Calvary Road Baptist Church


Good morning, to you here today who are fathers, or who will someday become fathers. Today I will bring to you a message from God’s Word that I have titled “The Essence Of Fatherhood.”

Being a father is quite different from being a mother, for a number of apparent and not so obvious reasons: Not only has God assigned a profoundly different spiritual role in the family unit for fathers and mothers, but also the biological role of fathers is obviously completely different from mothers. From the moment of conception, the gestation period for human beings is among the longest of any living creature. When you add to that the amount of time needed for a newborn to mature to some measure of self-sufficiency, considerably more than a decade is required. Thus, parenting, including the role of a father, is crucial to the raising up of our young, both girls and boys. Even among the most primitive and pagan cultures it is obvious that though men’s and women’s roles in the lives of newborns and children are very different, they are both extremely important. One of the great tragedies of our modern age is the damage done to the family unit by social engineering and moral laxity that tends to shield from our eyes the impact on children that mothers and fathers have by their involvement and noninvolvement in their youngster’s lives.

Since newborns and little children are far more obviously tied to their mothers by their birth, by their early on nursing, and by their need for almost constant attention, the crucial role of fathers in their children’s lives is not so apparent at first glance. As well, the behavior of many fathers suggests that they view their role as a father as being less important than their job (if they even have a job), or their hobbies. Many a man would rather play instead of parent the youngster he sired. However, even a cursory reading of the Bible shows that the First Person of the Trinity assigned to Himself the designation of Father to His Son, Jesus Christ, as well as to His spiritual offspring. This is no coincidence. There is a reason why the First Person is God the Father and why the adult male head of household in God’s economy for mankind is the father of his children.

It is not surprising that pagan cultures and apostate branches of Christianity have so divided the tasks of parenting that too many men and feminist women have left for fathers little besides financial support in the way of duty and obligation, while heaping on their mates the onerous tasks of toiling without relief around the household and dealing with the little ones as if they were the only parent a child needs, or sending them off to daycare to grow without parenting. However, such is not God’s ideal. No matter how popular may be the heathen concept of fatherhood being little more than stud service in the making of babies, without any challenging responsibilities related to the upbringing of children, the Word of God paints a completely different picture of fatherhood.

Rather than attempting to analyze a few passages related to fatherhood this morning, allow me to bring a message which is a distillation of my thirty-five years as a Christian, of my thirty years in the Gospel ministry, my almost twenty-two years as a father, and the understanding of the ministry of fatherhood obtained over the course of those years studying the Bible. Today, a message that I think will be helpful to boys and men who plan to take fatherhood seriously, and to you dads who are here today who will benefit from the clarity I trust this message will provide about the essence of fatherhood.

No boy is born with an understanding of the proper role of a father in any child’s life. Even if a lad grows up with a marvelous dad, it is not a good idea to set your dad up as the ideal for you to emulate. This is because the best of dads are men with feet of clay. To know what kind of man you must be to be a good dad, which you might think every guy who loves his wife and children should want to be, please do not raise your children according to Dr. Spock, who once admitted that not even he was so foolish as to raise his kids the way he advised others in the 1950s.[1]

The way a boy or young man can become the best father he can be is to emulate his dad up to a point, so long as his dad is a consistent Christian man, and then to look past his own father to the guidelines for fatherhood found in the Word of God. It is no disloyalty to even the best and most spiritual of fathers for a boy to want to be a better dad than his own dad is. Lousy dads have no concern for what kind of fathers their boys will become, while devout men certainly want their sons to be better dads than they have by God’s grace been.

Can we keep it very simple and sharply focused, this morning? Being a father is one of the most marvelous experiences a man can ever know, but he has to approach the matter properly. Three pegs for you to hang your thoughts on concerning the essence of fatherhood:


First, There Is LIFE


Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary has a huge entry for the word father, indicating that a father is one who begets a child, who creates, invents, makes, originates, or composes anything; the author, former, or contriver; a founder, director, or instructor. Homer is the father of epic poetry; Gutenberg is the father of printing; the Pilgrim Fathers; George Washington is the father of his country; Satan is the father of lies; Hippocrates is the father of medicine; the Mississippi River is properly translated to mean the father of rivers.[2]

Interestingly, though there is little difference between our understandings of father insofar as the term is generally used in popular culture and the Word of God, you will find a great disparity when it comes to the application of the word to a great many men’s practice.

Three aspects of the relationship of fatherhood to life:

First, life is given. A father gives life to his child. Consider God the Father and life. In John 5.26, Jesus told His disciples, “The Father hath life in himself.” In First John 1.2, the Apostle made a connection in his reader’s minds when he wrote, “eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us.” God the Father by means of the Word of God and the Spirit of God gives spiritual life. James 1.18: “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth.” Job 33.4 reads, “The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.” John 6.63, Jesus said, “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing.” In addition, in Revelation 11.11, we read “the Spirit of life from God.” In similar fashion, on the physical plane of existence, the father imparts life in union with a child’s mother. God the Father, man as father of a child. A father gives life.

