See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (1John 3:1).
You might have heard about the seven wonders of the earth. It is “a listing of seven sites known to the Ancient Greeks as the most notable locales in their known world”. There is also what is called the modern seven wonders of the earth. Both “seven wonders of the earth” can be found here. These are wonders to the world. But there is a wonder the unregenerate, unbelieving world doesn’t know about. It is the wonder of adoption into God’s family. The wonder of sinners called children of God. “…In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ…”(Ephesians 1:4-5). It is a wonder, that, we call the God of the universe Father: “you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs —heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ…”(Romans 8:14-17). The world doesn’t know this wonder because
The natural person [unregenerate, unconverted, unbeliever] does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned”(1Corinthians 2:14).
In 1John 3, John, is writing to instruct his readers about how to live and conduct themselves in this world. He opens the chapter with the fact of their position as children of God. Undeniably, there is no greater impetus to live lives pleasing to God than the motivation of a family union with God as sons and daughters. God is our Father and we must seek at all times to obey Him. The proof of our union with Christ is a life of progressive sanctification: “No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him”(v6). Adoption into God’s family is indeed a wonder. It is so because, it was done “according to the purpose of his will”(Ephesians 1:5). It isn’t an afterthought. God purposed it “before the foundation of the world”(Ephesians 1:4). Before we were born, God by His divine decree has ordained and chosen us in Christ to be His children. We contributed nothing towards God’s choice of us as His adopted children. Why did He adopt us? “that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:4). Knowing why we are adopted children of God is a good starting point for holy living. We are called to be “holy and blameless before God.
J.I Packer, in his spiritual classic Knowing God, wrote about what I call the wonder of adoption. He said; Adoption is a family idea, conceived in terms of love, and viewing God as father. In adoption, God takes us into his family and fellowship, and establishes us as his children and heirs. Closeness, affection and generosity are at the heart of the relationship. To be right with God the judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the father is greater. 1
“See what kind of love the Father has given us….” The idea here, it seems to me, is that John is bringing his audience to a point of reflection on this wonderful truth of the Bible— adoption — “the highest privilege that the gospel offers“.2 Think about it. Ponder it. Consider it. Let it be your meditation. The King James Version says “Behold…” Look at it! Gaze upon it! Marvel at it! The text effuses a sense of awe from the writer while he admonishes his audience on Christian conduct.
I will at this point attempt to answer a question in my mind, “so what kind of love has the Father given us?” In no order of importance, I will touch on three out of the lot.
Firstly, He has given us an eternal love that never ends. He told Jeremiah concerning Israel “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you”(Jeremiah 31:3). This truth has great value in our Christian pilgrimage. His love will preserve the saints and cause us to persevere to the end. God’s eternal love emboldens us to face life. Paul in his afflictions was able to stay the course because he was certain of God’s eternal love. He asked; “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?”(Romans 8:35). A few verses on, he answered “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”(v38-39).
Also, God’s love is agape love—unconditional love. We are undeserving of it. We did nothing to merit it: “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person— though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”(Romans 5:6-8). In this text we see our unworthiness. We were weak; we couldn’t help ourselves in relation to God. We were ungodly. We were sinners. Yet Christ died for us. He didn’t wait for us to put our house in other. Still in our sins, He died for us. Though undeserving, yet He extended His love to us. Further on in the epistle, John will say “. We love because he first loved us(1John 4:19). This is humbling. We don’t love Him. It is that simple. But for Him, we will continue to love our old ways. We love Him because He first loved us. But for His initiative, we will never love Him. This is why we must forever be grateful: “We love him, because he first loved us”(KJV)
Anyone who has genuinely come to saving faith will without doubt agree to the unconditional nature of God’s love. John Newton, the writer of Amazing grace is quoted to have said “Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior”. Measuring ourselves up against God’s holiness, we simply don’t deserve anything from Him. All we deserve is His righteous judgement. Isaiah explaining our condition says “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned— every one— to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”(Isaiah 53:6). Anyone who “survey[s] the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died” cannot hold back, but break forth into doxology. You can’t gaze into the love of God and be insipid. In Romans 11, Paul, after going on and on about the election–grafting in– of Gentiles into the family of God, he broke forth into praise in v 33-36.
Finally, the love of God is sacrificial—it “gives”: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son…” (John 3:16). God’s love is sacrificial. He gave Himself as a sin sacrifice to atone for our sins. God didn’t just give love. He Himself is love. So giving Himself up for us is the highest form of love ever to be recorded in human history. The degree of God’s sacrificial love defines the extent of “spiritual blessings in heavenly places” available to those who have been adopted into His family. If you ever doubt God’s love for you in any situation, look up to this text: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). Though we are not worthy of God’s love, by the sacrifice at Calvary, we who have come to Him in faith through Christ Jesus are counted worthy. We were not a people, but now He counts us as people. We were dead in sins and trespasses, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ(Ephesians 2:4).
These three are just a scratch of the surface of God’s love. Paul describes the love of God as having “breadth and length and height and depth” and also “surpasses knowledge”(Ephesians 3:18-19). Do you know the Father with this “great love”? Have you experienced the wonder of adoption into God’s family? If not, I want to kindly ask you to pause and consider what this means. It means separation from God in this life and the life to come. You are spiritually dead. What do you need to do? Pray for God’s mercy that He may grant you faith to believe in Christ. For only through faith, which only He gives, will you be admitted into the family of God.
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:12-13).
1: J.I. Packer, Knowing God, Hodder and Stoughton 1993, (Kindle pg 233)
2: ibid, pg 231