The Transformational Power of Triune Love
These past few days, I’ve had the incredible blessing of being able to worship and fellowship with more than a hundred Christian brothers and sisters from across Atlantic Canada, as well as some from the United Kingdom and Ontario, at the Gospel Coalition Atlantic Canada Conference. The theological focus of the conference was the Trinity, and particularly the beauty and practical implications of the Trinity. Out of a desire to pass along some of what’s blessed me personally so much these past few days, I thought I’d take the chance this month in these newsletters to look at four implications of our Triune God’s nature.
This week, we’ll start with a truth that every Christian knows—but also one that, I suspect, many Christians haven’t connected to the Trinity: “Anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
God is love! Every child in Sunday School knows this. But why is God love? In fact, this is a staggering statement—and one that only the Christian, who believes in the Triune nature of God, can make.
Notice what’s said here. It’s not that God does love, or that he’s able to love. John is not telling us something about what God does; he’s not making a statement about God’s activities. He’s telling us something about who God is. God doesn’t just love, he is love.
It’s a staggering statement, because it means love is inherent to God’s nature. It means that, before the creation, from everlasting, even before God made the angels in heaven, God is love. When there was nothing outside of God himself to love, when no object apart from God existed, God was still love. How is that possible?
Because God is equally one, and three. The one being of God exists eternally in three persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. From all ages, the Father has joyously lavished his perfect love on the perfect Son. The Son, in turn, has rejoiced in the love of his Father and perfectly loved him back. God never needed to make angels or man to have someone to love, for within the Triune life of God there has eternally been a perfect relationship of love among the three persons.
That’s something no other religion or belief system can claim. The Allah of Islam, a monopersonal conception of deity, had no one to love prior to creation, and so Muslims cannot honestly say that their god is loving by nature, that love is inherent to who and what he is. Allah had to create something apart from himself before love was possible. Love in the Islamic worldview, then, is not ultimate but contingent, dependent on something else—and something happening first in space and time, meaning love is not eternal. The belief system of secular humanism, committed to the idea that humanity is a cosmic accident, has no choice but to diminish love to merely a chemical reaction, meaning that love is no more cosmically significant than cracking a child’s glow stick.
It’s no coincidence, therefore, that the most self-consciously consistent adherents to both belief systems have historically demonstrated a shocking brutality toward their fellow man. See, it was repeated several times in Charlottetown this week that “we become what we worship.” The horrors of Communism and Islamic jihadism are a shocking example of this truth displayed in the lives of those who tragically devote themselves to the worship of falsehood.
For the Christian, though, who worships a different and true God, this truth must look much different in practice. Again: “Anyone who does not love does not know God.” To be Christian is to love—because we are made in the image of a loving God and have been not only adopted by a God of love but have been joined by the Spirit of love into the beloved Son.
In a fallen world, and even in the life of imperfect churches, it can be hard to love sometimes. Yet that doesn’t let us off the hook. We are commanded to love one another even when we’re unloveable. How are we enabled to love like this? By gazing upon the God who is love: "And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another." (2 Corinthians 3:18)
Beloved brothers and sisters—let us be a body of believers so transformed!
Practically, then, I’ll close with two things:
First, gaze upon the glory of God in his self-revealing Word. Be eagerly and actively receiving the preached Word every Sunday. Be regularly reading and storing up Scripture in your heart.
And second, go looking for evidence of grace in the lives of other blood-bought believers in Christ. It’s easy to see one another’s failings. Resolve instead to seek out and find reflections of God’s glory in each other. Look for how they are growing, how they are obeying, how they are showing love. And love them by pointing these out and encouraging them.
As we do these things, we will see more clearly day by day the glory of God, and be so transformed. Let us therefore love one another, for love is from God and God is love.
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