The Eternal Fatherhood

The fatherhood of God possesses three analogous and related components: creative fatherhood, theocratic fatherhood, and adoptive (redemptive) fatherhood. First, God's very creation of mankind, the imprint of his image on man, and his providential care over all his creation, demonstrate his fatherly origination and care for humanity. Since God is Father, those whom he created in his image are his sons. Second, the theocratic fatherhood of God appears in his corporate adoption of Israel as his chosen people. As demonstrated by the exposition in Romans 9, this covenant people is definitively recognized by God as his son (cf. Ex. 4:22-23). In establishing the son ship of Israel, God elucidated his sovereign expectations of his people (Ex. 4:23), but also his particular and paternal care for his chosen ones. In this elevated position as corporate son, Israel typologically foreshadowed the exclusive privileges of those adopted under the provisions of the new covenant, and affirmed the intended teleology of covenantal sonship. Third, the adoptive fatherhood of God restores the original blessings of intimacy established in the Garden of Eden, and advances these blessings to their glorious denouement in solidarity with Christ the Son par excellence (cf. Rom. 8:12-17) by the eschatological Spirit. In view of this development of the filial interactions of God with humanity in history, we must say that God acted in a fatherly fashion throughout Scripture, because he is a Father by nature. More specifically, the ontological character of God as Father is determinative of the creative and the redemptive; God's fatherly actions in creation and redemption are derivative of his eternal ontological character. Presupposed by God's eternal fatherhood, created men are sons, who alone are redeemed to intended sonship privileges and constitution by the messianic Son himself. Adoptive sonship realized in Christ is grounded for Paul in the eternal reality of God's fatherhood, and is in direct continuity with the created reality of Adamic sonship as a finite replica of the archetypal sonship of Jesus Christ.

To reiterate, Jesus' eternal sonship explicitly attests to God's eternal fatherhood and man's created sonship.


The Imago Dei and Marriage

Relying on the imago Dei in creation, the apostle Paul unveils this eschatological restoration of this relational dimension of sonship with his marriage analogy: the union of the husband and wife is analogous to the union of Christ and his church (Eph. 5:21-33). Accordingly, in Ephesians 5, Paul's mind turns to God's creation and to the divine institution of marriage pictured in Genesis 2. Under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul assesses that the intimacy to be enjoyed in Christian marriage, with an admitted level of inscrutability (cf. Eph. 5:32), is explicated by analogy to the intimacy enjoyed in the union of the messianic Son of God and his bride, the church....

Returning to Paul's marriage metaphor, the first Adam, created in God's image, wed Eve-who was also created in God's image. As the first institution established by God the Creator, Edenic marriage reflected the nature of intra-Trinitarian fellowship; Adam and Eve's interpersonal relationship reflected the intimacy of the social Trinity. Through the fall, not only was the image of God grossly compromised, and the Father/son relationships tragically ruined, but further, human interrelationship-most agonizingly, the marriage relationship-became irreversibly non-intimate (Gen. 3: 12-13).

Hence, it is in view of the imago Dei that Paul is able to assert this marriage/church analogy. Since the restoration of the bride through redemption rested on the Son who was the perfect image, the marriage relationship in Genesis 2 must likewise rest on the original relational image of God imprinted on God's sons. The analogy of the precious and intimate relationship of the bride of Christ, the church, with the groom, Jesus Christ, is based on God's creation of the marriage institution as a reflection of himself. The re-created daughter of God is fit to wed the incarnate Son; the bride in whom his image is restored is thereby qualified to wed the perfect Image Son who gave up his life for her. Summarily, the relational makeup of humanity, as an aspect of the imago Dei, exists within the context of created and redeemed sonship. Just as the Father has fellowship with the Son, so, too, the children of God have fellowship with one another, by the restoration of relational purity in the messianic Son himself (see chart below). The relationship of Christ to his church attests to this analogy and to the ectypal sonship of created man.

  First Adam Second Adam Eve/Church
Creation Created Son Eternal Son Created Bride
Fall Alienated Son Eternal Son Alienated Bride
Redemption Restored Son Incarnate Son Restored Bride
Eschaton Realized Son Wedded Son Consummated Bride