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Fatherhood of God

FATHERHOOD OF GOD (אָב, H3, ’b, πατήρ, G4252). The special relationship of authority and care between God and (1) His Son, and (2) His people.

Father of His people.

Father of Christ.

Jesus identifies Himself as being the Son of the Father. While the Jews correctly understood this as a claim to deity (John 5:18; 10:30, 33; 19:7), Jesus Himself also related His sonship to that which they enjoy “to whom the word of God came” (John 10:35). While the followers of Christ are also sons of the same Father, it is noteworthy that the expression “our” Father is never used by Christ, but rather the deliberate “my Father and your Father” (John 20:17); the “Our Father” of the Lord’s Prayer (Matt 6:9) is not prayed by Christ Himself, but is instruction to the disciples as to how they are to pray; cf. Christ’s continual reference to “your” father; perhaps the usage in Matthew 17:24-27 is an exception.

The responsibility of sons.

Jesus’ Messianic work is described in terms of His filial relationship to His Father. Both the task given Him (John 17:4) and the authority to perform it (John 3:35) come from the Father, as well as the people given Him as the reward for His obedience (John 17:24, cf. 10:29). The disciples’ attitude to God’s children should be the same as God’s (the rebuke to the elder brother in Luke 15:31, 32). Their prayers should be confident ones, for their Father is more generous than a human one (Matt 7:9-11; Luke 11:11-13).

While the NT doctrine of the new birth would seem to provide the basis for the sonship of believers, more explicit teaching is in the realm of adoption (Rom 8:14, 15; Gal 4:6), where it is the Spirit who makes us sons, and it is also through Him that we recognize that sonship. The Christian life is a life of responsibility before our Father (1 Pet 1:17) but also a life of blessing and praise to the Father who has given us all things (2 Cor 1:3; 2 Thess 2:16; 1 Pet 1:3).


T. J. Crawford, The Fatherhood of God (1868); R. S. Candlish, The Sonship and Brotherhood of Believers (1872); E. D. Burton, ICC Galatians (1921), 384-392; G. Vos, Biblical Theology (1948), 381-397; H. Ridderbos, The Coming of the Kingdom (1950), 232-284; G. Schrenk and G. Quell, “patēr” in TDNT, V (1954), 945-1022.