Yesterday Craig Cabaniss preached a message from Psalm 115 about the faithfulness of God in honor of our 5 year anniversary of a church plant.
His reference to the "steadfast love of God" (from the Hebrew word 'hesed') as the unique love of God in Christ Jesus made me think of a particular verse in Eph. 2 that has brought clarity and focus for me regarding God's love. It comes in verse 4.
"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us"
This verse is tucked between towering phrases of us being "children of wrath" (v. 3), and being "dead in our trespasses," followed by the momentous reality that we are "made alive together with Christ (v. 5)."
Those two realities: our being justifiably objects of God's wrath and the good news of being "alive," "saved," "raised," and "seated" in Him (v. 5-6) can demand such clarity in a day where they are being dismissed that you can miss why God would ever do such a thing in the first place.
Did you miss it?
Why does he do that with people who left to themselves could care less? Why does he raise the dead when "like the rest" they aren't looking to be alive to anything else but what the world offers?
Notice the reasons why God makes dead people live again:
1. "Being rich in mercy" Notice that God doesn't discover mercy. He doesn't go searching for it somewhere. There is no place outside of himself where a treasure trove of mercy exists that replenishes his supply. Rather--he IS merciful "being" rich in mercy--never "becoming" rich in mercy. God is not becoming merciful with time. He is mercy. Moreover--he's RICH in mercy. All mercy demonstrated in the world today find it's source in him alone.
2. ..."with which he loved us" Before we get to the middle part of the verse notice that God loves us. Don't move past that like you've heard that enough from TV evangelists and we need to get to something more objective and sturdy--and less emotional. There is no greater news than that God loves us. If God comes to us through a Christ that deeply hates us and rewards us with a heaven in which he exists irritated and distant from those He made alive we worship a God of deism. Holy and terrifying and logically distant--cold--and ultimately needy to serve him. Because he doesn't love those he redeems he lacks something they must provide through service. But God lacks nothing and loves freely the unlovely.
But how does He love us? Of what kind of love is this? Catch the middle phrase...
3. .."because of the great love.." Notice that Paul qualifies God's love with the phrase, "the great love." I believe Paul wants to separate in our minds the love that we operate from and the love that God operates from. God loves of a particular kind of love. A "great" love. This love is not a small love. A temporal love. A love you are familiar with. It's not a love that is similar to our love and finds it's reflection from us. It's a love that wholly and completely "other" and set apart. It comes from him in an overflowing and ultimately downward direction. We call this "grace."
It's His alone.
John used language similar to Paul when he wrote...
"See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him (John 3:1)."
And what is this "kind" of love we are to behold? Where do we see it most clearly?
Let John Owen answer this question for us...
"[Jesus Christ is the] medium of all communication between God and us. In him we meet, in him we walk. All influences of love, kindness, mercy, from God to us, are through him; all our returns of love, delight, faith, obedience unto God, are all through him."
Look at Jesus Christ and you see the embodiment of God's love to us.