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1 John 3:1-3, God’s Love for His children

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

One dark cold night in the city of Chicago, a blizzard was setting in. A young boy was selling newspapers on the corner; watching as people went in and out of the cold. He was so cold that he wasn’t trying very hard to sell his papers. Hesitantly, he walked up to a policeman and said, “Mister, you wouldn’t happen to know where a poor boy could find a warm place to sleep tonight would you? You see, I sleep in a box up around the corner and down the alley and it's awful cold in there for tonight. Sure would be nice to have a warm place to stay.” The policeman sympathetically looked down at the young lad and said, “You go down the street to that big white house and you knock on the door. When they come to the door you just say, ‘John 3:16,’ and they will let you in.” So He did. He walked up the steps and knocked on the door, and a lady answered. He looked up at her and said, “John 3:16.” The lady said, “Come on in, son.” She took him in and she sat him down in a big rocking chair, in front of a great big old fireplace, and she left him. The boy sat there for a while and thought to himself: John 3:16…I don't understand it, but it sure makes a cold boy warm!

Later she came back and asked him, “Are you hungry?” He shyly said, “Well, just a little. I haven't eaten in a couple of days, and I guess I could stand a little bit of food.” The lady took him in the kitchen and sat him down to a table full of wonderful food. He ate and ate until he couldn't eat any more. Then he thought to himself: John 3:16…I don't understand it, but it sure makes a hungry boy full!

Soon the kind lady led him upstairs to a bath tub filled with warm water, and he sat there and soaked for a while. As he soaked, he thought to himself: John 3:16…I don't understand it, but it sure makes a dirty boy clean! Why, I haven’t had a bath, a real bath, in my whole life. The only bath I have ever had was when I stood in front of the big old fire hydrant as they flushed it out.

After his bath, the lady took him to a cozy little room, tucked him into a big feather bed, pulled warm covers up around his neck, kissed him goodnight and turned out the light. As he lay there all snug in the warm bed, he looked out the window at the cold and snowy night and thought to himself: John 3:16…I sure don't understand it, but it gave a tired boy a warm place to sleep.

The next morning the lady invited the young boy to sit down once again to a table that was filled with lots of good food. After he ate, she took him back to the rocking chair in front of the fireplace and picked up a Bible. As she sat down in a chair beside him, she looked into his young face and asked gently, “Do you understand about John 3:16?” He replied, “No, Ma'am, I don't. The first time I ever heard it was last night when the nice policeman told me to use it.” She opened the Bible to John 3:16 and began to read what it said and then explained to the young boy that John 3:16 was the greatest love story ever told. And she told him that God wanted him to know that He loved and cared about him very much.

Right there, in front of that big old fireplace, the young boy embraced God's love for him and surrendered his young life to Him. He said to the lady, “I'm not sure I understand all about God's love, but it sure makes a lonely orphan boy feel like he will always belong to someone.” –The John 3:16 House, author unknown

1 John 3:1-3, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”

Verse 1a: John begins with the word, “behold:” This is a command…Stop everything! Look at this! Think about it! Ponder its significance! If we could hear John’s voice we would hear a sense of wonder and amazement at what he is about to say. When the New Testament writers use the word “behold” they do so to get our attention, because what follows is of special significance and importance. Meditate on this! What I am about to say is so incredible so powerful and so wonderful, that we do not want you to miss it!! Give this some serious thought and consideration.

Verse 1b: “Love:” agape is an unconditional, sacrificial love and Biblically refers to a love that God is, 1 John 4:8, “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” and 1 John 4:16, “And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.” John wants the children of God to take a supernatural (Spirit enabled) glimpse into the Father's supernatural love for us. God loves us so much we can trust Him with our lives!

Agape may involve emotion, but it always involves action. Agape love is unrestricted, unrestrained, and unconditional. Agape love is the virtue that surpasses all others and in fact is the prerequisite for all the others.

Jesus when asked, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law? replied ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment.’” (Matthew 22:36-38).

Although human love is wonderful, God’s love is far greater. It is the most life-changing force in the universe. The apostle Paul says, “That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians3:17).

John used love more frequently than any other New Testament writer. 46 times in 1 John and 44 times in his Gospel. Love is one of the greatest motivators in the world. When someone loves you, it gives you hope and strength. When you feel unloved or rejected by someone you love, it can be devastating.

