Over and over in the Bible, it appears that God saves us in order to draw attention to himself. This is nowhere clearer than in the first chapter of Ephesians. There we are told that God “predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ.” Why? “To the praise of his glorious grace” (Ephesians 1:4–6). Again, just a little later it says God predestined us. Again, why? “To the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:11–12). And then Paul says even our eternal security is “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” Why? “To the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13–14). Why does God predestine us, save us, adopt us, and eternally secure us in order to draw attention to himself? Here’s how Pastor John explained it in a 2010 sermon.
You cannot experience consciously the love of God for you — you cannot — apart from omnipotent, divine, supernatural power enabling you to experience it. Here’s a prayer from Ephesians 3:18–19. This is Paul now praying for the Ephesians, and also the way I pray for you, for myself, for my family: I pray that you “may have strength . . . to know the love of Christ.”
You can’t know it without power. Does that strike you as odd? You should give a lot of thought to that: Why can’t I know what it is to be loved without divine power?
I’ll keep reading that prayer. Paul prays that the Ephesians “may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.”
“The love of Christ, the love of God, surpasses the powers of the mind to comprehend.”
The love of Christ, the love of God, surpasses the powers of the mind to comprehend and the powers of the human heart to experience. It surpasses our fallen capacities to handle with our brain and to experience with our heart. It goes beyond what you’re able to do, which is why Paul is praying and why I pray for myself this way and for you this way: may you have strength to comprehend the love of Christ — soul strength, heart strength, mind strength. May God give this to us now.
This is why Paul said in Romans 5:5, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” The love of God pours into you not by any human agency, but by the Holy Spirit. It’s a divine thing to know yourself loved by God; you’re not able to on your own.
Apex of Our Praise
Now, the question I posed last week was this: Why is it that the Bible reveals the love of God for us, including God’s making so much of us, in ways that constantly call attention to his own glory? Why does he do it that way? And the answer is this: if God didn’t do it that way — if he didn’t love us in a way that constantly called attention back to his glory as the source, as the essence, as the goal — we would be so much more likely to turn the love of God into a subtle means of self-exaltation. We would use his love to make ourselves the deepest foundation of our joy — instead of himself. God would become the servant of our slavery to self. We would take our preciousness to God and make that very preciousness to God our god.
But I argued: God loves us so much — we are so precious to him — that he will not let that happen. We are so precious to God that God, in great mercy, will not let our preciousness to him become our god. We will indeed — hear this carefully — through all eternity, enjoy being made much of by God. That will be a profound ingredient in our joy in God: that he makes so much of his sons and his daughters.
But he will work in us such a holiness, such a sanctification, such a freedom from sin that he will protect us from making that the bottom of our joy. The bottom of our joy will always be that he’s the kind of God who delights in us. The bottom of our joy will always be that he’s the kind of God who makes much of the likes of me. This grace will be the apex of my joy, the apex of my praise forever. It will never terminate here on me; it will always go back there to him.
“From him and through him and to him are all things” (Romans 11:36). God himself will be the beginning, the middle, and the end in his love for me.