Thursday, August 21, 2014

God the Father treasures Jesus above all things.

Full disclosure: I have been immensely helped by the ministry of John Piper. So lots of what I have to say here is thanks to him. If you haven't read The Pleasures of God, you really should. It, like his other books, is a veritable treasure trove of truth. But I single out that book here because of its singular contribution in showing how God the Father treasures God the Son above all.

The Bible records two times when God proclaims his great love for his Son, Jesus (Matthew 3:17 and Matthew 17:5; cf. 2 Pet. 1:17). Both times, he said this:

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Translators only put a measly little period the end of that sentence. That's probably for practical reasons, like the fact that they can't fit ten million exclamation points at the end of all the sentences like this that deserve them. Otherwise, no one would be able to carry his or her Bible. And even if it were possible, ten million exclamation points would be a pitiful human attempt to express the infinite, divine love that God has for Jesus.

It's not just that he's well pleased with him. He is so well pleased with Jesus, he treasures him so much, that he could not love him more. His love for him is unparalleled. That's not to say he doesn't also likewise cherish God the Holy Spirit. But when it comes to what the Bible says, as it has been inspired by the Holy Spirit, we see that the Holy Spirit has been absolutely effective in glorifying God the Father by putting God the Son on display. And the Bible shows that the love that the Father and Son share subsists as the eternal, divine person of the Holy Spirit.

God loves his neighbor as himself. The Bible shows us that he has always had this neighbor. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God" (John 1:1-2). He has always been "with God." But John 1:1 clarifies the identity of this person who has always been with God. It says he "was God."

God has always had a "Word" who "was God." If the Word was God, then he has certainly always had him, for God is the uncreated Creator. It was through this Word that God created the universe (cf. Genesis 1; John 1:3; Colossians 1:15).

But John 1:1-2 gets at something in God that is far deeper than simply the fact that he is Creator. For creation has not always existed. God has not always created. And creation is a free act for him, not a necessary one. John 1 shows us what is necessary, though, that he always has a neighbor to love as himself. Otherwise we could not say "God is love" and have that love be eternal and independent of his creatures.

But by saying that God has always had a Word with him who was also God is not to say that there is more than one God (cf. Deut. 6:4). It is rather to say that the one and only God exists as multiple persons. Three persons. God, the Word, and their shared Love they have enjoyed throughout eternity. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is one in three and three in one. This is called Trinity.

The Westminster Confession of Faith, drawing from the creeds of the ancient church, which relied on the Bible's own testimony, has put the doctrine of the Trinity like this:
In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost: the Father is of none, neither begotten, nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.
If God were to cherish anything other than God more than God, he would be an idolater. But this is so far from ever possibly being the case that such a thought is ridiculous. (Which is why it's so mind-boggling when John 15:9 and John 17:23 say that believers are loved as God the Son is loved. But I'll have to say more about that in another post.)

And the glowing terms he uses in Scripture to describe his great love for his Son makes one thing very clear. His most prized possession, his greatest treasure is his Son.

And the good news is that his Son came as our neighbor and loved us as himself, giving his life in our place for our sins, in his obedience unto death on a cross. He loved us, and he still loves his people, because God the Father raised him from the dead.

So why don't we follow the Father's lead and take Jesus as our own most valued possession? If here we see what Almighty God values most, then why would we ever choose anything else as our greatest treasure?

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John Piper puts this all way better than I can, as he follows in Jonathan Edward's (and the apostle Paul's) footsteps. Here's a video of him giving a lecture about essentially this very thing, entitled, The Glory of God and the Gladness of Man.

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