“O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.”
“For in Him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God…”
“…which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God.”
Order of Contents
by Travis Fentiman, MDiv.
Is God only a father to Christians, or is He a father, in some sense, to all mankind as all were created by Him? That is, is God’s relation as father only by redemption, or also by creation?
While all men are fallen in sin (Eph. 2:2-3), are under the just judgement and wrath of God (John 3:36), are under the power of the Devil as their spiritual father (John 8:44), and must be reborn (John 3:3) as spiritual sons of God and legally adopted by Him (John 1:12-13) to go to heaven, yet scripture teaches that man has not fully lost his created nature as a servant or a son (Lk. 3:38; Acts 17:28-29; Heb. 12:9; Lk. 15:12-13,18,20,24), and that God still providentially cares for him as a merciful and gracious Father (Matt 6:26; Ps. 107:23-31; 136:25; 145:9; Jonah 4:11, etc.).
This viewpoint has been dominant through church history though it came to be greatly exaggerated and abused by Liberalism in the 1800’s and 1900’s, and has since been sadly neglected by conservatives. The Southern presbyterian, reformed theologian, John L. Girardeau could say in 1905:
“Until recent times, the consensus of [reformed] commentators and theologians has, with but a few exceptions, been in favor of the doctrine that man was by nature, in some sense, a son of God.”
– Discussions of Theological Questions, p. 430
This viewpoint is documented below in 115+ reformed confessions, catechisms, theologians, systematic theologies, books, commentaries, sermons, and letters. While all of them use their own nuances, categories, terms, and definitions, and should be read in light of the whole of their writings and historical era, each of them agrees that God is a Father in some sense even to unbelievers. Do take particular notice of the foundational, balanced, and warm writings of John Calvin on the subject.
For a medium level in-depth defense of the doctrine, see Robert Webb’s fourteen page chapter on ‘Adoption’ in his Christian Salvation Buy (1921). Also try Travis Fentiman’s, ‘John L. Girardeau’s Doctrine of Adoption: a Systematic and Biblical Defense’ 20 pp., and then John L. Girardeau’s longer 90 page chapter, ‘The Doctrine of Adoption’ in his Discussions of Theological Questions (1905) Buy.
For a full scale treatment of the issue, see Robert Webb’s The Reformed Doctrine of Adoption Buy 188 pp., as well as the more comprehensive book by the Church of Scotland minister Thomas Crawford, The Fatherhood of God: Considered in its General and Special Aspects And Particularly in Relation to the Atonement (1868) 392 pp.
Order of Quotes (115+)
** – denotes a Westminster Divine
* – denotes the Free Church of Scotland
William Tyndale 1532 John Howe 1630-1705
First Helvetic Confession 1536 Herman Witsius †1708
Waldensian Confession 1543 Willhelmus A’Brakel †1711
Valdes’s Catechism 1549 Matthew Henry †1714
Martin Bucer 1550 Thomas Ridgley 1667–1734
Anglican Catechism 1553 Philip Doddridge †1751
Confession of Geneva 1556 James Fisher 1753
John Knox 1558 John Gill †1771
The Geneva Bible 1560 Samuel Davies †1761
Alexander Nowell 1570 Brown of Haddington †1787
Rudolf Gwalther 1572
Bohemian Confession 1573
Augustine Marlorate 1574
Henry Bullinger †1575
Zacharias Ursinus †1583
William Burton 1594
William Perkins †1602 Andrew Fuller 1805
John Diodati 1607 Timothy Dwight †1827
Lancelot Andrewes 1610 Edward Payson †1827
Pierre de La Primaudaye 1618 Robert Hall †1831
Nicholas Byfield †1622 John Dick †1833
Thomas Wilson †1622 Charles Simeon †1836
John Robinson 1624 John Hall 1841
William Gouge 1626 ** Gardiner Spring 1848
John Boys 1629 Asahel Nettleton †1844
William Ames †1633 * Thomas Chalmers †1847
George Downame †1634 Gardiner Spring 1848
Richard Sibbes †1635 Archibald Alexander †1851
David Dickson 1635 J.A. Alexander 1857
Thomas Fuller 1642 John Eadie †1859
Westminster Annotations 1645 ** * Robert Shaw †1863
Jeremiah Burroughs 1646 ** Thomas Crawford 1868
Edward Leigh 1650 ** * John ‘Rabbi’ Duncan †1870
Thomas Blake 1652 * William Arnot †1875
Thomas Adams †1653 Thomas Houston 1876
Robert Harris †1658 ** Charles Hodge †1878
Samuel Rutherford †1661 ** Octavius Winslow †1878
Anthony Burgess †1664 ** * Alfred Edersheim †1889
Roger Drake †1669 James P. Boyce 1887
Anthony Tuckney †1670 ** Horatius Bonar †1889
George Swinnock †1673 Thomas Peck †1893
Matthew Barker 1674 William G.T. Shedd †1894
Thomas Manton †1677 John Broadus †1895
Matthew Poole †1679 Peyton Hoge 1896
John Brown of Wamphray †1679 * David Brown †1897
Thomas Goodwin †1680 ** John Girardeau †1898
Stephen Charnock †1680
John Owen †1683 Frederick Godet †1900
John Collinges 1683 J. Scott Lidgett 1902
Richard Baxter 1685 Augustus H. Strong 1907
Thomas Watson †1686 Andrew Fausset †1910
Francis Turretin †1687 B.H. Carroll †1914
Ezekiel Hopkins †1689 Herman Bavinck †1921
William Bates 1691 Robert A. Webb 1921
George Garden 1699 Alexander Whyte †1921
. Louis Berkhof 1949
. * R.A. Finlayson
. John Murray †1975
. Sinclair Ferguson 1986
. John R. deWitt 1989
. Morton H. Smith 1994
Derek Thomas 2002
Robert L. Reymond 2006
A Summary: Richard Muller 1985
Dictionary of Latin & Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology 1st ed. (Baker, 1985), p. 106
“…Thus ‘Father’ can be predicated of God either essentialiter of personaliter. ‘Father,’ predicated of God essentially, indicates the entirety of the Godhead or divine essence, which stands over against the finite order as Creator and Regenerator, i.e., the ‘one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all’ (Eph. 4:6). In this sense, ‘Father’ indicates, according to the scholastics, Father, Son and Spirit, since the whole of the triune Godhead is over all and through all and in all.
When ‘Father’ is predicated personally of the Godhead, however, it refers to the First, Unbegotten Person of the Trinity, not in relation to creatures as such, but rather in relation to the Son and to the Spirit. The name ‘Father’ is predicated of God as Creator, as the unbegotten subsistence in the eternal relation of persons in the Trinity and also as the God who adopts believers as his children.
The scholastics also view adoption in Christ as the basis for an essential predication, since the work of salvation is the common work ad extra of all three persons of the Trinity. It is thus the whole Godhead, Father, Son and Spirit, that is called Father by the redeemed.”
John Calvin 1509–1564
John Calvin on the Fatherhood of God over all people, 22 quotes from his Institutes, catechisms, confessions, commentaries, and sermons from all periods of his life.
The Early Church
Below are links to sections of J. Scott Lidgett’s survey of the Fatherhood of God in the early church in his The Fatherhood of God in Christian Truth & Life (1902). For a fuller view of the thought of the early church, see the whole section: pp. 147-199.
William Tyndale 1532
Exposition of the 5th, 6th, & 7th Chapters of Matthew, in Works, vol. 2, p. 82, 107
Our Father, which art in heaven.
First, you must go to Him as a merciful Father; which of his own goodness and fatherly love, that He bears to you, is ready to do more for you than you can desire, though you have no merits, but because He is your Father, only if you will turn, and henceforth submit yourself to learn to do his will.
Honored be thy name.
…O Father, seeing you are Father over all, pour out your Spirit upon all flesh, and make all men to fear, and dread, and love you as their Father, and in keeping your commandments to honor you and your holy name.
Behold the fowls of the air, how they sow not, neither reap, nor gather into store-houses; and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not ye far better than they?…
He that cares for the least of his creatures will much more care for the greatest. The birds of the air and beasts preach all to us, that we should leave caring, and put our trust in our Father. But mammon has made us so dull and so clean without capacity, that non ensample or argument, be it never so vehement, can enter the wits of us, to make us see or judge aright…
The First Helvetic Confession 1536
10. The Eternal Counsel of God Concerning the Renewal of Man
Thus, through his fault, man was given over to damnation and incurred just indignation; nevertheless, God the Father never ceased to care for him. This is manifest from the first promises, and the whole law (which stirs up but does not extinguish sin), and from Christ who was ordained and appointed for that purpose. (Eph. 1; Rom. 7)
The Waldensian Confession of Provence 1543
Reformed Confessions of the 16thand 17th Centuries in English Translation, Volume 1, 1523-1552, edited by James Dennison, Jr., 2008, p. 448
We believe that there is one God only, who is spirit, sovereign Creator of all things, Father of all, who is over all and through all things, and in us all, whom we ought to worship in spirit and truth, and not [with] figures and visible things; to whom alone we attribute and give glory for our life, nourishment, clothing, health and sickness, prosperity and adversity, loving Him as the author of all good, fearing Him as the one who alone is able to make alive and dead, beseeching Him as the one who alone knows the heart.
The Valdes’s Catechism 1549
Reformed Confessions of the 16thand 17th Centuries in English Translation, Volume 1, 1523-1552, edited by James Dennison, Jr., 2008, p. 529
1. In the first place, let them recognize God as Father, generally, by human generation, and particularly, by Christian regeneration (Gen. 2; Rom. 8).
Martin Bucer 1550
Of the Reign of Christ, in Melancthon and Bucer, ed. Pauck (1969)
Ch. 1, p. 179
The third name of this Kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven, teaches us almost the same things. First of all, when it is called the Kingdom of Heaven, it is clearly expressed that it is not of this world, even though it is within us, who are still involved in this world (Jn. 17:11). It is of heaven, where we have and invoke our Father and Creator, where our King Jesus Christ sits at the right hand of the Father and establishes all things which are in heaven and on earth (Eph. 1:10)…
Ch. 2, p. 189
How much more, then, is it necessary to see to it that all governors of commonwealths, when they realize that all their power is from God alone and that He has appointed them shepherds of his people, govern and guard those subject to them according to his judgment, and take care lest any one of those entrusted to them by God, their Maker, Father and Lord, should weaken in faith or abuse his laws or in any manner take away his honor from Him.
The Anglican Catechism, 1553, from Reformed Confessions Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, vol. 2, 1552-1566, edited by James Dennison
Master. Why do you call God Father?
Scholar. For two reasons: the one, because He made us all at the beginning and gave life to us all; the other is more weighty, because by His Holy Spirit and by faith He has begotten us again, making us His children, giving us His kingdom and the inheritance of life everlasting with Jesus Christ, His own true and natural Son.
The Confession of the Congregation at Geneva 1556
According to James Dennison, Jr., “Calvin gave his imprimatur to the English confession which appears to have been written by William Whittingham.”
Reformed Confessions Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, vol. 2, 1552-1566, edited by James Dennison, p. 96
I. I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth;
I believe and confess (Rom. 10:10) my Lord God eternal, infinite, immeasurable, incomprehensible, and invisible (Gen. 17:1; Ps. 63:1; 90:2; 139:1-16; 1 Tim. 1:17), one in substance (Deut. 6:4; Eph. 4:6) and three in persons, Father, Son and Holy Ghost (Gen. 1:26; Matt 3:16,17; 28:19; 1 John 5:7): who by His almighty power and wisdom (Heb. 1:2; Prov. 8:22-30) has not only of nothing created heaven and earth, and all things therein contained (Gen. 1:1; Jer. 32:16; Ps. 33:6,7), and man after His own image (Gen. 1:26; Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10), that He might in him be glorified (Prov. 16:4; John 17:1; 1 Cor. 6:20), but also by His fatherly providence governs, maintains, and preserves the same (Matt 6:26-32; Luke 12:24-30; 1 Peter 5:7; Phil. 4:6), according to the purpose of His will (Eph. 1:11).
John Knox, 1558
Works, Vol. 5, ‘A Brief Exhortation to England for the speedy Embracing of the Gospel’, p. 504-5
The same order, I see, does God keep with you, O you happy and most unhappy England!… But, O unhappy, and more than unhappy, that have declared yourself so unthankful and rebellious to so loving and so merciful a Father, who first gave you life, when you did lie polluted in blood and dead in your sin, and now does offer Himself to be your God, Governor, and Father, after that you, most traitorously conspiring with Satan by solemn oath, have renounced his truth. O unhappy and more than unhappy are you, (I say) if that this your treasonable defection, and God’s loving kindness, yet calling you to his favors, does not pierce your heart with unfeigned repentance. For as this mercy and love of your God far surmounts the reach of all men’s understanding, so cannot his just judgments long delay to power forth those horrible vengeances which your monstrous unthankfulness has long deserved, if you (as God forbid) now shut up your ears, blind your eyes, and so harden your heart, that neither you will hear, see nor understand the gravity of your fall, and that unestimable goodness of your God thus lovingly calling you to your ancient honors and dignity again.
The Confession of the Christian Faith in the Geneva Bible, 1560
I believe and confess my Lord God, eternal, infinite, immeasurable, incomprehensible, and invisible, one in substance, and three in person, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, who by His almighty power and wisdom, has not only of nothing created heaven and earth, and all things therein contained, and man after His own image, that He might in Him be glorified, but also by His fatherly providence governs, maintains, and preserves the same, according to the purpose of His will.
Alexander Nowell 1570
Nowell’s Catechism, 1570, translated by Thomas Norton, ed. The Parker Society
Master: Thou sayest true. Go forward therefore. Why does thou call God Father?
Student: Beside the same principal cause which I have already rehearsed, which is, for that He is the natural Father of his only Son begotten of Himself from before all beginning, there be two other causes why He both is indeed and is called our Father. The one is, for that He first created us, and gave life unto us all. The other cause is of greater value, namely, for that He has heavenly begotten us again through the Holy Ghost, and by faith in his true and natural Son Jesus Christ He has adopted us his children, and through the same Christ hath given us his kingdom, and the inheritance of everlasting life.
Rudolph Gwalther 1572
Therefore Peter makes mention of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob [in Acts 3:13], to declare that all fathers are not to be followed in religion. For as God alone is the father of all men, and Jesus Christ alone, the master of all men, whom the father has appointed to be the teacher of all the world…
The Bohemian Confession 1573, in Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, vol. 3, edited by James Dennison, Jr., p. 386
Ch. 20, Of the Time of Grace
Furthermore among all other things they teach about the time of grace and the fatherly visitation that men may learn to consider that all the time of age they lead in this life is given them by God to be a time of grace, in which they may seek their Lord and God, both His grace and mercy, and that they may be loved of Him, and by this means obtain here their salvation in Christ. Of this the apostle also made mention in his sermon which he preached at Athens when he said, “God has assigned unto men the times which were ordained before, and the bounds of their habitations, that they should seek the Lord, if perhaps they might grope after Him and find Him” (Acts 17:26-27).
Augustine Marlorate 1574
A Catholic Exposition upon the Revelation of Saint John (1574) p. 145b, on Rev. 10:10 This quote was compiled by David Ponter. Marlorate was a significant reformed theologian who wrote numerous important biblical commentaries compiling the teachings of the reformers before him and during his era. Note that the context includes unbelievers and regards salvation.
“And I went to the Angel.”
