Calvin: You Have the Heavenly Father’s Heart

The Marcionite view of God teaches that the God of the Old Testament is a wrathful one, completely separate from the merciful and forgiving God of the New Testament. This view is prevalent in our day among those who make a sharp dichotomy between Israel and the church, teaching that the wrathful expressions of judgment in Israel’s history do not belong to the church today who is cared for by a god who is only love. Andy Stanley and others have made this error, on the same premise, in their rejection of the Old Testament as legitimate for the church today.

This view has not only served to destroy the simplicity of God in his attributes, but it has also wrecked the continuity of the entire message of the Bible in presenting the cross of Christ as the answer to the satisfaction of God’s justice and, simultaneously, the ultimate expression of love. As the saying goes: justice and peace kiss at the cross.

Jesus’ words in the gospel of John militate against any sort of Marcionite view of God. The disciples had for some time pressed Jesus about knowing his Father (Joh 14). Behind their question of wanting to be shown the Father was the perennial concern of whether God was for them or against them. They knew all too well of the many judgments that had fallen on Israel throughout history. They struggled with how to understand God the Father because they hadn’t yet accepted why the cross of God the Son was necessary. They fought Jesus every step of the way because they didn’t understand what the Father’s gift to the world was meant to solve. There was that lingering question in their minds: how do I know that God is really for me? What is the Father like? Is the Father dangerous to us? As of yet, they did not know the Father as they should.

In this context, Jesus makes one of the most glorious verses in all the Bible: In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God (John 16:26).”

The Father loves us so much, that the Son, as our intercessor, does not have to pressure or persuade the Father to forgive us, answer us, or help us in our deepest distresses. In fact, through the work of the Spirit, Jesus desires that we live in full assurance of the Father’s everlasting love, confident that his sacrificial death has secured his favor upon us.

As Calvin notes, we shouldn’t think of Jesus as on his knees begging the Father to help us or love us, “We have the heart of the Heavenly Father” when we have believed in the name of the Son. This is what the cross of Christ accomplished: peace and reconciliation with God.

Christ desires us to have this joy and peace, absent of all fear, every day of our lives. It’s what his work secures for us. But Jesus knows the tribulation and hardship of living in this world, along with the mysterious ways of the Father’s providence, at times, makes believers question how the Father could really be for us. This is why Jesus encourages the disciples that though they face many tribulations in the world, “Take heart”, said Jesus, “I have overcome the world.” (Joh 16:33). No amount of tribulation in this life changes the truth of the matter: God the Father loves you, says Jesus, you need to know that! Let that sink in.

“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us everything? Jesus wants us to enjoy his Father in this knowledge. Christ’s sacrificial death has secured for the steadfast, unbreakable, covenant love of God the Father. If we believe in God the Son, trusting in him for eternal life, we have peace with our Heavenly Father. Dear Christians, we have the Heavenly Father’s heart–enjoy him!