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Now I want to turn back to the theme that we have been following, this is the third in this series of messages on Knowing God as Father. I want to recapitulate briefly the material that we covered in the previous two messages. Always bearing in mind that recapitulation is an essential part of good teaching.
In the first message I said basically that Jesus came for two purposes related to God the Father. The first was to reveal God the Father, the second was to bring us to God the Father. Jesus said in that connection in John 14, “I am the way, the truth, the life. No man cometh unto the Father but by me. He that hath seen me has seen the Father.” There’s both aspects. When you’ve seen Jesus, in him, if you see with the eye of the Spirit is the revelation of the Father. And he is the way. The way where? A way is meaningless unless it leads somewhere. Well the answer is I am the way, no man cometh unto the Father but by me. He is the way to the Father. He’s the revelation of the Father, he’s the way to the Father. He only can truly reveal the Father because only the Son knows who the Father is and only the Father knows who the Son is. God spoke to the people of Israel in old times in many different ways by the prophets. But this revelation of his Fatherhood came only through his Son.
Now there are a few brief references to the Fatherhood of God in the Old Testament. About six in all. They’re just little hints but there’s no true revelation until Jesus comes. Jesus is the only one who can reveal the Father and bring us to the Father.
In that message I also said that what they call in philosophic terms, the first cause of the universe is God the Father. Paul says in Ephesians 3:15, every fatherhood in heaven and on earth derives its name from the Fatherhood of God. The way that the universe is multiplied and extended and grows is through the multiplication of the Fatherhood of God. God the Father is the life source ultimately behind all life. And God distributes that life source in the universe through other life sources. To other fathers. So that the multiplication of the life of God takes place through a chain of descent which is father to son. That’s the basic pattern of life in the universe. And it is also the basic pattern of life in the human family at large and particularly the family of God which is the church. And unless we understand that we’re not really flowing with the full revelation and implementation of God’s purposes.
Then in my message this morning I dealt with human fatherhood in the natural. I quoted the little story of the boy who was scared in the thunderstorm and his parents told him it’s all right, God will watch over you. But when he woke them up for the third time in the middle of the night and they told him that he said, Yes, but I want God with skin on. That sounds silly but it’s the cry of the human heart. Human beings basically are not good at grasping abstractions. They want it made real. And so in every family according to the divine purpose and pattern, the father is God with skin on. He’s the representative of God the Father in that family. I said that, in a certain sense, the most divine thing any man can be, the most godlike thing is to be a father.
Speaking about natural fatherhood on the human level I said that the father has three ministries or functions to his family. He’s the priest, the prophet and the king. As priest he represents his family to God, primarily in intercessory prayer. A great example of that is Job who got up early every morning and offered burnt offerings for all his sons and his daughters.
As prophet, it’s reversed. He represents God to his family. One example of that is Noah. Noah heard from God, he knew what was coming. Moved by godly fear he built an ark to save his household. If Noah hadn’t heard from God and told his family, they would have perished. And when God spoke to Noah to come into the ark he said, Come into the ark for you alone I have seen righteous before me in the earth. Therefore come with your family. In a certain sense it was Noah’s righteousness that got his family in.
And then the father is also the God appointed ruler. That’s not a popular concept in most places today. But nevertheless it’s the father’s function under God and for God to rule his family. Genesis 18:18–19, God reveals that that’s why he chose Abraham out of all the men on the earth. Because he said I know him that he will command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord. That’s the very aspect of Abraham’s character which caused God to make him the father of his chosen people. That he was going to command his children and his household. There’s some areas in which a father does not suggest nor request, he commands. He has authority. And if his authority is broken down, ultimately all authority is broken down. A community or a church is no stronger ultimately than the families that make it up. You cannot build a strong, stable church on weak, fragmented families. God builds from the small to the great.