A. John refuses not the benefit that is offered him, he alleges not his own worthiness, he puts no doubt that perchance he shall not obtain it: but perceiving himself to be counseled by God, he demanded the Book of the Angel. Even so as often as God calls us to the partaking of his benefits, we must reverently and soberly receive the things that his Fatherly liberality offers unto us, except we will be counted double unthankful. Therefore let them see what answer they can make unto Christ, who leaving Him, do with divilishly superstition run unto dead saints, or rather to dumb stocks and idols, when they would obtain any benefit. For it is not for nought that Christ has said, “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you,” Matt. 11.28. Also, “he that comes unto me shall not hunger, and he that believes in Me shall not thirst for ever,” John. 6.35. Also, “if any man thirst, let him come to unto me and drink,” John. 7.37. “If he ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it you,” John. 16.23. And St. James says, “If any of you want wisdom let him ask it of him that gives, namely of God, who” (I say), “gives to all men freely without upbraiding: and it shall be given unto him,” James 1.5.
Henry Bullinger 1504 – 1575
The Decades of Henry Bullinger, vol. 1, ed. Harding, Reformation Heritage Books, 2004, p. 125
The First Decade, The Apostle’s Creed, The Seventh Sermon
Now it follows that that God, in whom we rest, and unto whose tuition we do all commit ourselves, is “the Father Almighty.” Our God is therefore called Father, because from before all beginning He begat the Son like to Himself… Also God is called Father in respect of the likeness that He has with our earthly father; to wit, because of our creation, the favor, love, good-will, and carefulness wherewith He is affected toward us. For God has created us, God loves us, God regards our affairs, and is careful for us; yea, and that more exceedingly too than any earthly father is. For says David: “Even as the father pities his children, so does the Lord pity them that fear Him: for He knows our estate, remembering that we are but dust” (Ps. 103:14,15). Isaiah also in his 49th chapter [v. 15] says: “Can a woman forget her own infant, and not pity and be fain over the son of her own womb? But admit she do forget; yet will not I forget you.” In this is declared God’s good-will to us-ward: and we, confessing that God is our Father, do also profess that God to us is both gentle, liberal, and merciful, who wishes us all things that are available to our health, and purposes nothing to us-ward but that which is good and wholesome; and, last of all, that at his hand we receive what good soever we have, either bodily or ghostly.
Zacharias Ursinus †1583
Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, translated by G.W. Williard, second American edition, 1852, Columbus
Ninth Lord’s Day, of God the Father, on Heidelberg Catechism question #26, on the Apostle’s Creed’s phrace ‘I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of Heaven and Earth‘
Father. …The first person is called the Father: 1. In respect to Christ, his only begotten Son. 2. In respect to all creatures, as He is the Creator, and Preserver of them all. 3. In respect to the elect, whom He has adopted as his children, and whom He has made accepted in his beloved Son.
Forty-Sixth Lord’s Day, on Heidelberg Catechism question #26, on the Lord’s Prayer’s phrase, ‘Our Father…’
Our Father. God is our Father, 1. In respect to our creation. “Which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God.” [Luke 3:38] 2. In respect to our redemption, and reception into divine favor through Christ our mediator. Christ is the only begotten and natural Son of God; we are by nature the children of wrath, and are adopted as children by God for Christ’s sake. 3. In respect to our sanctification or regeneration by the Holy Spirit.
William Burton 1594 Burton was a reformed puritan.
‘Our Father which art in heaven.’
Q. Why is God called a Father?
A. In two respects:
1. Of his natural Son Jesus Christ.
2. In respect of his Church.
Q. How is He called a Father in respect of his Church?
A. In two respects:
1. In respect or our creation.
2. In respect of our adoption. As for preservation and sanctification, they may be reduced unto these two heads.
Q. Is God a Father by creation, of his Church only?
A. Nay, so He is a Father of all mankind.
Q. Is God a Father of all mankind by adoption?
A. No, so He is a Father of the faithful only.
Q. Where find you that God is called a father, in respect of our creation?
A. In Mal. 2:10; Isa. 64:8; Deut. 32. So Adam is called the son of God by immediate creation, Luke 3, last verse.
William Perkins 1558-1602
An Exposition of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, in The Works of William Perkins, volume 1, ed. Stephen Yuille, Reformation Heritage Books, 2014, p. 428
On the Lord’s Prayer
“Our Father.” This title “Father” properly belongs to God, who is a Father simply by creation, giving being to all things and preserving them by His providence. Men indeed are called fathers, but that is only secondarily, because in some properties of fatherhood they resemble God.
John Diodati 1607, Diodati was one of the six divines that wrote the canons of Dort
Pious and Learned Annotations on the Holy Bible
Mal. 2:10 – “Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers?”
One Father. viz. The heavenly one, which is God: or in the flesh; namely, Abraham.
One God. Which is the general foundation of all justice amongst men; who are of one and the same nature, though of different qualities and conditions: and must all answer before God’s judgment seat as his creatures. See Job 31:15.
The Covenant. viz. not only natural rights, but the spiritual also, of being the children of God through grace.
Lancelot Andrewes 1610 Andrewes was a reformed Anglican.
Nineteen Sermons Concerning Prayer, 1610, Seventh Sermon, pp. 91-92
In the word ‘Father‘, we are further to note, not only that God is the cause of all things, for that He brings forth all things, but also his natural affection, to those things that are produced.
1. God’s Paternity is first generally to be considered in all creatures, which for that they have their being from God, He is said to be their Father, So Job called God Pater Pluuiae, ‘The Father of the rain’, Job 38. Also He is called Pater Luminū, Jam. 1:17, and this is a motive sufficient to move God to be favorable to our prayer, if there were no more, that we are his creatures: so David spake, ‘Despise not the work of thine own hands’, Ps. 138.
But men have another use of God’s paternity, for whereas of other things God said producat terra [let there be earth], Gen. 1, when man was to be created, He said, ‘Let us make man,’ giving us to understand that howsoever other creatures had their being from God immediately, God Himself would be his Father, and frame him immediately with his own hand.
2. Secondly, when God created man according to his own image He breathed into him life immortal, He gave him the sparks of knowledge, and endued his soul with reason and understanding, in which regard it is called the candle of the Lord, Prov. 21.
3. Thirdly, when man was fallen from his first estate, God opened to him a door of repentance, which favor He has not vouchsafed to the angels that fell, and so we may crave God’s favor, not only as we are the works of God’s hands, but as we are his own image.
Pierre de La Primaudaye 1618
…so wicked and perverse fathers and mothers continually and forever retain and hold their right over their children, to be honored and respected while they are fathers: and also to command and to be obeyed: so it be not in anything which is forbidden by the Father of all men.
Nicholas Byfield †1622
Before I pass from this point, one thing must be added, and that is, that howsoever God be the Father of all men in respect of the Creation of their souls, yet faith looks upon Him as a Father in Christ, and so by adoption and regeneration, and therefore we must diligently examine ourselves whether we be sons and daughters to God by grace in Christ or no…
Thomas Wilson †1622
God is in Scripture called Father with reference:
Secondly, unto the creatures, and that four ways; by similitude:
1. Of Step, or Print, or Track, so of all creatures, He is father, having imprinted some track or step of Majesty in the least of them.
2. Of Image, so He is Father of all men, having framed them in Adam to the image of Himself, in wisdom, righteousness and holiness.
3. Of Grace: so He is Father of the elect believers in earth, Jn. 1:12.
4. Of Glory, so He is Father of angels, and blessed spirits of men in heaven, Job 1:6.
God is a Father to men, not naturally or properly as He is to Christ, Job 3:16, yet a Father to us by likeness of that He does to us, with that our natural parents do for us: viz.:
1. By giving to us our substance, beginning and being:
1. Of body, Ps. 100:2; Lk. 3:38; Mal. 2:10.
2. Of soul, Heb. 12:9, or both together, Acts 17:28,29; Mal. 2:10; Deut. 32:6.
2. By preserving us, Mt. 6:26; Ps. 68:5; Lk. 11:7,10,11.
3. By regenerating us, and giving us, not only the means, motions, and directions of godliness, but the mind also, 1 Jn. 5:20, and so He makes us his Image, as the child carries the likeness of his natural father, Mt. 5:45,48. & 12:50; Jn. 8:42; Gal. 4:15. As contrarily to do wickedly, is to become the child of Satan, Jn. 8:38,44; Acts 13:10.
4. By forbearing and forgiving us our sins, Mal. 3:17.
5. By the gift of eternal life, Matt 25:34; Jn. 20:17.
John Robinson 1624
Yet must the difference here be held (howsoever these men tumble all together) between God (Adam’s, and all men’s, father by creation, and his children) and between natural parents and their children. God was Adam’s absolute father and Lord, though not for the use of any unjust power; men are but fathers as it were by borrowing, and with a power limited by Gods will.
William Gouge 1626, life from 1575–1653
A Guide to Go to God, or, an Explanation of the Perfect Pattern of Prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, 1626, London, p. 10-11
Question: Is this title Father proper to God?
Answer: Yea, most properly it appertains to Him. For it is the true and proper title of Him that gives a being to that whereof He is called a Father. They therefore among men that under God are the instruments of the being of others, who bring children forth into this world, are most usually called fathers. But it is God only that does truly and properly give a being to things: whereupon Christ says of Him, ‘There is but one your Father, which is in heaven’: and the apostle to like purpose, ‘There is but one God, the Father’: and among other unities he reckons this, ‘One God and Father’.
Now God is stiled Father both in relation to his Son the second person in Trinity, and also in relation to his creatures…
This one God distinguished into three persons, is said to be the Father of his creatures, first generally, as He has given a being to them all: secondly specially as He has set his image on some of them above others.
His Image is set on his creatures two ways:
1. By that excellency wherein He created them.
2. By renewing an excellency in some of them after their fall.
[1.] By reason of that primary excellency, Adam and Angels are stiled sons of God: for in regard of those divine qualities, and that glorious estate wherewith He adorned them above other creatures at the beginning, they are said to be made after the image of God.
Commentary on Hebrews, reprinted 1867, Edinburgh, vol. 3, p. 192
Section 51. Of God the Father of spirits.
From the forementioned reverence which nature teaches children to yield to their earthly parents that correct them, the apostle makes this inference, ‘Shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits?’
It is God who is here styled ‘the Father of spirits’, and that in opposition to ‘fathers of our flesh’: so as hereby he intends that God is the author of our spiritual being, John 1:14, 3:6, Num. 27:10. This He is in that:
1. He creates immediately from Himself that part of man which is called spirit, Gen. 2:7, Eccl. 12:7.
2. He works in men the gifts of the Spirit—even that ability which their spirits have to act anything, Ex. 35:31, Num. 11:27, Judges 13:25. In this respect God is said to give a spirit to such and such, Ex. 31:3, Num. 11:25, Judges 13:25, 1 Sam. 10:9.
John Boys 1629
The Works of John Boys, 1629, reprinted 1997 Soli Deo Gloria
The Lord’s Prayer, p. 7
“Our Father! Who art in heaven, hallowed be,” etc.
“Father;” used here rather essentially than personally.
God is our Father:
in creation. Deut. 32:6
in education. Isa. 1:2
inwardly, by his Spirit. Rom. 8:26
outwardly, by his preachers. Matt 10:20
in correction. Heb. 12:6 “Whosoever is excepted from the number of the scourged, is excepted from the number of the sons.”
in years. Dan. 7:9
But principally, a father in respect of his adoption. Rom. 15:16
The Creed, p. 32
He is a Father of:
Christ by nature, singulariter [singularly].
Good men, by adoption, specialiter [specially].
All men, and all things, by creation, generaliter [generally]; as that work is appropriated unto Him in regard of his power.
William Ames 1576-1633
The Marrow of Theology, transl. John Eusden, Baker, 1968, p. 166
Ch. 28, Adoption
14. It appears, therefore, that believers are the sons of God in a very different manner from Adam in the first creation. Although Adam might be called metaphorically the son of God, because of his dependence on God and the likeness and image of Him in which he was created, yet he was not the son of God by this mystical union and communion with Christ, who is the natural Son of God
16. The dignity of this adoption not only far exceeds the common relation in which God is said to be the Father of every creature, but also that which we had before the fall. That was weak, but our adoption today remains forever in the form of a bond. John 8:35, ‘The servant abides not in the house forever but the son abides forever.’
The Substance of Christian Religion, or, A Plain and Easy Draught of the Christian Catechism in 52 Lectures… (London, 1659), The 10th Lord’s Day, p. 75
“Doctrine 2. This providence of God extends itself to all things. This is clear in the text [Rom. 11:36].
Reason 1. It is as much extended to all in the world as a good and wise master of a family hath a care (as much as in him lieth) of all things that are done in his house.
Reason 2. It is extended to every thing that was created of God. For in the same manner providence follows upon creation, as the apostle teacheth that provision doth upon procreation, and seeing to children and others in the family, 1 Tim. 5:8. For God in some sort is called the Father of all things that He created.”
George Downame †1634
The Doctrine of Practical Praying together with a learned Exposition on the Lord’s Prayer, pp. 231-232
Now God is said to be a Father two ways: by Creation, and Adoption.
By creation, as Isa. 64:8. So Adam is said to be the son of God, Luke 3:38, and the angels, Job 1.
By adoption in Christ, Eph. 1:5. So every believer is born of God, 1 John 5:1. For to so many as believe in Christ God has given this privilege, to be the sons of God, John 1:12. And in this sense is every faithful man to call God ‘Father’.
But here it may be demanded whether the whole Trinity is called upon in the name of Father, or the first Person alone.
The word ‘Father’ is attributed unto God two ways; either essentially or personally.
Essentially, when He is so called in respect of the creatures, 1 Cor. 8:6.
Personally, when it has relation to the other Persons, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
In this place it has relation to the creatures. So Deut. 32:6; Isa. 63:16. But howsoever the whole Trinity is our Father, and so to be worshipped of us, yet this speech is more peculiarly directed to the first Person, the fountain of the Godhead, who is the Father of Christ, Eph. 3:14, and in Him our Father, John 20:17, yet so as in worshipping Him we jointly worship the other two, who as they are all one in essence, co-equal and co-eternal, concurring also in all actions towards us, so they are altogether to be worshipped. O God, Thou Father of Christ, and in Him our Father, who gives the Spirit of thy Son, whereby we cry, Abba, Father, to Thee we present our prayers in the name of thy Son, craving the help of the holy Ghost.
The second Person is called our Father, Isa. 9:6, and so may the Holy Ghost, who does regenerate us, Deut. 32:6, and to either of them may our prayers be directed, Acts 7:59. So that our prayer may be directed to any or to all the Persons, 2 Cor. 13:13, or to two of them, 1 Thess. 3:11.
Richard Sibbes †1635
‘But now O Lord thou art our Father...’ [Isa. 64:8]
Here is a prayer which is a kind of holding God, by the relation of a Father; this is one way of stirring up our souls, to consider the relation of a Father. It stirs up bowels, when a child is beaten by his Father, ‘O stay Father, spare,’ it works upon the bowels. There is a world of rhetoric in this one word Father, ‘Why Lord, Thou art my Father, shall I be destroyed?’
Let us lay hold on God by this relation that He puts upon Himself; and He will not lay it aside though we be unworthy to be sons. He does not say, ‘Thou art our Father, and we are thy sons’; because he thought they were unworthy, (as the Prodigal says, ‘I am unworthy to be called thy son’) but instead of saying ‘We are thy sons’, he says, ‘We are the clay, Thou art the potter.’
