What Manner of Love
Topic: Topical Passage: 1 John 3:1-3
With our Mammoth Trip this week, I didn’t have my normal sermon prep time, so I decided to preach on 1 John 3:1–3. For one I preached through portions of 1 John twice with our youth group in Michigan, so I know this text well.
I also wanted to preach from 1 John today, because we are studying it this summer in our 1-to-1 Bible reading challenge, and hopefully many of you studied 1 John 3 with your partner during the past couple of weeks. I thought it would be good to dwell on part of this chapter and hopefully provide more perspective on the entire epistle.
That being said, let’s read our text and dive into it (read). To fully appreciate this text and every text in 1 John, you have to see it in light of John’s purpose, which he states in 5:11–13. John says he wrote this book “That you may know that you have eternal life.” In other words God doesn’t want Christians to live in a constant state of doubt; he wants us to be confident of our standing with God. So everything in 1 John is shaped by John’s desire to give true believers assurance that they have eternal life.
But something we often miss is that eternal life in 1 John means much more than living forever in heaven. Rather, v. 11 says that eternal life is in the Son. And v. 12 adds that we don’t just receive eternal life after death. No, through Christ, the Christian enjoys eternal life right now. John says, “He who has the Son has (right now) life.” As a result, eternal life means more than going to heaven; it means that Christ is alive in your heart and has transformed who you are.
Therefore, most of 1 John is focused on helping us see signs of this new life. In particular, if Christ lives inside you, you will walk in holiness, you will love the brethren, you will obey God’s commands, you will believe the truth, and you will live for the world that is to come. In other words, Christ doesn’t just change my eternity; he changes everything about me. John wants us to recognize signs of this life and be encouraged that we belong to God.
It’s in this context that we come to 1 John 3:1–3. The structure is pretty simple. John begins in v. 1 by stating a significant truth regarding our privileged position. Then he follows by meditating on 3 implications of this incredible truth. Let’s begin in v. 1 with…
I. Our Privileged Position: We are God’s children (v. 1a).
Context: This is a beautiful and encouraging declaration of the Christian’s privilege. But it’s interesting to note that this passage doesn’t really fit within the argument of this section. The end of chapter 2 leads very naturally into 3:4. So why is this text here?
Well notice how chapter 2 ends (2:29). Christians are “born of Him.” In other words, we have a family relationship with God. It’s as if John wrote that incredible statement, and it stopped him dead in the middle of his argument. He couldn’t just move with his argument; rather, he had to stop and ponder this incredible reality before he could continue his train of thought in 3:4.
John’s Intensity: John’s amazement God’s love is almost tangible. He begins with the command to “see” or “behold” what he is about to discuss. It’s as if John is grabbing your shoulder, snapping his fingers, and urging you to really focus on what he is about to say.
John’s passion is also apparent in the next phrase “what manner of love.” The Greek phrase John uses is intended to communicate astonishment and wonder. John is amazed by God’s astonishing love. Even though John was an old man who had been a Christian for roughly 60 years, the gospel had not grown stale for him. He was just as amazed and astonished by God’s love as ever. And he wants us to share in his joy, so he begins by saying pay attention to the incredible love of God. In particular the Father has granted us the privilege that, “We should be called children of God.”
We are children of God. This phrase isn’t hard to understand. It means just what I mean when I say that James is my child. We are part of God’s family.
It’s incredible, but because it is so simple and so familiar we can easily take it for granted. As well we live in a day where we are told over and over how valuable and important Self-esteem is the gospel of our day. So we think, “Of course we are part of God’s family. Why wouldn’t God love me?”
But John didn’t think like the modern man. No like any mature Christian, he was overwhelmed by his own sin and wickedness in comparison to the holiness and infinite glory of God. The fact that an infinite and holy God would adopt sinners like us into his family is truly amazing.
In fact it’s so amazing that it’s almost unbelievable. The footnote to the NKJV and most modern translations note that after saying, “We should be called children of God” John probably added the additional comment “and such we are.” It’s as if he anticipated that we might not believe him. “That’s too good to be true.” So he reiterates that this is really true.
In sum, John opens v. 1 with an urgent command. He commands Christians to stop and ponder the incredible wonder of God’s love. It’s something like how I felt a number of times up in the Sierras this week. Sometimes you just have to stop and stare at the beauty of God’s creation.
Similarly, as best as you can, I want to challenge you to behold the love of God. You were like an orphan on the streets—abandoned, dirty, unhealthy, and crude. And yet God reached out to you in love and brought you into his royal, kingly family. Be astonished at that love. You are “born of God.”
And if you have never received Christ as your Savior, I hope you will see truly for the very first time the grace and love that is available to you in Christ. Understand that you don’t deserve this love, because you have broken God’s law and deserves his judgment. You are like an outlaw locked outside his castle. But if you repent of your sin and believe on Christ for salvation, Christ will welcome you in, and he will bestow on you all the privileges of a son or daughter. Please come to him today and be saved.
