“Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God” (1 John 3:1).
Here is an absolute, unqualified statement, full of deep meaning. Matchless depths are in these precious words; we are now the children of God!—“born” into that relationship, and it is one which abides. A clear apprehension of this gracious truth, this divinely assured fact, is deeply important: it is the birthright of every true Christian, and the assured knowledge of it is for our present enjoyment. The more truly we enter into our relationship, take our place as children of God, the more effective will be our testimony in the world; whilst that which gives us the inner consciousness of it, the ring of certainty and assurance, is the indwelling Spirit of God.
Our destiny is sonship, conformity to Christ in glory. It is this of which Paul speaks; but John—if I may coin a word—speaks of child-ship; we have the family nature imparted to us. A king’s child is by birth higher in dignity than the richest and greatest in the realm in whose veins the royal blood does not run. Everything flows from relationship. Let it be established clearly that we are really and truly born of God, then things otherwise inexplicable become intelligible and easily understood.
Our calling is that of children. Other scriptures delineate other aspects of our calling, but the charming food of our souls here is to behold the special and peculiar manner in which the Father’s love is shown to us: “Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called”—saints? Nay! Christians? Nay, something sweeter and more precious than those terms convey—we are called children of God! Here is love indeed!
Let us behold the wondrous manner of this love as pictured in that hapless prodigal lying, yesterday, forlorn, destitute, beggared, miserable, squalid, without a friend; today, kissed, welcomed, robed, and feasted in the unending joys of the Father’s house; his portion the unspeakable enjoyment of the Father’s love—not only today, but for ever. They began to be merry. Oh! that the manner of that love may thrill our hearts as we behold it; what a picture! But it is the picture of a great reality, the actual transmigration from the awful distance of sin right home to the Father’s embrace, and welcome, and love; but understood only by those who have experienced it.
The creation of this world and its thousand constellations by omnipotent power, never filled those heavenly courts with melody such as was heard when the fountain of everlasting love was opened to receive a repentant prodigal and bring him into the family circle, partaking of its life and nature.
All heaven is in ecstasy at the introduction of a once sin-polluted, fallen child of Adam into the divine family, cleansed and pardoned; the bringing of a “child of wrath” into the relationship of a “child of God.” This is far and away the most wondrous part of God’s ways; the new creation leaves the old far behind, for it is the fruit of measureless love through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; it demands the endless thanksgiving of every babe, young man, and father in the family of God.
“Behold, I and the children which God has given Me.” “I and the children”! Think of the disparity, the moral distance which once existed between Himself, the Son, and the children with whom He deigns thus to associate Himself! How has this distance been met? First by redemption, and then by a love that begat them anew, placed the redeemed ones in the nearest and dearest of all relationships, so that “He is not ashamed to call them brethren”!
Marvellous indeed! This is far beyond forgiveness, far beyond justification, unspeakably blessed as that surely is; it is the gratification of the heart of the Son in associating with Himself those begotten of the Father, all of those who are truly and rightly called “the children of God”; fruit of the love of the Father who had given them to Him. It is the highest form of Christian favour and privilege. As we adoringly contemplate it, and enter into the blessed meaning of those words, “Beloved, now are we the children of God,” we may well exclaim, “What manner of love!”