Every Christian should always live in three arenas, 1) what we are, 2) what we shall be, and 3) what we should be. What we are is God’s children (v. 1); what we shall be is conformed to the image of Christ when we get to heaven (v. 2); what we should be on the basis of these two are people who live pure lives (v. 3).
John is fond of using family terms to talk about the Christian life. The family is an apt metaphor for salvation since Christians have God as their Father.
“Behold how great a love the Father has bestowed on us that we should be called children of God” (3:1).
As Spurgeon said, “Pry into this secret!” We are the children of God!
How did it come about that we should gain entrance into God’s family? It is because of God’s love for us: “Behold what kind of love the Father has given to us.” John places the word “Father” at the very end of the clause to emphasis the family relationship. God himself is the source of this love to us, and what a marvelous love it is!
Had you lived in the first century in a Greek seaport town, you might one day be about your business and suddenly there would be a rustle among the people down on the docks and word would spread through the town that a ship is coming. People would move down toward the docks and look out on the horizon at the approaching ship. By the sail configuration they could tell whether the ship was from their own country, or a foreign country. You would hear people asking in Greek: “potapēn,” which literally means “of what country?” “What new people are coming to visit us? What new things are we going to learn?”
This is the word translated “what kind of” in 3:1. This is a very unusual word that only occurs seven times in the whole New Testament and it bristles with surprise, astonishment, urgency, and excitement. “What manner of love has the Father bestowed upon us?” This is the word the astonished disciples uttered when Jesus calmed the sea: “what manner of man is this? Where is he from that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”
Do you notice that this love that God has is so wonderful, so unique, it actually does come from another country: it comes from Heaven!
The love of God is so broad, deep, marvelous, unimaginable, incomprehensible, boundless, endless, measureless. It is like measuring the content of the ocean with a tea cup, or making a personal inspection of the known universe. It is like setting up a yardstick to see how tall God is, or using a tape measure to determine the breadth of his outreach.
When I look at the cross, I see there a love which shrinks from no sacrifice, is evoked by no lovableness on my part, but comes from the depth of God’s own infinite Being. I see on the cross a love that will not be extinguished by sinfulness, but pours its treasures on the unworthy, like sunshine on a dunghill.
May we never cease to be amazed and to marvel at God’s love for us!