A great source of joy for faithful Bible readers is the correlation of both Jesus and Christians to the truth of being fathered by God. In a practical way, Christians are powerfully helped in their commitment not to keep on practicing a sinful lifestyle. They are wonderfully watched over and protected from the evil one by Jesus, the human mediator. Jesus himself was brought into existence by God in a fabulously unique way. What confidence all of this should inspire!
We know that everyone fathered by God does not go on sinning. The one who was fathered by God keeps them, and the evil one does not touch them.
(1 John 5:18- KNT)
In this verse, the first use of "fathered" in reference to Christians is in the perfect tense in Greek which refers to a continuous condition existing since a past event. The word could be rendered literally in several ways: "Having been fathered, engendered, begotten, generated, originated, or caused to exist." (1) This use of the word "fathered" describes the ongoing relation of Christians to God. When one views the Biblical uses of "born again" vocabulary, it becomes apparent that such terminology indicates a continued response toward the Father who has lovingly "begotten" Christians in a spiritual sense.
The word rendered as "was fathered," in the above quote from 1 John 5:18 in reference to Jesus, is a Greek verb in the aorist tense indicating a one-time past event. (2) This clearly refers to God's literal, creative miracle produced in Mary when holy spirit came upon her (when the power of the Most High overshadowed her) - as announced by Gabriel to Mary. "Precisely for that reason the baby to be fathered will be called holy and the Son of God." (Luke 1:35b - OGF, OMM Tr.) Jesus literally had his origin and was fathered by God in this miraculous way at the time of his conception in Mary.
Our graciously provided Christian identity as children of God, heirs of God, and fellow heirs with the Messiah is a major theme that is beautifully described throughout the whole New Testament. In light of our being identified with Jesus, the one who was fathered in such a unique way, he is the "first born" of a large family of brothers and sisters. Jesus, having been made like us as a flesh and blood human being who could deeply feel our weaknesses, having been severely tempted and having suffered tremendously, is not ashamed to call us his brothers and sisters! Such magnificent truths rightly leave us in awe at the overwhelming compassion being extended toward us! We are always welcome to boldly approach the throne of grace when we need help!
And now, children, abide in him, so that when he is revealed we may have boldness and not be put to shame before him at his royal appearing. If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been fathered by him. Look at the remarkable love the Father has given us – that we should be called God's children! That is indeed what we are.
(1 John 2:28 - 3:1a - KNT)
According to the explanation of the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:18-23, our "new birth" begins with our voluntary, repentant response to the gospel of the coming Kingdom of God which has been sown like seed. To be "good soil," we must hear and understand the "seed" (which is the message), and we must persist in that message to the end of "bearing fruit." As similarly seen above in 1 John 2:28, 29, we must "abide in him," doing "what is right." Within their contexts, all new covenant references to believers being fathered by God bear out the simple understanding of magnanimous, undeserved loving-kindness being poured out in juxtaposition with our ongoing obedience to the details of the message.
Within the growth of practical efforts to keep on obeying, pervasive forgiveness for shortcomings is always richly provided. On top of that, far-reaching help with any misunderstandings or weaknesses is a genuine reality that is constantly implied or stated in many relevant Scriptures.
In addition to a few verses previously mentioned, the following quotes, partial quotes, and allusions touch briefly on the vast panorama of this well-balanced, Scriptural theme. The dynamics of being fathered by God are integral to both our calling and our responsibility as His children.
For example, we are to imitate the perfect way God loves people, even when they are "unjust." Thus, when we love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, we will be "children of our Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:43-48). In another context which also displays God's unwavering goodness, the book of James reveals, "Of His own will He gave us birth through the message of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of His creatures." "...Accept with meekness the implanted message, which is able to save your lives." (James 1:18, 21b - KGV) The context explains that evil actions and motives (including a mindset of active anger) must be put away. Believers are solemnly urged to stay careful to act on the implanted message, instead of merely hearing it and being forgetful.
Associating the new birth with the "seed" message (along with the reality of the resurrection of Jesus and our future hope) is abundantly evident in First Peter. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus the Messiah! In His vast mercy He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah from among the dead." "Certainly, your new birth wasn't from perishable, but from imperishable seed, through the living and enduring message of God" (1 Peter 1:3, 23 - KGV). The whole context of these two "new birth" verses clarifies several facets of a necessary, proactive response. Believers must sincerely desire the word (the "imperishable" message), while being purified by obeying the truth, loving one another fervently, and putting away evil. All of this is practiced in light of what is accomplished by the Messiah's precious blood (not "perishable" things like gold and silver).
As many, however, as did accept him, to these he gave the right to become children of God - namely the ones believing in his Gospel revelation. These were born not from blood, nor from the desire of the flesh, nor from the desire of a male, but from God. (John 1:11, 12 - OGF, OMM Tr.)
Though misunderstood by Nicodemus, Jesus' conversation with him (in the third chapter of John) highlights the truth about the heavenly Father's will to engender children spiritually so that they may enter the future Kingdom of God. The unique wording "born from above" indicates the action of God to regenerate those who would repent in light of the message.
"Let me tell you the solemn truth," replied Jesus. "Unless someone has been born from above, they won't be able to see God's kingdom." "How can someone possibly be born," asked Nicodemus, "when they are old? You're not telling me they can go back a second time into the mother's womb and be born, are you?" "I'm telling you the solemn truth," replied Jesus. "Unless someone is born from water and spirit, they can't enter God's kingdom. Flesh is born from flesh, but spirit is born from spirit. Don't be surprised that I said to you, You must be born from above." (John 3:3-7 -KNT)
This same conversation in John, chapter 3, goes on to emphasize believing in Jesus' future sacrifice provided by God's love. "For God loved the world this way: He gave His uniquely fathered Son, so that everyone who puts their trust in him will not be destroyed, but have perfect life of the age to come" (John 3:16 - KGV). Also, this conversation points to the importance of responding truly to the light of the Messiah, instead of loving darkness and staying within the deeds of darkness.
Everyone who is fathered by God does not go on sinning, because God's offspring remains in him; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been fathered by God. (1 John 3:9 - KNT)
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God, and all who love are fathered by God and know God. (1 John 4:7 -KNT)
Everyone who believes that the Messiah is Jesus has been fathered by God. Everyone who loves the parent loves the child as well. That is how we know that we love the children of God, because we love God and do what He commands. This is what loving God means: it means keeping His commandments. His commandments, what's more, are no trouble, because everything that is fathered by God conquers the world. This is the victory that conquers the world: our faith. (1 John 5:1-4 - KNT)
Being "fathered by God," "born again," or "born from above" is a reality that entails much more of a response than the fleeting mental agreement to some ideas during a moment of time. Nevertheless, Christians really do share the life of the Messiah (being God's house) if they keep a firm, tight grip on the confidence and sense of triumph regarding the hope (Hebrews 3:6,14) all the way to the end! The unfathomably rich blessings of the new birth are vibrantly true!
The benefits of being fathered by God in the present time and in the future are lavishly poured out toward those who want to respond. God's victorious overcoming of the world, through His uniquely fathered Son, is a reality which we now enjoy by faith. This also means that we will be entering an incorruptible inheritance in the age to come. Our continuance in a lovingly obedient response is very do-able; it is not too heavy to bear! We can take on the Messiah's yoke, "easy to bear," in light of God and His Son having done all the real "heavy lifting" to secure our undiminished heritage. It is the heavenly Father's gracious pleasure to welcome His beloved children into the Kingdom of God! n
(1) Raymond C. Faircloth, God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit: It's No Mystery! (2016), 195.
(2) Ibid., 195.