Grand Rapids Calvin Conference: Session Four

Dr. David Murray: What Kind of Love is This?

1 John 3:1-5

There remains a strange fascination with all things extra terrestrial, with aliens, with unidentified flying objects. There is a whole genere of literature and repeated newspaper reportsof sightings, usually in the context of hostility – something to be feared.

The Apostle John brings before us something alien, extraterrestrial, something out of this world. But this is not something to be feared., This is not full of hostility but something that is full of adopting love.

If you were to translate this verse literally, “Behold what foreign love is this – what out of this world love is this – what extraterrestrial love is this.”

We want to behold three things in this text:

“…that WE should be called the Sons of God”

This is obviously really stunning to John. It is beyond his comprehension.

Five factors in the decision to adopt a child:

1. The genes of the child: we want to know who the natural parents are. Is there any genetic factor that will prove problematic in the future. What kind of “genes” do we have?

We are born in sin (Psalm 51), astranged from the womb speaking lies. We have a spirit that now works in the children of disobedience. Jesus said, “You are of your father the devil.” These are not good genes. This is a bad start in life.

2. The environment of the child:the nationality of the child. What kind of atmosphere have we been brought up in? Polluted and poisoned with sin! A prime consideration in adoption is the health of the child. Are the children healthly? Are WE healthy? We couldn’t begin it with a yes, could we. We suffer the affects of the sinful environment we have been brought in, infected with the virus of sin.

3. The education of the child. We are educated in the ways of sin, and we don’t need our parents to teach us to lie, how to fight, how to steal. We are self-taught, self-directed learners. We have learned every bad habit and evil way.

4. The record of the child.Is there a criminal or behaviorial history? Our record is black, isn’t it?

5.  The prospects for the child. Th Bible tells us our prospects are deathly – eternal death. We have one horizon when we are born into this world and it’s hell.

This is what staggers John. That this kind of “we” should be adopted by God. It goes against everything this world knows about love. God comes to you, believer, and he looks at you and he says your genes couldn’t be worse, your environment is polluted, you are a failure in education, your prospects are hell – yet YOU shall be my child!

Where does this love come from, that WE should be called the sons of God?

“Behold what manner of love the FATHER…”

If you were an adopted child, what kind of father would you like?

1. A gracious father. A forgiving father. A father who is full of grace. God is not looking for archetypal sons and daughters, for those who have spruced themselves up and made themselves look better. The children God has chosen to adopt cannot be predicted. He often picks the worst, and passes by those who seem most worthy.

2. A rich father. What doesn’t God have? He’s got everything. Many fathers have perverted their use of wealth toward their children, but God uses wise love in caring for his children. He is wiser than the wisest father and he knows what to give, and he knows when to take back what he has given.

3. A tender, gentle father.  Depicted in the Scriptures is a father who will wipe away every tear from our eyes. A father who feels for you and at the same time helps you, whose sympathy is matched by his ability and willingness to strengthen you.

4. A father with time. All the time in the world., who never says he is too busy. A father who is there as soon as we cry, “Abba, Father.” As soon as he hears us, he is racing to the scene.

5. A father with a wonderful record of adoption. 1 in 5 children are returned in adoption. Has God every returned a child, said he couldn’t take it any longer. Patient, one who has never failed and will never give up on you.

6. A father willing to adopt. People willing to adopt declines 15% every year. Has God’s willingness to adopt ever declined even 1%? A heart full of willingness to receive the worst and the most hopeless of cases.

There is no reason for any person to be an orphan any longer! Do you find any fault in this father, any reason to keep yourself away from this father? Bury yourself in his arms and plead for his love and his mercy.

This love is beyond comprehension. If you ever come to understand the love of God, you’ve never understood it.

“Behold, what manner of love..”

1. Behold the initiative of this love: we love him because he first loved us. The initiative of this love should fill us with thankful worship, because we would have never taken the initiative. He came seeking you and you love him because he first loved you. It was his strategy, not yours. The world doesn’t understand this – but the Christian loves to think on this great God taking the initiative to seek them out.

2. Behold the ease of this love.We might think, to think of this love would be a long process. But how do we become sons of God. John tells us in John 1, “But to as many as received him, to them gave he the power to become the sons of God.” Does that sound like a long process? You open your heartt – the hand of your soul – to receive. It’s not coming with something, it’s coming with nothing. Through this faith in Christ we become adopted children! Could he make it any easier?

3. Behold the speed of this love. In England it can take as long as 12 months to adopt a child and many hoops to go through. How long does it take God to adopt a child? How fast is the process. [Snaps Fingers] That fast! As soon as you believe on the Son of God, you, too, are a son of God.

4. Behold the size of this love. 50,000 adoptions every year in the US with 100,000 unadopted every year. Is there any limit on God? Does he ever reach a quota? Does he ever reach a point in the year where he says, “Enough! I can’t take any more!” Does his heart of love have any limit? It’s large enough for everyone if everyone would seek him. It’s large enough for you, if you will seek him. Still there is room.

5. Behold the effects of this love. There are some painful side effects to adoption. Is there any of that: loss, sense of rejection, shame, guilt, intimacy avoidance. There is only one loser in our spiritual adoption and that is our natural father – the devil. He fights tooth and nail against it. He does not give up easily, gladly or willingly. You want to be a child of God – here is a blessed side afffect: pain, grief, loss, and a sense of rejection to the evil one.

But John here speaks of a specific side effect of being adopted by God: don’t expect to be recognized as a son of God or for that recognition to result in favor towards you: “the world does not know us” We can expect hostility.

6. Behold the great end (aim) of this love. “We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” The day is coming when we will not merely be called the sons of God, but we will be LIKE the Son of God. This is what motivates holiness.

7. Behold the cost of it. The average international adoption costs somewhere between $25,000 and $35,000 which is nothing compared to the cost of your adoption as a son of God – the blood of God’s son which cost him his life. John says this love can only be explained by moving into another dimension.

In all of Calvin’s Institutes there is not one chapter on adoption, due in part to the fact that Calvin weaves the doctrine throughout the tapestry of God’s work of redemption. His view of adoption is not peripheal but central to Calvin’s whole view of the work of God in salvation. The purpose of the incarnation and the atonement is the adoption of Christians. The first title of the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Adoption.