“SEE WHAT KIND OF LOVE”
1 John 2:28-3:3
1. When it comes to how we think about the future, no paragraph is more realistic or reassuring about our responsibility than this one...
2. A quick evaluation of what is said here will bring us to the crucial point.
a. “When he appears” is mentioned twice (2:28; 3:2). His coming will be the ultimate reality of the future. “So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Heb. 9:28).
b. At his coming, we will either “have confidence” and be able to stand unafraid in his presence, or “shrink from him in shame,” growing pale from the realization that we are not prepared to meet him. (G. N. Woods, 254)
c. We may have confidence when he appears if, as our way of life, we will abide in him (2:28), practice righteousness (2:29), and purify ourselves (3:3).
d. That, after all, is what children who have been begotten by a righteous and pure God must, by nature, do.
e. And John believed that the determining, motivating factor in this line of thought is: “See what kind of love the Father has given us...” (3:1).
i. “See,” or “behold,” means “to fix attention on” or “to take notice of” or “to be impressed with.” (Woods, 256)
ii. “Look!” John says, “Look at the love the Father has given us!” The wonder of it is what gets him. (L. Morris, NBC, 1264)
iii. It’s as if he were telling us, “There is no way to face the future with confidence without standing off a bit and gazing on what kind of love the Father has already bestowed upon us.”
3. The matter we have to settle for ourselves – what we have to be able to see – is whether, and to what degree, we are impressed by the Father’s kind of love.
1. We must be impressed because of what love is.
a. From the start, love is the most powerful factor in any life.
i. The care of those who love us is what shapes us as persons.
ii. The presence of those who love us is what gives us security and a sense of who we are.
iii. The interested involvement of those who love us is what blesses us and enriches our lives.
iv. Emerson said, “Love is our highest word, and the synonym for God.”
b. As we read the Bible, our respect for the preeminent place love has increases.
i. Scripture not only says that “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8), but also that the first and great commandment is to love him with all that we are (Matt.22:37f).
ii. Loving our neighbors as ourselves is the second commandment (Matt.22:39) and the royal law (James 2:8).
iii. Loving each other the way Christ has loved us is what tells all people that we are his disciples (Jn. 13:34,35).
c. The more we learn from him about what love is, the deeper in awe of it we grow.
i. The word “describes a passionate goodwill which acts lovingly without expecting (necessarily) a loving response.” (Brecheen)
ii. The love chapter, 1 Cor.13, says this means giving the heart in actions (v.1-3), and behaving beautifully (v.4-7), and staying with it (v.8).
iii. Real love is so different from what we ordinarily see in this selfish world that it shines like a bright star!
2. We must be impressed because of whose love it is.
a. The Lord GOD is the Supreme Being, more impressive than all others.
i. He is the Almighty; there is no power that he does not have.
ii. He is all-wise; there is no knowledge that he does not possess.
iii. He is present everywhere; there is no place to go where he is not present.
iv. He is all-seeing; there is no creature in the universe that is not naked and exposed to his eyes (Heb. 4:13)
v. He is unchanging; from everlasting to everlasting, he is God (Ps. 90:2).
b. In the Bible, we read of some who did not give God his due, but one thing we never find is anyone who stood in God’s presence unimpressed.
i. Moses “quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped” (Ex.34:8).
ii. Elijah “wrapped his face in his cloak and went out” (1 Kings 19:13).
iii. Job laid his hand on his mouth (Job 40:4).
iv. Isaiah said, “Woe is me! For I am lost...for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isa. 6:5).
v. Both Ezekiel and Daniel said they fell on their faces when they saw his glory or heard his words (Ezek. 1:28; 3:23; Dan. 10:8,9).
c. It is no wonder that we are called to “see what kind of love” this is.
i. It involves the greatest Being – the Father – and he is doing the greatest thing – loving.
ii. Who can not be impressed?
