We may do well to meditate still further upon the Son as the Revealer of the Father. In this work He alone is before our adoring hearts, for He alone is competent to make the Father known. His own words come to us: "The world has not known Thee, but I have known Thee" (John 17:25; also John 8:55). This conscious knowledge of the Father by the Son was personal to Himself, and from any such intimacy the world of created intelligences was necessarily excluded. But if the Son's omniscience embraced all things concerning the Father, how fully and perfectly He knew the Father's love! how able too to declare that love!
In heaven's language, the Son must be One upon Whom heavenly love rests. Accordingly when the title, "Jesus Christ our Lord," is associated in scripture with the Son of God (as in Rom. 1:3) , the very name, "Son," implies that the love of the Godhead (for "God is love") is in active exercise towards Him. Moreover, there being the Son, Who is loved, there is also the Father, Whose love is ever proceeding to the Son. Could there be a Father's bosom or a Father's house without the Son of the Father's love?
The Son may in the fullness of time assume the office of a Servant, and thereby invest His service with His own incomparable dignity, with absolute fidelity, and with infinite worth, but, apart from and before all such service, deepest affection is conveyed in the relationship of Son. In the imperfect examples of sonship found in this sin-laden world, it is even so. When David was "much moved" at the news of the death of wicked and rebellious Absalom, the paternal love of his bleeding heart stood revealed in the pathetic repetition of two words, "my son." With bitter tears he said, "O my son Absalom, my son, my son, my son Absalom, would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son" (2 Sam. 18:33). Though without a princely virtue, Absalom's filial relationship to David remained. "My son," said the king. Death had touched a chord in the father's love, however unworthy its object, and however wronged the father had been by that son.
The Beloved Son
Our theme of meditation just now is the highest and holiest, and we may surely say the sweetest, of all themes — God's Beloved Son. Leaving ourselves and all the world out of account, as unworthy objects of divine love, we desire to contemplate the ineffable love that links the Father and the Son. This love is not vague and visionary, but is made the subject of definite revelation. Scripture contains actual expressions of mutual love between Themselves. Such utterances are of the supremest order of communion in the Godhead, and have been preserved by the Holy Spirit for our reverent meditation and worship. Nothing could be choicer than these Divine endearments expressed in human words for earthly ears.
Oh, what heavenly treasures the word of God contains! Are we alive to their intrinsic value? How transcendently gracious that we should possess the inspired record of what the Father said to the Son, and of what the Son said to the Father! It is indeed remarkable to have the Father's saying, "Thou art My beloved Son," and to have also the Son's words to Him, "The love wherewith Thou hast loved Me" (Mark 1:11; John 17:26). In the hearing of men the Father acknowledged His Beloved Son, and the Son acknowledged the Father's love for Him. This is indeed the unveiling of a holy mystery; but it was needful for us to know it, that we might the better understand the truth revealed concerning the Persons of the Father and the Son, and so worship the Father "in truth," as He seeks (John 4:23).
The Father's Love for the Son
With all meekness and lowliness of mind, we listen to every word of the Incarnate Son as He reveals the Father in the course of His ministry. But when His subject is the love of the Father for Himself, the Son, our interest is intensified to the utmost. This is a secret of the heaven of heavens, of the "heavenly things" of the dwelling-place of God, and it concerns the Beloved Son of the Father, Who is also our Beloved.
"The Father loves the Son." The theme is mighty, but the words are simple. Such words, easily uttered, easily remembered, are suited to the "babes" of the household of God, to whom the Holy Spirit reveals the "depths of God." The Son, speaking out of that intimate acquaintance with the Father, ever possessed and enjoyed by Himself only, declares in our wondering ears, "The Father loves the Son" (John 5:20).
We note that the act of loving is placed in the present tense: "the Father loves," not "has loved." It was true on the day of utterance in Jerusalem without doubt, and in all the days of His humiliation assuredly. But the saying unfolds much more also. That love is necessarily true throughout the co-existence of the Father and the Son. Looking onward or backward, whenever there was a Father to love and a Son to be loved, it was true that "the Father loves the Son and shows Him all things that Himself does." Such love o'erleaps all barriers of beginning and ending, and is the outflow of eternal relationship.