Yet He is a Father continually; and though in Christ you cannot call him Father, yet you may by creation, and initiation, being brought up in the Church. Go to Him with the encouragements you have, and cast yourselves upon Him. There is a bond for you by creation, and there is his command, He bids you call Him Father, He is a Father by creation; look not upon this or that sin, but go to Him, and call him Father, as you may call Him; say ‘Thou art my Father, Thou hast given me a being in the Church,’ wrestle with Him as you may, though as found Christians you cannot call him Father.
Be weary of your courses, are you willing to come under God’s hand to be sons; you are sons by creation already, offer thyself to be of his family for the time to come, and God will give a sweet report to thy soul. Stand not out at the staves end, Thou art our Father, Lord. If you have a purpose to live in [sin] firm, the Devil is your father, and not God, you are of your father the Devil, but if we be willing to submit, we may say, ‘Doubtless Thou art our Father.’
But may not another man that is not in Christ, come to God under the sweet name of our Father? Yea, he may come to Him as his Father by creation and providence, or sacramentally a Father, or as brought into the Church, and having God to create him, and to provide for him. Lord Thou hast showed thyself a gracious Father thus far, though I cannot from any inward persuasion say, ‘My Father’. Thus far as I can, I say ‘my Father’, strive against our spiritual infidelity, believe God, and cast our selves on his gracious promises in Christ, God will meet us at the same time, and He will send us his Spirit, to make us his sons. And therefore let no man that has been a wicked liver, be discouraged from going to God in the name of a Father, in that wherein He is a Father. Lord Thou hast created me, and preserved me, and it is thy mercy, I am not in Hell: yet Thou offerest to be my Father in Christ, Thou hast made gracious promises, and invited me; and upon this, when the heart yields to the gracious apprehensions of God as a Father, there is a spirit of faith wrought in the heart presently: therefore think of the name of a Father, and the very thoughts of it will bring the spirit of adoption.
Commentary on Hebrews, 1635, Aberdeen, p. 291
From submitting to our parents’ correction, he urges to bear the Lord’s correction. Whence we learn,
2. That God is the Father of spirits, in a special manner; because they are immediately created by Him, and do not run in the material channel of fleshly descent; and, because they have a more near resemblance unto His Divine Nature.
Thomas Fuller 1642 Fuller was a reformed Anglican
The Holy State, ch. 20, p. 129
‘Tis the custom of some to cast them overboard, and there’s an end of them: for the dumb fishes will tell no tales. But the murder is not so soon drowned as the men. What, is a brother by the half-blood no kin? A savage has God to his father by creation, though not the Church to his mother, and God will revenge his innocent blood…
The Westminster Annotations 1645, John Ley ** was the commentator on Luke. For background information on the Westminster Annotations, see here.
Luke 3:38 – “Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God.”
The Son of God. God is the universal Parent, and Creator of all men. See Deut. 32:6,18,19. But Adam’s parentage extends to God his Maker, who had not (as all other mere men) any human Parent: therefore the Syriac reads demen eloho, who was of God.
Jeremiah Burroughs 1646 **
Two Treatises of Mr. Jeremiah Burroughs: The first of earthly-mindedness… The Second Treatise: Of Conversing in Heaven…
Of Heavenly Conversation, ch. 9, p. 229
The First Reason: Because their souls that are their better part, they are from Heaven.
…Now through man’s fall the soul comes to be a slave to the Devil, and is set about drudgery to provide for the flesh: but now, when God is pleased to convert the soul, the Lord comes then to declare to a man or woman, Oh man, woman! Thou art born from on high, thy soul is (as it were) a sparkle of the Divinity (as I may so say) thy Father by creation, nay, not only by creation as He is the Creator of all Creatures, is God, but by a more special work of his, by a more special work (I say) than in the first creation of other things; thy soul is from God, and of a Divine Nature, and is therefore capable of communion with Father, Son, and Holy Ghost…
Edward Leigh ** 1650
Annotations upon all the New Testament
Luke 15:11 – “And he said, A certain man had two sons:”
A certain man had two sons. Adam had the image of God with other excellent gifts which he might happily use within his Father’s house, he would not obey God, but use them at his pleasure, and so lost those excellent gifts.
Luke 15:12 – “And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.”
And the younger of them, etc. By the Prodigal Son some understand one that was never called or turned to God, Mr. [William] Perkins takes him for one that was the child of God, and afterward fell away.
Thomas Blake 1652
The Covenant of God, 294-295, from the Puritan Publications reprint. The larger context is Blake showing the necessity of repentance being preached with the Gospel, and criticizing those who will not preach repentance with the Gospel.
It is no plain dealing in any of the ministers of Christ to make tender of promises, to hold forth privileges and conceal the terms upon which they may be obtained; to speak of salvation to men in sin without so much as the name of sanctification or application to God in a way of repentance, to tell men in the prodigal’s course of the father’s bowels and readiness to meet them with kisses without mention of the prodigal’s humiliation or coming in; to tell them of the many sins forgiven to the woman in the Gospel (Luke 7:47) without once mention of those many tears that were shed in evidence of her repentance. They say that these are the strongest motives to work men from sin. This I gladly yield when the promise is tendered and with it repentance is urged.
Thomas Adams 1583 – 1653
The Works of Thomas Adams, reprinted 1998, Tanski
Vol. 1, p. 431
England’s Sickness (Continued), Jer. 8:22
For how can it be otherwise, that the soul (of so high and celestial a creation) should thrive with the gross and homely diet of vanity? Man is, says the philosopher (Plato), sungeneis theou, God’s kinsman. And Paul, taking such a sense from the poet (Aratus), makes of a conceit of nature a sanctified truth: ‘For we are also his offspring,’ Acts 17:28. And Peter says that (though not really, but in regard of renovation [regeneration]) ‘we are partakers of the divine nature,’ 2 Pet. 1:4.
Vol. 3, p. 99
Meditations upon the [Apostle’s] Creed
‘Father’ is a relative term, Paternitas supponit filiationem, Mal. 1:6. This is sometimes understood of the whole Trinity. So Adam is said to be ‘the son of God,’ Luke 3:38. ‘Call no man father on earth, for one is your father in heaven,’ Matt 23:9. We have indeed earthly parents, but God is our Father originally, Mal. 2:10, man organically; God the Father of our spirits [Heb. 12:9], man only of our flesh, and he receives this honor from God. Sometimes it is given to Christ, Isa. 9:6; Pater arternitatis, ‘the everlasting Father.’ Heb. 2:13. The Son of God is the father of man, as a man may be at once the son of a father and the father of a son.
‘The Father,’ in a double relation: to Christ and to us.—God has one Son by generation, many by regeneration, innumerable by creation.
(2.) In respect of us.—God is the Father of Christ by nature, of angels by election, of all men by creation, of all magistrates by deputation, of all Christians by profession, of all saints by adoption. ‘I ascend to my Father, and your Father,’ says Christ, John 20:17; not Nostrum [‘your’], but Meum, et vestrum [‘mine and yours’]: aliter meum, aliter vestrum [‘mine one way, yours another way’]: meum natura, vestrum gratia [mine natural, yours by grace]. (Aquinas) Father of the angels, Job 1:6, Ps. 89:6. These be the eldest of the created sons. Father of all men, Acts 17:28; making our bodies by natural and mediate generation, forming our souls by immediate infusion, Heb. 12:9.
Robert Harris 1581-1658 ** Harris preached this during the sitting of the Westminster Assembly in the 1640’s
“God’s adversaries are in some way His own. He is a piece of a Father to them also. For He is a common Father by office to all, a special Father by adoption to saints, a singular Father by nature to Christ. A Prince, besides His particular relation to His children, is Pater patriae [a father of fathers]… and is good to all, though with a difference. So here, though Christ has purchased a peculiar people to Himself, to the purpose of salvation, yet others taste of this His goodness”
– a sermon preached before the English House of Commons, from Luke 18:6-8, p. 32, as quoted in a footnote in Alexander Mitchell’s Minutes of the Westminster Assembly, Introduction, p. lxiii
Samuel Rutherford 1600-1661 **
Influences of the Life of Grace, Letter to the Reader
He hated the first sin as He does all sin, but to say He was weak and impatient about its entrance in the world [as Arminians], blames his omnipotency, to say the watchman of Israel was; as to all care and vigilance of holy providence, sleeping or slumbering, and was thoughtless and drowsy, not valuing whether his noble sons of creation, angels and men, should fall, and irrecoverably and eternally be broken, and become fuel for everlasting fire, or stand and be eternally happy, is injurious to infinite wisdom…
Christ Dying and Drawing Sinners to Himself, 1647, London
4. Its all the reason in the world, that a sinner be drawn to Christ. For Christ is the most rational object that is, He being the wisdom of God. And man is led and taken with reason. Christ is a convincing thing, and invincibly binds reason: so the forlorne [destitute] son, before he return to his Father, argues, Luke 15:17, ‘My Father hath bread, he giveth it to servants, and I am a starving son; therefore I’ll return to my Father’; and the wise merchant must discourse, Matt 13:45,46, Christ is a precious pearl, all that I have in the world are but common stones and clay to him; therefore I cast my account thus, to sell all, and to buy Him.
Covenant of Life Opened, 1655, Edinburgh
Ch. 5, p. 290
…But sinning and falling being considered in relation to a more universal good, there is more excellency in Gospel-rising then in Law-standing: As,
1. There is more feeling deeper sense in the woman which did wash Christ’s feet with her tears, and wipe them with the hair of her head, then in some who never so fell. And Christ may hold forth something of this, Lk. 15:7. Likewise I say unto you (says Christ) there is more joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons that need no repentance. True it is our Savior’s scope is not to compare repentance and Law-innocency together, or to show that the Pharisees needed no repentance, as if they were not in a lost condition: but to show what joy was in heaven with the Lord the father of the forlorn son, and in the angels, at the home coming of repenting sinners. And is not a jewel of ten thousand millions of more worth than a diamond that is not worth the eighth part of that sum? Adam’s innocency and never sinning should have been by the common influences of Law-love, and the same may be said of Angel-innocency. But Gospel-repentance is the gift procured at a dearer rate, Christ was exalted a Prince to give repentance, Acts 5:31. Neither should there be sense and such loving sense of free grace in the forlorn son, had he never fled away from his father, and never been so received with a welcome of grace which he believed, before he felt it.
Anthony Burgess †1664 **
Spiritual Refining, 1652, London, p. 238
Thirdly, Consider that we may be said to be the sons of God in three respects:
1. As we are creatures, having our being from him: In which sense Paul sanctifies that verse of the Poet, We are his off-spring, Acts 17:28. What the poet said of Jupiter, Paul applies to the true God. Thus God is a Father by Creation; and all men, even wicked men are his children in this sense; but this is no advantage, for though a man be born of God in this respect, yet if he be no more, he shall never see the Kingdom of heaven. ‘He that made them, will not save them,’ says the prophet, Isa. 27:11. Though ye are his creatures, yet having fallen from him to take the Devil’s character, He will deal no more with you as with his own.
Roger Drake 1608–1669
Puritan Sermons, 1659-1689, vol. 5, p. 328
The Believer’s Dignity and Duty Laid Open, in the High Birth Wherewith He is Privileged, and the Honorable Employment to Which He is Called
1. General Explication.
For the first, in general: a person may be a son four ways:—
A Fourfold Sonship
1. By creation.—And thus, (1) The angels (Job 38:7); (2) Adam (Luke 3:38); (3) Christ, according to his human nature, was the Son of God (Luke 1:35). Not that Christ’s human nature was a son or a person; lest we make two sons or two persons in one Christ. And thus believers are God’s children, by virtue of their new and spiritual creation.
2. By generation.—And this is:
(1) Eternal, or temporary.—Eternal, as in Christ (John 1:1,14,18. Compare Isa. 53:8). Temporary, as in other men.
(2) Natural, or spiritual.—Natural, as in the Son of God, and the sons of men, though with infinite disproportion. Spiritual, as in regeneration (James 1:18).
Anthony Tuckney †1670 **
40 Sermons, p. 539, on Ps. 73
2. [Continuing in sins makes us] Guilty, that we dare not draw near: Makes Adam hide Himself from God in the bushes, as an unhappy child, when in fault, from his angry Father’s presence.
George Swinnock 1627-1673
The Sinners Last Sentence to Eternal Punishment for Sins of Omission, 1675, pp. 48-51. This quote was compiled by Tony Byrne
6. It will much augment their anguish and misery to consider, who it is that passes so severe a doom upon them [on Judgment Day]… Ah how sorely will it gall the sinner to consider, This dreadful doom is denounced against me not by an Enemy, or one that hated me, but by a Friend and Father, by one that loved me, and took my nature on Him, and suffered therein the Law’s Curse, to render me capable of escaping these torments which I now suffer, and partaking of those pleasures which yonder blessed souls enjoy.
Matthew Barker 1674
Natural Theology, ch. 8, p. 209
3. To instruct and teach them in their way; As David prays, Ps. 119:73, ‘Thy hands have made me and fashioned me, give me understanding that I may learn thy commandments.’ As if he should say, Lord, Thou hast given me my being, and wilt Thou leave me; and not guide me and lead me, now Thou hast made me? Or as others, thus, Thine hands have made me and fashioned me, therefore I owe Thee obedience, give me therefore understanding that I may learn thy commandments, and so give obedience to Thee: Or it may be David looks at God as his Father by creation, and therefore begs that, as a Father, He would instruct him, and learn him his commandments: And so may the saints plead, that as God has given them being, so He would guide them in the way to their well-being.
Thomas Manton 1620–1677, wrote the ‘Letter to the Reader’ that accompanies most editions of the Westminster Standards **
The Works of Thomas Manton, vol. 1, reprinted 2008, SGCB, p. 41-43
A Practical Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer
“Our Father which art in heaven”
But now let me distinguish again. God is a father to mankind, either:
1. In a more general consideration and respect, by creation; or,
2. In a more special regard by adoption.
First, By creation God is a father. At first he gave a being to all things; but to men and angels he gave reason: John 1:4, ‘And this life was the light of man.’ Other things had life, but man had such a life as was light; and so by his original constitution he became to be the son of God. To establish the relation of a father, there must be a communication of life and likeness. A painter, that makes an image or picture like himself, he is not the father of it, for though there be likeness, yet no life. The sun in propriety of speech is not the father of frogs and putrid creatures, which are quickened by its heat; though there be life, yet there is no likeness. We keep this relation for univocal generations and rational creatures. Thus, by creation, the angels are said to be the sons of God: Job 38:7, ‘When He was laying the foundations of the earth, the sons of God shouted for joy;’ that is, the angels. And thus Adam also was called the son of God: Luke 3:38. Thus, by our first creation, and with respect to that, all men are the sons of God, children of God. And (mark it) in respect of God’s continual concurrence to our being, though we have deformed ourselves, and are not the same that we were when we were first created; yet still, in regard of some sorry remains of God’s image, and the light of reason, all are sons of God, and God in a general sense is a father to us; yea, more a father than our natural parents are. For our parents, they concur to our being, but instrumentally, God originally. We had our being, under God, from our parents: He has the greatest hand and stoke in forming us in the belly, and making us to be what we are. Which appears by this: Parents, they know not what the child will be, male or female, beautiful or deformed; they cannot tell the number of bones, muscles, veins, arteries, and cannot restore any of these in case they should be lost and spoiled; so that He that framed us in the womb, and wonderfully fashioned us in the secret parts, He is our Father: Ps. 139:14. As the writing is rather the work of the penman than of the pen, so we are the workmanship of God than of our parents; they are but instruments, God is the author and fountain of that life and being which we still have. And again, consider, the better part of man is of his immediate creation, and in this respect he is called ‘the Father of spirits:’ Heb. 12:9. They do not run in the channel of carnal generation or fleshly descent, but they are immediately created by God. And it is said, Eccl. 12:7, ‘The spirit returneth to God which gave it.’
