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Core Christianity: Tough Questions Answered

This Father’s Day, Reflect on the Fatherhood of God

by Jonathan Landry Cruse posted June 17, 2021

“Say ‘Dada,’ baby! Say ‘Dada’!” So my toddler instructed our nine-month-old at the breakfast table this morning. He has been helping us coach our little girl in her first word, which, interestingly, was the exact same as his first word. My wife has been a great sport about it. And I recognize it’s not so much that I’m anybody’s favorite parent as it is that the D sound is a lot easier to spit out than the M sound. Even so, it shouldn’t surprise us that so often a child’s first word will be “mommy” or “daddy” (or in our case “dada”). Their first articulation is that of their first conceptualization: parental presence.

In a similar way, the very first thing—the most fundamental thing—that we must acknowledge about God is that he is the Father. When you take into account the biblical data, this is the main idea that Scripture sets forth about how we should understand God. The concept is introduced in Genesis, and it’s the grand theme that carries along the entire scriptural story until it reaches its close in Revelation. The Fatherhood of God informs how we understand this world, where we came from, and why we’re here. The great moral attributes of love, mercy, compassion, wrath, and justice are all in some way means by which we experience God as Father.

Most profoundly, the message of the gospel is summed up by Jesus like this: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him” (John 14:6–7). Salvation is about coming to God, not primarily as Creator, or Sustainer, or Judge, but as Father. The Christian is one who sees that God is no longer Father merely in a propositional sense, but he is Father in the most personal sense imaginable. He is my Father. And we come to know him in that soul-saving way through faith in Jesus Christ.

It struck me that this scene at the breakfast table was a powerful picture of what it means to know God. There wasn’t anything particularly beautiful about it if you had been there. She had Cheerios stuck to her face, and I’m pretty sure her brother was more demanding than encouraging (“Hey, baby! Say ‘Dada’ already, won’t you!”). But it showed me that there really is nothing more important than one child of God willing another person to articulate with them that most profound and foundational statement: “Our Father, who art in heaven…” Consider this my meager attempt to do just that:

God, the Father of All

The Bible begins with a birth. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” is simultaneously the most understated and yet most profound birth announcement of all time. Have you ever considered that? The book of Genesis derives its name from this fact: that the entire world and everything in it is generated by God. The world came into existence through the will of God, by the power of God, and to the pleasure and glory of God.

I remember carefully inspecting every inch of our firstborn as he lay sleeping in the hospital the day I became a dad. Every part of him was a wonder and a delight to me: his toes, his eyelashes, his lips—it was a tiny rehearsal of the Father who delighted ages ago upon light and water and vegetation and mankind, and said of it all, “It is good.” Of course, while I required the conception of my son to become a father, God didn’t require the creation of the world. He has been Father forever, since for eternity he is the Father of the Son, living in perfect community with the Spirit. To know God as Father is to confess that He is “Father of all, over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:6).

So what? What is this meant to teach us? First, it underscores the utter uniqueness of God as Father. “God’s fatherhood is holy, set apart, and singular.”[1] There must be a sense of awe and wonder as we consider this topic—it’s more grand than we perhaps at first imagined. He is the very first Father, “the Father from whom are all things” (1 Cor. 8:6). All other kinds of fatherhood are derivative of his. We learn what fatherhood is by looking to Him, and we resist trying to impose upon Him our expectations of what it means for Him to behave in a fatherly way.

Second, since God has created all things as a Father, he controls them as a Father, too. The way the world works is a sign of his fatherly care, both to the natural order and to mankind specifically. God keeps the earth spinning and the seasons changing. Why? According to the Heidelberg Catechism, “He is able to do this because he is almighty God; he desires to do this because he is a faithful Father.”[2] Similarly, while taking in the scenic landscape of Lake Ontario as he walked along the New York shore, Maltbie Babcock was moved to pen words of praise to God, not as the maker, but as the Father:

This is my Father’s world,
He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass;
He speaks to me everywhere.[3]

Third, if it’s true that God is the “Father of all,” that means that all people have equal claim to his love, compassion, and salvation. God doesn’t relegate his fatherly pleasure to a particular people group or to a certain ethnicity. He is the Father “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named” (Eph. 3:15). Because God is over all, he is open to all. Through faith in Jesus Christ, everyone is invited to experience the fatherhood of God in the most personal way imaginable—including you.

[1] Scott R. Swain, The Trinity: An Introduction (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 70.

[2] Question and Answer 26.

[3] Maltbie D. Babcock, “This Is My Father’s World,” 1901.

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