3 See how great a love the Father has given us, that we would be called children of God; and in fact we are. For this reason the world does not know us: because it did not know Him.
The apostle John loves to talk about family. He so often addresses those he has taught as “my beloved children”, or “little children”. And, so he can’t really resist talking about the wondrous nature of God’s love by which we are granted this privilege.
This is something “visible” to the believer, in that God’s love in our lives can be known and should be seen.
See How Great a love
John is asking us to appreciate in awe, wonder, and amazement the fact that God would not only save us through Jesus shed blood on the cross, but adopt us as His children. The Father’s love is so unconditional, measureless, long-suffering, patient and supranatural compared to the limited, conditional, sometimes even shallow love that we can express that we can hardly comprehend it.
God’s love is infinite, measureless
God’s love infinite measureless: Psalm 86:15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Psalm 103:17, etc.
God’s love is revealed in Jesus
The Lord God has chosen to fully reveal Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ. He has done it in such a way that a finite mind might understand Him. We see this in the introduction to Hebrews in 1:1-3 1 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom He also made the world. 3 And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and [e]upholds all things by the word of His power. We have a hard time wrapping our head around an infinite God, but we understand Jesus, he is both Man and God, bridging the gap, allowing us to understand God. “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” as it says in John 1:18. We have come to know God’s love “because He laid down His life for us” (1 John 3:16). John 4:9-10 9 By this the love of God was revealed in us, that God has sent His only Son into the world so that we may live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. And Rom 5:8 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
And so, in a very real sense, God sent Jesus to live the life that HE lived in perfect accordance with the Will of the Father, being without sin, and then die for us on the cross, in order to explain His boundless, infinite, long-suffering love for us in a way that, if we will look at it, examine it, can’t help but point us to the bedrock of God’s love for us.
To lavish means to bestow, or give something in abundance, with profuseness or excess. God’s love is extravagant, lacking in moderation and restraint. And the key here is that He “has lavished” (dedōken) perfect past tense, it’s something already accomplished, and it’s effects are still continuing. The extravagant gift of Jesus, His Son, has already been given. Once someone gives you a present, it takes away all ability to earn it. Furthermore, God has not just given His son as a sacrifice, but has raised Him so that we can have a relationship with God through Him, by the power of His Holy Spirit within us, and by His advocacy at the right hand of the Father. We get to be part of God’s magnificent plan. It’s His act. His love for us, and our status as His Children, if we are truly His, is not earned but is a gift, an act of unmerited and unimaginable generosity, founded not on any obligation felt by God nor on any expectation, but on love. And therefore it rests on His faithfulness.
John isn’t pointing us so much to our relationship with the Father as His Children as proof of His love, but rather THE MEANS by which this relationship was made possible. John is pointing us to God the father as the source. And John is pointing to the lavish love that God has poured out on us—Jesus. His blood was poured out for us. The love that God has lavished on us is His Son Jesus. That’s what we’re supposed to Behold, to see, to comprehend, to think about.
That we are called Children of God
And not only do we get to be transformed into the image of Jesus, we also get to bear God’s name. We have a relationship with God, through the relationship that we have in Jesus as our kinsman redeemer. We are members of God’s family.
For this reason
The next part of the verse begins “For this reason”, or “on account of this”. On account of what? On account of our relationship with God, as His children, THROUGH CHRIST. Because Christians are partakers in the divine love and have been designated the children of God in CHRIST the world does not understand them.
This view that God is the one who is loving, and Through Jesus is allowing us to have relationship as His Children is consistent throughout the New Testament. God does not love us so that we can become His Children, God loves us, so He sent Jesus to die for our sins, so that we can have relationship with Him through Jesus, and thereby become His adopted Children. We see this in John 1:12-13 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of a man, but of God. It’s our receiving of Jesus that, placing our trust in Him, we become Children of God—And God arranged this—there’s nothing in us that would commend us to Him, but He sent Jesus anyway!
