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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

1 John 3:1



See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.

Adam Clarke Commentary

Behold, what manner of love - Whole volumes might be written upon this and the two following verses, without exhausting the extraordinary subject contained in them, viz., the love of God to man. The apostle himself, though evidently filled with God, and walking in the fullness of his light, does not attempt to describe it; he calls on the world and the Church to behold it, to look upon it, to contemplate it, and wonder at it.

What manner of love. - Ποταπην αγαπην· What great love, both as to quantity and quality; for these ideas are included in the original term. The length, the breadth, the depth, the height, he does not attempt to describe.

The Father hath bestowed - For we had neither claim nor merit that we should be called, that is, constituted or made, the sons of God, who were before children of the wicked one, animal, earthly, devilish; therefore, the love which brought us from such a depth of misery and degradation must appear the more extraordinary and impressive. After κληθωμεν, that we might be called, και εσμεν, and we are, is added by ABC, seventeen others, both the Syriac, Erpen's Arabic, Coptic, Sahidic, Ethiopic, Slavonic, and Vulgate.

Therefore the world - The Jews, and all who know not God, and are seeking their portion in this life; knoweth us not - do not acknowledge, respect, love, or approve of us. In this sense the word γινωσκειν is here to be understood. The world Knew well enough that there were such persons; but they did not approve of them. We have often seen that this is a frequent use of the term know, both in Hebrew and Greek, in the Old Testament and also in the New.

Because it knew him not - The Jews did not acknowledge Jesus; they neither approved of him, his doctrine, nor his manner of life.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 John 3:1". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Behold, what manner of love - What love, in “kind” and in “degree.” In kind the most tender and the most ennobling, in adopting us into His family, and in permitting us to address Him as our Father; in “degree” the most exalted, since there is no higher love that can be shown than in adopting a poor and friendless orphan, and giving him a parent and a home. Even God could bestow upon us no more valuable token of affection than that we should be adopted into His family, and permitted to regard Him as our Father. When we remember how insignificant we are as creatures, and how ungrateful, rebellious, and vile we have been as sinners, we may well be amazed at the love which would adopt us into the holy family of God, so that we may be regarded and treated as the children of the Most High. A prince could manifest no higher love for a wandering, ragged, vicious orphan boy, found in the streets, than by adopting him into his own family, and admitting him to the same privileges and honors as his own sons; and yet this would be a trifle compared with the honor which God has bestowed on us.

The Father hath bestowed upon us - God, regarded as a Father, or as at the head of the universe considered as one family.

That we should be called the sons of God - That is, that we should “be” the sons of God - the word “called” being often used in the sense of “to be.” On the nature and privileges of adoption, see the Romans 8:15-17 notes; 2 Corinthians 6:18 note, and practical remarks on that chapter.

Therefore the world knoweth us not - Does not understand our principles; the reasons of our conduct; the sources of our comforts and joys. The people of the world regard us as fanatics or enthusiasts; as foolish in abandoning the pleasures and pursuits which they engage in; as renouncing certain happiness for that which is uncertain; as cherishing false and delusive hopes in regard to the future, and as practicing needless austerities, with nothing to compensate for the pleasures which are abandoned. There is nothing which the frivolous, the ambitious, and the selfish “less” understand than they do the elements which go into the Christian‘s character, and the nature and source of the Christian‘s joys.

Because it knew him not - It did not know the Lord Jesus Christ. That is, the world had no right views of the real character of the Lord Jesus when he was on the earth. They mistook him for an enthusiast or an impostor; and it is no wonder that, having wholly mistaken his character, they should mistake ours. On the fact that the world did not know him, see the 1 Corinthians 2:8 note; Acts 3:17 note. Compare John 17:25. On the fact that Christians may be expected to be regarded and treated as their Saviour was, see the notes at John 15:18-20. Compare Matthew 10:24-25.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 John 3:1". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

This entire chapter, including also the last verse of 1 John 2, is a discussion dealing principally with the children of God. We cannot find agreement with those who make this section a treatise on the "love of God," although, of course, that subject is prominently mentioned. Aside from the opening verse, love is not mentioned until 1 John 3:11, and there it is not the love of God, but God's command that we should love one another. Orr's outline is a practical summary:

<MONO><SIZE=2>The Children of God[1].

I. The divine nature is manifested in God's children (1 John 3:1-18).

A. In their being like Christ (1 John 3:1-3).

B. In doing right (1 John 3:4-10).

C. In loving the brethren (1 John 3:11-18).

II. It is by practical obedience that we have reassurance and confidence (1 John 3:19-14).

A. Our love should be genuine (1 John 3:19).

B. A good conscience results in confidence (1 John 3:20-21).

C. Answer to prayer depends on obedience (1 John 3:22).

D. Three earmarks of true children: love, obedience, and faith (1 John 3:23-24).SIZE>MONO>

As Wilder said, "It is this conception (of the children of God) that here enters this epistle and dominates the whole present section (1 John 3:1-24)."[2]

[1] R. W. Orr, A New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969), p. 614.

[2] Amos N. Wilder, The Interpreter's Bible, Vol. XII (New York: Abingdon Press, 1957), p. 251.

Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are. (1 John 3:1a)

Behold what manner of love ... Smith tells us that the Greek here has the implication "of what country,"[3] suggesting that such love is not of earth but of that heavenly country, as if he had said, "what unearthly love!"[4] A. Plummer, however, denied that this is a legitimate deduction from the Greek.[5]

The Father hath bestowed upon us ... Christ used the expression "my Father," and taught his disciples to pray "our Father"; but the meaning here "includes both,"[6] with perhaps the additional thought that God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

That we should be called children of God ... The essential kinship of humanity with the Creator is glimpsed in such a concept as this, as it is seen also in the great truth underlying the doctrine of the Incarnation. God would not have become a man, unless it had been true that man had been created in God's image. The most glorious truth the world has ever received is in this invitation or "call" of God to become his children.

And such we are ... It is no empty title. The believers "in Christ" are genuine children of the Father in heaven. The word rendered "children" ("sons" in KJV) is [@tekna], that is, related to God by the new birth; and this is a closer relationship than that indicated by [@huioi] (Paul's word, stressing the analogy of adoption)."[7] While no doubt true, in a sense, such a comment should not obscure the fact that "adoption" in Paul's usage carries all of the full benefits and privileges of sons by generation, having also the advantage of illuminating the truth that sonship is all of grace.

For this cause the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. (1 John 3:1b)

The reason for the world's hatred of Christians lies in their hostility to all truth and righteousness. They did not recognize Jesus Christ as the Son of God. John's statement here, that the world did not know him, means that, "Although they saw the human Jesus, they did not recognize him as the Son of God."[8] In connection with the rejection of himself, Christ foretold the hatred of his followers (John 16:3); and in the holocaust so soon coming upon the Christians, the same root hatred of the light was assigned here as the reason behind it.

[3] David Smith, The Expositor's Greek New Testament, Vol. V (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1967), p. 182.

[4] Harvey J. S. Blaney, Beacon Bible Commentary, Vol. 10 (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1967), p. 376.

[5] A. Plummer, Commentary on the Greek Text, Epistles of St. John (Cambridge, 1886), p. 71.

[6] James William Russell, Compact Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1964), p. 601.

[7] Harvey J. S. Blaney, op. cit., p. 376.

[8] J. W. Roberts, The Letters of John (Austin, Texas: R. B. Sweet Company, 1968), p. 77.

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James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 John 3:1". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Behold what manner of love,.... See, take notice, consider, look by faith, with wonder and astonishment, and observe how great a favour, what an instance of matchless love, what a wonderful blessing of grace,

the Father hath bestowed upon us: the Father of Christ, and the Father of us in Christ, who hath adopted us into his family, and regenerated us by his grace, and hath freely given us the new name:

that we should be called the sons of God. The Alexandrian copy, and some others, and the Vulgate Latin version, add, "and we are", or "be"; and the Ethiopic version, "and have been"; for it is not a mere name that is bestowed, but the thing itself in reality; and in the Hebrew language, "to be called", and "to be", are terms synonymous; see Isaiah 9:6; in what sense the saints are the sons of God; See Gill on Galatians 4:6; this blessing comes not by nature, nor by merit, but by grace, the grace of adoption; which is of persons unto an inheritance they have no legal right unto; the spring of it is the everlasting and unchangeable love of God, for there was no need on the adopter's side, he having an only begotten and beloved Son, and no worth and loveliness in the adopted, they being by nature children of wrath; it is a privilege that exceeds all others, and is attended with many; so that it is no wonder the apostle breaks out in this pathetic manner, and calls upon the saints to view it with admiration and thankfulness:

therefore the world knoweth us not; that is, the greater part of the world, the world that lies in wickedness, the men of the world, who have their portion in this life, whom the god of this world has blinded, and who only mind the things of the world, and are as when they came into it, and have their conversation according to the course of it; these do not know the saints are the sons of God; the new name of sons is what no man knoweth but he that receiveth it; they do not own the saints as theirs, as belonging to them, but reckon them as the faith of the world, and the offscouring of all things; nor do they love them, and that because they are not their own, but hate them and persecute them: the reason is,

because it knew him not; neither the Father, whose sons they are, and who has bestowed the grace upon them; wherefore they know not, and disown and persecute his children; see John 17:25; nor the Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten of the Father, the firstborn among many brethren; who, though he made the world, and was in it, was not known by it, but was hated, abused, and persecuted; and therefore it need not seem strange that the saints, who are the sons of God by adoption, should be treated in like manner.

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Gill, John. "Commentary on 1 John 3:1". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

Behold, 1 a what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be b called the sons of God: 2 therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.

(1) He begins to declare this agreement of the Father and the Son, at the highest cause, that is, at that free love of God towards us, with which he so loves us, that also he adopts us to be his children.

(a) What a gift of how great love.

(b) That we should be the sons of God, and so, that all the world may see that we are so. {(2)} Before he declares this adoption, he says two things: the one, that this so great a dignity, is not to be esteemed according to the judgment of the flesh, because it is unknown to the world, for the world knows not God the Father himself.

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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on 1 John 3:1". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

1 John 3:1-24. Distinguishing marks of the children of God and the children of the devil. Brotherly love the essence of true righteousness.

Behold — calling attention, as to some wonderful exhibition, little as the world sees to admire. This verse is connected with the previous 1 John 2:29, thus: All our doing of righteousness is a mere sign that God, of His matchless love, has adopted us as children; it does not save us, but is a proof that we are saved of His grace.

what manner of — of what surpassing excellence, how gracious on His part, how precious to us.

love … bestowed — He does not say that God hath given us some gift, but love itself and the fountain of all honors, the heart itself, and that not for our works or efforts, but of His grace [Luther].

that — “what manner of love”; resulting in, proved by, our being, etc. The immediate effect aimed at in the bestowal of this love is, “that we should be called children of God.”

should be called — should have received the privilege of such a glorious title (though seeming so imaginary to the world), along with the glorious reality. With God to call is to make really to be. Who so great as God? What nearer relationship than that of sons? The oldest manuscripts add, “And we ARE SO” really.

therefore — “on this account,” because “we are (really) so.”

us — the children, like the Father.

it knew him not — namely, the Father. “If they who regard not God, hold thee in any account, feel alarmed about thy state” [Bengel]. Contrast 1 John 5:1. The world‘s whole course is one great act of non-recognition of God.

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This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 John 3:1". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

What manner of love (ποταπην αγαπηνpotapēn agapēn). Qualitative interrogative as in 2 Peter 3:11; Matthew 8:27. Only here in John‘s writings. Originally of what country or race.

Hath bestowed (δεδωκενdedōken). Perfect active indicative of διδωμιdidōmi state of completion, “the endowment of the receiver” (Vincent).

That we should be called (ινα κλητωμενhina klēthōmen). Sub-final use of ιναhina with the first aorist passive subjunctive of καλεωkaleō to call or name, as in Matthew 2:23.

Children (τεκναtekna). As in John 1:12 and with an allusion to γεγεννηταιgegennētai in 1 John 2:29 in an effort “to restore the waning enthusiasm of his readers, and to recall them to their first love” (Brooke).

And such we are (και εσμενkai esmen). “And we are.” A parenthetical reflection characteristic of John (και νυν εστινkai nun estin in John 5:25 and και ουκ εισινkai ouk eisin in Revelation 2:2; Revelation 3:9) omitted by Textus Receptus, though, in the old MSS.

Because it knew him not (οτι ουκ εγνω αυτονhoti ouk egnō auton). Second aorist active indicative of γινωσκωginōskō precisely the argument in John 15:18.

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Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 1 John 3:1". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

Behold ( ἴδετε )

Lit., behold ye. The plural is peculiar. The usual form is the singular ἴδε or ἰδού . See John 1:29; John 11:3, etc.; John 4:35; John 19:26, John 19:27. Elsewhere the plural is used of something actually visible (Galatians 6:11).

What manner of ( ποταπὴν )

The word is of infrequent occurrence in the New Testament, but is found in all the Synoptists and in 2 Peter 3:11. Only here in John's writings. Originally it means from what country or race; then, of what sort or quality. It is used of the quality of both persons and things.

Hath bestowed ( δέδωκεν )

Emphasizing the endowment of the receiver. Compare χαρίζομαι , from χάρις gracefavor, which emphasizes the goodwill of the giver. See Galatians 3:18; Philemon 2:9; Philemon 1:29.

That ( ἵνα )

See on John 15:13.

We should be called ( κληθῶμεν )

Or, named. As Matthew 2:23; Matthew 21:13; Luke 1:13, Luke 1:31, etc. The verb is never used by John of the divine call. In John 10:3, for καλεῖ callethread φωνεῖ .

The sons ( τέκνα )

Rev., better, children. See on John 1:12.

And such we are ( καὶ ἐσμεν )

Lit., and we are. Added by Rev., according to the best texts. A parenthetical, reflective comment, characteristic of John. See on 1 John 1:2.


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Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on 1 John 3:1". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.