How overwhelming are these precious words, redolent with the ineffable joy of all that Sonship meant to His heart Who uttered them! The love of the Father for the Son is immeasurable and indefinable. We are lost in its immensity. In human love, our thoughts are more at home. We understand the record that the love of David exceeded that of Jonathan, that Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah, and that the assembly at Ephesus had a "first" love which was lost; these who loved had "like passions" with ourselves. But the statement, "The Father loves the Son," we cannot handle with our understandings, for, apart from divine unfoldings, we know neither the Father nor the Son in their essential Being how then can we know Their mutual love?
Food for the Heart
Why, then, did the Lord make Himself known to us as the Beloved of the Father? Not that the mind should seek to comprehend what is incomprehensible, but that the hearts of His own should believe His words, and cherish this glimpse into the profundities of a love exceeding the limits of time and space.
"The Father loves!" What infinite emotions, what unfathomable depths of affection are in the Father's heart, since in essential Being "God is love"! It is true that "God only knows the love of God." And we may say also that only the infinite and immeasurable heart of the Son can receive in its fullness and reciprocate with equal fullness the outgoings of the infinite and immeasurable heart of the Father. "The Father loves the Son!" Such is the communion above the heavens revealed for those who now worship in the "holiest." Whatever love fills the Father's heart finds its perfect acceptance and fullest response in the heart of the Son. Should not this love be the key-note of our loftiest praise?
Has this revelation of matchless love no interest for our hearts? The Father! It is He Who sent the Son a propitiation for our sins. The Son! It is He Who revealed the Father to us. We are stirred as we remember that the Father Himself loves us, and that the Son of God loves us and gave Himself for us. It is indeed fitting that we should rejoice that the love of the Father and the Son rests upon us. But ought we not to be stirred to a deeper depth by the knowledge that, apart from ourselves, love is the eternal bond between the Father and the Son? Shall the bride be insensible to the glories of her Beloved, Who exceeds every other beloved, since He is the Beloved of the Father before time began?
The Undated Love of the Father
The context (John 5:17-21) of the Lord's utterance, "The Father loveth the Son," contains most weighty testimony to the personal glory of the Son. The Lord does not deny, but confesses the charge of the Jews that He "said that God was His own Father," for "the Son can do nothing of Himself save whatever He sees the Father doing: for whatever things He does, these things also the Son does in like manner." The Son does the same things as the Father and in the same manner. There was, therefore, absolute equality without independence.
"He had deigned to take the place of man, without forfeiting for a moment His divine nature and rights; and as such He disclaims the least shade of self-exaltation, or independence of His Father" (W.K.). There was perfect communion with the Father, for He does nothing apart from the Father, but does what He sees the Father is doing. Moreover, in exercising the divine function of giving life, the Son, equally with the Father, "quickens whom He will," acting in His own right.
Now these Godhead claims of union and communion with the Father (ver. 19) and also of quickening whom He will (ver. 21) are associated with the claim that the Father dearly loves (philei) the Son, and shows Him all things which He Himself does (ver. 20). How fully this threefold claim explains the co-operation of the Father and the Son: "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work" (ver. 17). As love is the essence of the Divine Being, so love is the mainspring or motive of conjoint divine working by the Father and the Son.
Love being essential to the Godhead, because "God is love," love has neither beginning nor ending. Because God is eternal (Deut. 33:27; Rom. 16:26), love is eternal. Before there was a creature to be loved, "God is love." But that love in the past eternity required an object. A love that is inert, dormant, a mere abstraction, has no affinity with the love of God (1 John 3:17; 1 John 4:20, 21). Love must love, and love another.
Where, then, before the foundation of the world, did love find its necessary and worthy object? The Uncreated Son Himself supplies the answer: "Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world" (John 17:24). Within the circle of the Godhead love was always all-pervading. The love of the Father ever rested upon the Son Who, becoming incarnate, testified what He had seen, and spoke what He knew: "Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world." Thou, the Father, didst love Me, Thy Son, before the foundation of the world: in the light of this solemn declaration, who dare doubt that the Speaker is the Eternal Son?