I'm honored to travel to various countries around the world. I see different colored skin and many different belief systems. But a smile, laughter, hurt, desires, and love are universal. When we get out from under heavy religious threats and rise to a heavenly view of humanity, it is nearly inevitable to ask the question: "Is God the Father of us all?"
When we speak of the fatherhood of God, some will immediately resort to a posture that harps, "Only the Christian God is Father." To which I agree. But that is not a sufficient answer, because there is a lot of religious tradition that isn't rooted in the truth. This is because as Christians, we then add that God is only the father of those who confessed their sins, repented, walked the aisle, shook the pastor's hand, filled out the card, received baptism, and attend church regularly. No variation of that is true.
See, God is the creator, the origin, the "genesis" of all things, including Adam (all humanity). The Greek word for father:
[3962 /patḗr ("father") refers to a begetter, originator, progenitor – one in "intimate connection and relationship" (Gesenius). 3962 patḗr – father; one who imparts life and is committed to it; a progenitor, bringing into being to pass on the potential for likeness.
The Hebrew letters originate in pictographs which eventually came to be their alphabet. A picture paints a thousand words right?
The word for father, is aleph-bet, "ab". Aleph was an ox-head which meant strong leader or head. Bet was the image of a house which represents a family.
So when Luke gives us the genealogy of Jesus Christ, he traces it all the way back to Genesis where he says in Luke 3:37-38, "...the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalalel, the son of Cainan, the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of ADAM, the SON OF GOD."
Which begs the question: when did God cease being father to humanity? Adam was the head of the human race right? God was his father right? He was "SON" right? Everyone after him was in the same family right?
I know that the first response will be that somehow the "fall" of Adam (a word never used in the Bible to describe it), separated Adam from God and severed the fatherhood relationship. But is that true? Not in the least. It was God who was looking for Adam in the cool of the day to fellowship with him, KNOWING what happened. Adam was the one hiding, not God. Nor did God stop fathering him at that moment, but provided skins for a covering for him.
Even when they were removed from the garden, it was for their protection, not their punishment (Gen. 3:22).
When Cain kills Abel and begins to deny the brotherhood of Abel, God- the Father doesn't abandon Cain, but promises protection to him. Yet it is Cain who ignorantly thinks he can walk away from God as father when it says, "Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord..." (Gen. 4:16).
It was not God, but humanity who closed their eyes to the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of all. We were ALL created in the likeness and image of God. That image, hidden like a treasure in a field, never ceased to be valuable and real and was of our Father. James 3:9 speaking of the abusive use of our tongues says, "With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse MEN, who ARE made in the LIKENESS of God." James says ALL MEN have the likeness of God, i.e., therefore all are sons right?
Let's look at passages that affirm that God is father of all humanity:
Matthew 9:1, So He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own city. 2 Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “SON, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.” One of my favorite passages about forgiveness. The man doesn't confess, repent, cry out, mourn, or beg, yet Jesus forgives him as a representative of his Father. But notice the use of the word SON! This man is not "born again". This is before the cross, yet just like the man needs to know the Father forgives him before he asks, he also needs to be reminded that he is a son and belongs to the family of God.
John 11:51 Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one THE CHILDREN OF GOD who were scattered abroad. In this prophetic word by Caiaphas, he unknowingly becomes the high priest who kills the lamb of God. Yet, according to John, Jesus was going to use this to gather those who were his children but who were not Jews. Some suggest this represents all humanity, while others think it means the northern tribes of Israel that were scattered. We know from the writings of Paul that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile but all are gathered into one.
Again, John 10:16 "And OTHER sheep I HAVE which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd." This seems to indicate all humanity and belonging was prior: "other sheep I HAVE."
Matthew 6:8 “Therefore do not be like them. For YOUR Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. Before the cross, before they enter the new covenant, before any confession of any kind, Jesus himself speaks to the crowd of people (some of whom may very well be in the crowd that later shouts crucify him!) and says "God is YOUR father!"
