The Great Love Of The Father
1 John 3:1-3
Key Verse 2
“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”
John never stopped warning the Christian congregations about false teachers who had been trying to lead them astray. He often shows them what the truth is and then exposes the lie which the agents of Satan were trying to teach. John admonished them not to be deceived by the lies of the devil, but to “Continue” in Christ and in his teaching, “So that when he appears” they (as well as we) “might be confident and unashamed before him at his coming”. (2:28) John assures us that Jesus will return according to his promise and when he does, the children of God will be confident to stand before the judge of all the earth to receive the promised eternal life, while those who had rejected and maligned him will be ashamed as they await their just condemnation. It will be a day of great joy for the children of God, and a day of dread for those who are not. After John admonished them to continue in their faith and trust in Christ, he then again reminded them who truly are the children of God. He reminded them that the true children of God are those who like their Father God, live righteous lives and do what is right in the sight of God. (29) Those are the ones who truly belong to the Lord and have a real relationship with him, because they are born of God. In his letter, John talks a lot about who is really a Christian and who is not, who is really born of God and who is not. He reminds the Christians everywhere of the faith, character and conduct of those who are truly born of God. In this chapter he tells us what truly characterizes those who are the born again children of God. They do not practice sin but righteousness, and they love the brotherhood of believers.
However, before we get into these two distinct characteristics of the children of God, John takes short break to do two things. In verses 1-3, John stops to marvel at the love of God, something we should do more often. And he also exemplifies the hope of those who belong to him, reminding us of our true hope, so that we might remain steadfast in our faith, character and conduct. I think there is a wealth of blessing in these first three verses that we should give our whole attention to, not only today as we reflect on them, but often especially when we seem to forget who we really are and what we are truly living for. In brief, we are ever the children of God. That in itself is no small thing! And we are living for the day when we shall be made to be like him. For this reason, we purify ourselves even now from all worldly things and set our hearts on doing what is good and pleasing to our Father in heaven.
Read verse 1. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” Most translations of the Bible have a word at the beginning of this verse which we must not miss. They have the word “See”, such that the verse reads as such: “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” “See what great love the Father has lavished on us!” These words follow the last truth John was telling us, which is the fact that we are born of God. After he said this, John stopped for a moment to marvel at it. He says: “See what great love the Father has lavished on us.” “See!” This expression was written to amaze and to astonish us. It is meant to make us think deeply of the love of God for us. Even in times of our sufferings and trials, these words are written to overwhelm our hearts to serious reflection.
What then is so amazing or surprising about God’s love for us? What can we say about it? Read verse 1a again. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” John tells us that amazingly God’s love for us is so great that we should be called his children. Many take this astounding truth for granted and miss the full impact of its implication. But to understand how truly amazing this is we should think about what we were before God changed our identity. Who were we? I think the best way to describe who we were before God made us his children is to look at Ephesians 2:1-5. “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved.” Some of us may have been decent people and good citizens, even godly or religious people by our own standards and the standards of this world, but the truth is that we were dead in our sins. We lived in sin as we had no choice but to follow the ways of this world and its prince who is Satan the devil. We had a spirit of disobedience as we were led by the evil spirit to live in rebellion against God and his authority. We lived to gratify the cravings of our corrupt nature following its desires and thoughts. As such the Bible clearly tells us that we were objects of God’s wrath. In other words, we were enemies of God and on our way to eternal destruction. We were like all other people who today live in rebellion against God, sinning uncontrollably, and objects of his wrath. People never think of the condition of their soul when they are living without God, and without Christ. You call them to repentance, but they their hearts are hard and calloused, and they mock the truth. But the day will come when each person will stand before God to be judged. And if our condition is like that described here in Ephesians 2, we are doomed. But “See how great the love God has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God.”
