Listen to sermons at FreeGraceRadio.com
“Thou hast Loved Them as Thou hast Loved Me”
“I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” (John 17:23)
John 17 contains our Lord’s prayer for us as our great high Priest. It not only records his desires for his people, which cannot and will not be denied (What Christ desires, Christ shall have!), but this great, intercessory prayer is a very instructive portion of holy Scripture, filled with Gospel truth. And the text that heads this page (John 17:23) teaches us something wondrous , mysterious, and delightful about God’s love for his elect, something that is simply astounding. This short, simple statement by our dear Redeemer is full of mysteries I will never be able to comprehend, much less explain. It is itself a profound volume of theology.
Christ in Us
“I in them” — The Lord Jesus Christ is in us in a distinctive, unique, saving way. Obviously, as the omnipresent God, Christ is in all the world. As the Creator of all men, he is in all men, giving all the light of conscience by which all are found guilty and condemned from within themselves. As the incarnate God, as a man, our Lord Jesus was once here, dwelling among men. — “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us!” These things John tells us in chapter one (John 1:5, 9-11, 14).
But when our Lord says, “I in them,” he is telling us that he is in every believing sinner in a special, gracious manner. In regeneration, the new birth, he is revealed in us and to us. Christ is formed in us when we are born of God. He enters into the chosen, redeemed soul, taking possession of his ransomed one by almighty grace, establishes his throne in the heart, communicates his grace, and grants fellowship with himself, and dwells in the heart. He is to every heaven born soul, “Christ in you, the hope of glory!” He is in us by his Spirit, yes. But our text says more. He is personally in us! He is in us as the King in his kingdom, the Head in his members, and the Master in his house.
What wondrous, condescending grace! Christ is in us! Therefore, because he who is holiness dwells in us, we have holiness within, that holy thing which is born of God and cannot sin. Because he who is Light dwells within, we have light and shall never walk in darkness. Because he who is Life dwells within, we have life, eternal life, within and shall never perish. Because Christ dwells within us now in grace, he shall dwell in us forever in glory!
God in Christ
“I in them and thou in me” — God the Father is in Christ, not only as one with him in the holy Trinity, but also as our God-man Mediator. The Father is in the Son communicating all grace to us through him. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are in Christ the Mediator in all the fulness of the eternal Godhead. — “In him dwelleth all the fulness of the godhead bodily!” The Father is in the Son graciously now and will show himself in and through him and him alone forever. And the Father will show himself glorious in the Son throughout the endless ages of eternity.
“I in them and thou in me that they may be made perfect in one.” — All this fulness of God in Christ and of Christ in his people is designed for this purpose and shall accomplish it. Because God was in Christ, all his people were made perfect in justification when that man who is God died as our Substitute at Calvary. Because this Christ, in whom all the fulness of God dwells, dwells in us, we are made perfect in sanctification. He has made us holy and righteous, “meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” Because Christ is both in the Father and in us, because he is in glory, because he is within the veil, because his blood speaks there for us, we shall soon drop this robe of flesh and be made perfect in glory. Then we shall be perfect in knowledge, in holiness, and in peace, joy, and love. Because this great, glorious, gracious, omnipotent Christ is in us and all God’s elect are in him, the number of the saved in glory shall be perfect, complete. Not one shall be missing. And we shall be perfectly one. “I in them and thou in me that they may be made perfect in one and that the world may know that thou hast sent me.” Soon, when he has done all that he purposed must be done, and time is no more, all the world will know who he is!
“I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” — “Thou hast loved them as thou hast loved me.” Imagine that! What an astounding word this is from our God and Savior! — “Thou hast loved them as thou hast loved me.” God the Father loved Christ as his own Son, and loved him as our Mediator from everlasting. He loved him when he assumed our humanity. The Father loved him while he walked on this earth as his obedient Son, fulfilling all righteousness for us. Oh, how the Father loved the Son, even when he was made sin for us, especially when he was made sin for us, though justice demanded that he both slaughter him and abandon him, pouring out all the horror of his holy wrath and fury upon him!
The instances and demonstrations of the Father’s love to the Son are marvelous to behold. Because the Father loves the Son as our Mediator, he has put all things into his hands, trusting him with all his glory and all the people of his love (Ephesians 1:12). He has made him Head over all things, put all things under his feet, and determined that in all things he shall have the preeminence.
The Father’s love for the Son is an eternal, immutable, indestructible love of complacency and delight. It will last forever. That I have no difficulty understanding. But what our Lord tells us here is infinitely gracious and glorious beyond my highest imagination. — Our Lord Jesus here declares that God the Father loves us, his people, in exactly the same way as he loves him!
He loves us not merely as his creatures (like a man loves his dog), not merely as the descendants of Adam (as a man loves a man), and certainly not as considered in ourselves (as a man despises and hates his most implacable, obnoxious enemy). But God loves us in his Son, for the sake of his Son, as he loves his Son!
