Only the Loved Love

Feb 14, 2023 | Articles, by Luke Walker, Marrow Ministries Free Content

What came first, the chicken or the egg? We’ve been considering this classic conundrum since the Greek philosopher Plutarch first posed the question.[1] Plutarch responds that they are both first, which is almost as convenient of an answer as Aristotle’s, which is that neither the chicken nor the egg came first because there have always been chickens and eggs (and everything else, including convenient answers to hard questions).

The consensus of modern science is that the egg came first. This means that at some point along the line of evolution—yea, at the very threshold of chickenness—an almost-chicken laid an egg that became the first-ever chicken. In fact, according to modern science, we have in the chicken one of nature’s Survival of the Fittest grand champions. Its secret to longevity is apparently its deliciousness, as demonstrated by our metro areas littered with Wing Stops and Chick-fil-A’s as far as the eye can see.

The consensus of Christianity, on the other hand, is that the chicken came first when God formed it on Earth Day 6. There it says, “Let the earth sprout vegetation; plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed…” (Gen 1:11). Carried forward into day six, we expect to see the same pattern when God brings forth land animals from the earth. And we do see it: God formed the man Adam from the ground and his woman, Eve, from his rib before they had children. As one of our own poets has said,

Adam never had a naval.
Adam was never born, Adam the angel.[2]

Natural reason may tell us that the egg comes first, but when the Creator created living things, He created little creators. The first of these were our great progenitors of species. Adam was never born and is the father of humanity. It is from him that all people derive their life. Of course, this becomes a repeating cycle in the offspring: we receive life from our parents, just as they did from theirs, and just as the little sapling tree received its life from its tree parents. Just so, the egg proceeds from the great Ancestor Chicken in the Garden—and what golden eggs she must have laid. And so, we confess that the chicken came before the egg.

We find this same wondrous pattern in our own relationship with God. We may alter the question as follows: What came first, our love for God or His love for us? Natural reason tells us that our love must come first: if we love God, then, surely, He will love us in return. In fact, every false religion is built upon this premise. But just as the chicken, in defiance of modern scientific reasoning, precedes the egg, so too does God’s love for us precede our love for Him. Always. In every instance.

Creatures receive their being from God, and so too whatever their being possesses, even love. Our love for God receives its very being from God’s love for us. Click To Tweet

Actually, the Bible answers this one straight up: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Creatures receive their being from God, and so too whatever their being possesses, even love. Our love for God receives its very being from God’s love for us. It is created by Him through the display of his infinite kindness to unworthy sinners like us. God’s love is first, our love is second. His love is the wellspring and ours, the stream. We receive His love, kindness, mercy, forgiveness, and salvation, and then we love Him in return. It is our response, even as that first chicken plopped its first egg upon sacred ground.

Getting the chicken-egg order wrong has disastrous effects on the Christian life. Once we begin to think that our love for God, expressed in our acts of service, our devotion, or our good works of any sort, wins over His love for us or keeps us in that greatest of loves, we are preparing to make shipwreck of our faith. To do so is effectively to put holes in the ark of God’s saving grace. For in that case, we have begun to trust ourselves and our doings, instead of God and His.

This is actually extremely ungodly. The very citadel of creaturely holiness is simple trust in God. All godliness flows from this spring. Thus, our holiness proceeds from receiving God’s love in the gospel, not the other way around. Edward Fisher writes, “And not for that we repent and humble ourselves, and do good works, he gives us his grace; but we repent and humble ourselves, do good works, and become holy because he gives us his grace.” The Puritan John Preston has aptly said, “He that hath the strongest faith, he that believeth in the greatest degree the promise of pardon and remission of sins, I dare boldly say, he hath the holiest heart and the holiest life.” From here, good works spring from our hearts spontaneously, like the dancing flames of a fire. In this case, they are 100% natural, born of the mighty spark of grace in the transformed human heart.

If you get this backward, your Christian life will fall apart. It’s only a matter of time. If you secretly begin to believe that your salvation ultimately depends on you, you’ll collapse under the despairing weight of impossibility. If you trust in your faith or your seeking of God, you are already slipping from grace. We trust Him. We seek Him. It is Him that we rely upon. Anything else is works-based idolatry. Love is the sum of all our good works (Matt 22:36–40). In all our good works, we must rely upon God and His grace. He will help me in all I do; I can lean upon Him fully in every deed.

In the end, “It is impossible for any man to love God, till by faith he knows himself beloved of God.” As it turns out, knowing that we are loved by God is pretty serious business. Indeed, it is the difference between life and death, the very being and non-being of our Christian lives.

[1] “Which was first the bird or the egg?”Plutarch, Essays and Miscellanies,
[2] Killah Priest, “Gods of E.din,” track 3 on Planet of the Gods.

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