Children of God
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…

These two verses of St. John's Epistle contain a simple summary of true religion. "If ye know that He is righteous, ye know that everyone that doeth righteousness is begotten of Him." Thus far the Old Testament goes. Israel had learned this primary lesson of true religion, that the Almighty is the Righteous Power. Knowing Jehovah, not as a national deity who would help His own people whether they were right or wrong, but as the righteous God over all, who would reject His chosen people if they did wrong, the prophets saw clearly also that only those men who do right can claim to be the sons of the Most High. The next verse contains a summary of the New Testament revelation of real religion: "Behold what manner of love," etc. It is all from God's love in Christ that we have right to be called children of God. These two words — one fulfilling the Old Testament, the other opening the riches of the New — mark the essence of real religion: righteousness and sonship. Let us first take up the Old Testament word for it. It is a solid word. The true religion is not a moral veneering of life; it is not a piece of pious ornamentation, nor an official robe drawn over an unprincipled heart. It is not an emotional substitute for conduct. The Old Testament word for religion is a word of cubic contents — righteousness, a real thing, concrete as just dealing between man and man. A present indisputable argument for belief in Moses and the prophets as holy men of old inspired of God is that they made the superhuman effort of building a nation on the Ten Commandments. They had the supernal faith to command a people to do right, and to live together in just relations in the fear of God. We do not yet dare bring our politics up to that level of the prophets. The religion which first mastered the lesson of eternal justice and made it the foundation of a state was not a faith which had sprung up of itself out of the jungle of Canaanitish superstitions. It was not found in Babylon. Assyria's power perished for the lack of it. The true God impressed Himself upon Moses and the prophets. We know that they were the appointed bearers of a Divine revelation, and the bringers of the light, very much as we might know that a highway running up to some clear mountain height through the swamp and the underbrush at its foot was never a spontaneous freak of nature, but marks the course of some intelligent purpose. The Lord God made that way of righteousness through all the superstitions and idolatries of the nations on and up to its Messianic height. The religion of eternal righteousness is the supernal fact of history. Once gain sight of the everlasting righteousness, and nothing else seems great. Observe that the righteousness which from beginning to end the Old Testament presses for is no abstraction, but concrete, solid right-doing. The preachers of righteousness in the Old Testament faced men, and threw themselves in the name of the holy God into the thick of events. They were the fearless advocates of the oppressed; they were God's statesmen amid the shifting politics of Jerusalem. They could flash the eternal justice into the covetous eyes of princes. Righteousness in the old testament is no scholar's candle flickering in an attic; it is an electric light revealing the street; all classes have to pass under it and be seen. Turn now from the prophets to the New Testament. We hear ringing clear and full through the preaching of the apostles another word for the true religion. It is sonship. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God." The essence of the New Testament is in the Lord's parable of the prodigal son. So Jesus Himself opened the heart of the gospel toward us sinners. The grandest thing in the world for any man to do is really to live day and night, alike in the darkness or in the joy of life, as a son of the Most High God. Only one ever accomplished perfectly this task; and we for the most part do but succeed as yet in living here and there, now and then, as the children of the Father in heaven. But think a moment what it is to do this. It would signify within us a very genuine humility. In a life of sonship humility would have to be at times that conscious sense of evil or of wrongdoing which is repentance for sin. The humility of a life of filial dependence on God will become so deep and pure that no possible outward success or inward spiritual triumph will be able to cause the son of the living God to dwell in any other habit and atmosphere. Sonship, again, so far as this New Testament word for religion is realised by any of us, will free us from the haunting sense of strangeness in this world. It is not simply the mystery of things; it is the mystery of ourselves that baffles us. Death does not grow less strange from our increasing familiarity with it. All things are strange, and will grow stranger to us, unless we can discover some diviner thoughtfulness in them; unless, amid all the mystery of the universe, we shall know ourselves as God's children, and begin on this earth to be in our hearts at home with our God. This likewise will be the mark of true sonship, and the religion of sonship — obedience, strong, cheerful obedience. The Christian sense of sonship, so far as we receive the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba, Father, will enable us, in short, to live the simple life of trust. It is life up on the sunny heights. Trust is final spiritual mastery of things. It is perfect poise of spirit, like the poise of the eagle after it has beaten its way up against the wind into the sky, and rests circling with buoyant wings upon the sunny air. Trust is ability of soul to live happily without Divine explanation. Faith in God is willingness to wait for explanations of things. You ask for reasons why certain event, have happened to you; why any evil, such as we may meet in the street, is tolerated for a moment in a world which has a God over it; why human life has otter proved so tragic; why death reigns; why a thousand shadows fleck the light; why in short, we mortals seem to be like wanderers in a forest, where it is both dark and bright. Now, faith is not an answer to any of these inquiries; faith does not yet lead us out with the clearing, but faith is trust in the light between the shadows trust that the light is high and eternal, and the shadows only for the moment Trust is the discovery of the soul that it can live awhile without explanations, and not be disturbed. Such trust is the confidence of sonship. Now, I am aware that men who have to meet the practical urgencies of life often find it easier to come to some determination of righteousness than it is for them to let their lives be lifted up into the assurance of sonship. It is less difficult for some of you to be Old Testament worthies than it is to become New Testament saints. You love righteousness, and you hate injustice and fraud. There you are inclined to stop. It is better for anyone to live according to the righteousness of the Old Testament than not to live at all from the Bible. The seeds of the perfect life of sonship are contained in the religion of the prophets. Nevertheless, the Christ came to fulfil the righteousness of the old dispensation. The righteousness which is by faith is out full salvation. Let one's dutiful living spring directly out of his sense of sonship, and it will become a transfigured conscientiousness. The light of love will play all through

2. To this higher life we are called. Men will finally do right toward one another when they shall learn to live together as sons of God. The present revival of right-doing will be complete when in the power of the Holy Spirit men are born anew as the children of the Father in heaven.

(Newman Smyth.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: Behold, how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! For this cause the world doesn't know us, because it didn't know him.

Adopting Love of the Father
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