Matthew 6:26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet YOUR heavenly FATHER feeds them. Are YOU not of more value than they?" On the testimony of two or three witnesses every truth is established according to Jewish Law. So yet again as he is speaking to his disciples, to a crowd of believers, unbelievers, Pharisees, Scribes, sinners, and yet before the death, burial, and resurrection he is saying to them all that God is YOUR Father. (see also Mt. 9:20-22)
Luke 15 describes how the Pharisees were complaining because Jesus was not separating himself from "the sinners". The word Pharisee itself means "separatist". Yet Jesus revealed the Father was near to all and not distant from the least of these. In response he tells three parables, all about lostness: the lost coin, the lost sheep and the lost son. In each, his point is that just because something is lost doesn't mean that belonging ceased. The coin still belonged even though it was lost. If someone stole it, then they would be called a thief because it didn't belong to them. The sheep still belonged, even though it was lost. Then Jesus told a story about two sons. "Then He said: 'A certain man had two sons.'" The prodigal never ceased to be a son just because he was lost.
Jesus came to redeem, recover and reveal himself to lost sons. God wasn't lost, humanity was. In fact, do you remember when Gabriel appeared to Joseph and said, "And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save HIS people from their sins.” (Mt. 1:21) There is a lot packed into that verse, but for the purposes here let us just notice that they were HIS people before he came. They belonged before they believed.
John 20:17, 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.'"
Wait! The red lettered words of Jesus said the disciples and Mary were sons and daughters of their Father BEFORE they confessed, believed, repented, or experienced a new covenant conversion. (That includes "doubting" Thomas.)
Ephesians 4:5-6, ..."one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in all." The Mirror Translation says, "There is only one God. He remains the ultimate Father of the universe. We are because he is. He is present in all; he is above all, through all, and in all."
Just as there is one Lord, not many, and one faith, not many, so too there is only one Father of all. This one Father, is the origin of all humanity. He is not a spiritual father to some and a natural father to others. He is the source of all, natural and spiritual, who is higher in quality (holy, holy, holy) than all, works through all people, and is in all people. Some versions have "in YOU all" as if he is speaking only to those believers in Ephesus, but the word "you" is not in the earliest original Greek manuscripts. If that is awkward for you, simply start from the place that God is everywhere... even inside the unbeliever.
Paul continues by saying it is the one Father who is the origin of all the families of the earth, therefore everyone's father. Eph. 3:14, "For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named", or as the Mirror Bible translates, "Every family in heaven and on earth originates in him; his is mankind’s family name and he remains the authentic identity of every nation."
Let Paul speak again, in the clearest way possible to a non-Jewish audience. Please carefully read Acts 17:
Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 24 “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since HE GIVES TO ALL LIFE, BREATH, AND ALL THINGS. 26 And HE HAS MADE FROM ONE BLOOD EVERY NATION OF MAN TO DWELL ON ALL THE FACE OF THE EARTH, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though HE IS NOT FAR FROM EACH ONE OF US; 28 for IN HIM WE LIVE AND MOVE AND HAVE OUR BEING, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘FOR WE ARE ALSO HIS OFFSPRING.’ 29 Therefore, SINCE WE ARE THE OFFSPRING OF GOD, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising.
I hope that you caught that. The origin of all humanity has come from and is sustained by God and therefore since we are all also from one blood (Adam) then we are all brothers and sisters. Not only that, Paul profoundly declares to these Gentiles that they, along with Paul are ALL the offspring of God, i.e., God's children. Indeed we live and move and have our very essence within him. Like fish living in the life of the ocean, maybe unaware of the concept of "water", so too all humanity lives in Christ.
But Aren't Unbelievers Sons of the Devil?
John 8:44, "You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it." (see also 1 John 3:10)
It is amazing how one can take this verse and turn it into a doctrine about humanity in the face of dozens to the contrary. The devil, i.e. the liar, has never created anything. Not a single thing. All he can do is twist truth so that distortion is "fathered" into the hearts of people and they begin to live according to the lie. From the beginning he has been fathering lies (resulting in Cains murder of Abel) which is always rooted in the lie of separation. If you explore the context, you will see that he is specifically referring to those whose loyalty to legalism blinded them to knowing Jesus.
The word devil, "1228 diábolos (from 1225 /diabállō, "to slander, accuse, defame") – properly, a slanderer; a false accuser; unjustly criticizing to hurt (malign) and condemn to sever a relationship." Do you see it. To sever a relationship. God was their father, but the father of lies sought to separate them through deception from their true source.