All right. Tonight the Lord helping me I’m going to speak about human fatherhood in the spiritual realm. What it means to be a spiritual father. This applies of course primarily in the family of God which is the church. The great example of both natural and spiritual fatherhood is Abraham. Abraham is the natural ancestor of Israel. A natural people, numbering today about fourteen million. Before the Holocaust they numbered about eighteen million. But Abraham according to scripture is also the father of all who believe. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ who is the seed of Abraham, then spiritually Abraham is your father. You have very fine spiritual roots. You’ve been grafted into the elect people of God who go back to Abraham. One of the things that people are so concerned about today is to find their roots. Well I thank God I have no problem about my roots. I know my roots are in Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I was a wild olive branch, a Gentile. But by faith in Jesus Christ I was grafted into that olive tree and I now partake of the root and fatness of the tree and all the blessings of Abraham and his descendants are mine. Smith Wigglesworth said Abraham was blessed of God and he had a wonderful umbrella of blessings. And when he, Smith Wigglesworth, became a believer, he came in under Abraham’s umbrella. Well that’s where I live, under the umbrella of Abraham. But friends, don’t forget we owe it to Abraham. We owe it to the Jewish people. Every single spiritual blessing that we enjoy as Christians we owe to one nation, Israel.
All right. Let’s go back now to spiritual fatherhood. What I’ve said is really not out of line, it’s just a little addition. We’ve spoken about Abraham, we will not go back to that. I want to point out to you quickly that the concept of spiritual fatherhood runs all through the Bible starting with the book of Genesis. I’ll give you just a few examples. Genesis 4:20–21. This speaks about two men long before the flood. Their names were Jabal and Jubal. And they were descended from Lamech. And it says in verse 20:
“Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. And his brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe.” (NAS)
Now what way are you to understand fatherhood there? Is that natural or is it spiritual? The truth of the matter is it’s both. And this brings out something about fatherhood of which we need in America today to remind ourselves. That normally until quite recently all over the world a father’s craft decided the son’s craft. If your father was a smith, you were going to be a smith. That’s why your name was Smith. It didn’t make any difference from what point of view you looked at it. It was determined. The son followed the father in whatever the father’s work was. You find many of the names that we have in the Anglo-Saxon inheritance are craft names. Also in Arabic and Hebrew which I’m not going to go into. One of our neighbors in this tricky situation in Jerusalem is called Haddad. Haddad means a tinsmith. What is it, his name or his craft? Until maybe a generation ago you didn’t have to determine it, it was all settled. So Jabal was the father of those who live in tents and keep livestock. He started you could say a tribe. A tribe whose livelihood was in cattle and livestock. They were what we would call nomadic people. But his brother started a tribe of those who play the lyre and the pipe. They were musicians. So there is fatherhood determining the destiny of descendants. The principle is still here today.
In Genesis 45:8, this is what Pharaoh tells his brothers when they are reunited in Egypt.
“Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and he has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt.” (NAS)
That’s very interesting. That was not natural fatherhood. That was spiritual fatherhood and Joseph said God did it. God made him a father to pharaoh. And it probably wasn’t a matter of age. In fact, I think it’s highly probably that actually pharaoh was actually older than Joseph. But this was a God given relationship in which in some sense Joseph represented God in pharaoh’s life. He stepped into that position in one day when he could interpret the dreams that nobody else could interpret. So there is spiritual fatherhood which had a vital effect on the destiny of the world because it determined in some ways the destiny of the Jewish people. It was Joseph’s position in Egypt that gave them a place of refuge in that land.
And then we turn to 2Kings 2:11–12. Elijah and Elisha were going along and you remember Elijah knew, and Elisha knew too that the Lord was going to take Elijah away to heaven. And Elijah did everything he could to discourage Elisha from coming. He said I’m going on, you stay here every place they got to. But Elisha said no, no, I am sticking with you all the way. That’s discipleship. All right.
“Then it came about as they were going along and talking, that behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven. And Elisha saw it and cried out, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen! And he saw him no more.” (NAS)
I just point that passage out to say that there was that relationship between Elisha and Elijah. He said my father, my father. So discipleship made a son out of Elisha for Elijah.