That we should be called — That is, should be, the children of God. Therefore the world knoweth us not - They know not what to make of us. We are a mystery to them.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on 1 John 3:1". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". 1765.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

1.] Behold (as in John 1:29; John 19:5, does not express the Writer’s own astonishment, but directs the attention of those who are addressed: “commendat Apostolus his verbis magnum Dei beneficium,” Estius. But there immediately follows ἡμῖν, the communicative address, so that in fact the Apostle does in a manner include himself among those addressed in ἴδετε), what manner of (thus the E. V., literally and rightly. ποταπός, properly ποδαπός, originally meant, “of what country;” and occurs in this sense continually in the classics: e. g. Herod. vii. 218, εἴρετοποδαπὸς (or ὁποδ-) εἴη ὁ στρατός, al. Its derivation is matter of dispute: whether from δάπος, τάπος, which forms enter into δάπεδον, ἔδαφος, τόπος; so Valcknaer: or from ἀπό, as Buttm. Lexil. comparing ἀλλοδάπος, παντοδάπος &c., δ being inserted as in prodire, prodesse. Then in later writers it came to signify “of what kind,” as e. g. in Demosth. p. 782, 8, τίς ὁ κύων καὶ ποδαπός; οἷος μὴ δάκνειν, al. The signification quantus seems never to have belonged properly to the word. It may of course be often included in qualis, as it undoubtedly is here: “what manner of” including “how great,” “how free,” “how precious”—in fact all the particulars which are afterwards brought out respecting this love: see 1 John 3:16, ch. 1 John 4:9; 1 John 4:16) love (is ἀγάπην here, joined as it is with the verb δέδωκεν, literally love itself, or does it import some gift, bestowal, or fruit of love? The latter (caritatis munus) is taken by Beza: and similarly, beneficium, or the like, by Socinus, Episcopius, Seb.-Schmidt, Grot., Est., Rosenm., Neander, al. But there seems no necessity for diverting the word from its proper meaning. As in ch. 1 John 4:9, the proof of the love is that which is imported, not by the love itself, but by the verb joined with it; as by ἐφανερώθη there, so by δέδωκεν here. So that in fact δέδωκεν, which has been the motive for these renderings, speaks, as Düsterd. observes, most decidedly against them. He quotes from Luther’s scholia, “Usus autem est Joannes singulari verborum pondere: non dicit dedisse nobis Deum donum aliquod, sed ipsam caritatem et fontem omnium bonorum, cor ipsum, idque non pro operibus aut studiis nostris, sed gratuito.” Cf. χἁριν διδόναι, ref. James) the Father ( ὁ πατήρ, spoken here not, as some, of God in general, the whole three Persons in the blessed Trinity, but personally, of the Father, as distinguished from the Son, in whom we have received our adoption. Even the Socinian Schlichting has recognized this: “Nempe Pater ille Jesu Christi et consequentr omnium in Jesum Christum credentium, unus ille Deus, qui si Pater Jesu Christi non esset, nec Jesus Christus ejus Filius ille singularissimus, neque nobis tanta ejus ac vere paterna gratia unquam obtigisset”) hath given (see above) unto us, that (how is ἵνα here to be taken? is it to be kept to its strong telic sense, indicating that our being called the children of God is the purpose of that gift of love just spoken of, or does it, as so often in St. John, introduce the purport of that love, stated in the form of an end to be gained by its manifestation? Lange, Lücke, De Wette, and Brückner keep the strong telic sense. “What great love,” says Lücke, “hath the Father shewn us (viz. in sending His Son, ch. 1 John 4:10), in order to make us children of God!” But the objection to this is, that thus a proof of the divine Love is hinted at in our verse which is not expanded, but is left to be gathered from elsewhere: and the purpose introduced by ἵνα becomes the secondary and remote subject of the sentence, whereas, from τέκνα θεοῦ taking up the preceding γεγέννηται, and being again taken up in 1 John 3:2, it is evidently the primary subject. The other meaning of ἵνα is taken by the ancient Greek expositors, so Œc., Thl., εἴδετε γὰρ ὅτι ἔδωκεν ἡμῖν τέκνα θεοῦ γενέσθαι τε καὶ κληθῆναι ( λογισθῆναι Thl.). And this is not to confound ἵνα with ὅτι. Of the latter construction we have a plain example with ποταπός, in Matthew 8:27; ποταπός ἐστιν οὗτος, ὅτι καὶ οἱ ἄνεμοιὑπακούουσιν αὐτῷ. There, the matter of fact is the ground of the wonderment expressed in the ποταπός—“What a man must this be, seeing that …:” whereas here the ground of the wonderment is in the result: “what manner of love … resulting in, proved by, our being, &c.” The effect of the love, that at which it is aimed in its immediate bestowal (its Ziel), is, that we should be called children of God: its ultimate purpose (its Zweck) is another thing. Cf. 1 John 3:11; 1 John 3:23, where we have the same construction) we should be called children of God (why has the Apostle rather used κληθῶμεν than ὦμεν? Probably to bring forward the title, the reality of which, notwithstanding its non-recognition by the world, he is about to assert immediately. It is not that καλεῖσθαι, as Baumg.-Crusius, = ἐξουσίαν ἔχειν γενέσθαι, John 1:12, so that the sense should be, “that we have a right to presume to call ourselves children of God,” Neander: against this the aor. κληθῶμεν is decisive, signifying our reception of the title once for all, and identifying this reception with the gift of love spoken of above. In this definite reference to an actual bestower of the name, probably an allusion is made to such prophecies as that cited 2 Corinthians 6:18); and we ARE (so): for this cause the world doth not know (apprehend, recognize) us; because it did not know Him (viz. God: the Father.

The insertion of καὶ ἐσμέν appears to serve the purpose of bringing out the reality of the state conferred upon us with this title, in spite of any non-recognition of it by the unbelieving world. To those, as Lücke and De Wette, who regard the preceding ἵνα as telic, the clause has no meaning, and they at once reject it as a gloss. Had it been, it would surely have been καὶ ὦμεν, as the vulg. et simus. But in our rendering of the passage, καὶ ἐσμέν is of the highest possible significance. On ἐσμέν depends διὰ τοῦτο: and we ARE God’s children; for this very reason, because we bear not the name only but the essence, the world knows us not: and then, as a reason for this ignorance following on this reality of our derivation from Him,—because it knew Him not. The reality of a believer’s sonship of God, and his non-recognition by the world, are thus necessarily connected together. But Whom did the world not know, and when? αὐτόν here, by the very requirements of the logic of the passage, must be the Father, who not being recognized, neither are His children: τὸν υἱοθετήσαντα, as Œc.; Aug(38), Benson, al., understand Christ: “ambulabat et ipse Dominus Jesus Christus, in carne erat Deus, latebat in infirmitate.” But this can only be, if we understand that the world rejected that revelation of the Father which was made by Christ His Son. And if we introduce this element, we disturb the strictness of the argument. It is the world’s ignorance of God, considered (and this is the force, if it is to be pressed, of the aor. ἔγνω) as one great act of non-recognition, disobedience, rebellion, hate (for all these are involved in St. John’s οὐ γνῶναι, as their opposites in his γινώσκειν), which makes them incapable of recognizing, loving, sympathizing with, those who are veritably children of God: cf. ch. 1 John 5:1).

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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on 1 John 3:1". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. 1863-1878.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

1Behold The second argument is from the dignity and excellency of our calling; for it was not common honor, he says, that the heavenly Father bestowed on us, when he adopted us as his children. This being so great a favor, the desire for purity ought to be kindled in us, so as to be conformed to his image; nor, indeed, can it be otherwise, but that he who acknowledges himself to be one of God’s children should purify himself. And to make this exhortation more forcible, he amplifies the favor of God; for when he says, that love has been bestowed, he means that it is from mere bounty and benevolence that God makes us his children; for whence comes to us such a dignity, except from the love of God? Love, then, is declared here to be gratuitous. There is, indeed, an impropriety in the language; but the Apostle preferred speaking thus rather than not to express what was necessary to be known. He, in short, means that the more abundantly God’s goodness has been manifested towards us, the greater are our obligations to him, according to the teaching of Paul, when he besought the Romans by the mercies of God to present themselves as pure sacrifices to him. (Romans 12:1.) We are at the same time taught, as I have said, that the adoption of all the godly is gratuitous, and does not depend on any regard to works.

What the sophists say, that God foresees those who are worthy to be adopted, is plainly refuted by these words, for, in this way the gift would not be gratuitous. It behooves us especially to understand this doctrine; for since the only cause of our salvation is adoption, and since the Apostle testifies that this flows from the mere love of God alone, there is nothing left to our worthiness or to the merits of works. For why are we sons? Even because God began to love us freely, when we deserved hatred rather than love. And as the Spirit is a pledge of our adoption, it hence follows, that if there be any good in us, it ought not to be set up in opposition to the grace of God, but, on the contrary, to be ascribed to him.

When he says that we are called, or named, the expression is not without its meaning; for it is God who with his own mouth declares us to be sons, as he gave a name to Abraham according to what he was. (75)

Therefore the world It is a trial that grievously assaults our faith, that we are not so much regarded as God’s children, or that no mark of so great an excellency appears in us, but that, on the contrary, almost the whole world treats us with ridicule and contempt. Hence it can hardly be inferred from our present state that God is a Father to us, for the devil so contrives all things as to obscure this benefit. He obviates this offense by saying that we are not as yet acknowledged to be such as we are, because the world knows not God: a remarkable example of this very thing is found in Isaac and Jacob; for though both were chosen by God, yet Ishmael persecuted the former with laughter and taunts; and Esau, the latter with threats and the sword. However, then, we may be oppressed by the world, still our salvation remains safe and secure.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on 1 John 3:1". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.

Scofield's Reference Notes


kosmos = mankind. (See Scofield "Matthew 4:8").

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Scofield, C. I. "Scofield Reference Notes on 1 John 3:1". "Scofield Reference Notes (1917 Edition)". 1917.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

1 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.

Ver. 1. Behold what manner] Qualem et quantum, as 2 Peter 3:11. {See Trapp on "John 1:12"} If Jacob was at such pains and patience to become son-in-law to Laban, if David held it a great matter to be son-in-law to the king, what is it then to be sons and daughters to the Lord Almighty? 2 Corinthians 6:18.

The world knoweth us not] Princes unknown are unrespected; unkent, unkist, as the Northern proverb hath it. After the sentence was pronounced upon Mr Bainham, the martyr, he was counselled by Mr Nicholas Wilson to conform himself to the Church; to whom he answered, I trust I am the very child of God, which ye, blind asses, said he, do not perceive. The "king’s daughter is all glorious within," her beauty is inward, Psalms 45:13; she is black, but comely as the tents of Kedar, Song of Solomon 1:5; rough, but rich; as the tabernacle in the wilderness, covered with goat’s hair, but within costly and curious; as Brutus’s staff in the story, cuius intus solidum aurum corneo velabatur cortice. (Plut.) All righteous men are kings, as may appear by comparing Matthew 13:17; cf. Luke 10:24; they are kings in righteousness as Melchisedec, but somewhat obscure ones as he; they must be content to pass to heaven as Christ their head did, as concealed men. Their glorious faith, James 2:1, now not notified or regarded, shall one day be "found to praise, honour, and glory," 1 Peter 1:7.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 John 3:1". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Sermon Bible Commentary

1 John 3:1

The Love that calls us Sons.


I. The love that is given. 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 depth, 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. We have to turn to the work of Christ, and especially to His death, if we would estimate the love of God. According to John's constant teaching, that is the great proof that God loves us. The most wonderful revelation to every heart of man of the depth of that Divine heart lies in the gift of Jesus Christ. The Apostle bids me "behold what manner of love."

II. Look, next, at the sonship which is the purpose of His given love. It has often been noticed that the Apostle John uses for that expression "the sons of God," another word from that which his brother Paul uses. John's phrase would perhaps be a little more accurately translated "children of God," whilst Paul, on the other hand, very seldom says "children," but almost always says "sons." Of course the children are sons, and the sons are children, but still the slight distinction of phrase is characteristic of the men and of the different points of view from which they speak about the same thing. John's word lays stress on the children's kindred nature with their father and on their immature condition. What is implied in that great word by which the Almighty gives us a name and a place as of sons and daughters? Clearly, first, a communicated life, therefore, second, a kindred nature which shall be "pure as He is pure," and third, growth to full maturity.

III. Now still further let me ask you to look at the glad recognition of this sonship by the child's heart. Notice the clause added in the Revised Version, "And such we are." It is a kind of "aside," in which John adds the "Amen" for himself and for his poor brothers and sisters toiling and moiling obscure among the crowds of Ephesus to the great truth. He asserts his and their glad consciousness of the reality of the fact of their sonship, which they know to be no empty title.

IV. We have here, finally, the loving and devout gaze upon this wonderful love. "Behold," at the beginning of my text, is not the mere exclamation which you often find both in the Old and in the New Testaments, which is simply intended to emphasise the importance of what follows, but it is a distinct command to do the thing—to look, and ever to look, and to look again, and live in the habitual and devout contemplation of that infinite and wondrous love of God.

A. Maclaren, A Year's Ministry, 2nd series, p. 241.

References: 1 John 3:1.—Expositor, 1st series, vol. vii., p. 208; M. G. Pearse, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxix., p. 64; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ix., p. 333; Homiletic Magazine, vol. ix., p. 290; J. Keble, Sermons for Christmas and Epiphany, p. 367. 1 John 3:1, 1 John 3:2.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 44; A. Mahan, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 184. 1 John 3:1-3.—Homilist, 1st series, vol. iv., p. 341. 1 John 3:1-5.—A. Cooper, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiv., p. 344; H. W. Beecher, Ibid., vol. xxvi., p. 107.

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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on 1 John 3:1". "Sermon Bible Commentary".

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

1 John 3:1. Behold, what manner of love, &c.— The word behold, is made use of to excite new degrees of attention; and indeed is generally used in the scripture as a kind of hand, to point out what is peculiarly worthy our attention. The word ποταπος, rendered what manner, properly signifies quantity; when it denotes quality, it is some eminent sort or high degree of the kind. In either sense it will suit this place; but the latter seems preferable. The persons who in the last verse are said to have been born of God, are here called the sons or children of God. St. John was willing to make the Christians sensible of the happiness of being continued in the family of God. If the child of the poorest man upon earth was adopted by the greatest monarch, it would not be an honour, exaltation, and felicity, in any degree equal to that of being made one of the sons of God. See Hosea 1:10. Hence we are told, that when the Danish Missionaries appointed some of their Malabarian converts to translate a catechism, in which it was mentioned as the privilege of Christians to become the sons of God, one of the translators was startled at so bold a saying, as he thought it, and said, "It is too much; let me rather render it,—they shall be permitted to kiss his feet."

The two members of this argument in the latter clause of the verse are transposed; because the world knew him not, therefore it knows us not; or, the truth is first laid down, and then the reason of it assigned. True Christians are separated from the world to be holy unto the Lord; and they differ from the world in their principles, profession, and conversation: it is no wonder therefore that the world despises and hates them. See 1 John 3:13. 1 Peter 4:3-4. John 8:55; John 15:18; John 15:27; John 16:1; John 16:33.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 John 3:1". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

Our apostle begins this chapter with wonder and admiration at the astonishing goodness and condescension of Alighty God towards believers, in taking them into his family, and adopting them into the number of his children; that strangers and enemies should be dignified with the honourable and amiable title of his sons; it is the same relation that Christ has, I ascend to my Father and your Father; there is indeed a diversity in the foundation of it; Christ is a Son by nature, we by favour; he by generation, we by adoption: However, not only crowns and sceptres are beneath his dignity, but the honour of our innocent state was not equal with it; well might the apostle then break out with an heavenly astonishment, and say Behold what manner of love is this, that we should be called, accounted and acknowledged, for the children of God!

Here note, 1. That it is the high and honourable privilege of all true believers, that they are now the sons of God.

They are Song of Solomon , 1. By regeneration; they are made partakers of the divine nature; not in the essence of it, but in the gracious qualities of it, which enables them in some measure to resemble God their Father; they receive a principle of spiritual life from God which enables them to live unto God: and this principle received in regeneration: it is an inward principle, an universal principle, a God exalting principle, and an abiding principle.

2. They are children by adoption also: adoption is the acceptance of a stranger into the relation and privileges of a son; it was a rare condescension in Pharoah's daughter to rescue Moses, an innocent and forsaken stranger, from perishing by the waters, and adopt him for her son; but O! how much greater kindness was it for Almighty God to save guilty and wretched man from eternal flames, and to take a rebel into his family! This privilege of being the sons of God by regeneration and adoption, is a choice and gracious privilege, an high and honourable privilege, a free and undeserved privilege, a lasting and abiding privilege.

Observe, 2. As the privilege itself, so the fontal cause of it, the fountain from whence it doth proceed and flow, namely, from the gratuitous love and free favour of God; what manner of love has the father bestowed upon us? He cannot say what, nor how great it was: He admires it, but cannot declare it; yet though adoption was the effect of God's free love, it was the fruit of Christ's rich purchase; he of a Son became a servant, that we of slaves might become sons.

Observe. 3. In the word, Behold! a note of attention and admiration both; God expects, the gospel requires, and the privilege of adoption deserves, that it be beheld with love and wonder, taken notice of with joy and thankfulness, and improved for growth in grace and advancement in holiness: Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us?