So the incredible truth that John highlights is that God has made believers his children. John then draws three implications from this fact.
II. First Implication— We are aliens in this world (v. 1b).
Admittedly, this feels like a bit of a downer. After beginning the passage with the wonderful reality that we are God’s children, John says that we should expect the world to reject us like it rejected Christ.
The world rejected Christ. John says the world “did not know Him (Christ).” I think we all know the story. No matter how many miracles Jesus performed, and no matter how perfectly he lived, the world would not receive him.
It’s hard to believe, but they rejected Christ, and ultimately they killed him. The reason is that Jesus was focused on his Father’s will not man’s and on eternal values not temporal pleasure.
Therefore, while large crowds followed him, most just wanted to see a show or be in on the action. Few people really embraced his message. And ultimately, they hated Christ so much that they rallied in anger and had him crucified. And because we God’s children, John says we should expect the world to hate us also. He says, “The world does not know us.”
The world rejects Christ’s followers. Interestingly, John isn’t giving a warning about something in the future; rather he states it as a fact that he and the readers knew all too well. In fact when John wrote he is the only living apostle, because the world had killed all the others. We can only imagine all that John had endured in his 60 years of ministry. And apparently many of his readers had also been ostracized from their families and endured other difficult circumstances.
That’s tough, because no one likes to be an outsider. Have you ever found yourself surrounded by people speaking a language you can’t understand? It’s very disconcerting. It’s even worse when the majority despises We are learning more and more what this feels like as our culture becomes combative toward biblical values and tries to eradicate our faith from the public square. It’s hard to be hated.
But John says we shouldn’t be surprised by this hatred. He just said we are God’s children, and Christ has radically transformed everything about us. We belong to him, not this world. Therefore, we should expect the world treats us like it treated Christ. If it rejected him, it will reject us.
Folks, we just need to be honest about the fact that we are going in an entirely different direction. The unbeliever worships himself, and he lives for this world. In contrast, we worship the one and only sovereign Lord, and we live for his approval and his eternal reward. We couldn’t be going in a more opposite direction, and we will never really blend in.
So as hard as it may be, we just have to embrace the fact that we are strangers and aliens in this world. And then we need to turn our eyes toward the far better acceptance we have as a part of God’s family.
The acceptance of the world is chump change in comparison to the wonder of being God’s child. And the inheritance that awaits us in Christ is vastly superior to anything we could enjoy here. So Christian, hang in there, as hard as it is somtimes. Cling to Christ, and see your reward, and then embrace the cross of Christ with joy, rejoicing that you get to partake of Christ’s suffering. Then the second implication of our privileged position is…
III. We will be transformed into Christ’s image (v. 2).
We are not fully transformed. John begins v. 2 by repeating the main idea of the passage—we are children of God. Of course, one of the great benefits to being the child of someone wealthy is that it typically comes with a huge inheritance. And that’s true for us. We have a great inheritance awaiting us.
In particular, John says, “It has not appeared as yet what we will be.” In other words, one of the most significant aspects of our inheritance is that someday we will be fully glorified, and we will be perfect like Adam and Eve originally were. Our bodies will be perfect, and we will perfectly reflect God’s moral attributes.
That’s going to be awesome, but it’s not ours yet. “It has not appeared as yet what we will be.” John’s primary concern is that even though we are God’s children, we still struggle against sin, and oftentimes we fail. We lose our tempers. We say hurtful things. We disobey God’s Word. We oftentimes don’t act like God’s children. But it’s not just that we sin. We live in sin-cursed bodies that get tired and sick. They age, and they ultimately die.
We live with constant reminders that we are not what we will be and that this world is a long ways from what God originally made it to be. But praise the Lord that our struggle and toil in this world is not hopeless. John says “we know” that something better is ahead.
Timing of the Transformation: John states that one day, Jesus will be “revealed.” Since John is addressing the church, this is a reference to the Rapture. Since this is such an important aspect of our hope, I think it’s worth our time to look at the fuller explanation of this event that Paul gives in 1 Thessalonians 4:15–18.
One day the trumpet will sound, and the dead in Christ (meaning all church-age believers) will rise. Then living believers will join them in the clouds. We will see Christ, and we will be with him forever.
Transformation: And in our text, John especially focuses on the fact that we will see It’s interesting that 2 Corinthians 3:18 says that right now we are being transformed into the image of Christ as we behold his face in a mirror through the gospel and the Word.
But in that day, we won’t merely look in a mirror. We will look directly into the face of Christ for the very first time. We will behold the Savior in all of his glory. It’s going to be a magnificent sight. We get something of an idea of what it will be like when the Gospels tell us the story of the Mt. of Transfiguration. Mark 9:2–3 say, “He was transfigured before them. His clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them.” It was incredible sight, and Peter, James, and John were terrified as a result of their unglorified, sinful state.
But when we see Christ in the clouds, we will not be terrified. Instead, Christ will instantly finish the process of sanctification that he began the moment we were saved.