Do you ask, “How does God display such love for us?” Behold how he loved us! — “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us!” — Does he indeed love us as he loves his own darling Son? Indeed, he does! — Did he choose Christ as our Mediator (Isaiah 42:1-4)? So he chose us (Ephesians 1:3-6). — Did the Father make a covenant with the Son before the world began (Psalm 89:28)? So he made a covenant with us (Jeremiah 31:31-34; 32:38-40). — Did the Father raise the Son from the dead, making him free from sin (1 Peter 4:1-2)? So he has raised us up from the dead, making us free from sin (Romans 8:1-4). — Did the Father supply the Son with all things in daily providence while he walked on earth? So he supplies us! — Did the Father send his Spirit and his angels to minister to his Son when he was tempted? So he delivers us out of all our temptations. — Does the Father perform all things for the Son? So our God performs all things for us! — Does the Father love the Son from everlasting? So he loves us! — Does the Father accept the Son? So he accepts us! — Does the Father love the Son with utmost pleasure, satisfaction, and delight? So he loves me! — “Thou hast loved them as thou hast loved me!”
“Near, so very near to God, nearer I cannot be.
For in the person of his Son, I am as near as He!
Dear, so very dear to God, dearer I cannot be,
For in the person of his Son, I am as dear as He!”
Let my heart be forever humbled, ravished, inspired, and filled with praise to my God for his great love to me. Let my soul be forever exultant, joyful, and at peace! Let my life be forever and alone his!
What a great, glorious Gospel truth we have here. It is something that could never be known except by divine revelation. How honoring to our God! It is just like him. How comforting to our souls! To the extent that we are able to believe God’s Revelation, our souls shall be comforted.
Our great all-glorious Savior says, “Thou hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” Thus, he tells us that God our Father loves his elect in Christ as he loves Christ himself! That is such an amazing, stupendous thing that were it not written in Holy Scripture, I would not dare to think it, much less declare it. But there it stands. And, oh, how my soul rejoices in it. It is our Savior’s desire and purpose that the whole world shall know that God loves us as he loves him; and so it shall be! A. W. Pink wrote…
“When God’s elect have all been gathered together in one (John 11:52), when the glory which Christ received from the Father has been imparted to them, when they shall have been made perfect in one, then shall the world have such a clear demonstration of God’s power, grace, and love toward his people, that they shall know that the One who died to make this glorious union possible was the sent One of the Father, and that they had been loved by the Father as had the Son, for ‘When Christ, who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory’ (Colossians 3:4); then ‘he shall come to be glorified in his saints and admired in all them that believe...in that day’ (2 Thessalonians 1:10).”
That little word “as” means “just as,” “even as,” “in proportion as,” “to the same degree as.” When our Lord says, “Thou hast loved them, as thou hast loved me,” this great, little word, “as,” implies at least these three things.
First, there is a similarity of cause between God’s love for Christ and his love for us. — “Thou hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” The Lord God loves us for the same reason he loves his dear Son.
God loves us in Christ. God’s love is not a universal sentiment for all men. God’s love is in Christ. Apart from Christ, God is a consuming fire. This needs to be understood. These days, men everywhere are taught and universally presume that God loves them. Nothing could be further from the truth. Until you are united to Christ by faith, you have no reason to imagine that God loves you. Our faith in Christ does not cause God to love us. Our faith is the fruit and result of God’s eternal love for us. But, until a sinner trusts Christ, only the wrath of God is revealed and known to him; and the wrath of God is upon him. Do you understand that? — Until you take refuge in Christ, God’s wrath is upon you (John 3:36; Ephesians 2:3).
God loves us for Christ’s sake. Thomas Manton rightly observed that “The elect are made lovely, and fit to be accepted by God, only by Jesus Christ...The ground of all that love God beareth to us is in Christ.”
We are “accepted in the beloved.” God accepts our faith, our worship, our works, and our persons only because of Christ, because we are in Christ, and because of what Christ has done for us.
And God the Father loves us for the same reason that he loves his dear Son as our Mediator. Be sure you get this. It will help you. God the Father does not love us for the same reason that he loves his Son as his Son. He loves his Son as his Son necessarily because his Son is one with him in being, perfection, and praise. He cannot but love Christ as God. Else he would cease to love himself. But God’s love for Christ as our Mediator is based upon his perfect obedience unto God as our Mediator.
“I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.” (John 10:14-17)
Do you understand what our Lord teaches us here? God’s love for us is free and, at the same time, fully deserved. He said, “I will love them freely” (Hosea 14:4). Yet, his love, mercy, grace, and salvation flow to us upon the grounds of Christ’s obedience as our Substitute. He is merciful and gracious to us, forgiving us of all sin, and loves us “for Christ’s sake” (Ephesians 4:32-5:2). God the Father looked upon his Son from eternity as our perfect, obedient Mediator, and, for the sake of his Son, loved us with an everlasting love. Again, Thomas Manton wrote…
“God could not love us with honor to himself, if his wisdom had not found out this way of loving us in Christ...God was resolved to manifest an infinite love to man, but he would still manifest an infinite hatred against sin; which could not be more fully manifested than by making Christ the ground of our reconciliation...How could the holy God, the just God...love such vile and unworthy creatures as we are? The question is answered — he loveth us in Christ, and for Christ’s sake.”