Note here, That the believer's dignity though real and great, is altogether unknown to the unbelieving world; they are so far from acknowledging them to be God's children, that they mock and scoff, jeer and deride them, for pretending so to be; and as they little know them, so do they less affect and love them, but hate and persecute them. The world knoweth us not.

Note, 2. The reason assigned why the world knows not the children of God, Because it knew not him; God once made himself manifest to the world in and by his Son; Christ, in whom dwelt the fulness of the Godhead, came and dwelt among us, but the world knew him not, received him not; and if they saw no beauty in him, who had strength of grace, and no corruption in him, is it any wonder that they see no excellency in them in whom is much weakness of grace, and too great strength of corruption? Therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.

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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on 1 John 3:1". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. 1700-1703.

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae



1 John 3:1. Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.

RELIGION is altogether a mystery: every part of it is deeply mysterious. The restoration of a fallen soul to God! The means of effecting that restoration — the death of God’s only dear Son, as a sacrifice for sin; and the operation of his Spirit in the sinner’s heart! The effect produced—the translation of a soul from the family of Satan to the family of Almighty God! This is the point which the Apostle is contemplating in my text: and it fills him, as we might well expect, with the profoundest wonder and admiration: “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!”

That we may enter into the Apostle’s views, and attain somewhat of his spirit, I will endeavour to shew,

I. What is comprehended in the relation of sons—

No one need to be informed on this subject, as far as it relates to men. But in the relation as borne to God, there is much which needs to be elucidated. In it are comprehended,

1. An adoption into his family—

[By nature, we belong to a far different family: for “we are of our father the devil:” and, being “children of disobedience,” we are also “children of wrath.” But God takes to himself a people out of that wretched mass, and adopts them as his own; giving to them the name of sons, the privileges of sons, the endearments of sons, and acting towards them in all respects as a loving Father — — — It is in and through the Lord Jesus Christ that he effects this. In “sending his Son to redeem them that were under the law,” he did it, “that we might receive the adoption of sons [Note: Galatians 4:4-5.].”]

2. A participation of his nature—

[When man adopts any person, he may deal with the adopted person as his son; but he can never really make him a son. But when God sets apart any for this high relation, he creates them anew, and makes them entirely “new creatures.” He imparts to them his Holy Spirit, and makes them “partakers of the divine nature [Note: 2 Peter 1:4.];” so that they become, in reality, his sons; being “begotten of him,” and “born unto him [Note: 1 John 5:1; 1 John 5:18.].” Hence, with the new relation, there spring up in their souls new views, new dispositions, new desires, new habits altogether [Note: Galatians 4:6 and Romans 8:15-16.]: and in God also there arises, not a mere arbitrary good-will, but a paternal interest, a special regard, such as exists in every part of the creation between the parent and the progeny. All this, then, is comprehended, (this change of nature on their part, and this peculiar regard on his,) when we speak of any as made “sons of God.”]

3. A title to his inheritance—

[This does not necessarily exist among men; but with God it does. Every one that is born of him, is begotten to an inheritance, even an inheritance that “fadeth not away [Note: 1 Peter 1:1; 1 Peter 1:3-4.].” “If we are sons, we are also heirs, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ [Note: Romans 8:17.].” There is this peculiarity also attaching to the children of God: they are all his “first-born [Note: Exodus 4:22. Hebrews 12:23.].” They are the brethren of Christ; and partakers with him in all that he himself inherits—his throne, his kingdom, his glory [Note: Revelation 2:21. John 17:22.].]

And now let us contemplate—

II. The wonderful love of God, in bringing us into that relation to himself—

When it is said, “We are called the sons of God,” it means that we are really made so. And this change is altogether the effect of God’s unbounded love. Behold, then, what manner of love this is:

1. How sovereign!

[It is wholly unmerited on our part. There never was, there never could be, any thing in us to attract the Divine regards, since “every imagination of the thoughts of our hearts was only evil continually.” In the selection of his objects, God was as free as in the choice of Abraham from amidst an idolatrous world, or of Isaac and Jacob in preference to their elder brethren. In conferring this high honour, God has respect only to his own will, and to the glory of his own name. This is marked with peculiar strength and force by the Apostle Paul, when, speaking on this very subject, he says, “God has predestinated us to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved [Note: Ephesians 1:5-6.].” In truth, “He loved us because he would love us [Note: Deuteronomy 7:7-8.]:” and because “he loved us with an everlasting love, therefore with loving-kindness hath he drawn us [Note: Jeremiah 31:3.].”]

2. How beyond all human expectation!

[If man adopt any one, it is because, having no progeny of his own, he feels a want of some one to succeed to his estates: and in conferring this favour, he has respect to some qualities in the person selected by him. But God has no need of us. We can never add either to his happiness or glory. Or, if he needed any creatures to be objects of his favour, he could create any number, either of angels or men, as it should please him, and make them the happy objects of his choice. But it is not thus that he has acted. He has chosen from amongst men, corrupt and sinful men, multitudes, who shall in time, be born to him, and in eternity enjoy him. Nor is it of the best of men that he has made his selection, but often of the vilest. Even a murderous Manasseh has been made a vessel of honour, and a monument of grace; whilst millions of persons, less guilty, have been passed by. If we ask the reason of this, our Lord assigns the only reason that can be given: “Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.” The potter has power over the clay, to do with it as seemeth him good: and “shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus [Note: Romans 9:20-21.]?” True it is, that, in reference to this matter, we must say, as David did in reference to the favours conferred on him, “Is this the manner of men, O Lord God [Note: 2 Samuel 7:19.]?” No; it is not the manner of men; nor ought it to be: because man has a claim on his fellow-man; but we have no claim whatever on God. He might have left us to perish, precisely as he did the fallen angels, and never have saved so much as one: and, if he have saved one, that person has reason to exclaim with wonder, ‘Why have I been taken, whilst so many others have been left?’ God, in all this matter, does as it pleaseth him; and “he giveth not account to us of any of his matters:” “His ways are not as our ways, nor his thoughts as our thoughts: but as the heavens are high above the earth, so are his ways higher than our ways, and his thoughts than our thoughts [Note: Isaiah 55:8-9.].”]

3. How utterly incomprehensible!

[So the Apostle declares the love of Christ to be: it has “a breadth, and length, and depth, and height, that passeth knowledge [Note: Ephesians 3:18-19.],” and defies the search of the brightest intelligence of heaven. To all eternity will the wonders of this grace be unfolding; and to all eternity will it remain as far from being fully comprehended, as it was at the very first moment it was revealed. Indeed, we must comprehend the infinite distance between the glorious Creator and his rebellious creatures; and then go on yet further, to comprehend all the wonders of redemption, before we can comprehend the smallest portion of this mystery. We must close our meditations, after all, with that with which we have commenced them: “What manner of love is this which the Father hath bestowed upon us!”]

“Behold” then, brethren, “behold” it: “Behold” it, I say,

1. With due solicitude to ascertain the fact—

[God has bestowed this favour upon millions: but hath he bestowed it upon us? In this inquiry we are deeply interested: nor should any one of us leave it as a matter of doubt for one single hour. But you will ask, ‘Can this point be ascertained?’ By the world around us, I readily acknowledge, it cannot be ascertained: and, if we profess to have been brought into this relation to God, we must not wonder that the world ascribe our pretensions to the workings of pride and presumption. For they know nothing of God, or of his operations upon the souls of men: how, therefore, should they be able to judge of our claims in this matter? The Apostle, in the words following my text, justly adds, “Therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.” But we may ascertain the point ourselves; for we have a standard by which to try ourselves; and we may examine ourselves by it without any difficulty. St. John elsewhere says, “To as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name; who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God [Note: John 1:12-13.].” Here are the very relations of which we are speaking, and the means by which we are brought into it, and the test whereby we are to try ourselves. Inquire, then, whether you have ever “received the Lord Jesus Christ” into your hearts by faith, and whether you are “living altogether by faith on him?” — — — If you have never come to Christ as lost sinners, and cast yourselves wholly upon him, you know infallibly that you are not yet brought into this relation of “sons of God.” But if Christ be “all your salvation and all your desire,” then you possess this high privilege; for “we are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus [Note: Galatians 3:26]:” and, if you look up to God for the gift of his Holy Spirit, he will shine upon his own work, and “give you his Spirit, to witness with your spirits, that you are indeed the children of God [Note: Romans 8:16.].” Again then I say, Leave not this matter in suspense; but “examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith, and try your own selves: and never rest, till you can adopt the words of our text with a special reference to your own souls.]

2. With a becoming zeal to walk worthy of this high calling—

[Certainly, this relation brings with it corresponding duties. If you are made sons of God, it is that you may serve and honour him as dear children. How this is to be done, St. Paul informs us: “Be blameless, and harmless, as sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, amongst whom ye shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life [Note: Philippians 2:15-16.].” Well, indeed, may the world cry out against your vain conceit, if you are not walking worthy of your high calling. God has called you, that you should be holy: and “if you have in you the hope of which we have been speaking, then will you purify yourselves, even as Christ is pure [Note: ver. 3.].” Look to it, then, that you walk as becometh saints, in all holiness and righteousness before God and man. By this test will you be tried at the last day; and all your professions of faith in Christ will be found a delusion, if you shew not your faith by your works. But, if God have, indeed, bestowed this honour upon you, then will his love have a constraining influence upon your souls; and you will strive to be “holy, as he is holy,” and “perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”]

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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 1 John 3:1". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

1 John 3:1. From the ἐξ αὐτοῦ γεγέννηται (chap. 1 John 2:29) the apostle goes on to the thought that he and his readers are children of God, whence he deduces the necessity that exists for them of ποιεῖν τὴν δικαιοσύνην. First, however, he points his readers to the love of God, through which they have become children of God, inviting them to the consideration of it by ἴδετε.

ποταπὴν ἀγάπην δέδωκεν ἡμῖν πατήρ] what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us. ποταπός (later form for ποδαπός, properly = from whence?) in the N. T., never in the direct question, is strictly, it is true, not = quantus, but = qualis (comp. Luke 1:29; 2 Peter 3:11), but is frequently used as an expression of admiration at anything especially wonderful (comp. Matthew 8:27; Mark 13:1; Luke 7:39), so that the meaning of qualis passes over into that of quantus; and so it is to be taken here also.

ἀγάπην διδόναι only here; διδόναι is more significant than ἐνδεικνύναι or a similar expression; it means: “to give, to bestow.” God has made His love our property (so also Braune). It is quite incorrect to take διδόναι = destinare, and, weakening the thought, ἀγάπην as metonymous for “love-token” (Grotius), or for effectum charitatis (Socinus).(190) The reference which Calvin finds in the word, when he says: quod dicit datam esse caritatem, significat: hoc merac esse liberalitatis, quod nos Deus pro filiis habet, is not indicated by John.

On ἡμῖ ν a Lapide remarks: indignis, inimicis, peccatoribus.

The name πατήρ points to the following τέκνα θεοῦ.

ἵνα τέκνα θεοῦ κληθῶ΄εν] Paulus, de Wette, Lüke, etc., retain ἵνα in its original meaning; “the greatness of the divine love,” says Lücke, “lies in the sending of the Son” (chap. 1 John 4:10). This thought is correct in itself; but the apostle is not here thinking of the sending Christ; it is therefore arbitrary to supply it; here there is in his mind only the fact that we—as believers—are called the children of God: “This is the proof and the result of love” (Spener); ἵνα is accordingly used here in modified signification, synonymous with ἐν τούτῳ ὅτι, only that by ἵνα the τέκνα θ. κληθ. is more definitely described as the purpose (not, however, as the object of an act distinguished from it) of the love of the Father; Ebrard unsuitably gives the meaning by the explanation ποτ. ἀγ. δέδωκεν ἡ΄. πατὴρ ἐν τῷ βούλεσθαι ἵνα κ. τ. λ., inasmuch as the love of God is bestowed on us, not in His will, but in the act which is the outcome of it.

καλεῖσθαι is erroneously explained by Baumgarten-Crusius = ἐξουσίαν ἔχειν γενέσθαι, John 1:12, so that the sense would be: “that we have the right to dare to call ourselves God’s children” (Neander); it is very common to take καλεῖσθαι = εἶναι, Augustin: hic non est discrimen inter dici et esse; this is so far correct as the name, which is here spoken of, inanis esse titulus non potest (Calvin), for: “where God gives a name, He always gives the nature itself along with it” (Besser); the εἶναι is included in the καλεῖσθαι; yet the very fact of being called is significant, for it is only in the name that the being is revealed, and it is through that giving of a name that the separation of believers from the world is actually accomplished. ἵνακληθῶμε ν is usually translated: “that we should be called.” Ewald adds: “at the day of judgment,” but it is not the future, but the present, that is here spoken of; κληθῶμεν is therefore not to be taken as the subj. fut., but as the subj. aor.: “that we were named, and therefore are called.” Braune would explain the apostle’s expression in this way, that being children of God is “a work only gradually accomplished, an operation;” incorrectly, for “being the children of God” is certainly “a simply stated fact;” comp. the καὶ ἐσ΄έν and 1 John 3:2. Instead of τέκνα αὐτοῦ, John says τ. θεοῦ, because he wants to state the full name itself. The view of Baumgarten-Crusius has less in its favour, that the apostle contrasted πατήρ and θεοῦ in order to indicate: “He bestowed it on us lovingly, that we should be connected with the Godhead, inasmuch as the former describes the divine will, the latter the divine nature.”

καὶ ἐσμέν, which according to the majority of authorities is scarcely a mere gloss (see the critical notes), says John in an independent form, not depending on ἵνα (the Vulgate erroneously = simus),(191) in order still more specially to bring out the element of being, which was certainly contained already in κληθῶμεν.

Not in order to comfort believers in regard to the persecutions which they have to suffer from the world (de Wette, Lücke, etc.), but to specify the contrast in which believers as τέκνα θεοῦ stand to the world, and the greatness of the love of the Father who has given them that name, the apostle continues: διὰ τοῦτο κόσμος οὐ γινώσκει ἡμᾶς] διὰ τοῦτο refers back to the preceding thought (Bengel, de Wette, Brückner, Braune); thus: therefore, because we are children of God; the following ὅτι then serves to confirm the reason why the world does not know us as children of God. It is true, διὰ τοῦτο might be also directly referred to ὅτι (Baumgarten-Crusius, also perhaps Lücke, Ewald); but with this reference the sentence would come in too disconnectedly.

With κόσμος comp. chap. 1 John 2:15.

οὐ γινώσκει means: “does not know us,” i.e. our inner nature, which we as τέκνα θεοῦ possess, is to the world something incomprehensible; to it, alienated from God, what is godly is strange and inconceivable; comp. John 14:17. Many commentators unnecessarily deviate from this proper meaning of the word; thus Grotius, who interprets it = non agnoscit pro suis; Semler = nos rejicit, reprobat; Baumgarten-Crusius = μισεῖ (“therefore the world cannot endure us, because it cannot endure Him


ὅτι οὐκ ἔγνω αὐτόν] “for it did not know Him” (namely, God or the Father); S. Schmid erroneously explains ἔγνω by: credere in Deum; Episcopius by: jussa Dei observare; John’s idea of knowledge is to be retained, as in the case of γινώσκει, so also in ἔγνω (Düsterdieck, Ebrard, Braune).

