As Robert Paul’s posting reminds us today of the anniversary of one of our Lutheran Fathers church membership being transferred from militant to triumphant (+ Prof. Kurt Marquart +), today is a good day to remember that the Church is always celebrating those who came before.
Paul considered himself to be the spiritual father to many, including Timothy (1 Timothy 1:2) and Titus (Titus 1:4). In fact every Christian has a spiritual father of some sorts, some man of God who was used by God to teach the faith to them. A spiritual father can (and should) be the house father (head of the household). As we can have many brothers and sisters in the faith, so also we can have many spiritual mothers and fathers as well. Pastors often get to serve in this capacity as they teach children and adults the faith. It is the greatest and most humbling honor to pastors that God allows them to be spiritual fathers to the people they teach the faith to.For many pastors this spiritual father is a pastor or professor in one of our seminaries. If you find the time, ask your pastor who they would consider to be one of their spiritual fathers (some may have more than one). Note the look in their face as they recall the men they hold as dear gifts from God.
Our apostolic faith is a faith which implies spiritual fatherhood. The handing down of the Christian Faith from one generation to another is like that of biological families, but crosses those bloodlines as Christians are water-brought into the bloodline of Christ who was the spiritual father of the Apostles. That passing down of the sacred teachings from one to another is a beautiful testimony to our Heavenly Father’s most excellent preservation.
There are a couple things about spiritual fathers I want to mention: First, a church that loses touch with its fathers will eventually lost touch with its Father. As we depart from what was handed down to us we depart from the apostolic nature of the Church, eventually departing from that foundation of Christ and the Apostles. Such a losing touch requires the greatest amount of sinful arrogance, similar to those who claim the church didn’t exist until their sect came into existence (Anabaptists of the 1500s; Pentecostals of the 1900s, other efforts to be the “church of Acts”). As noted before, Martin Chemnitz, one of our great Lutheran fathers, cited Luke 1:17 as God’s effort to restore the children to their fathers through the preaching of John (see the first volume of the Harmony of the Gospels on this topic).
Another interesting note about these “spiritual fathers” is that they reinforce the adopted nature of God’s family. God’s family is not by blood but by faith. Thus a Christian can have many fathers who have helped mature them in the faith. This goes for spiritual mothers as well. Timothy a man who had two spiritual mothers in his biological mother and grandmother can have Paul as his spiritual father, and yet still be brothers and sisters in Christ. God’s family exceeds that of this world.
Thank God that the Church is not held hostage by the given time it is found in, but that the Church exists in and through all history and that each generation inherits from those before it.
Feel free in the comments to name someone you consider to be a spiritual father, in order that our God may be praised for the faithful who have handed down the faith as it was once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).