John says, “When he is revealed, we shall be like him, for we shall see Him as He is.” Jesus will instantaneously destroy our sin nature. The battle with sinful passions will be over, and we will be perfectly holy in our thoughts, passions and actions.
And our bodies will also be transformed into the likeness of Christ’s body. Christ will eradicate every ache and pain, deformity, illness, or other affect of the curse. You will be in your prime and beyond what you could even imagine in your prime. You will be perfect. What a revelation that will be.
As a result, we will be able to enjoy perfect fellowship with our God and enjoy the full benefits of our standing as children of God for ever and ever. As 1 Thessalonians 4:17 says, “And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”
Now one question you may have is do 1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 John 3 teach soul sleep? In other words, if the dead are going rise from the graves, and we won’t be glorified until the Rapture, then do we just stay in the grave until the rapture? The Bible is clear that this is not so. 2 Corinthians 4:8 says “To be absent from the body…(is) to be present with the Lord.” And in Philippians 1:23, Paul says I have “a desire to depart and be with Christ.”
So when Christians die, they go immediately into the presence of the Lord and the battle with sin is over. But the Scriptures are also clear that we will not be fully glorified until the Rapture. Our text says that only then will our full inheritance as God’s children be revealed.
That’s going to be a wonderful day. And so John would say to us again, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us that we should be called the children of God!” Praise the Lord that we have a sure hope.
And the Scriptures tell us over and over that the only way the Christian life makes sense is if we clearly see this hope. We live in a broken world filled with and suffering, so we wonder how could a good God tolerate such a mess. And then we struggle against sinful passions and the ostracism of the world. We wonder is Christ worth it? Satan has a limitless magazine of bullets to fire at our faith.
But the hope of this verse is the shield that deflects every one of them. Someday Christ will fix me, and he will fix this world. Everything will be perfect, and I will dwell in the presence of my Lord for all eternity. So Christian see your hope clearly and keep it as an anchor every day of your life. And this incredible hope paves the way to the 3rd implication of our privileged position.
IV. Third Implication: We want to be like Christ today (v. 3).
Explanation: Verse 3 builds directly off v. 2 and drives home a present implication of our future hope. Again we know that one day Christ is going to finish his work of transformation and give us our full inheritance. This is our great hope.
So the question is, “How does this affect my life today?” I absolutely love John’s logic in this verse. When Satan tempts us with sinful passions or even just wrong priorities, he always leads us to hope in the pleasure that this thing will provide. He makes you believe that sex will make you happy, that blowing your top in anger will make you feel better, and that a new car will solve all your woes. And sadly we often believe him.
But John reminds us that the core our hope is that someday we will be made holy. Christ will remove every stain of sin, and we will be like Christ. And it’s only once we are made holy that we will enjoy the fullness of God’s blessing.
Application: So if our great hope is built on the fact that one day we will be made perfect, then why would we go in the opposite direction of holiness today? If my hope is that someday I’m going to be made perfect, then why would I live my life chasing filthy entertainment, filthy conversation, immodest clothing, and so on? That would be ridiculous.
Instead, if my hope is rooted in holiness, then I should strive for holiness I should let my life be controlled by God’s promises, God’s commands, and my eternal reward. To put it most bluntly, John says that if my hope is in Christ, I should want to be like Christ—to be pure “as He is pure.”
We so desperately need this emphasis. We are so inundated with perversion that oftentimes we get calloused to just how unholy we are. We need to see the purity of Christ and make sure that we are honestly using it as the benchmark of our lives.
As well live in a day when so many “Christians” glory in their worldliness as if it’s a mark of God’s grace. Others keep telling unbelievers that they can have their cake and eat it too. They can have Jesus at their side while continuing to embrace the values and lifestyles of unbelievers.
But Scripture is clear that the hope, security, and grace of the gospel is not a license to live loose and free. No Titus 2:11–13 say, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” Grace leads to holiness.
And our text is just as clear. John says, “Everyone who has this hope.” Who is that? It’s every true child of God. What does the true child of God do? He “purifies himself, just as He is pure.” It’s a necessary corollary. So what’s the implication if someone doesn’t purify himself? The implication is that he doesn’t really possess this hope.
So let’s recognize the significance of holiness to the Christian experience. And then let’s see the joy of hope-filled holiness. I’m going to heaven someday, where I will be like Christ and have perfect joy. It’s going to be infinitely better than anything in this world. In light of that, I don’t want to live for the broken values of this world. I want to be like my Savior today! Christian, live a holy life.
In conclusion, this passage offers a vitally important perspective of life. If you are a Christian you are blessed beyond imagination. We are children of God. Therefore, we must embrace Christ’s love over the embrace of the world. We must hope in the fact that someday we will receive our full inheritance. And we must live holy lives in keeping with our great hope. So let’s see the prize clearly. Let’s be encouraged. And let’s live for the day when we will see Christ.