Experiencing the Personal, Passionate Love of God

Guest Post by Alex Early

When it comes to talking about the love of God, we’re not talking about something that is trivial, trite, common, or elementary. We’re playing with real consuming fire.

Maybe you’re like me and have found yourself hanging out in a Christian subculture for a little too long. If you are like me, rattling off “Jesus loves you” comes as easy as saying “Good morning” to a complete stranger. You might mean it, but chances are that you don’t.

Maybe you just assume the love of God is always there, always real, and certainly, always deserved. Many in our culture today, if they believe that God exists at all, believe that in some way they are worthy of his love and that only a few—the Hilters, the Pol-Pots, the Mussolinis of the world—should be excluded from his love, but not us normal people with our mundane sins.

After all, Apartheid is a curse word, the slaughter of the innocent is still wrong, and the capturing and selling of children in the marketplace is disgusting. Our petty sins like a white lie, a bit of laziness, and general selfishness are hardly comparable to the really wicked people of the world.

Don Carson wrote a small book several years ago entitled The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God. I highly recommend you read it as you think about, steep in, and savor the love of God. After all, the doctrine of the love of God isn’t just a doctrine, you know. It is a real thing going on right here and right now in the universe.

Every theological point we make is an argument for something and against something else
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Discussing any point in theology is bound to be “difficult,” I suppose. One of my professors in London once remarked, “All theology is polemical.” That is to say that every theological point we make is an argument for something and against something else. I think that’s helpful to remember.

And yet, when we get to speaking about God himself, our categories, no matter how robust, how articulate, and well-informed still come up short. Why is that? Because our theology is not inerrant. We simply do not possess all knowledge about God. That is to say that we’re needy, dependent, and lacking all the information.

Besides, if we even had all the information about the nature of who God is, what he does, and why he does what he does, do you think you and I could actually arrange and articulate him exhaustively and perfectly anyway? Doubtful.

Michael Horton reminds us of two helpful categories of theological knowledge available to us:

The first is Archetypal knowledge. This is the knowledge that only God possesses. It is the original whereas everything else is the copy. The other is known as Ectypal knowledge and it is creaturely knowledge that is revealed by God and accommodated to our finite capacities. Creaturely knowledge is always imperfect, incomplete, and dependent on God’s perfect and complete knowledge. [1]

Thus, the tensions abound.

The Bible explicitly says that “God is holy” and that “God is love.” The Bible also teaches us that God vents his wrath and is perfect in all of his attributes. Some of those attributes are communicable (he shares those with us – love, honor, joy, wrath) and others are incommunicable (omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient).

Although we don’t have perfect knowledge of God’s attributes and how they interact, these are still important things for Christians to consider. In the Reckless Love of God, I’m simply calling attention to the personal, passionate heart of the gospel, and therefore, I am primarily focusing on this attribute of his love for you as a person. I don’t go into great lengths on discussing election, predestination, justice, or hell though those points are certainly in the book.

This is the life of the believer, living out one’s identity as a child of God for the glory of God.
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If the theologians, pastors, and authors I’ve read are correct, then the indicatives drive the imperatives, and that is the grace, love, and kindness of God that leads us to repentance and life with him…and indeed, this is the life of the believer, living out one’s identity as a child of God for the glory of God.

[1] Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way, 991, 994.

Alex Early

Alex Early (MDiv, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; MA, London School of Theology) is a pastor who has planted a church in a bar, served as a theology professor, created the Acts 29 West Academy, a missional-theological training center, and launched the Acts 29 podcast. Alex lives with his wife and children in Atlanta, Georgia.

He spends his downtime cooking with and for friends and family, and is pursuing a Doctor of Intercultural Studies degree at Western Seminary. Learn more at www.alxegesis.com.

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