The World does not understand
The “world” (kosmos) refers to the evil humanistic system that dominates the society around us, a hostile order that stands in opposition to God. It is this unbelieving world which does not know ‘us’, and it did not know ‘him’ either. John 1:9-11: 9 This was the true Light that, coming into the world, enlightens every person. 10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through Him, and yet the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own people did not accept Him.
To be called God’s children indicates a family relationship that the world does not want to choose, but is jealous of, all the same.
The world does not know us, because it did not know Him.
We are identified with Christ—we are Christians, followers of Christ, and our life is In Him. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. We can count on LESS acceptance from the world, because we are His. See 1 John 3:13 13 Do not be surprised, brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. The word accepts it’s own, not us 1 Joh 4:5 5 They are from the world, therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. 1st John 5:19 19 We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. John highlights this again in John 1:10 (‘He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him [the Word = Jesus Christ]’). Being identified with God leads to alienation from the world. See John 15:18-25 18. The world hates us, just like it hated Jesus. We are no longer Of the World, just passing through it as Pilgrims, chosen out of the world to be God’s Children, and hated by the world for it. It’s our refusal to live by the world’s selfish system, and “play the game”, scam and be scammed, that the world hates. It’s our identification with Christ that the world hates, but it’s our identification with Christ that gives us life in Him, and allows us to be called the Children of God! And, so in a very real sense, the worlds people are not “all God’s Children” The world does not know us, because it has not know God.
What a privilege to get to know God in relationship!
29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness also has been born of Him.
John’s saying that they should know by now that God is righteous, but the word he uses indicates that it’s possible that some of them have not trusted in the righteousness of Jesus. Jesus knew God is Righteous (see John 17:25-26). To know God, is to know He is righteous! It was by making God known to the Disciples, what His Righteous and Holy character is like that Jesus says will induce love in us as His disciples for God, and will deepen our relationship with Him.
God is Righteous and Just when He forgives:
Forgiveness is the pardoning of an offense. But forgiveness doesn’t negate the offense or its effects. There are consequences. Sin damages relationships. Jesus bore our sins in His body, and He still bears the scars of that payment. When we forgive, we make a choice to act like Jesus, and just pass over those wounds and hurts, disregarding the damage, because we know that we have offended a Holy and Righteous God much more than anyone could ever offend us. Forgiveness must always be coupled with justice. Justice is about restoration, not retribution or vengeance. If all we do as Christians is forgive, without seeking restoration of the image of God in the offender and the offended, then we have not practiced Christian justice. It’s not just about our heart, but the heart of those who have offended us as well. Forgiveness without Justice belittles Righteousness. We want restoration, and a change of heart, and for people to understand that there’s a reason why we’re forgiving—it’s not that we don’t care what they did, or that we’re passive or weak—it’s that we understand that we have also sinned against those around us, and more importantly, against a Holy God! God is just and righteous when He forgives, because He has already meted out the punishment, and laid it all on Jesus, who agreed to take the punishment for us. But God also seeks justice in our lives. By his gospel, he not only forgives us, he restores us to righteousness. He changes us. He sanctifies us. He makes us a new creation, in Christ. God demonstrates His justice by forgiving us, because the debt has already been paid! It’s the blood of Jesus that has cleanses us from all sins.
Abraham’s entire reason for thinking that he had any bargaining position with God was based on the fact that he knew God to be righteous! The source of David’s strength was that he trusted God. Do you know what David said to the 9 and ½ feet tall, about 600 pounds of muscle Goliath, who had been a warrior from his youth, whose armor weighted 125 pounds, and his iron spearhead alone weighed 15 pounds when he met him? We read in 1st Samuel 17:45 45 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands…, That’s quite a lot of confidence, considering the challenge that he was facing from a giant who had just threatened to kill him! Where did this confidence come from? Experience in trusting the Lord! (see 1st Samuel 17:32-36). Faith grows by: Trusting God to get you through circumstances that seem difficult or impossible and Knowing that He is able to get you through those circumstances.
Knowing God in His righteousness comes by knowing Him. (see Psalm 11:7 Psalm 4:1, Psalm 50:6 for example). We trust God because we know Him. We learn, both by the instruction of the Word of God, and we know by experience. John continues in 1st John 2 vs. 29
You know (by experience) that everyone who practices righteousness has also been born of Him.
