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SPIRITUAL FATHERHOOD A BIBLICAL CONCEPT


PHILLIP KUNDENI CHIDAVAENZI


The desire to address the issue of spiritual fatherhood flickered in my heart after reading a newspaper article in which one journalist in Harare — indisputably ignorant about spiritual matters and simple biblical knowledge — questioned why a Christian should have a spiritual father other than God.

Perhaps just to poke them, good-humouredly of course before I address their question, I can as well ask them why they have another (biological) father when God is their Father. To start with, I will refer to something very revealing that the Apostle Paul said in his first letter to the church that he had established at Corinth.

Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.
I COR. 4:15, NKJV

Paul was not the biological father to the believers at Corinth, but a spiritual father because he said he became one “through the gospel”. Neither did he say God was their spiritual father. However, it is important to understand that spiritual fatherhood does not eliminate the position and role of God in the believer’s life.

As a Christian, there is no trace of doubt whatsoever that I am a child of God. I have my biological parents, too. But I also have a spiritual father in my pastor. Yes, I listen to sermons from different men of God. I can consider them my teachers. But there are not my spiritual fathers. As a believer you cannot operate as a lose cannon or a free agent. There must be someone to whom you report. It is a matter of accountability in the things of the spirit in as far as they relate to your life.

Paul did not have biological children because he was never married. But a study of his writings reveals beyond doubt that he had several spiritual sons. These included Timothy, Onesimus and Titus (I Tim. 1:2, Phil. 1:10 and Titus 1:4).

Spiritual fathers are important because they stretch us. They challenge us to be the best that we can be and we have to account for the decisions we make and the actions we take. This is a water-tight system that ensures we do the right thing.

In his letter to Philemon, an early wealthy Christian in Colosse, Paul appealed to him to be kind to his servant, Onesimus, who had become the apostle’s spiritual son.    

I appeal to you to show kindness to my child, Onesimus. I became his father in the faith while here in prison.  Onesimus hasn’t been of much use to you in the past, but now he is very useful to both of us.
PHILEMON 1:10-11, NLT.

Paul further explains that since becoming his spiritual son, Onesimus would now become more useful to his master. This implies that as his spiritual father, there were some things Paul was some spiritual wealth Paul would deposit in his new son which would make him effective and more diligent in serving his master. In this light, spiritual fathers have a value-adding role to play in the lives and ministries of their spiritual sons.


A spiritual father also looks out for his sons: he ensures their safety, sees to it that all is well with them and defuses whatever landmines may be laid in their paths. As your spiritual father looks out for us, it is his duty to alert you of any impending danger. This is shown further down as Paul writes to Philemon:


If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it. And I won’t mention that owe me your very soul!
PHILEMON 1:18-19, NLT.

Not every believer in a church, however, is a son. The term son, as is often used in scripture, is derived from the Greek term huios, which means “a mature son”. These are those believers who have matured in the things of the spirit such that they can be entrusted with responsibilities and, in many ways, exude the qualities of their spiritual father.

Because such sons, like Timothy, have proven themselves and learnt precious lessons from their father, they are able to follow instructions to the letter. Biological age ceases to be a factor. Timothy was a young man but was able to deal with issues in the church and fulfill monumental obligations. Paul admits as much:

The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.
TITUS 1:5, NKJV

A spiritual father gives instructions which are meant to help the son while spiritual sons learn from their experienced and mature fathers. The father’s life must be an open book to the son. This will allow the spiritual son to learn beyond what the father says. There must be an impartation. This is the kind of relationship that existed between Paul and his spiritual sons. He showed the way and allowed the young men to follow in his steps.

You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferingswhat kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them…
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it
II TIM. 3: 10-11, 14 (NKJV)

One of the ways in which God provides leadership in His kingdom is through fathers. A father exhorts and comforts and implores and sometimes chastens when necessary. A father is always around through thick and thin. A father does not forsake you when you fail or leave you when disagreements arise. A father not only goes with you into battle, he leads the way. Spiritual fathering is the major leadership method for building the body of Christ.

22 comments:

  1. So this means I need to have a direct relationship with my spiritual father and not follow a minister on T.V who knows me not as a son?

