Tom Hayes


1 John 3:1-3

As a nineteen year old, I came to my dad to tell him I was getting married. I tried to explain that I loved Cindy and wanted to spend my life with her. I'll never forget him laughing at me and saying, Bud, you don't even know what love is! To be honest, it made me mad. However, after all these years, I can laugh about it, too, for I really didn't know anything about love. And, even now, I realize my limitations with this subject.

If human love is so evasive and difficult to comprehend, what can be said about divine love, or the love of God? This mountain is too high to climb! This sea is too broad to cross! This star is too distant to describe! This world is too big to conquer! No statement, no song, no sermon, no story or illustration can say all that should be said. One can only admit with the Psalmist, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me" (Psa. 139:6).

Divine love has been referred to as "God's active affection" (Robert L. Dabney). He is not just the God Who loved (past tense); or the God Who will love (future tense); He is the God Who loves! And, He loves, as John writes elsewhere, because "God is love" (1 John 4:8). He is the essence of love, the epitome of love. He cannot help but love, for He is love. Love is the expression of His nature, the outpouring of His heart, the unloading of His Being, the unveiling of His Person.

In the passage before us, we have an inspired description of God╒s love. We conclude that only God can properly explain God! Thus, as the Holy Spirit channels through John the beloved, we hear of divine love from a divine perspective. The great Lover, Himself, is pleased to reveal some of the special facets of the love that issues from Him.

1. Transcending Love

The Bible teaches that our God is the God Who transcends, Who goes beyond, Who exceeds and surpasses all. He is in a league by Himself, in a sphere that is all His Own. Thus, everything about Him transcends, as well. His peace, for instance, "passeth all understanding" (Phil. 4:7). His ways are "past finding out" (Rom. 11:33). And, His love "passeth knowledge" (Eph. 3:19). Three transcending qualities of divine love are set forth in the words, "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us" (3:1).

A. God's Love Transcends All Comparisons

Most Bible students agree that the word "manner" (3:1) does not indicate so much of what kind, but of what country. The love of God, then, might be called foreign love. It is from another country, from another culture, from another climate. His love is not like our love, or anything we call love. It is out of the ordinary, rare, strange, uncommon, distinct, and different. It exceeds all comparisons, or parallels.

B. God's Love Transcends All Costs

The idea behind the word "bestowed" (3:1) is that of "giving freely." The implication is that our heavenly Father cannot be demanded or required to love. He loves freely, and loves because He wants to. To use an explanation of one of the Puritans, "The only ground of God's love is His love" (Thomas Brooks). The inspired words of Holy Scripture are, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

C. God's Love Transcends All Conditions

Since human love requires a response from its object, it is difficult for us to enter into this phase of divine love. However, there are no strings attached to the love of God. There are no if's, but's, or and's regulating its actions. Unconditionally, the Lord focuses His affection upon us (see Deut. 7:7). Of course, whereas His love is not based on our response to Him, it does not go without a loving response. As John tells us later, "We love Him because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19).

2. Transferring Love

Many of the divine attributes are known as incommunicable attributes. That is, there are attributes, such as His eternity, omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence, that are only known to God Himself. However, some attributes, such as grace, mercy, and love, are referred to as communicable attributes because they can be transferred to human beings, or experienced in His dealings with us. The heart of God flows into the heart of man, changing our status with both God and the world.

A. His Love Has Brought Us Into A Relationship

No longer are we referred to just as sinners, or rebels against divine holiness. We now have a relationship with God! We are called "the sons of God" (3:1, 2). Too, we are looked upon as His "beloved," or "divinely loved ones" (3:2). We are yet in this world, but we are no longer joined to it. Through the Lord Jesus Christ, our relationship is with God. And, "therefore," it is declared, "the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not" (3:1).

B. His Love Has Brought Us Into A Fellowship

It is clear from verse 3 that we definitely possess a hope concerning the future. But, verse 2 magnifies the present tense reality of our salvation. The Apostle writes, "Beloved, now are we the sons of God" (3:2). Along with our relationship with the Father, we are also granted the blessing of fellowship with His family. Right now, in the present tense, we are numbered among His "sons" (3:1, 2), and afforded spiritual intimacy with the Father and His believing people (see 1 John 1:3).

C. His Love Has Brought Us Into A Sonship

How wonderful to see our acceptance with God! The word "sons" identifies us as His "offspring." Without question, we bear the marks of the fallen sons and daughters of Adam. But, believing hearts also bear the evidences of the regenerated children of God. As John writes later, "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth Him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of Him" (1 John 5:1).

3. Transforming Love

The transcendent love that is transferred from the heart of God into our hearts is an overcoming, conquering, transforming love. According to verses 2 and 3, it has already transformed, is transforming, and shall continue to transform us. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure" (3:2. 3).

A. The Power Of Transforming Love

"Beloved, now are we the sons of God" (3:2). Since our first birth, our birth into this world, is of the flesh, it must be called a natural birth. Our second birth, however, our birth into the kingdom of God, being of the Spirit, is a supernatural birth. Jesus said, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:6). Supernaturally, by the power of the Father's love (see 3:1), we are transformed, changed into spiritual children, and become "the sons of God" (3:2).

B. The Process Of Transforming Love

The phrase, "and it doth not yet appear what we shall be" (3:2), indicates that not only have we been transformed by love divine, but we are being transformed. As children after the flesh, we develop and grow. Similarly, as children after the Spirit, we are in a maturing process. As the love of the Father is "shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost" (Rom.5:5), spiritual affections are developed and aroused. Day by day, we are made more like Christ, or conformed more to His image (see Rom. 8:28, 29).

C. The Prospects Of Transforming Love

While we see what God has done for us, and sense, in a measure, what He is doing for us, we long for full sanctification. John tells us that this is not a false hope, "but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is" (3:2). Three prospective certainties are underlined here. First, we are told that Christ will return. Furthermore, we are assured that we will see Him in His resplendence. Thirdly, we are promised that we will be transformed and made like Him. As Rev. Henry Vegter puts it, "The prospects are great in Jesus Christ!"

The words in the last verse of the gospel song, "The Love Of God," was found scribbled on an asylum wall. It reads as follows:

Could we with ink the ocean fill, And were the skies of parchment made;
Were ev'ry stalk on earth a quill, And ev'ry man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole, Tho' stretched from sky to sky."

With this unknown author, may our hearts be lost in the vastness of divine love. God grant it to be so. Amen.