Second, this word “as” suggests a similarity of love. The Lord God loves his people in the same way as he loves his Son. Again, I stress the fact that our Savior is here comparing the Father’s love for him as our Mediator to his love for his elect. Christ, as our Mediator, is the first object of God’s love. He loved Christ as the head of his mystical Body, the Church, and us as members. He loved Christ for his own sake. He loves us for Christ’s sake.
God the Father loved Christ the God-man as “the express image of his person” (Hebrews 1:3). So he loves his people who in Christ have been (and those who yet must be) renewed “after the image of him” (Colossians 3:10; 2 Peter 1:4). He loves Christ as his only begotten Son; and he loves us in Christ as his adopted sons (1 John 3:1). Because the Savior says, “Thou hast loved them, as thou hast loved me,” we are assured that God loves his elect freely. As we have already seen, the Lord Jesus Christ earned his Father’s love as a man by his mediatoral obedience. Yet, when our Savior came into the world, the Lord God loved the Child freely, delighting in him even before he had fulfilled his will (Isaiah 42:1). He is that One of whom the Father says, “In whom my soul delighteth!” Even so, he loves us freely (Deuteronomy 7:7-8; Hosea 14:4).
God loves us tenderly and affectionately. As the Father’s love for his Son is a tender, indescribably affectionate love, so is his love for us (Isaiah 62:5; Zechariah 2:8).
God’s love for his elect is immutable. As there is no possibility of change in our God (Malachi 3:6, James 1:17), God’s love does not change. It cannot be taken from us; and it cannot be destroyed, neither by us nor by hell itself (Romans 8:35-39).
The famous Arminian preacher, founder of the Christian Missionary Alliance denomination, A.W. Tozer, made these statements about the love of God. They are shocking, but they accurately express what the whole religious word believes.
“God must love and will love man until hell has erased the last trace of the remaining image (of God in him). Men are lost now. But they are still loved of God...I believe that God now loves all lost men...(But) the day will come when lost man will no longer be loved by God Almighty...I believe the time will come when God will no longer love lost human beings.”
Such fickle, useless love may be worthy of fickle, useless man, but not of our great and glorious Lord God. Our God does not love today and hate tomorrow! His love is unchangeable!
Thirdly, our Lord intends for us to understand that there is a similarity of results, that the effects and fruits, the consequences of God’s love to him and his elect are the same. Love that has no effect and bears no fruit is just lip-love; and lip-love is useless love. Love that is never known by the one loved is a frustrated passion that destroys one’s own peace and happiness. Love that never sees benefit and blessing upon its object, but only misery and woe, is a tormenting love. But that does not describe the love of God. Oh, no, a thousand times no! God’s love toward us, like his love toward his Son as our Mediator, is an effectual, fruitful, beneficial love. Here are five things mutually enjoyed by Christ and his people as the fruit and effect of God’s love.
1. The Revelation of Secrets — All things are open, common knowledge between people who love one another. As all things are manifest and made known to the Son as our Mediator by the Father (John 1:18; 5:20), so all things are manifest and made known to God’s elect by the Son (John 14:21; 15:15).
2. The Bestowment of Spiritual Gifts — God’s love is a bounteous love. He has given all things to the Son (John 3:34-35; 17:2; Ephesians 4:8); and he has given all his people all spiritual, heavenly gifts in his Son (Ephesians 1:3).
3. Strength and Protection in Life — As the Lord Jesus was upheld, strengthened, and protected throughout the days of his obedience to do his Father’s will (Isaiah 42:1), so the Lord God upholds, strengthens, and protects us, the objects of his love, throughout our days of obedience in this world (2 Corinthians 12:9).
4. Acceptance of All We Do for him — Everything that Christ did for God was accepted and well-pleasing to him because he loved him (Ephesians 5:2). And everything we do for God is accepted and well-pleasing to God through the merits of Christ because he loves us as he loved him (1 Peter 2:5). God our Father accepts our paltry efforts at serving and pleasing him for two reasons: (1.) He accepts our poor, sin stained obedience upon the merit of Christ’s perfect obedience. And (2.) he accepts our efforts at pleasing him because of his fatherly love for us in Christ.
5. Honor and Exaltation — The Lord Jesus was honored and highly exalted by God the Father as the object of his love. He was given preeminence in, possession of, and power over all things (Psalm 2:7-8; Hebrews 1:8). The Lord God, our heavenly Father, will do the same for us (John 12:26; Revelation 3:21).
Hear the Son of God and rejoice! — “Thou hast loved them, as thou hast loved me!” — What a pillow upon which to rest our heads! What a comfort for our poor, aching hearts! What a glorious theme for daily meditation! What a cause for adoration, praise, and worship! We may be despised, misunderstood, abused, and hated of men, but we are loved of God! God our Father loves us even as he loves his darling Son; and he has so loved us from eternity!
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2)
 The Tozer Pulpit, Volume 8, pp 23-25