies them both. “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” (5)
Throughout the prayer, these three characteristics of identity, unity and intimacy are displayed. “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. (John 17:6-11) Even in earthly terms, there is something in the father giving his name to the son. The son continues to bear the name of the father and to multiply it through his own sons, giving the crown of grandchildren to his father. Jesus is given the name that is above all names (Philippians 2:9), and bears it and guards it faithfully, giving it to those who the Father has given Him; that He might return them to the Father as a display of their identity, unity and intimacy. These three elements might serve as a fundamental framework for defining fatherhood, and may help us apply the doctrine of the fatherhood of God to our own fatherhood, in our own families.