The Blessed and Blessing God
How We Experience Divine Happiness
Paul calls God “blessed”: “. . . he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Timothy 6:15). Why is God blessed, and what does that mean? The answers to these questions are the source of great Christian comfort and happiness.
As an infinitely perfect being, God is as pleased and satisfied in himself as he can be — and he is unchangeably pleased in himself so that even the tiniest hint of dissatisfaction is anathema to God’s view of himself. God’s blessedness — his happiness, delight, and self-satisfaction in who he is — results from the perfection of his being. Any form of imperfection, in any way, reduces one’s blessedness and self-satisfaction. We understand this even on a human level when something goes wrong with our body (a virus, for example) and we feel less satisfied in ourselves. But God, being perfect, is never dissatisfied with himself.
Blessed Before Creation
Before there was a world, God was blessed because God is who he is (Exodus 3:14). After the creation of the world, God is still blessed, but not more or less blessed, because he is infinitely and eternally unchangeable in his being (James 1:17). “The blessedness of God,” says the Puritan theologian John Owen,
consists in the ineffable [that is, inexpressible, overwhelming] mutual inbeing of the three holy persons in the same nature, with the immanent reciprocal actings of the Father and the Son in the eternal love and complacency of the Spirit. . . . Herein does God act in the perfect knowledge and perfect love of his own perfections. (Works of John Owen, 1:368)
The three persons eternally relate in a loving communion that is marked by perfection and enjoyment. Thus, for example, the Son is as blessed as the Father and the Spirit because, being God-of-himself, he cannot lack anything possessed by another person in the blessed Trinity.
God has the highest enjoyment of his being. (By highest we mean eternally, infinitely, incomprehensibly, unchangeably.) God knows himself perfectly; he perfectly knows his perfections. We also enjoy our own “perfections.” Think of a woman with a lovely singing voice who loves to sing because of how she sounds, or think of a professional athlete who loves his perfections in terms of his ability to run or hit the perfect shot. And yet these are mere flea bites in comparison to God’s perfections. God necessarily loves his perfections because he understands himself — namely, that he is perfect. Hence, he is eternally blessed because he cannot not love who he is. He is necessarily immune from all evil, change, hurt, and disappointment. So he not only loves who he is but loves that he will always be who he is.
Blessed with God in Glory
If we should desire one attribute of God’s to be communicated to us, perhaps there is a good argument for blessedness. Why? Because the more blessed a being is, the more there is a perfect union of all good things in that being. Our eternal blessedness will result from the fact that we are transformed from these lowly bodies into resurrection bodies that will allow for the harmony of all good things we can receive as we are made partakers of the divine nature (Philippians 3:20–21; 2 Peter 1:4).
We will not be frustrated in glory because we will be blessed. Our blessedness in heaven, which means the union of all good things in our being, is inconsistent with frustration or sadness because we shall always be able to do what we want to do. Our desires shall never be apart from God’s will. Therefore, even here on earth, to the degree that we desire what God desires, we shall experience our own blessedness. But in heaven we will be entirely satisfied with who we are, and that is why we shall be the blessed of the Lord.
God is fully actualized, and lacks nothing he desires, because his attributes all gloriously harmonize with one another. His life is a truly happy life; he needs nothing and possesses everything; he is not only free from evil but possesses all that is good. There is nothing that can make God envious or jealous; there is nothing that can make him better than what he is. Because, in this life, we lack the union of all good things, we are prone to envy and jealousy; we are prone to dissatisfaction; we are prone to sadness and depression; we are prone to that which is contrary to blessedness because we are not only human, but humans with indwelling sin. As such, in this life, our blessedness is only a tiny fraction of what we shall one day experience. But part of Christian hope is (joyfully) contemplating the goodness that shall fill us in glory, which is true blessedness.
Shining Sun, Overflowing Sea
We can be sure of our eternal blessedness because of God’s infinite blessedness. As Stephen Charnock (1628–1680) writes,
Were he not first infinitely blessed, and full in himself, he could not be infinitely good and diffusive to us; had he not an infinite abundance in his own nature, he could not be overflowing to his creatures; had not the sun a fulness of light in itself, and the sea a vastness of water, the one could not enrich the world with its beams, nor the other fill every creek with its waters. (Works of Stephen Charnock, 2:288)
God’s offering us his blessedness is like the ocean’s offering to fill a small pothole.
If God is the fountain of our own blessedness, our happiness in this life is entirely contingent upon the truth that God is not only our God, but the God who gives of himself to his creatures. Thus, we are only as happy or miserable as the god we serve. Nothing can offer more happiness than what it rightly possesses in itself. God is infinite in happiness and so supplies joy and satisfaction first (and preeminently) to his Son and then, by virtue of our union with him and the indwelling Spirit, to us.
God’s Highest Gift
Before God could supply us with his blessedness, something else had to happen. Our Father, who has unmixed blessedness, sent his Son, who also has unmixed blessedness, into this world so that, for a time, he would be “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). The Son possessed all good things in himself, in need of nothing, but willingly chose to become “nothing” so that he might give to us everything he can give to us (Philippians 2:6–8).
The highest and greatest gift that God can give us is not riches, prestige, life, or even salvation itself. No, the greatest gift is himself, of which no greater gift exists. The blessed triune God is ours because he gave himself to us: each person gives, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Son literally gave of himself for us: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).
Indeed, we can say with the psalmist, as we reflect on the good gifts God offers out of his abundant blessedness,
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. (Psalm 16:5–6)
This is blessedness: to know that God is ours and we shall possess the truly abundant life. As we carry our crosses in this life, we not only look to what is promised, but we also remember Jesus. We remember his blessedness, and we claim it as our own: for in him and by the Spirit, his blessedness really becomes ours.