Undoubtedly the love of the Father is the most exalted theme in the revelation of Christianity. "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons [children] of God" (1 John 3:1). The love of the Father specially irradiates the family circle of grace. The love of God is for the whole world in its illimitable measure, and is proclaimed to all men for the ears of faith. "God so loved the world that He gave His Only-begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). And nothing can separate those who believe from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:39). But the Father's love!
What Manner of Love?
What sort of love, then, is it that the Father has given us, and that we are exhorted to behold? Is it a love which was awakened and even caused by our dire need? We are too apt to assume hastily and
somewhat selfishly that the Father's love derives its special character from the fact that we, the sinful and unworthy subjects of divine grace, are, because of its abounding energy, enabled to stand before Him in the relationship of beloved children. And if this is our only viewpoint of His love, we may learn perhaps a little of its depths, but we shall miss its invisible heights altogether, as well as its boundless length and breadth. No, love receives its prime quality from the Lover rather than from the loved one. And our highest joy, therefore, is not that we are the objects of divine love, though we should never forget the love that made us and calls us the children of God. We who know Him that is from the beginning rejoice, not only in the love that is of God, but in the God Who is love (1 John 4:7, 8) , in Him Who loves as only the God Who is love can love. Moreover, in a deeper intimacy still, we bless the Father, not merely, nor even chiefly, because we are loved of Him, but because the Father Himself loves us, and because He loves us as only the Father Who is God can love. The Father's love!
Here it would be fitting to pause in adoring contemplation of the Father Whose love has been revealed to us. And we may also ask ourselves whether we really understand "what manner" of love the Father's is. We speak to one another of His love, we sing of that love, we rejoice in that love, but what do we know of the extent and manner of that love? We believe sometimes that the tiny vessels of our poor hearts are filled to overflowing with that love; but can we take the measure of its "ocean fullness" from our own conception or experience of it?
It is useless, of course, to attempt to measure the love of God by man's cubits and ephahs, and yet how can we worship the Father in spirit and truth unless we know "what manner" of love He has bestowed upon us? Its staggering immensity may fill us with amazement, as the disciples were amazed when they beheld the behaviour of the Lord in the tempest, saying, "What manner of man is this that even the winds and the sea obey him?" (Matt. 8:27). The mighty power of the Lord bewildered them, but astonishment is not the worship in spirit and in truth which the Father seeks from His worshippers.
The Father's love learned in the Son
But we who are begotten of God ought not to be bewildered by the love of the Father. Its greatness may be, and is, utterly beyond our comprehension, but its beauty and its sweetness are not beyond our contemplation and delight, for we behold the blessedness of the Father's name revealed in the soft radiance of the Son. Whoever has seen the Son has seen the Father. Jesus said to Philip, "Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me?" (John 14:10.) In the Son therefore we know the Father, and in the Son we learn the Father's love, which otherwise would baffle our understanding and overwhelm our hearts.
We ought not to lose sight altogether of the fact that the love of God the Father is in itself, abstractedly, an incomprehensible subject to us. This humbles us. We cannot describe His love to others nor communicate to them its sweetness. We cannot understand it even for ourselves. At the same time the knowledge of the Father is characteristic of the youngest in the family of God: "I write to you, little children [babes], because ye have known the Father" (1 John 2:13). The newly-begotten are here said to be in a place of realized relationship to God the Father. The babes even know that One is their Father, even God, and also that they are dependent upon Him for divine nature and its nurture, for love and for counsel. How could they know the Father's love apart from the Son?
God Unseen, the Father Declared
We are now considering especially the love of the Father, made known to us in the New Testament. God is the general name of the Deity, reflecting His absolute nature as the self-subsisting One, beyond creature knowledge. But the name, Father, implies the name, Son, also, the two being correlated terms. Moreover, the name, Son, implies, among other things, the most familiar acquaintance with the affections of the Father. Hence we read, "No one has seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared [Him]" (John 18). The Father, therefore, is now made known.
In this instructive passage both names, God and Father, occur. On the one hand, the inscrutability of God in His essential Being is first stated; "dwelling in unapproachable light; Whom no man has seen, nor is able to see," as it is expressed in another place (1 Tim. 6:15, 16). On the other hand, the same text shows that what the creature could not by any means discover has been made known by the Son, Who alone knew Him, being the Only-begotten Son in the bosom of the Father. Marvellous revelation this! for it includes not only God's hand in its omnipotent power, not only God's mind in omniscient wisdom and knowledge, but also, and chiefly in this passage, God's heart in its infinite and eternal love as the Father.
"Yet deeper, if a calmer, joy
The Father's love shall raise,
And every heart find sweet employ
In His eternal praise.
Nor is its sweetness, now unknown,
Well proved in what is done;
Our Father's love with joy we own,
Revealed in Christ the Son."
The Secret of the Father's Love
Thus, the secrets of the Father's bosom are now made known, the love of the Father being declared by and in the Son.
". . . The Son Who knows —
He only — all His love;
. . .
Dwells in His bosom; knoweth all
That in that bosom lies;
And came to earth to make it known
That we might share His joys."
Who indeed, save the Son of God, could know the heart of God? Who, save the Only-begotten Son, could interpret to man the profound emotions of the Godhead? There is an unfathomable depth of riches in the wisdom and knowledge of God; His judgments are unsearchable; His ways are untraceable (Rom. 11:33). But how much more intimately associated with the mysteries of the Godhead is the love of the Father! for God Himself is love (1 John 4:8, 16) as truly and absolutely as God is light (1 John 1:5).
Competency to undertake the revelation of this love of the Father is found alone in Him Who is described in the brief phraseology of John 1:18 as "the only-begotten Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father." Love is essentially comprehended in the relationships of Father and Son. "The Father loves the Son, and has given all things [to be] in His hand" (John 3:35). "That the world may know that I [the Son] love the Father, and as the Father has commanded Me, thus I do" (John 14:31). There was, therefore, according to the testimony of the Son Himself on earth, mutual love between the Father and the Son. Nor was this love a new experience to the Son, for He also declared, "Thou [the Father] lovedst Me before the foundation of the world" (John 17:24), thereby revealing Himself as the Eternal Son of the Father's love.