“… so that in the ages to come He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7).
What impresses me about Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians is its depiction of God as eternally, absolutely, immutably, unstoppably loving. The first chapter speaks generally about the wealth of “every spiritual blessing” which we have in Christ: election, redemption, forgiveness of sins, adoption, inheritance, etc. In the second chapter, Paul turns his attention to the moral state of the Ephesians (and of the Jews, as well) and affirms that the fact that all were “dead through the trespasses and sins in which they once lived” did not stop God from saving them by grace, totally apart from their own works (vv. 8-9). If He is confronted with a sinful and undeserving humanity, God “responds” by acting out of grace, letting nothing stop Him from blessing and doing good and showing love towards His creatures.
In the Theologia Germanica, we see that this unmixed goodness of God was taken as a model for how the spiritual man must act:
Hence it followeth, that in a truly Godlike man, his love is pure and unmixed, and full of kindness, insomuch that he cannot but love in sincerity all men and things, and wish well, and do good to them, and rejoice in their welfare. Yea, let them do what they will to such a man, do him wrong or kindness, bear him love or hatred or the like, yea, if one could kill such a man a hundred times over, and he always came to life again, he could not but love the very man who had so often slain him, although he had been treated so unjustly, and wickedly, and cruelly by him, and could not but wish well, and do well to him, and show him the very greatest kindness in his power, if the other would but only receive and take it at his hands. The proof and witness whereof may be seen in Christ; for He said to Judas, when he betrayed Him: “Friend, wherefore art thou come?” Just as if He had said: “Thou hatest Me, and art Mine enemy, yet I love thee and am thy friend. Thou desirest and rejoicest in My affliction, and dost the worst thou canst unto Me; yet I desire and wish thee all good, and would fain give it thee, and do it for thee, if thou wouldst but take and receive it.” As though God in human nature were saying: “I am pure, simple Goodness, and therefore I cannot will, or desire, or rejoice in, or do or give anything but goodness. If I am to reward thee for thy evil and wickedness, I must do it with goodness, for I am and have nothing else.” Hence therefore God, in a man who is “made partaker of His nature,” desireth and taketh no revenge for all the wrong that is or can be done unto Him. This we see in Christ, when He said: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”Theologia Germanica 33
I especially love the line: “I am pure, simple Goodness, and therefore I cannot will, or desire, or rejoice in, or do or give anything but goodness.” This is exactly the impression one gets about God when reading Paul’s theology, especially in the Epistle to the Ephesians.
Why should anyone fear God? What is there to be fearful about in God? These questions sound radical, especially in light of the Old Testament injunction to fear of the Lord. But perhaps there is a point to be made here. God is good and He loves His creatures and wishes to do them good and to bless them. If anything, we deprive ourselves of God’s goodness because we sin and we turn away from Him. God Himself tempts no one to sin (Jas 1:13) and no one can blame God for the sin she has committed. All of this is all the more clear in Jesus Christ, who is “God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart” and “has made [the Father] known” (John 1:18), and in whom is every spiritual blessing. From God, we can expect goodness and blessing and love. But if we sin and persist in our sinning, we turn away from that and reap the consequences of our actions.
On the other hand, John says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love” (1 John 4:18). If we see that God only ever wants our good in what He gives us and tells us, then we begin to love Him and obey Him (cf. John 14:15) and then we do not fear Him any longer, because we are no longer under any threat of punishment. The goal of the spiritual life is to transcend fear of God through love, and we can only love God when we are convinced of the fact that He only wishes us good.
For this reason, I think it is good for us to be reminded regularly of Paul’s Gospel, which is of course nothing other than the Gospel itself (Gal. 1:6-7). We should be reminded of the appearance of “the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior” (Titus 3:4).