NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
By Dr. Robert R Seyda
FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN
CHAPTER THREE (Lesson III) 07/15/21
3:1a See how very much our heavenly Father loves us, for He allows us to be called His children – think of it – and we are! But since most people don’t know God, naturally, they don’t recognize that we are His children.
Nathanael Emmons (1745-1840), American Congregational minister and influential theologian of a Divinity School, talks about the future state of Christians. He writes concerning the character of God’s children. This family spirit forms all the beautiful and good-natured traits in the Christian character. First, it influences the children of God to love Him with enthusiasm and supreme affection. Second, it motivates them to love the Lord Jesus the Anointed One in sincerity and believe in Him alone for salvation. Third, it unites all the children of God to one another. Fourth, it offers a spirit of grace and supplication. Five, it inclines His children to obey all His commands.
But what about their future state? First, they are unacquainted with perceiving either material or spiritual objects after they have lost their bodily senses. Second, it’s unknown and mysterious how they will converse with one another and with the heavenly hosts after leaving these mortal bodies. Third, they must remain uninformed in this life, how they will arrive in heaven, and move from place to place after they come there.
Yet, there one more thing. What do God’s children know concerning themselves in a future state? First, they do now perceive precisely where in the universe they will be hereafter. It’s called heaven, but that’s a unique place. Second, they can appreciate in this world what manner of persons they will be in the next. Third, they realize that they will be delighted and blessed when they leave this present evil world.
So, what lessons can we learn from this, asks Emmons? First, it appears that all the knowledge that Christians have of themselves in a future state wholly derives from Divine revelation. Second, they learn why some Christians die in so much light and joy and some in grief and distress. Third, Christians may and ought to infer the great importance of making their calling and election sure. Fourth, the preceding observations leave no doubt that death is always a happy event for God’s children. Fifth, it affords excellent consolation to those bereaved over the passing of near and dear Christian friends. All this may not seem like something to shout over down here, but we will be shouting all over heaven when it comes to pass.
Samuel Eyles Pierce (1746-1829) says the significance of this verse makes it different from all others. We’ve received Unction – an anointing – from the Holy One. We are now the partakers of a new and supernatural birth. God sent His Spirit into our hearts, whereby we cry Papa, Father. We have received the blessings of grace and glory. It gives us an inward, genuine, and actual enjoyment of those gifts, which enabled us to examine and contemplate the Love of our heavenly Father. He is the original fountain, and spring, of our eternal life, blessedness, perfection, and glory.
Catholic writer George Leo Haydock (1774-1849) speaks very much like an Evangelical when commenting on this verse. He states that the Apostle John said in the last verse of the preceding chapter that since we know that God is always good and does what’s right, we may correctly assume that all those who do right are His children. By that, I mean, children of God by adoption. But the world does not recognize this, nor do they esteem and value us as such. But it’s no wonder because they’ve never known, nor acknowledged, nor reverenced God as they ought. We indeed are the children of God; we believe it because God assured us of it. It is why John tells us that is precisely who we are: children of God.
And that’s only the beginning, says Haydock. Right now, we can’t even imagine what it is going to be like later on. But we do know this, that when He returns, we will be like Him, as a result of seeing Him as He is. Furthermore, since time began, Scriptures say no one has seen or heard of such a God as ours, who works for those who wait for Him! But again, we only know this, that His elect will be like Him because they shall see Him as He is when they enjoy Him in heaven.
Albert Barnes (1798-1870) expounds on what sort of Love God used to love us. Here, the Apostle John signifies the type of love of this kind, and to this degree. This kind of love is the most tender and ennobling in adopting us into God’s family, permitting us to address Him as our Father to such a degree that it is exalted. Since there is no higher love to be found that adopts a poor and friendless orphan boy and give him a parent and a home. God could not bestow on us a more valuable token of affection than that we should be adopted into his family, permitting us to regard Him as our spiritual Father.
