The term “spiritual father” is so new and different to us, we have no point of reference with which to understand it. Or is it? Paul said to the Corinthians; “I have become your father in the Lord”.(see 1 Cor. 4) He also said; “Imitate me as I follow the Lord.” (see 1 Cor. 11:1) He referred to Timothy and others as his “sons”.(see 1 Cor. 4:17; 1 Tim. 1:2; 1:18; 2 Tim. 1:2; 2:1; Titus 2:4; Philm. 1:10; 1 Peter 5:13) We know Paul was not married, so we must conclude Timothy was not his natural son and of course, he was not a natural father to the Corinthians. Timothy became Paul’s disciple, thus a spiritual son. (see Acts 16)
Our present culture has exposed us to a pastor of a local church. Generally, he or she is the person who is responsible for the people who choose to join that local assembly. It is his job to see to it that things run smoothly. First on the list is to see the Sunday morning meeting conducted with excellence. Good music, good prayers, especially a good sermon as well as an appeal for money. To accomplish this the pastor has to spend many hours in systematic study for the sermon as well as many hours with the music ministry, deacons, ushers, prayer teams and various others who will participate on Sunday. This leaves him little time to relate with the people of the congregation.
A liturgical setting may give the title of father to a man, however, most of the time the people of the congregation know little about him other that he has been to seminary and is recognized by the denomination. The chances that he will be sent to another congregation are highly probable. Even independent charismatic or fundamentalist congregations will see the pastor “move-on” after a few years. This is another reason relationships are not a top priority in most church settings.
Paul seems to have had intimate relationships with his “sons”. He knew them and they knew him. He was willing to give himself completely for his sons, so much so, his health was injured. He said; he taught day and night, he labored among them and he prayed for them day and night. (see Acts 10:31; 1 Th. 2:9; 2 Th. 3:8) Paul served these people as a natural father would serve his natural sons. His love for his sons is summarized in 1 Corinthians 13 where he directs his thoughts of Agape’ love to those for which he was responsible.
Jesus had the same situation as Paul. We know He had twelve disciples. Men who had been with Him from the beginning and had witnessed the work He did on the earth. Please note the following passage of Scripture expressing the intimate relationship He had with them:
6 “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name — the name you gave me — so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. NIV
Jesus made some dramatic statements regarding the twelve.
1. He tells the Father they were His because the Father gave them to Him. We know these men were not natural sons of Jesus. They became sons by receiving Him. (see John 1:12 – 13) With the exception of Judas, they completed their walk with Him and went on to do greater things.
2. Jesus introduced them to The Father. By allowing Jesus to father them, He showed them The Father. Many references in Scripture tell us; Jesus came to reveal The Father. In fact, He said; “If you have seen Me, you have seen The Father.” (see John 14:9) Please note the plague of our present society is a pandemic of fatherlessness. As the Scriptures tell us; we have ten-thousand teachers but not many fathers. (see 1 Cor. 4) I believe God wants to change this by challenging many men to, first become sons to a father, so they can mature and become a father to many others. Employing this concept The Father will be revealed by the fathers who are following Him. This is the very pattern Jesus employed with the twelve, so they could become fathers to the people The Father wanted to assign to them.
3. Jesus was praying for them, not the world. These men had been assigned to Him by the Father. He was God’s representative on the earth to show them The Father. Jesus was not trying to “win the lost at any cost.” He was not trying to build a big or excellent church. He was following The Fathers orders as He related to the twelve. In fact, He asked The Father to give them the glory that The Father had given to Him.
4. They have obeyed your word. How did they get the word? There was no Bible at that time. Jesus didn’t preach sermons to them. Jesus did speak to the multitudes but only in parables. He said He did this so the multitudes would not understand. (see Matthew 13) Jesus spoke to the twelve in intimate settings. Some were one-on-one; others were with the three and others with all twelve. When He did this He presented the word of God to the disciples (sons). Jesus modeled The Father to the twelve by His actions, words and by his demeanor.
5. Jesus did not only teach good things, He modeled good things by the life He led. He showed the twelve the intimacy He had with The Father. He revealed The Father’s love for mankind. He showed how The Father had chosen man to be formed in His image. How man had been chosen to be the heirs of God’s great kingdom. How through man, The Father’s plan would be initiated and completed on the earth. Jesus demonstrated The Father by becoming a father to the twelve. Their task would be to become fathers and demonstrate The Father to the next group of people the Lord had chosen.
With the examples of Jesus and Paul it is clear to see that fathers are required to show The Father to those the Lord would call to be sons of His. So, although the idea of fathers and sons is new to us, it is not new to God. In fact, the whole Bible is a story of a Father and Son.
It would seem a response is required for those of us who read this paper. Has God called you as one of His sons? To be a legitimate son you will have to walk with a spiritual father whose objective is to show you The Father. He would be a man who in turn has a spiritual father. Someone you can trust and someone who loves you and has time for you; but above all, a man whom the Spirit of the Living God has assigned to you.
Jesus said; “My sheep hear My voice”. Please ask the Lord to show you who this man would be. It most likely would be a man you know who has a deep abiding walk with the Lord. He does not need to be older than you; however, he must have a maturity beyond your present position in the body of Christ. He should not be a peer or buddy who you can “hang-out with.”
He should not be a mentor or life-coach. A mentor supplies information like Bible studies or book reviews. A life-coach is motivational in nature, much like a cheer-leader urging you to “give it your all”. He can’t simply be looked on as an advisor. Our present culture has relegated the church pastor to this position. Jesus gave the word to His disciples. Your spiritual father will give you the word for the benefit of your maturity.
The objective of this relationship is for the benefit of the son rather than the benefit of the father. The maturity of the son is the joy of the spiritual father. He will help you discover your destiny in the Lord. He will help you unfold your giftings and callings as it relates to the body of Christ. He will aid you in maturing through the sufferings that must come your way. Jesus learned obedience through suffering. We will be called to do the same and without a spiritual father most of the sufferings will not mature us they will simply be sufferings.
As we go through the sufferings, the spiritual father will be able to show us what The Father is doing in us and for His benefit. The spiritual father will be able to show us the schemes of the enemy vs. the hand of God in our lives. Our spiritual father will guide us through the stages of our sonship until we become mature and represent the Lord as a mature son.
Our spiritual father should have no desire to control us, but have a desire for us to hear and understand the voice of God. However, when the spiritual father gives a suggestion we should prayerfully consider his suggestion and talk with the Lord regarding the suggestion. If we regard the man as an advisor, his voice is among many. If he is regarded as a father we value the relationship and know The Father has assigned him to us.