Happy Father’s Day to all fathers! As I was in worship this morning, and the focus of the message was our Heavenly Father, I thought back to conversations I’ve had in the past with those who have a more liberal view of who or what God is. At the risk of being politically incorrect, or upsetting those who may not agree with what I’m about to say, I think it would be worth my time and this space to explain what I believe the Bible teaches. This is not my opinion; I am just sharing what the words of God tell us.
On the one hand, assigning a singular gender to God may not be the most comprehensive way of understanding who God is. After all, Jesus once said that “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24) While God did create humans in the image of God, that doesn’t mean God is human (Genesis 1:27). Yet, in that same passage in Genesis that refers to humans in the image of God, it specifically mentions male and female. So I don’t believe it is anti-Biblical to recognize characteristics in God that are typically identified with male and female. For example, Jesus exhibited a motherly affection for the people of Jerusalem when he said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” (Matthew 23:37, Luke 13:34)
All that being said, I don’t believe there are any direct references in the Bible that refer to God as a woman. However, there are many references to two members of the trinity as male.
Jesus, of course, took the form of a human male while he was on earth. And numerous references to Jesus, by himself and others around him, referred to Jesus as a son – Son of God and Son of Man. Two of the most clear and compelling references are God the Father (we’ll get to that next) calling Jesus his son:
While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”Matthew 17:5
and perhaps the most well known verse in the Bible, in which Jesus is speaking:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.John 3:16
Finally, the person of the trinity who is often mentioned first is most commonly known as God the Father. Not because the Bible was written by male chauvinists, or because humans have distorted the words of God over time; the Scriptures (the Bible) were written by humans under the inspiration or direction of the Holy Spirit – the third member of the trinity. (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:20-21) No, we refer to God the Father because God himself used the term.
Jesus referred to this member of the trinity as his father, both in speaking to others (for example: “Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.'” – John 5:17) and when speaking directly to God the Father (for example: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” – Matthew 26:39).
Even more, Jesus taught his followers and us that the heavenly Father isn’t just his father by relationship, he is the father of anyone who believes in him:
This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…Matthew 6:9
Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.John 20:17-18
There are many other passages of Scripture which refer to God the Father, and not just as the father of Jesus, but as the heavenly father for all who believe. One of the greatest comforts of this truth is that, if you’re reading this and you don’t have a great experience or example of an earthly father, you have a heavenly Father who is perfect, and who loves you more than even the best earthly father can. This is the heavenly Father who is worthy of our worship.