When we remember how insignificant we are as creatures, says Barnes, and how ungrateful, rebellious, and vile we have been as sinners, we might be amazed at the Love which would adopt us into the holy family of God so that we may be regarded and treated as the children of the Most-High. A princess could not exhibit higher love for a wandering, ragged, spiteful orphan girl found in the streets than by adopting her into the royal family, admitting her to the same privileges and honors as her daughters. Yet, this would be a trifle compared with the honor which God bestowed on us.
Robert Smith Candlish (1806-1873) says that Jesus, the first-begotten among many brethren, is teaching us now to know, as He knows, the righteous Father through the love by which the Father loved His Son living internally in union with us. Candlish likens the world to a schoolhouse ill-prepared, in many respects, for teaching. The students are not as brilliant as one might wish. The schoolhouse is dimly lit and stuffy; the atmosphere is too full of dust and smoke; the learners are often drowsy, and reading the textbook is like looking through a dark glass.
But then! The hour comes when a kind and caring teacher leads the students into a spacious, magnificent, bright study hall of His Father’s mansion-filled estate. There, He presents them to the Father, face to face, saying, “Here I am Lord with the students You have given me.” Then there is clear sight; unclouded vision; a complete and perfect understanding of the righteous Father; a comprehensive and textbook knowledge between Him and us; as whole and flawless an experience there can be of His beloved. All that is dark or doubtful about His character and ways are cleared up. There is nothing to awaken suspicion or suggest a question; nothing to give a partial or distorted view of what He is or what He does. We see Him as He is, so seeing Him, we approve, love, and are like Him evermore!
Daniel D. Whedon (1808-1885) explains that Regeneration, as a term, does not appear in Scripture but is expressed in all such phrases as born or birthed by God. It is that work of the Holy Spirit by which the love of God and Christian graces spring up in the soul. It occurs immediately following our repentance and faith, brought on by the convicting and enabling influences of the Spirit. The first spark of divine love is the spark of spiritual life – the spark of everlasting life; if preserved within the soul, it will advance until it works out the resurrection glory.
John Eadie (1810-1876) exclaims, what “manner” of God’s Love is this? Transforming those who were once so unlike Him, Love prompted Him to adopt them, and after they are adopted, He has delight in them. So, what “manner” of love is this that the repentant fallen should finally have a place in His embrace which the unrepentant unfallen can never occupy! Still more, a glorious destiny awaits them. When the years of being a minority expire, the children are taken home to the household on high, where the whole family form one unbroken and vast assemblage. We see the extraordinary Love of the Father in the entire experience of discipline arranged for His children. And what child would not be content under any circumstances? Whatever is for their good, their heavenly Father will give them. Such temporal blessings will come as they improve in obedience.
Richard Holmes (1817-1868) Tuck points out that the things the Apostle John remembers of the words and works of our Lord Jesus were the things that caught and engaged his attention. They were forever fixed in his memory. We all can understand that the things we were most deeply involved with are the things we remember the longest. Think of it; only John records our Lord’s interview with Nicodemus; only John distinctly gives us the idea of the Christian life coming from a new and Divine new birth. So, he talks about the essential things he heard, saw, and touched that he remembers in detail and significance.
 Emmons, Nathanael: Biblical Illustrator, 1 John 3, op. cit., pp. 40-41
 Pierce, S. E., An Exposition of the First Epistle General of John, op. cit., Vol. 1, p. 325
 1 John 3:2
 Isaiah 64:4
 Haydock, George Leo: First Epistle of John, op. cit., loc. cit.
 Barnes, Albert: New Testament Notes, op. cit., p. 4837
 Isaiah 8:18
 Candlish, R. S., The First Epistle of John Expounded in a Series of Lectures, op. cit., p. 239
 Whedon, Daniel: Commentary on NT, op. cit., p. 267
 Eadie, John: The Biblical Illustrator: New Testament (p. 52259-52262). Kindle Edition.
 Tuck, Richard: The Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary, op. cit., p. 282