There are few words in our language that express as much emotional range as the word “Daddy”. On the lips of a child, it may express love, fear, panic, joy, anger, needs, sickness, or pain. We use it to express both intimacy and distance, respect and contempt, love and hate.

In Jewish culture their word for “father” was “abba” and expressed a similar range of feeling. It was used by both children and adults. It was one of the first words a child learned. 

It shouldn’t surprise us then that one of the primary biblical metaphors for God is that of a father. “Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4.6)

The idea of God as a father originates in the Old Testament. Some twenty times he’s either called a father (fourteen times), compared to a father (four times), or he calls Israel his son (two times). The emphasis of this metaphor is upon God as the father of the nation of Israel. It’s not used to express a personal, individual relationship, but a corporate one.

God is our father because he created us. “Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us?” (Malachi 2.10a) God is the father of Israel. “Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Israel is My son, My firstborn” (Exodus 4.22). God is the father of the king. “He will cry to Me, ‘You are my Father, My God, and the rock of my salvation.’ I also shall make him My firstborn, The highest of the kings of the earth” (Psalm 89.26-27). 

As a father, God is first and foremost an authority figure. “‘A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect?’ says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests who despise My name” (Malachi 1.6). But as a father, he also shows tender compassion to his children. “Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust” (Psalm 103.13-14). Because of this unique combination of authority and compassion, we see God as the one who forgives our sins. “‘Is Ephraim My dear son? Is he a delightful child? Indeed, as often as I have spoken against him, I certainly still remember him; therefore My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him,’ declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 31.20).

This picture of God as a father only deepens when we get to the New Testament. Here, Jesus refers to God as his father about 140 times, and God is presented as the father of believers about 50 times. The basic concepts are still there, but in a much fuller sense because of Jesus who revealed the Father in himself. “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (John 1.18).

Jesus taught his disciples, and us, to pray to God our Father. He’s not a distant, unconcerned deity, but a loving father who cares for the needs of his children. It’s here in the New Testament, especially in prayer, that we see a much more personal and intimate view of God as our Father. “So do not be like [the pagans]; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name’” (Matthew 6.8-9). God knows what we need before we even ask, yet he still wants us to ask.

Praying to God as our Father teaches us dependence upon him. “Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world” (John 6.32-33). The bread of which Jesus spoke was himself and the eternal life he gave to us by giving himself on the cross. We depend upon our Father to provide all that we need, including life itself, both physical and spiritual.

But if we call God our Father, that imposes certain demands upon us as his children. If he’s our Father, then we must act like his children. “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’ If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth” (1 Peter 1.14-17). God’s children are holy and reverent, showing to the world around us what God-like character looks like.

God’s children also forgive in the same way as their Father. “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6.12). If God has released us from our moral debt to him, we must also release others from their moral debt to us. 

The privilege of being children of God includes eternal hope but requires moral purity in the meantime. “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are… everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3.1a, 3). 

That hope is part of our inheritance from our Father. “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him” (Romans 8.14-17). 

Finally, to enter this Father-child relationship is a conscious choice each of us must make. It’s by faith that we become his children. “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3.26-27).

Is God your Father?