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Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on 1 John 3:1". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. 1832.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

1 John 3:1. δέδωκεν, hath given) not only hath destined and conferred, but also hath displayed.— τέκνα θεοῦ, sons of God) What is greater than God? what relationship is nearer than that of sons?κληθῶμεν, should be called) should be so, together with the title: which appears empty to the world.— διὰ τοῦτο, on this account) A consequence, as 1 John 3:13. The word, behold, is to be opposed to the world, which despises the righteous.— ἡμᾶς, us) who are like God. [But if those who have no regard for God hold thee in any account, there is reason for thee to feel alarmed about thy state.—V. g.]

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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on 1 John 3:1". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible


1 John 3:1,2 It is a mark of God’s singular love toward us, that

we are now called his sons, and designed for further

happiness hereafter,

1 John 3:3-10 and therefore we must obediently keep his commandments,

1 John 3:11-24 and love one another with true brotherly kindness and

actual beneficence.

So late mention having been made of that great thing, in the close of the foregoing chapter, being born of God, the holy apostle is here in a transport, in the contemplation of the glorious consequent privilege, to be

called his sons; and of that admirable love, from whence the whole hath proceeded.

What manner; potaphn or, how great!

Called, here, (as often referring to God as the author), signifies to be made, or to be, Matthew 5:9,45 Joh 1:12 Romans 4:17. He confers not the name without the thing; the new, even a Divine nature, 2 Peter 1:4, in regeneration; the real advantages and dignity of the relation by adoption; and all of mere (and the greatest) kindness and good-will, Titus 3:5-7. Hence he intimates, it ought not to be counted grievous, that

the world knoweth us not, i.e. doth not own or acknowledge us for its own, is not kind to us, yea, hates and persecutes us; knowing often (after the Hebrew phrase) signifying affection, 1 Corinthians 8:3 2 Timothy 2:19; and accordingly, not knowing, disaffection, and the consequent effects, Matthew 7:23. Nor should it be thought strange,

because it knew him not: the Father, and the whole family, are to it an invisum genus, hated alike.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 John 3:1". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture

1 John


1 John 3:1.

One or two points of an expository character will serve to introduce what else I have to say on these words.

The text is, I suppose, generally understood as if it pointed to the fact that we are called the sons of God as the great exemplification of the wonderfulness of His love. That is a perfectly possible view of the connection and meaning of the text. But if we are to translate with perfect accuracy we must render, not ‘that we should be called,’ but ‘in order that we should be called the sons of God.’ The meaning then is that the love bestowed is the means by which the design that we should be called His sons is accomplished. What John calls us to contemplate with wonder and gratitude is not only the fact of this marvellous love, but also the glorious end to which it has been given to us and works. There seems no reason for slurring over this meaning in favour of the more vague ‘that’ of our version. God gives His great and wonderful love in Jesus Christ, and all the gifts and powers which live in Him like fragrance in the rose. All this lavish bestowal of love, unspeakable as it is, may be regarded as having one great end, which God deems worthy of even such expenditure, namely, that men should become, in the deepest sense, His children. It is not so much to the contemplation of our blessedness in being sons, as to the devout gaze on the love which, by its wonderful process, has made it possible for us to be sons, that we are summoned here.

Again, you will find a remarkable addition to our text in the Revised Version--namely, ‘and such we are.’ Now these words come with a very great weight of manuscript authority, and of internal evidence. They are parenthetical, a kind of rapid ‘aside’ of the writer’s, expressing his joyful confidence that he and his brethren are sons of God, not only in name, but in reality. They are the voice of personal assurance, the voice of the spirit ‘by which we cry Abba, Father,’ breaking in for a moment on the flow of the sentence, like an irrepressible, glad answer to the Father’s call. With these explanations let us look at the words.

I. The love that is given.

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.

We can no more ‘behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us’ than we can look with undimmed eyes right into the middle of the sun. But we can in some measure imagine the tremendous and beneficent forces that ride forth horsed on his beams to distances which the imagination faints in trying to grasp, and reach their journey’s end unwearied and ready for their task as when it began. Here are we, ninety odd millions of miles from the centre of the system, yet warmed by its heat, lighted by its beams, and touched for good by its power in a thousand ways. All that has been going on for no one knows how many æons. How mighty the Power which produces these effects! In like manner, who can gaze into the fiery depths of that infinite Godhead, into the ardours of that immeasurable, incomparable, inconceivable love? But we can look at and measure its activities. We can see what it does, and so can, in some degree, understand it, and feel that after all we have a measure for the Immeasurable, a comparison for the Incomparable, and can thus ‘behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed on us.’

So we have to turn to the work of Christ, and especially to His death, if we would estimate the love of God. According to John’s constant teaching, that is the great proof that God loves us. The most wonderful revelation to every heart of man of the depths of that Divine heart lies in the gift of Jesus Christ. The Apostle bids me ‘behold what manner of love.’ I turn to the Cross, and I see there a love which shrinks from no sacrifice, but gives ‘Him up to death for us all.’ I turn to the Cross, and I see there a love which is evoked by no lovableness on my part, but comes from the depth of His own Infinite Being, who loves because He must, and who must because He is God. I turn to the Cross, and I see there manifested a love which sighs for recognition, which desires nothing of me but the repayment of my poor affection, and longs to see its own likeness in me. And I see there a love that will not be put away by sinfulness, and shortcomings, and evil, but pours its treasures on the unworthy, like sunshine on a dunghill. So, streaming through the darkness of eclipse, and speaking to me even in the awful silence in which the Son of Man died there for sin, I ‘behold,’ and I hear, the ‘manner of love that the Father hath bestowed upon us,’ stronger than death and sin, armed with all power, gentler than the fall of the dew, boundless and endless, in its measure measureless, in its quality transcendent--the love of God to me in Jesus Christ my Saviour.

In like manner we have to think, if we would estimate the ‘manner of this love,’ that through and in the great sacrifice of Jesus Christ there comes to us the gift of a divine life like His own. Perhaps it may be too great a refinement of interpretation; but it certainly does seem to me that that expression ‘to bestow His love upon’ us, is not altogether the same as ‘to love us,’ but that there is a greater depth in it. There may be some idea of that love itself being as it were infused into us, and not merely of its consequences or tokens being given to us; as Paul speaks of ‘the love of God shed abroad in our hearts’ by the spirit which is given to us. At all events this communication of divine life, which is at bottom divine love--for God’s life is God’s love--is His great gift to men.

Be that as it may, these two are the great tokens, consequences, and measures of God’s love to us--the gift of Christ, and that which is the sequel and outcome thereof, the gift of the Spirit which is breathed into Christian spirits. These two gifts, which are one gift, embrace all that the world needs. Christ for us and Christ in us must both be taken into account if you would estimate the manner of the love that God has bestowed upon us.

We may gain another measure of the greatness of this love if we put an emphasis--which I dare say the writer did not intend--on one word of this text, and think of the love given to ‘us,’ such creatures as we are. Out of the depths we cry to Him. Not only by the voice of our supplications, but even when we raise no call of entreaty, our misery pleads with His merciful heart, and from the heights there comes upon our wretchedness and sin the rush of this great love, like a cataract, which sweeps away all our sins, and floods us with its own blessedness and joy. The more we know ourselves, the more wonderingly and thankfully shall we bow down our hearts before Him, as we measure His mercy by our unworthiness.

From all His works the same summons echoes. They all call us to see mirrored in them His loving care. But the Cross of Christ and the gift of a Divine Spirit cry aloud to every ear in tones of more beseeching entreaty and of more imperative command to ‘behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us.’

II. Look next at the sonship which is the purpose of His given Love.

It has often been noticed that the Apostle John uses for that expression ‘the sons of God,’ another word from that which his brother Paul uses. John’s phrase would perhaps be a little more accurately translated ‘children of God,’ whilst Paul, on the other hand, very seldom says ‘children,’ but almost always says ‘sons.’ Of course the children are sons and the sons are children, but still, the slight distinction of phrase is characteristic of the men, and of the different points of view from which they speak about the same thing. John’s word lays stress on the children’s kindred nature with their father and on their immature condition.

But without dwelling on that, let us consider this great gift and dignity of being children of God, which is the object that God has in view in all the lavish bestowment of His goodness upon us.

That end is not reached by God’s making us men. Over and above that He has to send this great gift of His love, in order that the men whom He has made may become His sons. If you take the context here you will see very clearly that the writer draws a broad distinction between ‘the sons of God’ and ‘the world’ of men who do not comprehend them, and so far from being themselves sons, do not even know God’s sons when they see them. And there is a deeper and solemner word still in the context. John thinks that men {within the range of light and revelation, at all events} are divided into two families--’the children of God and the children of the devil.’ There are two families amongst men.

Thank God, the prodigal son in his rags amongst the swine, and lying by the swine-troughs in his filth and his husks, and his fever, is a son! No doubt about that! He has these three elements and marks of sonship that no man ever gets rid of: he is of a divine origin, he has a divine likeness in that he has got mind and will and spirit, and he is the object of a divine love.

The doctrine of the New Testament about the Fatherhood of God and the sonship of man does not in the slightest degree interfere with these three great truths, that all men, though the features of the common humanity may be almost battered out of recognition in them, are all children of God because He made them; that they are children of God because still there lives in them something of the likeness of the creative Father; and, blessed be His name! that they are all children of God because He loves and provides and cares for every one of them.

All that is blessedly and eternally true; but it is also true that there is a higher relation than that to which the name ‘children of God’ is more accurately given, and to which in the New Testament that name is confined. If you ask what that relation is, let me quote to you three passages in this Epistle which will answer the question. ‘Whoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God,’ that is the first; ‘Every one that doeth righteousness is born of God,’ that is the second; ‘Every one that loveth is born of God,’ that is the third. Or to put them all into one expression which holds them all, in the great words of his prologue in the first chapter of John’s Gospel you find this: ‘To as many as received Him to them gave He power to become the sons of God.’ Believing in Christ with loving trust produces, and doing righteousness and loving the brethren, as the result of that belief, prove the fact of sonship in its highest and its truest sense.

What is implied in that great word by which the Almighty gives us a name and a place as of sons and daughters? Clearly, first, a communicated life, therefore, second, a kindred nature which shall be ‘pure as He is pure,’ and, third, growth to full maturity.

This sonship, which is no mere empty name, is the aim and purpose of God’s dealings, of all the revelation of His love, and most especially of the great gift of His love in Christ. Has that purpose been accomplished in you? Have you ever looked at that great gift of love that God has given you on purpose to make you His child? If you have, has it made you one? Are you trusting to Jesus Christ, whom God has sent forth that we might receive the standing of sons in Him? Are you a child of God because a brother of that Saviour? Have you received the gift of a divine life through Him? My friend, remember the grim alternative! A child of God or a child of the devil! Bitter words, narrow words, uncharitable words--as people call them! And I believe, and therefore I am bound to say it, true words, which it concerns you to lay to heart.

III. Now, still further, let me ask you to look at the glad recognition of this sonship by the child’s heart.

I have already referred to the clause added in the Revised Version, ‘and such we are.’ As I said, it is a kind of ‘aside,’ in which John adds the Amen for himself and for his poor brothers and sisters toiling and moiling obscure among the crowds of Ephesus, to the great truth. He asserts his and their glad consciousness of the reality of the fact of their sonship, which they know to be no empty title. He asserts, too, the present possession of that sonship, realising it as a fact, amid all the commonplace vulgarities and carking cares and petty aims of life’s little day. ‘Such we are’ is the ‘Here am I, Father,’ of the child answering the Father’s call, ‘My Son.’

He turns doctrine into experience. He is not content with merely having the thought in his creed, but his heart clasps it, and his whole nature responds to the great truth. I ask you, do you do that? Do not be content with hearing the truth, or even with assenting to it, and believing it in your understandings. The truth is nothing to you, unless you have made it your very own by faith. Do not be satisfied with the orthodox confession. Unless it has touched your heart and made your whole soul thrill with thankful gladness and quiet triumph, it is nothing to you. The mere belief of thirty-nine or thirty-nine thousand Articles is nothing; but when a man has a true heart-faith in Him, whom all articles are meant to make us know and love, then dogma becomes life, and the doctrine feeds the soul. Does it do so with you, my brother? Can you say, ‘And such we are?’

Take another lesson. The Apostle was not afraid to say ‘I know that I am a child of God.’ There are many very good people, whose tremulous, timorous lips have never ventured to say ‘I know.’ They will say, ‘Well, I hope,’ or sometimes, as if that was not uncertain enough, they will put in an adverb or two, and say, ‘I humbly hope that I am.’ It is a far robuster kind of Christianity, a far truer one, ay, and a humbler one too, that throws all considerations of my own character and merits, and all the rest of that rubbish, clean behind me, and when God says, ‘My son!’ says ‘My Father;’ and when God calls us His children, leaps up and gladly answers, ‘And we are!’ Do not be afraid of being too confident, if your confidence is built on God, and not on yourselves; but be afraid of being too diffident, and be afraid of having a great deal of self-righteousness masquerading under the guise of such a profound consciousness of your own unworthiness that you dare not call yourself a child of God. It is not a question of worthiness or unworthiness. It is a question, in the first place, and mainly, of the truth of Christ’s promise and the sufficiency of Christ’s Cross; and in a very subordinate degree of anything belonging to you.

IV. We have here, finally, the loving and devout gaze upon this wonderful love. ‘Behold,’ at the beginning of my text, is not the mere exclamation which you often find both in the Old and in the New Testaments, which is simply intended to emphasise the importance of what follows, but it is a distinct command to do the thing, to look, and ever to look, and to look again, and live in the habitual and devout contemplation of that infinite and wondrous love of God.

I have but two remarks to make about that, and the one is this, that such a habit of devout and thankful meditation upon the love of God, as manifested in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and the consequent gift of the Divine Spirit, joined with the humble, thankful conviction that I am a child of God thereby, lies at the foundation of all vigorous and happy Christian life. How can a thing which you do not touch with your hands and see with your eyes produce any effect upon you, unless you think about it? How can a religion which can only influence through thought and emotion do anything in you, or for you, unless you occupy your thoughts and your feelings with it? It is sheer nonsense to suppose it possible. Things which do not appeal to sense are real to us, and indeed we may say, are at all for us, only as we think about them. If you had a dear friend in Australia, and never thought about him, he would even cease to be dear, and it would be all one to you as if he were dead. If he were really dear to you, you would think about him. We may say {though, of course, there are other ways of looking at the matter} that, in a very intelligible sense, the degree in which we think about Christ, and in Him behold the love of God, is a fairly accurate measure of our Christianity.

Now will you apply that sharp test to yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that, and decide how much of your life was pagan, and how much of it was Christian? You will never make anything of your professed Christianity, you will never get a drop of happiness or any kind of good out of it; it will neither be a strength nor a joy nor a defence to you unless you make it your habitual occupation to ‘behold the manner of love’; and look and look and look until it warms and fills your heart.

The second remark is that we cannot keep that great sight before the eye of our minds without effort. You will have very resolutely to look away from something else if, amid all the dazzling gauds of earth, you are to see the far-off lustre of that heavenly love. Just as timorous people in a thunder-storm will light a candle that they may not see the lightning, so many Christians have their hearts filled with the twinkling light of some miserable tapers of earthly care and pursuits, which, though they be dim and smoky, are bright enough to make it hard to see the silent depths of Heaven, though it blaze with a myriad stars. If you hold a sixpence close enough up to the pupil of your eye, it will keep you from seeing the sun. And if you hold the world close to mind and heart, as many of you do, you will only see, round the rim of it, the least tiny ring of the overlapping love of God. What the world lets you see you will see, and the world will take care that it will let you see very little--not enough to do you any good, not enough to deliver you from its chains. Wrench yourselves away, my brethren, from the absorbing contemplation of Birmingham jewellery and paste, and look at the true riches. If you have ever had some glimpses of that wondrous love, and have ever been drawn by it to cry, ‘Abba, Father,’ do not let the trifles which belong not to your true inheritance fill your thoughts, but renew the vision, and by determined turning away of your eyes from beholding vanity, look off from the things that are seen, that you may gaze upon the things that are not seen, and chiefest among them, upon the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

If you have never looked on that love, I beseech you now to turn aside and see this great sight. Do not let that brightness burn unnoticed while your eyes are fixed on the ground, like the gaze of men absorbed in gold digging, while a glorious sunshine is flushing the eastern sky. Look to the unspeakable, incomparable, immeasurable love of God, in giving up His Son to death for us all. Look and be saved. Look and live. ‘Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed on you,’ and, beholding, you will become the sons and daughters of the Lord God Almighty.

