God Works Through Fathers

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved,
 you and your household.
(Acts 16:31)

GOD works through fathers. We find a beautiful illustration of this in Acts 16. The story begins with Paul and Silas, when they were thrown in jail at Philippi for preaching the Gospel and setting captives free. Beaten with many stripes, and their feet fastened in stocks, Paul and Silas took this as the perfect opportunity to pray and sing hymns to God. They did not do anything by halves, so everyone in the cell block heard their testimony of praise.

Someone has said that the way out is through, and that was the case here. As Paul and Silas (loudly) lifted their hearts to the Lord in prayer and faith, the earth suddenly began to quake. Cell doors came open and shackles began to fall — not just from Paul and Silas, but from every prisoner in the place.

A calamitous thing was happening, at least from the jailer’s point of view, for no amount of explaining would ever be sufficient to deliver him from dire consequences. So he drew his sword and was about to kill himself when Paul, seeing this, cried out to him, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.”

The jailer immediately had a revelation: “This man knows what’s going on.” He recognized Paul and Silas. He knew why they had been arrested. He had heard them singing and praising God in the middle of the night. And did he not just personally experience the power of God in this very unusual earthquake which loosed all the prisoners?

Now he realized that he needed to know one more thing. So he called for a light, ran to the cell where Paul and Silas had been shackled, and brought them out. Trembling before them, he asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 

So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household” (Acts 16:31-34).

God works through fathers. On that dark night, deep in the bowels of the Philippian jail, salvation showed up for the jailer, but not just for him only — it showed up for his entire household. As father of the house, he became a gateway for the whole family. Salvation came to them all, not because he was a jailer, but because he was a father.

You see, fathers are conduits for the work of God. That’s why honoring parents is on God’s Top Ten list. That’s why the Fifth Commandment, “Honor your father and your mother,” comes with a promise, “that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12).

God has always worked through fathers. To Adam and Eve, He said, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion” (Genesis 1:28). This would all happen through fathering. Later, God called out Abram as a father, though he was old and had no children. Nevertheless, God showed him a land and said, “To your descendants I will give this land” (Genesis 12:7). He changed his name to Abraham,  which means “Father of Nations.” God’s reasoning was plain, though powerful: “For I have made you a father of many nations” (Genesis 17:5). God further explained His choice: “For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD” (Genesis 18:19).

Notice that God did not say, “I have known that he will command his children,” but rather, “I have known him, in order that he may command his children.” A causality is indicated here, and an intention. The verb “known” is the same verb we find in Genesis 4:1, “Now Adam knew Eve and she conceived and bore.” It is a term of intimate knowledge and relationship. It brings forth life and purpose.

God said, “I have known him.” In other words, there was something being fathered in Abraham. Because of that fathering, Abraham would now be able to be a father himself, not merely in the physical, but more importantly, in the spiritual: “That he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD.”

The essence of fatherhood is inheritance, that is, in that which is passed on to the ones who have been fathered. When Moses met God at the burning bush, God revealed Himself in the language of heritage: “I am the God of your father — the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6).

Moses had not known his father, but there was an inheritance nonetheless, and it reached all the way back to Abraham. What God began in Abraham passed from father to son, from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob, and so on, until it was now Moses’ turn. Moses received this inheritance and in so doing received his identity in the world. Fathers are a very important channel for the blessing of God. They help us know who we are and why we are here.

The prophet Elijah came to understand the importance of fatherhood. Though he had stirred the Northern kingdom of Israel to a spiritual awakening and performed many miracles, yet when he was on the run from the wicked Jezebel, he prayed that he might die: “It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” (1 Kings 19:4). He felt like the end of the line, and truly he was — until God showed him how to father the blessing in someone else. Elijah found Elisha and began fathering him in spiritual things. Thus, he passed the inheritance on to Elisha and in so doing, made it  greater.

Fatherhood is such an important thing to God that the very last verse of the Old Testament speaks of another coming of Elijah, to “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:6).

Back to Philippi. We do not know the name of the jailer there. He has always been called, simply, “the Philippian Jailer.” But in this day when the curse of fatherlessness is raging in our generation, we need to begin thinking about him in a new way. Call him “the Philippian Father.” For was that not his greater role? Was that not how he came to fulfill his destiny and, in a measure, transform the world? Yes, it was as a father!

When he cried out in the middle of the night, “What must I do to be saved?” it was a question of eternal significance, no doubt. But the answer he received was of even greater import: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” You see, it was not just about the jailer himself. God wanted his whole house to come to salvation, to establish in them a new lineage, a flow of blessing that crosses generational boundaries.

In his desperate crying out, this man of Philippi truly became the father he was called to be. Because of him, the Word of God was preached to his family, and salvation came to his entire household. By morning they were all baptized, bearing the mark of God’s love upon their lives. And they rejoiced!

The issue of fatherhood is not limited by biology. You may not be a father in the natural, but you can certainly be a father in the Spirit. You can come into a life-giving relationship with someone else, bearing the incorruptible seed of the Word of God, to impart a legacy of the love of God. Indeed, it is in the spiritual dimension that fatherhood finds its greatest significance.

Fatherhood is not limited by gender, either. All I have said about fathering applies as much to women as to men. A woman can sow seeds of the Spirit and pass on the blessing of God to others just as well as any man can do. No crisis of identity is implied — if a man can learn to take his place as the “bride of Christ,” then surely a woman can learn to be a “father” in the Spirit.

Therefore, what I say, I say to all those who will take unto themselves children in whom they can impart the things of God: You are fathers, and when you stand before God, you do not stand merely for yourself, but for your children, your families, and your households. You are an expansive gateway for the blessing, favor and power of God in their lives. The inheritance of God passes through you, for you are fathers, and God works through fathers.

© 2004 by Jeff Doles.
All rights reserved.

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“JEFF DOLES is a Christian author, blogger and Bible teacher. His books include The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth: Keys to the Kingdom of God in the Gospel of Matthew and Praying With Fire: Change Your World with the Powerful Prayers of the Apostles. He and his wife, Suzanne, are the founders of Walking Barefoot Ministries. Visit their website at www.walkingbarefoot.com.”

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