Well, then, you see how, in a general sense, and with what good reason, God may be called our Father. Those which we call fathers, they are bit subordinate instruments; the most we have from them is our corruption, our being depraved; but our substance, and the frame and fashion of it, our being, and all that is good in it, that is from the Lord.
Now, this is some advantage in prayer, to look upon God as our father by virtue of creation, that we can come to Him as the work of his hands, and beseech Him that He will not destroy us and suffer us to perish: Isa. 44:8, ‘But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we are all the work of thine hand.’ There is a general mercy that God has for all his creatures; and, therefore, as He gave us rational souls, and fashioned us in the womb, we may come to Him and say, Lord, thou art our potter and we thy clay, do us good, forsake us not.
What advantage have we in prayer from this common interest or general respect of God’s being a father by virtue of creation:
[1.] This common relation binds us to pray to Him. All things which God has made, by a secret instinct they are carried to God for their supply: Ps. 145:15, ‘The eyes of all things look up to thee.’ In their way they pray to Him and moan to Him for their supplies even very beasts, young ravens, and fowls of the air. But much more is this man’s duty, as we have reason, and can clearly own the first cause. And therefore upon these natural grounds the apostle reasons with them why they should seek after God: Acts 14:17
[2.] As this common relation binds us to pray, so it draws common benefits after it: Matt 6:25-26, ‘Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them.’ Where God hath given raiment, according to his good pleasure. He does not cast off the care of any living creature He has made, as long as He will preserve it for his glory. Beasts have their food and provision, much more men, which are capable of knowing and enjoying God.
[3.] It gives us confidence in the power of God. He which made us out of nothing is able to keep, preserve and supply us when all things fail, and in the midst of all dangers. Saints are able to make use of this common relation. And therefore it is said, 1 Pet. 4:19, that we should ‘commit our souls unto Him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator.’ The apostle speaks of such times when they carried their lives in their hands from day to day. They did not know how soon they should be haled before tribunals and cast into prisons. Remember, you have a Creator, which made you out of nothing. Thus common relation is not to be forgotten, as He gives us our outward life and being: Ps. 124:8, ‘Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.’ As if the psalmist had said, as long as I see these glorious monuments of his power, these things framed out of nothing, shall I distrust God whatever exigence or strait I may be reduced to?
Matthew Poole (1624-1679)
Commentary on the Bible
God is again here represented under the notion of a man who had two sons: some that are his children by regeneration as well as creation; He having given them that believe a right to be called the sons of God, John 1:12. Others that are his sons by creation only. The latter are here represented under the notion of a younger son. This younger son is represented as dissatisfied with living in his father’s house, desiring his portion, etc. All men and women by nature were equally the sons of God, being all in Adam, who was so… Wicked men, when they are thus furnished by God, quickly take their journey into a far country, are more alienated and estranged from God by lewd and wicked practices than they were by nature… It pleases God by his providence sometimes to bring these men into straits; when they are so brought, they will take any base, sordid course to relieve themselves, rather than they will think of returning to their heavenly Father.
We are the offspring of God. This is spoken by the apostle in a poetical expression, according unto what he had cited. We are indeed the children, and in our souls bear the image of God. But as many as have the Spirit of adoption, they partake of God’s holiness, and imitate his goodness, and are more like unto Him, by whom they are begotten again unto a lively hope, 1 Pet. 1:3; and at the resurrection they will appear unto all to be his children, when they shall be acknowledged his heirs, and coheirs with Jesus Christ, Rom. 8:17.
John Brown of Wamphray †1679 The Scottish covenanter
We hinted above, how God was to be looked upon, and accounted a Father unto all the world, in a more general sense, in regard of his creating, preserving and providing for all, as the Father of the great family of heaven and earth [Eph. 3:14-15]; and how upon that account, even, wicked, graceless persons were obliged to pray unto Him, and call upon Him, as Father: But we shall here speak of God, as a Father in a more spiritual restricted sense, as being a Father, to his own adopted ones, which does presuppose and include all the more general grounds…
Thomas Goodwin 1600 – 1680 **
The Works of Thomas Goodwin, vol. 1, p. 97
Exposition of Ephesians 1
Now, take notice of this difference, to see your privilege yet further, as you are in Christ. Adam was created holy, perfectly holy; and, Luke 3:38, we read that he was the son of God, but nowhere that He was the son of God by adoption through Christ. In the 38th of Job, the angels are called ‘morning stars’ and ‘sons of God;’ but nowhere are they called such by adoption through Christ. They were sons indeed, per gratium creationis [by the grace of creation], because God made them, and in his own likeness, and so by creation was their Father. But they are not sons per gratiam adoptionis [by the grace of adoption], especially not in Christo, vel per Christum [in Christ, or by Christ], as divines speak. They are not sons by the grace of adoption, nor sons-in-law of God by being married unto Christ. No, this is proper only to believers.
Stephen Charnock †1680
The Existence and Attributes of God (reprint, Baker, 2000), vol. 2, Discourse 13, ‘On God’s Dominion’, p. 415
2. The dominion of God is manifested in raising up and ordering the spirits of men according to his pleasure. He does, as the Father of spirits, communicate an influence to the spirits of men, as well as an existence; He puts what inclinations He pleases into the will, stores it with what habits He please, whether natural or supernatural, whereby it may be rendered more ready to act according to the Divine purpose.
John Owen 1616 – 1683
Exposition of Hebrews, ed. Goold, reprinted 1980, Baker
Vol. 7, p. 269
1. He by whom we are chastised is “the Father of spirits.” He is a father also, but of another kind and nature than they [“fathers of our flesh”] are. “The Father of spirits;” that is, of our spirits: for so the opposition requires; the fathers of our flesh, and the Father of our spirits. And whereas the apostle here distributes our nature into its two essential parts, the flesh and the spirit; it is evident that by the “spirit,” the rational soul is intended. For although the flesh also be a creature of God, yet is natural generation used as a means for its production; but the soul is immediately created and infused, having no other father but God Himself. See Num. 16:22; Zech. 12:1; Jer. 38:16. I will not deny but that the signification of the word here may be farther extended, namely, so as to comprise also the state and frame of our spirits in their restoration and rule, wherein also they are subject unto God alone; but his being the immediate creator of them is regarded in the first place.
And this is the fundamental reason of our patient submission unto God in all our afflictions, namely, that our very souls are his, the immediate product of his divine power, and under his rule alone. May He not do what He will with his own? Shall the potsherd contend with its maker?
[Webmasters note: Robert Candlish asserted, “I claim Owen as on my side.” in The Fatherhood of God, fifth edition, Edinburgh, 1870, Preface to the Third Edition, p. xxxv. Candlish articulates his position as: “That either angels or men were sons of God from the beginning of their being, is nowhere taught in the holy Scripture,” (p. 71) and spends the rest of his 300 page book trying to show that unconverted men are not sons of God, nor God their father, in any sense of the word. The above quote by Owen is evidence to the contrary.]
John Collinges 1683
The Intercourses of Divine Love Betwixt Christ and his Church, or, The Particular Believing Soul metaphorically expressed by Solomon in the first chapter of the Canticles
Sermon 12, on Caticles 1:2, p. 190
We are all transgressors from the womb, and God hears not sinners for their own sakes, but for Christ’s sake; therefore we are commanded to ask in Christ’s Name. God indeed as our Father by Creation may hear us crying for temporal good things in the day of our wants; so he hears the young ravens when they cry for food to Him. But we are blessed with spiritual blessings in Christ, and upon the account of Christ…
Richard Baxter 1685
A Paraphrase on the New Testament with Notes, on Matt 6:9, the Lord’s Prayer
We come not to Thee as our unreconciled avenging Judge, but as to our merciful Father reconciled to us by Christ; The only God, whose Glory is eminently in Heaven, infinite in perfection of Being, and of Power, Knowledge and Goodness, our absolute owner, our Supreme Ruler, and our most loving Father by Creation, Redemption and Regeneration, whose we are, and whom we must serve, and whom we must Love and Trust; we are sinful, needy, miserable and unworthy, in our selves, but thy Children by Christ our Intercessor, who is worthy; whose hearts are by desire towards thee as our God, and to the good of others as our brethren…
Thomas Watson 1620 – 1686
Body of Divinity, London 1807
Of Adoption, vol. 1, p. 238
Our sonship differs from Christ’s sonship; Christ was the son of God by eternal generation, a son before time; but our sonship is, 1. By creation, Acts 17:28, ‘We are his offspring.’ This is no privilege; men may have God for their father by creation, yet have the devil for their father.
Of the Preface to the Lord’s Prayer, “Our FATHER which art in heaven”, vol. 2, p. 35
Question 1. In what sense is God a Father?
Answer 1. By Creation; it is He that has made us, Acts 17:28, ‘We are his offspring’; Mal. 2:10, ‘Have we not all one Father?’ Hath not one God created us? But there is little comfort in this; for so God is Father to the devils by creation; but He that made them will not save them.
Francis Turretin 1623-1687
Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol. 1, ed. James Dennison, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1992, p. 479
Thirteenth Question: The Origin of the Soul. Are souls created by God, or are they propagated? We affirm the former and deny the latter.
VI. “We have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much more rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?” (Heb. 12:9). And Peter calls Him in a peculiar manner a “faithful Creator of souls” (1 Pet. 4:19). In Num. 16:22, God is called “the God of the spirits of all flesh.” So too Isa. 57:16: “For I will not contend forever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before Me, and the souls which I have made.” Now why should God be called “the Father of spirits” in contradistinction to “the fathers of the flesh” unless the origin of each was different?… Hence in Num. 16:22, He is called “the father of the spirits of all flesh” (i.e. of all men). Again He cannot be called ‘the Father of spirits” mediately, as He is called ‘the father of the rain” (Job 38:28) because He is its author (although not immediately). Thus the antithesis between the fathers of the flesh and the father of spirits would not stand, and the force of the apostolic exhortation to afford greater obedience to God than to earthly fathers would fall.
Ezekiel Hopkins †1689
Works, vol. 1, A Practical Exposition of the Lord’ Prayer, p. 59 ff.
Now God is a Father three ways:
1. God is a Father by eternal generation
2. By temporal creation and providence
3. By spiritual regeneration and adoption
2. God is a Father by temporal Creation, as He gives a being and existence to his creatures; creating those whom He made rational after his own image and similitude. And, therefore, God is said to be a ‘Father of spirits’ (Heb. 12:9). And the angels are called the sons of God (Job 1:6), ‘There was a day, when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord.’ And so, Adam upon the account of his creation, is called the son of God (Lk. 3:38); where the evangelist runs up the genealogy of mankind till it terminates in God, ‘who was the son of Adam, who was the son of God.’
3. God is said to be a Father by spiritual regeneration and adoption…
Now in these two last significations, this expression, ‘Our Father which art in heaven,’ is to be understood: and so they denote, not any one particular Person of the blessed Trinity; but it is a relative attribute, belonging equally to all the Three Persons. God is the Father of all men, by Creation and Providence; and He is especially the Father of the faithful, by regeneration and adoption. Now, as these actions of creation, regeneration, and adoption, are common to the whole Trinity, so likewise, so likewise is the title of Father…
William Bates 1691
The Complete Works of William Bates, vol. 4, reprinted 1990, Sprinkle Publications, p. 298
A Sermon Preached at the Funeral of Mr. Richard Baxter
1. The relation of God to the saints. The title of Father is upon several accounts attributed to God.
(1.) He is a Father by creation: “O Lord, thou art our Father: we are the clay, thou art the potter, we are the work of thine hands.” Isa. 64:8. He formed man’s body into a majestic figure, becoming his original state, being Lord of the lower world. But in a peculiar manner he is styled “the Father of spirits:” [Heb. 12:9] they have a near alliance, and resemblance of the Father of lights, in their intellectual powers, and their immortal nature. From hence it is, the angels are called “the sons of God:” Job 2:1, they are the eldest offspring of his power. Adam has the title of the “Son of God.” Luke 3:38. And since the fall, men are called “God’s offspring.” [Acts 17:28-29] There is an indelible character of dignity engraven in the reasonable nature by the hand of God. But since man turned rebel to his Creator and Father, this endearing obliging relation aggravates his rebellion, but gives him no interest in the paternal love of God, of which he has made a deadly forfeiture. It is threatened against ignorant perverse sinners, “He that made them, will not have mercy on them.”
George Garden 1699
…seeing God is the common Father of all men, and promises to give his Holy Spirit to them that ask it. His Promises are infallible, the Scripture assures us of this, saying, ‘Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my Words shall not pass away,’ bringing the comparison of an evil father, who would not give his son a stone instead of bread, nor a serpent for a high fish; asking them, How then shall not your heavenly Father give his Holy Spirit to him who asks Him?
John Howe 1630-1705
Man’s Enmity Against God, in The Works of John Howe, Vol. 1, reprinted Soli Deo Gloria
First, that ever the spirit of man, a reasonable, intelligent being, God’s own offspring, and whereto He is not only a Maker but a Parent, styled the Father of spirits, should be degenerated into so horrid, so unnatural a monster! What! To be a hater of God! The most excellent and all-comprehending good! And your own Father! “Hear, O heavens and earth, says the Lord, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me,” Isa. 1:2. “Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this! And be horribly afraid! Be ye very desolate!” As if all the blessed inhabitants of that upper world should rather forsake their glorious mansions, leave heaven empty, and run back into their original nothing, than endure such a sight! An intelligent spirit hating God, is the most frightful prodigy in universal nature!
How fearful a thing will it be to die unreconciled to God, under a gospel of reconciliation! while the voice of the gospel of grace is calling upon you, Return and live… Let a holy resolution be taken up at last, (after many neglects) as was by the poor distressed prodigal, after he had long lived a wandering life (Luke 15:18, and onward;) “I will arise, and go to my Father,” etc., and you will find God a merciful Father, ready to receive you, and with joy! O the joyful meeting between a returning soul, and a sin-pardoning God!
The Reconcilableness of God’s Prescience of the Sins of Men, in The Works of John Howe, Vol. 2, reprinted Soli Deo Gloria, p. 511
Nor is it less apprehnsible, how incongruous it were also, on the other hand, to suppose that the exterior frame of God’s government should be totally unaccompanied with an internal vital energy; or exclude the inward motions, operations, and influences, whereof such a creature is also fitly capable; or that God should have barred out Himself from all inward access to the spirits of men, or commerce with them: that the supreme, universal, paternal mind (as a heathen called it) should have no way for efficacious communications to his own offspring, when He pleases…
The Redeemer’s Dominion over the Invisible World, in The Works of John Howe, Vol. 1, reprinted Soli Deo Gloria, p. 49
I have often considered with wonder and pleasure, that whereas God is called by that higher and far more extensive name, “the Father of spirits,” He is also pleased so graciously to vouchsafe, as to be styled “the God of the spirits of all flesh;” and thereby to signify, that having an order of spirits so meanly lodged, that inhabit frail and moral flesh, though He have a world of spirits to converse with, whose dwelling is not with flesh, yet He disdains not a relation to so mean and abject spirits, his offspring, also, in our world: and that, because this was the place of offending delinquents that He would recover, the Redeemer should sort Himself with them, and, as they were partakers of flesh and blood,Himself likewise take part of the same!
