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Book Summary

Communion with God by John Owen is a timeless masterpiece that takes us on a journey into the heart of Christian spirituality. This 17th-century Puritan theologian invites us to delve deeper into our relationship with God, exploring the unique roles of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in our communion with the divine.

Owen paints a beautiful picture of the Father as the initiator of love. He is the source, the wellspring from which all divine love flows. But how do we, as mere mortals, come to know and experience this love? This is where the Son comes in. According to Owen, the Son's role is to reveal the Father's love to us. Through His life, death, and resurrection, Jesus Christ unveils the depth and breadth of the Father's love.

But the communion doesn't stop there. The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, gives us the experience of the Father's love. The Spirit works within us, enabling us to grasp and respond to the love that the Father initiates and the Son reveals.

Owen also emphasizes the crucial role of grace and faith in this divine communion. It is by grace, he asserts, that we are drawn into this fellowship with God. And it is through faith that we embrace and respond to God's love.

Communion with God is more than just a theological treatise. It's a call to a deeper, more intimate relationship with God. It's an invitation to experience the love of the Father, revealed by the Son, and made real in our lives by the Holy Spirit. So, if you're seeking a richer understanding of your faith and a closer walk with God, this book is a must-read.

Communion with God

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Chapter 1: The Saints have communion with God

In 1 John 1:3, the apostle confidently assures his audience that the community of believers shares a profound connection "with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." The phrasing he employs conveys such a strong message that we have interpreted it as, "Truly, our fellowship is deeply connected with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ."

The external appearance and condition of the devout during that period were meager and looked down upon. Their leaders were regarded as the lowest of the low, the refuse of society. Inviting others to join their fellowship and to share in the precious things they had was met with several uncomfortable situations and objections: "What advantage is there in associating with them? It only leads to sharing in their difficulties, insults, mockery, and all sorts of troubles." To address or dispel these and similar objections, the apostle earnestly informed the believers that, despite the apparent disadvantages of their community from a worldly perspective, in reality, what they possessed was highly honorable, magnificent, and desirable. For "truly," he states, "our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ."

The apostle asserts this so earnestly and directly that we can confidently echo his statement, "That the saints of God have communion with him." This communion is of a holy and spiritual nature, as I will demonstrate. The reason for the distinct reference to the Father and the Son will be thoroughly examined later.

Since the introduction of sin into the world, no individual has been able to have a relationship with God due to their inherent sinful nature. God is light; we are in darkness; how can there be fellowship between light and darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14). He embodies life; we are in a state of spiritual death. He is the essence of love; we are filled with hostility. How can there be any form of agreement between us? Individuals in such a state are without Christ, hope, or God in their lives, as stated in Ephesians 2:12. They are "alienated from the life of God through their ignorance," as mentioned in Ephesians 4:18. Furthermore, two entities cannot walk together unless they are in agreement, as Amos 3:3 suggests. Therefore, as long as this separation between God and humanity exists, they cannot share in fellowship or communion. Our initial connection with God was so severely damaged by sin that there was no possibility of restoration from within ourselves. We stripped ourselves of any capability to return to Him. Moreover, God had not disclosed if there was any method to regain access to Him, nor had He indicated that sinners could approach Him in peace for any reason. Nothing in God's creation, nor any attribute He has revealed, suggested even the slightest possibility of such an opportunity.

The manifestation of God's grace and pardoning mercy is the only gateway to such communion. It is entrusted solely to the one who made atonement. He is the one in whom it is demonstrated. He is the one through whom grace and mercy were acquired. He is the one through whom it is distributed, and from whom it is unveiled from the heart of the Father. Consequently, this communion and fellowship with God is not explicitly mentioned in the Old Testament. It exists there, but its clear illumination, and the confidence of faith it embodies, are only revealed in the gospel of the New Testament. There, the Spirit facilitates it. Through the Spirit, we attain this freedom of communion, as stated in 2 Corinthians 3:17, 18. Abraham was a friend of God, as noted in Isaiah 41:8. David was a man after God's own heart. Enoch walked with Him, as mentioned in Genesis 5:22. All of them experienced the essence of this communion and fellowship. However, the path into the most holy place was not apparent while the first tabernacle was still in existence, according to Hebrews 9:8. Although they had communion with God, they lacked parresian (Strongs NT:3954), as mentioned in Ephesians 3:12, which signifies a boldness and confidence in that communion. This only became available after our High Priest entered into the most holy place, as described in Hebrews 4:16, 10:19. Thus, the veil remained over those in the Old Testament. They did not possess eleuterian (Strongs NT:1657), or freedom and liberty in their access to God, as indicated in 2 Corinthians 3:15, 16, and so forth.

In Christ, we now possess both boldness and confident access to God, as stated in Ephesians 3:12. This privilege was not known to the saints of the past. The separation from God has been eliminated solely through Jesus Christ. He has established a new and living path for us "through the veil, that is, his flesh," according to Hebrews 10:20. The former path is now closed. "Through him, we have access by one Spirit to the Father," as mentioned in Ephesians 2:18. "You who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ, for he is our peace...," as stated in verses 13 and 14. Further discussion on this foundation of our communion with God will be provided later. Based on this new foundation, through this new and living way, sinners are granted admission into communion with God. They enjoy fellowship with Him. It is indeed a remarkable arrangement that allows sinners to have fellowship with God, the infinitely holy God.

Communion pertains to both objects and individuals. It signifies participating together in something, whether it be positive or negative, an obligation or pleasure, characteristic or deeds. Having a shared essence implies that all humans have a connection or communion in that essence. Regarding the chosen ones, it is mentioned in Hebrews 2:14, “Those children partook of” (shared or had communion with) “flesh and blood” (their shared essence with humanity); “and, therefore, Christ likewise participated in the same communion.”

There is also a shared experience regarding our state or condition, whether positive or negative, or concerning internal and spiritual matters. This reflects the fellowship among the saints, either among themselves or in relation to their experiences of external events. Christ experienced a similar condition with the two thieves. All three were sentenced to crucifixion, as noted in Luke 23:40. They shared the unfortunate circumstance for which they were condemned. Moreover, one of them requested, and was granted, participation in the blessed state our Savior was soon to enter.

There is also a shared participation or connection in actions, whether those actions are good or evil. Among good actions is the shared participation and connection that the saints experience in the gospel, or in conducting and celebrating the worship of God that is established in the gospel, as mentioned in Philippians 1:5. David expresses joy in the same general type of actions in Psalms 42:4. Among evil actions, there was a shared participation in the cruel act of revenge and murder committed by the brothers Simon and Levi, as recorded in Genesis 49:5.

