As the Father Hath Loved Me, so Have I Loved You

R. V. Court, Bristol, England

It is the nature of God to love, and this has been His nature from eternity. As God's love is eternal, and divine love must have had someone to love through eternity, It is not difficult to see here the eternal Being of the Son upon whom this love was lavished. Genesis 22 has often been used to show the close relationship between the Father and the Son, and there we find God stressing the love of Abraham the father for Isaac the son-"thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest", v. 2. God understood Abraham's feelings.

Since it is true that the Father loves the Son, then Calvary becomes even more wonderful. The God of heaven was not giving someone who could be regarded as expendable, but the One He gave was the object of divine affection, and giving Him cost Him something.

The apostle John is the one who draws attention to the love of the Father for the Son, and his Gospel contains seven references to it, one being the comment of John the Baptist, John 3. 35 and six others coming from the lips of the Lord Jesus Himself. It seems as though He delighted to dwell upon this fact. Other Gospels also recognize the truth as they record the word from heaven, "this is my beloved Son".

With the exception of the first, we shall look at the other six references in the order in which they occur. The introductory one is

John 17.24, "thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world"; we take this first because in it the Lord stresses the eternal nature of the love which His Father had for Him-it was not something that originated or was generated in what we call "time", it is an essential component of the divine nature and relations; as the Father loved the Son, He was lavishing His divine affection upon One who was with Him, One who was worthy of His love, One who could comprehend it, and One who returned it. In the verse there are two possible explanations for this statement of the Lord: (i) Could It be the gift of the Father to His Son of "those whom thou hast given me"- was this the love gift of the Father, the redeemed given to Him because the Father loved Him?, or could it be (ii) "the glory which thou gavest me"- was this given because He loved Him? Can we not say both are true? Surely these truths were in the mind of the Lord Jesus as He moved on to the cross; they were part of "the joy that was set before him", Heb. 12. 2.

It is significant that in Ephesians 1. 4 the expression "before the foundation of the world" is used concerning God's eternal choice of believers to be His own, to be "without blame before him". In 1 Peter 1. 20 the expression is again used to speak of the Lamb "foreordained before the foundation of the world", and the context speaks of the shedding of blood. The One foreordained to provide a righteous basis for God's choice of sinfiers for Himself was the One the Father loved from eternity.

John 3. 35, "The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand". What confidence this displays. His is a love that trusts the Son implicitly, so all things are committed to Him. He is not only the perfect and competent Executor of all the Father's purpose, but He is this because the Father's love for Him is so unmeasured that all things are bestowed upon Him. In Genesis 24. 36, when seeking to commend his master's son Isaac to Laban, the servant of Abraham makes the statement, "and unto him hath he given all that he hath". Again this truth is emphasized in 25. 5, "And Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac". As this truth is stressed in relation to God and His Son, we see perfect love going out to One who is perfectly lovely, and who is perfectly able to do "all things" committed to Him.

John 5. 19-20, "The Father loveth the Son, and showeth him all things that himself doeth". These words were spoken against the background of human hatred and opposition; see verse 18. The hatred at this particular moment was because of two things: (i) according to the Pharisaic reasoning, He had broken the Sabbath day when healing a lame man, and (ii) He had claimed equality with God. The Lord Jesus knew what this hatred would lead to: Calvary ever loomed before His vision, and there must have been a sadness with Him as He knew that men whom He loved and for whom He would die hated Him without a cause. But against this hatred He set the love of the Father for Him. How His heart must have been comforted in the overwhelming knowledge that He was very dear to God, and according to verse 20 one result of that love is that the Father shows Him all things that He is doing. These words indicate that the Son had a mind, even while on earth, that was coextensive with that of the Father-He was able to enter into all the purpose of God and to comprehend it all. Surely, God delighted in this showing "all things". Alex. McLaren wrote, "The words give a glimpse into the eternal depths of deity and show energy of love and the possibility of communion before creatures were. They claim for the incarnate Son the same unbroken share in the love of the Father and undimmed vision of His work. They marvellously unite his lowly subjection and sameness of nature and, however little we can read all these depths, they unmistakably proclaim that He of whom they are true is divine".

John 10. 16-17, "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again". Is this an added love because of the sacrificial work that He was about to complete? Is it that the Father could say, "I love My Son", not only because He is His Son but also because of His obedience unto death, His willingness to go to the bitter end in devotion to His will? Verse 18 makes it clear that in laying down His life He was acting in conformity with the Father's commandment. He was laying it down voluntarily, not by compulsion, and His willingness to do this called forth the Father's love in a deeper measure. Verses 17-18 both underline the truth that man was helpless to take that blessed life, and if the life was to be taken at all, it must be by way of selfless yielding to the expressed will of God. "Therefore doth my Father love me." Calvary was a dreadful place, a place of suffering and shame, of horror and humiliation, but never had the Father loved His Son more than as He watched Him at that place. We know that when the Lord was baptized by John, foreshadowing a later "baptism", Matt. 20. 22-23,. the Father's voice was heard from the opened heaven, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased". Surely God could rightly echo the same words as He gazed at the cross.

John 15. 9, "As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you". The Father's love for the Son was unrestrained and full, and in a similar manner and similar measure the Son claims that He loved that little group of men who had left all to follow Him, and that He is concerned that nothing should hinder their enjoyment of that love. Indeed in verse 12 He urges an expansion of that love through them to one another. Notice the standard of the love that believers must have toward each other, "as I have loved you". Verse 9 says: I have loved you as the Father has loved Me. What a standard, what a challenge! The Lord Jesus then lets us into the secret of how we may "continue" in that love: "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in His love", v. 10. We discover in these words that the undisturbed love and fellowship between the Father and the Son was linked with keeping the Father's commandments. We listen with awe to the words of the Son, "I do always those things that please him", 8. 29, not by compulsion but because of love.

John 17. 23, "Thou ... hast loved them, as thou hast loved me". Here the Lord speaks of the Father's love to Him as being the same love that He bestows so fully and freely upon the believer. The objects of the love are different: in loving the Son the Father's love reaches out to One who is worthy of that love, but when that love reaches out to men it reaches out to those who are unworthy and unlovely. But it is the same divine love:

So dear, so very dear to God,
Dearer I cannot be: The love wherewith He loves the Son
Such is His love to me.

If one would ask, "How much does God love me?", the answer can only be "as He loved the Son". This is an immeasurable deep, and we are reminded of the word "so" in John 3. 16-measure that if you can!

John 17. 26, "I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them". The Lord was intent that His disciples should know more and more of the Person of God, who has now been revealed to them as "Father"; the language of our verse seems to suggest that a deepening knowledge of the Person of the Father will result in a deeper enjoyment of His love which has come to them through the Son. Note that the love in verse 23 is something that can be seen by the world, but now in verse 26 it is "in them" because Christ is in them, In other words, there is an outshining of the love which has reached us, and it is seen by the world as something that is unworldly in origin.

Surely this emphasis of the love of God flowing out to man through the Son is the miracle of Christianity. It is now possible for us to say, "we love him, because he first loved us", 1 John 4. 19, and we recognize and submit ourselves to the gracious work of the Holy Spirit, inasmuch as by Him "the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts", Rom. 5. 5.

I love Thee Lord, yet 'tis no love of mine That Goethe forth to that great heart of Thine; 'Ties Thine own love which Thou hast given me Returning back, O loving Lord, to Thee.