God the Loving Father

God’s whole nature and character is a perfect expression of love. In the Old Testament, God is revealed as the loving spiritual Father of humans. This revelation is greater in the New Testament. Before the tragic Fall, God was the Father of Adam and Eve. After the Fall and in both Old and New Testament times, God lovingly adopts believers in Him as His children. Under the New Covenant, He imparts His eternal divine nature to believers, making them His children also by nature. As Father, God desires His sons and daughters to love, trust, respect, depend on and obey Him.

 

God’s Father heart revealed right from the beginning

 

Many Christians do not see that God revealed Himself as a perfectly loving caring Father from the time He created Adam and Eve. God’s Father heart was expressed in His:

 

         desiring to create humans in His own image and likeness and for them to produce multitudes of children for Him (see Genesis 1:26-28). God wanted billions of children with whom He could share a deeply intimate, personal love relationship.

         Fatherly concern about Adam being alone at first (see Genesis 2:18).

         providing His children with food (see Genesis 1:29).

         creating a beautiful garden for them at a place called Eden, which was in what is today called Iraq (see Genesis 2:8).

         desiring to have them participate in some aspects of His rulership of creation in a delegated submitted sense (see Genesis 1:26, 2:19-20).

         continual intimate communication with them (see Genesis 1:28-3:19).

         desire to train them to trust, depend on, respect and obey Him in all things. The test about the tree of knowledge of good and evil was a focal point of this fatherly training.

         care for them even after they unfaithfully and rebelliously turned against Him. Genesis 3:21 records the undying love of a perfect Father for His children who had turned traitors against Him: “Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.” This awesome love is also expressed in Genesis 3:15 in which God promises to provide a solution through Jesus Christ – Eve’s seed – to the horrendous problems into which they had fallen.

 

A common modern error about God

 

A common error in the modern church is the idea that God only revealed Himself as Father in the New Covenant. Not only did He show Himself to be a Father in Genesis Chapters 1 to 3. He expressed His Fatherhood to people living under the Mosaic Covenant in Exodus 4:22, Deuteronomy 32:6, 32:18-19, 1 Chronicles 29:10, Psalm 68:5, Isaiah 9:6, 63:16, 64:8, Jeremiah 3:19, 31:9, Hosea 11:1, Malachi 1:6 and 2:10.

In Malachi 1:6, God revealed Himself as both Father and Master to His people under the Mosaic Covenant: “…If then I am the Father, where is My honour? And if I am a Master, where is My reverence? Says the Lord of hosts…?” Even as early as Deuteronomy 32:6, God revealed Himself as the Father of His adopted people: “Do you thus deal with the Lord, O foolish and unwise people? Is He not your Father, who bought you?…”

Under the New Covenant, there was a fuller revelation of God as Father. This is seen in the multitudes of references to God the Father in the New Testament. But to say it was a concept not taught in the Old Testament is very wrong.

Adam and Eve were created in a state of having God as their Father in the sense they were united to Him by His Holy Spirit. They were not adopted as His children. But the people of Israel were not conceived in spiritual union with God through His Holy Spirit. Instead they were adopted by Him. In Romans 9:4, Paul refers to God’s adoption of the Israelites. Because they were not born by nature with God as their spiritual Father, they needed to be adopted by Him.

Exodus 4:22 refers to Israel as the Lord’s firstborn son. This is in the sense of being adopted as a firstborn son. Humans were not regenerated by the Holy Spirit in Old Testament times and therefore were not sons and daughters of God by nature.

Under the New Covenant, believers in Jesus Christ become God’s children by being both adopted by Him and regenerated with His nature by His Holy Spirit. So God is their Father both by adoption and nature.

Those who had saving faith in God and lived prior to the Mosaic Covenant were not His children by nature but were adopted by Him. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (Israel) and Joseph are examples of such people.

 

Fantacized views of God the Father

 

Many churchgoers and non-churchgoers believe in a God according to their own imagination. Here are some of their fantacised views of God the Father:

 

         One view sees God as a Father Who does nothing else but continually punish His children. Such a false God is cruel and enjoys seeing His children suffer all the time. He does not enjoy giving gifts to His children.