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MacLaren, Alexander. "Commentary on 1 John 3:1". Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

Upon us; who have received Christ through faith. John 1:12; Knew him not; did not understand his true character. In making guilty, polluted rebels and heirs of endless perdition holy-not merely servants but children, heirs of God, and partakers of endless life and glory-the grace of God surpasses all finite conception, and will be a theme of adoring praises from multitudes that no man can number, for ever and ever.

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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on 1 John 3:1". "Family Bible New Testament". American Tract Society. 1851.

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

1. ποταπήν. The same word occurs Matthew 8:27; Mark 13:1; Luke 1:29; Luke 7:39; 2 Peter 3:11 : it always implies astonishment, and generally admiration. The radical signification is ‘of what country,’ the Latin cujas; which, however, is never used as its equivalent in the Vulgate, because in N.T. the word has entirely lost the notion of place. It has become qualis rather than cujas: ‘what amazing love’. In LXX. the word does not occur.

ἀγάπην. This is the key-word of this whole division of the Epistle (1 John 2:29 to 1 John 5:12), in which it occurs 16 times as a substantive, 25 as a verb, and 5 times in the verbal adjective ἀγαπητοί. Here it is represented almost as something concrete, a gift which could be actually seen. S. John does not use his favourite interjection (ἴδε ὁ ἀμνὸς τ. Θεοῦ, ἴδε ὁ ἄνθρωπος, κ.τ.λ.), but the plural of the imperative, ἴδετε. Ἀγάπην δίδοναι occurs nowhere else in N.T.

ἡμῖν ὁ πατήρ. The words are in emphatic proximity: on us sinners the Father hath bestowed this boon. Quid majus quam Deus? quae propior necessitudo quam filialis? (Bengel.) Comp. ἔσομαι αὐτῷ Θεός, καὶ αὐτὸς ἔσται μοι υἱός (Revelation 21:7). Ὁ Πατήρ rather than ὁ Θεός because of what follows. [691] reads ὑμῖν for ἡμῖν and has some support in inferior authorities, but it can hardly be right. The confusion between ὑμ. and ἡμ. is easily made and is very frequent even in the best MSS.

ἵνα τ. Θεοῦ κληθ. S. John’s characteristic construction, as in 1 John 1:9. “The final particle has its full force” (Westcott). This was the purpose of His love, its tendency and direction. Winer, 575. Comp. 1 John 3:11; 1 John 3:23; 1 John 4:21; John 13:34; John 15:12; John 15:17. Καλεῖσθαι “is especially used of titles of honour, which indicate the possession of a certain dignity: see Matthew 5:9; Luke 1:76; 1 John 3:1” (Winer, 769). With R.V. we must render τέκνα Θεοῦ children of God, not with A.V. and earlier Versions, ‘the sons of God’. There is no article; and we must not confuse S. Paul’s υἱοὶ Θεοῦ with S. John’s τέκνα Θεοῦ. Both Apostles tell us that the fundamental relation of Christians to God is a filial one: but while S. Paul gives us the legal side (adoption), S. John gives us the natural side (generation). To us the latter is the closer relationship of the two. But we must remember that in the Roman Law, under which S. Paul lived, adoption was considered as absolutely equivalent to actual parentage. In this ‘unique apostrophe’ in the centre of the Epistle two of its central leading ideas meet, Divine love and Divine sonship; a love which has as its end and aim that men should be called children of God. Note that Θεοῦ, as Θεόν in 1 John 4:12, has no article. This shews that it is the idea of Divinity that is prominent rather than the relation to ourselves. The meaning is that we are children of One who is not human but Divine, rather that we are related to One who is our God. See on 1 John 4:12.

After ‘children of God’ we must insert on overwhelming authority ([692][693][694][695] and Versions), and we are: God has allowed us to be called children, and we are children. The simus of the Vulgate and S. Augustine and the ‘and be’ of the Rhemish are probably wrong. Tyndale, Beza, and the Genevan omit. The present indicative after ἵνα is not impossible (John 17:3; 1 Corinthians 4:6; Galatians 4:17 : Winer, 362): but would S. John have put κληθῶμεν in the subjunctive and ἐσμέν in the indicative, if both were dependent upon ἵνα? With καὶ ἐσμέν here comp. καὶ ἔσται in 2 John 1:2. It is in this passage with the true reading that we have something like proof that Justin Martyr knew this Epistle. In the Dial. c. Try. (CXXIII.) he has καὶ Θεοῦ τέκνα ἀληθινὰ καλούμεθα καὶ ἐσμέν.

διὰ τοῦτο. For this cause, as R.V., reserving ‘therefore’ as the rendering of οὖν, a particle which is very frequent in the narrative portions of the Gospel, but which does not occur anywhere in this Epistle. In 1 John 2:24 and 1 John 4:19 οὖν is a false reading. Tyndale, Cranmer, the Genevan and the Rhemish all have ‘for this cause’: the A.V., as not unfrequently, has altered for the worse. It may be doubted whether the R.V. has not here altered the punctuation for the worse, in putting a full stop at ‘we are.’ Διὰ τοῦτο in S. John does not merely anticipate the ὅτι which follows; it refers to what precedes. ‘We are children of God; and for this cause the world knows us not: because the world knew Him not.’ The third sentence explains how the second sentence follows from the first. In logical phraseology we might say that the conclusion is placed between the two premises. Comp. John 5:16; John 5:18; John 7:22; John 8:47; John 10:17; John 12:18; John 12:27; John 12:39. For ‘the world’ see on 1 John 2:2. S. Augustine compares the attitude of the world towards God to that of sick men in delirium who would do violence to their physician. After the experiences of the persecutions under Nero and Domitian this statement of the Apostle would come home with full force to his readers. The persecution under Domitian was possibly just beginning at the very time that this First Epistle was written. Comp. John 15:19. All spiritual forces are unintelligible and offensive to ‘the world.’ For οὐκ ἔγνω see on 1 John 4:8.

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"Commentary on 1 John 3:1". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary


The Apostle breaks out in the Opening of this Chapter, into a devout Strain of Admiration and Praise, in the Contemplation of the Love of God. He draws a Line of Discrimination between the Children of God, and the Children of the Devil. Some very sweet Proofs are given of the Character of God's Children.

1 John 3:1

Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.

Every word is a sermon. Every expression riseth with increasing glory, in this sweet verse. The mind of John appears to have been overwhelmed in the contemplation, and he knew not how to express himself, when calling into view the love of God the Father. Behold! saith he, mark the astonishing mercy, both in the love of God, as it is in itself, and the manner of it, as it is shewn to us; that we poor creatures, born in the Adam-nature of sin, should be called the sons of God! From everlasting having chosen us, and chosen us in Christ, his dear Son, given us to Jesus, predestinated us to the adoption of children to himself in Jesus, called us by his grace in Jesus, and accepted us in Jesus, and called us sons of God in Jesus! Oh! what love, yea, what manner of love is here?

And the subject is still heightened, from contemplating the discriminating nature of it; Therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. There is nothing which, under grace, tends to bring home the love of God to the soul, in an overwhelming tide of special manifestation, as when that love is marked to our view in the high flood of distinguishing mercy. The election of grace, shown in our effectual calling, and that at a time when the whole world lieth in wickedness, gives it the full conviction of God's sovereignty. The world looks on. The world hears the account. The world stands in a state of consternation at what is related. But, all the while, the world is as ignorant of the children of the covenant, as they are of the Lord's design in the covenant. Oh! how striking are the words of Jesus to this effect. Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven; but to them it is not given; Matthew 12:11. And hence the Prophet, Ah! Lord God, they say of me, doth he not speak parables? Ezekiel 20:49.

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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 1 John 3:1". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". 1828.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

1. Behold—As if a new vision of the glory of our sonship, present and future, beamed on the apostle’s sight.

Manner—Style or nature. Not only is that love wonderful in amount, but it is most extraordinary in quality, working a strangely glorious transformation in and of us.

Of love—He beholds that sonship in the full glory of its source, the divine love.

Called—In the dialect of God, of heaven, and, therefore, of truth.

Sons— Literally, children. We were once generated as children of nature; we are regenerated as children of God. But this regeneration is as yet in commencement; is secret within us until its revelation in the resurrection, when the transformation will be complete and all-glorious. And our being divinely so-called is an acknowledgment of our sonship by the Father, who thereby adopts us as his and gives us the spirit of adoption, crying, Abba! Father! To this, the best reading, add, and we are. That is, not only are we so called, but we truly are the children of God. Therefore corresponds to because, indicating that the latter clause, knew him not, gives the reason for knoweth us not.

Knoweth us not—The Christian looks like anybody else; no gleam of divine glory gives token of his divine nobility to the eye of the world.

Knew him not—Even the Nicolaitan Gnostic, who so calls himself—that is, a knower, because he “knows God”—knew him not, and so recognises not us as his children.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 John 3:1". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

‘Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world knows us not, because it knew him not.

The thought of being begotten by Christ now raises John to adoration in the face of such a glorious truth. See, he says, what kind of love the Father has bestowed on us. He has not only called us children of God, but actually made us so through Christ’s begetting. We truly are His children, begotten of Christ, begotten of God. Such was His love freely bestowed on us. And that is why the world does not acknowledge us or know us, for it also failed to acknowledge and know Him in Christ (John 1:10-11). The next section reveals more of why this is. The world is lawless and therefore rejects those who are true children of God and introduce the law of love.

‘Behold.’ This is an unusual use of ‘behold’ for usually when it is used something visible is to be seen. And yet John might well have felt that there was something visible to look at, the children of God to whom he was writing and those in his own church grouping. ‘Look’, he might be saying, ‘at all the children of God that there are, these doers of righteousness in a sinful world (1 John 2:29). And this is what God has done.’

‘Behold what manner of love.’ For ‘what manner of’ compare Matthew 8:27 where it is asked concerning Jesus, ‘what manner of man is this?’ Or 2 Peter 3:11 where the question is, ‘what manner of persons you ought to be.’ Thus it contains the idea of quality, of superiority. Who has known love like this in its greatness and its splendour? Who else could ever have done such a thing? This is the first direct reference in the letter to the Father’s love for us (but see 1 John 2:15), although what has gone before has revealed His love. John is now moving on to expound on God’s love.

‘The Father has bestowed on us.’ Note first that it is the love of the Father. He Who is over all, the great Giver, Who gives rain to the just and the unjust, has bestowed on us who belong to Him His love. It is a wonderful gift, yet not merited, not earned, but freely bestowed as from a great King to His subjects, and it is selective, it is bestowed only on those who believe on Him, who look to Him for salvation, who become His true spiritually-born children.

And note secondly that this great love of the Father is bestowed on us. It is ours, not through our having earned it, not through our having deserved it by any means, but because in His gracious love He has bestowed it as a gift. And because of it we do not love the world (1 John 2:15).

‘That we should be called children of God; and such we are.’ There are two points here, that we are called children of God, and that we really are children of God. The calling of us as children is the act of naming. It is a public demonstration of God’s favour before all beings. The world may not notice but the angels look on at the naming ceremony and wonder. These puny mortals have become the Father’s children.

But even more wonderful is that it is actually true. ‘And such we are.’ The Father has begotten us to Himself. He has imparted His seed (1 John 3:9), He has given us new life, He has planned for us a glorious future with Him.

John never speaks of us as sons (huios) of God. That term is reserved for Jesus. He alone is the unique Son. He alone is of the same essence. But through His working within us we become His children, and in a secondary sense ‘partakers of the divine nature’ (2 Peter 1:4). It alters our attitudes, it alters our aims, it delivers us from the world because we see everything differently (1 John 2:15-16; 2 Peter 1:4). It makes us seek after righteousness, for that has become our nature.

‘For this reason the world knows us not, because it knew Him not.’ But the world is oblivious of our privilege. It does not know. And it does not want to know. It deliberately closes its eyes and heart to God’s children. And why? Because it rejects all that is from God. It turns its eyes from such things. It knows Him not because it rejects His revelation of Himself in creation and in conscience (Romans 1:18-25; Romans 2:14-16). And most of all because it does not acknowledge the One He sent (John 1:9-11). It is blind and in darkness, and yet at the same time giving the impression that it wants to find Him. But it wants Him on its own terms, as One Who is subject to its own opinions and its own ideas. It does not want light, it does not want to have done with sin. That is why it would welcome the false teachers.

But those who do receive Him are blessed indeed. They are begotten of God (John 1:12-13). They become His true children, born from above by the Spirit of God. But the remainder reject the light. They do not want it. And they continue not to want it.

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 1 John 3:1". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

The Holy Spirit"s production of righteous behavior in abiding Christians is evidence of God"s great love for us. John used love language more frequently in1John (46 times) and in his Gospel (44times) than any other New Testament writer. Paul used it third most frequently in Ephesians (20 times). [Note: See Yarbrough, pp174-75 for a graph and a table of the occurrences in all the New Testament books.] Scripture calls us God"s children (Gr. tekna) because that is what He has made us. The name simply expresses the reality.

"The thought here is of the community of nature with the prospect of development (teknon, comp. 2 Peter 1:4), and not of the position of privilege (huios)." [Note: Westcott, p96.]

John never used the title huios, " Song of Solomon ," to describe the relation of Christians to God. He reserved huios to describe the relation of Jesus to God (cf. 1 John 3:2; 1 John 3:10; 1 John 5:2).

Unbelievers cannot fully comprehend the children of God. The reason for this lack of perception is their failure to comprehend God fully. Since they do not "know" the Parent they do not "know" the children (cf. John 1:12-13; John 5:37; John 7:28; John 16:3).

"The author wants his readers to know that approval by the world is to be feared, not desired. To be hated by the world may be unpleasant, but ultimately it should reassure the members of the community of faith that they are loved by God, which is far more important than the world"s hatred." [Note: Barker, p330.]

". . . the world hates the children of God ( 1 John 3:13), just as it hated Jesus ( John 15:18 f.), since they do not belong to the world. This very fact is a further proof that the readers are children of God: the way in which the world does not recognize them as being on its side is proof that they belong to God." [Note: Marshall, p171.]

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 John 3:1". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

1 John 3:1. Behold! as an exclamation, and thus standing alone, occurs only here. It is the tranquil expression of adoring wonder. What manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us: this expression also is peculiar. It is the kind of love that is meant, not its greatness, nor its unmerited goodness. The gift of love, nowhere else said to be given, should not be limited in meaning to demonstration or proof or token: it is love itself which is made ours; and as this gift is hereafter bound up with the mission of the Son, being indeed jealously restrained to the atonement as its channel, we must needs think here of that, though unexpressed. ‘Herein is love.’

