The Father is the lover, the Son is the beloved.
The Bible is awash with talk of the Father’s love for the Son, but while the Son clearly does love the Father, hardly anything is said about it. The Father’s love is primary. The Father is the loving head. That then means that in his love he will send and direct the Son, whereas the Son never sends or directs the Father.
That turns out to be hugely significant, as the apostle Paul observes in 1 Corinthians 11:3: “Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” In other words, the shape of the Father-Son relationship (the headship) begins a gracious cascade, like a waterfall of love: as the Father is the lover and the head of the Son, so the Son goes out to be the lover and the head of the church. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you,” the Son says (John 15:9).
And therein lies the very goodness of the gospel: as the Father is the lover and the Son the beloved, so Christ becomes the lover and the church the beloved. That means that Christ loves the church first and foremost: his love is not a response, given only when the church loves him; his love comes first, and we only love him because he first loved us (1 John 4:19).
That dynamic is also to be replicated in marriages, husbands being the heads of their wives, loving them as Christ the Head loves his bride, the church. He is the lover, she is the beloved. Like the church, then, wives are not left to earn the love of their husbands; they can enjoy it as something lavished on them freely, unconditionally and maximally. For eternity, the Father so loves the Son that he excites the Son’s eternal love in response; Christ so loves the church that he excites our love in response; the husband so loves his wife that he excites her to love him back. Such is the spreading goodness that rolls out of the very being of this God.
This post was adapted from page 28 of Michael Reeves’ new book, Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith (IVP Academic, 2012). Posted here by permission of the author. ©2012 by Michael Reeves. All rights reserved.