Our relationship with God is not limited to just one form; indeed, it excludes some forms. It cannot be a natural relationship. It must be voluntary and based on mutual agreement. It cannot be a relationship based on sharing the same state or condition, but rather on shared actions. It cannot involve actions directed towards a third party. It must involve direct interactions between God and us. The vast difference between God and humans led a great philosopher to conclude that friendship between them was impossible. He could accept a certain level of intimacy among friends, but in his view, there was no room for such intimacy between God and humans. Another philosopher acknowledged a form of fellowship between God and humans, but saw it only as the general workings of providence. Some have spoken more highly of this communion, but they did not truly understand what they were talking about. This knowledge is concealed in Christ, as will be explained later. It is too profound for our sinful and corrupt nature to grasp. Merely speculating about it can lead to fear and dread of death if we were to encounter God's presence. However, as mentioned earlier, we are now based on a new foundation and have a new revelation of this privilege.

Communion refers to the shared exchange of valued aspects among individuals who find joy in this interaction, grounded in the bond they share. This was the case with Jonathan and David. Their souls were deeply connected through love (1 Sam. 20:17). There existed a bond of love between them, and they shared all expressions of that love with each other. In spiritual matters, this exchange is even more significant. The expressions or outcomes of such a union are of the highest and most distinguished value.

Our relationship with God involves Him sharing Himself with us, and in return, we offer back to Him what He desires and accepts. This exchange stems from the connection we share with Him through Jesus Christ. This relationship is twofold:

1. A perfect and complete communion. This represents the ultimate realization of all his glory and our complete submission to him, finding rest in him as our ultimate purpose. We will experience this form of communion when we behold him in his true form in eternity.

2. An initial and incomplete communion. This involves the initial benefits and the onset of perfection that we currently experience through grace. This type is the sole focus of my discussion in this discourse.

I will discuss the reciprocal communication that exists between God and the saints as they journey together in a covenant of peace, confirmed through the blood of Jesus. Through the abundance of His grace, the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has transformed us from a state of hostility into a state of communion and fellowship with Himself. I pray that anyone who reads these words of His mercy may experience His goodness and excellence in doing so, thereby being inspired to a deeper desire for the completeness of His salvation and His eternal enjoyment in Glory.

Chapter 2: The Saints have Distinct Communion with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

The saints have communion with God. The general nature of this communion was outlined in the first chapter. The manner in which this communion is maintained and its specific characteristics are to be discussed next. Regarding the distinct persons of the Godhead with whom the saints share this fellowship, it can either be a distinct and unique relationship with each one, or it can be obtained and exercised jointly and in common. It is important to clarify that the saints have distinct and separate communions with each the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is also necessary to explain how distinct communion with the various persons of the Godhead is uniquely appropriated for each.

In 1 John 5:7, the apostle informs us, "There are three that bear record in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit." They reside in heaven and testify to us. What exactly do they testify about? They testify to the divine sonship of Christ and the salvation of believers through His sacrifice. He elaborates on how this testimony is conveyed, through both blood and water, symbolizing our justification and sanctification. How do they each uniquely testify to this truth? When God testifies about our salvation, it is our duty to accept His testimony. As He testifies, so we must receive it. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit each provide a unique testimony, as they are three distinct witnesses. Therefore, we must accept their testimonies individually. By doing so, we engage in communion with them individually, since this exchange of testimony is a significant aspect of our fellowship with God. The specifics of their individual testimonies will be explained further on.

In 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, the apostle Paul clearly attributes the distribution of gifts and graces to the saints to the distinct persons of the Godhead. "There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit," referring to the Holy Spirit in verse 11. "And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord," referring to Lord Jesus in verse 5. "And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God...," referring to the Father, as mentioned in Ephesians 4:6. Thus, graces and gifts are bestowed distinctly, and that is how they are received. This distinction is not only evident in the emanation of grace from God and the passing of the Spirit to us but also in our access to God. "For through Christ we have access by one Spirit to the Father," as stated in Ephesians 2:18. Our access to God, in which we have communion with Him, is "dia Christou," meaning "through Christ," "en Pneumati," meaning "in the Spirit," and "pros ton Patera," meaning "to the Father." The persons of the Godhead are distinctively engaged in accomplishing the will of God as revealed in the gospel.

At times, explicit reference is made solely to the Father and the Son, as seen in John 1:3, "Our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." The conjunction "and" serves to both differentiate and connect. Similarly, in John 14:23, "If a man loves me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our abode with him." It is within this fellowship, or communion, that the Father and Son establish their presence with the individual. On occasion, only the Son is highlighted in this communion. For instance, 1 Cor. 1:9 states, "God is faithful, by whom you were called to the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord." And in Rev. 3:20, "If any man hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me."

At times, only the Spirit is referenced. "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all," as stated in 2 Corinthians 13:14. Therefore, the distinct fellowship of the saints with the Father, the Son, and the Spirit is clearly evident in the Scriptures. Nonetheless, this can be further substantiated. It is important to note beforehand that any assertions made in support of this truth are in context with the explanation provided at the start of the following chapter.

The spiritual and holy practices are the ways through which the faithful experience communion with God in Christ. This connection is found in the practice of those virtues that constitute both the moral and formal worship of God. Faith, love, trust, joy, and similar virtues are what make up the natural or moral worship of God. These virtues are the means through which the faithful commune with Him. These acts either directly engage with God without any external manifestation, or they are expressed outwardly through solemn prayer and praise, as prescribed by God. In all these virtues, the Scripture clearly attributes the actions of the faithful to each person of the Trinity respectively: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This applies whether the actions are purely moral or part of formal worship. I will further clarify this statement with specific examples:

1. For the Father. The saints offer their faith, love, obedience, and more in a unique and distinct manner. The Father reveals Himself and responds to the saints through these virtues, encouraging them to engage in them more fervently. He testifies about His Son, as stated in 1 John 5:9, "This is the witness of God which he has testified of his Son." In testifying, God becomes the focus of our belief. When He provides such testimony, it is accepted through faith. This concept is supported in verse 10, "He that believes on the Son of God, has the witness in himself." To believe in the Son of God in this context means to accept the Lord Christ as the Son. He is presented to us for all the purposes of the Father’s love, grounded in the reliability of the Father’s testimony. Thus, by doing so, our faith immediately places the Father as the object of our belief. This is further explained in the following statement, "he that does not believe God" (referring to the Father, who testifies about the Son) "has made him a liar." "You believe in God," our Savior states in John 14:1 – referring to the Father, as He then says, "Believe also in me;" or, "Believe you in God; believe also in me." God, as the primary truth, is the fundamental object of this belief. It is based on His authority, upon which all divine faith ultimately rests. Typically, faith does not specifically identify a particular person within the Godhead as "hupostatikos," but rather as "ousiodos," encompassing the entire Deity without division. However, in this instance, we are discussing the testimony and authority of the Father, and it is specifically the Father upon whom our faith is fixed. If this were not the case, the Son could not say, "Believe also in me."

