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Spiritual fatherhood: Biblical concept


THE issue of spiritual fatherhood in the church has often courted much controversy, with the less knowledgeable about spiritual matters questioning why a Christian should have a spiritual father other than God.

Report by Phillip Chidavaenzi

The Apostle Paul said in his first letter to the church at Corinth: “Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.” (I Corinthians 4:15, NKJV).

Paul was not the biological father to believers at the Corinthian church, but a spiritual father because he said he became one “through the gospel”.

Neither did he say God was their spiritual father. However, it is important to understand that spiritual fatherhood does not minimise the position and role God has in the believer’s life.

As a Christian, there is no trace of doubt whatsoever that I am a child of God. I have my biological parents, too. But I also have a spiritual father in my pastor.

I listen to sermons from different men of God. I consider them my teachers. But there are not my spiritual fathers. I must have a spiritual father to whom I report.

It is a matter of accountability in the things of the spirit in as far as they relate to my life.

Paul did not have biological children. But a study of his writings reveals beyond doubt that he had several spiritual sons. These included Timothy, Onesimus and Titus (I Timothy 1:2, Phillipians 1:10 and Titus 1:4).

Spiritual fathers are important because they provide guidence and skills where we have limitations.

They challenge us to be the best that we can be. This is a water-tight system that ensures we do the right thing.

In his letter to Philemon, an early wealthy Christian in Colosse, Paul appealed to him to be kind to his servant Onesimus, who had become the apostle’s “son in the faith” while he was in prison (Philemon 1:10-11, NLT).

After becoming his spiritual son, Onesimus would now be more useful to his master.

This implies that as his spiritual father, there was some spiritual wealth Paul would transmit to his new son, which would make him effective and more diligent in serving his master.

In this light, spiritual fathers have a value-adding role to play in the lives and ministries of their spiritual children. In this context, the value that my spiritual father brings into my life must manifest in me and be beneficial in every area of my life: family, marriage, career, business etc.

A spiritual father looks out for his sons.

He ensures their safety, sees to it that all is well with them and defuses whatever landmines may be laid in their paths. As your spiritual father looks out for you, it is his duty to alert you of any impending danger.

Not every believer in a church, however, is a son. The term “son”, as is often used in scripture, is derived from the Greek term huios, which means “a mature son”.

These are those believers who have matured enough to be entrusted with responsibilities.

Because such sons like Titus, have proven themselves and learnt precious lessons from their father, they are able to follow instructions to the letter.

Biological age ceases to be a factor. Timothy was a young man, but was able to deal with issues in the church and fulfill monumental obligations.

Paul admits as much in Titus 1:5 where he left Titus in Crete to iron out issues in the church.

A spiritual father gives instructions which are meant to help the son while spiritual sons learn from experienced and mature spiritual fathers.

The father’s life must be an open book to the son. This will allow the spiritual son to learn beyond what the father says.

There must be an impartation. This is the kind of relationship that existed between Paul and his spiritual sons. He showed the way and allowed the young men to follow in his steps.

This is shown where he said Timothy knew about “teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings — what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch . . .But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it . . . ” (2 Timothy 3: 10-11, 14, NKJV).

One of the ways in which God provides leadership in His kingdom is through spiritual fathers.

A father exhorts and comforts and implores and sometimes chastens when necessary.

Spiritual fathering is the major leadership method for building the body of Christ.

Feedback: pchidavaenzi@newsday.co.zw

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