“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.”—1 John 3:1
What marvelous love was bestowed upon us!
No cold, matter-of-fact statement the apostle makes before the church of all ages. Rather it must be seen as a shout of ecstasy pressed from the author’s heart under the influence of an over-mastering emotion. Rapt out of himself and elevated above the reach of ordinary, natural perception, caught up in the sphere of heavenly and spiritual mysteries, he beckons the church to come with him and to contemplate these heavenly joys, “Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us! Sons of God we are called.”
The full implication of this marvelous truth has not yet been revealed. The term “sons of God” is still pregnant with possibilities that will not be fully realized until the day when we will see God as he is. But potentially, in spiritual principle, and in Jesus Christ we are all we ever will be. For now we are sons of God.
What unspeakable glory!
There is in the divine family of the ever-blessed Trinity one Son. In him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead perfectly, infinitely, unfathomed, and inexhaustible. Father’s life is his life, Father’s power is his power, Father’s glory is his glory, Father’s mind is his mind, Father’s will is his will. He knows the Father as he is known by him; he loves the Father as he is loved by him. He is the perfect effulgence of Father’s glory, the express image of his person, and he lives with Father, in his bosom, in everlasting, infinite, perfectly intimate, and confidentially friendly communion of unblemished love.
To be called sons of God is to be called after him.
Not as if we should be or aspire to be God, as the Son of God is. The essential difference between God and us, between creator and creatures, between the infinite and the finite, between the Son and the brethren of Jesus Christ will never be removed. Even so and barring all pantheism, which is of the evil one, and strictly maintaining the eternal distinction between the ever-blessed God and his creaturely children, we do not overestimate the glory and the marvel of love the apostle has in mind if we state that to be called sons of God is to be called after the only begotten of the Father.
To be sons of God implies that also we in creaturely measure partake of Father’s life, Father’s glory, and Father’s love. It signifies that we are his and that he manifests the glory of his image through us. It means that God’s mind, heart, will, and all that is within him are motivated by the living power of a Father’s love toward us, so that his thoughts over us are always paternal thoughts, the counsel of his will is dominated by fatherly love, and the desires of his heart are paternal longings to bless and to glorify us, to have us with him in everlasting light of bliss and to press us in heavenly glory at his bosom. It means that our minds, wills, and hearts are dominated by this overpowering influence of a son’s love toward him, so that we think as sons, will as sons, love as sons, and long to walk as sons in Father’s light, to know him as we are known, to see him face-to-face, and to rejoice forever in the secret communion of his covenantal friendship.
To be called sons of God means that God calls us such, that he operates within our hearts until we call ourselves such and cry, “Abba, Father,” and that he will so fill us with his life and so impress upon us the glorious image of his Son that presently the whole world will be compelled to call us children of the Most High.
To be called sons of God. Singular blessing. Marvel of love.
Behold! What manner of love!
Bestowed upon us.
As by faith with the apostle, we rise to the elevated plane of vision to behold the wonder of blessings bestowed upon us, and to contemplate with the apostle the marvel of divine love that becomes manifest in this unspeakable glory, let us not fail to emphasize this little but so significant “us.”
Upon us this love was bestowed!
Were we perhaps worthy of such love? When this love found you and me, where were we? What was our state before him who revealed such marvelous love toward us? What was our name? What were our rights? What was the condition of our hearts and minds before him who loved us? Could we claim any right to such love? Was there perchance within us some smoldering fires of love to which his love responded, or some lingering remnants of beauty that kindled the fire of so great a love in his divine heart?
We know better.
Search as we may, never will we find within ourselves an inkling of anything that might explain the mystery of this great love. Rather, the longer and more deeply we search in our hearts and lives, the greater the mystery of this love looms before our wondering eyes.
Rights we had none, unless condemnation can be called a right. For we were guilty, sins innumerable as the hairs of our heads testifying against us. Daily we were adding to these condemning sins and thus gathering veritable treasures of wrath for the day of righteous judgment. Our name was children of our father the devil. For true though it is that Father originally formed us after his image and that our features still bespeak that noble origin, even this remembrance of a former glory only witnesses against us. The fact is that by nature we are children of the devil. Our minds, so evidently adapted to the light of God, wantonly chose the darkness in preference to that light; our wills, so plainly formed to will Father’s will, foolishly submitted themselves to the slavery of Satan; our hearts, so manifestly fitted to throb with the love of God, we sinfully filled with enmity against him. Children of wrath we were, hating God and one another, our backs toward Father, our faces toward hell.
Thus we were and there he found us, neither longing for him nor seeking him, wallowing in sin, groping in darkness, defiled in our blood.
And upon us, so guilty, so miserable, so abominable, he bestowed such manner of love.
Oh, what impenetrable mysteries!
What marvel of love!
This meditation was taken from the first part of Chapter 16 in the book All Glory to the Only Good God written by Herman Hoeksema.