As the other contexts revealed, ultimately all people find their origin in God as Father, though those legalists made the Law their god, instead of God their Father. 2 Cor. 3 says that the Law was a glory that was passing away, that condemned and which many Jews would not turn away from. He continues in the next chapter, 2 Cor. 4:3-4, "But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them." That god of the age he was living in (the last days of the old covenant age) was the Law for them.
When Jesus said to Peter, get thee behind me Satan, was he really calling Peter "Satan"? When Jesus said that the Jewish religious gatherings were called synagogues of Satan, did he mean that Satan showed up at every meeting, or that the synagogue itself was "created" by Satan? Or was Jesus saying Peter was speaking like Satan? And that the synagogues were mimicking lies and accusation like Satan?
"Satan" means "adversary". Jesus was calling Peter an adversary who was resisting his mission. He was not calling him an evil fallen angel.
Barnabas, means "son of encouragement". Does that mean there is an entity called encouragement that was his father? Or does it mean he looks like an encouraging person? Sons of the devil meant they were acting like accusers.
Matthew 23:15 (AKJV), "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of [Gehenna] than yourselves." Did Jesus literally mean that the Pharisees were born in the Valley of Hinnom (Ge-Hinnom)? No, of course not. It is a figure of speech that means their attitude and life will land them in the judgment of the valley in AD 70.
So too, when Jesus called the Pharisees (not "sinners") children of the devil... it was never literal, but a figure of speech for the religious leaders who were manifesting accusation instead of love!
So too, no one can literally be a child of the devil because Satan can not create anything but lies. There has only been one Father ever. It's just that they were mimicking the liar and accuser. It is a figure of speech.
Sons of the Covenant of Law
"Sons" is a phrase also used to describe belonging to covenant. In this use, it is used as a metaphor for those who were born under the generational relationship of Israel called collectively, The Law. It is not literal, but figurative to differentiate those connected to that covenant.
So we find this idea in the following passages:
Exodus 4:22, "and thou hast said unto Pharaoh, Thus said Jehovah, My son, My first-born is Israel," (YLT)
Deuteronomy 8:5, "You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the Lord your God chastens you."
Deuteronomy 14:1, “You are the children of the Lord your God; you shall not cut yourselves nor shave the front of your head for the dead."
So when Matthew (which was written for Jews), gives Jesus' genealogy, it isn't exact in terms of being a person by person list simply because it is based on Jesus being a person in the lineage of covenant fathers: "The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham..." (Mat 1:1). Here he is connecting him to the covenant of Abraham and the covenant of David so that they realize that the promises made to them are being fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
You'll remember that Luke's genealogy is connecting Jesus not to covenant fathers, but all the way back to Adam, son of God.
The real issue, in fact, in the New Testament era, was who were the true children of God: those aligned as sons of the covenant of Law, the "sons of disobedience," the sons who identified themselves with the accuser of the brethren... or those who found their true identity, in Christ, in their Father above. Jesus came to reveal the Father, his father and their father.
This is also seen in the language of "sons of Abraham". That is why Paul said in Galatians 3:7, "Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham." This is covenant language, not ultimate identity in God language. These were the ones who like Abraham believed what God said, instead of identifying with a vanishing covenant of Law that was added some 400 years later and was considered obsolete (Heb 8:13?)
John shared the words of Christ in Revelation 3:9, "Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you." The synagogues themselves were the gathering place of Satan, those "adversaries" of the good news, because they were blindly finding their identity in natural Jewish lineage instead of the community of believers, i.e., spiritual birthing from God (John 3). They were sons of the covenant of Law, demanding that only they were of the truth.
Paul called those of the Law who rejected Christ's message of love and forgiveness, and the fatherhood of God the "children of disobedience". Colossians 3:6, "Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience..." As the Law covenant came to its final end known as the "wrath of God", it was the city, the priesthood, the genealogies, the temple and the entire system which were destroyed by Rome (Isaiah 54:7-10) and disavowed as God's system.