That we should be called children of God; and such we are. ‘God’ indeed ‘so loved the world,’ ‘in order that whosoever believeth should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ But that purpose of mercy to the world is actually reached in believers; and the design (‘that’ means ‘in order that’) in their case can hardly be distinguished from the result. Still, the design is uppermost; and the apostle would have chosen another form of expression if he had meant only the great love shown in our being called sons. Observe, however, that ‘sons’ is not used, but ‘children;’ St. Paul uses the former in the same connection, but St. John limits it to One. Note also the manifest distinction between the ‘being called’ and the ‘being’ children: good authorities support the addition to the text of ‘such we are,’ the change of tense simply marking the emphasis of the distinction. Although in the Hebrew idiom ‘to be called’ and ‘to be’ mean one and the same thing, a careful examination will show that there is a slight shade of difference. Even in the supreme instance, ‘He shall be called the Son of God,’ the Incarnate who ‘is’ eternally the Son is ‘called’ such with special reference to His relation to us. St. Paul expresses the distinction as adoption and renewal: the latter signifying the restoration of the Divine image, the former its accompanying privileges of liberty and inheritance. St. John himself illustrates his own meaning in the Gospel: ‘To them gave He privilege to become the children of God, who were born not of blood but of God.’ But the one cannot exist without the other. The two unite in the Christian sonship, an estate which has a glorious expansion and development in time and in eternity: the development of regeneration being into the perfect image of the Saviour’s holiness, that of adoption being into the full enjoyment of the eternal inheritance. To this the apostle now proceeds; but, before doing so, he adds a reflection in harmony with his meditative style.

For this cause the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. So far as this is a parenthesis, it is easily explained. The apostle’s mind is still occupied with the unanointed world of the last chapter, and he is about to return to it almost immediately: hence the echo of the past and the anticipation of the future. But it is not strictly a parenthesis. It is the writer’s manner to think and write in contrasts: known of God, we are unknown to the world. ‘For this cause’ gives the more general reason: because our new birth is a mystery of Divine gift and grace, the world, not having this gift, understands it not. ‘The natural man knoweth not the things of the Spirit;’ and this secret of regeneration is beyond the search of the unregenerate faculty: life alone understands life. The second ‘because’ gives a profounder reason for the former reason itself. ‘It knew Him not’ points to the world’s rejection of the Father manifested in His Son as one great act of wilful ignorance at the time of the incarnation, which is still continued. The world’s ignorance of God has assumed a new character. ‘O righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee,’ the Lord said on the eve of His final rejection. He added, ‘But these have known that Thou didst send Me.’ And again He said, ‘If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you.’ The ground of the world’s negative inability to understand the children of God and positive hatred of them is its rejection of their Lord.

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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 1 John 3:1". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". 1879-90.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

1 John 3:1. St. John has been speaking of the salvation which Jesus has brought—His Propitiation and Advocacy, and he sees and would have his readers see in it an amazing expression of the love of God. Cf. John 3:16. ποταπός ( ποδαπός), properly cujas, “of what country,” though approximating in late Greek to ποῖος, qualis, “of what sort” (cf. Moulton, Gram, of N.T. Gk., i. p. 95), retains something of its proper and original signification. The love of God in Christ is foreign to this world: “from what far realm? what unearthly love?” Cf. Matthew 8:27 : “What unearthly personage?” 2 Peter 3:11 : “How other-worldly”. ἵνα, κ. τ. λ., the purpose of this amazing gift; a wise, holy love, concerned for our highest good; not simply that we may be saved from suffering and loss but “in order that we may be styled ‘children of God’ ”. And we have not only the name but the character: “so we are”. Vulg. and Aug. give simus, as though reading ὦμεν for ἐσμὲν: “that we should be styled and be”. Cf. Aug.: “Nam qui vocantur et non sunt, quid illis prodest nomen ubi res non est? Quam multi vocantur medici, qui curare non norunt? quam multi vocantur vigiles, qui tota nocte dormiunt?” διὰ τοῦτο, not anticipative, of ὅτι, but retrospective: “for this reason,” viz., because we are children of God. ὅτι explains the inference: “(and no wonder) because it did not recognise Him,” i.e. the Father as revealed in His Son (cf. note on 1 John 2:29). We must accept what our high dignity as children of God involves in a world alienated from God. On κόσμος see note on 1 John 2:15. Cf. Aug.: “Jam cum auditis mundum in mala significatione, non intelligatis nisi dilectores mundi.… Ambulabat et ipse Dominus Jesus Christus, in carne erat Deus, latebat in infirmitate. Et unde non est cognitus? Quia omnia peccata arguebat in hominibus. Illi amando delectationes peccatorum non agnoscebant Deum: amando quod febris suadebat, injuriam medico faciebant.”

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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 1 John 3:1". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

1 John 3:1. The apostle, in the last verse of the preceding chapter, having declared that every one who worketh righteousness is born of God, begins the chapter with an exclamation expressive of his high admiration of the love of God in calling them his children, although they are not acknowledged to be such by the men of the world, because carnal men have no just notion of the character of God. Behold what manner — The word ποταπην, thus rendered, signifies both how great, and what kind; of love — Love immense, condescending, and kind, compassionate, forgiving, patient, forbearing, sanctifying, comforting, enriching, exalting, and beautifying, the Father — Of universal nature, of men and angels, and of our Lord Jesus Christ; hath bestowed on us — Fallen and depraved creatures, sinful, guilty, and dying; that we should be called sons, ( τεκνα, children,) of God — Should be accounted, acknowledged, and treated by him as such; should be brought so near, and rendered so dear to him; should have free access to him, as children to a father, and be taken under his peculiar direction, protection, and care, and constituted his heirs, and joint-heirs with his only-begotten and beloved Son: and all this on the easy condition of turning to him, in repentance, faith, and new obedience. Therefore the world — The carnal and worldly part of mankind; knoweth us not — Is not acquainted with our true character, our principles and practices, our disposition and behaviour, our present privileges and future expectations; and therefore does not acknowledge us for what we really are, nor esteem and love us, but hates and persecutes us; because it knew him not — God’s eternal and only-begotten Son, through whom we have received the adoption, but accounted him a sinner, an impostor, and a blasphemer, and crucified him as such. As if he had said, Since the enmity of carnal men against the divine will, and the divine nature, is so great that Christ himself, the image of the invisible God, inhabited by the fulness of the Deity, was unknown and hated when he dwelt in the flesh, it is no wonder that we are hated also in those respects in which we resemble him. Nevertheless,

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 John 3:1". Joseph Benson's Commentary. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Behold what manner of charity (or of love) the Father hath bestowed upon us. St. John had said in the last verse of the foregoing chapter that every one who doth justice, is born of him; i.e. is the son of God by adoption. But the world knoweth us not, nor esteems and values us as such: and no wonder, because they have not known, nor acknowledged, nor reverenced God as they ought. We indeed are the sons of God; we believe it, because God has assured us of it; but it hath not yet appeared what we shall be, (ver. 2) to what glory or happiness we shall thereby be exalted hereafter, for neither eye hath seen, nor the ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for those who love him. (1 Corinthians ix. 2.) We only know this, that his elect shall be like to him, because they shall see him as he is, when they shall enjoy him in heaven. (Witham)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on 1 John 3:1". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

Behold. App-133. Plural.

love. App-135.

Father. App-98.

bestowed upon = given to.

that = in order that. Greek. hina.

sons = children. App-108.

God. App-98. All the texts add, "and we are (so)".

therefore = on account of (App-104. 1 John 3:2) this.

world. App-129.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on 1 John 3:1". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.

Behold - calling attention to something wonderful, little as the world sees to admire. This verse is connected with 1 John 2:29. All our doing of righteousness is a mere sign that God, of His matchless love, has adopted us as children: it does not save us, but indicates that we are saved of His grace.

What manner of - how surpassingly gracious on His part, how precious to us!

Love ... bestowed. He does not say that God hath given us some gift, but love itself, the fountain of all blessings; not for our works, but of His grace (Luther).

That , [ hina (Greek #2443)] - resulting in. The effect aimed at in the bestowal of His love is, 'that we should be called children of God.'

Should be called - should have such a glorious title (imaginary as it seems to the world), along with the glorious reality. With God to call is to make really. Who so great as God? What nearer relationship than that of sons? 'Aleph (') A B C, Vulgate, add, 'And we ARE so' really.

Therefore - because 'we are (really) so.

Us - the children, like the Father.

It knew him not - namely, the Father. 'If they who regard not God hold thee in any account, feel alarmed about thy state' (Bengel). Contrast 1 John 5:1. The world's whole course is one great act of non-recognition of God.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 John 3:1". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

The Bible Study New Testament

The Father has loved us! Christ-on-the-cross is the declaration of God's love for us (John 3:16)!!! "See how much the Father has loved us Jews and Gentiles who do what is right (1 John 2:29)! We are God's children!" This is why. "The world knows the children of the pagan gods, but the world will not admit that we are God's children, because the world does not know God! The world does not understand the nature and character of God!"

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Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on 1 John 3:1". "The Bible Study New Testament". College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

The Love that Confers Sonship

Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God: and such we are.—1 John 3:1.

1. St. John writes this Epistle on the highest peak of the sunlit summits of God’s new revelation in Jesus Christ. The Epistle is full of brightness. Every sentence tingles, and pulses, and throbs with the joy of the daylight, and flashes back the glory in streaming brightness to heaven. “A new commandment write I unto you,” so the music flows on, “because the darkness is passing away, and the true light already shineth.” How John basks and revels in the sunlight! Light streams everywhere around him. “God is light.” “The light is shining.” “We walk in the light, even as he is in the light.” What has happened? The Dayspring has appeared from on high. The Sun of Righteousness has risen upon the world with healing in His beams. And then John sees the eternal light mirror itself on the clouded sky of this world in an arch of holy beauty, and his music grows soft and sweet as he sings, “God is love. Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God.”1 [Note: J. Thomas, Myrtle Street Pulpit, iii. 323.]

The Missionary Ziegenbalg tells us that in translating this text with the aid of a Hindu youth, the youth rendered it “that we should be allowed to kiss His feet.” When asked why he thus diverged from the text he said, “‘Children of God!’ that is too much—too high!” Such shrinking was excusable in heathen converts, to whom these truths came in a burst of light too dazzling for their weak eyes. It is not excusable in us. In us it involves nothing less than a denial of the faith which is the sole source of that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.2 [Note: F. W. Farrar, Truths to Live By, 188.]

2. The Apostle uses the word “children,” not “sons” as in the Authorized Version. He would call attention, not as St. Paul, who uses “sons,” to the adoptive act, but to the antecedent, eternal, natural relation. God has freely given us His love, in order that our title may be children of God—and, in the true reading, he adds, “and such we are.” Children we now are, in recognized name, in real fact; what we shall be hereafter we know not; but that shall be manifested in due time; and when it is manifested, then, beloved, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. When we wake up after His likeness, we shall be satisfied with it. The image which we now bear shall become the perfect semblance. We shall be like clouds, cradled near the sun, dyed, bathed, transfused with its glowing beams; their lurid menace softened, their darkness palpitating with reflected splendour—their very substance transformed from gloom to whiteness, from whiteness to crimson, from crimson to gold, from gold to sunbeams—changed into the same image, from glory to glory.

Oh! how shall I, whose native sphere

Is dark, whose mind is dim,

Before the Ineffable appear,

And on my naked spirit bear

That uncreated beam?

There is a way for man to rise

To that sublime abode:

An offering and a sacrifice,

A Holy Spirit’s energies,

An Advocate with God.

These, these prepare us for the sight

Of Holiness above;

The sons of ignorance and night

May dwell in the Eternal Light!

Through the Eternal Love.1 [Note: Thomas Binney.]


The Wonder of the Father’s Love

1. God’s love is original and spontaneous. Love is that mysterious power by which we live in the lives of others, and are thus moved to benevolent and even self-sacrificing action on their behalf. Such love is, after all, one of the most universal things in humanity. But always natural human love is a flame that must be kindled and fed by some quality in its object. It finds its stimulus in physical instinct, in gratitude, in admiration, in mutual congeniality and liking. Always it is, in the first place, a passive emotion, determined and drawn forth by an external attraction. But the love of God is an ever-springing fountain. Its fires are self-kindled. It is love that shines forth in its purest splendour upon the unattractive, the unworthy, the repellent. Herein is love, in its purest essence and highest potency, not in our love to God, but in this, that God loved us. Hence follows the apparently paradoxical consequence, upon which the Epistle lays a unique emphasis, that our love to God is not even the most godlike manifestation of love in us. It is gratitude for His benefits, adoration of His perfections, our response to God’s love to us, but not its closest reproduction in kind. In this respect, indeed, God’s love to man and man’s love to God form the opposite poles, as it were, of the universe of love, the one self-created and owing nothing to its object, the other entirely dependent upon and owing everything to the infinite perfection of its object; the one the overarching sky, the other merely its reflection on the still surface of the lake. And it is, as the Epistle insists, not in our love to God, but in our Christian love to our fellow-men, that the Divine love is reproduced, with a relative perfection, in us.

In my old parish there was a little loch in the midst of the forest, and I was fond of visiting it. Its chief attraction for me was the multitude of wild birds which peopled its banks and islets; and once I observed a novelty. I had been accustomed to see there all manner of familiar water-fowl—coot, ducks, swans; but that evening I noticed others such as I had never seen before—birds of brilliant plumage, crimson, blue, and glossy green. And I recognized them as strangers from another clime than ours, from some far-off land where the air is warmer and the sun shines brighter and paints everything in gaudier hues. I said: “These are no natives: they are foreign birds”; and I learned by and by that they had been imported from Africa.

And this is precisely the thought in the Apostle’s mind. “That love,” he says, “the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, is a love which never sprang from earth’s cold soil. It is from some far-off region; it is from Heaven itself. Behold what unearthly love the Father hath bestowed upon us!”1 [Note: D. Smith, Man’s Need of God, 139.]

2. In the Apostle’s eulogy of love we find his memories of Jesus crystallized. To St. John the love of God was something more than wonderful. He was now a hoary-headed saint. He had laid his head in his youth on Jesus’ bosom, and was beginning to realize the love of God in Christ even then. Even then, as he looked up into those human eyes, the reality of God’s love had flowed into his consciousness. But there was more to be known than he knew at the supper table. As he stood by the cross, it may be that in those moments, when faith triumphed, the love of God became still more a reality. As he gathered with that little chosen band round the Person of the risen Lord, and saw that Face radiant with resurrection glory, the love of God was already a stronger power within his being. As the mighty Spirit at Pentecost came down and shook the house, and filled their hearts, and as he himself, as one of the first missionaries, went forth to tell the glad tidings of great joy, the love of God had already begun to be a stronger power within him still. Now, his head is hoary, the winter of age has gathered round him, life is fast receding, the world is disappearing, and eternity is drawing near. But it would seem that in each fresh step of his human career he had attained a fresh revelation of this Divine object, and now, in his last days, he calls upon all the world to gaze upon it, as if it were the most attractive of all spectacles. “Behold,” he says, as though he would fain draw aside the curtain of unbelief, and reveal to man that which man most requires to know,—“Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us.”

The phrase which the Apostle employs is remarkable—“love the Father hath given to us.” Not the love the Father hath felt, or manifested toward us, but the love He hath given to us. It reminds us of another remarkable passage in the Gospel of this same Apostle. “God so loved the world that he gave—He gave—his only begotten Son.” As John began writing this sentence, “Behold what manner of love,” it would seem that the love gathered shape and form before his mind, embodied itself in the form of the incarnate Son. It refused to remain an abstract conception, a mere principle. It took shape, it became the incarnate love,—God’s unspeakable gift to man. And so John finished his sentence thus, “the Father hath given to us.” And then there was another thought that would suggest the word “give.” There was another way in which the Divine love was embodied before the eye of John. John saw that love embodied in the distinction, the honour, the glory conferred on those that believe in Jesus Christ. He saw the Divine love in the love-gift, the glorious bounty of God towards those who believe in Jesus Christ. And so John declares that the believer’s title to power and honour is God’s love-gift, the gift of His free love. You cannot go behind that love for an explanation. It is the gift of God’s free elective love.1 [Note: J. Thomas, Myrtle Street Pulpit, iii. 328.]

