"I am not writing this to shame you, but to warn you, as my dear children. 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. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church." 1 Corinthians 4:14-17
Made in God's image
Man was originally made in the image of God, thus revealing the nature and character of God. Through the Fall, the revelation of the image of God in man became distorted. Christ therefore came as the revelation of the Father to restore man to his original purpose of revealing the nature and character of God. Those who are in Christ have the power to reveal the very nature of God (see Ephesians 4:24; 5:1; 2 Peter 1:3,4; 1 John 2:6).
God's image distorted
Satan's purpose is to distort the image of God. Over the ages, the enemy has sought to destroy the image of God: as Creator with the theory of evolution; as loving and just King with corrupted and perverted authoritarian leaders and as Father of all by destroying families as men abandon their responsibility as fathers.
In Christ, Paul became a father through the gospel. In reconciling people to the Father through the gospel of righteousness in Christ, Paul not only helped new converts to be properly birthed into the Kingdom but he also took responsibility as a spiritual father for the maturation of these "dear children" in Christ. Those who give birth to spiritual children must also continue the responsibility of being a spiritual parent in raising their children properly.
In Ephesians 3:14, Paul prays, "For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth derives its name."
Fatherhood derives its name (its nature and character) from God the Father. Abba Father is Father of all and He is our example of true fatherhood. God is restoring His image as Father in man as believers understand their purpose and responsibility of being God's instruments in birthing and raising spiritual children.
Paul was a spiritual father who revealed the nature and character of true fatherhood.
- Paul loved those who were converted through the gospel he preached. They were his dear children.
- Paul spoke the truth in love to warn them and help them. He was not afraid to correct his children.
- Paul identified himself as the church's spiritual father - he understood his responsibility toward his children.
- Paul lived by example. He urged the church to imitate him as he imitated the Lord (1 Cor 11:1).
- Paul raised fathers like him. He sent Timothy as his representative to remind the church of Paul's way of life and teaching that they were to imitate and obey.
I believe every believer is called to share the gospel with the lost in order to reconcile them to the Father. However, our responsibility does not end once we have led someone to the Lord. Through the gospel we become spiritual parents whose responsibility is to help new born believers to maturity. We may not be able raise them personally but it is every believer's responsibility as a spiritual parent to ensure that the new born child of God has a spiritual parent. It is irresponsible to abandon the new born child of God and leave him/her to fend for him/herself! They become spiritual orphans, abandoned by their spiritual parents.
Be a spiritual parent
As believers, our goal must be to reveal the Father and to reconcile people to the Father as we take up our responsibility as spiritual parents to those we lead to the Lord through the gospel. True fatherhood must be restored in the Church if we are to reveal the Father and raise believers to maturity.