For instance, after a discussion about Law in Romans 7, Paul begins to talk about the grace of the New Covenant. So Romans 8:9, Berean Literal Bible, "Now you are not in flesh but in Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you; but if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not OF HIM." My Greek lexicon says the same thing, "of him" literally. Living in the flesh, ie, under Law is not OF HIM. If anyone (legalists-Jewish law keepers) do not "have", which can mean "to have, to hold, to embrace, to hold fast to" the Spirit, then they are not followers of Christ, but identifying as sons of the Law. This is not about ultimate belonging, but how God refused, covenantally, to let them believe the lie that Jewish genealogy was the same as being a true son. Sonship was only found-awakened-discovered-known by receiving-acknowledging Christ-the Son and holding fast to his Spirit. We get the word "echo" from the Greek word for "have". To refuse to hold to the Spirit, or echo the Spirit, was akin to apostasy and would identify them as sons of disobedience subject to and sadly falling prey to the end of the Law system in AD 70.
The Mirror Version: 8: 9 But you are not ruled by a flesh-consciousness, (law of works), but by a spirit-consciousness, (faith); God’s Spirit is 1at home in you. Anyone who does not see 2himself fully 1clothed and identified in the Spirit of Christ, cannot be 2himself. (If anyone does not embrace the Spirit of Christ, he is not himself. The word 1echo means to have in hand, to hold, in the sense of wearing like a garment, to possess in mind, to be closely joined to a person, and 2hauto from heauto, reflexive relation, himself, herself, themselves. In James 1: 24, “for he goes away from what the mirror reveals, and immediately forgets what manner of man he is.” Also in Romans 1: 23, “Losing sight of God, made them lose sight of who they really were. In their calculation the image and likeness of God became reduced to a corrupted and distorted pattern of themselves.” See also Luke 15: 17, “The prodigal son came to himself ... .” [same word used here, 2heauto].)
In the mean time, Paul said in Romans 8:19, "For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing [manifestation] of the sons of God." They were sons of God all along, but they are like the older brother in the story of the prodigal son. Everything that the Father had was theirs, but instead they labored and lived as slaves instead of sons (not holding fast to the Spirit). All creation was waiting for the manifestation, the revealing, the uncovering of the sons of God. That meant they were sons, but determined to cover themselves with Law instead.
This is why Paul spoke to those Jews saying in 2 Corinthians 6:17-18, Therefore...“Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.” “I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the Lord Almighty.” It doesn't say that he would BECOME their father, but by coming out from identifying themselves as sons of the Law, they would discover God fathering them as sons and daughters.
Any disavowing of "sons" we find in the NT is a disavowal of finding sonship through natural Jewish covenant lineage, and a major course correction that sonship is only found in the fatherhood of God. They were being invited (among many other things) to know their father. "This is eternal life, that you may know HIM, the one true God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent." (John 17:3)
But You Must Be Born Again Right?
Yes, of course. But let's explore that for a moment shall we? Evangelical Christianity (which to many's surprise is not the only form or the bearer of all truth) has taught for a few hundred years that being born again is something that happens at the moment of conversion-belief. I wholeheartedly agree that there is a transformation that takes place at the moment we trust Christ and begin to know our Father. My life changed dramatically when I believed the gospel. But here is how Paul said it in Eph. 1:13,
"In Him you also trusted, AFTER you heard the word of truth, the gospel of YOUR salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,"
Truth existed before we believed it. We don't believe something to make it true. We believe it because it is already true. It was good news, i.e. something that took place in the past about our existing present tense salvation. When we believed it, the Holy Spirit marked, impressed that truth in our hearts!
So then what does it mean to be "born again"? Actually that phrase isn't in the Bible. Let's look quickly at what Jesus said, "Jesus answered and said to him, `Verily, verily, I say to thee, If any one may not be born from above, he is not able to see the reign of God..." (John 3:3, YLT)
Just as Adam represented the human race, a greater SON who always existed, a greater MAN who is the creator himself holding all things together, comes to represent ALL humanity. This may be one of the most important understandings from the Bible you will ever get! Please pay attention.
