What ought we say about the love of God? In the cross, God’s love for himself, his name and his authority, and his love for his creatures, is taken up and met in one action wherein God exhibits the very nature of his being as unconditional Holy Love. That’s why not only is the doctrine of the Trinity necessary to make sense of the atonement, but the atonement is necessary to reveal the Trinitarian fellowship of God. The Holy Love that defines the perichoretic life of the Triune God has, by the grace of the Father in the action of the incarnate Son and by the mission of the Spirit, overflowed freely towards those outside of God’s community that creatures may enter into the Holy Love communion that the Triune God has ever known and spoke creation into being for participation in.
In Jesus Christ, God has shown not only only that he does not want to be God without us, but that he does not want us to be without him. And in the action of the Holy Spirit, the Triune God is present and active among us to hear and answer our prayers, to sustain us in all the happenings of life, and to continuously bring home to us afresh the good news of the Father’s sanctifying action in Jesus Christ, guaranteeing our inheritance, and empowering us to live in the reality of being ‘holy and blameless’ before God (Eph 1:4).
Given this statement, what ought we make of H R Mackintosh’s notion that ‘God loves us better than he loves himself’? I have often wondered about this statement. What is Mackintosh asserting here? Is he saying that there are different degrees of love in God? Is it any more than hyperbole to emphasise the extent and nature of God’s love? Is he here driving the wedge between God’s love for himself and his love for us that does not exist in Jesus Christ? Isn’t God’s love for us the overflow of his self-love in the trinitarian communion?