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  2. Legitimate ministry is based upon the witness of the fathers and identification of the sons. Those who heed to God’s voice will bear a witness with their spirits and so fathers will turn to sons and sons to fathers when the sound of his voice is heard.
    A spiritual father is not necessarily the one who births you into the kingdom, he is the one who received you in his house, gives you a name and makes you his son. Son in the bible refers to both males and females.

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  3. Sons know what they ought to do because they were given the spirit of sonship. They don't (necessarily) follow men, but they follow Jesus Christ alone!

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  4. I think here Paul was just using (father) as a metaphor but the way it is being taken nowadays is very oppressive.I think this spiritual father issue should only be exercised before a person himself has made a decision to accept Jesus. Once that is done we should just call these people teachers. 'Spiritual father' is very subjective and we have seen how people hav been abused and intimidated in this scenario. Once you are born again you should have a teacher. Having a teacher means sometimes you don't have to agree with the teacher’s ideas. The teacher only helps you to learn and discover new knowledge and ideas. But wen you say ‘father’ a father has all the rights over his son or daughter: you choose clothes, food, music and houses for them because they don't know what they are doing. So does it mean then that we should be treated like this. No I don't think so. Early disciples did not even treat Jesus as their father and Jesus himself teaches his disciples that they should not address anybody as father because they have only one father in heaven. Never mind what Paul said: that was his opinion but we can't let Paul’s opinions override wat Jesus said. This father thing means I have to do as you say. It's very restrictive and some of these fathers are far away from the word of God.I don't agree with you. I prefer teacher.

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  5. My concern is about these young so called prophets who started their churches yesterday. They are the ones who want to be called fathers yet their churches are full of Christians who were converted,raised and brought to maturity by other pastors whom they (themselves) don't want to call father. Now they follow this so called prophet they call father. My question is what input has this man put in your life to deserve the status of a father?

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  6. Christianity has become a jungle where people can get lost or are misled so easily. The reason for this is because we do not read the scriptures to know or learn about God. When it comes to scriptures, it is given on who wants to know basis. At one point Jesus warns us strongly to be alert so that we do not fall into deception. Looking at Paul’s conduct towards his congregations, it does not make him what they now call spiritual fathers. Paul toiled to help those in need, he never took any donations from his followers but rather by his life demonstrated how leaders should live. Nowhere in the scriptures is anyone referred to as a spiritual father. God sees us as equals. The term spiritual father is used by people who want to control others by portraying themselves to be 'Hollister' than others. Anything that takes away credit from Jesus is evil. The focus must be on Jesus ALONE and no one else.

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  7. ...On "Spiritual Fatherhood" you quoted Paul as saying he had become father or something close to that. I also read somewhere in the Bible by Paul himself again where he said something like, "I know and I am perfectly sure from the 'authority of Christ Jesus himself' that no food in itself is bad to eat." I would say, then, that Paul was a commentator enunciating what Jesus Christ had said. In all his preaching, he was saying nothing original. He was passing on the message. Therefore in cases of doubt, who should we quote for the clarity of an issue? Paul or Jesus Christ? Because Jesus categorically said something like, "No one shall call you father, because there is only one Father, who is God." He himself never put himself as a father to His disciples. He referred to them as his friends, brothers and slaves. While I agree that as a form of respect, and true we will really be feeling that respect, we have a tendency of calling someone "father" in a spiritual sense, but I would like to have some little knowledge of how that person being referred to as "spiritual father" feels about the title that he gets called by. Does he feel comfortable? I insist that Jesus Christ CATEGORICALLY said nobody is to be called father. While I am a bit uneasy discussing this issue, lest I am going astray, I would need you to enlighten me a bit more on this and I want to learn. I was also raised a Catholic, and I later said NO and I set out to find the truth in the Bible itself and by this note to you I am still seeking. In one of his many prayers, Jesus said something like, "For these people to glorify you, they need to take in more knowledge about you" It is refreshing to always be reading your pages.

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  8. Talent Rapanganwa13 November 2012 at 10:22

    Your article on spiritual fatherhood was awesome. You fully revealed the scriptures. Thanks for the insight.

