“The chief way by which [Christians] have communion with the Father is love — free, undeserved, eternal love. This is the love the Father pours on the saints. Saints are to see God as full of love to them. They are to receive him as the One who loves them, and are to be full of praise and thanksgiving to God for his love. They are to show gratitude for his love by living a life which pleases him.
This is the great truth of the gospel. Commonly, the Father, the first person in the Trinity, is seen as only full of wrath and anger against sin. Sinful men can have no other thoughts of God (Rom. 1:18; Isa. 33:12,14; Hab. 1:13; Psa. 5:4-6; Eph.2:3). But in the gospel, God is now revealed especially as love, as full of love to us. To bring home to us this great truth is the special work of the gospel (Titus 3:4).
God is Love. In 1 John 4:8 ‘God’ refers to the Father. This is clear from the following verse, where God is seen as distinct from his only-begotten Son whom he sends into the world. ‘Now,’ says John, ‘the Father is love. He is not only infinitely gracious, tender, compassionate and loving in his nature, but also he is the One who gives himself supremely and especially to us freely in love.’ So John declares this in the following verses. ‘This is love, this is what I would have you especially to note about the Father. The Father shows his love to you in sending his only-begotten Son into the world that we might live through him.’ (v.9). ‘The Father loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins’ (v.10). And what is especially to be noted is that God’s love for us was before all that Christ has purchased for us (Eph.1:4-6)…
The Father himself loves us. In John 16:26,27, Jesus said, ‘I do not say that I shall pray to the Father for you; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me, and have believed that I came forth from God.’
But doesn’t Jesus contradict himself? Has he not plainly said, ‘I will pray to the Father for you’ (John 14:16)?
Jesus had spoken many gracious words to his disciples. He had given them many comforting and faithful promises. He had revealed heavenly truths to them. So they were fully convinced of his great love for them and that he would continue to care for them. They knew he would not forget them when he had gone from them back to heaven. But now all their thoughts were on the Father. How would he accept them? How would he treat them?
Jesus in effect says ‘Don’t worry about that. I do not have to pray that the Father will love you. For this is is his special attitude towards you. He himself loves you. It is true indeed that I will pray the Father to send you the Spirit, the Comforter. But as for that free, eternal love, there is no need for me to pray for that, because above all things the Father loves you. Have fellowship with the Father in his love. Have no fears or doubts about his love for you. The greatest sorrow and burden you can lay on the Father, the greatest unkindness you can do to him is not to believe that he loves you.'”
John Owen, Communion with God (Banner of Truth, 1991), 12-13. Abridged and revised by R.J.K. Law.