The following is an excerpt from Dr. John’s book, THE MASTER BUILDER: Wisdom For Today’s Apostles. Follow this link to obtain your copy of THE MASTER BUILDER today.
The New Testament reveals three relationships with “fathers” in our lives.
- The Heavenly Father
- The earthly father
- The spiritual father
As a “spiritual father,” Paul often referred to his relationship with those he considered to be his “sons” in the faith, and his “spiritual children.” In Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, he reminds them that he is their “spiritual father” because he had brought them to faith in Christ.
“I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Therefore I urge you, imitate me.” 1 Corinthians 4:14-16 NKJV
Being a father is a most responsible position in both the natural and spiritual realms. In the natural world, when we are responsible for the birth of a child, we assume that the person will also be responsible for raising the child, including caring for all of its needs until adulthood. In today’s society, the number one cause of our societal problems, is the absence of “fathers” who are responsible for their children. This simply means that men may have the biological capability to sire children, but not have a “father’s heart” to care for them after birth. The welfare roles are burdened with fatherless children who must be cared for by the State, and the prisons are full of young men and women who cannot tell of a healthy relationship with their earthly father.
The same can be true in the Church of Jesus Christ today, when we have gifted ministers who can birth people into the Kingdom of God, but who don’t have the parenting skills to raise them to spiritual adulthood. A true spiritual father will be faithful to raise their spiritual children to maturity in Christ and provide the love, nurture, admonishment and exhortation that all children need when growing up. Paul gives the qualities of good spiritual fathering in his letter to the Thessalonians.
“You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; as you know how we exhorted, and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children.” 1 Thessalonians 2:10-11 NKJV
As a spiritual father, Paul was concerned that he had given them a godly example to follow as we see in verse 10, but also that he had carried out the functions of fathering to exhort, comfort and charge them in the things of God in verse 11. Paul was a very responsible spiritual father who had “maturity” in mind for his “sons and daughters.”
So how does a ‘‘father’s heart” form in an individual? Paul gives the answer in his letter to the Philippians when talking about his spiritual son, Timothy, who was the best example of “sonship” that Paul could set before others.
“But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state. For I have no one likeminded, who will naturally care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s. But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel.” Philippians 2:19- 22 NKJV
Of all Paul’s protégés, he could only find one who had developed the “father’s heart” and would provide the same care for the Philippians that he would have given, had he been able to see them personally. How did Timothy obtain the same heart that was in Paul? It was by becoming a “spiritual son.” The only way to get the “heart of a father” is by becoming a “son” in relationship. Timothy had become Paul’s “son in the faith” when he adopted him from his mother’s household, and then raised him up spiritually to “know his ways in Christ.”
“For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.” 1 Corinthians 4:17 NKJV
When the heart of a father is formed in the son, the son will not only follow the ways of his father, but will also do things with the same motives as his father. He has become “like his father” in spirit and truth.
When Jesus said that the “Father seeketh such that worship Him, in spirit and in truth,” I believe this is what he was talking about. A true son of God that has grown up in relationship with his father, will not only reflect the ways, representing the “truth,” but he will also manifest the character of the father, representing the “spirit.” In other words, the son not only “knows” (truth) that the father knows, but he has “become” (spirit) what the father is. As a son Himself, Jesus had become like his Father in “spirit and in truth,” and could say, “if you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.” A true son will “re-present” the father that raised him up and sent him out.
Even Jesus went through the process of growth to maturity to become a “spiritual father” as well. The Prophet Isaiah tells us that Jesus followed the same path to maturity that all God’s sons must follow.
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 NKJV
Jesus was a “child” who became a “son,” who became a “father.”
Of course, He wasn’t a natural father, since he was never married. But he became a spiritual father to His disciples whom he called, and raised up to stand in His place when He left for heaven to become our High Priest. In Jesus’ prayer found in John 17, we find Him praying for the sons he had raised, who were now ready to carry on their responsibilities under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
“I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world; thine they were, and thou gavest them me: and they have kept thy word. Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.” John 17:6-7 KJV
Jesus had learned the “heart of the father” by being in an intimate relationship with Him, and serving the Father’s will and vision.
