by E. W. Bullinger
An excerpt from Things to Come
Vol. VII, No. 2 – August 1900
“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God” (I John 3:1).
Notice in these wondrous words:
THE DIVINE COMMAND
“Behold!” It is not mere interjection, but a verb; an imperative command. Look! See! Observe! Notice!
This word “Behold” seems to be specially associated with the Holy Spirit; for it is He who thus calls our attention to what He is about to write and reveal for our instruction.
In the same manner the word “Verily” seems to be associated with the Lord Jesus; for He it is who exclusively uses it to call attention to the weighty words He is about to utter.
And “Yea” seems to be the word of the Father; for all the promises of God are “yea,” certain and sure, in the faithfulness of His covenant assurance.
Whenever we meet with this word “Behold” we must expect to find something worthy of our deepest attention.
It is so here; for there is something that will fill our hearts with wonder, joy, and admiration as we are brought to see and know and experience…
THE FATHER’S LOVE
This is the great and central subject of this passage. By the Figure of Speech Hyperbaton, the subject “the Father,” which is usually put first or early in the sentence, is (in the Greek) put last, in order to attract our attention to the fact that it is the love of “the Father” to us, and not ours to Him, which is the great wonder which we are to “behold.”
It is “the Father” who is the sovereign bestower of His love; and He has bestowed it upon “us.”
Now, lest we appropriate to ourselves what does not belong to “us,” it is important that we should look at this word “us.”
It is clearly defined and limited and explained in the preceding portion of this Epistle.
It is we who have handled by faith the Christ of God—the Word of Life (I John 1:1).
It is we who have fellowship with the Father, and know Him as such in Christ (I John 1:3).
It is we who are ever conscious of our frailties, infirmities and sins; and know that precious “Advocate” whom the Father has provided for His sinful children (I John 2:1), and…
It is we who know that we are children of God, and not children of the devil (I John 3:10).
Not that we have anything to boast of, or any merit in ourselves. For the effect of this Divine love shed abroad in our hearts is to reveal our own unloveliness. In the light of this love we see our own enmity and hatred and opposition to God’s truth, God’s Christ, and God’s people; and learn that “we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But,” —here comes in the cause of the mighty change—it was “after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour towards man appeared. Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy HE saved US” (Titus 3: 3-5).
This brings us to…
THE MANNER OF LOVE
It was bestowed freely, given without merit, without a work, “without a cause.” It was…
This is indeed “the greatest thing in the world.” Not that we loved Him, but that He loved us. What a perversion to change this Divine order, and speak of our love to God and to one another as “the greatest thing in the world!”
No! It is when we are shown by Divine light our true condition—as wayward, rebellious children, determined to do our own will, bent on our own destruction, without one redeeming feature, without one compensating quality; with everything to call forth Divine wrath—then it is we see this greatest thing in the world, the love of the high and holy God bestowed upon such.
It springs up and flows forth of its own self, independently of any extraneous influence.
Our so-called love is just the opposite. We bestow it only on a “deserving case.” No other need expect anything to be bestowed by “us.”
But the only reason Jehovah gives, why He ever did anything for or gave anything to His people is “because He loved thee.” That was all; nothing influenced it or called it forth. (Read Deuteronomy 4:37; 7:7-9; 9:5,6; 10:15; Numbers 14:8; Psalm 86:2 marg.; II Samuel 15:25, 26.)
As to its origin. Everlasting as to its duration. To Israel He says: “I have loved thee with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). How much more can this be said of those “in Christ.”
What can we say to this, dear friends and readers? We can only bow our heads in worship and adoration, and say “Who am I, O Lord God,” and “what am I!”
Not only has it no limit as to time or duration, but it has no bounds as to extent. It knows no constraints. No good in us called it forth, and no sin in us can keep it back. It is infinite, as to itself, in nature, manifestations, and communications. It is infinite as to our deepest necessities, our weakest faith, and our fainting hope and love.
“Having loved His own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end” (John 13:1). To the end of time, to the end of their need, to the end of their sins; and neither Sin, nor Satan, nor Death, nor Hell, nor all combined can ever decrease this love or diminish it.
Overcoming all obstacles; breaking down all barriers; removing all hindrances; humbling the highest pride; subduing the strongest wills; melting the hardest hearts; and purging all our sins.
Yes, and beyond all this, sweetening our bitterest cup, conquering our greatest enemies, and triumphing over death and the grave.
Such is the manner of Divine Love.
“His love no end or measure knows,
No change can turn its course;
Eternally the same, it flows
From one eternal source.”
THE OBJECT OF THIS LOVE
“That we should be called the Sons of God.” The best Greek texts with R.V. add the words, “and such we are.”
Here again is no interference on the part of man. God will have none of his intrusions here. He bestows, and He calls.
We are called by the Father according to His purpose,
Called by the Son in His redeeming work,
Called by the Holy Spirit in His quickening power.
Called to Himself; called to His rest; called to His eternal glory.
What a wondrous call! What manner of love!
May we and all our readers have an ear to hear that call, and a heart filled with that love, shed abroad within it by Divine grace and power.