3. We must be impressed because of how his love has been given.
a. The word for “what kind of” love (or “what manner”) originally meant “of what country” (Stott, The Epistles of John, 118).
i. It is a word that implies astonishment (J. W. Roberts, 76)
ii. The apostle is saying that the Father’s kind of love is unearthly, that it defies comparison with anything in this world, that the only country it could have come from is a heavenly one!
iii. Paul also said that “the love of Christ...surpasses knowledge” (Eph.3:19).
b. Notice also that the text speaks of the kind of love the Father “has given.”
i. What causes the wonder is not just that he has it, but that he has given it.
ii. It is not just that he has shown his love that amazes John, but that he has actually bestowed it upon us – given it to us!
iii. 1 John 4:9, 10 describes how he did it...
c. The Father has given his love in such a manner as to satisfy justice.
i. Ray Stedman has pointed out that “love that satisfies justice is righteous.” (Expository Studies from 1 John, 187)
ii. His way of illustrating what that means is, “If you are hungry, and I feel sorry for you, and steal $5 from the bank to buy you a meal, I have manifested love toward you, but I have not satisfied justice with regard to the bank. That would be love without justice, and unrighteous act.”
iii. A little later: “On the other hand, if I steal $5 from the bank to satisfy my hunger and you put me in jail, without feeding me, then you have manifested justice, but no love...Therefore it is an unrighteous act, even though it is legally correct.”
iv. Stedman says, “Love that satisfies justice is always unselfish, self-giving, willing to suffer inconvenience–even heartache and shame. It is concerned about the need of another, and yet concerned that the need be met without affecting still others adversely.” (188)
v. And, “Righteousness is giving, whether or not anything is received in return, and in such a way that no encouragement is given to evil.” That is the way God has given us his love. How impressive!
4. We must be impressed because of who he loves.
a. John says the Father has given this kind of love to, or bestowed it upon, us.
i. It is not overly impressive to see someone loving the ones who are good and kind and lovable.
ii. The Most High, though, “is kind to the ungrateful and the evil” (Lk.6:35) – even the hardest ones to love are the objects of his costly love.
iii. And that is how he saw us when he found us: Romans 5 says he commended his love toward us when we were still weak (v.6), the ungodly (v.6), still sinners (v.8), and while we were enemies (v.10).
iv. We were helpless, unfit, proud and prickly, stubborn and difficult–yet he loves us.
v. None of us are great catches who did God a favor by consenting to be on his side, but he still wants us.
b. One reason this fact is so impressive is that if God loves us, he must love me.
i. It is good to know that God loves us all, but it is better to know that he loves each one.
ii. He doesn’t just love the young and the talented and the wealthy and the famous and the successful; he makes each one of us the object of his loving concern–including me.
iii. Even I am recipient of, and responsible to, the Father’s kind of love.
iv. He wants me to rely upon, and to respond to, the kind of love he has given.
v. William Barclay has written that “during the Middle Ages a poor scholar by the name of Muretas was traveling through Italy when he became desperately ill and was taken to a charity hospital for foreigners and strays. The doctors were discussing his case in Latin, never dreaming he could understand their scholarly language. One suggested that they use him for medical experiments since he was only a worthless wanderer. He looked up and answered in their own learned tongue: ‘Call no man worthless for whom Christ died.’” (The Gospel of Luke, 16)
5. We must be impressed because of why his love has been given to us.
a. God has lavished his kind of love upon us to make us his children.
i. John really emphasizes this point: “that we should be called children of God; and so we are...Beloved, we are God’s children now...”
ii. The world may not recognize that we are children of God; we are anyhow.
iii. We do not know yet everything that we will be; we are still already children of God. What an amazing claim!
b. One thing this has to mean is that, in the sense that is being spoken of here, God is not everybody’s Father.
i. If connection to him by reason of creation were all that is at stake, this letter would not speak of God giving his Son or of the necessity of our abiding in him as we have been taught.
ii. This is talking about what he give us the right to become by believing on his Son (Jn. 1:12), what we become in Christ by faith when we put Christ on by being baptized into him (Gal. 3:26,27).
iii. The scope of the love of God takes in everybody everywhere, but the relationship he wants with his children, the meaningful and continuing fellowship between the Father and his family, is in Christ.
c. The other thing this means is that we “have this hope in him,” a family inheritance!
i. The apostle frankly says “what we will be has not yet appeared,” and that should humble us in our talk of what it will be like.
ii. John is clear, though, in saying that three events lie in our future: 1)he will appear; 2)we will see him as he is; and 3)we will be like him.
iii. Our hope consists in being like our Jesus in eternity: morally without sin, intellectually without falsehood or error, and physically without weakness or imperfection (ESV Study Bible, 2433). What a hope!
1. That is why the main point of our text is the need for us to be becoming like him now: abiding in him, practicing righteousness, and purifying ourselves as he is pure.
2. It would be a terrible thing for our hope to appear and for us to shrink from it in shame.
3. Do you “see what kind of love the Father has given us”? Are you a child of God?