And we look at one other passage and we could look at many more. In Isaiah 22:20–21. This is a prophecy and I don’t really want to go into the background of it but God is telling Israel through the prophet Isaiah he’s going to set aside one man named Shebna and raise up another man named Eliakim.
“Then it will come about in that day, that I will summon my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah and I will clothe him with your tunic, and tie your sash securely about him, I will entrust him with your authority, and he will become a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah.”
Notice again it’s God that’s going to do it. Just as God made Joseph a father to pharaoh, he says this man Eliakim, I will make him a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to the house of Judah. For us who live in Jerusalem that’s a very interesting phrase. The house of Judah is the Jewish people. The inhabitants of Jerusalem are a mixture of many different races. So there’s a great deal to that statement. And notice that with it goes authority. I will clothe him with your authority. And in becoming a father he becomes the source of authority.
Now, that’s just by way of introduction. Let’s turn to the New Testament and look at some examples there of spiritual fatherhood. We’ll turn first of all to 1John 2:12–14. Now it’s a little complicated to explain this without going into a lot of different Greek words. But in this translation which is pretty accurate, John uses one phrase which is little children and another phrase which is children. Now they’re not the same word. I think you’ll see as we go through it, all of us, no matter how mature or how old are little children of God. But within that total spectrum of God’s little children there are three generations. Fathers, young men and children. Where the word children means young ones. With that in mind I’ll read the word.
I have to say another thing and this is—I don’t want to complicate it. But John says I am writing to you and then he names the groups. Then he says I have written to you and he names most of the same groups again. Now I haven’t seen any translation bring this out but my understanding from my studies of Greek and Latin—and I started learning Latin when I was nine and Greek when I was ten. My understanding is that a person who wrote a letter in either Greek or Latin, when he wrote it, put the tenses in the time of the person who was going to receive the letter. Can you understand that? So if I were to write a letter to my wife and I’m in Michigan and she’s in Florida, and I would say in English I’m writing this letter sitting up in bed. But in Greek or Latin I would say I have written this letter sitting up in bed. Because I’m thinking in terms of the time when the person receives it. As Bob Mumford said and I always quote him in this connection because it sounds better—how can I help it if I’m right? I’ve never heard anybody bring that point up but I believe it is valid. So without going into all the details why John says I am writing first he should say you belong in that category, that’s a general statement. Why he says I have written and he says I am writing this letter to you because of the category you belong in. Did you get that? I wonder if you did. If you didn’t, never mind, you can get to heaven without it! 1John 2:12–14:
“I am writing to you, little children, [that’s a general statement, I address you all as little children] because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake.” (NAS)
What makes us the children of God? All of us, regardless of age or sex, our sins are forgiven because of the name of Jesus. So we’re God’s little children. Then he begins to single out the different categories within.
“I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who been from the beginning.” (NAS)
I address you, this group, as fathers because you know the one who is the Father.
“I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one [you are strong]. I have written to you little children [but that would be in our English; I am writing this letter to you children] because you know the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you know him who has been from the beginning.” (NAS)
Otherwise why would John write the same words twice. There would be no point. But he is saying first of all, you’re in a general category because, secondly I’m addressing this particular letter to you because.
“I’ve written to you young men because you are strong and the word of God abides in you.” (NAS)
All right. Moving on beyond the grammar of it we find we’re all little children. But within that totality of being God’s little children we have three generations. Fathers, young men and children. What makes the fathers fathers is they know the Father. What makes the young men young men is they have become strong. And what makes them strong is the word of God abiding in them. What makes the children children is because they know the Father too. The Spirit of God has come that causes them to say Abba, Father. But what I’m pointing out to you is within the totality of God’s people John identifies three generations. The fathers, the sons, and if you like to say, the grandsons. Fathers, young men and children.
Now you could compare 2Timothy 2:1–2.
“You therefore my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”(NAS)
That makes him a strong young man. The glory of young men, the book of Proverbs says, is their strength. What makes you a young man in the church is not your biological age, it’s your strength. The young men in the church are not all the people of a certain age group though age has got something to do with it. They’re the ones who are strong because they’ve got the word of God in them.
