For the Love of God, Volume 1/December 4

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By D.A. Carson About Devotional Life
Chapter 340 of the book For the Love of God, Volume 1


2 Chronicles 3—4; 1 John 3; Nahum 2; Luke 18

“HOW GREAT IS THE LOVE the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1). All of us at one time belonged to the world; to use the language of Paul, we were all “by nature objects of wrath” (Eph. 2:3). The love of the Father that has accomplished the transformation is lavish precisely because it is undeserved. Moreover:

(1) “And that is what we are!” This emphatic exclamation was probably called forth in the first instance because those who had left the church (2:19) were adept at manipulating the believers. They insisted that they alone had an inside track with God, that they alone really understood the true knowledge (gnosis), that they alone enjoyed the true anointing. This had the effect of undermining the believers. John insists that his readers have received the real anointing (2:27), that their right conduct demonstrates that they have been born of God (2:29), that they have had the love of God lavished on them and thus become children of God— “And that is what we are!” The same point must be made for the sake of believers in every generation who feel threatened by the extravagant but misguided claims of the “super-spiritual” crowd who exercise their pitiful manipulation by a kind of spiritual one-upmanship. “We are the children of God,” Christians quietly affirm—and that is enough. If others do not recognize the fact, it may only attest that they themselves do not know God (3:1b).

(2) Although we are now already the children of God, “what we will be has not yet been made known” (3:2). On the one hand, we must not denigrate or minimize all that we have received: “now we are children of God.” On the other, we await the consummation and our own ultimate transformation (3:2).

(3) In fact, every child of God who lives with this prospect ahead, “who has this hope in him [which probably means ‘in Christ’ or ‘in God,’ specifying the object of the hope, rather than ‘in himself,’ merely specifying the one who entertains the hope] purifies himself, just as he is pure” (3:3). The Christian looks to what he or she will become in the consummation and is already interested in becoming like that. We receive the Father’s love; we know that one day we shall be pure; so already we strive to become pure now. That is in perfect conformity with the way chapter 2 ends: “If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him” (2:29).

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