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Why Is God the Father Called a Father?
Plain Truth Magazine
January 1980
Volume: Vol 45, No.1
Issue: ISSN 0032-0420
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Why Is God the Father Called a Father?
David Jon Hill   
Church of God

Died: Nov 24, 2003
Member Since: 1951

Why should Christians call God "Father"? Why should we pray, "Our Father which art in heaven..."? Is the term a title, an anthropomorphism, a description, a theological euphemism, a comforting thought? Is God called Father because He's the collective Father of all mankind by virtue of creation? Is God REALLY OUR FATHER?

   Catechism, the Apostles' Creed and Jewish thought all point to God as Father — each with different interpretations and understanding. Long and eloquent are the comments and reasonings of Bible commentaries and dictionaries. Every analogy possible is explored and exploited to expound the vast scope of the awe-inspiring term "Father" — often ending in enthusiastic, but frustratingly impotent statements like, "... The glory intimated by the fact that we are to be called the sons of God is too glorious for us to comprehend the depth, nay the heighth, of its meaning."
   Every analogy is magnified, examined in detail, verbalized: God is the Creator, the Beginner, the One who caused us to have life — and so is called our Father. He is Benefactor, Provider, Protector. He is Love-giver, Law-giver and Forgiver, Punisher of sins, Rewarder of virtue, Maker of angels (and so their Father by creation), true and actual Father of Jesus Christ the Son of God.
   God the Father is our Father in every way, and we are His sons in every way....
   Every way but ONE!
   That one? TO BE GOD AS GOD IS GOD. That God is our Father because He is actively and presently in the process of begetting and bringing sons to birth, sons to be born in His image, spiritually perfect as He is perfect, everliving as He is everliving, God as He is God — the purpose of all creation, the goal of human life, the plan of God!


   Don't be too hasty in your judgment. Don't, as ancient Israel did before you — don't limit God! (Psalm 78:41.) Read on. See what the Old and New Testaments of your Bible have to say on this most important question: Why is God the Father called a Father? Read what prophets and apostles of God alike tell us is the plan of God. Read what Jesus said, says and will say!
   Jesus had this problem when He was here on earth some two thousand years ago! The way He answered the scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees of His time — the scriptures He used are still there. They still mean the same thing today that they meant in that yesterday, and they will mean the same thing forever! (Hebrews 13:8.) No, they were not scriptures that just applied to Jesus alone! Remember when Jesus said, "Is it not written in your law, I said, ye are gods? [Jesus here quoted from Psalm 82:6.] If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken, say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified... Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?" (John 10:34-36.)
   What got everyone upset was not that He taught His disciples to pray, "Our Father which art in heaven...." (Matthew 6:9). All the people of the Book, Israelites and Jews alike, considered God as their Father. "... Israel is my son, even my firstborn" (Exodus 4:22). "... O foolish people and unwise, is not he thy father that hath bought thee? hath he not made [created] thee, and established thee?" (Deuteronomy 32:6). They knew the scripture which says, "Doubtless thou art our father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not: thou, O Lord, art our father, our redeemer; thy name is from everlasting" (Isaiah 63:16).
   Also, "But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter, and we all are the work of thy hand" (Isaiah 64:8). The beautiful analogy was accepted by everyone. The idea of thinking of God as Fatherlike was everyone's doctrine. It was much like today — Hastings' Bible Dictionary says, "... Jesus taught His followers to think of themselves as sons of God." The common thought of the day was not what Jesus had in mind when He taught them to pray, "Our Father...." Neither did Jesus at any time in His life teach His followers to conjure up the nice spiritual feeling of thinking of themselves "as if" they were sons of God!
   What stirred people up was that Jesus literally meant what He said. And what He said was, "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30). That is what triggered the charge of blasphemy! That is what drove His listeners to attempt to stone Him!
   And people have not changed in two thousand years. People still get stirred up and snort, "Blasphemy!" when they hear a follower of Jesus Christ and His Father say that he literally believes Jesus' prayerful statement to His Father, spoken on that day He was sacrificed for us, when He said, "Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be ONE, as we are"! (John 17:11.)

