Jesus said, “Call no man on earth father, for you all have one Father who is in heaven.” Yet Paul called Timothy, Titus, and Onesimus his “sons” and sometimes used “father” language when addressing the churches. Was Paul contradicting Jesus?
Instead of cherry-picking scriptures, adapting extreme views, and reviling anyone who sees differently, we need to get to the heart of the issue. “Spiritual Fathers Or Brothers?” clears up the confusion and helps us to understand the heart of both Paul’s teaching and Jesus’ teaching. While acknowledging that Christian leaders should share in the father heart of God, it also highlights the unhealthy dynamics that result if we go beyond scripture in our emphasis on “fathering” young disciples.
Targeted Age Group:: 18-80
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I'm a charismatic Christian, and many Charismatic churches emphasize a model of "spiritual fathers and sons." It's presented as a really good idea for discipleship, and people quote the apostle Paul to back it up.
However, I've experienced some unhealthy dynamics resulting from an overemphasis on this "spiritual parenting" model. While I do believe that Christian leaders should share in God's "father heart," I've become convinced that the scriptural model for how we relate to leaders is brothers, not "spiritual parents." The church needs a better understanding of this issue.
If we teach that every Christian needs to find a spiritual father, not only do we go beyond what Scripture says, but we also mistakenly emphasize a need for something that the believer has already received according to the gospel. It’s like constantly telling young Christians they need forgiveness! If they believe that, they are missing what the gospel says about turning to God and receiving his once and for all forgiveness, and so will continue to walk in condemnation!
Likewise, if disciples are constantly being told they need a “spiritual father” and they believe it, they are missing the gospel and will continue to feel like orphans. They will believe that they need something they already have in Christ. Young believers do not need to be adopted; rather, they need to learn the gospel truth that they have already been adopted and have received the Spirit of adoption.
God is saying to the believer, “You are my son! I have given you the Spirit of adoption. You have an inheritance. I am your wonderful Father.” In conflict with this, men are teaching that same person that he lacks all of these things. When the Christian listens to that erroneous teaching and either doubts or has never learned what he received at salvation, he will have a nagging sense of lack until he recognizes the error and believes the gospel. Recognizing that he already received son-ship, inheritance, and the Spirit of adoption when he was born again will give him assurance to hear and obey God.
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