The love of God to man and the enmity of man against God are two things which have often been spoken of as being utterly uncaused by the objects upon which they are lavished. There was no cause in man why God should love him, neither was there any cause in God why man should hate Him. God loved man because of what He is in His own nature, and “God is love” (1 John 4:16); man hated God because of what he is in his own nature, and “the carnal mind is enmity against God” (Rom. 8:7). There was every reason in God why man should love Him, and there was every reason in man why God should abhor him; and yet the opposite is true in both cases: God has lavished all the love of His heart upon man, and man has lavished all the hatred of his heart upon God.
The cross is the witness of both. There is the one mighty, unrivalled, and impossible-to-be-repeated expression of love toward man on the part of God: for it is His only begotten Son dying for the ungodly; and there is the one fearful, unparalleled, and impossible-to-be-repeated expression of man’s incorrigible wickedness, violent and untameable insubjection, and irreconcilable, pitiless, unmixed hatred of God. Nothing has so perfectly proved the truth of the Saviour’s words to Nicodemus, “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3). Man must get a new nature, or perish.
We get “God so loved the world” in John 3; and in Romans 5 and 1 John 4 we get it restricted to “us”; that is, to believers; but wherever we get it, the measure of that love is the death of His only begotten Son. Nothing short of this would have met our deep need, neither would anything else have met the claims of the holiness and righteousness of God: neither would a less gift have measured the love in which our souls rejoice at the present moment, and in which they shall rejoice for ever.
But what I desire to bring before the reader is the supreme blessedness of the Father’s love. I do not mean to infer that the Father’s love is not the love of God; but when we speak of the Father’s love, very different impressions are conveyed to the soul than those which we receive when occupied with the love of God. The love of God is sovereign, and is lavished upon poor rebellious and unworthy objects. It is a love which, as I have said, is uncaused by anything in the creature: it has more the sense of pity and compassion. When the Father’s love comes to be spoken of, at once a sense of relationship, complacence, confidence, intimacy, and concord, beyond all that could be expressed, fills the soul.
The Father is never said to have loved the world, indeed His love is in opposition to all that is in the world (1 John 2). We are told, “if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Of course this is the world-system, and not, as it is in John 3:16, the people who compose the world: but neither is the world in this sense said to be loved by the Father. We have seen, and do testify, that “the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world” (1 John 4) is as near to this thought as we have in Scripture; but we have not the love of the Father connected with the world anywhere. The truth is, the Father has a world of His own; a world which was in His thought before this world was; a world of which He is the source, power, and blessing; a world into which no evil can enter; a world founded upon the basis of redemption, and which will be filled with the light, warmth, and comfort of His infinite love, and where every family in heaven and earth shall bask beneath its blessed beams.
There is cause for the Father’s love. “The Father Himself loves you because ye have loved Me, and have believed that I came out from God” (John 16:27). There is here a reason given for the Father’s affection for the disciples of Jesus. It is not contemplated as sovereign, as the love of God is. It is not brought before us in the sense of mere compassion, but rather in the sense of complacency. It is called out by the attachment of the disciples to the Person of the Lord; it is “because ye have loved Me.”
In John 3:35 we have, “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand”; and this we can well understand, because the Son is such a worthy object of the Father’s love. We may well ask the question, How could the Father do anything else than love the Son? There was nothing but love between the Father and the Son from all eternity. He says, “Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). But seeing that He came here into this world, having taken upon Himself the form of a servant, in order to do the Father’s will, never swerving from the path of obedience, even though it involved the death of the cross, how much more, if we may speak in that way, must not the heart of the Father go out to Him? And, indeed, we have this thought clearly brought to light in John 10, where Jesus says, “Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again.”
He has given “All things into His hand.” The Father can trust such a Son with everything. The Son has, in His own right, an indisputable title to everything, but having taken the place of a servant, He receives everything from the Father as though He had no title at all. And it is just here that our thought and that of the Father meet in the most perfect harmony. The Father can trust the Son with everything, knowing that all is safe in His hands; and we also can trust Him, and rejoice that He is in the place of supremacy. There is none other in the universe whom the Father could trust, and there is none other whom we can trust. He is Lord of all; and this thought sets for ever at rest every anxious foreboding. We get Him exalted as Lord in Philippians 2, and consequently we have the Apostle exhorting the saints to “Rejoice in the Lord.”
