Over the last few weeks, we have been in the upper room listening to Jesus talk about “in-ness”. I think that we can say that in the upper room we see the inner-depths of Life in the Trinity.
For the next couple of weeks, we are going to stay in the upper room to consider more of the inner depths of Life in the Trinity. We are going to listen in on Jesus prayer to the Father in John 17. In this prayer, we will hear Jesus talking to his Father about “The Circle of Love”. God is Love and in his son he draws us into a circle of love.
To see something of this circle of love we will follow a diagram. The circle of love moves in two directions.
We will begin with the outer circle moving anticlockwise.
24Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world v24.
The Father loved the Son before the world was made. If God were just a solitary being there would have been no one to love then and so God could never have been love. But before God made anything, Father and Son were face to face and the Father was full of love for his own Son. He was fully satisfied in his love for the Son.
He didn’t have to make someone else to love because he was longing for love. He did not have to create, but he chose to do so freely out of his own love.
26I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them v26..’
The Father has always loved his own Son and now he has put the love he has for his Son inside those who are united to his Son. They know within themselves the reality of the Father’s love for his son because it lives inside them as sons in union with the Son.
The Son loves Believers.
The prayer doesn’t actually say that the Son loves those who believe in him. However, if we define love as self-giving we see the Son loving those who believe expressed in his self-giving towards them. The Son speaks to the Father about how those who believe have been given him by the Father. He goes on to speak about how he gives eternal life to those who have been given to them. Then he goes on to speak in many ways of his own self-giving towards those given to him. He gives himself to them to guard them…v12. He gives himself to them to make the Father known to them…6, 26. He gives himself to them by consecrating himself so that they may be set apart to God…v19. And he also gives to us the same glory that the Father has given him. He tells the Father about all this self-giving as he gives himself fully on our behalf in prayer to the Father. The Son loves believers within the circle of love.
Believers love the Father.
Again, the prayer does not actually say believers love the Father. But we hear Jesus say,
6 ‘I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word…v6.
Obeying the Father is the way that we show our love for the Father.
10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love (John 15.10).
Notice that we love the Father as he is revealed to us by the Son. We have no knowledge of the Father other than what we see in the Face of Jesus. He is the Father’s Son and so he is the Face of the Father. As we look at the Son we see the Father as the one who has always loved us, as the one that we always belonged to and as the one who gave us to Jesus. We come to love this Father and show our love by obeying his commands as we abide in his love.
Now we move around the inner circle clockwise.
The Father loves believers.
23I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me v23.
How much does the Father love us? Jesus gives us a measure. The Father loves us even as he loves his own Son. There is no other measure. We cannot say well I will try to imagine how much the Father loves me.
I think he loves me so much. We don’t invent our own measure. Jesus tells us clearly so that we don’t have to guess. Jesus tells us The Father loves you even as he loves me the beloved Son. cf 16.27.
Believers love the Son.
Again, the prayer does not actually say that we as believers love Jesus. But in verse 8 we hear Jesus say
7Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.
.We know from what we Jesus says in other places that this is one of the ways that we show we love him.
27for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God (16.27).
The Son loves his Father.
In this prayer, we see many ways that the Son showed his love for the Father.
Listen to what he says in v4.
4I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do.
The whole prayer is a pouring out of the Son’s love for his Father just as his whole life is a love offering towards his Father.
This is the circle of love that we are drawn into. As we look at this circle of love there are two big things that we must highlight.
Within the circle of love, we are co-loved with Father and Son.
Within the circle of love, we are co-lovers with Father and Son
Within the circle of love, we are co-loved with Father and Son.
Notice that I did not say within the circle of love we are loved by Father and Son. I said more than that. We are co-loved with Father and Son. The Father loves the Son and loves us with his Son just as he loves his Son. The Son loves his Father and loves us with the Father just as he loves his Father. We do not separate their love for us from their love for one another. We don’t say they love one another in a unique way and then love us differently. We are co-loved with them.
This means we are to live loved within the circle of love. But do we? We see the truth that we are co-loved with Father and Son. We could not be more loved. We are loved as the Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father. And yet we do live less loved than we are.
This is not a small matter. Nothing is more vital than living loved. If we live less loved than we are we will short circuit our whole experience of being loved and loving within the circle of love. And that is just what we do. We go around living less loves than we are. We need to see, really see, that we are co-loved with Father and Son so that we could not be more loved.
But how can we? We hear this truth so much. We know in some way that we are fully loved and yet still we live less loved. How can we know this so that we live this?
The answer is found in who is missing from the circle in our diagram, The Spirit. Why is he missing? He doesn’t want to be seen. The Spirit shows his love by becoming anonymous to serve the circle of love. He doesn’t appear in the circle, but he is there making the circle of love real to us. You might say that as we look at the circle of love the Spirit is nowhere and everywhere. He is nowhere in the circle of love because he wants to remain hidden and anonymous. He is everywhere because he is the one who serves the circle of love enabling the circle of love to be real for us. The flow of love from Father and Son to us becomes a living reality in the Spirit. The flow of love from us to Father and Son becomes a living reality in the Spirit.
In the upper room, Jesus speaks of “The Spirit of Truth”. He is the Spirit of truth because he makes truth known to us. But what is the truth that the Spirit of truth makes known to us? Is it doctrinal truth? Is it propositional truth? Many hear Jesus words, You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” and then stress the need to study the truth of the word in order to be free. But is that what Jesus meant by the truth?
Jesus said, I am the way and the truth and the life. Jesus is himself the truth. So truth is a person. If you know Jesus, you know the truth. Furthermore, if you see the Son you also see the Father. So the truth is Son and Father. When we see Father and Son they are always in love relationship. They are always full of delight in one another and serving one another in love. The truth is the self-giving love of Father and Son in love relationship. It is the dynamic reality of the life and love that is shared between Father and Son. Not propositional truth. The living reality of love relationship between Father and Son. When we see Father and Son in love relationship, we also see the circle of love in which we participate. That is the truth, the circle of love.
The Spirit of truth makes known the truth to us. He makes it known to us in such a way that it all becomes real to us. We cannot see it ourselves. We cannot grasp it ourselves. We cannot enter into the reality of it ourselves. Knowing the truth of our participation within the circle of love must be revealed to us by the Spirit so that it becomes living reality to us. Then we know that we are loved. We know because we know and we know because we know. We have not worked it all out ourselves. It has simply been given to us as truth by the Spirit of truth. Then you experience it in a personal way. It is not just data. You know yourself within the circle of love fully loved by God. And it is all real. You are loved and you know it. You know it in the Spirit within the circle of love. You don’t try to force this. You simply see the circle of love and let the truth of it all be what it wants to be in the Spirit.