“We are called upon to come with our little vessels to measure the contents of the great ocean, to plumb with our short lines the infinite abyss, and not only to estimate the quantity but the quality of that love, which, in both respects, surpasses all our means of comparison and conception. Properly speaking, we can do neither the one nor the other, for we have no line long enough to sound its depths, and no experience which will give us a standard with which to compare its quality. But all that we can do, John would have us do—that is, look and ever look at the working of that love till we form some not wholly inadequate idea of it.” –Alexander Maclaren

If you could see where Jesus brought me from to where I am today, then you would understand God’s great love. Consider who we were, and who we are now; and what we are becoming through His divine grace that is powerful within us. We are called “the sons (children) of God.” It is said that when one of the more educated heathen was translating this, he stopped and said, “That is easy to read; but it is not so easy to feel.” One my professors in college used to say, “some things are better felt than telt!”

Verse 1c: “bestowed on us.”

“Bestowed” in Greek is didomi, meaning “to give, to bestow, to confer, to make a present of, to put something into another's possession.” This word also conveys the added sense that the giving is based on a decision of the Giver (in this case God the Father) and not on any merit of the recipient (sinners). This love is a gift which cannot be earned or purchased. It is priceless)!

“The perfect tense is used here to indicate that the gift becomes a permanent possession of the recipient. God has placed His love upon the saints in the sense that they have become the permanent objects of His love. One of the results of this love in action is that we are called sons of God.” –Wuest

The 1828 Webster's Dictionary has an excellent definition of the word “bestow,” “to pass or transfer the title or property of a thing to another person without an equivalent or compensation.” What a great description of the Father's gracious love to us. And this great love is not just for time but for eternity as indicated by the perfect tense, which signifies past completed action with ongoing effect/result! His love lavished upon saved sinners will endure throughout the ages. This love of which believers have become benefactors is a permanent gift.

Verse 1d: “Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.”

The idea is that the world absolutely does not know who we are, because they know nothing about the children of God. The word “not” is the stronger word for negation and here signifies that the unsaved of the world absolutely do not know us because they absolutely do not know Jesus. The truth is that they have no intimate knowledge of Him and no personal relationship with Him by grace through faith.

Paul adds another reason that the world does not really know those who are “in Christ” is because in “this present evil age” (Galatians 1:4), our "life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). This is in the perfect tense emphasizing the believer's permanent condition. Another truth affirming the doctrine of eternal security - genuine salvation cannot be lost!

1 Corinthians 2:14, “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

The mystery of the new birth will always be foolishness to the world, which considers the children of God at the very least deluded and even a bit off mentally.

The world did not know Him because they failed to understand Jesus' Mission. In short, they had no personal relation with the Messiah, which is tantamount to the fact that they were not born again, not regenerated by the Holy Spirit and were still dead in their trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).

John 1:10-12, “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”

Stephen shortly before being stoned by his Jewish audience, preached to the leaders of Israel these politically incorrect, user unfriendly words...”You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers” (Acts 7:51,52).

Verse 2a: “Beloved, now we are children of God;”

“I have hesitated, as you may well believe, whether I should take these words for a text. They seem so far to surpass anything that can be said concerning them, and they cover such immense fields of dim thought, that one may well be afraid lest one should spoil them by even attempting to dilate on them. And yet they are so closely connected with the words of the previous verse, which formed the subject of my last sermon (1John 3:1 The Love That Calls Us Sons), that I felt as if my work were only half done unless I followed that sermon with this.” –Alexander Maclaren

F.B. Meyer writes: The world does not know us, but God knows us, and we know Him, and we know that we are His children through regeneration and faith. How do we know?

We believe His Word, “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” (John 1:12).

We have the witness of the Spirit, “Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts…” (Galatians 4:6).

We are led by the Spirit. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Romans 8:14).

We love the people of God. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7).

We do not presumptuously and habitually yield to known sin. “No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (1 John 3:9). –Adapted and edited from F.B.Meyer

I may not have earthly wealth or an earthly inheritance, but there is treasure in heaven reserved for me, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3,4). But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-3).

A tent or a cottage, why should I care?

They’re building a palace for me over there;

Though exiled from home, yet still may I sing:

All glory to God, I’m a child of the King.

I’m a child of the King, a child of the King:

With Jesus my Savior, I’m a child of the King.

–Harriet E. Buell, 1877–

“Let us never again think of the Christian as just someone who is trying to live a good life, trying to be a little bit better than somebody else, a person with a belief in doing certain things, going through certain forms and ceremonials and keeping certain regulations dictated by the church. Christians do all that, but before all that is this vital fact that they are children of God. They have been born again, born from above, born of the Spirit; they have received something of the very nature and life of God Himself. They are transformed people, they are a new creation, and they are thus absolutely, essentially different from those who have not experienced that. That is the very basic thing which the New Testament everywhere emphasizes concerning the Christian.” –D. Martyn Lloyd Jones

Verse 2b: “and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”

“It is not yet disclosed (made clear) what we shall be [hereafter], but we know that when He comes and is manifested, we shall [as God’s children] resemble and be like Him, for we shall see Him just as He [really] is.” (Verse 2, AMP).