Herman Witsius (1636-1708)
The Lord’s Prayer, reprinted 1994, by the den Dulk Christian Foundation, p. 157-9
But it will perhaps be considered to be a more useful and profitable inquiry, Why is the Father of Jesus Christ called ‘Our Father’ [in the Lord’s Prayer]? The relation which, in common with all other men, we bear to the Divine Being, furnishes certainly one reason for the use of this phrase, “He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things.” (Acts 17:25) Hence the poet Aratus, speaking of the human race, says, “for we are also his offspring.” (Acts 17:28) Malachi argues thus—“Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us?” (Mal. 2:10) While we owe much to our earthly Father, or, as Paul calls them, fathers of our flesh, we owe everything to the Father of Spirits. (Heb. 12:9). He alone “forms the spirit of man within Him,” and is therefore called The God of the spirits of all flesh (Num. 16:22). It is God whom the Psalmist, with equal truth and piety, thus addresses,–“I will praise thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being imperfect; and in thy book all my members were written.” (Ps. 139:14-16) “Hast thou not,” says Job in a similar strain, “poured me out as milk, and curdled me like cheese? Thou hast clothed me with skin and flesh, and fenced me with bones and sinews.” (Job 10:10,11) But the continuance of our life, and everything that has contributed to render it happy must, equally with the commencement of our being, be traced to the hand of our Creator. This subject is beautifully pursued by Job in the 12th verse [of Job 10]. “Thou has granted me life and favor, and thy visitation has preserved my spirit.” It is the duty of everyone gratefully and humbly to acknowledge that his life is continually in the hand of God, and in pious meditations to say, “Where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the night?” Basil [330-379] has with considerable success illustrated the phrase,
“Not in an overstrained or metaphorical, but in the strict, primary, and true sense, God is called our Father, since by means of our earthly parents He brought us out of nothing into existence, and by His great kindness permits us to dwell with Him.”
Another writer employs still stronger language,
“God who brought us out of nothing into being, is more strictly our Father than our parents who owed to Him their relation to us as well as to their own existence.”
And hence some allege that God is called Father, as the Preserver of all things; which, however, is more properly an allusion than an etymological remark.
The Economy of the Covenants, vol. 2, Book 3, Ch. 10, ‘Of Adoption’, paragraphs
II. We assert, that believers are the sons of God… This is God’s covenant with them: ‘and I will be a father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord almighty,’ 2 Cor. 6:18.
III. But they are not so, only on this account [by covenant, mentioned above], that God, as creator, gave them being and life, Mal. 2:10; and as preserver, supports and provides them with all necessaries, Acts 17:25,28.
VI… Angels indeed, have the glorious appellations of sons of God, Job 38:7; with which the Lord honors them, not only because He formed them, but also because He imprinted upon them the image and resemblance of his own holiness, Job 4:18, and because, as children of the family, they familiarly converse with God in his house which is in heaven, Job 1:6: in fine, because something of the dignity and authority of God is vouchsafed unto them, as we have just said, that magistrates are also called ‘the children of the most high’. These are thrones, dominions, principalities, powers, Col. 1:16: nay they are also called Elohim, Gods, Ps. 97:7, compared with Heb. 1:6.
VII. In almost the same sense [as immediately above], Adam seems also to be called ‘the son of God’, Luke 3:38; for seeing that name, which has the article ‘ta’ [‘the’ in Greek] set before it, denotes father in all the foregoing verses, as the Syriac [version] in place of ‘ta’ puts ‘bar’ [‘son’ in Syriac]; no reason can be assigned, why here, altering the phrase, we should translate with Beza, ‘who was of God’; in which he has followed the Syriac, who translated ‘demen eloha’, ‘who is of God.’ For, no doubt can be made, that Adam may be fitly called the son of God, the reasons of which Philo [a first century Jewish] elegantly explains in the passage adduced by the illustrious Grotius [a 17th century commentator] on Luke 3:38; in the manner Josephus [a first century Jew] has also written, that men ‘were born of God Himself’: namely:
1. God created Adam.
2. In his own image.
3. Eminently loved him.
4. Gave him dominion over the creatures.
For these reasons he is deservedly called the son of God, though God had not yet declared him heir of his peculiar blessings. Nor does he seem without reason to mention Adam, as the son of God. For, this tends, as Grotius has learnedly observed, to raise our mind, by this seal, to the belief of the birth of Christ. For He, who from the earth, without a father, could produce man, was able in like manner to make Christ to be born of a virgin without a father.
VIII. But Adam did not long maintain that dignity, on account of which he was called the Son of God, for neglecting holiness, and, losing that excellency, in which he was created, and suffering himself to be overcome by the devil, he became ‘the servant’ of Satan, by whom he was foiled, 2 Pet. 2:19; and, at the same time, ‘a child of wrath’, Eph. 2:3, together with all his posterity. But what the elect have lost in Adam, they recover in Christ; namely, the same, nay a far more excellent degree, or rank among the children. For, let the disparity between Christ and believers be ever so great, ‘yet He is not ashamed to call them brethren, Heb. 2:11.
Willhelmus A’Brakel 1635-1711
The Christian’s Reasonable Service, vol. 2, translated by B. Elshout, Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1993, p. 415
Ch. 35, The Adoption of Children
Justification Includes Spiritual Sonship
First, many are referred to as children of God, and this from a variety of perspectives.
(2) It is true of the angels and Adam, and, in him (by reason of creation), for the entire human race. “When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:7); “…Adam… the son of God” (Luke 3:38); “Have we not all one Father? Hath not one God created us?” (Mal. 2:10).
Matthew Henry 1662-1714
Commentary on the Whole Bible
‘Have we not all one Father?’ Yes, we have, for ‘has not one God created us?’ Are we not all ‘his offspring?’ [Acts 17:28-29] And are we not ‘made of one blood?’ Yes, certainly we are. God is a common Father to all mankind, and, upon that account, ‘all we are brethren’, members on of another, and therefore ought to ‘put away lying’ (Eph. 4:25), and not to ‘deal treacherously’, no, not ‘any man against his brother’.
Thomas Ridgley 1667-1734
Commentary on the Larger Catechism, vol. 2,
‘The Various Senses of the name ‘Sons of God’
3. The name ‘sons of God’ is sometimes taken in a more large sense, as applicable to all mankind. Thus the prophet says, ‘Have we not all one father? Hath not one God created us? (Mal. 2:10) And the apostle Paul, when disputing with the Athenians, speaks in their own language, and quotes a saying taken from one of their poets, which he applies to the great God, as ‘giving to all life and breath, and all things;’ on which account men are called ‘his offspring’ (Acts 17:25; compared with 28).
The Preface of the Lord’s Prayer [“Our Father who art in heaven…”]
1. It teaches us to address ourselves to God as a Father. This relation includes something common to mankind in general; and, in respect to this, we are to adore Him as our Creator, our owner, and benefactor, ‘in whom we live, and move, and have our being,’ (Acts 17:28). Thus the prophet says, ‘Have we not all one Father? Hath not one God created us? (Mal. 2:10) Elsewhere, also, it is said, ‘He forms the spirit of man within him’ (Zech. 12:1); on which account He is called, ‘the God of the spirits of all flesh,’ (Num. 16:22) and ‘the Father of spirits,’ (Heb. 12:9)…
These various senses in which God is said to be a Father to man, may serve for our direction when we style Him, ‘Our Father,’ in prayer. Unregenerate persons, when they pray to God, can ascend no higher than what is contained in their relation to Him as a God of nature, and of providence. They are obliged to adore Him for the blessings which they have received from Him as the effects of common bounty, which include all the blessings belonging to this life, together with his patience, forbearance, and long-suffering, in delaying to inflict the punishment which sin deserves. Hence when they say, Our Father,’ they acknowledge that they derive their being from Him. Though they cannot lay to the benefits of Christ’s redemption, yet they confess their obligations to God as their Creator, and consider Him as having given them souls capable of spiritual blessings, and themselves as daily receiving the good things of this life from Him, and as dependent on Him for those things which tend to the comfort and support of life. They also stand in need of those blessings which are suited to the nature of the soul, and consequently beg that they may not remain destitute of the things which may conduce to their everlasting welfare. Hence, they may use the psalmist’s words, ‘Thy hands have made me, and fashioned me: give me understanding, that I may learn thy commandments,’ (Ps. 119:73).
The Family Expositor of the New Testament, 1831, London, p. 216
Luke 15: The Parable of the Prodigal Son
We have before us in this parable a lively emblem of the character and condition of sinners in their fallen state. They are thus impatient of the most necessary restraints; thus fondly conceited of their own wisdom; and thus, when enriched by the bounties of the great common Father, do they ungratefully run from Him, and say unto God, Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. (Job 21:14)…
When they see themselves naked and indigent, enslaved and undone; when they come to themselves… then they remember the blessings they have lost, and attend to the misery they have incurred. And hereupon they are disposed humbly to confess their folly, and to prostrate themselves in the presence of their heavenly Father: they put the resolution immediately into practice; they arise, and go unto Him.
James Fisher 1753
The Assembly’s Shorter Catechism Explained, reprinted 1998, Berith Publications, p. 435
Question 100. What does the preface of the Lord’s prayer teach us?
Answer: The preface of the Lord’s prayer which is, “Our Father which art in heaven,” teaches us, to draw near to God with all holy reverence and confidence, as children to a Father, able and ready to help us; and that we should pray with and for others.
6. In what respect is God called a Father, with reference to men?
A. He is called a Father, with reference to them, either in respect of creation, external covenant-relation, or the grace of adoption.
7. To whom is He a Father in respect of creation?
A. In this respect He is a Father to all mankind in general, Mal. 2:10.
10. May not every one who hears the gospel warrantably cry to God, “My Father,” according to Jer. 3:4?
A. No doubt but it is their duty to do so, upon the call and command of God; but none will actually do it in faith, but they into whose hearts “God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son,” Gal. 4:6.
Samuel Davies †1761
‘The Nature and Universality of Spiritual Death’, Sermons of Samuel Davies, vol. 1, p. 84-5
II. The august and endearing relations the great and blessed God sustains to us, and the many ways He has taken to make dutiful and grateful impressions upon our hearts. What tender endearments are those contained in the relation of a Father! This He bears to us: ‘He made us and not we ourselves’. [Ps. 100] Our bodies, indeed, are produced in a succession from Adam by generation, but who was it that began the series? It was the Almighty, who formed the first man of the dust: it was He who first put the succession of causes in motion; and, therefore, He is the grand original cause, and the whole chain depends upon Him. Who was it that first established the laws of generation, and still continues them in force? It is the all-creating Parent of nature: and without Him men would have been no more able to produce one another than stones or clods of earth. As to our souls, the principal part of our persons, God is their immediate author, without the least concurrence of secondary causes. Hence He is called the Father of your spirits in a peculiar sense, Heb. 12:9; and He assumes the endearing name of “the God of the spirits of all flesh.” Num. 16:22. Now the name of a father is wont [accustomed] to carry some endearment and authority. Children, especially in their young and helpless years, are fond of their father; their little hearts beat with a thousand grateful passions toward him; they love to be dandled on his knees and fondled in his arms: and they fly to Him upon every appearance of danger: but if God be a father, where is his honor? Here, alas! The filial passions are senseless and immoveable. It is but a little time since we came from his creating hand, and yet we have forgotten Him. It seems unnatural for his own offspring to inquire, “where is God my Maker?” They show no fondness for Him, no affectionate veneration, and no humble confidence; their hearts are dead towards Him, as though there were no such being, or no such near relation subsisting between them. In childhood, a rattle, or a straw, or any trifle is more thought of than their heavenly Father: in riper years, their vain pleasures and secular pursuits command more of their affections than their divine original and only happiness.
Compare your natural temper towards your heavenly Father, and towards your earthly parents, and how wide is the difference! Nature works strong in your hearts towards them, but towards Him all the filial passions are dull and dead; and why? Alas! The reason is, you ‘are dead in trespasses and sins.’ But this relation of a Father is not the only relation our God sustains to you; He is your supreme King, to whom you owe allegiance; your Lawgiver, whose will is the rule of your conduct; and your Judge, who will call you to an account, and reward or punish you according to your works…
‘The Nature and Blessedness of Sonship with God’, in Sermons of Samuel Davies, vol. 2, p. 126
I. I shall show what is the import of this glorious title, the sons of God.
It is evident that the title is used here [1 John 3:1-2], not in so general a sense, as elsewhere, where it signifies no more than the creatures of God, Luke 3, ult. (Acts 17:28,29) for here it is mentioned as the peculiar privilege of true Christians, in which the world in general does not partake. In the sense of the text, it implies that believers are born again of God: that they are admitted to enjoy the privileges of children; and that they are the heirs of heaven.
John Gill 1697 – 1771, was a reformed baptist
A Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity, The Baptist Faith Series, vol. 1, from the 1839 edition, reprinted 1995 by The Baptist Standard Bearer, p. 519
A Body of Doctrinal Divinity, Book 6
Ch. 9, Of Adoption
1. Shall consider, in what sense believers are the sons of God; which is by adoption, and the nature of that: they are not the sons of God in so high a sense as Christ is, who is God’s own Son, his proper Son… Nor in the sense that their fellow creatures are, whether angels or men, who are the sons of God by creation, as the former, so the latter; for they are all ‘his offspring’ [Acts 17:28-29]: nor in the sense that magistrates be, who are so by office, and, on that account, called ‘the children of the most High’, being his representatives…
John Brown of Haddington 1722 – 1787
A Compendious View of Natural and Revealed Religion, Philadelphia, 1819, p. 393
Book 5, Ch. 3, Of Adoption
Angels are called ‘sons of God’, being made after his image, admitted into intimate familiarity with Him, and having a kind of authority over inferior creatures, Job 38:7, and perhaps 1:6; 2:1. But some take the two last texts to mean professed saints, as Gen. 6:2; Matt 8:12.
In much the same respects, Adam was the ‘son of God’, Luke 3:38; but some apply that text to Christ, who is the Son of God by natural, necessary, and therefore eternal generation, Ps. 2:7; John 1:14; 3:16.
