3 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
There are a number of things going on in this verse that at first glance (again because of the English) we may read right past. When John starts out with “See” in an imperative form it should come across as a command not only because of the Greek but because of what he wants us to see. As Akin (NAC) nails it “The NIV loses something of the significance in the original by failing to translate the imperative “see” or “behold” (idete). In a more accurate translation, the NASB reads, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us.” The imperative calls for direct attention and reflection upon the amazing love God has bestowed upon his children.” We know that love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things…it never ends (1Cor 13). It is the greatest of faith, hope and love (1Cor 13), but we’re not talking our love, we are talking about God’s love that He has given to us, that’s what makes it so special. A similar analogy would be God’s Word. Paul says in 1 Cor 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God . If God’s Word doesn’t mean much to you, it’s because you don’t realize IT’S GODS’ WORD. God doesn’t mean much to you. This isn’t “Gone with the Wind” or some classic we put so much value in. This is God’s Word we’re talking about and now we’ve moved on to God’s Love. This is God’s love that He has bestowed on us developing the significance even more.
Next the ESV says what kind of love but the significance is lost because the Greek word for the adjective potapēn is translated in the NIV as “how great” or the KJV says “what manner”, which in the seven other occurances in the New Testament it always means astonishment. “What manner” in the ESV may be lacking the astonishment factor. We’ve been commanded to see in amazement the love that God has “given” us. The Greek states this in a perfect verb meaning there is an ongoing consequence to the given aspect of love. John explains that the world does not know us because they do not know Him. This shouldn’t be shocking but what is shocking is that we are God’s children now and what we will be has not yet appeared but when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is. The ongoing effect of “knowing” (another perfect verb) that when He appears we shall be like Him. This is because everyone who knows this purifies himself because we know He is pure.
Beloved are we purifying ourselves?