The Father’s Love in Promising (Part 6)

In the first post on the Father’s love I introduced both the challenge and the importance of seeing God the Father as loving. As we meditate on the biblical truths of the depths of his love and begin resting in that love we will be refreshed with newfound freedom and security to keep drawing near. Therefore, thinking rightly of God our Father is not just a matter of having our theological ducks in a row but it’s a game changer in living the Christian life. We will consider seven NT examples of how God puts his love on display for us, wanting us to know about it and be wrapped up in it.

1) The Father’s love for us is nowhere more clearly seen than in the sending of his only Son—freely, unprompted, undeservedly—to reconcile us back to himself.

2) The Father’s love for us is seen in that Jesus is sent to reveal the Father to us. The Father desires to be known and understood.

3) The Father’s love can be seen in the friendly and familial vocabulary describing a believer’s relationship with God. He is not only our God, he is our Father.

4) The Father expresses his love in the comfort he gives, and even in the fact he calls us to find our comfort in his fatherly embrace.

5) The Father loves us by giving good gifts. He enjoys us enjoying him as we enjoy his gifts.

6) The Father’s love is seen in the making and fulfilling of promises to his people. God the Father makes many great and gracious promises to us as his people and then he signs, seals, and delivers them to us through the work of the Son and the Spirit. God cannot and will not lie to us (Titus 1:2) and so his word to us is always to be trusted. All of us will be disappointed by people in this world who fail us. They might not be true to their word. They might do what they said. They might not deliver on the things they pledge to us. These unfortunate experiences leave a bad taste on our mouth and it can sour our trust in relationships. However, God is not like us in that he is always faithful and true. You cannot remember a time when he has failed you because it hasn’t happened. You cannot think of a promise he made that was later broken because he never does that. Children desire and they need dads who prove their trustworthiness and love by doing what it takes to keep their promises. God the father has always done that and he tells us the proof is evidenced in the cross.

In his exposition of 2 Corinthians, the Puritan Richard Sibbes gives an extended discussion on God’s promises. He begins by asking and answering “what is a promise?” “A promise is nothing but a manifestation of love, an [intention] of bestowing some good, and removing some ill. A manifestation of our mind in that kind is a promise of conferring of a future good, or removing of a future ill; therefore it comes from love in the party promising.” He continues by arguing that promise comes from the inward love and is the word before the acts demonstrating such love.
“Now God, who is love…will not only show his love in time, but because he will have us rest sweetly in his bosom, and settle ourselves on his gracious promises…he gives us rich and precious promises….This is the nature of a promise. It is not only love, and the expression of love in deed, but the expression of it in word, when he intends to solace, comfort, establish, and stay the mind of man until the good promised be performed.” [1]

Jesus is the one who confirms all God’s promises to us and secures them for us. In 2 Corinthians 1:20 Paul says, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in [Jesus Christ].” He has at the front of his mind all of God’s salvific promises in the OT are accomplished and confirmed in Jesus. It extends beyond the OT and we know that all of God’s clearly stated promises are accomplished and kept through Jesus.

The author of Hebrews makes the faithfulness of God the foundation of our perseverance. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (Heb. 10:23). Even in the midst of circumstances that seem bleak and might raise doubts about God’s word holding true, we can know that he is always faithful. The next chapter, Hebrews 11, then lists a number of God’s people who bet their lives on God’s faithfulness. The whole Bible testifies to God’s faithfulness. He does what he promises and he promises great things to those who are his.

God’s love in these precious promises is two-fold. First, he loves us by being true and faithful rather than being unreliable or deceptive. Nothing gives a greater sense of safety and security than a father who can be fully and completely trusted. We are like children who find ourselves clinging in trust to our Father. Second, his love is also seen in the promises themselves. It’s not only that he keeps his promises but it’s also that he holds out to us some amazing things. He promises to be love us as his sons and daughters, to give us his Holy Spirit to live with us, to keep us secure in Christ, to wipe away our sins, and to one day come back and restore all things.

The Bible is stocked full of promises that are strong enough and sweet enough to carry us through each day. One of the best things to do when studying God’s Word is to intentionally pick out the promises of God and to anchor your life on them. They are true and they are good. If we ever doubt God’s promises he calls us to look back to the pledge of his Son (2 Cor. 1:20; Rom. 8:31-39) and the down-payment of His Spirit (2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:14). God loves us by promising us with countless blessings and assurances, and he loves us by always keeping those promises.

[1] Richard Sibbes, “Exposition of 2nd Corinthians Chapter 1” in Works of Richard Sibbes, 7 volumes (Carlisle: Banner of Truth, reprinted 2001), 3:384. I have updated some of the language using modern spelling.

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