Fatherhood And Sonship

By Roger Penney

We see several father-son relationships in Scripture. It is my desire for us to consider parallels in these as we consider several points. Among the relationships I found are:

  • God the Father and God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ,
  • God and the first man, Adam,
  • The Father and believers today, and
  • Fathers and their sons and daughters.

God Is Our Heavenly Father 
We tend to think of our Father in heaven according to our experience or observations of human fathers. But no matter what our perception, the fact is God our Father, whose very nature is loving and just, only wants the best for us; and He delights in seeing us grow to be like the His Son, Jesus Christ. 

Reading the genealogy in Luke 3 we follow the ancestry of the Lord Jesus through Mary, whose husband was Joseph. The Lord is said there to be “the son of Joseph” (v.23). Concluding the list of names we read that Adam was “the son of God” (v.38). In contrast to the Lord who was the Perfect Man as presented by Luke, Adam eventually sinned – and we followed in his steps.

Learning The Fatherhood Of God 
When we become Christians we start an exciting, sometimes difficult, journey like that of children who need to learn, grow and obey. It is the best of journeys, affecting us spiritually, emotionally and intellectually. This journey begins when we first come to the Lord Jesus: God gives us a new spirit and a new heart; and the Holy Spirit begins to dwell within us (Eze. 36:24-28). But we still behave badly at times while we live on earth.

From our earthly experience we see that a truly loving father will discipline his children. Without this, boys and girls will grow up to be lawless and without self control. The writer to the Hebrews advises us, “My son despise not thou the chastening [discipline] of the Lord” (Heb. 12:5-8 KJV, consider Proverbs 3:11-12). Of course if the Fall (Gen. 3) had not occurred, then there would be no need to discipline children. Let’s consider some things from before the time that sin entered the world to see God’s desires related to His sons and daughters.

God The Designer 
The first two chapters of the Bible tell us how God designed man and intended him to be. The first thought expressed by God is “Let us make man in our image.” The “us” and “our” tells us immediately of the Trinity – the Godhead acting in unity (Gen. 1:26). Man was created by the combined and united action of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. already in that loving and eternal relationship which is the Godhead we see the plan for all healthy and wise human relationships.

God The Craftsman, Man As God’s Regent 
The word “make” in Genesis 1:26 is not the same as “create” in Genesis 1:1. Create is to bring into being through the creative will, infinite energy and word of the Creator. It is a creation, ex nihilo as the academics say – “out of nothing.” Only God can do that. The word used here and translated “make” means to make out of already existing materials.

The passage is very interesting for it goes on to say that “God created man” (v.27) – He was both created and made. This is also applied to sea creatures and flying things (vv.20-21). However, the use of the word “make” implies God’s special care and purpose. This special standing of man in the creation by God is further emphasized in Genesis 2 where we see this creative activity in finer detail.

In verses 7-8 another word, “formed,” is used. This means to mold or to sculpt; as a sculptor his model and a potter his clay. Later we see that the LORD God “formed every beast of the field and every fowl of the air and brought them to adam to see what he would call them (v.19).

What a beautiful scene: God being with and introducing Adam to the animals over whom his work is to rule with benevolence, such as God exerted over a perfect creation. He gives His son the privilege and responsibility of naming the animals. God had set man already as His regent [governor] on the earth. Adam was the “son of God” and acted on behalf of the Father as a “firstborn.” Sons and fathers should have the same relationship, with the son acting for the father in accordance to the Word of God.

The title “firstborn” and the regency was lost by Adam because of sin. But another came who was to fulfill the title and position and to “restore that which He took not away” (Ps. 69:4). The Lord Jesus is the Firstborn over all creation, the origin of life and the object of worship of angels and the Church (Col. 1:15-18; Heb. 1:6, 12:23).

In Conversation With God 
God wants us to be like His Son, the Lord Jesus, and He exhorts us through the apostle Paul: “Wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate, says the Lord … and I will receive you and will be a Father to you” (2 Cor. 6:18).

The early chapters of Genesis show us the privileges we have as God’s new Creation. Immediately after the Fall, Adam and Eve “heard the voice of the LorD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (Gen. 3:8). God called to them. It was obviously His custom to walk and to talk with the first couple. During these visits there must have been a happy and refreshing dialogue between God and the human couple He had created – that is until sin was found in them. In loving judgment God removed them from the garden, and the closeness of this relationship was no longer enjoyed.

But in the Lord Jesus our sonship is restored and we may walk with Him. He promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). Sadly, we often fail to recognize His presence beside us. Yet if we are enjoying His companionship, the dialogue which we have with Him and He with us is a joyful pleasure!

A High Calling And Status 
In believing, we are God’s “sons and daughters” (2 Cor. 6:18) – achieved through the work of our Lord Jesus Christ and not by any efforts of our own. Now, having been born of God’s Spirit, we are exhorted to “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18), taking on His likeness which is pleasing to God the Father (Jn. 3:3,5; 1 Jn. 3:2-3). As the Lord Jesus has “overcome the world,” we also may overcome the world.

God’s Husbandry 
Just as God “planted a garden, eastward in Eden” (Gen. 2:8), so we too are God’s planting, His husbandry. But, in the new Testament we see that we also become “labourers together with God” (1 Cor. 3:9). Paul wrote, “I have planted and apollos watered, but God gave the increase” (1 Cor. 3:6). We may then join in this labor of love, planting good things in God’s garden and going forth for His harvest (Jn. 4:35-38). In doing so we earn wages for life eternal. What a great privilege is ours to enter into the labor of God and share in the tasks in which He is busy. It was the Creator who planted the garden, but it was Adam who was to tend and guard it, and to “replenish the earth” (Gen. 1:28). We also, through evangelism and shepherding, help prepare a rich harvest and a beautiful garden for eternity.

A Father To Be Honored 
We must not forget Malachi’s injunction to the people of his own time, which also applies to us: “a son honours his father and a servant his master. If then I be a Father where is My honour?” (Mal. 1:6). There is much loose and frivolous talk among Christians today concerning the nature of God and of His character. also, there is often a lack of respect for one another. John reminds us, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” (Jn. 13:13-17; 1 Jn. 4:11).

We are all part of a vast family of brothers and sisters; and there is also a Head of that family. We need to work harder in loving and in honoring all members of that family while being sure that we are honoring our Father, following in the footsteps of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.