The same concept is also mentioned regarding love in 1 John 2:15, which states, “If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” This refers to the love we offer to God, rather than the love we receive from Him. In this context, the Father is the focus of our love, contrasting with the world that captivates our affections. Here, the Father signifies both the subject and the object of our love, but not the efficient cause of our love. And this love for Him as a Father is what He refers to as His “honor,” according to Malachi 1:6.

Moreover, the acts of grace expressed in our prayers and praises, or those that form part of our established worship, are specifically aimed at the Father. "You call on the Father," as stated in 1 Peter 1:17. In Ephesians 3:14-15, it is written, "For this reason I kneel before the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name." Kneeling represents the entirety of worship towards God, encompassing both the universal moral obedience He demands and other forms of worship He prescribes. Isaiah 45:23 proclaims, "To me," says the Lord, "every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance." In the following verses, He explains that this submission involves recognizing Him as the source of righteousness and strength. At times, it appears to encompass the orderly submission of all creation to His rule. In the passage from Ephesians, the apostle uses this concept in a more limited sense, employing kneeling as a metaphor for the most expressive physical posture during prayer. He elaborates on this in Ephesians 3:16-17, clarifying his intentions and thoughts behind kneeling in prayer. Therefore, the workings of the Spirit in prayer are specifically directed towards the Father as the origin of the Deity. The Father is the source of all blessings we receive in Christ, being the "Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." Elsewhere, the apostle explicitly combines, and then differentiates, the Father and the Son in his prayers, as seen in 1 Thessalonians 3:11, "May God himself, our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you." The same principle applies to expressions of gratitude, as in Ephesians 1:3-4, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ..." I will refrain from listing all other instances that align with these aspects of divine worship, in which the saints engage in communion with God and distinctly direct it towards the Father.

2. This principle also applies to the Son, as stated in John 14:1, where Christ says, “You believe in God, believe also in me.” The phrase “believe also” suggests that our divine and supernatural faith should be distinctly directed towards the Son. This is the same faith through which you believe in God, that is, in the Father. Additionally, there is the aspect of believing in Christ, which involves acknowledging Him as the Son of God and the Savior of the world. Ignoring this belief leads to the consequence Jesus warned the Pharisees about in John 8:24: “If you do not believe that I am he, you will die in your sins.” In this context, faith is not immediately placed on the Son; it involves accepting Christ as the Son by believing in the Father’s testimony about Him. However, there is also the concept of believing in Him, referred to as “Believing on the name of the Son of God,” in 1 John 5:13 and John 9:36. Indeed, the act of placing our faith, commitment, and confidence distinctly on the Lord Jesus Christ, as the Son of God, is often emphasized. For example, John 3:16 states, “God” (meaning the Father) “so loved the world, that whoever believes in him” (referring to the Son) “should not perish.” The Son, given by the Father, must be believed in. “He that believes in him is not condemned,” as stated in verse 18, and “He that believes in the Son has everlasting life,” according to verse 36. “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one whom he has sent,” as mentioned in John 6:29, 40; 1 John 5:10. The foundational truth is articulated in John 5:23: “That all men should honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who has sent him.” Regarding the love for the Son, I will mention the solemn apostolic blessing from Ephesians 6:24, “Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity,” meaning with divine love, or the love of religious worship. This represents the only appropriate form of love for the Lord Jesus.

The solemn doxology presented in Revelation 1:5-6 clearly demonstrates that faith, hope, and love, expressed through obedience and designated worship, are rightfully owed by the saints and are specifically directed towards the Son. "To him who loves us, and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father; to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." This is proclaimed with even greater magnificence in chapter 5:8, "When the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints." Furthermore, in verses 13 and 14, "And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, 'To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!'" The Father and the Son (he who sits on the throne, and the Lamb) are presented together, yet distinctly, as the rightful recipients of all divine worship and honor, for eternity. Therefore, in his solemn final prayer, Stephen places his faith and hope specifically in Jesus, as seen in Acts 7:59-60, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit;" and, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." He understood that the Son of Man had the authority to forgive sins. The apostle identifies this worship of the Lord Jesus as the defining characteristic of the saints in 1 Corinthians 1:2, "To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours." Invocation encompasses the entirety of worship towards God. Thus, this is what is owed to Christ as our God and as the Son, though not in the role of Mediator.

3. This principle also applies to the Holy Spirit of grace. The significant sin of disbelief is consistently characterized as opposing and resisting the Holy Spirit. The love of the Spirit is explicitly mentioned in Romans 15:30. The apostle Paul specifically addresses his prayer to the Holy Spirit in the solemn blessing found in 2 Corinthians 13:14, "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all." Such blessings were initially prayers. The Holy Spirit is also deserving of all established worship. This is evident from the practice of administering baptism in His name, as mentioned in Matthew 28:19. More details on this subject will be discussed later.

To summarize the discussion: There is no form of grace through which our souls connect with God, no act of worship offered to Him, no duty or obedience fulfilled, that does not specifically involve the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Through these graces and similar means, we engage in communion with God, and this communion is distinctly experienced with each person of the Trinity, as has been explained. This concept may become clearer when we consider how the persons of the Divine Being participate in bestowing those blessings through which the saints experience communion with God. Just as all spiritual elevations are attributed to the distinct persons of the Divine Being, so too are all of God’s blessings to them distinguished by their origin and the manner in which they are given. This is demonstrated in two ways:

(1.) It is affirmed when the same attribute, at the same time, is attributed jointly, distinctly, and individually to all the persons within the Godhead. Grace and peace are attributed both collectively and individually in Revelation 1:4, 5, "Grace be to you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness..." The seven Spirits before the throne represent the Holy Spirit of God. He is regarded as the supreme source of every perfect gift and blessing. All are united in this context, yet each is recognized for their unique role in imparting grace and peace to the believers. "Grace and peace be to you, from the Father, and from..."

(2.) It is affirmed when the same attribute is ascribed individually and collectively to each member of the Trinity. There is no benevolent influence from heaven, no transmission of light, life, love, or grace to us, that does not follow this distinct arrangement. I will present just one example, which is very inclusive and may encompass all others. This example is divine instruction. The teaching of God represents the genuine transfer of every specific emanation from Himself to the believers. The promise that "They will all be taught of God" encompasses the entire mystery of grace in terms of its actual distribution to us, to the extent that we may truly receive it. This is assigned,

[1.] To the Father. The fulfillment of that promise is specifically attributed in John 6:45, which states, "It is written in the prophets, 'And they will all be taught by God.' Every person, therefore, who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to me." This instruction, through which we are transferred from death to life and brought to Christ to partake in life and love in Him, originates from the Father. From Him we hear; about Him we learn; through Him, we are brought into union and communion with the Lord Jesus. This is His way of drawing us and recreating us according to His own will, by His Spirit. This is the task He assigns to the ministers of the gospel, as seen in Acts 26:17, 18.