“You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” (NAS)
There’s four generations. There’s Paul who taught Timothy. Timothy is to teach other faithful men. I would use the word men of integrity. It’s become more and more clear to me that in the church we cannot afford to promote people unless they have proven integrity. This is becoming very clear to me through certain experiences I have had in my life. So faithful men, I would say, men of integrity. And these men of integrity will in turn teach others. So there’s the four generations, mark them off, Paul, Timothy, faithful men taught by Timothy and faithful men taught by the faithful men taught by Timothy. So you see there is a kind of spiritual order of generations in the church. That’s the outworking of fatherhood.
Now let’s look at certain specific statements about fatherhood in the New Testament. 1Corinthians 4:14–16:
“I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For if you were to have countless tutors [or teachers] in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.” (NAS)
He says you can have a whole lot of teachers coming to your church but you still only have one father. And then I want you to note the next verse:
“I exhort you, therefore, be imitators of me.”(NAS)
What’s the relationship between fatherhood and imitation, have you ever thought about it? What’s characteristic of a young son with his father? What does he always want to do? Imitate daddy. I saw an advertisement which you don’t see on television today. It was by the American Heart Association warning against the dangers of smoking. It was very cleverly done. It was a picture of a young man with his young son. And it showed the father, the young man, doing a lot of things. And everything that he did the little boy imitated. And the last scene was the father reaching into his pocket and drawing out a cigarette and lighting it. And you were left with the question, do you want your son to imitate that too? It was a very well thought out presentation. But it made such an impact on me because it refreshed my memory about what a father/son relationship is. It is a relationship of imitation. It’s not only imitation because there’s genes inside that make it natural to imitate. See, the word imitate is sometimes resented, it’s not spiritual to imitate. I don’t accept that. If you accept the relationship of a father to son as craftsman passing on the craft, then imitation is very much in order. The problem in the church today is there is so little to imitate. Not that there’s anything wrong with imitating. The question is where do you find someone to imitate?
I remember when I went into the British Army the first time the sergeant harangued us he laid down a basic principle. He said don’t do as I do, do as I say. That’s typical of sergeants. But it’s not acceptable for the church. We cannot say don’t do as I do, do as I say. We’ve got to say do as I say and do. Paul said to the Philippians the things which you have learned and received, and heard and seen in me, do. When I went to East Africa in l957 to be the principal of a college for training African teachers, I asked the Lord for a word. That’s the one I got, it was very sobering. God said to me don’t go to Africa just to teach them, that’s not sufficient. You have to demonstrate what you teach. The things which you have learned and received, that’s nice. Then God said, and heard and seen in me, do. You’re not just a teacher, you’re an example, you’re a pattern. Paul told Timothy, in all things showing yourself a pattern of good works. The model young man in the church is one of whom God can say make me fifteen more like him. We’ve passed out of the realm of theology and we’re into the realm of practice.
All right. Let’s go on quickly. 1Thessalonians 2:11–12. This letter isn’t written by Paul alone. It’s written by three men: Paul, Silas and Timothy. And he reminds the Christians of Thessalonica how these three men conducted themselves when they were present with them.
“...just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you...” (NAS)
In that church, Paul Silas and Timothy collectively demonstrated fatherhood. They had a father’s concern, a father’s love, a father’s authority.
And then we look in 1Timothy 1, we have to go quickly, verses 1–2:
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus ... [verse 2:] To Timothy, my true child in the faith...” (NAS)
There is true spiritual fatherhood. In 2Timothy Paul writes, Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, to Timothy, my beloved son. And then you go on quickly to Titus 1:1:
“Paul, a bond-servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ... [the 4th verse:] to Titus, my true child in the common faith...” (NAS)
So in every one of those cases there was a father/son relationship which was the basis of all that came out.
