There are obviously reasons, good or bad, why the recognition occurs at different times for different people. I will purposely use the term “recognition” here, as celebration may not necessarily pertain to everyone everywhere. The truth is that not every person considers the word “father” as a positive term. Unfortunately, some fathers (literally) have given the term a bad rap. This is none other than tragic. It always has been and always will be.
Although I did not have my earthly father in this life nearly as long as I would have liked, he was a good father, and I tend to think “good thoughts” when I hear the term father referred to. This is not the case for too many people I know. In their case, “good thoughts” are not necessarily connected to “father”.
For those familiar with the Bible and scripture in general, it should be familiar that God is referred to as Father countless times, both in the Old and New Testaments! It is important to see how this term is used in its broad variety, and to see how and under what circumstances it was introduced. For example, in the Hebrew writings, the OT among many, God is referred to as Father (‘ab – pronounced ahv) in Psalm 89:26. Interestingly enough, this word is listed FIRST (H1) in the Strong’s concordance; the Hebrew lexicon of the scriptures, and prior to every other word. Perhaps we can take a cue from that? Let's continue.
Even the Old Testament prophet acknowledges that there is something about God which describes Him to be more than some super divine being who simply “lords it over us”. He is certainly LORD, but also consider here what Isaiah has to say:
Isaiah 63:16 Doubtless You are our Father, though Abraham was ignorant of us, and Israel does not acknowledge us. You, O LORD, are our Father; our Redeemer from Everlasting is Your name.
Isaiah 64:8 But now, O LORD, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand. (NKJV)
Taking a hint from the recognition of Father’s Day in Germany, which evidently falls on Ascension Day, we can perhaps think about not only what happened, but what was said that day. In Jesus’ departing words to his disciples just before he ascended to heaven, he spoke the words of what we know now as the Great Commission. We know it so well perhaps that we miss the significance of the fact that not only are we to make disciples, but we also are to baptize believers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. That’s right… the Father. I notice here that name is in the singular tense rather than plural?
To be sure, there are a wide variety of names given to God as well as to Christ and the Holy Spirit. At times those names are synonymous with all members of the Trinity. For example the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ are synonymous terms, both in reference to the Holy Spirit. The term “I Am” referred specifically to God in the Old Testament, in Exodus 3:14, and ultimately to Jesus in the New Testament in John 8:58. This should not cause us alarm. After all, we serve ONE God, not three. (see Deuteronomy 6:4)
What is noteworthy though is to consider that in the time of Jesus, and to the Jews in particular, that the name of God was extremely sacred. This is a good thing – the Name of God should be sacred to us also! Jesus, being a Jew Himself, would certainly have known this. For example, the name Yahweh originating from the tetragrammaton “YHWH” came into being because the Israelites thought that the name of God was too sacred even to pronounce or utter. Yahweh is simply the sound (pronunciation) of how the tetragrammaton (that referred to God) sounds when spoken. However, in this most crucial moment of history and in Christianity, when Jesus is about to exit the earth’s scene for a considerable (and yet undetermined) length of time, he chooses to use another term to announce the Great Commission. Here he shies away from "the sacred" as it were. Not I Am, nor Jehovah, nor Yahweh, nor any other “name” given to God in the scriptures - by Himself or anyone else. Rather, it was the term Father he used instead.
Close examination reveals that Father is the term that Jesus consistently used to refer to God! In fact, he used it more than any other term, both to others he taught and to God the Father directly. In his personal relationship with God, Jesus repeatedly calls him Father. Should this not again reveal its importance?
And if that were not enough, consider how most of the letters to the churches reveal the proper place of the Father in our lives. Specifically, hear the words of these scriptures written by Paul the apostle:
Romans 1:7 To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I Corinthians 1:3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (II Cor. 1:2)
Galatians 1:3 Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ…
Ephesians 1:2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Phil./Col. 1:2)
I Thessalonians 1:1 To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I Thess. 3:11 Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you.
II Thess 1:1-2 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I Timothy 1:2 To Timothy, a true son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.
II Timothy 1:2 To Timothy, a beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
Titus 1:4 To Titus, a true son in our common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior.
Philemon 1:3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
No one would argue that there is clearly a pattern here. If we were just to consider Paul’s letters, then we might conclude that this is simply a way that he personally greeted the saints in writing. However, look also at what other apostles tend to write:
I Peter 1:2-3 To the …. elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, ...
II Peter 1:17 For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
I John 1:2-3 ... the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.
I John 3:1 Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.
I John 5:7 For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one.
II John 1:3 Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.
Jude 1:1 Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, To those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ:
This great and awesome privilege we have as believers is so limitless. But perhaps one of the lessons from this examination we have taken together is this - we are not just believers. For us to understand that the basic reason that the term “father” comes into play in all of life is a result of children, this brings special significance to the fact that we are to think of ourselves as children of God, as stated in I John 3:1. It may sound rudimentary and ridiculous, but if I understand the term correctly, no one qualifies as a father unless they have children. It therefore stands to reason that we are also to think about God, call on God, proclaim God, and celebrate God, as our father. The Spirit of adoption, which we are so privileged and honored to have dwell in us as children of God, constantly announces this within in celebration form:
“Abba, Father” The Spirit Himself (the Holy Spirit) bears witness with our spirit that we are (not just believers, not just Christians, nor even just disciples, but...) children of God. (Romans 8:15-16)
In addition to all the truth of scripture we have reviewed already, and whether your earthly father (biological or otherwise) has filled the role as a father to your satisfaction and expectation or not, this scripture (speaking of God) makes this great promise to us: He is a father to the fatherless. (Psalm 68:5)
Let us pause to celebrate again: Our Father in heaven, (most) Hallowed be Your name. (Matthew 6:9)