No one can never take away our experience of knowing personally our righteous God, and it’s living for Him in righteousness that causes us to experience Him more. And we grow in righteousness, by growing in Faith! After all our source of confidence isn’t our own righteousness, but faith in Jesus’ righteousness. Romans 4:120-21 20 yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. His faith was in God’s ability, not his own, and he grew strong in faith. The Gospel is the inherent, omnipotent power of God accomplishing the salvation for those who accept it. And, active faith in God is necessary for that power to be present in our daily lives. It’s the righteousness of Jesus that gives you access to God’s power in your life. And it’s faith that allows you to appropriate that power to do God’s will in your life. Isaiah 50:10 Isaiah 50:10 Who is among you that fears the Lord, That obeys the voice of His servant, That walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God. Be righteous, but put your faith in God! He’s the one who directs us: Proverbs 3:5-6, Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. God took a weak Abraham and put strength into him. Abraham was made strong because of his faith indeed, but it was God, not faith, that provided the strength. Faith allowed Abraham to appropriate God’s strength to do God’s will! In Romans 1:21 we see that the fundamental sin of the human race was, “even though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or give thanks.” But Abraham expresses the opposite sentiment: Abraham grew strong in faith and gave glory to God. This teaches us that our faith should grow. Weak faith (or little faith) is still faith, but we should grow strong in faith. We grow in faith by growing in our knowledge of the object of our faith, namely, God. Faith is only as good as its object.
We all must come to God with “the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all” ( Rom 4:16). This faith is rooted in God’s gracious promise to declare righteous all who believe in Jesus Christ, who paid the penalty for our sin. Saving faith is rooted in God’s grace. It rests on God’s promise. It revels in God’s glory. And saving faith relies on God’s power to keep His promise, in spite of human inability.
We have hope, even in circumstances which seem hopeless. This means that we will have struggles of faith, just as Abraham experienced. Circumstances often dash our hope, but against that, we fight back with hope. Our faith and hope are not in ourselves or our ability or in a positive attitude that everything turns out okay for good people in the end. No, our faith and hope are in the God who gives life to the dead and who calls into being that which does not exist. And, since God’s salvation is by grace through faith apart from works, we can join Abraham (in 4:21), “being fully assured that what God [has] promised, He [is] able also to perform.” Knowing who God is, and trusting Him to keep His word.
Saving faith puts all its weight on Jesus Christ and His shed blood at Calvary. It’s rooted in God’s grace, it rests on God’s promise, it revels in God’s glory, and it relies on His power. Jesus is the Bridge from us to God. He’s the Only Way! Make sure that your trust is in Christ alone.
28 Now, little children, remain in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not draw back from Him in shame at His coming.
And Now, Little Children
If these members of the churches of Asia Minor, present day Turkey, are acting as Children of God, they will be abiding. These two truths are interconnected. We cannot truly be living as a Child of God without having fellowship with Him.
Remain in Him
It’s important to understand abiding in Christ. Jesus points out the necessity of remaining in fellowship with Him, abiding in Him, in John 15:4-5; 8-10. We have fellowship with Jesus through obedience to Him, abiding in His love. We see in John 15:11: 11 These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full that it is fellowship, abiding, remaining in Jesus in obedience that gives us full joy, complete Joy. And, as we have fellowship with God, and fellowship with one another, then as John reminds us in 1 John 1:4 4 These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete. If want to have the joy of the Lord, we must abide, remain in Him, in obedience. In 1 John 2:6 6 the one who says that he remains in Him ought, himself also, walk just as He walked. This fellowship with Jesus, fellowship with God is based on loving Jesus and following His Word.
Remaining close to Him in an abiding relationship means that we can discern the Truth, and see the tricks of the enemy, before we step into a trap.
