Fathers

From the Dean

A regular article written by Phillip Jensen in his role as Dean of Sydney at St Andrew's Cathedral.

Originally Published:
5th September 2004

Tagged: family father fatherhood

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Happy Father’s Day to all our fathers.

Family life is fundamental to all of humanity, though sadly much of it is disfigured by sin.

Each of us has or had a father.  For most of us this man in our life has been a powerful influence for good.  Unfortunately for some of us he has been a powerful influence for bad.  Not that the morality of fathers is different to the rest of humanity.  All fathers are a mixture of good and bad.  But the influence of fathers is so great that their children feel acutely their fathers’ good or evil actions.

In most homes the mother is more directly involved in raising the children, yet the impact of the father is disproportionately large in children’s lives. 

The Bible has a view of fatherhood that is quite at odds with much of mid-twentieth century western culture.  Towards the end of the twentieth century a swing of opinion was moving our cultural leaders back to the importance of fatherhood.  Once again the Bible’s teaching was becoming mainstream.

Fatherhood is not so much biology as relationship: A relationship of love and trust; dependence and provision; submission and authority; teaching and learning; protection and obedience; honour and faithfulness.  The commitment of fathers to take responsibility for their children and to express the paternal love in faithful provision and protection of their children is all coming back into fashion.  Once again men are encouraged to model for their children right living and care for them with appropriate discipline.

But the Bible goes much further than this.  For the Bible models all our understanding of Fatherhood upon God.  Fatherhood is not based in biology but in relationship.  God is called the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” or “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory” (Ephesians 1:3, 1:17).  The eternal relationship within the trinity is that of Father and Son. 

God is also the Father of Israel.  The nation of Israel is God’s first-born son (Exodus 4:22).  For the nation of Israel was God’s heir.  To them was given the covenants of promise.  Theirs was the inheritance of the Promised Land.  So the prophet could base his argument on Israel’s family connection to God
“Have we not all one Father?  Has not one God created us?  Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers?”(Malachi 2:10)

In particular God was the Father of the King of Israel.  David was promised that his son would always sit upon his throne and would be the son of God: “I will be to him a father and he shall be to me a son” (2 Samuel 7:14).  So the Messiah, the Christ, would be the King of Israel and therefore the Son of God.  Every King of Israel was the Son of God.

All this comes together in the one true Israelite king: Jesus the Christ.  The eternal son - God the Son - became man.  And as a man the disciples saw his glory - “the glory of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

Here was the eternal (God the Son) becoming the human messiah (the son of God).  And he did this for us - that by his death and resurrection and the outpouring of his Spirit - we too may become the sons of God.  For the risen Son of God poured out his Spirit, the spirit of sonship into our hearts so that we can call God “Abba! Father.”  For if we have been born again by the Spirit of God we can receive the Lord Jesus Christ and are given “the right to become the children of God.” (John 1:12-13)

This adoption into the family of God is one of the greatest blessings that we could ever have.  We are not just creatures we are the very children of the Father who is in heaven. 

Little wonder that Christians love to celebrate Father’s day.  For in our earthly fathers - with all their faults and foibles - we see some pale and distorted picture of God the Father. Even in our criticisms of our fathers for their failure to live up to the ideal of fatherhood - we recognise what the Heavenly Father is like and how short our earthly father has fallen.  And in the loving care of our earthly fathers we see something of the gracious kindness of our Heavenly Father
“which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are 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!” (Matthew 7:9-11)