Paul as a Father

By Justin Johnson

Paul was a father: a good one.

Good fathers know that raising children is more than passing along instruction and knowledge. A good father takes responsibility to exhort, comfort, and charge their children to walk worthy of God.

“As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, that ye would walk worthy of God…”- 1 Thess 2:11-12

The proof is in the pudding.

A Father’s Exhortation

It is doubtful we would have any of Paul’s epistles if it were not for his heart as a father.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul is not merely teaching, but preaching with desire to produce conviction and stablishment in these unequipped saints (Rom 12:1-2, Rom 14:5, Rom 15:23).

“For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established;” – Rom 1:11

As much as is in them, fathers preach the truth unashamedly (Rom 1:15-16).

While he had already preached the gospel to them, Paul does not remain silent when the Corinthians were behaving shamfully. He warns them of their error.

“…as my beloved sons I warn you. For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.” – 1 Cor 4:14-15

While others could have simply counted the Corinthians as miscreants unable to be reformed, Paul takes the responsibility of a father to rebuke and exhort them to good behavior in two of his longest letters.

“What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?” – 1 Cor 4:21

A Father’s Comfort

The Colossians were facing opposition about their doctrine and their lack of participation in religious rituals.

Instead of telling them to avoid confrontation and division, Paul writes to comfort them in doing the right thing.

“That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding…” – Col 2:2

By exposing the errors in false teaching, and setting their affections on things above, Paul gives strength to resist wrong doctrine.

“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” – Col 2:8

“Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:…” – Col 2:16

When your children start to face opposition and trouble, a good father does not raise cowards that avoid confrontation. A good father comforts and encourages to stand fast.

It is a comfort to know that there are others who have gone before us, and faced the same afflictions. Fathers have traveled the road, and know things that children may not.

“…we glory in tribulations also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope:” – Rom 5:3-4

They have a unique opportunity not only to tell us the right way, but to show it to us from their past experience.

“…for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content… I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” – Phil 4:11-13

A Father’s Charge

It requires boldness to charge someone with a responsibility, especially when you know there will be trouble. Paul was jailed for preaching the mystery of the gospel. He kept going.

“And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,” – Eph 6:19

Instead of telling Timothy to compromise the truth to avoid personal affliction and earn personal gain, Paul charges him to partake of the afflictions of teaching the truth:

“Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;” – 2 Tim 1:8

There is nothing more important than the charge of Lord Jesus Christ to teach the gospel. Paul knew this and did not fail to charge Timothy to do it.

“I charge thee… Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” – 2 Tim 4:1-2

Timothy knew the doctrine, he knew how to rightly divide, he knew the opposition, but he needed a father’s motivating charge to do the work (2 Tim 4:5), and to teach no other doctrine (1 Tim 1:3).

“This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare; Holding faith, and a good conscience;…” – 1 Tim 1:18-19

A Fatherless Society

There are different forms of writing in the Bible. The law is a list of rules and regulations. The psalms are doctrine in the form of songs and poetic prose. The gospels are historical narratives of the Messiah to Israel. Paul’s epistles are often treated as theological treatises, but they are not.

They were written as letters from a father to his children. By reading them we become the recipients of the same exhortation, comfort, and charge that Paul was giving his children in the faith.

When the church avoids Paul’s epistles, or only consults them on matters of theology, then they will be like children without a father. We live in a fatherless society.

A church without fathers lacks conviction, courage, and duty.

Instead of exhortation, there is silent acquiescence.
Instead of courage and comfort, we are trained to avoid affliction.
A fatherly charge is replaced by cowardly compromise.

Paul says:

“…thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions…” – 2 Tim 3:10-11

Few have heard of the grace God gave to Paul for us, his manner of life, or the charge to follow Paul’s gospel (Eph 3:2; 1 Tim 1:17).

In a fatherless society, we need more men to follow Paul’s pattern.

Mark them that do.

“Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.” – Phil 3:17

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Published: June 15, 2013
Last Modified: March 7, 2018
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