Jesus, the ONLY Begotten

   The Apostle John, explaining about Jesus Christ, the Word of God, pointed out that He was God from the beginning and had always existed before His human birth (John 1:1). (If you do not understand that Jesus was the God of the Old Testament, please send immediately for our free reprint "Who and What Was Jesus Before His Human Birth?") John went on to point out that everything that we see around us in creation was made by that One we call Jesus (John 1:3). And further, that God was made flesh and dwelt with human beings on the face of the earth — referring to Him as "the only begotten of the Father" (John 1:14, 18).
   That Jesus Christ was and is the Son of God is a cardinal point of doctrine upon which all Christianity rests. No one who calls himself a Christian can at the same time deny that Jesus Christ was and is the Son of God.
   One who had been God became man! That Jesus of Nazareth, "Who, existing in the form of God [ASV], did not cling to his prerogatives as God's equal [Phillips]: but emptied himself [of his glory] [ASV & Conybeare] and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross [KJV]." (Philippians 2:6-8 — several translations are used here to make the meaning of the original Greek more clear in today's language.) That same Jesus who was God, yet also was with God from the beginning, was also the One who confounded His fellow countrymen by saying, "Before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58). And by explaining to them that He was both the Lord of and yet also the son of David (Matthew 22:41-46), Jesus Christ was actually telling them that God had become a human being. This was the same Jesus who emptied Himself of the glory of being God (John 17:5) and became a human being, fleshly, subject to death.
   That God could become a human being, subject to death, subject to all of the manifold temptations of physical man (as Christ was) Was and is totally unacceptable to Jewish thinking — so they rejected outright the claim of Jesus of Nazareth that He was the Son of God. Now, before you judge that rejection too harshly, let us remember that the vast majority of those who call themselves Christian reject outright as blasphemy and consider unthinkable the fact that human beings can become God! So we have on the one hand a great body of people who deny that God can become man and, on the other hand, a greater body of people who deny that man can become God!
   In fulfilling the prophecies which looked forward to the coming of the Son of man, the Messiah in His first coming, His humble, rejected-of-men coming, Jesus became the only begotten Son of His Father in heaven. He fulfilled what Isaiah prophesied (Isa. 7:14). What so many of the other prophets looked forward to as well — that is: a human baby was formed by the power of the Spirit of God (Matt. 1:18) in the womb of a virgin, and so was the ONLY human being who ever had or ever will have the Father in heaven be the one who engendered Him in the womb. In this way Jesus is the only begotten Son of God the Father.

Jesus, The Firstborn

   Regeneration — new birth — being begotten — being born again into the Kingdom of God are all principles with which every Bible scholar is familiar. Jesus explained to Nicodemus that in order to gain God's Kingdom human beings have to be born again. He very patiently explained to him that it was not a physical rebirth that He was talking about, but a newborn Spirit being (John 3, especially verse 3). There are so many scriptures going over the details of this doctrine as Jesus explained it to Nicodemus that it is difficult to pick any one to explain this spiritual change, regeneration, new birth. Yet of any chapter in the Bible, perhaps Romans 8 best explains how it is that human beings become the Sons of God in every sense of that expression.
   This chapter begins by showing that as physical human beings with carnal minds in our present fleshly state we cannot obey the Laws of God and please Him. First of all we have to have a sacrifice to pay for the sins which demand our death, and then receive a new mind, a changed mind, a spiritually, rather than a physically, oriented mind so that we can begin to think and act and live like God our Father in heaven, or as Paul better puts it, "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (Romans 8:14).
   The Father's Spirit, God tells us, joins with our spirit and proves to us that we are the sons of God (verse 16). It goes on to show that by joining His Spirit with ours, God does not immediately bring us into His Kingdom, His Family, but that we have to live through experiences, which in many cases are painful, to develop character, to bring us to maturity (Matthew 5:48) so that we can finally be born as the Sons of God. Comforting advice is given to show us that despite all the trials and difficulties we have to endure while we are still human beings, "... we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). Paul goes on to explain in verse 29 that the purpose of God according to which true Christians have been called is that we might be sons of God as Christ is a Son of God, born into the Kingdom and Family of God as Christ was born into the Kingdom and family of God! And so it is that Jesus, the Captain of our salvation, is called the "firstborn among many brethren."
   That is, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the only human being to be begotten in the womb of a woman by God the Father in heaven, is the first human being to become a Son of God by the resurrection from the dead! (Romans 1:4.)
   But only the first!
   Any human being, by exercising the power of the Spirit of God, can join that Firstborn Son in God's Kingdom once he is called by God the Father.
   It was from the beginning the plan of our great God — the source of outgoing concern, the source of love — to share His eternal life, with all its joy and majesty! Speaking of Christ, Paul quoted the Book of Psalms and wrote, "What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him" (Hebrews 2:6-8).
   Certainly we recognize that all things are in subjection to Jesus Christ! We all remember the scripture quoting Jesus, after His resurrection explaining to His disciples, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth" (Matt. 28:18). Notice in reading this quote that Paul cites from Psalms that it is not just the Son of Man (Jesus) who is being talked about, but mankind. That God created mankind with the ultimate purpose of sharing His own rulership of all things is manifest by these verses. Christ is not the only One to have Sonship in the Kingdom of God — all of mankind was created with that purpose in mind.
   "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him [this Him, you will notice in the context, is not referring to Jesus Christ, but to God, the Father of Jesus Christ], for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing MANY sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation [this is referring to Jesus Christ] perfect through sufferings" (Hebrews 2:9-10).
   Yes, God the Father intends, it is His will and purpose to add many sons to His Kingdom, His Family, to have the same glory that the Captain of their salvation, Jesus Christ, now enjoys. It is in this context that Jesus refers to called-out human beings as brethren (verse 11). Really brethren — not just called brethren.

