“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.” -- 1 John 3:1
We rejoice to know that “God is love!” Love is an attribute of his holy Being, without which he would not be God. We know that God is love because his love is revealed and made known by his deeds. Love is active. It is never dormant. Like fire, it must break out. It cannot be contained. It is known only when it is experienced, not by words, but by deeds. We know the love of God is that love that “passeth knowledge.” Yet, God’s love is revealed and made known by these six deeds of indescribable love.
The first act of God’s love was our election in Christ (Deut. 7:7-8). Election is not a hard doctrine. It is a delightful doctrine. Were it not for God’s electing love toward sinners, there would be no salvation (Eph. 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:13). We would never have come to know and love Christ had he not first loved us (John 15:16; 1 John 4:19).
The second act of God’s love was our redemption by Christ (Rom. 5:8; 1 John 3:16; 4:9-10). “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends!”
This was compassion like a God,
That when our Savior knew -
The price of pardon was his blood,
His love he ne’er withdrew!
Because he loved us, the Son of God assumed our nature, assumed our sin, assumed our guilt and died under the wrath of God as our Substitute, to put away our sins. “The Son of God loved me and gave himself for me!”
The third act by which God reveals his love to sinners is his effectual saving grace (Jer. 31:3). Those whom the triune God loved, the Father chose to save. Those whom the Father chose to save, the Son redeemed. And those whom the Son redeemed, the Holy Spirit will effectually call by his irresistible grace to life and faith in Christ. “Blessed is the man whom thou choosest and causest to approach unto thee” (Ps. 65:4).
The love of God is revealed fourthly in the absolute preservation of his elect in a state of grace (John 10:28; Rom. 8:39). Can you imagine one who is loved of God falling from a state of grace, perishing and suffering the wrath of God forever in hell? Such a notion is worse than nonsense, it is utter blasphemy! The love of God is without cause, without beginning, without condition, without change, and without end. It is free. It is discriminating. It is indestructible. It is everlasting.
Fifthly, God’s love for his elect is seen in our Savior’s tender, providential care for us (John 11:35-36). Our God and Savior really is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. We really are the apple of his eye.
But there is one act of love that goes beyond election, redemption, effectual calling, preservation, and providential care. Great and marvelous as those things are, there is one act of God that goes beyond them all. If the climax of God’s love is our redemption by Christ, the apex of God’s love is our adoption into the family of God (1 John 3:1-3). By birth, we are all sons of Adam, fallen, depraved and spiritually dead (Rom. 5:12). By our deeds, we show ourselves to be children of the devil, sinful, deceitful, and wicked (John 8:44). By nature, we are all children of wrath (Eph. 1:3), a people deserving the wrath of God. By grace, we who believe are the sons of God!
“Sons we are through God’s election,
Who in Jesus Christ believe;
By eternal destination,
Sovereign grace we here receive!
Every fallen soul, by sinning,
Merits everlasting pain;
But Thy love, without beginning,
Has restored Thy sons again.
Pause, my soul, adore and wonder!
Ask, ‘Oh why such love to me?’
Grace hath put me in the number
Of the Savior’s family!”
Election is the great fountain of grace. Redemption is the greatest mystery of grace. And adoption is the greatest privilege of grace. “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.”
Why has God
adopted us into his family?
No reason can be found in all the Bible for God’s adoption of sinners into his family except his own free love and sovereign will (Eph. 1:4-5). Adoption is experienced and known in time; but it began in eternity. We were not adopted into the family of God when he gave us his Spirit, but when he chose us and accepted us in the Beloved. He gives us his Spirit in regenerating grace, not to make us son of God, but because we are the sons of God (Gal. 4:1-7). The only distinction there is between the children of God and the children of wrath is the distinguishing love and grace of God (1 Cor. 4:7); and this distinction was made by God in eternity.
By what power do
sinners become the sons of God?