[2.] To the Son. The Father declares from heaven that Christ is the great teacher. This declaration is encapsulated in the solemn command to listen to him, which was once again issued from heaven: "This is my beloved Son; hear him." The entirety of the Son's prophetic role, along with a significant portion of his royal duty, is embodied in this instruction. Through this, he is described as drawing individuals towards himself, similarly to how the Father is depicted in his teachings, as seen in John 12:32. He accomplishes this with such effectiveness that "the dead hear his voice and live." The Son's instruction is one that imparts life and breathes spirit into its recipients. It is a potent dissemination of light that penetrates the darkness. It is a transmission of life that revitalizes the deceased. It involves the opening of the eyes of the blind and the transformation of hardened hearts. It encompasses the outpouring of the Spirit, along with all its resultant benefits. Consequently, he asserts his exclusive right to be the sole teacher, as stated in Matt. 23:10, "One is your Master, even Christ."

[3.] To the Spirit – In John 14:26, it is stated, “The Comforter will teach you all things.” The apostle declares, “But the anointing which you have received remains in you, and you do not require anyone to teach you: but as the same anointing instructs you in all things, and is truth, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will remain in him,” 1 John 2:27. This teaching anointing is not only true, but it embodies truth itself. It can only be the Holy Spirit of God. Given to us, He instructs us so “that we might understand the things that are freely given to us by God,” 1 Corinthians 2:12.

I have selected this particular example because, as I mentioned earlier, it is comprehensive and encompasses most of the specific aspects that could be listed, such as quickening, preserving, etc. This further emphasizes the truth that is being illustrated. Due to the clear transmission of grace from the various persons of the Deity to the saints, it is necessary for the saints to have distinct communion with each of them. What remains is to clarify the basis for this distinction. It is that the Father bestows all grace through original authority; the Son does so by distributing from a treasury acquired through purchase; and the Holy Spirit does so through direct effectiveness.

Firstly, the Father bestows all grace through His inherent authority: He gives life to whom He chooses, as stated in John 5:21, "Of His own will He brought us forth," according to James 1:18. The power to give life is vested in the Father due to His supreme position; this pertains to His inherent authority. Consequently, when referring to the dispatch of the life-giving Spirit, it is said that Christ does so on behalf of the Father, or alternatively, the Father Himself undertakes the task. "But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send..." is mentioned in John 14:26. Similarly, in John 15:26, it is stated, "But when the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father..." The Father is also described as sending the Spirit Himself in John 16:7.

Secondly, the Son communicates by distributing from a treasury acquired through sacrifice: "We have all received from his abundance, and grace upon grace," as stated in John 1:16. And from where does this abundance originate? "It pleased the Father that in him all fullness should reside," according to Colossians 1:19. The rationale for this abundance being entrusted to him is explained in Philippians 2:8-11. "When you make his soul an offering for sin, he will extend his days, and the LORD's favor will prosper in his hand. He will observe the suffering of his soul and be content: through his understanding, my righteous servant will justify many; for he will bear their sins," as Isaiah 53:10-11 declares. And with this abundance, he also possesses the authority to share it, as noted in John 5:25-27 and Matthew 28:18.

Thirdly, the Spirit operates through direct effectiveness as stated in Romans 8:11, "But if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit that dwells in you." This passage includes all three persons of the Trinity, each contributing distinctively to our revitalization. It mentions the Father's authoritative revitalization, "He raised Christ from the dead, and he will give life to you;" the Son's mediating revitalization accomplished through "the death of Christ;" and the Spirit's direct effectiveness, "He will do it by the Spirit that dwells in you." For a more detailed explanation of this entire matter, you may refer to my other writings on this subject. Thus, we have both proven and demonstrated this distinct communion.

Chapter 3: The distinct communion that the saints have with the Father

To further elucidate this unique communion, it is necessary to present a series of examples that illustrate what the saints particularly share in this communion. I will begin by making some observations:

1. When I designate something as unique in which we specifically share fellowship with any individual person of the Godhead, I am not excluding the other persons from participating in the very same thing. My point is that it is primarily, directly, and notably shared with that one person. It is shared with the others in a secondary manner, as a result of that foundational relationship. This is because any one of the persons, as an individual, is not the primary focus of divine worship, except as they are identified with the nature or essence of God. The external acts of God (called "Trinitatis ad extra"), which are commonly considered to be shared and indivisible, are either entirely acts of common providence, or they are distinguished by their mode of operation. Thus, creation is attributed to the Father, and redemption to the Son.

2. In the dispensation of our salvation and in every act of our communion with each distinct person of the whole Deity, there is a unified involvement and operation of the entire Godhead. When we examine any act of communion with any person of the Trinity, we find that there is a contribution from every person within that act. Consider the act of faith, for example. The Father grants it to us, as it is stated, "It is not of yourselves: it is the gift of God," (Ephesians 2:8). It is the Father who reveals the gospel and Christ within it, as seen in Matthew 11:25. This faith is also procured for us by the Son, for it is said, "To you it is given on behalf of Christ, to believe on him," (Philippians 1:29). In Him, we are "blessed with spiritual blessings," (Ephesians 1:3). He bestows faith upon us and fosters its growth within us, as illustrated in Luke 17:5. Moreover, the Holy Spirit is the one who engenders this faith within us. He applies that "exceeding greatness of his power," which is exerted towards believers, "according to the working of his mighty power, which he worked in Christ, when he raised him from the dead," (Ephesians 1:19, 20; Romans 8:11).

3. When I specify a particular aspect of our shared relationship with any single member of the Godhead, I am not dismissing other forms of communion. My intention is to highlight a specific and notable instance to support and demonstrate the broader claim. In reality, there is no aspect of grace or responsibility in which we do not engage in communion with God in this manner. In every instance where we partake in the divine nature, there is an exchange and reception between God and us, owing to our close connection with Him through Christ.

4. By emphasizing this unique communion, I do not mean to limit all communion with God to these specific areas, nor to undermine the sacred fellowship we share with the entire Deity.

Having made these initial observations, I will now explain what it is, specifically and preeminently, that enables the saints to have fellowship with the Father. It is love: free, undeserved, and eternal love. The Father specifically directs this love towards the saints. They are to perceive this love directly in Him, to receive it from Him, and to reciprocate it towards Him in any manner that pleases Him. This is the profound revelation of the gospel. The Father, as the source of Deity, is otherwise known only for His wrath, anger, and indignation against sin. Without the gospel, humans can only perceive Him in this light (Rom. 1:18; Isa. 33:13-14; Hab.1:13; Ps. 5:4-6; Eph.2:3). However, through the gospel, He is now revealed specifically as embodying love, and as being full of love towards us. The proclamation of this truth is the distinctive mission of the gospel, as outlined in Titus 3:4-7.

