We run our website the way we wished the whole internet worked: we provide high quality original content with no ads. We are funded solely by your direct support. Please consider supporting this project.

man-reading-newspaper

What Makes the Good News So Good

While God was revealed in various ways and to various degrees through the law and the prophets of the Old Testament, in Jesus we finally have the one who is “the exact representation of God’s being” or essence (hypostasis, Heb. 1:1-13). This is the heart of the Good News that reverberates throughout the New Testament. God looks like Jesus. To see Jesus is to see the Father (Jn. 14:7-9). This is why followers of Jesus can never just accept a generic understanding of the word “God,” as though the meaning of this word is self-evident.

What makes this Good News good, however, is not merely that Jesus is the definitive revelation of God: it’s rather the beautiful character of the God that Jesus reveals. This character is succinctly, and famously, captured by John when he proclaims, “God is love [agape]” (I Jn 4:8, cf. 16). In my estimation, this is the most simple, profound and breathtakingly beautiful revelation in all of Scripture, and indeed in all of history.

As Peter Kreeft notes, this passage is claiming nothing less than that “[l]ove is God’s essence.” He continues:

Nowhere else does Scripture express God’s essence in this way. Scripture says God is just and merciful, but it does not say that God is justice itself or mercy itself. It does say that God is love, not just a lover. Love is God’s very essence. Everything else is a manifestation of this essence to us, a relationship between this essence and us. This is the absolute; everything else is relative to it.[1]

Along similar lines, biblical scholars Reinhard Feldmeier and Hermann Spieckermann argue that the absolute centrality of the command to love God and neighbors in the teachings of Jesus as well as in several NT authors, “presupposes that—assuming the congruence of the divine nature and will—love belongs to God’s nature, and more, that love constitutes God’s nature.”[2] In other words, since love is the essence of all that God wills, as Jesus and the authors of the NT teach (Matt 22:37), then we must either accept that love is the essence of God’s nature, or we must accept the truly blasphemous conclusion that God is a hypocrite!

Everything Christians think and say about God must be grounded in this all-important revelation that God is love. Whatever else we may wish to say about various divine attributes— including God’s “justice” and “wrath”—we must ultimately understand them as expressions of God’s love—indeed, of the love God eternally is.

Feldmeier and Spieckermann note that the NT teaches that the God revealed in Jesus Christ is not only “a God of love (2 Cor 13:11),” but “he is love (I John 4:8, 16).” And for this reason, they argue, “the contrary statement, that he is a God of wrath, indeed, that he is wrath, is inconceivable.” So too, they argue, there is a “clear asymmetry between wrath and love” such that if God “grows angry,” it is only “because of his love and for the sake of his love.” And for this reason, they conclude,

It must, therefore, be asserted emphatically that God’s wrath is his reaction to injustice and defiance (see Rom 1:18), and not a divine affect, not one of God’s dark sides, and certainly not a divine attribute [in the sense that love is].[3]

If God’s very eternal essence is love, then to experience God is to experience perfect love. If some experience God as fierce wrath, therefore, it is not because there is something else in God alongside his love. Rather this is how their hard hearts experience God’s love. But this doesn’t alter the fact that it is God’s perfect love that they are experiencing. God’s love alone is the one absolute.

[1] P. Kreeft, Knowing the Truth About God’s Love: The One Thing We Can’t Live Without (Ann Arbor, MI: Servant, 1988), p.91.

[2] R. Feldmeier and H. Spieckermann, God of the Living: A Biblical Theology, trans. M. E. Biddle (Waco: Baylor University Pres, 2011), 127.

[3] Feldmeier and Spieckermann, God of the Living, 339-40.

Photo via VisualHunt.com

Related Reading

The Cruciform Trinity

As paradoxical as it sounds, if God is supremely revealed when he stoops to the infinite extremity of becoming his own antithesis on the cross, then we must conclude that stooping to this extremity out of love must, in some sense, be intrinsic to who God eternally is. And rendering this coherent necessitates that we…

Topics:

What Does God Look Like?

Thomas Hawk via Compfight Our good friend Jessica Kelley wrote this blog featuring sermons from Mark Moore about what God is really like. It’s a timely piece since Jessica is going to be preaching at Woodland Hills Church this weekend, and Mark Moore is attending the upcoming ReKnew conference and will be hosting a get-together with…

Was Jesus Fully Human and Fully God?

The New Testament is very clear that Jesus was a full human being. He had to grow in wisdom (Lk 2:52) and learn obedience by going through trials, just like every other human being (Heb. 5:8). He grew hungry and tired, like the rest of us. He experienced the same range of emotions as the…

God’s Love is Cruciform

Paul instructs us in what it means to follow Jesus, when he stated, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Eph 5:1-2). Here Paul defines what it means to…

Sermon: Diaper Power

In this short clip from Greg Boyd’s Sermon Diaper Power, he introduces the theme of the sermon where talks about how the poverty of the manger exemplified the power of God. In this sermon, Greg shows that God really is like the baby swaddled in clothes in the manger. The kind of power that God…

The Starting Point for “Knowing God”

While it makes sense that Hellenistic philosophers embraced knowledge of God as the simple, necessary and immutable One in an attempt to explain the ever-changing, composite, contingent world (see post here for what this means), it is misguided for Christian theology to do so. By defining knowledge of God’s essence over-and-against creation, we are defining God’s essence…