Then we have in John 5:20, “The Father loves the Son.” Here it is in connection with the intimacy subsisting between these divine Persons. The Son was here carrying out the will of the Father, and the Father showed to the Son all the things which He did; and these the Son also did. The Father was raising up and giving life to those in moral death, and the Son also gave life to whom He would. Therefore, when the Jews found fault with the Son for concerning Himself about the woes of humanity on the Sabbath day, it was with the Father they were finding fault, for He had been working in grace from ever sin entered the world. In the past these were His secret activities, for the Father was not revealed, but it was none the less His grace that from the beginning wrought in the hearts of fallen sinners, and which brought such men to light as Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, David, and others who loved God.
When we come to this sixteenth chapter of John, it is not the love of the Father to the Son which is brought by the Spirit of God before our hearts, but “The Father Himself loves you, because ye have loved Me, and have believed that I came out from God.” Here it is the Father’s love for the disciples of Jesus that commands our attention. We can well understand the Father’s love for the Son, but for us—ah! that is different! And that He should have a reason for loving us is just what makes it so very wonderful.
The fact is, we require to know these divine Persons better. What an object He is for the Father’s heart! Did you ever sit down quietly or kneel down in secret, and think for even five minutes about all that that Son is to the Father—what it is to the Father to have such a Son? He has told us, as far as words and actions can tell us, of His perfect delight in Him. But have we taken it in? That we could not take it all in does not require to be said; but what impressions have our hearts received from that holy, heavenly, sacred disclosure of the Father’s delight in the Son of His love?
We think, and rightly too, of what a Saviour He is. We meditate upon His goodness, grace, and infinite changeless love; we contemplate His meekness, lowliness, tenderness, and self-abnegation for the benefit of others; we wonder as we behold the Creator of the universe in the world which was the work of His hands, accessible to the poorest, most vile, most sinful, and most degraded of His creatures: we are astonished beyond measure that He who commanded the thunders and lightnings and tempests of heaven should permit Himself to be despised, reviled, rejected of men; should allow Himself to be the song of the drunkard, a byword in the mouths of the ungodly; should allow Himself to be falsely accused, numbered with transgressors, nailed to a gibbet, crucified and slain. As we thus follow Him throughout His lonely path of rejection and self-sacrificing love, our full hearts bow before Him in speechless adoration. May He be ever more increasingly our daily study, and may the great longing of our hearts be to “know Him” (Phil. 3:10).
What is all this compared with the Father’s affection for Him? We need to think of Him more continually as the beloved object of the Father’s heart; as dwelling in the Father’s bosom: the worthy object of the Father’s infinite love. And the better we understand what He is as Son of the Father, the better we will understand this sweet and holy communion, “The Father Himself loves you, because ye have loved Me, and have believed that I came out from God.”
The Father is deeply concerned in everything relating to the glory of the Son, and He will see that that Son of His will get all the glory that rightly belongs to Him. He was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father (Rom. 6:4); every knee must bow to Him, and every tongue confess that He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:11); the Father will see that He is honoured, and that equally with Himself, by every creature, be that creature heavenly, earthly, or infernal. The world refused Him the throne that was rightly His; and when it did this, the Father placed Him upon His own throne along with Himself, until the day shall come when He shall have His rights, to the Father’s glory.
Knowing all this, we can in some measure understand what it is to the Father, when a poor thing like the reader or the writer, in the midst of this world so hostile to Jesus, believes on the Son and has affection for Him. O, how the Father delights in this feeble spark of love to His Son! What a triumph it is to Him for it is His own grace which has produced it. It is the one thing upon earth which delights His heart. He can say, “There is a poor feeble thing down there in that world that murdered my beloved Son, like a poor sheep in the midst of a pack of wolves, and his heart goes out after the One in whom is all My delight.”
I want you to think not so much what Christ is to you as what He is as Son to the Father, and what you are to the Father because you love Jesus. For the Father Himself loves you, because ye have loved Me, and have believed that I came out from God. Let our souls drink in the deep blessedness of this.