"In the Beginning..."

   In the first verse of the Bible, Genesis 1:1, God introduces Himself to mankind as the Almighty Creator. In the English translation of the Hebrew it is unfortunate that the term "God" is used because it does not describe fully the Hebrew word from which it is translated. The word God conveys the idea that one being or individual is involved. It is singular. In the Hebrew it is not singular!
   God introduced Himself to mankind with a plural name!
   God uses this plural name exclusively over and over throughout the first chapter of Genesis and through verse 3 of chapter 2. That plural word in the Hebrew is "Elohim." In English we use "s" as a pluralizing letter on words. In Hebrew they use "im" as a pluralizing form. In some cases this is confusing. One example of this is in Genesis 3 and verse 24 where the Hebrew word "Cherubim" is transliterated from the Hebrew. In order to make people understand that there is more than one individual involved, this word is Anglicized and spelled "Cherubims"! Although this conveys the idea to English-speaking people that there was more than one Cherub involved — and so helps us understand the original language in which the Bible was written — it is also misleading in the sense that this practice is not consistently exercised throughout the Bible.
   If the translators had been consistent with this form of translating, then the first verse of your Bible would read, "In the beginning ElohimS...." So the word translated God in Genesis 1 — Elohim in the Hebrew — means the Everliving, Eternal Creating, All Powerful, Governing Family — Kingdom of God. Elohim does mean ONE God not many Gods — but that One God is a Kingdom! It is similar to God's Church. There is but one true Church — one Church, but many members! (I Cor. 12:20.)

The Greatest Creation

   As far as is revealed in your Bible there are only two Beings presently in God's Kingdom — the Ones we call God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son. Those two, in that beginning chapter of Genesis said, "And God [Elohim] said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness"! (Gen. 1:26.)
   Mankind at that time was created physically in the form of God — "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" (Gen. 2:7). He did not have eternal life, or immortal life, at that time, but, as God said to him, "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return" (Gen. 3:19). Physical creation was completed in the record we read in Genesis 1, but the greatest creation — the very purpose for the physical creation — was not complete. The great process of Spiritual Creation was just begun with the creation of two human beings to produce the entire race of mankind which was to be offered Sonship in the Kingdom of God!
   Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong has said: "The PURPOSE of life is that in us God is really re-creating His own kind — reproducing Himself after His own kind — for we are, upon real conversion, actually begotten as sons (yet unborn) of God; then through study of God's revelation and His Word, living by His every word, constant prayer, daily experience with trials and testing, we grow spiritually more and more like God, until, at the time of the resurrection we shall be instantaneously changed from mortal into immortal — we shall then be born of God — WE SHALL THEN BE GOD!"

