“Thou hast loved them as thou hast loved me.”
Don Fortner - Danville, Kentucky
“I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me” John 17:23
Our Savior says, “Thou hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” Thus, he tells us that God our Father loves his elect in Christ as he loves Christ himself! That is such an amazing, stupendous thing that were it not written in Holy Scripture, I would not dare to think it, much less speak it. But there it stands. And, oh, how my soul rejoices in it. It is our Savior’s desire and purpose that the whole world shall know that God loves us as he loves him; and so it shall be!
“When God’s elect have all been gathered together in one (John 11:52), when the glory which Christ received from the Father has been imparted to them, when they shall have been made perfect in one, then shall the world have such a clear demonstration of God’s power, grace and love toward His people, that they shall know that the One who died to make this glorious union possible was the sent One of the Father, and that they had been loved by the Father as had the Son, for ‘When Christ, who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory’ (Col. 3:4); then ‘he shall come to be glorified in his saints and admired in all them that believe...in that day’ (II Thess. 1:10).”(A.W. Pink).
When our Lord says, “Thou hast loved them, as thou hast loved me,” that little word “as” implies three things.
A SIMILARITY OF CAUSE
First, there is a similarity of cause between God’s love for Christ and his love for us. God loves us in Christ. God’s love is not a universal sentiment for all men. God’s love is in Christ. Apart from Christ, God is a consuming fire. This needs to be understood. These days, men everywhere are taught and universally presume that God loves them. Nothing could be further from the truth. Until you are united to Christ by faith, you have no reason to imagine that God loves you. Our faith in Christ does not cause God to love us. Our faith is the fruit and result of God’s eternal love for us. But, until a sinner trusts Christ, only the wrath of God is revealed and known to him; and the wrath of God is upon him (John 3:36; Eph. 2:3).
God loves us for Christ’s sake. Thomas Manton wrote, “The elect are made lovely, and fit to be accepted by God, only by Jesus Christ...The ground of all that love God beareth to us is in Christ.” We are “accepted in the beloved.” God accepts our faith, our worship, our works, and our persons only because of Christ, because we are in Christ and because of what Christ has done for us.
And God the Father loves us for the same reason that he loves his Son as our Mediator. Be sure you get this. It will help you. God the Father does not love us for the same reason that he loves his Son as his Son. He loves his Son as his Son necessarily because his Son is one with him in perfection and praise. He cannot but love Christ as God. Else he would cease to love himself. But God’s love for Christ as our Mediator is based upon his perfect obedience unto God as our Mediator (John 10:14-17). Do you understand what our Lord is teaching us here? God’s love for us is free and, at the same, time fully deserved! He said, “I will love them freely” (Hos. 14:4). Yet, his love, mercy, grace, and salvation flow to us upon the grounds of Christ’s obedience as our Substitute (Eph. 4:32-5:2). God the Father looked upon his Son from eternity as our perfect, obedient Mediator, and for the sake of his Son loved us with an everlasting love.
Let me quote the puritan Thomas Manton again. “God could not love us with honor to himself, if his wisdom had not found out this way of loving us in Christ...God was resolved to manifest an infinite love to man, but he would still manifest an infinite hatred against sin; which could not be more fully manifested than by making Christ the ground of our reconciliation...How could the holy God, the just God...love such vile and unworthy creatures as we are? The question is answered - He loveth us in Christ, and for Christ’s sake.”
A SIMILARITY OF CHARACTER
Second, this word “as” suggests a likeness of love. This means that the Lord God loves his people in the same way as he loves his Son. Again, let me stress the fact that our Lord is comparing God’s love for him as our Mediator to his love for his elect. Christ, as our Mediator, is the first object of God’s love. He loved Christ as the Head of his mystical body, the church, and us as members. He loved Christ for his own sake. He loves us for Christ’s sake. God the Father loved Christ the God-man as “the express image of his person” (Heb. 1:3). So he loves his people who in Christ have been (and those who yet must be) renewed “after the image of him” (Col. 3:10; II et. 1:4). He loves Christ as his only begotten Son; and he loves us in Christ as his adopted sons (I John 3:1). Because the Savior says, “Thou hast loved them, as thou hast loved me,” we are assured that...
