The apostle, having shown the dignity of Christ's faithful followers, that they are born of him and thereby nearly allied to God, now here,
I. Breaks forth into the admiration of that grace that is the spring of such a wonderful vouchsafement: Behold (see you, observe) what manner of love, or how great love, the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called, effectually called (he who calls things that are not makes them to be what they were not) the sons of God! The Father adopts all the children of the Son. The Son indeed calls them, and makes them his brethren; and thereby he confers upon them the power and dignity of the sons of God. It is wonderful condescending love of the eternal Father, that such as we should be made and called his sons?we who by nature are heirs of sin, and guilt, and the curse of God?we who by practice are children of corruption, disobedience, and ingratitude! Strange, that the holy God is not ashamed to be called our Father, and to call us his sons! Thence the apostle,
II. Infers the honour of believers above the cognizance of the world. Unbelievers know little of them. Therefore (or wherefore, upon this score) the world knoweth us not, 1 John 3:1. Little does the world perceive the advancement and happiness of the genuine followers of Christ. They are here exposed to the common calamities of earth and time; all things fall alike to them as to others, or rather they are subject to the greater sorrow, for they have often reason to say, If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable, 1 Cor. 15:19. The unchristian world, therefore, that walks by sight, knows not their dignity, their privileges, the enjoyments they have in hand, nor what they are entitled to. Little does the world think that these poor, humble, contemned ones are the favourites of heaven, and will be inhabitants there ere long. And they may bear their case the better since their Lord was here unknown as well as they: Because it knew him not, 1 John 3:1. Little did the world think how great a person was once sojourning here, that the Maker of it was once an inhabitant of it. Little did the Jewish world think that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, was one of their blood, and dwelt in their land; he came to his own, and his own received him not. He came to his own, and his own crucified him; but surely, had they known him, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory, 1 Cor. 2:8. Let the followers of Christ be content with hard fare here, since they are in a land of strangers, among those who little know them, and their Lord was so treated before them. Then the apostle,
III. Exalts these persevering disciples in the prospect of the certain revelation of their state and dignity. Here, 1. Their present honourable relation is asserted: Beloved (you may well be our beloved, for you are beloved of God), now are we the sons of God, 1 John 3:2. We have the nature of sons by regeneration: we have the title, and spirit, and right to the inheritance of sons by adoption. This honour have all the saints. 2. The discovery of the bliss belonging and suitable to this relation is denied: And it doth not yet appear what we shall be, 1 John 3:2. The glory pertaining to the sonship and adoption is adjourned and reserved for another world. The discovery of it here would put a stop to the current of affairs that must now proceed. The sons of God must walk by faith, and live by hope. 3. The time of the revelation of the sons of God in their proper state and glory is determined; and that is when their elder brother comes to call and collect them all together: But we know that when he shall appear we shall be like him. The particle, ean, usually translated if, is here well rendered when; for the Hebrew particle am (to which this is thought to correspond) is observed so to signify, as Dr. Whitby has here noted; and not only is ean sometimes used for hotan, but some copies even here read hotan, when. And accordingly it seems proper so to render it in John 14:3; where we read it, And if I go, and prepare a place; but more naturally and properly, When I shall have gone, and shall have prepared the place, I will come again, and receive you unto myself, or paralepsomai?I will take you along with myself, that where I am there you may be also. When the head of the church, the only-begotten of the Father, shall appear, his members, the adopted of God, shall appear and be manifested together with him. They may then well wait in faith, hope, and earnest desire, for the revelation of the Lord Jesus; as even the creation itself waiteth for their perfection, and the public manifestation of the sons of God, Rom. 8:19. The sons of God will be known and be made manifest by their likeness to their head: They shall be like him?like him in honour, and power, and glory. Their vile bodies shall be made like his glorious body; they shall be filled with life, light, and bliss from him. When he, who is their life, shall appear, they also shall appear with him in glory, Col. 3:4. Then, 4. Their likeness to him is argued from the sight they shall have of him: We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Their likeness will be the cause of that sight which they shall have of him. Indeed, all shall see him, but not as they do; not as he is, namely, to those in heaven. The wicked shall see him in his frowns, in the terror of his majesty, and the splendour of his avenging perfections; but these shall see him in the smiles and beauty of his face, in the correspondence and amiableness of his glory, in the harmony and agreeableness of his beatific perfections. Their likeness shall enable them to see him as the blessed do in heaven. Or the sight of him shall be the cause of their likeness; it shall be a transformative sight: they shall be transformed into the same image by the beatific view that they shall have of him. Then the apostle,
IV. Urges the engagement of these sons of God to the prosecution of holiness: And every man that hath this hope in him purifies himself even as he is pure, 1 John 3:3. The sons of God know that their Lord is holy and pure; he is of purer heart and eyes than to admit any pollution or impurity to dwell with him. Those then who hope to live with him must study the utmost purity from the world, and flesh, and sin; they must grow in grace and holiness. Not only does their Lord command them to do so, but their new nature inclines them so to do; yea, their hope of heaven will dictate and constrain them so to do. They know that their high priest is holy, harmless, and undefiled. They know that their Go and Father is the high and holy one, that all the society is pure and holy, that their inheritance is an inheritance of saints in light. It is a contradiction to such hope to indulge sin and impurity. And therefore, as we are sanctified by faith, we must be sanctified by hope. That we may be saved by hope we must be purified by hope. It is the hope of hypocrites, and not of the sons of God, that makes an allowance for the gratification of impure desires and lusts.
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