The Father Greater Than The Son

   When Jesus Christ was here on this earth as a human being He constantly referred to the Gospel of His Father — the Gospel of the Kingdom of God — constantly turned people's attention to the fact that there was a Father. He revealed the Father. He never hesitated to show that He could do nothing except the Father guide, lead, support and sustain Him (John 5:19, 30). He said, "My Father is greater than I" (John 14:28).
   Just as some human beings have greater jobs, responsibilities and authority than other human beings, so it is that that great God called Father has the greatest responsibility of any being — is greater in every way than any other being. Jesus Christ, who is next in responsibility, authority and office to His Father is joyfully, willingly and properly submissively fulfilling His responsibilities as second in command in the great God Family. Jesus gladly admits the Father's superiority. He focuses all His called-out ones' attention to that fact. He does not chafe under that authority but lives in perfect harmony with it.
   It was through Jesus Christ in a total unanimity with His Father that all things were created — the invisible things as well as the visible, that is, great spirit beings such as angels and Cherubim. It was that Jesus who by living His perfect life example through the power of the Holy Spirit showed us, manifested to us, made visible to us what the invisible God is like! It is that same Jesus whom God has made the Head of the body He calls the Church. That same Jesus who is the firstborn from the dead — the first to receive total Sonship in the Kingdom of God (Col. 1:15-18).

The Son's Responsibility

   Let's briefly review the magnificent and glorious responsibilities and activities of Jesus Christ. Ask yourself the question as we do so — what greater thing can the Father do? By Bible definition, Jesus Christ, who is the Word of God, was the One who spoke, and all the great universe we see came into being. It was He as well that created the vast world of spirit beings that we do not see. It was He who called out Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It was Christ who called Israel out of the bondage in Egypt. It was Jesus who spoke the Ten Commandments from Mount Sinai. It was Christ who chose David to be King of Israel. It was this same Jesus who sent Israel and later Judah into exile and captivity, wandering over the face of the earth, as a result of their having turned aside from His true way.
   This was the Jesus who came, born of a virgin, begotten by God, who lived an entire lifetime perfectly within the Spirit of God's Law, died as a perfect sacrifice, shedding His blood, pouring out His life — having already emptied Himself of being God, He now emptied Himself even of His human life. He gave His life's blood to pay for our transgressions, our spiritual sins.
   He gave His body, beaten, pummelled and bruised as a payment for our physical sins, so that we might be healed. (Have you ever wondered why the sacrifice of Christ can pay for the sins of all the world? Well obviously, if all the world and all that are in it and all of the created spirit beings and everything we know about was created by that one Life, then the payment of that Life was certainly sufficient!) This same Jesus, God the Father in heaven, by the power of the Holy Spirit, resurrected from the grave to be His firstborn Son.
   This same Jesus began God's one true Church on the day of Pentecost in 31 A.D. This same Jesus has been with that same Church all these years, and death and the grave have not prevailed on that little flock, as He promised. This same Jesus is coming again as King of kings and Lord of lords to rule, on this earth, all the nations in the wonderful World Tomorrow, which is just around the corner!
   If Christ, then, did all of these great things and fulfills these magnificent prophecies — what greater things is it that the Father does? The Father begets and brings to birth very sons of God! Jesus Christ does not beget us as the Sons of God, THE Father does. Of course it is only through Jesus Christ that we know about the Father, that we can go before the Father, our sins paid for by Christ's blood.

Father and Son = Perfect Unison

   Jesus Christ, with His Father, in a perfect unison, works out the purpose for which creation was made. But only God the Father can beget sons! And each one of those sons He begets and brings to birth in His Kingdom is worth more than all the creation we see and do not see put together! And so God the Father is greater than Jesus Christ (and remember I didn't say it, Jesus Christ did! [John 14:28]) in that this God is the Father of that God we call Jesus Christ the Son — and the Father of all the other brothers of Jesus Christ to be born at the resurrection into that glorious Kingdom, called God. And Jesus Christ, as any true Son of God, is the first to admit that His Father is greater than He — the last to want it to be any other way!
   Listen to this statement from the Apostle John as translated by J. B. Phillips in his New Testament in modern English: "Consider the incredible love that the Father has shown us in allowing us to be called 'children of God'" — and that is not just what we are called, but what we are. Our heredity on the Godward side is no mere figure of speech — which explains why the world no more recognizes us than it recognized Christ. (I John 3:1.) Continuing in the King James — "Beloved, now are we the sons of God [begotten now, but not yet born] and it doth not yet appear what we shall be [that is, the manifestation of the Sons of God, the time in which they will appear, has not yet come — Romans 8:23]: but we know that, when he shall appear [that is at the second coming of Jesus Christ to be King of kings and Lord of lords], WE SHALL BE LIKE HIM, for we shall see him as he is" (I John 3:2).
   No human being can see God as He is and live. Even Moses, who was permitted to see God, saw Him only from behind, and God in His mercy would not allow him to see Him as He is! But at the time of the resurrection — when the promise of God the Father comes to pass and we are born from the grave — when our mortality puts on immortality and our corruption puts on incorruption — when we are changed from flesh to spirit and we become the living Sons of the Living God — when we become God as God is God, God as Jesus Christ is God — THEN we will be able to see Jesus Christ just like He really is in all His spiritual splendor and glory!

