1 John 3:1-6
Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knows us not…
It is not so much to the contemplation of our blessedness in being sons, as to the devout gaze on the love which, by its wonderful process, has made it possible for us to be sons, that we are summoned here. Again, you will find a remarkable addition to our text in the Revised Version, namely, "and such we are." Now these words are parenthetical, a kind of rapid "aside" of the writer's, expressing his joyful confidence that he and his brethren are sons of God, not only in name, but in reality.
I. THE LOVE THAT IS GIVEN. The apostle bids me "behold what manner of love." I turn to the Cross and I see there a love which shrinks from no sacrifice, a love which is evoked by no lovableness on my part, but comes from the depth of His own Infinite Being, who loves because He must, and who must because He is God; a love which sighs for recognition, which desires nothing of me but the repayment of my poor affection; a love that will not be put away by all sinfulness and shortcomings and evil. In like manner we have to think, if we would estimate the "manner of this love," that through and in the great sacrifice of Jesus Christ there comes to us the gift of a Divine life like His own. We may gain another measure of the greatness of this love if we put an emphasis on one word, and think of the love given to "us," such creatures as we are.
II. THE SONSHIP WHICH IS THE PURPOSE OF THIS GIVEN LOVE. The writer draws a broad distinction between "the sons of God" and the world of men who do not comprehend them; and so far from being themselves sons, do not even know God's sons when they see them. And there is a deeper word still in the context. John thinks that men (within the range of light and revelation, at all events) are divided into two families — "the children of God and the children of the devil." There are two families amongst men. Thank God! the prodigal son, in his rags amongst the swine, and lying by the swine troughs in his filth and his husks and his fever, is a son. He has these three elements and marks of son ship that no man ever gets rid of: he is of a Divine origin, he has a Divine likeness in that he has got mind and will and spirit, and he is the object of a Divine love. All that is blessedly and eternally true, but it is also true that there is a higher relation than that to which the name "Children of God" is more accurately given, and to which in the New Testament that name is confined. What is implied in that great name by which the Almighty gives us a name and a place as of sons and daughters? Clearly, first, a communicated life; therefore, second, a kindred nature which shall be "pure as He is pure"; and, third, growth to full maturity.
III. THE GLAD RECOGNITION OF THE SONSHIP BY THE CHILD'S HEART. "Such we are" — the "Here am I, Father," of the child, answering the Father's call, "My Son." He turns doctrine into experience. The truth is nothing to you, unless you have made it your very own by faith. Do not be satisfied with the orthodox confession. Unless it has touched your heart and made your whole soul thrill with thankful gladness and quiet triumph, it is nothing to you. Can you say, "And such are we"? Take another lesson. The apostle was not afraid to say, "I know that I am a child of God." Do not be afraid of being too confident, if your confidence is built on God, and not on yourself; but be afraid of being too diffident, and be afraid of having a great deal of self-righteousness masquerading under the guise of such a profound consciousness of your own unworthiness that you dare not call yourself a child of God.
IV. THE LOVING AND DEVOUT CONTEMPLATION OF THIS WONDERFUL LOVE. I have but two remarks to make about that, and the one is this, that that habit of devout and thankful meditation upon the love of God, as manifested in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, lies at the foundation of all vigorous and happy Christian life. How can a thing which you do not touch with your hands and see with your eyes produce any effect upon you, unless you think about it? But remember that we cannot keep that great sight before the eye of our minds without effort. You will have very resolutely to look away from something else, if, amid all the dazzling gauds of earth we are to look over them all to the far off lustre of that heavenly love. Just as timorous people in a thunderstorm will light a candle that they may not see the lightning, so many Christians have their hearts filled with the twinkling light of some miserable tapers of earthly care and pursuits, which, though they be dim and smoky, are bright enough to make it hard to see the silent depths of heaven, though it blaze with a myriad stars. Wrench yourselves away from the absorbing contemplation of Birmingham jewellery and paste, and look at the true riches. Do not let the trifles which belong not to your true inheritance fill your thoughts, but renew the vision, and by determined turning away of your eyes from beholding vanity, look away from the things that are seen, that you may gaze upon the things that are not seen, and chiefest among them on the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.