By Joy Lopes
Staff Writer for The Daily Grace Co.
A tainted view that I held for many years and have heard from the hearts and mouths of believing and unbelieving friends alike, is that God the Father only loves us because of what Jesus did on the cross—that before Jesus’ sacrifice, God did not love or want me and that His wrath was against me fully and finally, until Jesus stepped in to appease Him.
The lie of those words feels heavy even to write, but it is something I believed for a long time. In those years of misunderstanding, I did not know there was anything wrong with my theology—what I believed about God. I figured it did not matter much because I was in Christ, and so God the Father saw Him and not me anymore. I thought I was hidden from Him; I did not have to face His disappointment, disapproval, or rejection. In a way, it was like I had disappeared completely, and only Christ was left–which is not wholly false.
Scripture Interprets Scripture
But I would read verses like Galatians 2:20 which says that I have been crucified with Christ and He is now the One who lives, and I would use that to fuel that misconception of Father God’s view of me. The Scriptures themselves do not pollute our understanding of God, but the preconceptions we bring to them can influence our application, or misapplication, of the Bible. This is why we need Scripture to interpret Scripture for us and not our own, extrabiblical ideas. This means that we should rely on other parts of the Bible to shape our understanding of more difficult passages and continually ask the Holy Spirit to guide us.
If I had allowed the rest of the Bible to influence my understanding of Galatians 2:20, I would have understood that while its words were completely true—that I have been crucified with Christ and that He lives perfectly in my place before the Father—I would have also seen that Jesus’ blood covers me in this way because the Father purposed that it should, in order to draw me near to Himself. His blood cleanses me to make me presentable to the Father, not to hide me from His view (Ephesians 5:25-27).
Some Deep Doctrine Truth: The Trinity
In reality, the Bible is very clear about God the Father’s disposition toward us. If we begin with the doctrine of the Trinity, we remember that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are all united as one God. They are three persons with distinct roles but one and the same in substance. They are completely equal and united in all their works. There is nothing the Father does that the Son and the Spirit are not equally involved in, and vice versa. Jesus said only what He heard from the Father (John 12:49), and the Spirit was sent by the Father and the Son (John 15:26) to remind us of all those things (John 14:26). So even if the Scriptures only had recorded words from Jesus and the Spirit about their love for us, we would know that the Father had the same love.
Because God So Loved
But God the Father did not so limit the expression of His love in the Scriptures. Even in the Old Testament, before Jesus had come to earth, God the Father spoke about His plan to pursue His people in order to restore what our sin damaged. Restoration of the relationship between His people and Himself has been God’s plan from before time began. The prophets in Scripture speak richly of Father God’s heart toward His wayward people:
The Lord your God is in your midst,Zephaniah 3:17
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
God the Father rejoices over us with deep love and tender affection. He loved us in this way even before He formed us into existence.
John 3:16 is often overlooked in this discussion, ironically because of its familiarity. But think about the first few words of that verse: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son…” The Greek word usually translated “for” in this verse is γαρ, which can also have the sense of cause, as in “because God loved the world, He gave His only Son…” Jesus’ work on the cross was not some covert mission behind the Father’s back to cajole Him into loving us. God the Father sent God the Son because of the love He already had for us. Christ willingly died in our place and rose again to ensure our reconciliation with the Father and our eternal dwelling place with Him. The Father, the Son, and the Spirit are equally involved in pursuing God’s people, because they are one.
The Cost of Our Sin
There were very real consequences and a massive debt on our shoulders because of our sinful rebellion against God. Jesus met the just demands of God’s wrath against our sin by His death on the cross; and it was all by God the Father’s good design that He might bring about the reconciliation that our sin made necessary:
Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring…Isaiah 53:10a
Jesus was willing to pay the cost for your sin because of His great love for you. As God, He knew that only He could satisfy His own demands for justice. Only He could fully cover your sin in such a way that you would be able to approach God’s throne room (Revelation 21:3) and dwell in His midst for eternity—and Jesus would “see His offspring.” Christ does not have any love for you that the Father and the Spirit do not also have. They do not share or distribute it among themselves; God’s love is one, just as He is.