         Another view regards God as being like a “stiff and starchy” unemotional English gentleman. This false God does like not like being intimate and affectionate with His children.

         One modern humanistic attitude sees God as being like a grandfather instead of a Father. Good fathers love and discipline. Usually, grandfathers love but rarely discipline their grandchildren. God loves and disciplines (see John 3:16 and Hebrews 12:5-11). His punishing of His children is based on His wonderful love for them (see Hebrews 12:6 and Revelation 3:19).

         A cultic view of God regards Him as being like a heavenly Santa Claus who can be manipulated and bribed by His children into giving them whatever they want.

 

 

 

The bad effects of past human experiences

 

Many Christians have had fathers or grandfathers who were too strict on their discipline and/or did not cuddle, embrace or kiss them much and/or did not communicate intimately with them often, if at all. This has indirectly given them a warped attitude about what God the Father is like. Others have had their fathers leave them in divorce situations. This has affected their understanding of the word “father”. When preachers say God wants to be an intimate Father to them, their childhood memories shout, “How horrible!” This is why it is so important they have their minds renewed about what is the truth about God’s nature.

Others have had fathers who spoilt them and rarely if ever disciplined them. Many have had fathers who were weak persons who allowed their wives to boss and manipulate them. All of these experiences give children a wrong impression of God’s character.

 

Believers are both children and slaves of God

 

One wrong view suggests that Galatians 4:7 teaches that when we become sons of God, we are no longer His servants or slaves: “Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” But Galatians 3:21-4:9 reveals the sort of slavery spoken of in the above verse is a slavery to sin (3:22), to the Law (3:23) and to the basic principles of this evil world (4:3 and 4:8-9). Galatians 4:7 is not speaking of being a slave or servant of God.

1 Corinthians 7:22 reveals that believers are Christ’s slaves: “…Likewise he who is called while free is Christ's slave.” In Romans 8:16-17, Paul speaks of believers being children of God. In Romans 6:22, Paul reveals believers are slaves of God: “…having become slaves of God…” In 1 Peter 1:3, Peter shows believers in Christ have been born again as God’s children. But later in 1 Peter 2:16, Peter commands the same sons and daughters of God to live as servants of God. [1]

Christians who have legalistic attitudes usually wrongly see serving God as a means of trying to earn His grace and a place in heaven. But we are not saved by some type of perfect servanthood to God. We serve God as His love-slave because we are saved by His undeserved grace and not as a means of being saved.

 

 

Being God’s or Jesus’ friend

 

John 15:14-15 says believers are Jesus’ friends: “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.”

In John 15:15 quoted above, Jesus said He regarded His disciples as His friends and no longer His servants in one sense. But note He qualified this in verse 14 by saying they were only His friends if they did what He commanded. So being regarded by Jesus as His friend does not lessen His expectations of our sincere obedience.

Also John 15:15 does not mean born-again believers are not Jesus’ servants in any way. This is because three of the disciples Jesus was talking to in John 15:15 were Peter, Jude and John, who later in 2 Peter 1:1, Jude 1 and Revelation 1:11 called themselves servants of Jesus Christ. 2 Chronicles 20:7, Isaiah 41:8 and James 2:23 record Abraham was God’s friend. Exodus 33:11 suggests Moses was God’s friend. But note Genesis 26:24 and Exodus 14:31 reveal Abraham and Moses were also God’s servants or slaves.

Our friendship with Jesus Christ can never be on equal partnership terms like that in the friendship between say myself and a fellow Christian. This is because Jesus is our Master. In our relationship to Him, we are in one sense like slaves who have become the best friends of their Master, but are still slaves.

 

Relevant Hebrew and Greek words

 

In Hebrew, the word “Father” is “ab”. When used in relation to God, “ab” means “Father of His people, who constituted, controls, guides and lovingly watches over” them. [2] In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word “ab” when used of God refers to Him being the Father of:

 

         the Son of David – the Messiah (see 2 Samuel 7:12-14).

