"He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything."
Colossians 1:18

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Glory Without Love

In the brief history of this blog, we have already made much mention about God's glory - its importance and pre-eminence in the world.  This is not a lament, for indeed, how could the grateful recipients of His perfect and continual grace ever say too much about His glory?  Having said this, it must be acknowledged that we do run a risk of painting a lopsided portrait of our Lord if we prove careless in our rapture. 

Here is the risk.  If everything around us, including evil, has its being so that God may display His glory to tremendous degree (as we posited with almost painful brevity in How Glorious Is Glorious?), then what does this say about the genuineness of His love for us?  If God's goal is to display His glory, does this mean that His love is just a means to that end?  Put simply, does the pre-eminence of His glory diminish the quality of His love?

Three independent lines of thought should converge to offer some certainty in this matter about our loving Father.

1.  God's character is holy.  "This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you," says John in 1 John 1:5, "that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all."  God is overflowing with moral purity, and, as we know that God does not change (Mal. 3:16, Jas. 1:17), that moral purity is adorned with an impregnable integrity as well.  Put simply, God is holy, and He will never, ever be anything but perfectly holy.  Thus if He has put into His Word that He is love (1 John 4:8), we know that we absolutely must trust in His unimpeachable truthfulness.  He is not something resembling love, but rather love itself! 

He who cannot lie (Titus 1:2) has disclosed Himself indelibly as a God of love, and His bedrock holiness guarantees further that this love is uncorrupted by even the smallest vein of selfishness, impatience, or pride.

2.  The linguistic nature of God's love, as described in the Bible, demonstrates its reality.  God is "abounding in lovingkindness" (Ps. 103:8b, etc.).  "Lovingkindness" here is chesed in the Hebrew, the very idea of which moves beyond mere obligation into the realm of generosity.1  By no means may we accuse the Lord of doing only the bare minimum in relation to us His children - the very language of His book declares that He goes above and beyond.  The extra mile (or extra lightyear?) which God covers in His faithful love demonstrates that more is at work than merely pretending a loving demeanor.

The New Testament likewise affirms this.  Here, the operative word for love is, of course, agape, with which we are all no doubt familiar, but one exemplary foray into scripture will uncover some exegetical paydirt.  Christ prays to the Father, "and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them." (John 17:26) Here Christ declares that the agape love which the Father has for Him will also be directed toward His disciples, and, by extension, the rest of His followers.  If there is weight in God's love toward His own divine Son, then there is also in His love toward us.  This thought should provoke praise from hearts astonished into greater humility; amen? 

3.  The reality of His glory is predicated upon the reality of His love.  Notice how the psalmist describes God revealing His glory (Ps. 98:2-3):
"The Lord has made known His salvation;
He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered His lovingkindness and His faithfulness to the house of Israel;
All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God."

He demonstrates His salvation, His righteousness, His faithfulness, and yes, His lovingkindness, and so shows a generous measure of glory.  Mark this well, though:  God's glory, then, becomes reliant upon the reality of these different outpourings of divine character - His glory is not what it purports to be if, say, His righteousness is a farce, and so forth.  He has therefore tied the actuality of His glory to the truth of His love (and other wondrous things), and were His love a travesty, His glory would fall short - a gold veneer applied to a helium balloon. 

For these reasons, and others like them, we believers may rest in the certainty of divine love.  By no means does God's desire to display His glory diminish the reality of His love - in truth, the glory is seen in the reality of the love!  Our Lord has laid upon our grateful hearts a love so incalculable, so pure, so real, that we are powerless to equal it.  "See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are." (1 John 3:1a)

And such we are.

1:  Vine, W.E., Merrill F. Unger, & William White, Jr.  Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words.  Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996.  p. 142.


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