The term “father” is a most meaningful term — or should be; and the most precious association of the term is with God. There are four senses in the scriptures in which the word “father” is connected with God.
The Human Family
Jehovah is the “Father” of mankind in the sense that he is the Creator and Sustainer of our very existence. Humanity was fashioned in the “image” and “likeness” of God (Genesis 1:26-27) — a phrase that hints of parenthood (cf. 5:3).
We are not accidents of a naturalistic, evolutionary process. We are products of creation. Moreover, in him we live, move, and have our being — evidence of the fact that we are his “offspring” (Acts 17:28-29; cf. Luke 3:38). Every ray of sunshine, breath of air, bite of food and drop of water are the results of the Creator’s providential benevolence (Matthew 5:45; Acts 14:17).
Nation of Israel
In a very unique way, God was the “Father” of the nation of Israel, a special people with a redemptive role — that of being the conduit through which the Messiah would be sent into the world (Exodus 19:5).
Isaiah spoke of the “lovingkindnesses of Jehovah” and his “great goodness toward the house of Israel.” God said, “they are my people, children that will not deal falsely....” He was Israel’s “Father,” though the people “grieved his Holy Spirit,” and he was compelled to punish them (Isaiah 63:7-19; cf. 64:8). Hosea referred to the nation of Israel as Jehovah’s “child” who was delivered from Egypt (11:1).
One must understand, however, that Israel generally became increasingly resistant to its “Father.” The rebellion of the nation reached its pinnacle when the Jews murdered their own Messiah.
Jehovah’s final disfranchisement (cf. Numbers 14:12) came ultimately with the destruction of the Hebrew system by God’s armies (Matthew 22:7) in A.D. 70. For a detailed study of this matter, see the article God and the Nation of Israel.
In a very special, singularly unusual way, God was the “Father” of Jesus Christ (see John 3:16; “only begotten,” literally “one of a kind”). David prophesied of this relationship when he represents the Father saying, “You are my Son, this day have I begotten you” (Psalm 2:7; cf. Hebrews 1:5). This Father/Son relationship commenced with the incarnation of Christ and continues eternally (Acts 9:20; Hebrews 1:8; 3:6).
At both the baptismal scene, and in the incident of the transfiguration, the Father audibly acknowledged Jesus as his Son (Matthew 3:17; 17:5). After spending some three years with the Lord, being with him on a daily basis, listening to his powerful words, observing his phenomenal miracles, the disciples were forced to concede, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16; cf. John 20:30-31).
Even the soldiers who were involved in the Savior’s crucifixion, when they saw the effects of the earthquake (e.g., rocks torn apart, tombs opened, etc.), “feared exceedingly, saying, ‘Truly this was the Son of God’” (Matthew 27:54).
In a most wonderful way, God is the “Father” of the redeemed, i.e., those who have submitted to the “new birth” process (John 3:3-5; cf. 1:12-13).
In a spiritual begettal and birth process, we become “children of God.” By the implantation of the “seed” (the word of God – Luke 8:11), one is “begotten” (cf. 1 Peter 1:23); subsequently he is “born of water” (Titus 3:5; Galatians 3:26-27; Ephesians 5:26). See our article on the New Birth.
The begetting takes place when a person is exposed to the gospel message and faith is germinated in his heart. The birth is accomplished at the point when he is immersed in water, thus entering a relationship with Christ (Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:26-27).
Because of this son/daughter relationship (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:18), God bestows the Holy Spirit, authorizing us to cry to him, “Father, Father” (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6). We may, therefore, approach him in prayer, as “our Father” (cf. Matthew 6:9; Colossians 3:17).
By way of contrast, those who do not sustain the Father/child relationship with God, can have no confidence that he hears and responds to their prayers in any way commensurate with his relationship to those who have been “born anew.”
The “fatherhood” of God is a magnificent concept. Since the term “father” can be employed in different senses, the context in which the expression is found must be carefully examined. Are you a “child of God” in the biblical sense of the word? Study this issue to make sure.