First Expressions in First John (part 3)

Robert E. Surgenor


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. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. And every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself even as He is pure.

In traveling through John’s first epistle, chapter two gives birth to three sets of triplets that deeply search our soul as to our reality and our relationship to the world. Then all of a sudden we come to a "rest area." John seems to stop and with wonder, appreciation and amazement, bursts forth with the tremendous statement: "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us." He desires us to "stop, look, and listen." Turn your eyes, pay attention, inspect and examine this tremendous truth, says John. He wants to tell us about love. Not the so-called love that you see displayed in the world all around you. Oh no, that would never do! This particular love that John wishes to expose is a love that is extraordinary, so John uses the word "manner." What an interesting word. It could mean "quality," but it goes deeper than that. That word manner is found in Matt. 8:27: "But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!" They were astonished, they marvelled at the manner of Man who was in the boat with them on the troubled sea. He was a man foreign to this world. He was from another county - heaven! Well now, this is exactly what the word "manner" implies! It means, "of what country." The Father’s love is so unearthly, so foreign to this world, that it causes wonder in our mind. Paul writes the Ephesian believers and assures them that this divine love is immeasurable - "But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us" (Eph. 2:4).

We certainly did not merit such love (1 Jn. 4:10), but it has positioned us, "that we should be called the sons (children) of God." Because of this tremendous positioning, by nature a creature of God, but now by grace a child of God, "the world knoweth us not, "it perceives, it understands us not. Paul relates this to the Corinthians, "But the natural (animal, unconverted) man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they (spiritual things) are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth (discerneth) all things, yet he himself is judged (discerned) of no man" (1 Cor. 2: 14, 15). This was evidenced when Paul stood before Agrippa. He spake spiritual truths and all of a sudden "Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself much learning doth make thee mad" (Acts 26). John adds about the world, "it knew Him not." Certainly, if the world cannot perceive the Father, one could not expect them to perceive His children. One is reminded of our Lord’s expression to His Father in John’s gospel 17:25, "0 righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee: but I have known Thee, and these have known that Thou hast sent Me." The more spiritual and Christ-like we become, the less we will be understood by the ungodly. "He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not" (Jn. 1:10). Thus the Father is not perceived. The Son is not perceived. The spiritual man is not perceived. It is true, that we should strive to be made all things to all men, that we might by all means save some (1 Cor. 9:22). That is scriptural. Yet, on the other hand, if the ungodly feel comfortable in our presence, that is sad.

John moves on toward the Son and in doing so speaks of us as "beloved." What a word! It also means, "esteemed, dear, favorite, worthy of love." Because we are Christ’s, we being accepted in the Beloved are esteemed, we are worthy of love! Not because we deserve it, but simply because we are Christ’s. Let me ask you quite pointedly, is this how you look upon your brethren and sisters? Do you esteem them, do you consider them worthy of your love? I would say that less evil speaking and more lowliness and esteem for others would be a tremendous tonic for our assemblies.

We are to esteem them (the elders) very highly in love for their work’s sake. "And be at peace among yourselves" (1 Thes. 5:13). In many circles, elders who seek to administer corrective ministry, so that godliness will be maintained in the gathering, are despised, rather than esteemed. Shame on us! I have on occasions noticed certain disorders in some assemblies and have asked the shepherds, "Have you given ministry to correct this condition?" The reply, time and time again, is usually this. "They may listen to you, but they will not take it from us." Brethren, these things ought not so to be. Let us go a step further. "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves" (Phil. 2:3). Why? Because they are beloved in the Father’s sight and they should be beloved (worthy of love) in our sight.

What a great present position - "children of God." The King James version translates the word teknon, sons, but it should be translated children. John never uses the word sons (huios) to describe the people of God. He uses the word huios (son) exclusively for the Lord Himself. However, we are also termed huios, sons of God, by Paul. As children of this tremendous family, he points us on to that glorious day when medicine, trials, infirmities, tears, failures, sickness and funerals will all be a thing of the past. We can hardly conceive it, just to think that we are going to be like Him! We certainly don’t manifest it now in this veil of sorrow and tears, but the day is coming when in a moment we shall be like Him.

The word moment in First Corinthians 15:52, is atomos, meaning atom. Do you know the smallness of an atom? Take five billion atoms out of one drop of water every second and after thirty thousand years you will have removed from that one drop of water all of its atoms! In an atom of time we shall be like Him. Oh the wondrous efficacy of His work at Calvary! It will never be calculated in all its fullness by our feeble minds! Glorious Saviour! Blessed Lord! Brethren, the older I become, the more I appreciate this revelation! Yesterday a brother and I travelled up the road thirty miles to see a sister in her 89th year, living alone in a humble dwelling. Her eyes were dim. She could only see men as trees walking. Day after day she sat in semidarkness alone, meditating and praying for others. She was isolated from other saints, but once in a great while someone would come and take her to an assembly to remember her Lord. I went to encourage her, but instead, she encouraged me. There were no complaints. She immediately began to ask us how the tent meetings were going and told us of different souls that she was praying for. To my surprise she even inquired as to my former labors 1,000 miles from her in the mountain state of West Virginia. Neighbors tried to give her a T.V. for entertainment and she kindly told them that the T.V. was a lot of foolishness and that she had the Lord in her little dwelling and that was more than sufficient for her. A blind, isolated, poor widow living in perfect contentment. I told her that soon she would have perfect vision and be in the Father’s house. Her face beamed. What a blessed hope, the trials of earth forever gone and we like Him in the glorious home above.

I believe that we shall be like Him morally. The old, depraved nature forever gone. I can hardly conceive what it will be like to be totally unable to sin. Oh the bliss of that! Never to grieve His holy heart anymore! I believe that we shall be like Him physically! There will be no souls in heaven crawling around as babies! There will be no saints with wrinkles and the infirmities of old age. No, no! We shall be like Him! We will not require food or sleep. Our intelligence will be far superior to that which we possess on earth. We shall be like Him! Let this truth burn down deeply into your mind. Let it grip your soul. Let it fire up your spirit. Become obsessed with it and you will find that you will become purer in your life for Him down here.

The purity that was manifested in the Son of God in His sojourn here will begin to be seen in you, a child of God. Then, when your life’s journey is over and the last trump sounds, we that are living shall rise with saints who have gone on before, meeting the Lord in the atmosphere of earth, then to be brought by Him to the Father’s house, in His own likeness. John concludes his tremendous exclamation with these words: "We shall see Him as He is." Not as He was, but, as He is! Reading the gospels, we see Him as He was. But oh, to see Him as He now is, in all His acquired, official and intrinsic glories, what a sight that shall be. Yes, "we shall see Him as He is." That sight will capture our vision eternally and as the ages roll endlessly on, He will unfold to us things concerning Himself that we had never contemplated before. Hymn writer Joseph Swain put it like this; "What will it be to dwell above, And with the Lord of glory reign! Since the blest knowledge of His love, so brightens all the dreary plain; No heart can think, no tongue can tell, what joy ‘twill be with Christ to dwell." Oh brethren, well may we all exclaim, "Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus."