As Loved As The Son
J. I. Packer once wrote:
If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means he does not understand Christianity very well at all.1
Indeed, for when a person deliberately and confidently calls the Almighty ‘Father’, it shows they have grasped something beautiful and fundamental about who God is and to what they have been saved. And how that wins our hearts back to him! For the fact that God the Father is happy and even delights to share his love for his Son and thus be known as our Father reveals just how unfathomably gracious and kind he is.
And it really is with ungrudging delight that he gives us that privilege. When someone comes to faith, Christians often smile and say (with an allusion to Luke 15:10) that the angels will be rejoicing in heaven. But what Luke 15:10 actually says is that there is joy in heaven before the angels of God over one sinner who repents. Who is before the angels of God in heaven? God. It is God, first and foremost, who rejoices to lavish his love on those who have rejected him.
Knowing God as our Father not only wonderfully gladdens our view of him; it gives the deepest comfort and joy. The honour of it is stupefying. To be the child of some rich king would be nice; but to be the beloved of the emperor of the universe is beyond words. Clearly the salvation of this God is better even than forgiveness, and certainly more secure. Other gods might offer forgiveness, but this God welcomes and embraces us as his children, never to send us away. (For children do not get disowned for being naughty.) He does not offer some kind of ‘he loves me, he loves me not’ relationship whereby I have to try and keep myself in his favour by behaving impeccably. No, ‘to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God’ (John 1:12) – and so with security to enjoy his love forever.
Think of just who the Son is: he is the one eternally and utterly loved by his Father; the Father would not ever moderate or renounce his love for his Son – and the Son comes to share that, as the Father wanted. Because Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers (Hebrews 2:11), his Father is not ashamed to be known as ours (Hebrews 11:16). Nothing could give greater confidence and delight in approaching the heavenly throne of grace. ‘How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!’ (1 John 3:1)
Now imagine a God who is not Father, Son and Spirit: never in its wildest dreams could it muster up such a salvation. If God was not a Father, he could never give us the right to be his children. If he did not enjoy eternal fellowship with his Son, one has to wonder if he has any fellowship to share with us, or if he even knows what fellowship looks like. If, for example, the Son was a creature and had not eternally been ‘in the bosom of the Father’, knowing him and being loved by him, what sort of relationship with the Father could he share with us? If the Son himself had never been close to the Father, how could he bring us close?
If God was a single person, salvation would look entirely different. He might allow us to live under his rule and protection, but at an infinite distance, approached, perhaps, through intermediaries. He might even offer forgiveness, but he would not offer closeness. And, since by definition he would not be eternally loving, would he deal with the price of sin himself and offer that forgiveness for free? Most unlikely. Distant hirelings we would remain, never to hear the Son’s golden words to his Father ‘you have loved them even as you have loved me’.
But this God comes to us himself, the Father rejoicing to share his love for his Son, sending him that in him we might be brought back into the Father’s bosom, there by the Spirit to call him ‘Abba’.
This article is the third in a series of extracts from Mike’s forthcoming book, The Good God: Enjoying Father, Son and Spirit.
1 J. I. Packer, Knowing God (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1973), 224