Second, life is preserved and protected. A father preserves and protects his child’s life. Do I need to show you from God’s Word where God assumes responsibility to preserve and protect the life He imparts? To be sure, sin causes great tragedy and heartache as it intrudes into God’s created order, though God still shows great mercy in providing mankind with all that is needed to preserve and protect life, when havoc is not caused by warfare and political disruption of the provision of food to those who need it. Is it not also recognized that every dad is charged with the responsibility to provide for his own, to both preserve the lives of his children, and to protect them from whatever harm it is within his power to prevent? What kind of father does not do what he can to preserve the life of his child? What kind of father does not hold himself accountable to protect his children from harm however he possibly can?

Third, life is enriched. A father enriches his child’s life. God the Father is merciful and full of bounty. He provides for mankind far more than the minimum that is necessary for life and health. He originally placed mankind in a beautiful garden. Moreover, even when man fell into sin, the world we live in was stocked with abundance and provision for us to enjoy. As well, what provisions exist for the benefit of the child of God on top of what everyone else enjoys? Is there not a parallel with God the Father’s plan for every dad? Of course, there is. In Luke 11.11, Jesus said, “If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?” What kind of dad will not seek to enrich the lives of his children? Only those wicked and debased men who are without natural affection, Romans 1.31, who buy toys for themselves while their children do without, and who spend money for recreation while their kids do without food. Fatherhood is associated with life, and life is given, then preserved and protected, and finally enriched. God deliver us from men who make babies without discharging the additional paternal responsibilities associated with bringing a child into the world.


Next, There Is LOVE


It is a dead horse that I will beat soundly so long as there is breath within me, but love is not a feeling. It is a decision. God could hardly be expected to have wonderful feelings toward a race of beings whose righteousness was to Him as filthy rags, Isaiah 64.6, and whose defilement is a stench in His nostrils. Even so, He loves us so much He sent His Son to die in our stead, so we might be cleansed in Christ’s precious blood from our sins. Why so? He loves us because He chose to love us.

Therefore, since love is a choice that is made, and since God has commanded us to demonstrate our love, especially to our own, let me mention but three characteristics of a father’s love for his child:

First, when a father loves there will be compassion. Just because love is so much more noble and lofty a matter than mere emotion does not mean warm feelings and strong emotions do not accompany love. It is just that warm feelings and strong emotions also accompany lust, though lust is nothing like love. Lust, and the warm feelings and strong emotions that accompany lust, is always on the take. Take, take, take, is all lust can do, because it is so selfish. Me, my, and I are the focus of lust. Not so with love. With love, the focus is on the one you love. Close companion of love, and rising up in the bosom of the one who loves, is compassion. Oh, dad, how can you not look at that tiny baby in your arms and not feel such compassion for your helpless child? As well, no matter how frustrated or upset you are with your son or daughter as they advance in years, do you not well remember the heart full of compassion for that little baby? It was compassion that moved the Savior to feed the multitudes, to heal the sick, to give sight to the blind, to cleanse the lepers, and to cast the demons out of the possessed man.[3] In like manner, both Peter and Jude admonish their readers to show compassion.[4] How can a child expect less from his dad? Oh, dad, your youngster needs for you to be compassionate enough to care, to be compassionate enough to be a real father, to be compassionate enough to work the hard job and make the tough choices that a man needs to make to meet the spiritual, emotional, and material needs of his child.

Next, when a father loves there will be correction. You know, some dads get frustrated as a result of their own failings and end up taking it out on their children. They feel inadequate for one reason or another and go on the warpath by yelling at the kids, by making unreasonable demands, and spanking them inappropriately. That is not love at all, but being brutish. It is the mentality of a bully to take frustrations out on someone who is incapable of responding to injustice. This is not to say, however, that a truly loving father will not correct his children. On the contrary. Turn to Hebrews 12.5 and read along with me about the correction, about the chastisement, by a father:


5      And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:

6      For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

7      If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?

8      But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

9      Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?

10     For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.

11     Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.


It is quite obvious from verse 6, is it not, that love motivates a father to chasten a child, and that it is the neglectful father, the unloving father, who withholds needed correction from a child?

Then, with a loving father, there will be sacrifice. I remember a fellow in Brawley who always had brand new softball equipment, new cleats, new glove, new cap, while his daughters dressed in rags, had lice in their hair, untreated sores, and bare feet when the weather dictated shoes be worn. By his way of thinking, his children should sacrifice for him instead of him sacrificing for his children. That guy’s behavior infuriated me. Excuse me, but God the Father showed the sacrificial nature of love by giving His only begotten Son to die on the cross for our sakes. The Lord Jesus Christ showed the sacrificial nature of love by submitting to the Father’s will. Ephesians 5.28 shows us that Paul’s concept of a husband’s love was to sacrifice in the same way for his beloved wife. Why cannot fathers love their little girls in this way? What is wrong with a dad sacrificing a little bit to go to work so his little sweetie can be with her mommy instead of having to go to daycare? Why cannot dad love his girl enough to sit in the living room when he would rather be doing something else, but knows his daughter needs the influence of her dad every day? Why don’t dads realize that family time is time spent at church? It is such a small sacrifice to make to spend an hour on a Sunday evening watching your son’s reaction to the preaching of God’s Word, so you will know how to lead him over the course of the next week. Love’s sacrifice is not your kids suffering to make you happy, dad, but you suffering a bit to see your children raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.


