Why is God called our Father?

God our father

Christians refer to God as their Heavenly Father. But what does it mean that God is our Father? The well-known theologian R.C. Sproul does away with false understandings.


Because you are now sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, who calls out: Abba, Father! So you are no longer a servant, but a son; but if a son, then also an inheritance from God through Christ.

Galatians 4: 6-7

If we want to understand what it means that God is our Father, we should first dispel the misconceptions about the fatherhood of God that have become common in our society. Today it is not uncommon for people who believe in the existence of some deity to be convinced that we are all God's children. As a result, biblical statements about the fatherhood of God and about his unconditional love are misused to legalize sin and relativize repentance. This is how we find unrepentant sinners at the Lord's table and in church leadership. In fact, most people in the western world believe that all people are children of God just because they are human.

That this does not reflect the biblical picture of the fatherhood of God becomes quickly apparent when reading God's Word. It is true that the Bible makes it clear in some places that we are descended from God (see e.g. Acts 17:28). But it is obvious that these passages show us God as Creator, to whom we owe our existence. There is a creator-creature relationship between the Lord and all of humanity. But this relationship is very different from the father-son relationship that is given to us through Jesus Christ. This special relationship leads the child of God to enjoy a personal, loving and deep communion with God (cf. Rom 5: 1-2; Eph 3: 11-12). None of us are born into this relationship; the Bible speaks of two events: adoption and rebirth; both events that must be brought about through God's initiative (cf. Rom 8:15; Eph 1,5; Joh 3,3.7; Tit 3,5).

Only those who have experienced this and have been united with Christ by faith have the right to be called a child of God (cf. Jn 1:12). Jesus Christ, the eternally true God and true man is our hope. He is our Savior and the only righteousness before God. If we do not trust in this Savior, then our relationship with God is only that of the creature with its Creator. Without Him we are still under God's holy wrath (cf. Rom 1: 18-32).

Paul explains in Galatians 4 that God accepted us as his children on the basis of the work of Jesus Christ alone (cf. Gal 4: 1-7). Because God has accepted us as His children, we can know with absolute certainty that we will belong to Him for all eternity and that He will never leave us.

TO THINK ABOUT

In the ancient New Testament world, the legal act of adoption was intended to ensure that an adopted child could never be treated worse than any biological child. The New Testament uses this legal order as a picture of how God treats all those who have become His children through trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God - we are partakers of an imperishable inheritance that no one takes away from us can (cf. Deuteronomy 21: 15-17; Gal 3:29). It is comforting to know that in Christ we are God's children and that He does not turn away anyone who puts his trust in Him.

© Ligonier Ministries @ Tabletalk Magazine. It was reproduced with permission.



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