On God the Father & Fatherhood
In the wake of yet another Father’s Day (my 29th), perhaps we should ponder the importance of a father’s place and the impact of a father’s love. Father’s Day is an emotional day for me as I bask in the appreciation of my own family and thank my Heavenly Father for the gifts that are mine. I cannot look upon the sons God has given me, and the blessed woman who bore them, without exulting in the love and grace of my God. This moves me to pray that God will keep us all in that love and grace.
As important as mothers are, it is significant that God is not a mother, but a father (feminist intrusions upon the person of God notwithstanding). There are, in this designation, some concepts that are critical to Biblical fatherhood and our understanding of the role and responsibility of a father (these concepts are not exhaustive, but I trust helpful).
#1: God as a father holds authority over His children, those who are His by creation and more specifically those who are His by redemption. Since God is the ultimate father, He holds ultimate authority or sovereignty over his children. He rules their lives.
Similarly, earthly fathers have authority over their children. Since they are not God, that authority is limited. They are not sovereign. But that does not diminish their authority. It does add to it serious responsibility and accountability to God.
#2: With this authority and responsibility comes pleasure: not the sensual kind that so quickly comes to mind, but pleasure of the heart; the pleasure of seeing the design of God fulfilled; the pleasure of seeing growth, maturity, authority and responsibility transfer to the next generation. God takes pleasure in His creation: “For your pleasure they exist and were created.” (Revelation 4:11)
And an earthly father takes pleasure in seeing the work of God in his own children. He takes pleasure in the gospel and gospel living being transferred to the next generation. So the pleasures of fatherhood, in particular Christian fatherhood, are similar to and analogous with the pleasures of God the Father.
#3: The third concept seen in God the Father that is crucial to Biblical fatherhood is love and devotion. I say love and devotion as one concept because of how they are related. God’s love and devotion to His children and His glory in their lives is everywhere apparent in Scripture. God is pleased to glorify Himself through the love He displays and lavishly bestows on His own (see Zephaniah 3:17). That love will always result in their god, no matter how hard or troubling things may seem (Romans 8:28 & 29 and 2 Corinthians 4:17 & 18). What father cannot relate to this love and devotion? The genuine love of a father moves him to do, not just the seemingly good or enjoyable things, but also the hard things, because he lives and acts with the future, indeed eternity, in view.
These three concepts are connoted, if not denoted, by our passage (1 Thessalonians 2:11 & 12) as Paul communicates with his children in the faith. “For you know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father does his children, that you should walk worthy of God, who has called you unto His kingdom and glory.”