John Was Truly Captivated by the Love of God
“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” (KJV, 1 John 3:1).
The word “behold” is set forth in Scripture as an indicator of something that must be observed. The Bible is replete with examples that consist of a great need for the believer to behold someone or something.
Of primary importance is the need to behold Jesus Christ. Paul tells us that when someone beholds the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, that same person will be radically transformed into the image of Christ. What a blessing it is to see Jesus and behold His glory.
In the beginning of the book of John, John the Baptist is declared as someone who made claims to the Messiahship of Jesus Christ. Prior to Jesus’ ministry, John the Baptist had gained a following of disciples. However, John the Baptist was not concerned with people following himself, but rather he sought to point his disciples to Another.
A day arose when Jesus walked by John the Baptist and two of John’s disciples. As Jesus walked by, John the Baptist declared, “Behold the Lamb of God.” This was a turning point for both Andrew and the apostle John. They did as John the Baptist had told them: they beheld the Lamb of God. The Bible declares that from that point on, they followed Jesus and observed His ways.
It is interesting to note that in the beginning of John the apostle’s relationship with Christ, he heard the words “behold” set forth from his teacher, John the Baptist. As we approach 1 John 3:1, we hear the same words echoing forth from the lips of John the apostle. John tells us to behold. He tells us to observe, to look at intently, and to pay close attention to what he is going to say next. John payed close attention to what John the Baptist pointed him toward, and it changed his life. The apostle may have had the same idea in mind when he told us to behold in 1 John 3:1.
But what was it that John sought to draw our attention to in such a unique way? He could have said “behold” before every sentence in his epistle, but he did not. As a matter of fact, the word “behold” is only found in 1 John 3:1. Why don’t we see what he had to say.
“what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us”
At the outset, John sought to point us to the love of the Father. John was truly captivated by the love of God. John was rather unique in his expression of his fascination. In the Gospel of John, he oftentimes referred to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved. This is not to say that Jesus did not love the other disciples. It is also not to say that Jesus loved John the most out of all of His disciples. John is merely expressing, for his readers, the deep love that Jesus had for him.
John did not intend to make the love of God toward him unique, in the sense that only John experienced this reality. Surely, every Christian has a unique relationship with God, and the love of God can be experienced in unique ways in the lives of individual believers. However, John was captivated by the love of God and wanted everyone else to know about this love and experience this love.
Let us not forget who wrote the famous words, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Again we can see that John said, “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16). God is multifaceted, and there are times in which a believer may have a certain aspect of God impressed on him in greater measure than some of the other aspects of God.
When Isaiah beheld the glory of God in Isaiah chapter 6, the holiness of God was imprinted on his heart. If one were to read the book of Isaiah, he would see the way that God’s holiness takes a primary place in the text. Nevertheless, when John beheld the Lamb of God Who would take away the sin of the world, he was struck by the love of God. It would not seem to be out of place to say that John, when compared to the other apostles, saw the love of God in a unique way. This is not to say that John was any better than the rest, but the Father showed His child the Father’s love, and John was changed in the midst of this.
“that we should be called the sons of God”
This brings us to the statement on which John seeks to hone in. John tells us to behold; he then points us to the love of God. However, when someone tells us to focus in on the love of God, we encounter a broad concept that may leave us without any real meaning. John does not leave us there, but brings us home to a place where we can lay our heads. He tells us of the love of God toward us that has been revealed in God’s calling the believer His child.
What a glorious fact of life. God the Father has seen fit to save a believer and bring that same believer into a close relationship with Himself. God the Father looks down on His creation and adopts those with saving faith into the family of God.
This truth, the truth of adoption into the family of God by the Father, was what John desired for his readers to behold. He desired for his readers to make much of the fact that they had been adopted into God’s family. John was a child of God, and he found much joy in this fact.
A conversation between John and Paul may have gone something like this. “John, have you been rejoicing in the Lord always?” “Yes, I have, Paul. I have been rejoicing in the Lord always.” “Have you been thankful in all circumstances, John?” “Yes, I have, Paul, I have been very thankful.” “John, can you tell me what you have been rejoicing about and what you have been thankful for?” “Absolutely, Paul! I have been making much of the fact that I am a child of God. This has caused me to rejoice often, and I find that I am thankful in even the most difficult of times.”
Make much of the fact that you are a child of God, and watch as the peace of God rules over your heart.
“therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not”
John’s conclusion is both sad but logical. While the Christian is in this world, he will experience a love from God that is beyond comprehension. At the same time, he will find that he is out of place in the world. The temptation for the believer will be to blend in with the world, become like the world, and act like the world, but he must never be deceived in this way.
John makes it clear that the world will not know us. There will be no fellowship between light and darkness. This is not to say that the believer hates the unbeliever, nor is it to say that the believer should not seek out the lost as Christ did. However, it is to say that there will be a stark contrast between the children of God and the children of destruction.
Embrace the fact that as a child of God you must be setting yourself apart from the world, while at the same time looking to the Father and beholding a God of love in the midst of a fallen world.
Father, I thank You for the love that You have for me. I thank You for the many ways that You have shown me Your love and the ways that You continue to reveal Your love to me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.