Thursday, September 18, 2014

God's Self-Sufficiency & Love

(In considering the great love of the Father for His children, I've spent some time thinking about what His various attributes demonstrate about His love.  I'd like to share some of those thoughts with you in a series of articles here.)  

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. (Acts 17:24-25)

…the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD. (Psa 33:5)


As created beings, we are inherently needy.  There are things we must have in order to survive - air, water, food, clothing, shelter, etc.  Most people would agree that we also have lesser needs that are necessary in order to live fulfilled lives.  We need to be part of a community.  We need relationships.  We need love.  Because our various levels of needs, our relationships with other people are in some measure governed by our neediness.  Our affection for one another is usually at least partially tied to how we meet one another’s needs.  Why do I love the people I love?  They benefit me in some way. 

My family has a Valentine’s Day tradition of taking turns telling why we love each member of the family.  Almost invariably, the reasons we give are related to something that each person does.  Certainly, we love each other for the simple reason that we are family, but additionally we have affection for each other because of how we benefit each other. 

Truly unconditional love among created beings, if it is even possible, must be extremely rare.  We love because of what we get from one another.

Consider then that God has no needs whatsoever.  A.W. Tozer wrote, “Need is a creature word not worthy of the Holy.”  That is a truth duly supported by Scripture.  Paul told the Athenians in Acts 17:24-25, “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.”  God needs nothing.  Rather He meets the needs of all His creatures. 

This quality has been referred by theologians as the self-sufficiency of God.  Dr. Bruce Ware defines it this way: “God possesses within Himself intrinsically and eternally every good quality in infinite measure.”  That He possesses all good qualities intrinsically means that they are part of His essence.  That is, He has not acquired them, but they are part of His being.  That He possesses these qualities eternally means that there was never a time and never will be a time when He lacked or will lack any good quality.  He has always been completely self-sufficient.  That He possesses these qualities in infinite measure means that they are not finite, not limited, not measured, not restricted, and without boundary.  God never runs low on mercy, justice, truth, knowledge, or any other good quality.

It follows from God’s self-sufficiency that nothing can be added to Him.  He lacks nothing.  He needs nothing.  There is nothing that can be done to benefit Him in an absolute sense.  That is, He has nothing to gain from anything or anyone.

What does this mean about His love?  It is truly unconditional.  It is given without thought for how it will benefit Him since He is incapable of being benefited.  This has huge ramifications for the believer.  There is nothing we can do to cause God to love us more.  More good works will not curry more of His favor.  Greater devotion will not earn more of His affection.  He loves us because He loves us.

God is not like a half-empty cup that we fill up with our love.  Rather, as C.S. Lewis noted, “God’s love is bottomlessly selfless.  It has everything to give and nothing to gain.”  God’s love fills us; we do not fill Him.  In the cross of Jesus, we see the gift of a God who needs nothing but who gives everything because of His great unconditional love. 

Are you trapped in a cycle of thought that pushes you to perform in order to gain or retain God's love?  You did nothing to gain it in the first place and you can do nothing to retain it.  His self-sufficiency indicates that He loves you for nothing that you have added to Him.  He loves you unconditionally.  Think on these things.

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