The third chapter of 1 John begins with John reminding his readers of the distinctive nature of membership of God’s family. The words ‘what kind’ point to an unusual origin – one suggestion is that it could be translated as ‘from what kind of country’ does this type of love come? And we know the answer to the question – this type of love comes only from the heavenly country.
John does not say that the Father has great love for us, although it would have been true to say so. Instead he says that the Father has given great love to his people. This means that John is not so focussed on the Father’s attitude of love as on his action of love. In other words, John is telling his readers not only to look at what God thinks of them, but also to contemplate what he has done for them, to consider carefully the status he had given to each of the. How many of us said to ourselves this morning, ‘I’m so thankful that God has given me the rank of son in his family’?
This new family status is undeserved. By nature, the disciples of Jesus were not members of the family of God. They were outside the family, they were children of wrath, even as others. Instead of God being their Father, God was their opponent. He was angry with them because of their sins against him. They deserved punishment; instead they received membership of his family.
Further, we can say that this new family status is unexpected. By this I mean that it would have been possible in theory for God to forgive our sins without also bringing us into his family. Adoption therefore is a higher blessing than forgiveness of sins. We would have expected a lower status because we did not deserve any grace. Yet in marvellous grace, the Father elevated sinners to the highest place possible.
In addition, this new family status is unrecognised by the society in which we live. We are familiar with attempts by well-known people to adopt orphans and the subsequent publicity that is generated. Therefore, we would be very surprised if such an adopted child became unknown in whatever place his new parents lived. Yet when we consider the family of God, we find that world places no value at all on membership of his family. If we tell people that we belong to God’s family or suggest that too can become members of it, they look at us as if we are mad. People don’t know who Christians are.
Perhaps we can see why John wanted his readers to turn their eyes on to the great privilege that the Father had given to each of his children. They were to fill their minds with this great privilege of family membership.
Yet John reminds them of more by asking them to think if what will happen to them when Jesus returns. And we will think tomorrow about what John has to say about the future of God’s people.