I want to amplify a little bit the development and the outworking of the father/son relationship in Christian ministry. I want to choose the pattern which is the relationship of Paul to Timothy. I believe Timothy is in the New Testament as a pattern young man. And I believe he’s a pattern of how a young man should be trained to become a successful minister. We won’t turn to all the scriptures, but his training began in his home. There was one thing lacking, it came from his mother and not his father. And it came from her mother before her. But he said remember how you learned the Holy Scriptures as a child. Remember who you received them from. Then the second phase of his training was in a local church at Lystra. And the scripture emphasizes when Paul came by on an apostolic journey, Timothy had a good report from the local brothers. If a person cannot prove himself in his home church, he should never be promoted anywhere else.
Now we’re going on. How did the relationship between Paul and Timothy begin, how did it work out, and to what conclusion did it come? I want to go quickly, but I want to show you some of the scriptures. I’m going to give you five phases. Number one, Paul chose Timothy by revelation. I want you to understand we’re not talking about a new system. We’re talking about something that doesn’t work unless the Holy Spirit is in it. It’s not a system. It’s the way the Holy Spirit operates. If the Holy Spirit doesn’t operate it, then there’s no human substitute. Turning quickly to Acts 16, this is what is commonly called Paul’s second missionary journey. I would prefer to use the word apostolic outreach. Acts 16:1 and following. Paul at this time had Silas with him.
“And he came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. And he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium. [I deduce that he came from Lystra because that’s the one name that’s mentioned both places.] Paul wanted this man to go with him; and he took him and circumcised him... [and then they all set out.]” (NAS)
Now there are three other passages in Paul’s epistles to Timothy which I believe throw further light on this. Now I cannot prove this, it’s an inference. I want you to understand it that way but it seems to me to make sense. Turn to 1Timothy 1:18:
“This command I entrust to you, Timothy my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may fight the good fight.” (NAS)
Paul and Timothy both knew certain prophecies made concerning Timothy. And those prophecies told Timothy that he had a destiny in God but that he was going to have to go through a lot to get to it. In my book, I think it’s Laying on of Handswhich is in the Foundation Series, I mention this is one of the functions of prophecy, to show you what lies ahead and to equip you spiritually to go through what lies ahead. That book fell into the hands of a minister in New Zealand who was facing a real challenge from God. And when he read that passage he was reminded of prophecies he’d received here in the United States and he went ahead on that basis. So there’s a good modern example of that principle.
Now we go on to 1Timothy 4:14:
“Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed upon you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery.” (NAS)
Does anybody have a New International Version? Does it say spiritual gift? The word spiritual in a sense, it’s a kind of insertion. The word is, how many of you can guess? Charisma. Which is a gift and is a spiritual gift. But it doesn’t need to be one of the gifts of the Spirit, that’s why I said that. The ministry gifts are also called charisma. Now my belief is that this gift was the ministry of an apostle. And Timothy was called to it by prophecy. It didn’t necessarily mean the word apostle was used, but he was sent forth on an apostolic task under Paul. When he was sent forth, the elders of the church from which he was sent forth laid hands on him together with Paul. Now you see what I’m saying? Paul came to Lystra. While he was there he spotted this young man Timothy. He saw there was a young man of real promise. He asked the elders, they said yes, he’s a real proven young man. He’s a strong young man. Paul said would you agree to my taking him with me? They prayed and probably said we feel good about this. So before they sent him out they laid hands on him to commission him to go forth with Paul. And when they laid hands on him the prophecy came which was in a sense, to indicate the course of his life and ministry. So if you like to accept what are inferences, you get at least a consistent picture which shows you what happened.
Now, go on to 2Timothy 1:6:
“And for this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” (NAS)
It was through the laying on of Paul’s hands, it was through the laying on of the hands of the elders. They did it collectively. Now I’ve been present in my day at similar scenes. I believe that’s the scriptural way for a person to be sent forth on an apostolic ministry is with the laying on of hands of the presbytery. The elders in that church.
All right. If you accept that as a possible hypothesis you come back to the statement that Paul chose Timothy by revelation. Their lives were joined by supernatural revelation of the Holy Spirit. I just want to emphasize this is not done on a natural plane. It cannot be done without the Holy Spirit.