1. In 1 John 4:8, we find the statement, "God is love." From the subsequent verse, it is clear that the name of God is understood in a personal context. This reference is to the Father as a distinct person, separate from His only begotten Son, whom He sends into the world. The text articulates, "The Father is love." This means that He embodies not only an infinitely gracious, tender, compassionate, and loving nature, as declared in Exodus 34:6-7, but He also uniquely and freely expresses His love towards us. The apostle elaborates on this concept in the following passages, stating, "This is love." He emphasizes that the manifestation of God's love is in "sending His only begotten Son into the world, so that we might live through Him," as per 1 John 4:9. This theme is reiterated in 1 John 4:10, "He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." The Holy Spirit explicitly indicates that this act of love is uniquely characteristic of Him. This love is demonstrated before the sending of Christ and before all the mercies and benefits we receive through Him. This love exists before the redemption achieved by Christ, although its full benefits are only realized through that act, as outlined in Ephesians 1:4-6.

2. The apostle Paul delineates a distribution of divine gifts in his solemn benediction, as found in 2 Corinthians 13:14, which states, "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all." In attributing various gifts to the distinct persons of the Trinity, it is specifically love that he attributes to the Father. The mention of the fellowship of the Spirit alongside the grace of Christ and the love of God highlights that it is solely through the Spirit that we are able to partake in fellowship with Christ through grace, and with the Father through love. Additionally, we experience a unique fellowship with the Spirit itself, which will be further explained later.

3. In John 16:26-27, our Savior states, "I do not say to you that I will pray the Father for you; for the Father himself loves you." This raises the question, why does He say, "I do not say that I will pray the Father for you," when He clearly stated in chapter 14:16, "I will pray the Father for you?" The disciples were fully convinced of Christ's deep and tender affection towards them, as well as His ongoing care and kindness. With all the gracious words, the comforting and faithful promises from their Master, and His openness with them, they were assured that He would not forget them once He was physically absent. However, their concerns were now focused on the Father. They wondered how they would be accepted by Him and what His feelings towards them were. Our Savior essentially tells them, "Do not worry about that. You do not need me to secure the Father’s love for you. Rather, understand that His special regard for you and your status in Him is this: 'He himself loves you.' It is true, indeed (as I have mentioned), that I will pray for the Father to send you the Spirit, the Comforter, and with Him, all the gracious fruits of His love. But as for this love itself, His free and eternal love for you, there is no need for me to intercede for that. For the Father Himself loves you profoundly. Be assured of this, so that you may engage in fellowship with Him in that love, and not be concerned about it any further. In fact, if you are worried about the Father’s love, understand that there is no greater way to trouble and burden Him than by your disbelief in it." This is invariably the case when sincere love is doubted.

4. The apostle conveys the same message in Romans 5:5, stating, "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, which is given to us." It is clear that God, the source of this love, is distinct from the Holy Spirit, who disperses this love. Furthermore, in verse 8, God is differentiated from the Son, as it is out of His love that the Son is dispatched. Thus, it is the Father to whom the apostle refers. And what attribute does he attribute to Him? Love, which he also highlights for us in verse 8. To emphasize this point, not only is the love of God the Father frequently and explicitly mentioned, but He is also referred to as "The God of love" in 2 Corinthians 13:11. Moreover, He is described as embodying love itself, indicating that anyone seeking to know Him, as per 1 John 4:8, or to reside in Him through fellowship or communion, as per 1 John 4:16, must do it because he is love.

There are two distinct types of divine love. The first is beneplaciti, which refers to a love of good pleasure and intention, and the second is amicitiae, which denotes a love of friendship and approval. Both types are uniquely and prominently attributed to the Father.

(1.) John 3:16, "God so loved the world, that he gave..." This demonstrates the love stemming from His purpose and delight. It is His definitive intention to bestow goodness. This is specifically attributed to Him and presented as the reason for sending His Son. Refer also to Romans 9:11, 12; Ephesians 1:4, 5; 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 14; 1 John 4:8, 9.

(2.) In John 14:23, another type of love is discussed. "If a man loves me," Christ states, "he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our abode with him." Here, the love of friendship and approval is prominently attributed to Him. Christ declares, "We will come," indicating both Father and Son, "to such a person, and dwell with him" through the Spirit. However, it is noted that in terms of love, the Father possesses a unique privilege: "My Father will love him."

6. This love, uniquely manifested in the Father, should be recognized as the fountain of all subsequent acts of grace. Christians often experience deep concern regarding the Father's perception of them. They are confident in the goodwill of the Lord Christ, yet they struggle with understanding how the Father accepts them and what His feelings towards them are. "Show us the Father, and that will be enough for us," as stated in John 14:8. Therefore, His love should be viewed as the primary source from which all other forms of kindness emanate. This concept is highlighted by the apostle in Titus 3:4, where he mentions, "After that, the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared." He refers to the Father, as clarified in verse 6, stating that "He pours that love upon us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our Savior." This love is presented as the pivotal element that facilitates the significant transformation and transition of the saints. As mentioned in verse 3, "We too were once foolish, disobedient, misled, enslaved by various desires and pleasures, living in malice and envy, detestable, and hating one another." So, where does our redemption originate? It all stems from this love of God, flowing forth as described. To assure us of this, God has likened Himself to every conceivable figure of love and tenderness in the world, devoid of their flaws and shortcomings, leaving profound impressions of love. He is likened to a father, a mother, a shepherd, a hen protecting her chicks, among others, as seen in Psalms 103:13; Isaiah 63:16; Matthew 6:6; Isaiah 66:13; Psalms 23:1; Isaiah 40:11; Matthew 23:37.

I do not need to provide any further evidence. I have shown that there is love in the person of the Father, specifically directed towards the saints, through which He engages in communion with them.

To fully engage in a loving relationship with the Father, believers must do two things: (1) accept His love and (2) appropriately reciprocate that love back to Him.

(1.) The act of communion involves both giving and receiving. We cannot truly share in communion with the Father until we have accepted His love. So, how do we accept this love of the Father in a way that allows us to have fellowship with Him? The answer is through faith. We accept His love by believing in it. God has revealed His love so fully and so clearly that it can be accepted through faith. "You believe in God," as stated in John 14:1, refers to believing in the Father. And what does it mean to believe in Him? It means to believe in His love, for He is "love," as declared in 1 John 4:8.