Finally, There Is LEADERSHIP


Obviously, this is not an exhaustive message dealing the essence of fatherhood, but a treatment of the high points. That said, some dads think that life and love is all there is to being a great dad. I will grant that life and love can make for a very good dad, but absent spiritual leadership, a man simply cannot truly succeed as a father.

A study was done decades ago in which parents wrote down but did not tell their infant children what goals and aspirations they wanted for their youngsters. Several decades later, it was revealed that most of the children had achieved their parents’ goals for them without ever having been told what those goals were.

My point? What are you after, dad? Is your goal just to get your girl out of high school without getting pregnant, or getting your son out of high school without him getting his girl friend pregnant? I’m sorry, but that is not enough. As well, if you think setting goals for your kids is none of your business, you are sadly mistaken and do not know what it is to be a dad. First Thessalonians 2.12 is very clear in showing that your goal as a father is for each of your children to walk worthy of God. God, Himself, has assigned that goal to you when He made you a dad.

Three key features to you achieving the goal God has assigned to you as a dad that your child walk worthy of God:

First, to honor you and their mother. This is the first command God gave dealing with a person’s behavior toward another person. This is the building block for society. In addition, since your child is a sinner, he or she will not honor you voluntarily. Among the very first things you must deal with your baby about is honoring you and his mother by obeying you both. Sadly, many parents neglect this important point. However, you must require it of your child, even if chastisement is needed to get it. You do not need your child’s friendship, but you have to have your youngster’s respect. When your child respects you, that child will honor you.

Next, attend to your child’s conversion. You cannot make your child become a Christian. You should not try to make your child become a Christian. However, there are certain things you must do as a father. Dad, you must live a consistent Christian life in front of your children. You must worship and serve God in all sincerity, showing your youngster that God is worthy or your worship, adoration, and praise. As well, while your child lives in your home, you would be well advised to not only insist that your child attend every church service, but that he actually listens to the sermons and be able to recount them to you after church. Can you make your child become a Christian? No, and you should not try. However, it is appropriate to make your child honor you by attending the services in return for living in your home, as well as paying attention. If your child does not reject the truth, God will use His Word to deal with your youngster at some point in his life. If your youngster is able to attend church and remains unaffected by the truth, then your youngster may not be elect, and will certainly go to Hell when he dies. However, how can you love your child, how can you have compassion for him, and not fervently pray for his conversion to Christ? How can you treat the condition of his soul nonchalantly if you really love him and want God’s best for him?

Finally, attend to your child’s consecration. In some churches, folks are all too happy to see their kids as worldly as they can be, so long as they go forward in an invitation occasionally and cry tears of repentance. In time, they hope their youngster decides at church camp to go to Bible college, after which most parents don’t much care what happens, since they think they did all they could. If the kid turns out bad, it is his own fault. I am sorry, but the Bible does not picture that approach to being a father at all. The Bible teaches that children can come to Christ and be saved, and that every Christian grows in grace over time and eventually matures into a fruit-bearing believer. Thus, fathers should not only pray and work to bring about their child’s conversion by appropriate means, they should also involve themselves in encouraging their children to go on for the Lord. There is a reason God’s Word makes mention of the high priest Eli’s failure to restrain his grown sons, in First Samuel 3.13, and for that reason was judged by God. It is because while a father’s influence and authority over his adult children is greatly diminished because of their age and autonomy, there is never a time when God does not want a father to seek to influence his children for God.


As we have seen, being a father is rather simple and straightforward in its essence. God uses you to bring life into this world, and He then directs you to love and to lead that child in the way he should go. Of course, there is a variety of details associated with being a father, but in the main there you have it. In addition, while children should honor and obey their dads just for being dads, they are not usually suspected by their children of being hypocrites if they follow the example set by the Apostle Paul, who said, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.”[5]

Along the way you will certainly foul up from time to time. My daughter could probably write a book about the times I have had to ask her forgiveness for letting her down, for being a disappointment, and for losing sight from time to time of what God wants me to be and to do. However, we are dealing with the essence of being a father, not the details. In addition, the essence is, God used you to give life and to be responsible for preserving, protecting, and enriching that life. The motive behind it all is your love for your child, filling you with compassion, prompting you to provide correction, and giving you the privilege of sacrificing for them.

What are you motivated by instructed love to do? To lead them. Make them honor you. Do what you can to gently and not forcibly guide them to Christ. After that, seek to influence them to live consecrated lives of service to God.

Sometimes children are overcome by the world into thinking you should abandon your God-ordained role of being a father, and lower yourself to being your child’s older friend. Don’t sell out for that, dad. Be a father. There is no greater delight in the world than loving and raising your child.

[1] Dr. Benjamin Spock wrote “Baby and Child Care,” first released in 1947.

[2] Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 667.

[3] Matthew 9.36; 14.14; 20.34; Mark 1.41; 5.19

[4] 1 Peter 3.8; Jude 22

[5] 1 Corinthians 11.1

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