Oneness of Father and Son

   That perfect unison that God the Father and Jesus the Son work in by the power of their Holy Spirit is fascinating to behold. Jesus said, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him" (John 6:44). And yet Jesus also said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6). God the Father on His throne in heaven — active, living and in charge of His entire Family — decides whom He wants to call when. He causes those individuals to be drawn to Jesus Christ, His Son. Jesus Christ in turn directs them to the Father in heaven!
   What beauty! What unity!
   We do not see here any conflict between Father and Son. We do not see a Jesus Christ who this world teaches rebelled against His Father and recommended some different way. We see total agreement and unity, peace and the perfect work of SPIRITUAL CREATION of which the Father is in charge.
   Believe it or not, the time of your salvation is in the hand of God the Father. God the Father and Christ the Son [the Elohim of creation} have established a seven-thousand-year plan to bring mankind from the human level to the divine level! (II Peter 1:4.) Six thousand of those years are allotted for mankind to rule himself, for Satan to have free reign. Then comes God's Sabbath rest. The thousand-year term of His Kingdom here on this earth ruling mankind under His Government, His Way. Each week that passes bears a foreshadowing of that plan. And finally a resurrection of all who have ever lived — those who have never had any chance, who have never been called by the Father — every human being who has ever lived to be brought back to life and given that one and only opportunity God ever gives everyone to become His Son!
   We see human suffering around us. We see a history of human suffering for thousands of years. Only here and there throughout that history did the Father intervene in the lives of a few human beings. The Son followed that lead in perfect harmony as always, working with, guiding, leading, prospering, educating, blessing certain individuals whom the Father had chosen out of a world living in rebellion, led by Satan the devil, against God's Government!
   It was to that rebellious world that God the Father sent His Son Jesus Christ to live in the flesh and, "... As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but [born] of God!" (John 1:12-13.)

Why Haven't You Heard This Preached Before?

   Has your minister preached this central, vital Bible Truth? Have you heard before that your destiny is to become God as God is God?
   Apollos, back during the early days of the New Testament Church, was an enthusiastic and eloquent speaker whose zeal at first exceeded his wisdom and understanding. He had heard, and he repeated certain things he had heard about Jesus Christ and John the Baptist, about the message they preached. He preached it himself and convinced many of its merits. Those many were baptized, believing in the message Apollos had taught.
   But when Paul came to question the people who had been taught and instructed by Apollos, he found there was a key ingredient missing in Apollos' teaching. He had jailed to instruct them regarding God's Holy Spirit! God's Spirit! His Mind, His Power, His very essence which He grants and gives to us to beget us as His sons, to give us the power to overcome our human tendencies. The power that will raise us from human beings to God Beings! Apollos himself needed further instruction and got it from a dedicated couple in the Church of God, and from the ministers in the Church of God. And, of course, those individuals to whom he preached needed further instruction, which they received from God's ministry of that day and were all re-baptized! (Read this in Acts, Chapter 19.)
   Surely you can see that there have been great areas left out of your Christian instruction from the ministers you have heard in the past — no matter how zealous and sincere they may have been. In fact, it seems that in preaching the Father and the Son they have left out — perhaps vociferously rejected — the most important reason why God is called our Father, and why Jesus is called His Son!
   Read our free booklets Why Marriage! and What Do You Mean — Born Again? for a fuller understanding of this subject. If you have any specific questions don't fail to write them to us. If you feel you would like to talk to one of God's representatives about this most important of subjects — or any other subject of importance to you — don't hesitate to ask!
   You've heard it said, I'm sure, that Jesus Christ promised the Holy Spirit to His followers, but have you ever heard it said that Jesus, in giving that very promise, labeled it the promise of His Father in heaven? Read Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:4, and see it there with your own eyes!
   God is called a Father because He is a Father. And it is His Will, Purpose and Plan to become the Father of untold millions — to become YOUR Father to share in His life, His glory, His majesty, His Kingdom — God as He is God!

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Plain Truth MagazineJanuary 1980Vol 45, No.1ISSN 0032-0420
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