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  9. A lot of people who question this princple are actualy afraid of submission. It the act of accountability that offends many and of a truth we can not run away from it. Many have spoken of the responsability of a father but few have said a word of a son's responsibility. God has given us both responsibilities and rights. our rights are not more imporatant than our responsibilities. Lets be balanced and practidse both

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  10. a spirtual father gives you covering, spiritual DNA and promotes your rank in the spiritual world. a man who have not been fathered can not be a father. fathered gives birth to sons, kings and priests. your father also give you inheritance, that's why we claim the heritance of Abraham and we call him father. Why deny fathers now?

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    1. "a spirtual father gives you covering, spiritual DNA and promotes your rank in the spiritual world". According to Jesus Christ when he was addressing His disciples just before He went up to heaven, what you mentioned there is the role of the Holy Spirit, not a man.

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  11. I have been curious about this issue the past couple of hours, and in doing some searching on the net i came across this verse in Matthew: The amplified bible says in Matthew 23 v 9 "And do not call anyone [in the church] on earth father, for you have one Father, Who is in heaven" The Living translation says " And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your spiritual Father" I believe Christ laid it out square here, but I am open to discussion. I would love to know more.

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  12. In response to your question, may I kindly refer you to http://phillchida.blogspot.com/2012/11/revisiting-spiritual-fatherhood.html

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  13. Read Matthew 23:9.

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    1. In response, may I kindly refer you to http://phillchida.blogspot.com/2012/11/revisiting-spiritual-fatherhood.html

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  14. it seems this phenomina of spiritual fathers is more prominent in africa. Paul said his children must imitate him because He imitated Jesus, which is mostly not the case these days. Paul never did anything withoutthe leadingof the Holy Spirit, which again is not often so these days. One needs to have a mentor, but one must make sure that mentor is lead by the Holy Spirit at all times. This Spiritual Father concept also sets people up to be manipulated and played with. It sets people to be more depended on "spiritual fathers" than they are on God. Id rather have a mentor. I am a victim of 7 years of abuse because of this spiritual father thing. These spiritual fathers use these position to play with people. They stand on pulpits and critises other man of God. Spiritual Father for you,thats your business, but please dont try manipulate the scripture by wanting others to have spiritual fathers. my advise to every one, fix your relationship with God, get closer to him. Fellowship with Him and test everthing.

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  15. Whats your response to Matthews 23 Call no man your father

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    1. Highlight and click open this link for my full response? http://phillchida.blogspot.com/2012/11/revisiting-spiritual-fatherhood.html

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  16. Please help. If one pastor preach to me the Gospel and I got saved and later I relocate to another area where I started to submit to another pastor until now. Who is my spiritual father between the two? the one who share the gospel with me so I get saved or the one I am currently learning/submitting to?

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  17. The reason Jesus said do not call anybody Father is because of the abuse that was prevalent then. The "Do as I say not as I do mentality." These people liked to have preeminence, sit in noble places and be treated like kings. We see this a lot today. It is pride. Again Paul said "Father" not "Spiritual Father" so where does Spiritual come from. I would say the person who preached to you is the one you could may be address as your Father because he begot you. In that case every christian who brings someone to Christ is a Father to that one he/she brought. Those who teach you fall under the many teachers Paul is talking about. We are to be sober in spirit or be consumed by the deception that is leading many away from Christ. Our faith in Christ should not be governed by peoples ideas but by the word of God. Paul said if anyone preaches the gospel other than the one you have received let them be condemned to hell (Galatians 1:8-9).
    I believe Paul did not even force people to call him that title. So one should not feel compelled to call anybody that. But you could acknowledge the fact that the brought you to the Christ.

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  18. Ths man is the type who will preach tithing like it is a new testament teaching. he will quote part scriptures to buttress his argument. Spiritual fatherhood is being abused to harass people mentally and spiritually. I tend to go for Jesus teaching on that than these so-called spiriual fathers who also have spiritual fathers ending up you having a grandpa and and a great grandpa.

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  19. I would not say there is anything wrong with spiritual fathers but the way they are being treated. Mosttimes because of being used of God, we tend to look up to them rather than looking up to Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith. They spiritual fathers in like manner feel so important calling people their sons and daughters such that they want to take the place of God. It should never be so. May God open our spiritual eyes. We need to discern the spirit in which fatherhood is used.Men of God please - don't try and take the place of God . You know He is a Jealous God.

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