Men are called ‘sons of God’:
1. Because they represent Him as his deputies in civil government, particularly in that which was typical, Ps. 82:6; John 10:34-36…
An Address to the Rising Generation, an appendix to Two Short Catechisms Mutually Connected (Edinburgh: 1769), as given in the Torwood Press edition, Addresses to Children Concerning Salvation, 2013
O His infinite willingness to save us! how deeply marked in words, in oaths, in cries, in tears, in sighs, in groans, in blood, in death of an expiring God! He ‘comes in the name of the Lord to save us–to seek and to save that which was lost; and him that comes unto Him, He will in no wise cast out;’ all day long He stretches out his hands to invite and receive a disobedient and gainsaying people. Now the Master comes! knocks at the door of thy heart, and calls for you:
‘How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity, and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn ye at my reproof: behold, I will pour my Spirit upon you; I will make known my words unto you. To you, O men, I call, and my voice is to the sons of man. Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither; and as for him that wants understanding, let him eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled. To you is the word of salvation sent. Look unto Me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else. Ho! every one that thirsts,’ though it be for the pleasures of sin or sense, ‘come, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk,’ receive freely My person and benefits, ‘without money and without price. Wherefore spend ye money for that which satisfies not? incline your ear and come unto Me; hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. Come unto Me, all ye that labor’ in vanity and wickedness, ‘and are heavy laden’ with guilt, corruption, or trouble, ‘and I will give you rest. Suffer little children to come unto Me and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God.’ ‘My son, my child, give me your heart.’ [Prov. 23:26] Open to Me, your God, your Savior; for my head has been ‘filled with the dew’ of divine wrath, ‘and my locks with the drops’ of fearful affronts ‘for they sake:’ come with Me, your Maker, your Brother, your husband, your bleeding Redeemer, from the Lebanon of all created enjoyments, ‘with me from Lebanon.’…
Let therefore ‘the wicked forsake his ways’ of iniquity and self-righteousness, and ‘let him return to Me the Lord, for I will have mercy on him; to me his God, for I will abundantly pardon. As I live, says the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked: turn you, turn you form the evil of your ways,’ of rejecting and offending Me: why will you die? Reasonable soul, why madly do yourself infinite, eternal harm? Brother of an incarnate God, why willfully perish in your guilt? Baptized person, why perjure yourself in rejecting the Son of God, and rush into endless misery? You who have salvation offered; you, whom times without number, I the Lord your Savior have besought, by love, by tears, by blood, by heavenly joys, and infernal horrors, to accept of it:…
Andrew Fuller 1805
Exposition of Genesis, 1805, in Works, Banner of Truth edition, 2007, p. 359
On Gen. 6:7
From this cause [of universal apostasy before the flood] proceeded the Divine resolution to ‘destroy man from the face of the earth;’ and, to show the greatness of his sin, it is represented as extinguishing the paternal kindness of God as his Creator: ‘The Lord said, I will destroy man, whom I have created, from the face of the earth.’ [Gen. 6:7]—“He that made them would not have mercy on them, and He that formed them would show them no favor!” [Isa. 27:11]
Timothy Dwight 1752-1827
The Christian’s Present for All Seasons: Devotional Thoughts of Eminent Divines from Joseph Hall to William Jay, ed. D.A. Harsha, 1866, reprinted 2008 by SGCB
Is it not then infinitely desirable to know that you have a home to which you may go; plenty to which you may betake yourselves; friends from whom you may derive kindness and consolation; and a Father yet remaining, who, though so long forsaken, is still willing to acknowledge this relation to you? In His tenderness you may find an asylum; to His arms you may be welcomed? In His house you may find an everlasting residence. There all good things abound, are treasured up, and bestowed with unwearied as well as unlimited bounty.
Behold the Father advancing to meet you on your way! Hear Him calling to you with infinite compassion, Ho! You starving, perishing prodigal, Return to Me and to mine.
Edward Payson 1783 – 1827, was a reformed New England congregationalist, involved in the Second Great Awakening
The Complete Works of Edward Payson, reprinted by Sprinkle Publications, 1988 from the 1846 edition, Vol. 1, p. 469-470
When a son forsakes his father’s house; when he refuses to comply with this entreaties to return; when he chooses to endure all the evils of poverty rather than return,—we are ready to suspect that his father must be a very disagreeable, unlovely, or cruel character, since his own children cannot live with him. At least, we shall think this unless we have a very bad opinion of the son. We must condemn one or the other. So, when God’s own creatures, whom He has nourished and brought up as children, forsake Him, and refuse to return or be reconciled, it gives other beings cause to suspect that He must be a very cruel, unlovely being; and they must either conclude that He is so, or form a very bad opinion of us. Now, sinners will not allow that the fault is theirs; of course they throw all the blame upon their Creator, and represent Him as such an unkind, cruel Parent, that his children cannot live with or please Him.
Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed Me… And is it, then a trifling offence for intelligent creatures to rob their Creator, Father and benefactor, of that supreme place in their affections to which He has a most perfect right, and which He prizes above every thing they possess?
Robert Hall 1764-1831
The Christian’s Present for All Seasons: Devotional Thoughts of Eminent Divines from Joseph Hall to William Jay, ed. D.A. Harsha, 1866, reprinted 2008 by SGCB, p. 504
When a ‘new and living way’ is opened ‘into the holiest of all,’ by the blood of Jesus, not to avail ourselves of it, not to arise and go to our Father, but to prefer remaining at a guilty distance, encompassed with famine, to the rich and everlasting provisions of His house, will be a source of insupportable anguish, when we shall see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob enter into the kingdom of God, and ourselves shut out.
John Dick 1764–1833, was of the Scottish secession church
Lectures on Theology
vol. 3, p. 404, Lecture 73, on Adoption
There are different grounds on which men receive the designation of the sons of God.
First, they are so called on account of their relation to Him as their Maker. “Have we not all one Father? And hath not one God created us?” (Mal. 2:10) It is for this reason that, in the third chapter of Luke, where the genealogy of our Savior is recorded, the evangelist, having traced it up to the progenitor of the human race, by stating in the usual form that such a man was the son of such another man, concludes by saying of Adam, “which was the son of God.” (Luke 3:38) And for the same reason, angels are called his sons. “Where was thou when I laid the foundations of the earth; when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4,7)
Lecture 45, ‘On Prayer’
Our Savior directs us to begin with addressing God in the character of our Father: “Our Father which art in heaven.” Now, God may be called our Father on two accounts; first, because He is the Author of our being; and, secondly, because by his grace He has adopted us into his family.
In the first respect He is the Father of the whole human race; and hence the prophet asks, ‘Have not all one Father, and has not one God created us?’ (Mal. 2:10) Creation and generation are indeed two things totally different, and it is upon the latter that the paternal relation is founded; but they agree in the general idea of the communication of life, and hence God is called our Father, although He did not beget, but created us.
In the second respect, He is the Father of believers alone, or of those who have been made his children by faith in Christ Jesus; and it is primarily, although not exclusively, in this relation that we should contemplate Him when we offer up our prayers.
Charles Simeon 1759 – 1836
Horae Homileticae, or Expository Outlines on the Whole Bible, vol. 11, Matthew, 8th edition, 1847, reprinted by Zondervan, 1955, p. 182
Matt 6:9, Outline #1313, Hallowing God’s Name
But to Him we are invited to draw nigh; and are taught to regard Him,
1. As a loving Father—
…True, if we have no nearer connection with Him than the ungodly world, and are his children only by creation, we can derive comparatively but little comfort from it, because we are in rebellion against Him: but if we be his children by adoption and grace, what may we not expect at his hands?
John Hall 1841
John Hall (1806-1894) was a Presbyterian minister, who, amongst other things, kept a 40 year correspondence by letters with J.W. Alexander which later was published.
The Chief End of Man: An Exposition of the First Answer of the Shorter Catechism, 1841, Presbyterian Board of Publications, reprinted 2005, SGCB
There is a boy who is the object of his mother’s strongest love. All is done that a wise affection can do to make him happy, and to endear him to her. The child not only feels that his parent has a natural claim upon his obedience, but he has such a regard for his mother’s excellence and loveliness, that the very joy of his young heart is to do her will and promote her happiness. It is his greatest satisfaction to be dutiful and affectionate, and he thinks of no other reward.
Time passes on. Every year only increases the mother’s love as she watches and guides the progress of her child. Her control continues to be as judicious as at first; her advice the same as it ever was; her own character equally lovely and her claims upon his regard and duty are multiplied and strengthened by the lapse of years. But during all this time the boy is changing, and at length becomes a disobedient, neglectful, and profligate youth. He has no longer any love for his mother, or regard for her authority; and lives only to shame and grieve her.
But has that mother’s claim upon her son been dissolved by his unnatural conduct? Will any one plead on his behalf that his depravity releases him from his obligations? Or will it not be the sentiment of all who know the history, that his conduct is made more base and criminal by the fact that he not only owed the duties of a son to such a mother, but that he had himself in his earlier years paid the tribute of his love and obedience to her claims? And does not the loveliness of such a childhood aggravate the deformity of the altered youth?
So it is with man, the child of God. That he has fallen from his innocence, is so far from releasing the claims of his heavenly Father, that it gives a deeper stain to his guilt, and more gloriously honors the law by which he is condemned.
Asahel Nettleton †1844
‘The Parable of the Prodigal Son’ in Asahel Nettleton: Sermons from the Second Great Awakening, 1995, International Outreach, pp. 291-2
I. The departing prodigal
‘A certain man had two sons, and the younger of them said to his father, father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’
His father is represented as kind, tender and affectionate, and yet this son is not satisfied. So God is a kind and tender parent, and yet sinners do not love Him. They murmur at the allotments of providence, and manifest little or no interest in those things which concern their eternal peace. Regardless of God and the world to come, they desire a large portion of the good things of this world. And this desire is expressed, not in a humble petition to the Father of mercies, but in the form of an impious demand. “Give me the portion of goods that falls to me.” Such is the language of the sinner’s heart, and of his conduct. Whatever may become of his soul, he wishes a large portion of this world; and will murmur and find fault, if his wishes are not gratified.
‘And he divided unto them his living.’
This represents God’s providential dealings towards mankind in this life. He is kind to the evil and the unthankful. He sometimes bestows blessings on sinners with a liberal hand. This He does to try them. His goodness lays the sinner under peculiar obligations to love and serve Him. But these obligations are disregarded.
Thomas Chalmers 1780 – 1847, was of the Free Church of Scotland
Sermon 1: ‘On the Paternal Character of God’ in Sermons and Discourses, vol. 1, p. 7 ff.
“On the Universality of the Gospel Offer”, a sermon on Luke 2:14, in Sermons, vol. 4 of Select Works of Thomas Chalmers, 1845, Edinburgh, pp. 411-14, this quote was compiled by Rev. Sherman Isbell
It is the desire of God after you — it is His compassionate longing to have back again to Himself those sinful creatures who had wandered away from Him — it is His fatherly earnestness to recall His strayed children — it is this, which, by moving and subduing the will of man, exemplifies the assertion of the apostle when he says — “Know ye not that the goodness of God leadeth to repentance?” [Rom. 2:4]
God waiting to be gracious—God not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance [2 Pet. 3:9]—God swearing by Himself that He has no pleasure in the death of a sinner, but rather that all should come unto Him and live [Eze. 32:11]—God beseeching men to enter into reconciliation [2 Cor. 5:20], and this not as elect, but simply and generally as men and sinners;—these are the attitudes in which the Father of the human family sets Himself forth unto the world—these the terms in which He speaks to us from heaven.
Gardiner Spring 1848
The Power of the Pulpit, 1848, reprinted 1986 by Banner of Truth, p. 49
The earliest communications to men were not made by written documents, nor by the press. Our first parents [Adam and Eve] were not, as some have supposed, the rude children of nature, nor were they untaught. It was the paternal voice of God that fell with such impressiveness upon their listening and obedient ear, before their apostasy. It was also through this channel that the subtle Deceiver conveyed his poison; the snare was laid by whispering his word of promise to the ear.
Archibald Alexander †1851
‘Privileges of the Sons of God’, Sermon 11 in Evangelical Truth, p. 151-2
To be descended from kings and nobles is an honor held in high estimation in the world; but when men are unworthy of their distinguished ancestors, they rather cast a reproach upon them, than inherit any real honor from them. The Jews prided themselves on being descended from Abraham, the friend of God, and the father of the faithful; and many of them rested in their connection with a pious ancestry, as the ground of their acceptance; but Christ makes a distinction between a natural and spiritual descent. He denies that the Jews, who rejected him, were the children of Abraham; because the works of Abraham they did not do. And John the Baptist, told them not to think within themselves that they had Abraham to their father, for God was able of the stones to raise up children to Abraham.
Paul also draws a distinct line of division between those who were merely Jews by natural descent and outward privileges and those who were Israelites in heart. (Rom. 2:28,29) God has one only-begotten Son, generated from his own essence, without being separated from it. The angels also are called “the sons of God,” because God is their Father and Creator, and because they bear the image of God. Adam is called “the son of God,” because he proceeded immediately from the hand of God, and had no other Father. But believers are the sons of God in virtue of their union to Christ.
J.A. Alexander 1857, was Princeton Seminary professor
Commentary on Matthew, 1861, reprinted James Family Christian Publishers
Matt 6:9, p. 172
‘Our Father, the (one) in the heavens’
A description repeatedly employed by Christ before in this discourse, and now put into the mouths of his disciples, as an explicit recognition of their filial relation to God, not only as their maker and their providential benefactor, but as the Father of our Lord Himself, through whom they are adopted into a more intimate and spiritual sonship, which is here by implication represented as their only warrant for approaching Him.
Matt 6:26, p. 186
‘Your heavenly Father’
Is not a mere periphrasis for God, but suggestive of an almost infinite disparity between the cases. Instead of saying, ‘their heavenly father feedeth them’, which in a lower sense, would be correct, He says, ‘your heavenly father’, intimating that the God who thus provides for the inferior animals, is bound by a peculiar fatherly relation to provide for man, and still more for those men who, as his Son’s disciples, are his children in the most intimate and strictest sense.
A Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, Banner of Truth, 2003
Acts 17:28 – “For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.”
The relation thus existing between God and man is not a mere external nearness, but an intimate, essential oneness. ‘For in Him’, not merely ‘by’ or ‘through’ Him, which gratuitously weakens the Apostle’s meaning, but in vital union with Him, and included in Him, as the source and sphere of our existence…
The use here made of heathen testimony is not an abuse, or even an accommodation, of the language quoted…
‘We also’, as well as other orders of intelligences [presumably angels] nearer to Him.
‘Offspring’, family or race (see above [in Alexander’s commentary], on Acts 4:6,36; 7:13,19; 13:26 [in which verses the same greek word “genos” is used]).
John Eadie †1859
The Words of the Apostle Paul, reprinted 1995 by Klock & Klock, p. 212-221
Paul at Athens, Part II, on Acts 17:28-29
The lesson is—that men are God’s offspring—not His creation simply, but His offspring. The argument turns on this idea—the Fatherhood of God. Men are His offspring—His children possessing the paternal likeness. Sheep and oxen, the nightingale that warbled among the olives by the Ilissus, and the bees that ranged among the flowers on Mount Hymettus, were God’s creatures, but not His offspring. This is in fact the doctrine of the genealogy in Luke, that Adam was “the son of God;” [Luke 3:38] the doctrine of the earliest record, that “God created man in his own image—in the image of God created He him.” Many features of that image have not been deleted. Holiness has been obliterated, and happiness has gone with it… what belongs to his constitution he retains; what belongs to his character has been lost…
These are features of God’s image borne by His offspring—intelligence, liberty, personality, and conscience. Man, therefore, stands in a nearer and more tender relation to God than any other creature on earth—being to some extent still a shechinah [Hebrew for God’s ‘glory cloud’]—the divinity resident within him. His life is sacred because he bears the image of God…
And man, as God’s offspring, feels an instinctive impulse to recognize his Divine Father; has the means of knowing Him, of understanding this filial relationship, and profiting by it. The child calls for help when in danger, and presents its thanks when relief has been vouchsafed… It hopes for some home nearer the Father when it leaves the world—some Elysian field, such as many could picture whom the apostle addressed. Idolatry is a confession of man’s need that he must know his Father; the heart cannot be at rest without some deity to look up to and adore, to trust in and to obey. Polytheism may be irrational, but atheism is unnatural. To say that there are many gods is folly, but to say that there is no God is treason against man’s own constitution, “for we are also His offspring”—not products simply, but children, formed, fed, and clothed; mentally and morally endowed by Him whose image we bear, though its brightness has been darkened by sin. What a blessed doctrine, then, that we are the divine offspring—children of one father. How high our dignity! How rich our patrimony! Wherever we are, in whatever portion of His universe, we are still in His house—our home. We can never step outstep our heritage. The Father has fitted nature not merely to supply our wants, but also to minister to our delight—the glitter of the star and of the dew-drop, the color and scent of the flower, freshness and beauty for the eye, and song and melody for the ear. Our Father’s house is not barely furnished, but richly ornamented… “His offspring” walk in the lustre of His love. It rejoices them to know that the power which governs is no dark phantom veiled in mystery… but a Father with a father’s heart to love us, and to the yearnings of which we may ever appeal—a father’s ear to listen to us, and a father’s hand to bless with kind and continued benefactions. And, as we have wandered, shall not each of us say—“I will arise and go unto my Father?” Will not He accept the returning child, giving us the adoption of sons, revealing Himself graciously through Christ the Elder Brother who leads us to cry in true filial devotion—“Our Father which are in heaven?”