It is accurate to state that our faith does not directly influence the Father, but operates through the Son. "He is the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by him," John 14:6. Christ serves as the compassionate high priest over the house of God. Through Him, we gain access to the throne of grace. Through Him, we are introduced to the Father. Through Him, we place our faith in God, 1 Peter 1:21. When we access the Father through and by Christ, we then witness the Father's glory. We observe His unique love towards us, and our faith engages with that love. We are to perceive it, believe in it, and accept it, as it is manifested in Him. The outcomes and benefits of this love are conferred upon us solely through Christ. Although there is no light for us to perceive except in the rays, yet by these rays, we can see the sun, which is the source of light. Even though all our refreshment is found in the streams, these streams guide us back to the spring. Jesus Christ, in relation to the Father's love, is the ray or the stream where all our light and refreshment are truly found. Nevertheless, He guides us to the fountain, the sun of eternal love itself. If believers were to diligently engage with this truth, they would experience significant spiritual growth in their relationship with God.

The objective here is to address a common challenge. Many unsettling and negative thoughts tend to emerge in this context. Only a few believers are able to elevate their hearts and minds through faith to find solace in the Father's love. They remain below this pinnacle, entangled in a tumultuous area of hopes and fears, amidst storms and clouds. At the summit, everything is calm and peaceful, yet they struggle to find their way there. It is God's desire for Him to always be perceived as benevolent, kind, gentle, loving, and consistent in this characteristic. Specifically, as the Father, He is the primary source of all gracious acts and expressions of love. This revelation of God as a Father is what Christ came to disclose, as noted in John 1:18. This is the identity that Christ makes known to those chosen from the world, as mentioned in John 17:6. And it is this love of the Father that Christ effectively guides us to through Himself, for He is the sole path to approaching God as a Father, as stated in John 14:5, 6. By doing so, He fulfills the promise of rest; for the Father's love is the ultimate refuge for the soul.

It is accurate, as previously mentioned, that we do not fully comprehend this at the very moment of belief. We place our faith in God through Christ, as stated in 1 Peter 1:21. Faith searches for a place of rest for the soul, which is offered to the soul by Christ, the mediator, as the sole cause of procurement. The soul does not stop at this point. Through Christ, it gains access to the Father, as mentioned in Ephesians 2:18, and into His love. The soul discovers that God is love and that He has an eternal plan, purpose, and goodwill towards us. The soul experiences delight, satisfaction, and goodwill in Christ because all reasons for anger and estrangement have been removed. The soul finds peace and rest there. Through faith in Christ and by Christ, the soul is brought into the very heart of God, experiencing a comforting conviction and spiritual awareness of His love. This is the initial step that the saints take in their fellowship with the Father. Further discussion on how to properly enhance this fellowship will follow.

(2.) God loves the saints in such a manner that it is fitting for them to reciprocate this love, so that He may be loved in return. When He instructs them to return the love they have received, to achieve complete communion with Him, He says, "My son, give me your heart," as stated in Proverbs 23:26, meaning your affections, your love. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind," as Luke 10:27 commands. This is the response He seeks. When the soul perceives God in His manifestation of love, recognizing that He is love, infinitely lovely and loving, it finds rest and delight in Him as such. This then becomes communion with Him in love. Love is defined by God loving us first, and then we love Him in return. I will not delve into a detailed description of divine love at this moment. Generally, love is an affection characterized by a desire for union and closeness, accompanied by contentment. Whenever we perceive the Father as acting towards our soul in any manner other than with love, it generates fear and aversion within us. This is why, in the Scriptures, sinners are often depicted as fleeing and hiding. However, when the Father is regarded as a father, acting with love towards the soul, it encourages the soul to love Him back. In faith, this understanding is the cornerstone of all acceptable obedience, as highlighted in Deuteronomy 5:10; Exodus 20:6; Deuteronomy 10:12, 11:1, 13, and 13:3.

This encompasses everything the apostle stated in Ephesians 1:4, "According as he has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love." It starts with God's love for us and concludes with our love for Him. This is the objective of God's eternal love for us, guiding us towards this end. Indeed, our complete obedience is part of our relationship with God. However, this relationship is with Him as God. He is our blessed, sovereign, lawgiver, and rewarder. Our relationship with God is rooted in the fact that He is the Father, our Father through Christ, revealed to us as embodying love, surpassing and defying all natural human expectations. Thus, our interaction with Him is grounded in love. I am not merely referring to the love that underpins all moral obedience, but to a specific joy in the Father, a contentment in Him, which is effectively disclosed to the soul as love.

To elucidate the love of God towards us and our love towards Him, I will demonstrate two aspects: [1.] The similarities between them, and [2.] The differences. This analysis will further reveal the essence of each.

[1.] They agree in two things:

1. Each represents a love of rest and contentment.

2. The outcomes and fruits of these loves are conveyed exclusively through Christ.

[2.] There are several aspects in which they differ:

1. God's love for us is generous and unearned; our love for Him is born out of obligation.

2. God's love for us precedes any love we might have for Him; our love is a response to His.

3. God's love is unwavering, consistent, and cannot be increased or decreased; our love, in contrast, is inconsistent, subject to growth and decline.

[1.] Things on which they concur:

First. Each represents a love characterized by rest and contentment.

(1) The love of God exemplifies this kind of love. Zeph. 3:17 states, "The LORD your God in the midst of you is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over you with joy, he will rest in his love; he will joy over you with singing." Both aspects are attributed to God in his love.

Rest and Delight. The phrase is, "yacharish be’ahavato" [Strongs OT:2790,160] "He will be silent because of his love." To rest with contentment is conveyed through silence. This means it is achieved without whining and without complaint.

God acts out of His profound love. This love is so comprehensive, perfect, and unconditional that it prevents Him from finding fault in those He cherishes. Consequently, He chooses silence over complaint because of this love. "Rest in his love" signifies that He will neither withdraw His love nor seek a different recipient for it. His love will permanently reside with the individual upon whom it has been bestowed.

Contentment or Delight: "He rejoices with singing" as one who is fully content and delighted in the object of his affection. Two Hebrew words, yasis and yagil [Strongs OT:7797, 1523], are used to describe the joy and delight that God experiences in His love. The first, yasis, refers to the internal feelings of happiness and joy within the heart, emphasizing the depth of these emotions by stating that He experiences this joy besimchah [OT:8057], meaning in gladness or with joy. This expression signifies the utmost level of delight and contentment in love. The second term, yagil, contrasts by focusing on the external expression of this joy. It describes a physical exuberance, akin to leaping for joy as if overwhelmed by a delightful surprise. Thus, God is described as expressing this joy berinnah [OT:7440], with joyful singing or sounds. To rejoice with a glad heart and to exult with singing and praise is presented as the highest form of delight and contentment imaginable.

