See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God. 1 John 3:1
Not only did it cost him his Son to save us from sin and death and hell (John 3:16; 1 John 3:16); and not only were we enemies so that God had to propitiate his own righteous anger in order to save us (1 John 4:10); but he went way beyond the love of rescue and the love of sacrifice and the love of clemency to his enemies. In and through all this he had a greater design. He showed us another kind of love beyond all that. He might have rescued us, sacrificed for us, forgiven us, and not gone any further. But instead he showed us another kind of love—he took us into his family. He made us to be called children of God.
Don’t take this for granted. First of all, he might not have saved us at all. He might have said, “Enemies don’t deserve saving, and that’s that.” He might have said, “My Son is too precious to pay for angels, let alone humans, let alone ungodly, rebellious humans.” But he also might have said, “I will save them from hell, and forgive their sins, and give them eternal existence—on another planet, and I will communicate with them through angels.” Nothing in us, or in the nature of the world required that God would go beyond all redeeming, forgiving, rescuing, healing love to this extreme—namely, to an adopting love. A love that will not settle for a truce, or a formal gratitude, or distant planet of material pleasure, but will press all the way in to make you a child of God. A member of the family.
More Than Adoption
But even that is not an adequate description of this kind of love. When John writes about our becoming children of God, he is not thinking mainly in terms of adoption. He is thinking in terms of something more profound. He is thinking of new birth. There is no human analogy to this. If I find a child and want to take him into my home, I cannot cause the child to be born again. I take him and I love him with the personality and temperament that he has from his biological parents. I influence with love, but I do not get into the very nature of the person and change it.
But God does. The love that John has in view here in 1 John 3:1 is not the love that merely takes care of paper work and adopts. That would be amazing beyond words—to be adopted into God’s family. And Paul does describe it this way. But John sees more. God does not adopt. He moves in, by his Spirit, his seed, John calls it, and imparts something of himself to us, so that we take on a family resemblance.
1 John 3:9 puts it like this:
No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot [go on practicing] sin, because he is born of God. By this we know the children of God.
If you are a child of God this morning, you are so by adoption, yes, and by more than adoption, by new birth. 1 John 5:1 says it this way,
Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ [has been] born of God; and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him.