…By knowing what they were themselves, they would come to know what God was. One, indeed, dares not gaze upwards on the sun as he pours out his burning radiance, but he may contemplate his image in the lake or river at his feet. Men may not pierce to the uncreated splendor, but they may see God in themselves—the likeness of the Father in His child… Man knows God because he knows himself, or perceives the image of the All-Father within him.
Robert Shaw †1863
The Reformed Faith: An Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith, 1845, reprinted 2008, Christian Heritage
Chapter 12 ‘Adoption’, p. 187
All men are the children of God in respect of their creation; for ‘we are all his offspring’. ‘Have we not all one Father? has not one God created us?‘ (Mal. 2:10). The members of the visible Church are the children of God in respect of an external federal relation. They are the visible family of God on earth, and enjoy peculiar privileges…
Thomas Crawford 1868, was of the Church of Scotland
Rabbi John Duncan 1796 – 1870
Rich Gleanings from Rabbi Duncan, first published 1925, reprinted 1984 by Free Presbyterian Publications
In the third parable [that of the prodigal son] it is the son who comes to himself; “I will arise and go to my father.” Still, we need not restrict it to the case of a backslider. There are circumstances in it common to every case of repentance, and in it is a most fit description of repentance; as there is in the case of all the three parables, when we allow for what may be exclusively connected with the calling of the Gentiles.
Now, all we are sinners; all of us left our Father’s home. The whole family of Adam in Adam was with God, before we belonged to the devil; and we left God and attached ourselves to Satan—joined him in his disobedience and rebellion. And so, even in the case of first repentance, it may be said that the sinner comes to himself, and says, “I will arise and go to my Father”—his father, at least, by creation. Now, if we be all such by nature, either we remain as this prodigal was, or now, like him, we have come to ourselves. Which is the case? Are we still far away from our Father’s home? We may be assured—consciousness, conscience itself might tell us; the Word of God tells us expressly what our natural character is—that we are by nature alienated from God by wicked works. Well, have we come to ourselves? When we come to ourselves, we begin to say, “How foolish, how mad, I have been.” Why, where was the wisdom in leaving your Father’s home? “What iniquity have you found in me,” says your Father, “that ye are gone far from Me, and have walked after vanity and are become vain?” What evil has God done you?… Well he came to himself and said, “How many hired servants of my father have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger; I will arise and go to my father. Things are better at home than here.” Ah! Yes; he sees at last, starving beside the trough, that his father’s home is a better place. There is plenty there; joy there; not these husks, not the swine-trough, not starvation, but plenty. And in your Father’s home—your Father, backslider, for such He is in a sense by creation; you were with Him, at least, in Eden, for we are all one race in unity of nature and unity of privilege and of covenant [the covenant of works]—your Father’s home in this respect, that you were belonging to God before belonging to the devil, the world, and the flesh. Well, there is plenty in this Father’s home. “Ah! But I, foolish, left it.” “I will arise and go to my Father.”
…How will my Father receive me? I could bear reproach much better. My father is a kind man, and if he receive me with open arms, that will be most humbling…
Now, this is the reception given to a penitent, to a returning prodigal. It is through Jesus he is received—the Shepherd who has come to seek and save the lost. The Shepherd thus loves, and His loving Father thus receives the sinner coming to Him through Jesus Christ His Son.
Gardiner Spring †1873
The Glory of Christ, Chapter 5, ‘Christ as a Preacher’
Did some company of wretched sinners stand before Him [Jesus] who had wandered far from God, and in the wilderness where they were wandering found only the husks which the swine do eat, and with no light to cheer, and no clue to guide them back to their heavenly Father’s house; He [Jesus] would paint before their eyes some prodigal youth and favorite son perishing with hunger, doubting, resolving, coming to himself, returning, welcomed, and weeping upon his Father’s bosom.
William Arnot 1808–1875, was of the Free Church of Scotland
Studies in Proverbs: Laws from Heaven for life on Earth, 1884 edition
Wisdom continues still to cry out unto men with the affectionate authority of a parent. The incarnation of the Son is God’s grand utterance to mankind…
A Father speaks, and He speaks as unto children: He demands a reasonable service, and promises a rich reward.
In the Father’s house there is enough and to spare, in the Father’s bosom a weeping welcome: prodigals perishing, arise and go.
Thomas Houston 1876
The Adoption of Sons, in Works Doctrinal and Practical of Thomas Houston, vol. 1, p. 128
Ch. 3, The Fatherhood of God
Sonship implies Fatherhood, and this relation, sustained by Jehovah to the family of the redeemed, is suggestive of the most endearing associations, and fraught with the greatest blessings. It is fitted to elevate the mind, excite the tenderest affections, and lead to assured confidence and joyful hope.
In an extensive sense, God is a Father, and is so revealed in his works as well as his Word. The paternal relation among men aids us in contemplating the loving relation in which God stands to his creatures: it is a shadow and representation of the Divine Fatherhood. Fatherly dispositions and dealings are ascribed to Him. By creation, He is the Father of intelligent beings. Angels are those “sons of God” that shouted for joy when “the morning stars,” at the dawn of creation, “sang together.” (Job 38:7) Men are “his offspring,” and He is “the Father of the spirits of all flesh.” To ancient Israel “pertained the adoption,” and with them He expostulates, “Is He not thy Father that hath bought thee?” (Deut. 32:6) And in penitent confession and earnest supplication they plead, “Doubtless thou art our Father.” “Now, O Lord, thou art our Father; we are the clay, and thou art the potter, and we are all the work of thy hands.” (Isa. 36:16; 64:8)
I. But in a peculiar sense, far higher than these, is God the Father of the saints…
Charles Hodge †1878
Conference Sermons, Sermon on 1 Tim. 2:4, p. 18-19
The second interpretation is that God desires the salvation of all men. This means:
2nd. It means what is said in Ezek. 33:11, “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked,” and in Ezek. 18:23, “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die, saith the Lord God, and not that he should return from his ways and live?” Also Lam. 3:33, “For He doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.” It means what Christ taught in the parable of the prodigal son, and of the lost sheep and the lost piece of money; and is taught by his lament over Jerusalem.
All these passages teach that God delights in the happiness of his creatures, and that when He permits them to perish, or inflicts evil upon them, it is from some inexorable necessity; that is, because it would be unwise and wrong to do otherwise. His relation is that of a benevolent sovereign in punishing crime, or of a tender judge in passing sentence on offenders, or, what is the familiar representation of Scripture, that of a father who deals with his children with tenderness, yet with wisdom and according to the dictates of right.
This is the meaning of the passage [1 Tim. 2:4].
Octavius Winslow 1808 – 1878
The Lord’s Prayer: its Spirit and its Teaching, p. 13-4
Chapter 1, The Filial Spirit of the Lord’s Prayer
His first lesson, obviously, was to unfold the PATERNAL relation in which God stood to them. This was a lost truth to our sinning and sinful race. In abjuring his own sonship, man had abjured the Fatherhood of God. In demanding his portion of the patrimony, and then turning his back upon his Father, he became an orphan and a fugitive upon the earth, the parental image as completely effaced from his soul, as the consciousness of his sonship was from his heart.
Such was the great truth our Lord presented to His disciples in instructing them to approach God in prayer…
We seek not, in thus vindicating the Divine revelation of this doctrine, to lessen the force of the fact that the relation of God to man as a Father by creation was a truth recognized by the pagan world. Paul in his memorable address to the Athenians, quoting from one of their Gentile poets, attests this fact.
‘In Him we live and move and have our being, as certain of your own poets have said, For we are His offspring.’ [Acts 17:28]
Thus the human race may trace its ancestry to Eden, and its origin to ‘the Father of spirits.’ But the Lord Jesus presented the Parental relation of God in a newer light, encircled with a diviner lustre…
Alfred Edersheim 1883, was of the Free Church of Scotland early in life, and of the Anglican Church later in life.
The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, reprinted 1993, Hendrickson, p. 650-1
Book 4, Ch. 17, Luke 15
Besides their subject-matter, these three Parables have some other points in common. Two things are here of chief interest. They all proceed on the view that the work of the Father and of Christ, as regards ‘the Kingdom,’ is the same… That work was the restoration of the lost; Christ had come to do it, and it was the longing of the Father to welcome the lost home again. Further, and this is only second in importance, the lost was still God’s property; and he who had wondered farthest was a child of the Father, and considered as such. And although this may, in a wider sense, imply the general propriety [right] of Christ in all men [by divine right in creation], and the universal Fatherhood of God, yet, remembering that this Parable was spoken to the Jews, we, to whom these Parables now come, can scarcely be wrong in thinking, as we read them, with special thankfulness of our Christian privileges, as by Baptism numbered among the sheep of His Flock, the treasure of His Possession, and the children of His Home.
James P. Boyce 1887, was a reformed baptist
Abstract of Systematic Theology, reprinted by Christian Gospel Foundation, no date, p. 404
Ch. 36, Adoption
But others are called participatively sons of God, as probably the angels (Job 1:6; 38:7), as Adam (Luke 3:38), and as Israel (Ex. 4:22; Hos. 11:1; cf. Rom. 9:4). The sonship of angels and of Adam, manifestly proceeds from their creation by God in his image, and likeness.
Horatius Bonar 1808 – 1889
As quoted in John R. deWitt, Amazing Love: Christ’s best known parable, the Prodigal Son, p. 27
Horatius Bonar has captured something of what this means in the words:
‘I was a wand’ring sheep,
I did not love the fold;
I did not love my Shepherd’s voice,
I would not be controlled.
I was a wayward child,
I did not love my home;
I did not love my Father’s voice,
I loved afar to roam.’
Thomas Peck †1893
‘The Relief of the Poor’, Writings of Thomas Peck, vol. 1, p. 41-2
But these benefactions [of Jesus and the early church] were confined to the Jews [before the sixth chapter of Acts]. After the Gentiles were incorporated into the church, the middle wall of partition having been broken down by the Man Christ Jesus, an interchange of kindly offices took place between those who had once been enemies. The grand idea of “fellowship” came more fully out; the idea of a common nature, a common blood, a common misery, a common salvation, a common Father, and a common inheritance, swallowed up all national prejudices and put to shame all hereditary alienation of feeling and interest, so far as these circumstances had the effect of annihilating natural human sympathies, and Jew and Gentile contributed to the necessities of each other. God had long ago made a powerful appeal against the oppression of the poor [Mal. 2:10], upon the ground that it involved a reproach upon Himself as the Maker of all men; that the poor as well as the rich bore his image, and that the true dignity of a man should be estimated by this consideration, and not by the number or splendor of adventitious distinctions; but now is gloriously brought out the related truth—a truth which had been overlaid and concealed by the Mosaic institute in its practical effect—that men were brethren, were the children of the same family, and therefore bound, as bearing at once the image of the same Father and the image of one another, to have all things in common so far as necessity might require.
William G.T. Shedd 1820 – 1894
The Fatherhood of God, a sermon on Luke 16:25, 19 pages, sermon 4 of his Sermons to the Spiritual Man, 1884, New York
This is the best introduction to the topic.
Calvinism: Pure & Mixed, 1893, pp. 24-5
[WCF 2.1] “There is but one only living and true God, who is… most loving, gracious, merciful, long suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin, the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.”
Of whom speaks the Confession this? Of the God of the elect only? Or of the God of every man? Is He the God of the elect only? Is He not also of the non-elect? Is this description of the gracious nature and attributes of God intended to be restricted to a part of mankind? Is not God as thus delineated the Creator and Father of every man without exception? Can it be supposed that the authors of this statement meant to be understood to say that God is not such a being for all men, but only for some? If this section does not teach the unlimited love and compassion of God towards all men as men, as his creatures, it teaches nothing.
John Broadus 1895
Commentary on Matthew, reprinted by Kregel Classics, 1990
Matt 6:9, p. 134
…and the later Jews have several prayers in which God is addressed as ‘our Father in heaven,’ an idea doubtless drawn by them from the Old Testament. The heathen, too, were not wholly unfamiliar with the thought. Max Muller:
“We have in the Veda the invocation ‘Dyauspiter’, the Greek ‘Zeu pater’, the Latin ‘Jupiter’; and that means in all the three languages what it meant before these languages were torn asunder—it means heaven-Father.” (Boardman)
Plutarch says that the superstitious man recognizes only that which is sovereign in God, and not the fatherly; and Seneca, that God has a fatherly mind towards good men.
But it is Jesus who has rendered this idea so clear and precious; distinctly comparing the feelings of human parents towards their children (Matt 7:11), and making the great thought familiar by frequent repetition. In one sense God is the Father of all men, as in one sense all men are brothers; and so we can fitly speak of the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of man; and yet it is only believers in Christ who can in the fullest sense call God Father (1 John 3:1; John 8:42), and call each other brethren. (1 John 3:14)
Peyton Hoge 1896
Hoge (1858 – d. ?) was the pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Wilmington N.C. and the author of Moses Drury Hoge, Life and Letters.
‘Natural Law and Divine Providence’, in Southern Presbyterian Pulpit, 1896, p. 296-306
“Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.”
Two theories of the universe contend for the mastery in the world today, the mechanical and the paternal…
According, then, to the teachings of Jesus Christ, God, the Creator of heaven and earth, exercises a fatherly care over all his creatures. He singles out one of the least by way of example. Their little bodies could be seen any day hanging in the market in long strings. A trifling copper coin could purchase two of them for a meagre meal. Yet, says our Lord, no winter’s blast is keen enough, no bird of prey is swift enough, no archer’s aim is sure enough, no fowler’s snare is cunning enough to bring to the ground one of the least of these creatures until God’s time has come to still the beatings of the little fluttering heart, and fold forever the wings that bore it in happy flight. They have neither storehouse nor barn, they sow not, neither do they reap; yet the Father feeds them. It is He who clothes the very grass of the field with fabrics of richer luster than the royal robes of Solomon, in all their glory of Tyrian dye and gold of Ophir. All of beauty, all of sustenance, all of protecting care our heavenly Father gives to the earth and its creatures. Then what of his children? “Are ye not much better than they?” “Fear not,” says the Master to them, “ye are of more value than many sparrows.” So tender is the Father’s care of them that the very hairs of their head are all numbered.
This theory of a divine providence, universal and special, wide as creation and particular as the hairs of our heads, governing the stars in their courses, and the sparrows in their flight and fall, is what we all as Christians profess to believe…
David Brown 1803 – 1897, was of the Free Church of Scotland
A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments by Robert Jamieson, A.R. Fausset, and David Brown, vol. 3, reprinted by Hendrickson, no date
Luke 15:18-19 – “I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.”