God loves his elect freely. As we have already seen, the Lord Jesus Christ earned his Father’s love as a man by his mediatoral obedience. Yet, when our Savior came into the world, the Lord God loved the child freely, delighting in him even before he had fulfilled his will (Isa. 42:1). Even so, he loves us freely (Deut. 7:7-8; Hos. 14:4).
God loves us tenderly and affectionately. As the Father’s love for his Son is a tender, indescribably affectionate love, so is his love for us (Isa. 62:5; Zech. 2:8).
God’s love for his elect is immutable. The Lord willing, I will say more about this later. For now, let me simply remind you that there is no possibility of change in our God (Mal. 3:6, James 1:17). God’s love does not change. It cannot be taken from us; and it cannot be destroyed, neither by us nor by hell itself (Rom. 8:35-39).
A.W. Tozer, made these statements about the love of God. - “God must love and will love man until hell has erased the last trace of the remaining image (of God in him). Men are lost now. But they are still loved of God...I believe that God now loves all lost men...(But) the day will come when lost man will no longer be loved by God Almighty...I believe the time will come when God will no longer love lost human beings.” Such fickle, useless love may be worthy of fickle, useless man, but not of the great and glorious Lord God. unchangeable!
A SIMILARITY OF CONSEQUENCE
Thirdly, our Lord intends for us to understand that the effects and fruits of God’s love to him and his elect are alike. Love that has no effect and bears no fruit is a useless love. Love that is never known by the one loved is a frustrated passion that destroys one’s own peace and happiness. Love that never sees benefit and blessing upon its object, but only misery and woe, is a tormenting love. But that does not describe the love of God. Oh, no, a thousand times no! God’s love toward us, like his love toward his Son as our Mediator, is an effectual, fruitful, beneficial love. Here are five things mutually enjoyed by Christ and his people as the fruit and effect of God’s love.
1. The Revelation of Secrets
All things are open, common knowledge between people who love one another. As all things are manifest and made known to the Son as our Mediator by the Father (John 1:18; 5:20), so all things are manifest and made known to God’s elect by the Son (John 14:21; 15:15).
2. The Bestowment of Spiritual Gifts
God’s love is a bounteous love. He has given all things to the Son (John 3:34-35; 17:2; Eph. 4:8); and he has given all his people all spiritual, heavenly gifts in his Son (Eph. 1:3).
3. Strength and Protection in Life
As the Lord Jesus was upheld, strengthened, and protected throughout the days of his obedience to do his Father’s will (Isa. 53:1), so the Lord God upholds, strengthens, and protects us, the objects of his love, throughout our days of obedience in this world (I Cor. 12:9).
4. Acceptance of All We Do for Him
Everything that Christ did for God was accepted and well-pleasing to him because he loved him (Eph. 5:2). And everything we do for God is accepted and well-pleasing to God through the merits of Christ because he loves us as he loved him (I Pet. 2:5).
5. Honor and Exaltation
The Lord Jesus was honored and highly exalted by God the Father as the object of his love. He was given preeminence in, possession of, and power over all things (Ps. 2:7-8; Heb. 1:8). The Lord God, our heavenly Father, will do the same for us (John 12:26; Rev. 3:21).
Hear the Son of God, my brothers and sisters in this world, and rejoice! “Thou hast loved them, as thou hast loved me!” What a pillow upon which to rest our heads! What a comfort for our poor, aching hearts! What a glorious theme for daily meditation! What a cause for adoration, praise, and worship! We may be despised, misunderstood, abused, and hated of men, but we are loved of God! God our Father loves us even as he loves his darling Son; and he has so loved us from eternity! "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." (Rom. 12:1-2).
What would you give, what would you do to have the enjoyment and assurance of such love from God? Perhaps, you are thinking, “Pastor, I would do anything to know the love of God like that.” Let me ask you this - Would you do nothing to have it? That is what you must do, nothing. If you would rest in his love, simply trust the Son of God. Amen.