In his great mercy, God rescued us from what will be the portion of all who do not believe, and he has brought us out of condemnation. But it wasn’t easy for him to do so. John says, “How great is the love of God.” He describes the love of God for us as “great love”. What was so great about it? It was a great love because in order to save us from his wrath, he sacrificed his One and Only Son. Jesus had to leave his home in heaven, his comfort and privileges in order to become like one of us. He finally sacrificed his own life to set us free from sin. God didn’t need to save us. No one saves an enemy. God didn’t need to sacrifice his son to rescue us. Who would sacrifice a son to rescue an enemy, a rebellious offensive and unworthy enemy living in enmity with God. God didn’t need to do more than just deliver us from slavery. He didn’t need to bring us into his home and bandage our wounds. He didn’t need to nurse us to health and then adopt us into his family. A rescue mission would have been sufficient. But God did not stop with rescuing us at the cost of his Son’s life. He adopted us as his own children. He brought us into his family and gave us his own name. And we became his children. He made us sons and daughters in his household. This is the amazing part of God’s love. How can we forget what God had done!
What is so great about this love? It is a great love because there is nothing like it in the whole universe nor will ever be. God himself is love. He has revealed his love for us throughout the ages, always patient always kind, always beckoning for us to come near to him and be loved by him. From the start God’s love has been it’s own motivator. Even though our hearts often were hard and calloused and unreceptive to his love, yet his love never gave up, nor does it give up. To begin with, God had no reason to love us at all. Yet, his love for us was spontaneous, spurred on by nothing we did. He initiated his love out of pure grace and mercy. We were not worthy of this love. Yet he loved us and did what is unthinkable in that love to rescue us. Listen to what John says of God’s love. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” God lavished his love on us. Lavish is a very strong word. It means in excess. Above what is expected. Beyond what can be imagined. In other words, there was a profusion and an over abundance of his love for us. Who would sacrifice his son or daughter for anyone else? Who would leave the comforts of his home to go rescue a worthless child of his enemy? Yet this is what God did. He also did more. God in his love, gave us a new birth. In other words, he bestowed upon un a new spirit, a new heart and a new mind that we should live a life fit for heaven. He prepared us through the new birth and the gift of the Spirit to live with him forever in his kingdom. And in his love he made us heirs with him of all things. We may not own a thing in this life, and have no possession, and nothing to our name, yet in truth we own all that belongs to God because we are his heirs. Someday when we realize this truth, we will be able to live a simpler and less cumbered life on earth as we await our real inheritance.
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” To be called children of God is not only our identity in this life and the next, it is also a privilege. That too is the amazing love that has been lavished on us. John 1:12 tells us: “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” In other words, it is a right that we are given, a privilege that has been granted to us. I said this before but I think it is necessary to repeat that once again. To fully understand what we were before God made us his children helps us to begin to understand this glorious privilege that we now have in him. Romans 9:26 says: “It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” We were in no way God’s people. Rather we were refuse because we lived against God, even if we were kind and loving people, we still were not his people at all, as long as sin was our master and controlled our lives. But God made us his children such that we are now sons of the living God. Sometimes we feel like the prodigal son in Luke 15:19 who in humility of spirit and repentance of heart, said: “I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.” But it never changes what we truly are. John says: “And that is what we are!” He does not say we will be, but we are. Indeed if you have confessed Christ as Lord and Savior and have received the gift of the Holy Spirit, then you are a son or a daughter, and nothing can change that. That is why John stopped for a moment to marvel at this great love.
Read verse 1 again: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” John also comforts the children of God because the world does not know them nor recognize them as children of God. He tells us that the world does not know us simply because it did not know our Master and Lord Jesus. In what capacity does the world not know us? It does not know who we really are. We are the glorious children of the Father God, creator of all things. Our privileges as sons and daughters, as heirs of the King are great. The world should recognize that we belong to God because of our righteous lives— it should honor us and respect us for who we are. But the world does not. The world should know that we are born again of a different seed than that of the world, because we have the life and spirit of God in us who helps us live not by anxiety or fear but by faith and trust in God. But the world neither knows us nor acknowledges us as the legitimate children of God. In other words, we should not expect the world and the people of the world to recognize us or to treat us well, even if we act and do as our Father does, serving and loving and sacrificing! We should not expect the world to take notice at all. We should not expect the world to reward us either.
