The Philanthropy of God
The Greek word philanthropia only appears twice in the New Testament (Acts 28:2; Tit 3:4). The word philanthropy, used in the English, usually has a pecuniary allusion, but the Greek has a use that is a bit more broad. The word itself is a crasis.
The first word is phileo, which is a favorable friendship. Philadelphia is the city of brotherly love. The second word is anthropos, meaning mankind. Anthropology is the study of humanity. Thus, in blending the two words, to make one word, we have a definition: “friend of mankind;” or “love for mankind.”
In order for God to share in the kindred spirit of brotherly love, He would have to become a man. Hence, the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, is the essential act of God in His philanthropy (Jn 1:14).
The incarnation of God our Savior allows Paul to identify Jesus our Savior (Titus 3:6), or even more precisely, “our great God and Savior Christ Jesus (Titus 2:13).”
The incarnation of the Christ allows us to speak of the humanity of the Son of God (Jn 1:14). The Messiah, or Christ, has added to His eternal deity…human flesh. Jesus is fully human and fully God. He is Jesus of Nazareth, and the Christ sent from heaven.
The humanity of Christ adds richness to the relationship with mankind. God became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn 1:14). He was like us, yet without sin (Heb 4:15). He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, in the Virgin Mary’s womb (Mt 1:20), and so at the appointed time, He was born of a woman (Gal 4:4). As the prophet Isaiah saw these things seven hundred years before they happened, he was even given the name of Messiah. Emmanuel, meaning, “God with us,” is to be taken quite literally (is 7:14; 8:8). God has made the ultimate cameo appearance. The author of life has appeared as the main character on the stage of history. He is the protagonist in His own redemption plot drama.
Jesus Christ must be fully God to be the Savior because God is Savior. Jesus must be fully man, in order to be the human representative, in the payment for sin (Col 2:14; 1 Pet 3:18). Man must pay the full debt of his sins, but he has no way to do this himself (1 Pet 2:24). Greater love has no man than this, than He lay down His life for His friends (Jn 15:13)…philanthropy.
God so loved the world of humanity (Jn 3:16) that He sent His only begotten Son, who demonstrated His love toward us, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8). Jesus shed His precious blood for the remission of our sins (1 Pet 1:19), canceling our debt of sin (Col 2:14).
Silver and gold could never redeem a human soul, but God’s currency to satisfy His own justice was the infinite value of the blood of the covenant of grace (Mt 26:28; Heb 12:24). In Christ, God became a man who loved His bride, the church, a chosen people for His own possession (Eph 5:25; 1 Pet 2:9).
Jacob’s son, Joseph (c. 1800 B.C.), suffered at the hand of providence before being exalted by grace. Despite his brothers’ betrayal, Joseph forgave them and bestowed the best of Egypt upon them, being a friend that sticks closer than a brother (Prv 18:24).
Is there a limitation to God’s philanthropy? In His providence, God provides for all of His creation, including all humanity. In His grace, God our incarnate Savior loves His own people with philanthropy. He is their loving friend. He holds every spiritual blessing in His trust, apportioned, and distributed in his wisdom and will (Eph 1:3). He Himself is their eternal inheritance (Heb 9:15).
The philanthropy of God is Christ, becoming a man, our friend…a friend of sinners. Friendship with God is to know the love of God in Christ Jesus. We have not yet seen Him, but we love Him, our gracious Redeemer and Philanthropist.
Spokane Valley, Washington
September 26, 2021