One of the Bible’s most powerful pictures of God is as our Father. The biblical authors chose this metaphor, not because God is male; as a Spirit, God has no gender. They described God this way because of the association of fatherhood with origin, identity and love.


Because fatherhood is connected with the creation of life, the biblical authors picture God as the Father of humanity. The Apostle Paul spoke of “one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live” (1 Corinthians 8:6). Isaiah pictured God, our Father, as the divine potter who turned us on his wheel (Isaiah 64:8). “Do we not all have one Father?” asked the prophet Malachi. “Did not one God create us?” (Malachi 2:10). There is “one God and Father of all,” wrote Paul, “who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:6).

The connection between fatherhood and origins explains why both the Apostles and Nicene Creeds affirm belief in God as “maker of heaven and earth.” The creeds want to make it clear that everything — both what you can see and what you can’t — originates with our heavenly Father and not accidentally.

As the source of everything, God owns and understands everything: “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). God also controls everything. “The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all” (Psalm 103:19). Our Father’s providence is described as general when it refers to his care for the world and special when expressed in specific ways toward particular people.

As Israel’s Father, he deserved their loyalty. In Deuteronomy 32:6, Moses rebuked the Israelites for failing to show proper allegiance to their heavenly Father. “Is this the way you repay the LORD, you foolish and unwise people? Is he not your Father, your Creator, who made you and formed you?” This obligation is not just Israel’s. As the Father of all, everyone owes him their allegiance.


The biblical authors turned to the metaphor of fatherhood to describe how those in the human family resemble our heavenly Father. Genesis 1:26-27 describes humanity as created in God’s image which includes four aspects.

First, there is the natural image. We possess attributes such as reason, will, liberty and creativity, qualities also possessed by God. In him these are perfect and limitless, while in us they are weak, limited and often turned to wrong purposes.

A second aspect of the divine image is social. As God exists as a Trinity, we exist to be in relationship with ourselves and one another.

Third, God’s image includes a functional component, referring to our appointment as stewards over his creation (Genesis 1:28). We are here as God’s representatives, to do his work as ours. We not only share our Father’s likeness, we work in the family business.

The fourth aspect of God’s image is the moral. While the others were badly damaged by the fall, this one was destroyed. God intended humanity to be like him, capable of having a relationship with him, but now we are helplessly separated from him apart from his grace.


God’s fatherhood speaks of his love for his children. In the words of the psalmist, God is “a father to the fatherless” (Psalm 68:5). “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children,” Jesus asked the crowd, “how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11).

The Old Testament used this image to describe God’s relationship with Israel. In the wilderness, God carried them “as a father carries his son” (Deuteronomy 1:31). The prophet Hosea paints a beautiful picture of God as a loving father (Hosea 11:1-11). “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son … It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them” (vv. 1, 3).

Our Father loved the world so much “that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” writes the Apostle John (1 John 3:1). Jesus taught this truth in one of his most powerful parables, that of the Father who waited for his son to return, then showered him with undeserved forgiveness and blessings (cf. Luke 15:11-32). This shows clearly how much our Father loves us.

As God’s reconciled children, we receive the indwelling Spirit who reminds us that we are God’s children (Romans 8:15). We know firsthand the kindness of “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3). We are mindful of the high standards of our “Father who judges each person’s work impartially.” For this reason, we must live with “reverent fear” (1 Peter 1:17) and love others as he loves (James 1:27). Even our Father’s discipline reassures us that we are “his children” (Hebrews 12:7).

The Apostles Creed describes God in a way that could seem like a contradiction, “Father Almighty.” Yet this two-word description accurately captures God’s fatherhood. He is almighty —creating and preserving everything and everyone with every person bearing his image. Yet he is also loving, not wanting anyone to perish but all to come to repentance. It was his love that sent his own Son to the cross and his power that enabled that sacrifice to end sin’s curse on the world and restore humanity in God’s image. There is no contradiction; we can pray as Jesus taught us: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9).

Stephen J. Lennox is an ordained Wesleyan elder and president of Kingswood University, Sussex, New Brunswick, Canada.


Questions for reflection and conversation

  • God our Father has a responsibility to us as his creation as the origin of all. We also have a responsibility to God to accept his authority. What does our responsibility of accepting God’s authority look like daily?
  • We are all created in God’s image, specifically in four special ways. We were created naturally, socially, politically and morally in God’s image. Three of those special ways were damaged in the fall; the natural, social and political. The moral image was completely shattered with no way for us to restore it. How has it been made possible for our moral image to be restored?
  • No earthly father has the capability of loving perfectly; because of that, some struggle with the description of God as Father. God’s love as our Father is different than imperfect earthly fathers. Steve Lennox puts it this way, “God loves us just the right way.” If we have struggled in our relationship with our earthly father, what are some ways to overcome that mistaken application to God’s character?
  • What are some practical ways we can cooperate with God, accept his authority and allow him to refresh or, if needed, even restore his image in us?


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