When he expresses the opposite of this love, he states "ouk eudokese" [NT:2106], meaning "he was not well pleased," as seen in 1 Corinthians 10:5. He did not place his delight or his rest upon them. "If any man draws back, the Lord's soul has no pleasure in him," as mentioned in Hebrews 10:38; Jeremiah 22:28; Hosea 8:8; Malachi 1:10. He finds joy in those who remain with him. He praises his church, saying, "A vineyard of red wine: I the LORD am its keeper," as found in Isaiah 27:2, 3; Psalms 147:11, 149:4. There is rest and satisfaction in his love. In Hebrew, there is merely a rearrangement of a letter between the word that signifies a love of will and desire ("'ahav" [OT:157] means to love in this manner), and the term that indicates a love of rest and acceptance (which is 'avah [OT:160]). Both terms are attributed to God. He desires good for us so that he may find rest in that desire. Some suggest that the word agapain [NT:25], meaning "to love," originates from agan potestai, which implies to perfectly find satisfaction in the object of love. And when God refers to his Son as "agapeton," meaning "beloved," in Matthew 3:17, he clarifies it by adding, "en hoi eudokesa," which translates to "in whom I am well pleased."

(2) The reciprocation of love that the devout offer to God serves to complete their fellowship with Him. This reciprocation bears a resemblance to God's love in this context, as it too is a love filled with rest and joy. "Return to your rest, my soul," David proclaims in Psalms 116:7. He finds his peace in God, meaning his soul finds contentment in God without the need to search for a more fitting and desirable focus. He declares, "Whom have I in heaven but you, and there is no one on earth that I desire besides you," in Psalms 73:25. In this way, the soul consolidates itself from all its distractions and other affections, to find solace solely in God, to fulfill and content itself in Him, electing the Father as its ultimate and everlasting sanctuary. This act is also carried out with pleasure. "Your loving-kindness," the psalmist states, "is better than life; therefore, I will praise you," in Psalms 63:3. "Than life," or "michayim" in Hebrew, translates directly as "before lives." This refers to the entirety of life, with all its aspects, which renders it significant.

In his interpretation of this passage, Augustine reads it as "super vitas," applying it to the various stages of life that individuals experience. It signifies life in its fullness, encompassing all its benefits. Confronted with the prospect of death and the multitude of troubles leading to the grave, David discovered greater joy in God than in a prolonged existence. He valued God above a life filled with the finest and most noble opportunities, including all the pleasures that make it enjoyable and comfortable. The church expresses a similar kind of love in both respects in Hosea 14:3, which states, "Asshur will not save us; we will not ride upon horses: we will no longer say to the work of our hands, 'You are our gods:' for in you the fatherless finds mercy." They forsake the greatest rest and satisfaction in preference for God. They rely on Him as helpless orphans would, seeking refuge and support.

Secondly, the love of the Father for us and the love returned to God by the saints are similar in that the outcomes and benefits of these loves are shared exclusively through Christ. The Father does not impart any manifestation of his love to us except through Christ; and in turn, we express our love back to Him only through Christ. Christ serves as the repository where the Father places all the treasures of His grace, treasures drawn from the inexhaustible mine of His eternal love. Christ acts as the priest through whom we present all our offerings back to the Father. As a result, the Father is described as loving the Son first and foremost. He loves Him not only as His eternal Son, the joy of His soul before the world was established, as mentioned in Proverbs 8:30, but also as our mediator, and as the conduit for His love to reach us, as seen in Matthew 3:17; John 3:35, 5:20, 10:17, 15:9, 17:24. Similarly, we are said to believe in and to gain access to God through Him.

(1.) The Father loves us deeply and chose us even before the creation of the world. In expressing this love, He blesses us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms through Christ, as stated in Ephesians 1:3-4. From His love, He generously bestows upon us the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ our Savior, according to Titus 3:6. In this outpouring of His love, not a single drop is dispensed without going through the Lord Christ. This is akin to how the holy anointing oil was poured over Aaron's head, as described in Psalm 133:2, from where it flowed down to the edges of his garments. Love is first bestowed upon Christ, and from Him, it descends like the dew of Mount Hermon upon the souls of His saints. The Father desires for Christ to have "pre-eminence in all things," as stated in Colossians 1:18, and it pleased the Father for all fullness to dwell in the Son (verse 19), so that "we might receive from His fullness, grace upon grace," according to John 1:16. The Father's love, purpose, and pleasure originate from His sheer grace and will. However, their realization is solely through Christ. All the benefits are first given to Christ, and it is only through Him that they are distributed to us. Even though the saints perceive an infinite ocean of love in the Father's heart, they should not expect to receive any of it directly from Him, except through Christ. He is the sole conduit of this love. Love in the Father is akin to honey in a flower; it must be processed into the comb before we can enjoy it. Christ is the one who extracts and prepares this "honey" for us. He draws this living water from the source through union with Him, and then He shares its abundance with us. Through faith, we tap into the wells of salvation found in Him. This concept has been partially discussed earlier.

(2.) Our expression of love towards the Father is entirely through Christ and by His means. It is fortunate for us that this is the case. Otherwise, the offerings we would present to God would be feeble and flawed. Christ takes upon Himself the faults of our sacrifices, and He enhances our prayers with incense. Our love is directed towards the Father, yet it is transmitted to Him through His beloved Son. He is the sole pathway for our virtues, as well as for ourselves, to reach God. Through Christ flows all our longing, joy, satisfaction, and compliance. More on this will be discussed later.

[2.] Aspects in which these two forms of love diverge

First. The love of God is characterized by generosity; our love towards Him is defined by obligation.

(1.) The love of the Father is characterized by generosity and descends upon us. This love motivates Him to bestow upon us both good and great blessings. It is the foundation of all His actions towards us. Although it is not often explicitly mentioned, it is the source and origin of the freely given gifts we receive from Him. He loves us, and therefore, He sent His Son to die for us. He loves us, and thus, He enriches us with every spiritual blessing. To love is to choose, as stated in Romans 9:11-12. He loves us and disciplines us. His love is akin to the heavens' love for the earth, which, when laden with rain, release showers to nourish the earth's fertility. It resembles the sea's love, which shares its waters with the rivers from its abundance; the rivers only return what they have received from the sea. It is the love of a spring or fountain, always giving. From this love emanates everything that is beautiful. It instills and fosters goodness in those who are loved. A loving individual will extend kindness to those he loves to the best of his ability. God's will and His power are aligned; what He desires, He accomplishes.