Then, the second phase, Timothy worked with and under Paul. And the result was he developed a kindred spirit with Paul. We look at one passage, Philippians 2:19–23:
“But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare.” (NAS)
The King James says, I have no one else like minded. That’s quite an admission, isn’t it? There never have been many really disinterested persons in the church at any time. It’s rare to find someone who puts Christ’s interests before his own.
“For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. But you know of his proven worth that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father.” (NAS)
That’s the relationship. It’s son, it’s also servant. And bear in mind in the culture of that time there was no hard and fast distinction. A son normally served his father as an apprentice in his father’s trade.
“Therefore I hope to send him immediately...” (NAS)
All right. That’s phase two, Timothy worked with and under Paul, developed a kindred spirit. He knew how Paul would have done things.
Phase three, Timothy was sent out to represent Paul. Okay? We could find various scriptures, let’s look in 1Corinthians 4:17.
“For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church.”
Paul had trained Timothy so well he knew that he could trust him to do things the way Paul would have done them. That’s real discipleship. And it’s not easy. Let’s look also in the same context in 1 Timothy 1:3:
“As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus in order that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines...” (NAS)
There the situation was Paul and Timothy had been together in Ephesus, Paul had to move on, the job wasn’t complete so he left Timothy behind to finish off what he had begun.
All right. Fourth, Timothy comes of age and he’s released to his own ministry. That doesn’t end the father/son relationship but it ends the master/apprentice relationship. The father/son relationship is permanent. But the master/apprentice relationship is temporary. We’ve already seen it but we might as well look there again. 2Timothy 2:2:
“And in things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men...” (NAS)
Now Timothy was on his own. But he was still doing things the way Paul would have done them.
And one more phase of this which is very important. 2Timothy 1:3:
“I thank God whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day...” (NAS)
There remained a special prayer relationship. Although Timothy was now released from Paul’s oversight he was on his own, responsible for what he did, the father/son relationship continued and it brought forth special, continuing, daily prayer by Paul for Timothy. See, that’s really the pattern of Jesus. I don’t know whether you’ve ever thought about it. Jesus trained his disciples for three and a half years. Then he left and he left them to carry on what he had begun. I remember somebody relating this imaginary scene when Jesus arrived back in heaven. He was welcomed by the archangels and the angels and they congratulated him on all he’d done. Then the angels said to him, now, what is your plan for carrying on the work that you’ve started? Jesus said, I’ve got eleven men down there that I’ve trained. The angels looked at him rather closely and said, do you really think that those men are going to be capable? After all, they weren’t too successful while they were with you. And their behavior when you were on trial was anything but convincing. Suppose they fail. What is your second plan? Jesus said, I have no other second plan. What did Jesus do? He didn’t come back to do it over again, but for two thousand years he’s been in continuous intercession for his people. And intercession is not something you just do by a book. It’s based on relationships.
So let me just enumerate those five stages. Number one, Paul chose Timothy by revelation. Number two, Timothy worked with and under Paul and achieved a kindred spirit with Paul. Number three, Timothy was sent out to represent Paul. Number four, Timothy came of age and was released to his own ministry. But number five, Paul continued to pray for him night and day.
Now in closing I’m going to give a kind of philosophic closure to this. I’m going to ask a question. What makes a spiritual father? And I’m going to suggest four things. Number one, a father is a life source. That’s really the essence of fatherhood. The father is the life source of the family. The mother receives and reproduces the life but the life originates with the father. Listen to what Jesus said about his relationship with his Father in John 6:57:
“As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me, he also shall live because of me.” (NAS)
Notice the first part. The living Father sent me, and I live because of my relationship with my Father. My life depends on that relationship.
Now I believe God puts in the Body of Christ men who become a life source to a certain part of the Body. And it’s very important in the economy of God to identify your life source and to honor it. There is something in the command honor thy father and mother that it may be well with you. Why do we honor father and mother? We honor father because he’s our life source. We honor mother because our life came through her. Even if we don’t agree with all that they do, the command is without exception. Honor father and mother. When I came to the Lord and into the baptism in the Holy Spirit, I was the only member of my family that was even near those things. And I didn’t find it altogether easy to relate to my parents. My father was an officer in the British Army. But after awhile the Lord showed me that if I wanted his blessing on my life I had to honor my father and mother, there was no option. And it wasn’t very easy, but I cultivated that relationship. And as a result, I had the joy of leading my mother many years later to the Lord and I believe my father also is with the Lord. It was one of the hardest assignments of my life but it was one of the most important.
