1 John 3:1-2 - Homiletics
"What manner of love!"
Connecting link: The apostle has just spoken about being "born of God." This suggests the thought that, if born of God, then are we children! A relation so near and dear, a privilege so great, inspires him with a rapturous joy. He lingers exultingly on the thought, and calls on his fellow-believers to contemplate it as an amazing proof of the love of God. Whence our topic— So great love an object for adoring contemplation. There are some texts which actually oppress the preacher with their grandeur. This is certainly one of them. The utmost that we can do is to ask the reader to follow us as we endeavour to point out what it contains, and then to invite to its full and loving contemplation. This is our order of exposition. "Behold," etc.
I. LET US OPEN UP THE CONTENTS OF THIS GREAT LOVE OF GOD AS POINTED OUT IN THE TEXT . Need we ask, "What is love?" The question would have been needless were it not that human handling has so vitiated the New Testament teachings concerning it. Evidently here love is regarded in action. So looked at, love is righteousness and benevolence acting in harmony. Apart from righteousness, benevolence would be a maudlin sentimentalism, Righteousness without benevolence would seem rigid and frigid. Benevolence is the beauty of righteousness. Righteousness is the strength of benevolence. "Strength and beauty" are both in God; and, together, they make up love. Here we have:
1 . Love's origin. "The Father." Here is love's fount, love's central fire. A self-kindled, self-sustaining love. Needing no pleading from without, but gushing forth spontaneously from the "righteous Father," from the very delight of loving! Yes, and loving, as the Father, all the rights of the Ruler being guarded, and his rectitude being demonstrated in a way which he appointed. This being indeed the very perfection of his love, that it is so manifested that we can say of it, "The righteousness thereof is like the great mountains." But we have here also:
2 . Love's objects. "Us." The impression this makes on any one will depend on the opinion he has of himself. If he is convicted of sin, and has traced the hidden windings of evil in his own heart, it will ever be to him the marvel of marvels that the All-pure One could ever love him, and seek to purge him from guilt by the Divine process of loving!
3 . Love's freeness. "Hath given to us δεδώκεν ἡμῖν ." Love not only exists for us, goes out towards us, but it is given to us, as a rich and priceless treasure. Confers on us the noblest gifts from its vast stores, and all freely ( Hosea 14:4 ).
4 . Love's actual achievements. "That we should be called children of God: and such we are." We were rebels. As subjects of the great Governor, we had revolted. And love has re-made us. We have been born a second time, and have thus become children in God's family. We are such. We are called such. It is not, indeed, as yet openly manifested. "Our life is hid with Christ in God." There is no outward visible sign by which the world can distinguish us. Nor, indeed, have they the spiritual perception to discern nor the judgment to appreciate the marks of God's own. Their wisdom fails to show them God. They did not know the Christ. They do not know us. And for the same reason in every case. But their ignorance does not alter the glorious fact. "The Spirit beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God."
5 . Love's ultimate intentions. "It doth not yet appear what we shall be," etc. It is not merely for the sake of what we are today that our Father loves us so. See that baby-boy in his cradle. Say, over and above the instinctive fondness of parents for their children, are there not big hopes that gather round the little one's head? It is not merely for what he is today that he is loved like this; but for what he is to be! So with us. "It doth not yet appear what we shall be." God's children are as yet so young, so immature; their evolution is as yet so incomplete, that none can tell, from what they are with all their imperfections attending them, what they will be when all the imperfections are removed and their growth is unchecked. Still, three days are before us certain.
6 . Such love that can and will effect all this is wonderful. "What manner of love!" It is marvelous:
II. SUCH LOVE IS WORTHY OF DEVOUT AND ABSORBING REGARD . "Behold!" "See!" By such a word had John's attention first been called to Jesus ( John 1:29 ). By such a word would he now arrest ours and fasten it on Heaven's wondrous love, which had been the Object of his adoring gaze for more than half a century when he wrote these words. And still to each new-comer, as he reads this Epistle, the words address themselves, Look at this sight! There is no other object so gloriously enchanting. And no other object will so infinitely repay the longest and profoundest study. Then look! But:
1 . How?
2 . When?
3 . How long? Not fitfully or occasionally, but continuously, let the sight be turned, not inwardly on your own dark, sinful self, but outwardly, on the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Then in the clear light of God's love many a perplexity will vanish; for love is the key, and the only key, to unlock the secrets of the universe. Then doubt and dread will give place to perfect peace, and in a rapturous appropriation you will feel and say and sing, "All is mine, since the love of God is mine." Look! look! look! "till the day break, and the shadows flee away," and you see "face to face."
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