Learning Fatherhood From the Father of Fatherhood

Learning Fatherhood From the Father of Fatherhood

In Ephesians 3:14–15, Paul prays, "For this reason I bow my knees before the Father [patēr], from whom every family [patria] in heaven and on earth is named." In the Greek it is easy to pick up on Paul’s patēr/patria play on words. John Stott chose to translate this phrase as "the Father from whom all fatherhood is named." The ESV translation footnote makes a similar point.

God’s Fatherhood is the archetype of human fatherhood, a point made even more explicit in Hebrews 12:7–10. What that means for us fathers today is that we take our cues on fatherhood from the Father of Fatherhood, which is a great relief for any father today who was fathered by a sinful or absent father (which of course includes every one of us).

But what’s the point of this? In his most recent book, Douglas Wilson focuses one entire chapter (chapter 14) to a verse-by-verse stroll through the Gospel of John, highlighting every reference made to the Father/Son relationship. The book is worth its price for that chapter alone. At the end of his survey Wilson makes this summary observation:

The most obvious feature of the Father of Jesus Christ is His generosity. He is generous with His glory (John 1:14), with His tasks (John 5:18), with His protection (John 10:28–32), with His home (John 14:1–2), and with His joy (John 16:23–24). The Father gives (John 3:34–36). The Father gives His Son (John 3:16; 18:11); the Father gives His Spirit (John 14:16–17); the Father gives Himself (John 14:22–24).

Learning this about the Father who is a Spirit, who is intangible, should stir us deeply. He is seeking worshipers who will worship Him in Spirit and in truth — in short, who will become like He is. And what is He like? He is generous with everything. Is there anything He has that he has held back? And what should we — tangible fathers — be like? The question is terribly hard to answer, but not because it is difficult to understand. (Father Hunger, 204–205)

And that is a good challenge for me as a father because it makes me ask: from all the words that my children could use to describe me, would they choose generous? The answer spurs my attention to my Heavenly Father, the generous Father of all fatherhood.

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Tony Reinke (@tonyreinke) is a content strategist at Desiring God, blogger, the author of Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books (2011) and John Newton on the Christian Life: To Live Is Christ (2015), and hosts the Ask Pastor John and Authors on the Line podcasts. He lives in the Twin Cities with his wife, Karalee, and their three children.