1 John 3:1-3, “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. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”
What a glorious passage of Scripture! It is unfathomable for the Christian to think on their adoption into the family of God for even a second without being overwhelmed and moved into a state of rejoicing! In fact, Christians are called to meditate upon their adoption, to see the love of God on display in this most glorious doctrine!
Our Position Now
In this passage, John calls these Christians (and us, now) to see this kind of love the Father has given them. So what kind of love is he talking about? It is that most glorious love that God the Father calls us his children! Reader, if you are in Christ, this is your position even now! John writes, “Beloved, we are God’s children now.” If you are trusting in Christ as Lord and Savior, you, at the very core of your being, are God’s child. What an immensely joyful and comforting thought! Not only have we been declared right before God, but God has adopted us as sons and daughters! This most glorious truth drove J.I. Packer, in his book Knowing God, to write,
“In adoption, God takes us into his family and fellowship—he 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 [justification] is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father [adoption] is a greater.”
How Did This Happen?
Packer is right, to be right with God the Judge is a great gift, but to be loved by Him as Father an even more astounding measure of His grace. Yet I am convinced that it is impossible to truly appreciate our position as children if we fail to remember our former state. God did not adopt us as children because of anything we had done to earn it. It wasn’t because of our upbringing, our social class, our ethnicity, or our work ethic. In fact, there was absolutely nothing in any of us that would make us worthy of being loved by God. Not only were we not His children, but we were also not even in a neutral position toward God. A careful reading of Titus 3:3, Romans 3:10-18, and Ephesians 2:1-3 will prove my point. The language of the Bible is that we were at enmity with God. We were foolish, disobedient, dead in our sins, children of wrath, and had no fear of God before our eyes.
To make matters even more dreadful, there was absolutely nothing we could have ever done to merit being right before Him, let alone be called His child. Paul writes, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight since through the law comes knowledge of sin,” (Romans 3:20). The utter hopelessness of depravity, our enmity with God, and our inability to make things right with Him bring two glaring questions to mind,“How is it that God now calls us, those who are trusting in Christ, His children? How did this happen?”
The answer is found one chapter later in John’s letter. He, inspired by the Holy Spirit, writes, “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,” (1 John 4:10). It is because of the propitiation for our sin, made by the sinless Son of God, that we are now able to be called the Father’s children! What a glorious example of irony, that God the Father would sacrifice His perfect, sinless, righteous Son, so that those who were at enmity with Him would now join the family and become co-heirs with Christ. “In love, He (God the Father) predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ,” (Ephesians 1:5). See the love of the Father! See the great price of our adoption! It was no small thing; for us to be called sons cost him His perfect Son. Yet the good news does not stop here.
Longing for His Appearance
The blood of Christ, the sinless Son of God, was the effectual purchase of God’s people, those whom He would call His children. Christ was crucified, buried, and lay in the tomb for three days. Yet he rose triumphantly, conquering sin and death! Jesus, the one who was delivered up for our trespasses, was also raised for our justification (Romans 4:25). Not only did he raise from the dead, but he also ascended to the right hand of the Father, where he now sits interceding for Christians.
It is the risen and ascended Christ that we now long to see coming! We long for His appearing! Christians live in an “already but not yet state.” Positionally, we have been declared righteous before God and adopted as His children. Yet, we are not yet glorified. We still struggle and fight against sin. We live in the tension that Paul so earnestly expresses in Romans 7. Praise God, though, for the promise that we have been predestined to be conformed to the image of the Son (Romans 8:29)! This is what John refers to when he writes, “what we will be has not yet appeared, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is, (1 John 3:2).
Beloved, though we are not yet fully conformed to the image of Christ, though we have real struggles in this life, we can cling to the promise that when Christ appears, we will be like him and see him as he is! Christian, do you long for Christ’s appearing? Are you on your toes, leaning forward in anticipation for His coming? Are you awake, alert, and excited about His return? Dear Christian, the One who purchased your soul, who went as a propitiation for your sin, who poured out his blood, the One through whom you’ve been adopted as a child of the Father, will return for His people. And when He does, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
It is in the risen, ascended, and returning Christ that all our hope must be found. John writes, “And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as He is pure,” (1 John 3:3). In other words, to hope in Christ, to trust in Him by faith, is to be pure as He is pure. Reader, is your hope in the Lord Jesus? If not, you are still at enmity with God. Yet you are not without hope, for if you would repent of sin and trust in Jesus, you too can enjoy the identity of “child of God.” Christian, are you actively hoping in Christ? Are you actively longing for His appearing? May the Spirit of God work through the Word convict you and drive you back to Christ. And may you remember the adopting love of the Father afresh, that you who were once His enemy, are now His child.