“No man has seen God at any time: the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” John 1:18 KJV
Jesus could reveal what the Father was like because of his relationship to Him as a Son. He had become like His Father in “spirit and truth.” That is why He could explain to his disciples what the Father expected from “worship,” it was a lifestyle that represented the Father’s “Person and Principles.”
Timothy had learned the same things from being in relationship with Paul, and “serving” as part of Paul’s ministry team. Paul said, “As a son with the father, he has served with me in the gospel.”
We see this principle working in Elijah and Elisha, the classic Old Testament example of spiritual fathers and sons. When Elijah was about to be taken up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elisha asked to become a “spiritual son” to Elijah and not just a servant in his ministry. When Elisha asked for a “double portion” of the spirit, he was actually asking him how to become a “spiritual son.” We know this because of scripture that tells us the “double portion” is an inheritance for a son.
“But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength: the right of the firstborn is his.” Deuteronomy 21:17 KJV
Elisha knew that the double portion could only be given to a son, so he was really asking to become a son of Elijah. He knew that becoming a son involved not only “obtaining’” what his spiritual father had in terms of anointing, but it also meant “becoming” what he was in terms of his heart. Elisha would need to have the same pure heart and motives that Elijah had while serving God. He had to be “proven,” just like Timothy was with Paul. The “son” must learn to love the people like the “father” loves them. There can be no self seeking agendas that motivate ministry, this is why Paul selected Timothy to represent him to the Philippians.
“For I have no man like minded, who will naturally care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.” Philippians 2:20-21 NKJV
The “father’s heart” is not self seeking, it will always do what is in the best interest of others. Father’s do not use their children to “make their lives better,” or “to make their dream come to pass.” Fathers live for the welfare and promotion of their children, they serve the destiny of their children. This is the true meaning of a ‘well worn’ verse so often quoted in parenting classes.
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 NKJV
Just like a biological parent should recognize what talents their children have been given, and direct them to develop those qualities, a spiritual parent should discern what “gifts and callings” God has deposited within the sons and daughters entrusted to them, so that they may resource them for full use of the anointing in their lives. When a leader has not developed a “father’s heart” in ministry, they will seek to use the people God has given them to build their own destiny. They will value people only as long as they are an “asset” to the ministry. But when someone is not contributing to the “vision,” that person is often considered unworthy of their best efforts to better their lives. God the Father pours out His blessings upon the “just and unjust” alike, because He loves everyone equally. When a leader has the “father’s heart,” they will do likewise.
An apostle with a “father’s heart” will build “family,” not just an organization or ministry. Apostle Paul understood and taught that the Church was:
- The Body of Christ
- An Army
- A Temple of God
- The Bride of Christ
- The Pillar and Ground of Truth
- A Chaste Virgin
- A Royal Priesthood
- A Holy Nation
But, above all, the Church is the “Family of God,” the Church of the Firstborn.
“For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.” Ephesians 3:14- 15 NKJV
All the metaphors of the Church will play out in time, but “family is forever.” The reason for creation was the “Father Heart of God,” He wanted a family to lavish His love upon, thru Jesus Christ the “firstborn of many brethren,” He has obtained the family He desired. In this passage, Paul was praying for the “family of God” to comprehend the extent of Father’s love for them so that they might be filled with all the “fullness of God.” This would result in the Family being able to love to the same extent that they had been loved by the Father. This was the desire of Jesus when He prayed His final prayer in preparation for the crucifixion, that his followers would know to what extent they were loved by the Father.
“I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one: that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” John 17:23 KJV
Apostles with a “father’s heart” will role model, teach and impart the Father’s love to His Family.
What you just read is an excerpt from Dr. John’s book, THE MASTER BUILDER: Wisdom For Today’s Apostles. Follow this link to obtain your copy of THE MASTER BUILDER today.