Mark the term, “Father.” Though “no more worthy to be called his son,” the prodigal sinner is taught to claim the degraded and defiled, but still existing relationship, asking, not to be made a servant, but remaining a son to be made “as a servant,” willing to take the lowest place and do the meanest work… Well, that is conversion—nothing absolutely new, yet all new; old familiar things seen in a new light, and for the first time as realities of overwhelming magnitude and power… the one object of the parable is to paint the glad WELCOME HOME of the greatest sinners, when—no matter for the present how—they “arise and go to their father.”
Luke 15:20 “And he arose, and came to his father.”
Many a one says, “I will arise,” yet sits still. But this is the story of a real conversion, in which purpose is presently turned into practice.
Luke 15:20 “But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and ran.”
O yes! When the face is turned homeward, though as yet far, far away, our Father recognizes his own child in us, and bounds to meet us—not saying, ‘Let him come to me and sue for pardon first,’ but Himself taking the first step.
Luke 15:24 “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”
Now, twice his son. “He was lost”—both to his Father and to himself, lost to his Father’s service and satisfaction, lost to his own dignity, peace, profit. But he “is alive again”—to all these.
John Girardeau 1825-1898
‘The Doctrine of Adoption’ in his Discussions of Theological Questions Buy
‘John L. Girardeau’s Doctrine of Adoption: a Systematic & Biblical Defence’ (2014) 20 pp. by Travis Fentiman
Frederick Godet 1812 – 1900
Commentary on Luke, 1887, T. and T. Clark, reprinted by Zondervan, no date, p. 207
The words, ‘of God’, with which it [the genealogy] ends, are intended to inform us that it is not through ignorance that the genealogist stops at Adam, but because he has reached the end of the chain, perhaps also to remind us of the truth expressed by Paul at Athens: “We are the offspring of God.” [Acts 17:28-29]
J. Scott Lidgett 1902
The Fatherhood of God in Christian Truth & Life (1902) 427 pp.
Augustus H. Strong 1907, was a reformed baptist
Systematic Theology, vol. 2, The Judson Press, 1945, p. 474-6
Part V – Anthropology, or the Doctrine of Man
Chapter 1 – Preliminary
I – Man a Creation of God and a Child of God
(f) The truth that man is the offspring of God implies the correlative truth of a common divine Fatherhood. God is a Father of all men, in that He originates and sustains them as personal beings like in nature to Himself. Even toward sinners God holds this natural relation of Father… This natural Fatherhood, therefore, does not exclude, but prepares the way for, God’s special Fatherhood toward those who have been regenerated by his Spirit and who have believed on his Son…
Many who deny the universal Fatherhood of God refuse to carry their doctrine to its logical extreme. To be consistent they should forbid the unconverted to offer the Lord’s Prayer or even to pray at all. A mother who did not believe God to be the Father of all actually said: “My children are not converted, and if I were to teach them the Lord’s Prayer, I must teach them to say: ‘Our father who art in hell’; for they are only children of the devil.”
Andrew Fausset 1821-1910, was a reformed Anglican
A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments by Robert Jamieson, A.R. Fausset, and David Brown, vol. 2, reprinted by Hendrickson
Mal. 2:10 – “Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers?”
…Whilst there is an ulterior reference to the common Fatherhood of God in relation to all mankind, the primary reference is here to His common Fatherhood in relation to all alike of the covenant-people Israel (in the more special sense as their God and Father peculiarly)…
B.H. Carroll, 1843-1914, was a reformed baptist
“God and the Sinner,” in Sermons and Life Sketch of B. H. Carroll, D. D., compiled by Rev. J. B. Cranfill (Philadelphia: The American Baptist Publication Society, c1893; repr. by Gallatin, TN: Church History Research & Archives, 1986), 149-162. This quote was compiled by Tony Byrne
“As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, Oh house of Israel?”
I say that the universality of these invitations, their earnestness, their broadness, which accompany the publication of the means and which are accompanied by the prayers of those that publish the means, is an evidence of the truth of the proposition with which we started out, that a sinner’s death can never be attributed to God’s pleasure. God’s pleasure runs in another direction. It is further evidenced by the welcome that is extended to the man who accepts the invitation and who returns to God. I want to read that to you. I do not know how better to get before you the preciousness of the truth. I read it to you from the fifteenth chapter of Luke, in that matchless parable of the prodigal son:
“But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him, and . . . said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. . . It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.”
In this beautiful image is expressed the attitude of God toward any sinner who turns and repents. The naturalness of it is the force of it. Its power is in the adaptation to our conception. We can understand when a wayward son has run away from home and wasted his substance in riotous living, and yet who, when in want, by repentance seeks to return to the father’s house; we can understand how the old man’s heart goes out to his erring and wandering boy, and that he would not spurn him from his door; that he would keep the light shining in the windows that he might see it and return, and that he would welcome him with more joy than one who had never been astray. Now you cannot look at the scene of that kind and say that father had pleasure in the want and in the death of his boy. You could not look at that welcome and say that the reason the boy was in such deplorable condition was that his father’s mind was hostile to him. You would look somewhere else to find a reason. You certainly would not look for it there. That welcome would rise up as an invincible argument against any sort of reflection upon the state of the father’s heart as superinducing the sin and the death of the erring child.
Herman Bavinck 1854-1921, from his Reformed Dogmatics, late 1800’s, these two quotes were compiled by David Ponter
But though He wills all creatures as means and for his own sake, He wills some more than others to the degree they are more direct and suitable means for his glorification. God is a Father to all his creatures, but He is that especially to his children. His affection for everything He created is not as deep as his affection for his church, and that in turn is not as great as his love for Christ, the Son of his good pleasure. We speak of a general, a special, and a very special providence; in the same way we make as many distinctions in the will of God (as it relates to his creatures) as there are creatures. For the free will of God is as richly variegated as that whole world is.
When Christ went to stand in the place of his own, therefore, He had to assume the flesh and blood that is common to all people. By his incarnation, He honored the whole human race; according to the flesh, He is the brother of all the members of the human family.
Robert A. Webb 1921
The Reformed Doctrine of Adoption Buy 188 pp.
Alexander Whyte †1921
An Exposition on the Shorter Catechism, reprinted 2004, Christian Heritage
Question 34, ‘What is Adoption?’ p. 120,
‘the sons of God’
‘There is one degree of sonship founded on creation, and that is the lowest, as belonging unto all, both good and bad; another degree above that there is grounded upon regeneration, or adoption, belonging only to the faithful in this life; and a third above the rest founded on the resurrection, or collation of the eternal inheritance, and the similitude of God, appertaining to the saints alone in the world to come (1 John 3:2)…’ ([John] Pearson [1613-86, an English divine])
[Webmaster’s note: Whyte then summarizes at length Robert Candlish’s viewpoint, who argued strongly against the Fatherhood of God by creation, though he did concede, in Whyte’s words, ‘The original condition and standing of man… contained the germ and potency of sonship, and it would have issued in sonship but for the dreadful catastrophe of the fall.’]
Question 100, ‘What does the Preface of the Lord’s Prayer Teach Us?’, p. 258
God is named Father in several senses in the Bible. He is sometimes called Father simply as the Creator of all things. Again, He is called the Father of mankind, because they were made in His image, and made to be His spiritual children. But in a sense still He is called the Father of regenerate sons, because by their new birth, union to Christ, and adoption into His family, they have become in more than a metaphorical sense the sons of God, and He their Father.
Louis Berkhof, 1949
Systematic Theology, Banner of Truth, p. 50-51
Ch. 4, The Names of God
C. The New Testament Names and their Interpretation
3. Pater. It is often said that the New Testament introduced a new name of God, namely, [in Greek] Pater (Father). But this is hardly correct. The name Father is used of the Godhead even in heathen religions. It is used repeatedly in the Old Testament to designate the relation of God to Israel, Deut. 32:6; Ps. 103:13; Isa. 63:16; 64:8; Jer. 3:4,19; 31:9; Mal. 1:6; 2:10, while Israel is called the son of God, Ex. 4:22; Deut. 14:1; 32:19; Isa. 1:2; Jer. 31:20; Hos. 1:10; 11:1. In such cases the name is expressive of the special theocratic relation in which God stands to Israel. In the general sense of originator or creator it is used in the following New Testament passages: 1 Cor. 8:6; Eph. 3:15; Heb. 12:9; James 1:18. In all other places it serves to express either the special relation in which the first Person of the Trinity stands to Christ, as the Son of God either in a metaphysical or a mediatorial sense, or the ethical relation in which God stands to all believers as His spiritual children.
R.A. Finlayson was an eminent professor of the Free Church of Scotland during the mid-1900’s
Reformed Theological Writings of R.A. Finlayson, 1996, Christian Focus Publications, p. 34-5
Chapter 3, God the Father
But the designation [of ‘Father’] was not by any means unknown in the Old Testament. It was used in the earlier instances to denote creational relationship. It is used by Isaiah as a plea to God for His gracious intervention: ‘But Thou, O Lord, art our Father; we are the clay and thou art the potter, we are the work of Thy hands’ (Isaiah 64:8). Without this relationship to His rational creatures, there would be no race of man, no family of mankind.
But it is particularly for man’s spiritual nature that this relationship is claimed. In the Book of Numbers He is called ‘the God of the spirits of all flesh’ (16:22), and in the Epistle to the Hebrews ‘the Father of spirits’ (12:9). Paul used this argument when he spoke from Mars Hill to show the irrationality of rational man worshipping idols of wood and stone, and quoted their own poet Aratus: ‘We also are his offspring’ (Acts 17:28). Thus the creaturehood of man is the counterpart of the general fatherhood of God. It also is used to set out God’s tender care, as when He is called the Father of the fatherless, a Father to the poor and the orphan (Psalm 68:5).
John Murray 1898-1975
Redemption Accomplished and Applied, Eerdmans, 1955, p. 134-135
Ch. 6, Adoption
In relation to men there is what has sometimes been called the universal fatherhood of God. It is true that there is a sense in which God may be said to be the Father of all men. Creatively and providentially He gives to all men life and breath and all things. In Him all live and move and have their being. It is this relation that is referred to in such passages as Acts 17:25-29; Heb. 12:9; James 1:18. Since we are the offspring of God, since He is the Father of spirits and the Father of lights it may be scriptural to speak of this relation which God sustains to all men in creation and providence as one of fatherhood and therefore of universal fatherhood.
Collected Writings of John Murray, vol. 2, Banner of Truth, 2001, p. 223
Ch. 18, Adoption
Adoption is concerned with the Fatherhood of God in relation to the redeemed. But it is necessary to preface our discussion by distinguishing the several kinds of divine Fatherhood found in Scripture.
This is very seldom stated in terms of God’s Fatherhood. But since it appears in such passages as Acts 17:28,29; Heb. 12:9; James 1:17,18, we shall have to reckon with the fact that it is not improper to speak of God’s creative relationship in terms of Fatherhood. Since all three persons of the Godhead were the agents of creation we cannot restrict this Fatherhood to the first person of the Trinity but we must think of the Godhead as sustaining this relation to angels and men.
Sinclair Ferguson 1986
“The Reformed Doctrine of Sonship” in Pulpit & People: Essays in Honor of William Still Buy 1986, Rutherford House
John Richard deWitt was a professor of Systematic Theology at RTS, Jackson, MS
Amazing Love: Christ’s best known parable, the Prodigal Son, 1989
While in one sense he [the prodigal son] is very plainly numbered among the lost sheep of the house of Israel, yet in another—and this is the great relevance of the parable to us Gentiles—he is also the universal sinner. He is everyman in his transgress, need, and estrangement from God, in his wretchedness, misery, and hopelessness apart from the divine mercy.
Horatius Bonar has captured something of what this means in the words:
‘I was a wand’ring sheep,
I did not love the fold;
I did not love my Shepherd’s voice,
I would not be controlled.
I was a wayward child,
I did not love my home;
I did not love my Father’s voice,
I loved afar to roam.’
There it is! The home, the fold, the father’s love, his good influences, his tenderness, compassion, wisdom, and grace mean nothing to us. We do not understand them. We cannot understand them as we are in ourselves. The whole bent of our nature is in another direction…
A declaration of spiritual independence, dissatisfaction with the fellowship of the father, estrangement from the father in a far country, the wasting of the father’s substance in careless and riotous living: these describe the experience of man the sinner. No wonder, then, the wretchedness and misery, the deep unhappiness and dissatisfaction which he finds on all sides! He is a prodigal, a son of the father, a product of the Creator’s hand, but he is lost. And that lostness of his can never, never change, though it may be possible for him now and again to forget the relationship which once was, the joy upon which he turned his back, and the terrible debt under which he lives: I say, that lostness of his can never, never change until, in the love and compassion and tenderness of God, the prodigal, humbled, empty, broken, is welcomed home again by the Father’s boundless mercy in the only Savior of sinners.
And we do not learn the meaning of the parable aright unless we understand that any one of us, in our sin, and failure and lostness, may also turn to think of that home of all homes, of the Father of all fathers, of God and his love for sinners!
Morton H. Smith 1994, Smith was a professor at Reformed Theological Seminary (Jackson) and Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary
Systematic Theology, vol. 2, p. 466
II. The Divine Fatherhood in the Bible
In order to be clear as to the idea of God’s fatherhood involved in adoption, it is necessary to make some distinctions between the various usages of God’s fatherhood as found in the Bible. There are four different kinds of fatherhood in the Bible.
B. The Universal Fatherhood of God
The universal fatherhood of God is based on the facts of creation and providence. God is the source of the being of all creation. Passages such as Acts 17:25-29; Heb. 12:9; James 1:18 seem to give warrant for this usage. We are the offspring of God. He is the father of spirits, and the father of lights. In Him we live and move and have our being. On the basis of this Scriptural teaching the idea of the universal fatherhood of God may be said to be Scriptural. Other passages which actually use the term father are not clear in their reference to this universal fatherhood. For example, Mal. 2:10 says, “Have we not all one father? Hath not one God created us?” It is not clear that this passage has reference to the whole world. It may be referring to Israel.
Professor [John] Murray has a very pertinent comment on this aspect of God’s fatherhood. “What needs in any case to be noted is that on relatively few occasions in Scripture is the relation which God sustains in virtue of creation and general providence spoken of in terms of God’s fatherhood.”¹
¹Murray, Redemption, op.cit., p. 168
Derek Thomas 2002
Praying the Savior’s Way, Christian Focus Publications, 2002, pp. 26-7
Reading through the Bible in a cursory fashion will reveal that the designation, ‘Father,’ is used of God in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. But He is not called ‘Father’ in precisely the same sense everywhere in the Bible.
Sometimes the term reflects the fact that He is the Creator of the universe in which we live. Malachi, for example, asks the question: ‘Have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us?’ (Mal. 2:10). And even in the New Testament there is a sense in which Paul can agree that we are all created by God (Acts 17:28). God is ‘the Father of the heavenly lights,’ in the sense that He is the Creator of every star in the night sky (James 1:17).
Robert L. Reymond 2006
Paul, Missionary Theologian, p. 312-313
…And the attributes of Paul’s God are unquestionably orthodox. He is the ‘most high God’ (Heb. 7:1), the Father of glory (Eph. 1:17), of spirits (Heb. 12:9), of mercies (2 Cor. 1:3), and of humankind (Eph. 3:14-15).
“Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us?”
“For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found”
“Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?”