Now I believe the same principle applies in the spiritual realm. If you want to be blessed, you must learn to honor the man who in your life is God’s appointed life source. In the old order, the old order which is still very much with us, I believe it’s being replaced by a new order. That’s my personal conviction. I believe I’m talking to you about a new order which is on the way, it’s started. But in the old order I as a visiting preacher would walk into a church and maybe the meeting began without the “pastor.” But I always noticed if that man was really the pastor of that church, the meeting was different when he was there. He didn’t have to open his mouth, he didn’t have to take part in the meeting, his presence changed the atmosphere. Because he was God’s authority in that situation. I don’t know whether you’ve noticed, but wherever I preach, almost invariably when I close the meeting I have the pastor on the platform. I fade out and fade into him. Because he’s the continuing authority of God. While I’m by his appointment on the platform I exercise delegated authority. But it’s a principle with me never to leave myself the last person on the platform. Because you can’t reach to me when I go to Kalamazoo, Detroit or Timbuktu. You have got to get your life from your God given source right here. Spiritual fathers, like natural fathers, are not always perfect.
All of us who have brought up teenagers, and I’ve helped to bring up twelve, we know there’s a point in a child’s development when it suddenly begins to discover that its father isn’t perfect. How many of you have been through that? I can remember vividly in my own life, I was maybe twelve or thirteen years old. I never thought my father would do anything but the right thing. And one day he got angry with my mother and actually swore at her. That was his culture. He really loved her and basically they had a good marriage. But it shattered something in me. It really did. After that I didn’t know where to look. Well, I made my own way in life. As Charles said I became very self sufficient. But I want to tell you all, especially the younger people here, there aren’t any perfect children either! I’ve learned to more or less anticipate a phase in the development of a child when even though the relationship may remain basically good, there’s a certain critical attitude. Well, my father’s a preacher but—
But I just want to say that in the relationship of my children to me I’ve seen one essential for the blessing of God. It’s that they honor me. And I’m not a person that goes around demanding honor. In fact, I rather tend to push it away which is not wise. Because I’ve learned if I don’t accept honor, I’m not blessing the person from whom I refuse to receive it. Do you get that? Let your children honor you. It’s the gateway to God’s blessings. Train them to honor you. Mother, train your children to honor daddy. And Daddy, train your children to honor mother. See, honor is something you can’t demand for yourself. Somebody else has to demand it for you.
You know that the wife is not the head. What is she? She’s the neck. And everybody knows the neck turns the head whichever way it wants to! But the neck has another responsibility. Do you know what that is? To hold the head up. Really. This is very solemn. The head cannot hold itself up. In proportion to volume it’s the heaviest part of the body. That’s why when you swim the more of your head you get under water, the better you swim. Because that’s the heavy part that the water supports. But I mean this seriously. There is no more important function for a wife than to uphold her husband as head. In fact, there are very few men that can ever become what God intends them to without the honor of their wives. There may be a few real strong characters but I would say nine out of ten men depend on their wife’s honor to become the men they ought to be.
All right. We’re talking about then the first aspect of a spiritual father is he’s a life source. I’ve learned this by experience and I’ve learned that I was a life source to people I didn’t even know. And I still am. But I learned that out of all those people to whom I’ve become a life source through my teaching, and some of you here, several people have come up to me and said Brother Prince, we live by your tapes. Thank God for it. I give God all the glory. But I’ve learned that that is not all there is to the relationship in some cases. In some cases God wants more. He wants a father/son relationship. I learned that it has to be by divine revelation. It’s not the result of a committee meeting.
Second, we impart what we are. It’s more deeds than words. Again we’ll look at something that Jesus said about his relationship with the Father. John 5:19.
