I would like to thank everyone who contributed to this topic. Just a quick reminder about what we are discussing here. My question was “Is the title “Spiritual father” scriptural or not?

 It is interesting that we have had divergent views on this issue; some said, yes, and others said, no. This is my take on this matter. Please understand that my position is not an opinion. It is based on what is in the scripture.

 First of all, I would like to say emphatically that I am not in any way against the existence of “Fatherhood and Son-ship” in the Body of Christ. This is totally scriptural. I must however say that many people who see themselves as fathers in the faith have totally abused it. That of course is a topic for another day. My concern here is to show from a scriptural stance that this “Spiritual father” thing is not in any way supported by scripture. So where did it come from?

 Like I said earlier, people were duly referred to as fathers in the Bible. People like Elijah and Apostle Paul are typical examples. The people they raised up in the way of the Lord saw them as fathers, and, they in turn took them as sons in the faith.

 Elisha openly expressed his father- son relationship with his master on the day Elijah was taken away from him to heaven by a whirlwind. “And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me. And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so. And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces.” (1 Kings 2 vs. 11-12)

 This account simply tells us that Elijah played the role of a father in the life of Elisha in bringing him up as a prophet. So many years later, King Joash of Israel would address Elisha the same way Elisha himself had addressed his former master, Elijah. “Now Elisha was fallen sick of his sickness whereof he died. And Joash the king of Israel came down unto him, and wept over his face, and said, O my father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof.” (2 Kings 13 vs.14)

 From this story, we understand that King Joash referred to Elisha as his father. Why was it so? It was so because the King recognized the authority of Elisha as a prophet. He recognized his position as God’s mouthpiece. A more interesting part is that he used the same words Elisha himself had used when he addressed Elijah as father. “And Joash the king of Israel came down unto him, and wept over his face, and said, O my father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof.”

 If there is anything that stands out here, it is the fact that neither Elisha nor Joash addressed anyone as “spiritual father” notwithstanding that they helped them with spiritual matters. These were two outstanding events when men of God were addressed as fathers by their followers in the Old Testament. But it is clear that the appellation “Spiritual father” does not reflect in any of them.

 Let us now move to the New Testament. Maybe we might find something to support this trend. In the New Testament, one person who raised a lot of sons in the faith and established many churches was Apostle Paul. The scripture mentions two people that Paul referred directly to as his sons. They were Timothy and Silas. In his letters to these two men, Paul himself was proud to call them his sons. Let us first of all, examine how he addressed Timothy. “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope; Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Timothy 1 vs. 1-2)

 In his second letter to him, Paul would address Timothy almost the same way he did in his first letter. “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus, to Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”(2 Timothy vs. 1 – 2)

In these scriptures, Paul addressed Timothy as his son twice. But, there is nowhere he referred to himself as a “spiritual father” to Timothy; neither did he ever refer to Timothy as his “spiritual son” in any of the two letters. Yet, many who support this spiritual father and son thing always quote Paul as their example. This has become common in the Body of Christ today. So why didn’t Paul refer to himself as a spiritual father to Timothy? Did he forget his title and position? I want to believe that Paul did not make any mistakes. He knew very well the position he occupied in the life of Timothy, and what he was to the young man; that is, “his father in the faith.” Even if it was a mistake, it couldn’t have occurred twice.

 Let us bear in mind that in the first letter, he referred to Timothy as, “my own son in the faith.” In the second letter, he addressed him as, “Timothy, my dearly beloved son.” Definitely, Paul did not forget to address himself as Timothy’s spiritual father or Timothy, my spiritual son. He simply knew that it was not right.

 Now, let us see how Paul referred to Titus, another of his sons. “Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour; To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour.” (Titus 1 vs. 1-4)

 A better look at how Paul addressed Timothy in his first letter and how he addressed Titus: “To Titus, mine own son after the common faith” clearly indicate that he recognized both of them as his sons in the faith, no more and no less. Again, why didn’t Paul refer to himself as a “spiritual father” to Timothy and Titus, or refer to them as his “Spiritual sons” instead of “My sons in the faith?”

 The matter is simple; Paul knew that the designation of “Spiritual father” belongs to God Almighty and not to humans like us. In fact, Paul makes it clear that leaders in the Body of Christ should be seen and treated as Parents in the Lord. It was for that reason he advised that children should obey their parents in the Lord.

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.” (Ephesians 6 vs. 1)

In this scripture, Paul gave an express instruction about Children obeying their parents in the Lord. Who are our parents in the Lord? These are leaders in the Body of Christ. This refers to ministers of God and elders and deacons. These are the people we have come to accept as fathers and mothers in the Lord by reason of their work as church leaders. By implication, Paul is saying that we can address someone as “father in the Lord” and another as “mother in the Lord.” This is right as we have seen from the Bible.

 The following scripture gives us the understanding that none of us, that is, “Leaders in Body of Christ” qualifies to be addressed as a “spiritual father.” “And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. (Matthew 23 vs.9)

 Those were the words of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. He warns that we should call no one father because we have one Father in heaven. Does this mean that Jesus does not recognize the position of an earthly father or fathers in the faith? No, He does and the scripture confirms it. “If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11 vs. 11 -13)

 This scripture clearly shows that Jesus recognizes the position of an earthly father as well as fathers in the faith. Yet, He warned about calling any one father here on earth. This might sound confusing, but it is clear. I strongly believe that when Jesus said we should call no one father because we have one Father in Heaven, He simply was saying that no man on earth has the right to be seen as our “spiritual Father” because God alone is that. This simply means that no human has the right to assume that title. Therefore, if we are comfortable to be addressed and referred to as “Spiritual fathers” how then shall we address God, our heavenly Father?

Whatever our decisions are, it is important to understand that we are not spirit beings. We are human beings with spirit, body and soul. It is God who is a Spirit. Our duty is to worship Him in spirit and in truth and not take His place as spiritual fathers in the life of others. What will happen to those who see us as spiritual fathers when we die?

 Truth be told, I am yet to find anywhere in the Bible where a human being was referred to as “Spiritual father” to another human being. Therefore, if this thing has no scriptural backing, then, my take is that it is purely an invention of someone to boost his ego for whatever reason, I have no idea. In fact, this thing is not different from other worldly titles that the church has adopted today, like Archbishop, Great Bishop, Pope, cardinal etc. It is true that these worldly titles have become popular with men in the Body of Christ, but God has no hand in them. We should always understand that the popularity of something does not make it right.

 May I end by saying that this message is not meant to attack those who qualify to be addressed as “fathers in the Body of Christ.” No, it is simply meant to correct this wrong thing so we can do what is right. It is important that I make it clear to anyone and everyone who would read this, that I am also a pastor with people who see me as a father. But I am content to be seen simply as a human “father in the Lord” who is used by the Lord to help others build up their spiritual life as the Holy Spirit is helping me to build up mine. I only give out what I receive from Him. Even this title of “father in the Lord” is not by force. 

I only accept it from those who think that I merit such; but I will never allow anyone to address me as his or her “spiritual father.” That title belongs to God, and God alone; for only Him is our Spiritual Father. God bless you all.

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