Truly abiding in Jesus means that we have a desire to know Him better and to get closer to Him in relationship, and to allow His presence and His Word to influence us. Jesus’ words are at the forefront of our mind as we live out our life, we have, more and more, the mind of Christ, so we are influenced by Him, and desire to become more like Him. It’s abiding in Him that allows us to do this. Romans 8:29 emphasizes knowing Jesus, and Him knowing us in relationship in order to be like Him. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters;
And as John reminded us in 1 John 2:24 24 As for you, see that what you heard from the beginning remains in you. Then it is of first importance to understand who Jesus is. Jesus, qualified by His Humanity as a kinsman-redeemer, and qualified by His deity as the perfect lamb of God, without spot or blemish, who died on the cross as Messiah and redeemer, and was raised from the dead as proof that God accepted His sacrifice.
so that when He appears, we may have confidence
How will Jesus appear? Suddenly! (1 Cor 15:51-52). John is focusing in this passage on how we will respond to His sudden presence. We will react to being suddenly in the presence of Jesus in one of two ways: we will have confidence, knowing that we have been abiding in Him, living our lives in Him, or we will draw back from Him in shame.
Confidence at His Coming
John includes himself here, saying that “we may have confidence”. In 1 John 4:15 John describes this abiding relationship with Jesus in this way: Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him, and he in God. 16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. 17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, we also are in this world. And, how do we express love for Jesus? In obedience to His Word, by making Him the Lord of our Lives. We’re acting like Jesus, while we’re in the world. John is talking about how the believer will feel at the time he or she meets Jesus at His return. John wants them to have courage and boldness when they meet Jesus, but also a sense of calm assurance. And this confidence in Christ is built over time in experiencing relationship with Him. This faith is strengthened by the experience of enduring in our walk with Christ through many fiery trials. We see this in Hebrews 4 :14-16 4 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let’s hold firmly to our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things just as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let’s approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace for help at the time of our need. This confidence is built on our trust of Jesus’ advocacy for us, as our Great High Priest, who comes before God on our behalf. This boldness we have in approaching God’s throne of grace to receive mercy is because of what Jesus has accomplished on our behalf, not because we’re such a good person ourselves. We know that we do not need to fear any bad outcome of approaching the Throne, because we are In Christ, and living our life for Him, covered by His righteousness. This is what gives us the calm assurance of Children approaching their Father.
The author of Hebrews contrasts meeting Jesus one day in confidence, based on knowing in our heart of hearts that we’ve been keeping the faith, with the shame of those who have faltered in their walk of faith (see Hebrews 10:32-34. What came of this suffering for Christ?! Confidence in their relationship, their fellowship with Jesus. It’s that very suffering in our identification with Jesus that our flesh so wants to avoid that builds our confidence and endurance in our relationship with Him! Hebrews 10:35-36 35 Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.
And, in Hebrews 10:37-39, the author looks at the effect of the way that we live our life, whether for ourselves, or In Christ, walking with Him, saying: 37 For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. 38 But My righteous one will live by faith; And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him. It’s by a life lived in faith, lived for Jesus that we have the confidence in our fellowship with Christ. Our confidence will not be in ourselves on that day, but be based on the experience of our personal relationship with Jesus, knowing that we have trusted Him before we’ve left Earth.
Shrinking Back in Shame
“and not shrink back in shame from Him at His appearing.” The opposite of confidence is embarrassment. Back in John 1:5-6, John talks about self-deception regarding our walk with Christ, saying 5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; John’s letting us know that God is holy, and anything that falls short of that holiness will be made manifest in the light of God’s glory, and any lie, even if it’s a lie we’ve been telling ourselves, will be immediately exposed, to our shame when we appear before Jesus. Any trust that we’ve been putting in ourselves, any self-confidence of somehow earning a right to be there, any self-righteousness will be immediately exposed, to our shame.
Every believer, including John, will have one of two responses to Jesus when they stand in His presence for the first time: the believer either will be joyous and delighted in His presence or will be looking for somewhere to hide in humiliation, and no place will be found.
It’s not just making some acknowledgement, in agreement that Jesus is Lord, but actually following Him, walking as He walked, doing the Will of Our Father in Heaven, as His children that matters. It’s the fruit motivated by the power of the Holy Spirit that counts, and that can only come through abiding relationship with Jesus.