3. The love of God finds its type and shadow in the love of parents for their children. There is no love that we understand so well as a parent’s love. It is the first love we know, and every day of our early years gave us fresh and sweet illustrations of it. There is no love so pure, so disinterested, so unselfish. The affections of friendship and wedded life are strong, tender, passionate, and fervent, but in them there is always a more or less selfish joy. We get as much as we give. The parent’s love for a little child looks for no return. It is unlimited, uncalculating grace. It is given freely before there can be the least thought or ability to reciprocate it. It is given to helplessness, feebleness, ignorance, incapacity. It is an immense delight in that which has nothing to commend itself. It is an unbounded joy in that which by ordinary reason should evoke only pity. It is a holy sentiment which sets at nought literal fact and common sense. There is no logic in it. It has no apparent cause. It is inexplicable. It is one of the great mysteries of life. We should not believe it possible if we had never seen it; yet it is everywhere, and it is everywhere a symbol of the Divine, a proof of the Divine. The love of the Almighty for us is wonderful. It is well-nigh incredible. But there it is! “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God.”

I have a formidable book in my library which contains an elaborate treatise on Divine love. It is wonderfully clever. It soars through all the heights of metaphysics, and dives through all the deeps of mysticism; but though you are pursuing Divine love all the way you seem to lose it more and more in thick clouds of words, and at last give it up in despair. It is a wonderful relief then to come upon such words as these (you have not to wear the brain to tatters in comprehending them): “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God.” God’s greatness we cannot grasp, God’s wisdom is unsearchable, but God’s love is something that any heart can hold and any mind picture. It is higher than the heavens and deeper than all seas, yet it is so homely and so human and so near that to realize it you have but to take some dear child of your own upon your knees, and express in tender kisses what you are to that child and what the child is to you.1 [Note: J. G. Greenhough, The Cross in Modern Life, 64.]


The Design of the Father’s Love

1. God bestows His love in order that He may call us children. The Scriptures seem to run on two lines in their teaching about the Divine Fatherhood. In the Epistles it is always the followers of Christ who are called sons of God—sons and daughters of the Almighty—they only. But in the wider language of the Master the Fatherhood of God is as universal as humanity; every man, woman, and child received from those sacred lips his title-deed to a Divine sonship; every human mouth was commissioned to say “Our Father.” The larger thought and the narrower thought are equally beautiful and equally true. We are all His children by right; there is something of His image in all. There are possibilities of large Divine growth in all, and there is a place for all in His almighty heart of love. But only they who know it and rejoice in it are children in actuality and possession. Only those to whom it is an inspiration, an incentive to obedience, a source of immeasurable hope, a furnace kindling love, are sons indeed. The rest are children in possibility, but outcasts in fact. They have a great inheritance, but they are ignorant of it or despise it. They walk through life as orphans, though a Father’s love is ever stooping at their feet. It is only as we believe it that the wealth and dignity of it become ours. “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God.”

2. The purpose of the Father’s love is not only to call us children but to make us morally and spiritually true children, to bring us into right relations with Himself. We might have been told that He is our Father by creation, and that He hates nothing that He has made; that He is “the Father of our spirits” especially, and would place a merciful limit to His contendings with us, lest the spirit should fail before Him. But we require something more than this. We desire a Father to look to, and love, and trust; a Father to run to in danger, and take counsel with in doubt, to listen to us when no other friend will, and to help us when no other friend can. We cannot bear to think that God should be indifferent to us, as if we were “the seed of the stranger”; but would fain feel that He loves us, as being His own children by adoption and grace. And, in Christ Jesus, we may feel this. We were made children by Him who taught us to call God Father. “Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” Our spiritual pedigree is traced easily. Faith makes us Christ’s; being Christ’s, we are made sons; being sons, we become heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.

The words of the Apostle mean much more than that God is the Father of all men. Creation does not amount to parentage. All force and meaning would disappear from our text if we were to suppose that the power, the right, to become children of God, which is men’s as the result of believing in Christ’s name, was simply a re-statement of the doctrine of creation. We may use the fact that God has created us as the basis of our hope that men may become His children, but that does not identify creation with fatherhood. St. Paul said to the men of Athens, “In him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.” But these statements are immeasurably below the truth. Paul held, in common with John and Peter, that believers in Christ are the children of the heavenly Father.1 [Note: A. Mackennal, The Eternal Son of God, 36.]

There is a Fatherhood of God, what the theologians call His creative Fatherhood, which includes all the race. There is still a higher, His redemptive Fatherhood, which includes all who come back home to the Father through Jesus. Man became a prodigal. He left his Father. He still remains a son creatively, but has cut himself off from the Father by sin. When he returns he becomes a son in a new higher sense also, a redeemed son. The Holy Spirit puts the child spirit into his heart, and he instinctively calls God Father again.1 [Note: S. D. Gordon, Quiet Talks on Home Ideals, 146.]

I know of no satisfactory account of the Divine Fatherhood. Dr. Candlish wrote a book on the subject which I read thirty years ago or more; it did not satisfy me at the time, but I think there were some good things in it. I have often preached about it and have a theory; but I do not remember that there is anything to indicate my position in what I have published. The main points seem to me to be these:—

(1) Our ideal relation to God is that of sons; this comes from our creation in Christ.

(2) Sonship involves community of life—life derived from life. But the life of God has essentially an ethical quality; it is a holy life.

(3) Ethical quality cannot be simply given; it must be freely appropriated. We were created to be sons; but to be sons really and in fact we must freely receive and realize in character the holiness of God.

(4) There is a potency of sonship in every man, and ideally every man is a son; but it is only as a man becomes like God that he actually becomes a son. This, in the case of all who know Christ, is effected initially by receiving Christ; when He is freely accepted as the Root and Lord of life the principle of sonship is in us.

This approaches the Divine Fatherhood from the human side; but I think that it is in this way that we can best approach it.2 [Note: The Life of R. W. Dale, 654.]

Some time ago a woman died in an institution on Blackwell’s Island, who was found, afterwards, to have been a descendant of an English earl. Her birthright entitled her to a high position, but she had led a dissipated life and died a pauper’s death. With a name and a nature which unite us to God, shall we live like homeless waifs and die like paupers?3 [Note: J. I. Vance, Tendency, 213.]

3. In calling us children, God confers a new status, a high privilege, upon us. His desire is not merely to bring us into a true spiritual relation and condition, but to give us new rank, dignity and honour. It is the rank given by God to the children of the new kingdom, and this kingdom was inaugurated by the coming of Jesus Christ. From that there follow two or three important facts. The first is that the saints of the old dispensation did not obtain this honour, this rank did not belong to them under the old era. This is a new title, a new dignity. They were servants, not children. Our Saviour marked the transition when He said to His disciples: “Henceforth I call you not servants, but friends.” A closer relationship had begun. A new honour had been achieved. This is one of those things that the Old Testament saints did not receive, so that “they without us should not be made perfect.” The Scriptures also intimate that this rank, this status, is different from, and in some sense higher than, the status of the angels themselves. The relation of Jesus Christ to man is unique. “He laid hold not of angels, but of the seed of Abraham.” When He became manifested, He became manifested as the Son of man. And so man has entered into a unique relationship to Jesus Christ, and through Him to God, a relation closer, more intimate, higher, than the relations sustained to God and His Son even by the angelic hosts themselves. Now it necessarily follows from this that the unbeliever has neither part nor lot in such a title, such a distinction, such an honour as is here involved.

Corregio stood before a grand painting, enraptured; and as he gazed, grasping the sublime conception, amazed at the wondrous execution and colouring of the picture, he exclaimed, “Thank God! I, too, am a painter.” So, when a Christian looks steadily at what it is to be children of our Father, with sublime thrills of joy he can say, “Thank God! I, too, am a child of the Lord God Almighty.”1 [Note: G. C. Baldwin.]

4. Christ’s Sonship is the true type of ours. No doubt the only-begotten Son occupies a unique place. He is by nature what we become by grace. But on that account we can look up to Him, and see in Him our true ideal. Not once does He call any one father but God, while He hardly ever calls God by any other name. Nothing is more impressive than the filial consciousness of Christ. It sounds so natural on His lips. Even as a boy, the very first words of His that have come vibrating down to us through the ages have this filial ring in them: “How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be in my Father’s house?” Men noticed that He was eaten up with zeal for His Father’s house. It was His meat and drink to do His Father’s will. Every now and again we overhear an interchange of confidences and mutual understandings with His Father. Now it is a remark in a prayer, an aside: “I know that thou hearest me always”; or an “Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.” Thus we might go on quoting word after word till the very cross is reached and He breathes His latest breath, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” What does it all say but this? The true filial spirit is one in which there is perfect understanding with God, from which all misgiving as to God’s will and purpose is banished. For Him misgiving never existed. For us it was there begotten of our own misjudgment of God through listening to the lies of the tempter. But it has disappeared when we become sons with the assurance of His forgiveness and good will guaranteed by the Cross of Christ. Now the attitude of the soul to God should be that of unfaltering trust, and constant anxiety to perceive and anticipate God’s will, gladly to accept it, and delightedly to fulfil it. It should be the reproduction of the example set in Jesus Christ, for, as Sabatier truly says, “Men are Christian exactly in proportion as the filial piety of Jesus is reproduced in them.”

All that we see in the Divine manhood of Jesus—such evident facts as the sense of the Father’s affection, the constancy of fellowship with Him, the knowledge of Him which comes in spontaneous movements of the heart, and shows itself in simple loyalty and unerring reading of His will—is the revelation of what is meant when we too are called children of God. We are very far from the realization of this; we are only little children, very imperfectly acquainted as yet either with Him or with the possibilities of our own sonship; children learning very slowly, and with much waywardness and indifference, what are our privileges and His claims. But we are children of God, as the cry, Abba, Father! bears witness. We make the child’s appeal to His tenderness; we feel the child’s shame when we wrong His confidence. In our penitence we say, “I will arise and go to my Father”; our submission is the utterance, “Father, thy will be done.” And our final hope is no other than conformity to the image of Christ: “It doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him.” Christ will be the first-born among many brethren.1 [Note: A. Mackennal, The Eternal Son of God, 36.]

For what good doth it to the Soul to know the Way to God, if it will not walk therein, but go on in a contrary Path? What good will it do the Soul to comfort itself with the Filiation of Christ, with His Passion and Death, and so flatter itself with the Hopes of getting the Patrimony thereby, if it will not enter into the Filial Birth, that it may be a true child, born out of the Spirit of Christ, out of His Suffering, Death, and Resurrection? Surely the Tickling and Flattering itself with Christ’s Merits without the true innate Childship, is Falsehood and a Lie, whosoever he be that teacheth it.1 [Note: Jacob Boehme.]

Knowing as I do what the revelation of God means to me, knowing what God’s Fatherhood and the presence of God’s Spirit is to my own life, my whole heart goes out with infinite pity towards those whose lives are unblessed by what is to me the very pole-star of my existence. I cannot bear to think of some stumbling blindfold through the pitfalls of life while my hand is clasped by a never-failing Guide; or of others who look forward to the end of their earthly life with dread and trembling while I see only the outspread arms of the everlasting Father and the welcome of a life-long Friend.2 [Note: Quintin Hogg, 310.]


The Recognition of the Father’s Love

1. “Such we are.” The Apostle was not afraid to say “I know that I am a child of God.” There are many very good people, whose tremulous, timorous lips have never ventured to say “I know.” They will say, “Well, I hope,” or sometimes, as if that were not uncertain enough, they will put in an adverb or two, and say “I humbly hope that I am.” It is a far robuster kind of Christianity, a far truer one, and a humbler one, too, that throws all considerations of our own character and merits, and all the rest of that rubbish, clean behind us, and when God says “My son!” says “My Father”; and when God calls us His children, leaps up and gladly answers, “And we are!”

Luther started from the necessity of a “comfortable assurance.” Unconscious justification was not enough; a man must know whether he was being saved. And this assurance grace brought him, when it awakened his heart to faith; for anyone could tell whether he had faith or not.3 [Note: Viscount St. Cyres, Pascal, 247.]

O heart! be thou patient!

Though here I am stationed

A season in durance,

The chain of the world I will cheerfully wear;

For, spanning my soul like a rainbow, I bear

With the yoke of my lowly

Condition, a holy

Assurance.1 [Note: J. T. Trowbridge.]

2. How are we to awaken to our sense of sonship? “As many as received him, to them gave he power (the right) to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name.” None of us know Christ until He reveals Himself to us in our association with Him; and as we commune with Him, and learn of Him, He becomes more and more to us. Accept Christ for what you feel He can be to you. Admit Him to your friendship; He will admit you to His.

That day, if I had dared, I should not have set foot inside the chapel. I was out of humour, and certainly not the least inclined to endure the tedium of a sermon. To my great surprise M. Jaquet did not preach one, but began to read us a little tract. It was a sermon, but of a new kind: Wheat or Chaff, by Ryle [afterwards the well-known Bishop of Liverpool].

The title in itself struck me. “Wheat or chaff”—what does that mean? And at every fresh heading this question re-echoed more and more solemnly. I wanted to stop my ears, to go to sleep, to think about something else. In vain! When the reading was over and the question had sounded out for the last time, “Wheat or chaff, which art thou?” it seemed to me that a vast silence fell and the whole world waited for my answer. It was an awful moment. And this moment, a veritable hell, seemed to last for ever. At last a hymn came to the rescue of my misery. “Good,” I said to myself, “that’s over at last.” But the arrow of the Lord had entered into my soul. Oh, how miserable I was! I ate nothing, could not sleep, and had no more mind to my studies. I was in despair. The more I struggled the more the darkness thickened. I sought light and comfort in the pages of God’s Word. I found none. I saw and heard nothing but the thunders of Sinai. “Your sins: how can God ever forgive them? Your repentance and tears! You do not feel the burden of your sins: you are not struck down like St. Paul or like the Philippian jailer. Hypocrisy, hypocrisy!” insinuated the voice which pursued me. I had come to the end of all strength and courage. I saw myself, I felt myself lost—yes, lost, without the slightest ray of hope. My difficulty was, I wished I knew what it could be to believe. At last I understood that it was to accept salvation on God’s conditions; that is to say, without any conditions whatever. I can truly say the scales fell from my eyes. And what scales! I could say, “Once I was blind, and now I see.”

Never shall I forget the day, nay, the moment, when this ray of light flashed into the night of my anguish. “Believe,” then, means to accept, and accept unreservedly. “As many as received him, to them gave he power—the right—to become the sons of God, even to as many as believed on his name.” It is plain, it is plain, it is positive. “O my God,” I cried, in the depth of my heart, “I believe.” … A peace, a joy unknown before, flooded my heart. I could have sung aloud with joy.1 [Note: Coillard of the Zambesi, 19.]

The Love that Confers Sonship


Aitken (W. H. M. H.), Mission Sermons, iii. 129.

Banks (L. A.), John and his Friends, 108.

Bourdillon (F.), Our Possessions, 34.

Cooper (T. J.), Love’s Unveiling, 144.

Drummond (R. J.), Faith’s Certainties, 149.

Eadie (J.), The Divine Love, 104.

Farrar (F. W.), Truths to Live By, 184.