Was Jesus the Son of God before? Sure. But remember he emptied himself of all his titles by becoming a man and the death of Jesus was so real that the Father has to rename him when he is raised from the dead. For to which of the angels did He ever say: "You are My Son, Today I have begotten You"? And again: "I will be to Him a Father, And He shall be to Me a Son"? 6 But when He again [at resurrection] brings the firstborn into the world, He says: "Let all the angels of God worship Him." (Hebrews 1:5)
See he was "Lord Jesus" before, but he died and then after his resurrection Acts 2:36 says "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has MADE this Jesus, whom you crucified, [to become] both Lord and Christ."
Philippians 2 says that after the resurrection that he is “given the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” His name was Jesus before, but he is renamed after.
What does all that mean? Jesus death, representing all humanity was very real and complete. But that isn't the end of the story. Jesus has to be renamed, made alive again. Jesus was the FIRST-BORN from the dead... or in the language of evangelicalism, he was "born-again" out of Hades. The language of "first" in Greek, (prōtótokos) is the idea of "first, pre-eminent", "first among others".
Watch WHEN Paul and Peter say we were made alive and raised in the spiritual sense. 1 Peter 1:3 says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead," This Greek word for born again or born from above is never used outside of the Bible. We on the other hand have an elaborate definition that we impose on the text instead of letting it speak for itself in context. He says it happened through an event called the resurrection of Christ.
Ephesians 2:4, "But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even WHEN we were dead in trespasses, made us ALIVE TOGETHER with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and RAISED US UP TOGETHER, and MADE us SIT TOGETHER in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus..."
I know that our current model of imagining "salvation" places the born from above experience at the moment we believe the gospel, but scripture places it as an event not coinciding with our belief, but simultaneously with what happened to Christ. The Greek language clearly confirms this. When he died, we died. When he was made alive, humanity was made alive. When he was raised and seated, we were at the same moment too. Why? Because he is the first-born, the High Priest, the One in whom all things hold together. Whatever happened to the Son of Man happened to us all.
So whatever you believe about your creation-origin, Jesus the Son, has brought us all as sons before his Father. Belief isn't making us sons, or making us "born from above". Belief awakens us to the truth of what he already did. The Holy Spirit confirms to our hearts that we are the children of God, forgiven, loved and accepted (Eph 1).
Baptism is our alignment with, our identification with something that IS true. In baptism we are confessing the truth that we are a part of the family of "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" (Mt 28:20). It is the proclamation that we have believed the truth that Jesus our brother, took us with him and we are buried with him, and raised with him. It is not retroactive. It is a belief in the truth.
The Church is that group of believers who know who they are, received the knowledge of the truth and gather to encourage one another.
But Doesn't Paul say Believing Gives us the Right to Become a Child of God?
Ah, I'm glad you asked. Finally, let's look at this passage in John 1:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it...
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
Everything was made through Christ. The Father purposed it, the Son spoke it, and the Spirit brought it forth. Everything includes all humanity. When the Word, Christ, came into the world, to HIS OWN... to people that belonged to him because he is the creator, they didn't receive him as the one who created them. They didn't receive him as ones who belonged to him.
Let's see. There are a couple words translated, in my opinion, out of a theological presupposition instead of from the Greek language. They are words here such as "right" or "authority" to "become" children. The Greek word "right" is the word, ex-sousia. It literally means (from 1537 /ek, "out from," which intensifies 1510 /eimí, "to be", or "I Am"). It means "out from being". It is the power of living from I AM A CHILD OF GOD, or that being which comes from within.
Notice also that the Greek is not the right to "become". It means "to be, to emerge", or as per M. Vincent, "1096 (gínomai) means to come into being/manifestation implying motion, movement, or growth".
Believing-receiving-trusting Jesus, and what he has done through his death, burial, and resurrection, gives anyone-everyone the power to be and grow as sons and daughters. The difference between you as a Christian and your Hindu neighbor is not ontological, but darkness and light, an inability to see the truth.
I think it is vital for us to recognize what John says... who were born (prior) not of natural blood, nor of the passion of the flesh-life that doesn't know God, nor of the choice and planning of natural parents. Rather, we were born from above by the will, choice and purposes of God and THEN we believe and receive the truth.
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Special thanks to Tony Woodall for your encouragement.