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.
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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.

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,

3:1,2 Little does the world know of the happiness of the real followers of Christ. Little does the world think that these poor, humble, despised ones, are favourites of God, and will dwell in heaven. Let the followers of Christ be content with hard fare here, since they are in a land of strangers, where their Lord was so badly treated before them. The sons of God must walk by faith, and live by hope. They may well wait in faith, hope, and earnest desire, for the revelation of the Lord Jesus. The sons of God will be known, and be made manifest by likeness to their Head. They shall be transformed into the same image, by their view of him.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.


1Jo 3:1-24. Distinguishing Marks of the Children of God and the Children of the Devil. Brotherly Love the Essence of True Righteousness.

1. Behold—calling attention, as to some wonderful exhibition, little as the world sees to admire. This verse is connected with the previous 1Jo 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, &c. 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 1Jo 5:1. The world's whole course is one great act of non-recognition of God.1Jo 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,

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

1Jo 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.

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.

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.

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 ὁ 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 ἡμῖΝ a Lapide remarks: indignis, inimicis, peccatoribus.

The name Ὁ ΠΑΤΉΡ points to the following ΤΈΚΝΑ ΘΕΟῦ.

] 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 ἩΜ. Ὁ 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. ἵνακληθῶμεΝ 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 ἘΣΜΈΝ 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 ὁ 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 ὁ 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).

[190] A Lapide interprets ἀγάπην in the Catholic interest: i.e. charitatem tum activam (actum amoris Dei quo nos mire amat), tum passivam nobisque a Deo communicatam et infusam. Videte quantam charitatem … nobis … praestitit et exhibuit Deus, cum … charitatem creatam nobis dedit et infudit, qua filii Dei nominamur et sumus.—Very appropriately Luther, in his Scholia: usus est Joannes singulari verborum poudere: non dicit, dedisse nobis Deum donum aliquod, sed ipsam caritatem et fontem omnium bonorum, cor ipsum, etc.

[191] Ebrard thinks that ἐσμέν may be dependent upon ἵνα, not certainly according to Buttmann’s, but according to John’s grammar; incorrectly, for the present indicative after ἵνα is not surely attested in John even by a single passage, whilst it is unmistakeably in Paul, 1 Corinthians 4:6 and Galatians 4:17 (comp. in addition, Al. Buttmann, p. 202, note); it therefore appears most probable that καὶ ἐσμέν is added by John, not indeed as a triumphant exclamation, but as an utterance about the actual present state of his readers, confirming the preceding. If ἐσμέν is regarded as dependent on ἵνα, we are compelled to weaken the idea κληθῶμεν, for Ebrard’s supposition that in κληθῶμεν is contained the relationship of God to us, or the element of “being reconciled,” and in ἐσμέν, on the other hand, “our relationship to God, or the element of the conversion and renewal of our nature,” lacks any tenable ground.

1 John 3:1-3. Our Present Dignity and Our Future Destiny. “See what unearthly love the Father hath given us, in order that we may be styled ‘children of God’; and so we are. It is for this reason that the world doth not recognise us, because it did not recognise Him. Beloved, now are we children of God, and it was not yet manifested what we shall be. We know that, if it be manifested, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him even as He is. And every one that hath this hope resting on Him purifieth himself even as the Lord is pure.”

1. what manner of] The same word (ποταπός) 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.

love] This is the key-word of this whole division of the Epistle (1 John 2:19 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 ‘beloved’. The phrase ‘to bestow love’ occurs nowhere else in N. T.

the Father … upon us] In the Greek these words are in striking juxtaposition: to us miserable sinners the Father hath given this priceless right. ‘The Father’ rather than ‘God’, because of what follows: He who is the Father is our Father.

that we should be called] Literally, in order that we should be called: it is S. John’s characteristic construction (ἵνα), as in 1 John 1:9. “The final particle has its full force” (Westcott): comp. 1 John 3:11; 1 John 3:23, 1 John 4:21; John 13:34; John 15:12; John 15:17. This was the purpose of His love, its tendency and direction. ‘That we should be’ must not be understood as future: we already have the title.

the sons of God] So the earlier English Versions: better, as R. V., children of God. There is no article in the Greek; and we must not confuse S. Paul’s expression, ‘sons of God’ (υἱοί) with S. John’s (τέκνα). The confusion has arisen in English Versions through the filii Dei of the Vulgate. Both Apostles tell us that the fundamental relation of believers to God is a filial one: but while S. Paul gives us the legal side (adoption), S. John gives us the natural side (generation). 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. After ‘children of God’ we must insert on overwhelming authority (אABC 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. The present indicative after ἵνα is not impossible: but would S. John have put ‘called’ in the subjunctive, and ‘are’ in the indicative, if the two verbs were co-ordinate?

therefore] Better, as R. V., for this cause (διὰ τοῦτο), reserving ‘therefore’ for a particle (οὖν) which is very frequent in the narrative portions of the Gospel, but does not occur in this Epistle (it is not genuine in 1 John 2:24 or 1 John 4:19). 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’. ‘For this cause’ in S. John does not merely anticipate the ‘because’ or ‘that’ 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. 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.

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.]

Verse 1-1 John 5:12. - 3. SECOND MAIN DIVISION. God is Love. Verses 1-24. - (1) The evidence of sonship. Righteousness. Verses 1-3. - The Divine birth is the outcome of the Divine love. Verse 1. - Behold what manner of love! Ποταπός; literally, "of what country," in the New Testament always implies amazement (Matthew 8:27; Mark 13:1; Luke 1:29; Luke 7:39; 2 Peter 3:11); but, as the original meaning leads us to expect, it implies marvelous quality rather than marvelous size. Love must be taken literally: the Divine love itself, and not a mere proof of it, has been given. Ποταπὴν ἀγάπην strikes the key-note of the whole section. "And the goal of this love ἵνα is that once for all (aorist) we have received the title 'children of God.'" And, whatever cavilers may say, the title is rightfully ours. (The words, "and (such) we are," are quite rightly inserted in the Revised Version after "children of God.") This is shown by the fact that the world does not recognize us as such, because from the first it did not recognize God. Had it known the Father, it would have known the children, Διὰ τοῦτο in St. John refers to what precedes (John 5:16, 18; John 7:22; John 8:47; John 10:17; John 12:18, 27, 39); it does not merely anticipate the ὅτι which follows it. In logical phraseology we have here first the major premise, then the conclusion introduced by διὰ τοῦτο, then (to clench the argument) the minor premise introduced by ὅτι, -

We are children of God;

Thereforethe world knows us not;

Forthe world knows not God.

But we must beware of supposing that every one who fails to recognize our form of Christianity is necessarily of the world. St. John invariably (but comp. Revelation 21:7) speaks of "children of God" τέκνα Θεοῦ, St. Paul generally of "sons of God", υἱοὶ Θεοῦ. The latter expression can apply to adopted sons; the former, strictly speaking, implies actual parentage. In saying κληθῶμεν καὶ ἐσμεν, St. John appeals to the conscious nobility of Christians: we have this magnificent title with its corresponding dignity. 1 John 3:1Behold (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 grace, favor, which emphasizes the goodwill of the giver. See Galatians 3:18; Philippians 2:9; Philippians 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 calleth, read 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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