“Jesus therefore answered and was saying to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of himself, unless it is something he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.” (NAS)
How do you describe that in one word? Imitation, isn’t it? Jesus imitated everything he saw the Father doing. What ever way the Father did things, Jesus did it that way. So, to be a life source you impart what you are. You impart what you do. You can say one thing and do another. As my friend Charles Simpson says, you can preach on peace as much as you like but if you’re a nervous person what you’ll impart is nervousness, not peace. This is a lesson I’ve really taken to heart. I look at the people that have been raised up by God through my ministry I see myself in so much of them that it frightens me.
Third principle. We must know the Father in his eternal nature. When John wrote to those fathers in the first epistle, I’d like to go back there just for a moment. 1John 2:14:
“I have written to you fathers, because you know him who has been from the beginning.” (NAS)
You see again it’s impartation. When we come to know the Father in his eternal nature we will impart the Father. We will become Father-like people. So there’s a knowledge of God. Not a knowledge of theology but a knowledge of God. Jesus said this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent.
The fourth principle which runs all through the Bible, but I cannot go into it in detail. I will merely state it. It’s this: It takes death to release life. I’ll just give you a scripture then I’ll recapitulate those four principles. It takes death to release life. 2Corinthians 4:10–12:
“...always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. [There’s a mystery, it’s a paradox.] For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifest in our mortal flesh.”(NAS)
That’s divine healing, divine health, divine life. But it only comes out of death. You say the pressures are so great, how can I have God’s life in this situation? The greater the pressure, the greater the life. Now, the principle is stated in the next verse. 2Corinthians 4:12:
“So death works in us, but life in you.” (NAS)
You want to offer life to others, you must accept death in yourself. See, the carnal nature has nothing to give to anybody. Except problems. I have learned that if I minister to suit my convenience there’s very little blessing. But I’ve learned that when I minister contrary to my convenience, that’s when God blesses. And I have to tell you that’s right now. Because if I had my choice I’d be somewhere by the seaside counting pebbles. I can’t go into this principle but it’s true. The only people that can minister life are the people that experienced a death of self. The old self has nothing to give to anybody that’s good. And God will arrange it, don’t worry. You don’t have to bring it about, God will lead you to that cross. And it’s your choice whether you accept it. Jesus said no one takes my life from me. I have power to lay it down, power to take it up. Charles Simpson says, What is the cross? It’s the place where your will and God’s will cross. It’s the place where your will dies. And you say, nevertheless, not your will but thine be done.
Let me restate those four principles. What makes a spiritual father? First of all he’s a life source. Secondly we impart what we are, not what we say. There are spiritual genes. Third, we must know the Father in his eternal nature. We can’t reproduce a father whom we don’t know. Fourth, it takes death to release life.
And in closing, what are the results of spiritual fatherhood? I think they’re exactly the same as the results of successful natural fatherhood. They are security and maturity. And there is no other route that I know of to get there. A person who has a good father image and relationship is basically a secure person whether it’s in the natural or in the spiritual. And it takes fatherhood to bring maturity. Lots of people grow up today but never mature. Why? Because they never had fatherhood. See, and again I’m passing on something I learned from Charles Simpson. Adam’s attempt to reach maturity was by knowledge. He said if I only eat the fruit I’ll know everything. It failed. Jesus, the last Adam, achieved maturity by discipleship. He was his Father’s disciple. He learned obedience by the things that he suffered. And he became the author of eternal life to those who obey him. He transmitted the Father’s life through his own death. And every one of us has got the same choice. You can attempt to achieve maturity by intellectual knowledge and learning. But it will do no more for you than it did for Adam. The alternative route is servanthood and obedience. And it doesn’t sound exciting. Why not go to a university and get three degrees and then step into the pulpit and start preaching. I’ll tell you why not. Because the results will be disastrous.
So, where are you at? Do you want spiritual fatherhood? That’s your decision, it’s definitely not mine. But if you want it, and you pray to God for it, God will hear that prayer. Amen.
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