(2.) Our affection for God is one of obligation, akin to the love a child has for a parent. His love showers upon us generously, enriching our lives; in return, our love rises towards Him in a form of duty and gratitude. His love contributes to our well-being; however, our love brings no addition to Him. Our benevolence does not extend to Him. Although our love is directly placed upon Him, it does not directly yield any benefit to Him. Even though He seeks our love, it does not advantage Him, as stated in Job 35:5-8, Romans 11:35, and Job 22:2, 3. Our love encompasses four elements: peace, joy, respect, and compliance. Through these four aspects, we engage in fellowship with the Father in His love. Consequently, God refers to the love owed to Him as a parent as “honor.” In Malachi 1:6, He questions, “If I be a father, where is my honor?” This signifies that the love we owe to Him is an act of rightful duty.

Secondly, the love of the Father towards us is a preceding love; our love towards Him is a resulting love.

(1.) The love of the Father precedes in two aspects:

[1.] God's love for us precedes our love for Him. As stated in 1 John 4:10, "This is love, not that we loved God, but that he first loved us." His love initiates our relationship. A parent's love for their child exists even when the child is unaware of the parent, let alone capable of reciprocating love. By our nature, we are "Teostugeis," as mentioned in Romans 1:30, meaning haters of God. Conversely, God's inherent nature is "philanthropos," indicating He is a lover of humanity. Therefore, any reciprocal love between God and us must originate from Him.

[2.] God's love is also prior in relation to all other reasons for love. It not only comes before our love for Him but also before any redeeming qualities within us. Romans 5:8 illustrates this by stating, "God commends his love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." His love and its significant outcomes are bestowed upon us even as sinners. Our sinfulness showcases the utmost unattractiveness and unworthiness conceivable in a being. The mere acknowledgment of our sin eradicates any justification or incentive for love. Nevertheless, the Father's love is demonstrated to us through this most notable evidence. His love is not contingent on our actions or goodness but is a reflection of His infinite goodness. His benevolence is evident even when we are misguided and rebellious. This is why He is described as loving "the world," meaning He loves those who possess nothing but worldly attributes, whose existence is entrenched in evil.

(2.) Our affection is a result of his in both of these aspects:

[1.] Regarding the love of God, no creature would ever direct its affections toward God if God's heart were not first inclined toward it.

[2.] Regarding the necessary reasons for loving God, He must be revealed to us as appealing and desirable, as a fitting focus for our soul's affection, before we can develop any love for Him. In this context, the saints do not love God without reason, but because of His excellence, attractiveness, and desirability. As the psalmist expresses in Ps. 116:1, “I love the LORD, because!” Similarly, as David questions in another instance, “What have I done now? Is there not a cause?” (1Sam.17:29). If someone questions our love for God, we can similarly inquire, “What have we done now? Is there not a cause?”

Thirdly, they also differ in the following manner: the love of God resembles His own nature. It is consistent, unchanging, and cannot be increased or decreased. Our love, on the other hand, mirrors our human nature. It is inconsistent, subject to growth and decline, and can both increase and decrease. God's love is akin to the sun, always constant in its illumination, even though at times a cloud may obscure its light. Our love, however, is comparable to the moon, which can appear to grow larger or smaller.

(1.) The love of the Father is consistent. The one whom He loves, He loves completely and unchangingly. "The Strength of Israel does not lie or change His mind," as stated in 1 Samuel 15:29. His love is unchangeably set upon the one He loves; it neither increases nor decreases at any point. It is an eternal love that neither had a beginning nor will have an end. It cannot be intensified by any of our actions, nor can it be diminished by anything within us. However, there are two aspects in which changes may appear:

[1.] Regarding its outcomes, as I previously mentioned, it is a love that is fruitful, a love characterized by generosity. The outcomes of this love can vary in magnitude; its expression is not constant. Which of the saints has not experienced this variability? At times, we are filled with life, illumination, and strength. Yet, at other times, we find ourselves feeling lifeless, engulfed in darkness, and weakened. It pleases God to either unleash or withhold the outcomes of His love. All the virtues instilled in us by the Spirit, all the holy delights we experience, are outcomes of His love. Personal experiences provide ample evidence of how these blessings are distributed in varying measures and how they can be differently and seasonally bestowed upon the same individual.

[2.] Regarding its expressions, He "pours out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit," as stated in Romans 5:5. He grants us an awareness of His love, revealing it to us. This experience varies and changes, at times more intensely, at other times less so. At certain moments, He illuminates us with His presence, while at other times, He conceals it, as deemed beneficial for our growth. Our Father will not perpetually reprimand us, lest we become disheartened. He does not always bestow His grace, lest we become complacent and neglect Him. Nevertheless, His love in itself remains constant. Even though He may conceal His presence momentarily, He embraces us with eternal kindness.

Objection: You might argue, "This borders on blasphemy. You claim that God loves His people both in their sinning and in their most rigorous obedience. If that is the case, then who would be motivated to serve Him more diligently, or strive to walk with Him in a manner that is pleasing?"

Answer: There are few truths about Christ that have not been challenged by someone. These truths remain consistent in their essence. The love of God, inherently, is His eternal intention and action. This love is no more variable than God Himself. If it were, no human could be saved. However, God's love is unchanging, and thus, we are not destroyed. What does this mean? Does God love His people even when they sin? Yes, He loves His people, but not their sins. Does His love for them change? He does not change the purpose of His will, but He does change how He dispenses His grace. He rebukes them, disciplines them, conceals His presence from them, afflicts them, and fills them with a sense of His displeasure. Yet, it would be a tragedy if He were to change in His love or withdraw His kindness from us. The actions that might seem to suggest a shift in His feelings towards us are, in fact, as much a manifestation of His love as the acts of kindness we prefer. "But won't this encourage people to sin?" No one who has truly experienced God's love could earnestly raise this concern. The concept of grace could be misinterpreted as an excuse for licentiousness, but the principle itself cannot be. I refuse to insult the saints by offering a different response to this concern. Hating someone's sin can indeed coexist with God's acceptance of them and His designation of them to eternal life.

Our love for God fluctuates, diminishing and intensifying. We drift away from our initial fervor, only to find ourselves rekindling our love, with hardly a day remaining constant. What frail beings we are! How vastly different from the Lord and His steadfast love! We are "unstable as water, we cannot excel" (Gen. 49:4). At one moment, we declare, "Though all men forsake you, I will not" (Mk.14:29), yet at another, we claim, "I do not know the man" (Mt. 26:74). One day we assert, "I will never be moved, my hill is so strong" (Ps. 30:6-7), and the next, we lament, "All men are liars, I will perish" (Ps.1 16:10-11). Has there ever been a moment when our love for God was truly consistent?

Therefore, these similarities and distinctions further illustrate the shared affection between the Father and the saints, through which they maintain fellowship. I will not provide additional examples of the Father's love, but I aim to enhance this description in the following chapter.