         King Solomon (see 2 Samuel 7:14)

         His people under the Mosaic Covenant (see Deuteronomy 32:6, 32:18-19, Isaiah 63:16 and Malachi 1:6).

         the fatherless (see Psalm 68:5). This relates to God acting like a human father to the fatherless. It does not mean God adopts all fatherless humans as His spiritual children in an eternal sense.

 

Hosea 11:1 shows God’s adoption of the people of Israel in a collective sense as His son was based on His love. He does not adopt humans from evil wicked motives.

The Bible reveals God is the loving spiritual Father of all who have returned to Him through Jesus Christ (see John 1:12-13).

In the original Greek New Testament, the word for “father” is “pater”. Vine says this word means “a nourisher, protector, upholder”. [3] Do we see God as the One by whom all our physical and spiritual needs are met? Matthew 7:11 states: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”

Louw and Nida say “pater” means in relation to God “one who combines aspects of supernatural authority and care for his people”. [4] Here we see God’s role as Father does not only relate to caring for His children. It also refers to His authority over them. God is not a weak whimpish authority figure as a Father like humanism teaches modern fathers should be.

“Pater” is also used of God as the Father of Jesus Christ in Matthew 11:27, 20:23 and Luke 2:49 and of believers in Romans 8:15, 2 Corinthians 6:18 and Galatians 4:6.

Ephesians 4:6 does not teach God is the Father of all humans. In context, the word “all” used four times in this verse refers to believers only. John 8:44 and 1 John 3:10 show Satan is the Father of unbelievers. After the Fall of Adam and Eve, Satan adopted unbelieving humans as his children. The expression “Father of spirits” in Hebrews 12:9 either refers to God as the Creator of all human spirits or as the spiritual father of those spirits who are regenerated and adopted by Him.

 

 

Bible Study Questions

 

1.         In what ways was God’s Father heart revealed right from the time He created Adam and Eve?

2.         What proof is there in the Old Testament that God was revealed as a Father long before the beginning of the New Covenant?

3.         What are some fantacised views of the characteristics of God the Father?

4.         Does Galatians 4:7 show that believers in Jesus Christ are God’s sons and daughters but not His servants or slaves? Give Biblical proof for your answer.

5.         What does the word “despotes” mean in 2 Timothy 2:21, 2 Peter 2:1 and Jude 4?

6.         Why is it wrong to use John 15:14-15 in an attempt to prove believers are not Jesus’ servants?

7.         What does the Hebrew word “ab” mean when used in relation to God?

8.         What does the Greek word “pater” mean when used in relation to God?

 


 

[1] Verses which teach believers in Christ are sons and daughters of God are Galatians 3:24, Ephesians 1:5 (taken in connection with verse 12) and Hebrews 2:13. Verses which show New Testament believers are still servants or slaves of God are Acts 4:29, 20:19, 27:23, Romans 1:1, 6:22, 12:11, 14:4, 14:18, 1 Corinthians 7:22, Galatians 1:10, Ephesians 6:6, Philippians 1:1, Colossians 4:12, 2 Timothy 2:24, Titus 1:1, James 1:1, 1 Peter 2:16, 2 Peter 1:1, Jude 1:1, Revelation 1:1, 2:20, 7:3, 19:2, 22:3 and 22:6. In the original Greek New Testament, two words which relate to God and Jesus Christ being our Master are “Kurios” and “Despotes”. “Kurios” is the word which is mostly translated as Lord in relation to God or Jesus Christ. In Matthew 6:24, Mark 13:35, Luke 16:13, Romans 14:4, Ephesians 6:9 (second usage) and Colossians 4:1 (second usage), “Kurios” or forms of it are used in relation to God or Jesus Christ being the Master of believers. In each of these contexts, the Greek words for slavery or slaves are also mentioned.

In 2 Timothy 2:21, 2 Peter 2:1 and Jude 4, forms of “despotes” are used in reference to Jesus being the Master of believers. Revelation 6:10 uses “despotes” and Acts 4:24 uses a form of “despotes” when referring to God being the Master of believers.

[2] Brown, Driver and Briggs, page 3.

[3] Vine, page 228.

[4] Louw and Nida, page 140.

 

 


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