What Manner of Love!

Several years ago, while driving through the country, a journalist noticed an unusual weather vane on top of a barn. It was a simple strip of metal on which was painted, “God is love.” The curious journalist stopped to ask the farmer, “What does that mean? Do you think the love of God is as changeable as the wind?” “Oh no,” the farmer replied quickly, “It means that no matter which way the wind blows, God is always love.” One theme recurring in John’s beautiful letters is love. It is the pure love of God that he manifests in Christ and bestows upon His people. Today, read with me again from John’s first letter. “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” (1 John 3:1-2). There is no greater love than God’s love.

The last verse of 1 John 2 reads, “If you know that he is righteous you also know that everyone that does righteousness is born of him.” At the mention of being born of him, John says the love of God is bestowed so that we may be called His children. The connecting word “that” holds the basic thought of “so that,” or “in order that.” Henry A. Sawtelle wrote, “The word ‘that’ (hina, in order that) brings forward the purpose, or designed effect, of the wonderful love bestowed.” (An American Commentary on the New Testament, edited by Alvah Hovey, published by Judson Press, page 34). Were it not for God’s immeasurable love no one would have a legitimate right to membership in His family, no one could be rightly called His child.

The verse says God’s love is designed to make it possible for some to “be called the children of God.” Called by whom? The children of God are those selected by God himself. No man selects the members of the family of God for the Almighty. He does that himself. John’s statement affirms that God calls through his matchless love. All who respond by faith in Christ are then divinely identified as God’s children. Responsive faith is a faith that totally surrenders all to him.

In one sense every human being on earth is a child of God, for God is the creator and giver of all life. That is not the sense here. This passage tells us God has a special family restricted to those whose lives are turned over to him in full and unreserved obedience.

This implies divine recognition by the Father. Anyone can claim to be a child of God. Anyone can show all sorts of humanly devised methods of authenticating a claim to be a member of God’s family, but there is only one birth certificate that has any value at all. That is the new birth of water and Spirit called “the new birth.” Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Truly, truly I say to you, except one be born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). The selection process by which God chooses His family is simple. He calls; those who answer by being born again are received, recognized, and identified as His children.

The call of God is not some strange emotional feeling, nor is it made known through dark and mysterious signs, visions, or dreams. It is a sensible, intelligent, and understandable call. It is the clarion call of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul wrote, “Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 2:14). The same inspired writer wrote the Lord will be revealed “in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God and those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 1:8).

Obedience to the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is the only way one can prove faith in Christ as the Son of God. Jesus said things like, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). John wrote, “For this is the love of God that we keep His commandments, and His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). Obedience is compliance with orders issued by one who has the authority to give orders. It is not some slavish conformity to rituals and rules. Sometimes we are left with the impression that denominational preachers feel that when we contend obedience to Christ’s commands is essential to salvation, we don’t believe salvation is by faith. That is patently untrue. The fact that obedience to Christ’s commands is essential to salvation has nothing to do with working one’s way to heaven by human effort alone. You decide who is saved. Is it the one who professes with the mouth their faith in Christ, or the one whose faith impels him to obey Christ without reservation? Jesus answers: “Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things I say?” (Luke 6:46) and “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21).

Obedience that is required takes a sinners through certain steps -- or levels of faith. The first step is that of accepting the truth that Jesus is indeed the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Jesus said, “If you do not believe that I am he, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24).

The next level brings one to what is called repentance. Jesus said, “Except you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). Repentance occupied a key place in apostolic preaching. Peter preached it on Pentecost. “Repent and be baptized, everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Again, “Repent and turn around, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing will come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19). “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). Repentance is faith turning away from evil toward all that is righteous and holy.

The last level is baptism. One is baptized “into Christ” (Gal. 3:27; Rom. 6:3-4). There is no other way of coming “into Christ.” Look in your Bible. One believes unto salvation, confesses unto salvation (Romans 10:9- 10), repents unto life (Acts 11:18) but is baptized into Christ. These are the levels through which faith progresses toward salvation from all the sins of the past. Only those whose faith is such does God promise to call his children.

The love of God is beyond measure. What a wonderful thought! Please focus on the expression, “What manner of love ...” That is one of the most interesting expressions found anywhere in the New Testament. It comes from an original expression that meant “of what country.” In modern parlance one might say, “That is out of this world.” You’ve heard people exclaim, “That’s out of sight!” It is that sentiment that brought John to express his utter amazement that God’s love should be bestowed in such a holy and extraordinary manner. In a previous lesson this love of God was shown to be something the world knew nothing about before Christ came. A new word had to be coined to describe it. It is the Agape love of God. John says, “This love of God has been bestowed upon us, and it is a love that is so foreign to the world that we wonder just what country or world it came from.” The love of God did not originate among men. It is from heaven, channeled through grace and focused in the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ. “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift” (2 Cor. 13:5).

Paul wrote, “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die, for peradventure for the good man some one would even dare to die. But, God commends His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:6-8). People may have the very best intentions by flippantly saying, “God loves you.” You see it on bumper stickers, marquees in front of church buildings, and on jewelry. Do we need constant reminders of His love for us? The love of God must be more than verbalized slogans and pious platitudes. It must be demonstrated by those who are the direct objects of His love. Remember, this is a great honor bestowed only on baptized believers. Without being baptized through the new birth, no one can become God’s child. God’s children extend his great love to others by spreading the good news of salvation from sin, of spiritual blessings in Christ, and of a hope for immortal eternal life after this life is over. Indeed, what manner of love!

The next thought in this verse is not always a pleasant thought. John says “and such we are,” or in other words, “yes, we (the church) are His children.” As the family of God, the church is so different from the world that the world does not know us. The reason for this is that the world did not know Jesus when he came into this world. Many still do not know him in the true sense of knowing a savior. The world may know who Jesus was, who he claims to be, but that is the extent of the knowledge the world has of our wonderful savior. Jesus came to his own, but they refused him (John 1:11). The prophet Isaiah foretold his rejection by man. “He was despised and rejected of men” (Isa. 53:3).

From the standpoint of nature, there is nothing different about a child of God and one who is a sinner. The difference is not in nature but in grace. It is through the wonderful grace of God in Christ, that our lives may be hid with God in Christ (Col. 3:3).

Our task is simple. As God’s children we must reflect that love that makes it possible for us to be called His family. The same obedience of faith that led us into the family through the new birth must guide us into whatever future the Lord God in heaven destines for us. To those who have never been baptized into Christ, the way is clear. Do you believe in Christ? Yes or no? If you do, will you repent (change your life) and turn to him now? Yes or no? If you are willing to turn from sin, will you obey your Lord and Savior today by being baptized into the name of the sacred trinity for the remission of sins. If so, God will be please to call you his child. No greater accolade will ever come your way.

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