Were it not for the perversions of religious tradition, this question would be redundant. Man, by nature, is enmity against God. He cannot become one of the sons of God because he chooses to be. No preacher has any power to make men the sons of God. No church has no power to make men the sons of God. We certainly cannot make ourselves children of God by works we perform or by the exercise of our wills (Rom. 9:16). The only power that can translate a sinner from the family of nature into the family of grace (Jer. 3:19) is the power of God (John 1:12-13). Adoption is God’s work, and God’s work alone. No child of Adam shall ever become a child of God, but by the choice, power, and grace of God.
What is the
method of God’s adoption?
We must never suggest, or imply, or imagine that God must do anything, or that he must do anything in a specific way. God is totally free and sovereign. He can do whatever he is pleased to do. And he can do it however he is pleased to do it. However, God has revealed his method of grace in adoption in his Word. "As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13). Here John tells us three things about God’s method of grace in adoption.
1. First, the Lord God drops the life of grace into a person’s soul (v. 13). Those adopted by grace in eternity are “born of God” at the appointed time of love. This work of grace, the new birth, is God’s work. The adoption of grace differs from civil adoption. God gives his sons his name and his nature. This gracious gift of God is altogether the work of his free and sovereign grace in Christ. Grace does not run in any mere man’s family bloodline. It is not a family heirloom, passed from one generation to the next. It does not come through our parents’ “blood.” Grace does not come to sinners by the will of friends and relatives, “the will of the flesh,” no matter how sincere, earnest, and zealous. Neither does the grace of God come to sinners by their own will, “the will of men, but of God.” Grace and salvation, all the blessings and privileges of adoption, come to chosen sinners according to God’s purpose of predestination by his power.
2. As soon as God drops life into the soul, the regenerate sinner receives Christ, believing on his name. To believe on his name, the name of “the Lord Jesus Christ,” is to receive him as Lord (Master), Redeemer, and Savior. It is to bow to him as my rightful Sovereign and trust him for all righteousness, sanctification, and redemption before God.
3. As soon as a sinner trusts Christ, God gives him the right, the power, the authority, the privilege of being his child. This power, authority, and right of sonship is the assurance of sonship conferred upon believing sinners by the Holy Spirit. That person who trusts Christ alone as Savior and Lord knows that he has the right in Christ to speak to God almighty as his heavenly Father. Adoption is given to faith and faith is the evidence of adoption (Heb. 11:1).
Why are the children of God so
misunderstood and misrepresented by the people of this world?
If you are born of God, if you trust the Lord Jesus Christ, if you live in this world as a child of God, the men and women of the world will never be able to know you. You will be misunderstood and misrepresented. Your doctrine, your devotion to Christ, your desires to serve and honor him, are all things which mere worldlings find confusing. The reason for this misunderstanding is quite simple. -- “Therefore, the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.”
What are the
blessed privileges of adoption?
I have already told you that the greatest privilege of grace is adoption. Now, let me show you that that statement is true. Being the sons of God, ours is a blessedness beyond comparison.
1. We have an assured interest in God’s infinite, everlasting love (John 17:23-26).
2. We have the Spirit of God (Rom. 8:14-16; Gal. 4:6). God the Holy Spirit has been given to us, bequeathed and bestowed upon us by Christ our Lord. He has been given specifically to comfort us by teaching us the things of Christ, and as the pledge of our heavenly inheritance with Christ.
3. As the children of God, we have been brought into the discipline of our Father’s house (Heb. 12:5-11). Our heavenly Father’s chastening rod is a blessing of grace by which he proves, strengthens, and purifies our faith, and by which he graciously weans us from this world.
4. Being the children of God, we are assured of our ultimate, perfect conformity to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29).
5. And our adoption into the family of God makes us the heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:16-17). Our inheritance is an inheritance of grace, an inheritance of pure, free grace in Christ We were predestinated to it (Eph. 1:11). Christ has purchased it and claimed it for us (Eph. 1:14; Heb. 6:20). Grace has made us worthy of it (Col. 3:12). It shall be glorious (Rev. 7:16-17).