Verse 1b: God’s Children
See what great love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children—and we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it didn’t know him.
This clear vision of God’s love completely regenerates and renews his children and changes them from the inside-out the way a blind person is changed when they are made to see again. Therefore, implicit in John’s ἴδετε clause (the “see” clause) is the Holy Spirit’s clarion call, “have you seen the Father’s love?” And this clarion call will be the subject of the center of John’s first epistle.
“That we should be called God’s children”: this clause is speaking epexegetically about the greatness of the Father’s love that has been given to us in Christ. That is to say, this clause is extracting and explaining the greatness of God’s love for us.
Theologically, Jesus describes this divine transaction when he said “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Jesus is an active participant here, for he “gave” his life for us on the cross (Gal 1:4; 1 Tim. 2:6; Tit 2:14). Not only has God given us his Son, but he has also given us his Spirit (Rom 5:5; 2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Eph 1:17), including the Spirit’s gifts (Rom 12:6; 1 Cor. 12:7). In terms of spiritual blessings, the apostles never tire of mentioning how God has given us his grace (Rom 12:3; 1 Cor. 1:4; 3:10; 2 Tim. 1:9) and eternal life (Jn 10:28–29; 1 Jn. 5:11).
“And we are!”: this “we are” clause is the emphatic force of John’s proposition; the greatness of God’s love is experienced in the reality of our adoption as the sons and daughters of God. We are not the children of God in any abstract sense, as if to say that we are like his children, or that he has treated his servants like his children, but that we really and truly are God’s children!
Anyone who has not experienced the reality of their adoption in Christ has yet to be adopted because God is not a negligent Father of his children:
John 14:18, 23 (CSB) — I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you. 23 Jesus answered, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
Romans 8:14–17 (CSB) — For all those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear. Instead, you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!” 16 The Spirit himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, 17 and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and coheirs with Christ—if indeed we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
This is the good news of Christ’s message, that through him we are God’s children by the adoption of the Holy Spirit, who has given us a new birth into the name of Christ and placed in us a new heart and new mind so that we can share in the blessed fellowship of Christ’s heart and mind.
Therefore, the apostle John will conclude this flow of thought with the following proposition:
1 John 3:24 (CSB) The one who keeps his commands remains in him, and he in him. And the way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit he has given us.