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What’s the definition of a father?

By Jason Stout
Father baking with sons

A good father is the cornerstone of a healthy family. Wives depend on their husbands for support in leading and guiding their families, and children will look to their fathers as role models for who they’ll grow to be. It’s a lot of pressure—often overwhelming pressure.

To succeed in your role of fatherhood, it’s important to know the definition of how to be a father, and there’s no better guide to life than Scripture. So what are the characteristics of a good father according to the Bible?

God the Father

To properly understand a father’s role, we need to look to the first and best definition of a father—our Heavenly Father. 2 Corinthians 6:18 [ESV] says, “And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me, says the Lord Almighty.”

Love of a father

One of the most important aspects of God’s character as our Heavenly Father is His unfathomable love for us. The infinite mercy and grace He shows us is evidence enough, but He also sent Christ, God the Son, down to earth as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. If that’s not love, what is? It reveals the self-giving and self-sacrificial nature of God’s love and the true definition of a father. Here are some verses that speak on God’s love for us:

  • “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” – 1 John 4:7-8 [NIV]
  • “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8 [NIV]
  • “But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” – Psalm 86:15 [NIV]

Fathers are called to model this love and compassion when dealing with their children. Psalm 103:13 [NIV] says, “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.” Love is the solid foundation needed for success in child-rearing—love grows the patience, grace, and kindness needed to handle the ups and downs that come with leading a family.


From Isaac being offered on the altar, to the Israelites wandering through the wilderness, to salvation through the death and resurrection of Christ—God has always provided for us. Here are some verses that showcase God’s provision:

  • “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!” – Matthew 7:11 [NIV]
  • “There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.” – Deuteronomy 1:31 [NIV]
  • “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” – Matthew 6:26 [NIV]
  • “And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:19 [ESV]

God is our provider, and fathers are meant to imitate God’s provision with their families. Fathers accomplish this through their work—by providing a house, food, clothes, and more for their children. 1 Timothy 5:8 [NIV] says, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

The protector

There are numerous times in Scripture when God protects His people from enemies or disaster. David writes in the Psalms about relying on and experiencing God’s protection when fleeing for his life.

  • “But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.” – 2 Thessalonians 3:3 [NIV]
  • “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” – Psalm 46:1 [NIV]
  • “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and delivers them.” Psalm 34:7 [NIV]
  • “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” – Deuteronomy 31:6 [NIV]

Just as God is our protector, fathers are called to protect their families. This doesn’t necessarily mean a father should interfere every time their child encounters challenges, but it does mean that they should protect them from things that will cause serious harm to their relationships with Christ, with their family, and with themselves. Guiding their children, helping them develop character, and using teachable moments helps fathers protect their children from pitfalls. Proverbs 4:11-12 [NET] says, “I will guide you in the way of wisdom and I will lead you in upright paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered, and when you run, you will not stumble.”


God provides instructions on how we’re meant to live our lives, and when necessary, gives correction when we stray from His design. 

Biblical discipline isn’t derived from a need for control. Rather, biblical discipline is given out of love and for the benefit of the other person. God knows our sinful nature craves things that will bring us harm. God corrects those He loves. Here’s what Scripture says about discipline:

  • “The Lord disciplines the one He loves, and He chastens everyone He accepts as His son… If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live!” – Hebrews 12:6, 8 [NIV]
  • “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent His rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, as a father the son he delights in.” – Proverbs 3:11-12 [NIV]

Notice how Scripture directly correlates the correction of God to the correction of a father. Correction is also considered an act of love on the part of the father. Proverbs 13:24 [ESV] says, “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.”

It’s important to note that discipline should not be a result of anger. When your child makes mistakes that require discipline—and they will—it’s necessary to make sure you do it with a posture of love so that you don’t stir them up into anger and resentment [Ephesians 6:4]. 

Being a good father to your children is a process. You won’t be perfect, and you need to offer yourself grace in circumstances where you fall short. Be willing to apologize to your children. Remain teachable, take your responsibility as a father seriously, and look to God the Father as your source of strength and help as you walk out fatherhood. With God’s guidance, you can glorify Him with how you lead your family.

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Jason Stout