“In 1 John 2:28 and here in 3:2 John writes “when He is revealed” (“when He appears.” It is a reminder that the story of Jesus is not over. The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus will return. He will return to get His children and He will return to Judge the earth. John 14:3 Jesus says, “I will come again.” At times we feel like the little child (or maybe the aging parent) who waits for a parent or child to return. Sometimes parents walk out of our lives and never come back. Because of that reality it is tempting for some to think that Jesus will not return. Jesus does not disappoint. He will return. For some it will be at our time of death when He comes to get us personally. Perhaps, many of us will still be alive when He returns to the earth to call this chapter of life to a close.”­ –Adapted from Rev. Bruce Goettsche,

Verse 3: “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”

“Everyone” in Greek is pas meaning, all without exception who have received Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, those who are focused on the “things above, not the things of the earth (Colossians 3:2); the things of eternity, over the temporary…“but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (1 Corinthians 4:18). .Those true believers who have repented and committed to Jesus Christ personally, Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

“This hope.” Believers have an eternal hope in eternal life for they have been...” justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:7).

“Hope” is confident expectancy. It is the absolute certainty of future good. It is full assurance. “And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end” (Hebrews 6:11). Hope is the opposite of despair (a state in which all hope is lost or absent). In fact the believer's cry (to other believers) could be "Do not despair, help is on the way!"

As believers, our hope is not in circumstances or optimistic desires for a better tomorrow. Our hope is not centered in a concept but focused on a living person, Paul says in 1 Timothy 1:1, “The Lord Jesus Christ, our hope…”

“Purifies,” in Greek is hagnizo, freedom from defilements or impurities, to make pure, purify, cleanse. In the literal sense refers to ceremonial washings and purifications undertaken to purify oneself from ritual defilement.

“In this context the use of hagnizo would remind the readers that, if they have the future hope of entering the Father's presence ("seeing him as he is" (1 John 3:2), they need to prepare themselves by living a purified lifestyle now, just as Jesus lived during His earthly life and ministry, 1 John 2:6. This serves to rebut the opponents' claims to moral indifference, that what the Christian does in the present life is of no consequence.” –NET Bible

John has told us what we are “children of God,” (1 John 3:1); and what we shall be, ”we shall be like Him” (1 John 3:2). Now, in he tells us what we should be. In view of the return of Jesus Christ, we should keep our lives clean.

Those who have become children of God in the past now have the sure hope of glory in the future which motivates holy living in the present!

Jude 22,23, “And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.”

Personal purity is not an option, but an obligation that should be motivated by our great love for our great God. God has done so much for us in saving us from our sinful lives (positional purity). We ought to spend our lives in a loving, submissive obedience to His commands, including this one for purity. “Follow peace with all men, and holiness (purity), without which no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

You cannot come before God in worship with dirty hands, dirty hearts or dirty lives.

O for a heart to praise my God, A heart from sin set free,

A heart that always feels Thy blood, So freely shed for me.

–Hymn by Charles Wesley

Psalm 18:20 AMP, “The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness (moral character, spiritual integrity); according to the cleanness of my hands He has rewarded me.”

Psalm 24:3-5, “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.”

Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”

Psalm 96:9 AMP, “Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness; tremble [in submissive wonder] before Him, all the earth.”

In the forests of northern Europe and Asia lives little animal called the ermine, known for his snow-white fur in winter. He instinctively protects his white coat against anything that would soil it. Fur hunters take advantage of this unusual trait of the ermine. They don’t set a snare to catch him, but instead they find his home, which is usually a cleft in a rock or a hollow in an old tree. They smear the entrance and interior with grime. Then the hunters set their dogs loose to find and chase the ermine. The frightened animal flees toward home but doesn’t enter because of the filth. Rather than soil his white coat, he is trapped by the dogs and captured while preserving his purity. For the ermine, purity is more precious than life.

John MacArthur told the following in a message about purity:

“Many years ago a friend went to St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City and took his Catholic friend with him. His friend said, ‘I want to go to the shrine of St. Joseph, my patron saint. I want to light some candles and have St. Joseph pray for somebody. When he got to the shrine, all the candles were gone, all the lights were out and there was a sign around St. Joseph's neck that said, ‘Do not worship here, shrine is out of order.’ ‘My friend was very disappointed.’ But he said, ‘I walked out of there and wondered to myself if there aren't times in my life when I ought to have a sign hanging around my neck, 'Do not worship here, this shrine is out of order.'" If I am going to be the shrine or the temple of the Spirit of God, then I want to manifest the Spirit and do that in gratitude to the God who has given me His Spirit.”

Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB).

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