We recognize each other, but why does the world not know us? John tells us the truth. Because the world did not know the Lord Jesus, nor did it recognize him either. Jesus himself warned us saying: “Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.” (John 15:20) When Jesus came, he did what no other man who ever lived ever did. Jesus lived the perfect life, he loved perfectly, he trusted God perfectly, he was perfectly self controlled. Yet the world did not recognize him as the Son of God. The world crucified him in the end. Likewise there is no reason the world should ever recognize us either. Instead, we should not expect any special treatment from the world. Why do I say that? Because we want to be recognized as his children, at least for the good that we do, for our kindness and sacrifices that we make in service to others. But that is the way the world behaves. You do something admirable and you are recognized for it. We have medals and trophies and ribbons and accolades for those who promote worldly competitions and for others who invent things that promote peace and happiness and an easier way of life and living. The world recognizes such things and reward those who do them. Even Jesus’ brothers once tried to get him to be recognized by the world in a worldly way. They “Said to him, ‘You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.’” At the time John commented saying: “For even his own brothers did not believe in him.” (John 7:3-5) No Christian should want this kind of recognition. As children of God we must do as God would have us do, live righteously apart from sin; he would have us tell of his glory and share in his riches of kindness to others. But we should never expect to be recognized. John tells us that the world will not recognize you because it did not recognize God’s one and only Son. The world rather treated him with contempt and finally crucified him. The world was not worthy of him. In the same way the world isn’t worthy of his children either. (Hebrews 11:38) It does not matter that the world does not recognize his children. In fact it is a small price to pay for being called the children of God.
Read verse 2. “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” John tells us that “Now” we are the children of God, not tomorrow. We are right now the children of God. The Spirit of God is the one who confirms it in our hearts that we are his children. He makes this truth very real to us. If the Spirit of God has not confirmed it to you yet, ask him to make it very clear who you are. Knowing your true identity changes your life. It puts you on a whole new plane of existence, a plane that communes with God and is eager for a stead change until your real hope is fulfilled. And what is our real hope? John says that “what we will be has not yet been made know.” What then is it that we hope for, what is it that has not yet been made known? It is our transformation into the likeness and image of Jesus upon his return. This is our real hope. This is our only hope. We want to be like him. We are now children of God, there is no doubt about that. But our journey has not been completed yet. We are waiting. We are waiting to see him so that at his appearance, everything we have lived for, everything we have struggled for, everything that we have sacrificed for and done in the name of the Lord will materialize and be revealed through our transformation into his likeness. This is our hope, our only hope. A man or a woman live their daily lives in reflection of their true hopes. Those who hope to be rich, live their lives working very hard to accumulate riches, they pour out their strength into this world in order to achieve some reward in this world. But those whose hope is to finally attain to the likeness of Jesus, live their daily lives to reflect that hope. What do they do?
Read verse 3. “Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.” John tells us the truth. If you believe that Jesus is coming and that someday you are doing to be like him, what will that cause you to do? It will cause you to live a pure life down here on earth. There are many things that pollute our hearts and minds in this world. But if we maintain our hope, we can overcome the pollutants of this world. For example in this world, the problem of future security pollutes the mind such that many people even Christians become impure because of it. The problem of future security is severe in a world whose main struggle is survival. To a woman, the problem of marriage and settling down with the right person is very serious in a world where commitments of men are rare. The problem of job security is also terrible in a world of competition and strife for ease and comfort. Such problems fuel the worldly hopes in people’s hearts. But these are no hopes at all! John tells us that when we hope in Jesus’ second coming and our transformation into his image, we can overcome such crushing problems that often cause us to become impure. So he tells us to pursue purity. We can purify ourselves best when we repent of our worldly hopes and put our faith in God and work hard to serve his purpose in our lives. We can purify ourselves when we repent of our sins, receive daily forgiveness and then give ourselves to serve God’s purpose in our lives. We purify ourselves when we repent of the idols which pollute our hearts and begin to do what is good and right in the sight of the Lord. We are children of God and we should live and act as children of God and do as children of God. May God help us understand and glory in the love of God for us; may he help us live with the hope of becoming like him; and may he empower us to begin serving his lost children on the campuses to bring them back to God.