Monday, 13 April 2020
Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 1 John 3:1
Chapter 3 begins with a resounding cry of wonder and delight, “Behold.” The emotion of the word comes from the surrounding context. At times, it can simply indicate seeing or perceiving something with the eyes. However, John is calling out more than that as he adds on to it – “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us.”
In this, he is asking his reader to open their spiritual eyes and see something that is as real and sure as the ground under one’s feet, and yet it is something that can only be mentally perceived. God has sent His Son as a Gift, and in the sending of His Son, He has become “Father” to those who have received Jesus. The Father of the Godhead, through Christ Jesus, has become our Father in the faith.
This giving of the Son is described by John as a “manner of love.” The word translated as “manner” signifies a kind or sort. It originally referred to the race or tribe one belonged to. Therefore, it is a distinct kind, set apart from other kinds of love. And that love is “that we should be called children of God.”
The word translated as “called” does not mean a divine calling, but rather a naming. We are “named” children of God. As such, being named as children is speaking of adoption, as Paul also describes, such as in Galatians 4:5 and elsewhere. When a father adopts a child, he is bringing that child into his family, naming him in that capacity. It is a way of saying, “I am bestowing upon you all the rights and privileges of any other son in my family.” As Jesus Christ is God’s only begotten Son, the implication is astonishing. God the Father has bestowed a name upon us which signifies a relationship that places us along with His own Son.
The love of the Father for the Son is now extended to the children of adoption. Note that John uses the term teknon, or “children,” and not the word huios, or son. The body of believers is gathered as the Father lavishes His love on them – regardless of any other distinction. It is a touching note of endearment for those who are now His.
However, because of this, John then shows a distinction between those who belong to the Father and those who do not by saying, “Therefore the world does not know us.” The world, the ordered system which stands opposed to God, has no fraternal bond with the Father. Because of this, it has no such fraternal bond with the children.
In this, there is no understanding of who the children of God actually are. Anyone can claim that he is a child of God, but without understanding how God makes this possible, it is an empty claim. When God sent Christ, He made the relationship possible. But it is only in Christ that it is so. Without knowing the Son, one cannot know the Father. And without knowing the Father, the world cannot ascertain, or mentally perceive, the true status of the children. As John further states, “because it did not know Him.”
Jesus said, “He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (John 5:23). He also said, “While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” Jesus is the Light. In understanding who He is, and in stepping into His revealed light, one can then understand the Father, and become a son of light. Without this occurring, those of the world remain in darkness, and they cannot know the Father. Only through Christ Jesus is this made possible.
Life application: For those who understand the nature of God, the state of fallen man, and the importance of the work of Jesus Christ, it is immensely sad to hear non-Christians say, “We’re all children of God.” This is because such a statement fundamentally misunderstands the unhappy state they remain in. It also fails to understand the wrath God feels toward sin. Were it not so, God would never have sent His Son, our Lord Jesus, to the cross. But sin necessitates such a sacrifice. There is one overlying truth about sin – Either the sin in man is judged, or the man is judged in sin.
To judge the sin in man means that a Substitute took the place of the sin. The only acceptable substitute is another man (animals are in a different category). But another man is unacceptable if he too has sin. Thus, we see our need for Jesus – the sinless Son of God. Paul explains the transfer in 2 Corinthians 5:21 –
“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
When one understands these thoughts on sin, then he can taste a glimpse of John’s exuberant proclamation. Behold! What manner of love the Father has bestowed on us!
It is at the very edge of our ability to grasp, and actually beyond our ability to fully appreciate, what happened on the cross of Jesus Christ. The significance of that act is more incredible than anything else in all of time and throughout all of creation. And it occurred for a good and beautiful purpose – that we should be called children of God. Hallelujah to the Lamb of God who takes away our sin. Man need not be judged in sin. Rather, the sin in man has been judged for those who come to Christ Jesus.
We marvel at the perfection of Your glorious work, O Christ. May we never tire of telling the story of Your life, Your cross, and Your victory over death. May we never fail to proclaim Your majesty all the days of our unworthy lives. To You, O God, be the honor and glory – now and forever! Amen.