Gordon (A. J.), The Twofold Life, 77.

Greenhough (J. G.), The Cross in Modern Life, 63.

Gregg (J.), Sermons Preached in Trinity Church, Dublin, ii. 267.

Haslam (W.), The Threefold Gift of God, 66.

Keble (J.), Sermons for the Christian Year: Christmas—Epiphany, 367.

Knight (J. J.), Sermons in Brief, 62.

Landels (W.), Until the Day Break, 79.

Mackennal (A.), The Eternal Son of God and the Human Sonship, 57.

Maclagan (P. J.), The Gospel View of Things, 57.

Matheson (G.), Thoughts for Life’s Journey, 192.

Newbolt (W. C. E.), The Gospel Message, 120.

Newman (J. H.), Parochial and Plain Sermons, iii. 172.

Oosterzee (J. J. van), The Year of Salvation, ii. 295.

Perren (C.), Revival Sermons, 282.

Scott (M.), Harmony of the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels, 55.

Smith (D.), Man’s Need of God, 135.

Temple (F.), Sermons in Rugby School Chapel, ii. 71.

Thomas (J.), Myrtle Street Pulpit, iii. 323.

West (R.), The Greatest Things in the World, 75.

Wordsworth (E.), Onward Steps, 40.

Christian World Pulpit, vi. 184 (Mahan); xxvi. 107 (Beecher).

Church of England Magazine, xvi. 153 (Hitchen); lxx. 312 (Stevenson).

Churchman’s Pulpit: Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, iv. 220 (Moore).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 1 John 3:1". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.
4:9,10; 2 Samuel 7:19; Psalms 31:19; 36:7-9; 89:1,2; John 3:16; Romans 5:8; 8:32; Ephesians 2:4,5; 3:18,19
Jeremiah 3:19; Hosea 1:10; John 1:12; Romans 8:14-17,21; 9:25,26; 2 Corinthians 6:18; Galatians 3:26,29; 4:5,6; Revelation 21:7
the world
John 15:18,19; 16:3; 17:25; Colossians 3:3

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 1 John 3:1". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".

E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

Behold is a term used as a call to attention, directing the minds of the readers to a matter the apostle regards as of special importance. It is the manner (sort, kind or quality) of love that the writer wishes to emphasize. God"s love was so great that He was willing to demonstrate it by giving us the highest possible honor, namely, taking us into the divine family as children. It is like a very wealthy king who takes a poor man from the depths of poverty and humility, and makes him an heir to the royal estate, only the illustration but faintly compares the circumstance.Since the world knew not the Father it would n-ot recognize those who have been redeemed from the regions of sin, and adopted into the family of the Heavenly King.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on 1 John 3:1". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. 1952.

The People's Bible by Joseph Parker

Abiding In Christ

1 John 2:24-29; 1 John 3:1

IN this verse the Apostle is bound down in his mind to one thought, and almost to one word. He varies the word, and yet it is the same. "Abide," "remain," "continue." These are in some sort an old man"s words. John will have no shifting, no experimenting: he will not have us as butterflies in the garden of God, here and there, a moment on the wing and a moment resting, and then flying again; and doing all simply because the sun is shining. The Apostle insists upon abiding, remaining, continuing, enduring, holding on. "He that endureth unto the end shall be saved." This is true in all things that are honest and right; even in commerce; also in scholarship; also in the highest life known to heaven. Salvation is in continuance. There are those who want to be saved and completed as if by one magical act. This cannot be done; such is not the Divine plan. The economy of God is an economy of growth, of slow progress, of imperceptible advance; but the growth, the progress, and the advance being assured. How many there are upon whom no reckoning can be made! We do not know where they are, we cannot tell what they believe; not that we want to know the detailed particulars, but we do want to know the inner, constant, unchangeable quantity of faith: given that, and afterwards great liberty may be enjoyed as to imagination, and proposition, and formulation, and the like. The point of constancy must be found in the living faith of the soul. So then all new religion is forbidden. No religion can be new. If "religion" be taken in its Latin derivation, if it mean binding back upon, or binding down to, duty, it is an eternal term. Duty was never born. The incidents or accidents of duty may come and go, so that this shall be the incident to-day, and tomorrow the incident shall undergo modification: but the constant quantity is duty, binding back, a fettering to certain acknowledged and unchangeable principles. Eternal terms have eternal rewards:—

"This is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life"—( 1 John 2:25).

Song of Solomon , whether it be duty or whether it be promise, in each case we go back to eternity. There is nothing in time"s garden worth plucking except for one moment. What we pluck we kill. No man ever plucked a flower and kept it. He praised it, he became wisely and gratefully poetical over it; he called it lovely, sweet, beautiful, fragrant: and as he was pouring out his eulogistic epithets upon it the flower was dying all the time. But the promise which we have of God is a promise of eternal life. Who can explain the word "eternal" in this connection? It is not an arithmetical term, it is not a term of time, of extended, expanded, immeasurable time. Eternity has no relation to time; infinity has no relation to space, it mocks it, swallows it up, and spreads itself beyond all measuring lines, yea, and beyond the scope and bend of inspired imagination. It is difficult for the human mind to think of eternity in any other way than as a continuation of time. If eternity can begin, it can end; if eternity can end, it is a paradox in phrases, it is a palpable irony and self-contradiction. So life eternal is not life never ceasing only, it is a qualitative term, it indicates a species and kind and value of life. As John Stuart Mill has said, immortality in the mere sense of duration may become a burden. Duration is a low and literal term; eternal life means quality of life, divinity, blessedness, completeness, music, restfulness. Along the line of such explanatory terms must we find the real significance of the word "eternal."

But there is to be an eternal element in us: that is to say we must love the eternal before we can enjoy it.

"Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you"—( 1 John 2:24).

What is that "beginning"? An unbeginning period; it Isaiah , as we have seen, a favourite word with John , both in his Gospel and in his Epistle. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God"—that same unmapped, unmeasured, unimagined Deity. If we are filled with theories, inventions, conjectures, and even hypotheses—whatever that dubious Greek may mean—we cannot go from these into eternal life. If we have taken up with that which was in the beginning, if it be in us, and we be in it, then this eternal life is not an arbitrary reward, it is a logical sequence, the infinite pressure of infinite laws. There may be some who suppose that the gift of heaven is extraneous, arbitrary; that it is given where something else might have been given in its stead. Such is not the reasoning of the Bible. Heaven is the culmination of all we have been passing through, as noon is the culmination of dawn, as the fruit is the culmination of all the mysterious, chemical action of spring and summer, the outcome and benediction of all. Some men are now nearly in heaven. Their translation can occasion but small surprise to themselves; they have daily fellowship with God through his Son Jesus Christ, by the power of the Eternal Spirit; they walk with God; they awake in the morning to praise him, they fall asleep with their heads pillowed in his promises, and in all the hours between waking and sleeping their one inquiry Isaiah , "Lord, what wilt thou have me do?" After such experience, heaven comes not as a novelty or a startling surprise, but as a necessary and blessed crowning of the whole process.

"These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you"—( 1 John 2:26).

John was not only in a hortatory temper, he was also disposed to give caution and warning to those who were in danger of being craftily handled. In this connection "seduce" means, Lead you into by-paths. Observe the quaintness and the fulness of that expression. By-paths have a relation to the great turnpike, they are not wholly cut away, they are close at hand but they are not on the main thoroughfare: and I know not any promise that is given to those who are in by-paths, in out-of-the-way lanes and turnings and sequestered places; if there are such promises attached to such places they have wholly escaped my memory. The blessing is upon those who keep in the way, the old paths, the frequented way; and the young shepherdess is warned in the Song of Songs to keep close by them whose tents are builded by experienced hands. She is told to keep in company with those who have rich experience in shepherding, not to take her little flock away into by-paths, and to make roads and tracks for herself. The song says, Keep the old ones in sight; follow the way-worn, toil-worn shepherds, never be far away from them, so that if the wolf should come you may have assistance within call. John would therefore not have us try any by-paths. Some men cannot do without irregularity and incoherency; they cannot do with uniformity, they seem to be most in company when they are most alone, and they do not understand the mystery and helpfulness, the genius and inspiration of fellowship, comradeship, mutual exchange of love and trust. We must get out of this enfeebling and ultimately ruinous isolation. This caution is not directed against independency, courage, fearlessness, or heroism of mind. There is a leadership that is connected vitally with all the following body, there is also a leadership that cuts itself away from the body that has to be led, and therefore ends in loss of influence and ultimate ruin of soul and body. At the same time we must not think that a man is utterly lost because he has been seduced, led away into some leafy lane, where he thinks the flowers are brighter and the berries are sweeter than on the open turnpike; we need not pelt our lane-loving friends with cruel epithets, with murderous criticisms; we must not let them suppose that they are exiled and forgotten. The Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost; let us say, even we ourselves who are now in God"s open sunny thoroughfare and are going straight up to heaven by the power of the Spirit,—even we were like sheep that had gone astray, we had turned every one to his own way, but now we have returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls. They may follow our example; some day we may find the lanes or by-paths all deserted, and our friends who have been momentarily lost may rejoin our friendship, and not know how to make enough of it because of their remembered loneliness.

The Apostle continues in the28th verse in the same tone—

"And now, little children, abide in him." ( 1 John 2:28)

"Little children" is the same word that has been already used as a term of endearment. But the exhortation is unchanged—abide, continue, watch, wait, keep on. We need all these exhortations; we are the victims of sudden passion. Imagination itself is challenged sometimes to go to the very pinnacle of the temple and behold the possibilities of religious progress and conquest, and all the progress and conquest may be realised by simply worshipping at some forbidden altar, or taking some ruinous leap. Blessed are they who have no imagination; they who know only the letter have no doubt, no fear, no trouble: other minds are all imagination, not in the nightmare sense of supposing that things are real which are non-existent, but in the high ideal sense of multiplying the actual into the possible, and that mysterious power which puts back the horizon and makes larger heavens every day. These are the men who are so various in mental action as sometimes to be accused by those who never dreamed a dream or saw a vision. On the other hand, it is within the power of the Spirit of God to direct the imagination which he has created, and in being so directed we owe to that imagination, some of our richest treasures of Christian poetry and spiritual thought. Evermore, therefore, the Apostle says you must abide in him.

John was familiar with this word "abide." He caught it from the lips of the Master; he chronicled it as part of the discourse delivered by the Saviour about the vine and the branches and the husbandman; said Christ, "I am the Vine, ye are the branches; as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me." And when the Paraclete was promised, John says he was promised to abide. He came to stay till the work was completed. Some one must come from heaven to remain. Jesus came, and we hardly saw him before he vanished: and when he was going, he said, I am going for your sake, it is expedient for you that I go away; but I will send the abiding Personality: and no personality could abide with us that could be seen by us; familiarity would ruin even the ministry of God; Christ himself could have stayed so as to have survived himself: such is the mystery of all fleshly action and all fleshly contact and vision: we become familiar with it, we want some new wonder, some novel fame, some miracle of revelation: blessed be God, here is one of the subtlest, profoundest proofs of the divinity or the inspiration of Christianity, that it relies upon the presence of the invisible, upon the action of the impalpable, upon the ministry of One who is called the Ghost, the Spirit, the fleshless One, unseen, almighty. Even if this be but a conception, it is one of the finest, grandest conceptions of the human mind. It is more than a conception to the Christian heart, it is a distinct revelation. Again John becomes gently practical:—

"If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him"—( 1 John 2:29).

Here we have a claim which the Church has forgotten to insist upon. We ought to claim every good man as belonging to God—"every one that doeth righteousness is born of God." Never admit that there can be righteousness outside the Church. You must enlarge your Church to take in all righteousness. If your walls are too narrow to accommodate with sufficient hospitality all the good men of the world, you must put your walls farther back, at what cost soever; it is the wall that must be extended, not the man that must be kept outside. "Every one that doeth righteousness is born of God," whether he technically and formally acknowledge it or not; whether indeed he is conscious of it or not: we must not allow even human consciousness to be the measure of all things, we must not so exalt human consciousness as to outbuild God from his own human creation. God is doing many things for us that we do not recognise in all their simplicity and reality. Whenever a man lifts his eyes to heaven in religious expectancy, though he has no words, he is under divine influence. If a man shall say to himself, "I will try to be good, without having any connection with churches and religious organisations," he cannot perform that miracle except God the Holy Ghost be with him. Never admit that morality can be grown in any garden but the garden of God. If you find good in heathenism, it belongs to Christ. If ever Confucius or Buddha or Mahomet spake one living, loving, true, musical word, it belongs to him whose are the riches of the universe. The Church must make larger claims. Do not take some ecclesiastical standard with you and say, "Except you come up to this standard you have no relation to the Kingdom of heaven"; it is your standard that must go down, not God"s kingdom that must be narrowed and humiliated. Along this line I feel as if God"s ministers might house many who are apparently outside the Church, and who suppose themselves to be heterodox and outcast and alien. Nothing of the kind. If you ever yearn for your Father in heaven, take heart, hope on, yearn on: such yearning ends in vision and benediction. Once let the notion get rooted that men can be good without Christ, and the whole Christian argument is surrendered. Jesus Christ never allowed any good worker to go unrecognised. Whenever he heard of persons doing good, though they followed not with him, he would not have them forbidden; he knew that whoever was trying to help a child was in that form praying; whoever was struggling to shake down a boundary that he might enjoy a healthier liberty was really beating upon the door of the kingdom of heaven. This larger definition must give hope to the world.

"Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God" [literally, the children of God ( 1 John 3:1)].

There is but one Son of God, yet somehow the Lord hath made his household so capacious and inclusive that there may be many children of God. What happens when human character is so sublimated as to be made akin to the very nature and quality of God? Agnosticism happens. Hear the argument—"therefore the world knoweth us not." This is practical agnosticism. The Christian is in his own degree as great a mystery to the world as Christ was. There be those who say they do not know God; and these same people do not know God"s children. They deny their existence, they smile upon them as fanatics, they dismiss them in literary footnotes, they give them a humble place in the marginalia with which they adorn their literature; but they do not know the Christian, the man who prays, the man who trusts, the man who endures as seeing the invisible: that is as great a mystery to the worldly mind, whether it be mercenarily worldly or vainly worldly, in an intellectual and literary sense, as is the Godhead itself. Observe the same word is used "knoweth us not, because it knew him not": not "know" merely in the sense of recognising; not "know" merely in the sense of saluting, as who should say, There are certain figures there the existence of which we must acknowledge, if we would not suffer our politeness to be extinguished; not that kind of knowledge, social, conventional and complimentary; but "knoweth us not" as to the secret of our action, the motive which impels us, the consideration which governs us. Christians are the misunderstood men of the world. Why are Christians misunderstood? Because Christ is misunderstood. Why are good men not known? Because God is not known. Only he who knows God can know God"s children. Blessed is the time, come when it may, when God"s children shall be such examples of moral beauty and nobleness as to confound the imagination of the worldly mind. This weapon is always left to us in the great spiritual warfare. We may be so good as to pass beyond the ken of low minds, worldly minds, vain, self-conceited minds. We can be so lowly minded, so longsuffering, so patient, so gentle, so forgiving, as to be counted fools. Wise are they who are fools for Christ"s sake. You may not convince agnosticism or any form of scepticism or question-asking, by sheer intellectual argument, but you can confound all enemies by the sublimity of unselfishness, by consummating in obedience to the Holy Spirit the whole character of him who died upon the Cross to save the world. The fate of Christianity often seems to depend upon the character of Christians. Awake! As the battle is ours, ours through the Holy Spirit may be the victory!

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Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 John 3:1". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. 1885-95.

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