The apostle John continues to write to give his Christian readers confidence in their faith. He has stated his purpose at the end of his letter, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13 ESV) John wants to further ground these Christians in the hope they have because they are born of God and are children of God. Let us look at the hope that we have as God’s children.
Abide in Christ (2:28)
John calls for his Christian readers to continue to abide in Christ. Remember what we learn in our last lesson that we abide in Christ by abiding in the anointing that we have received (1 John 2:27). According to verse 27 we have received the anointing and that anointing must abide in us. When the anointing abides in us, it teaches us about everything and is real knowledge, not a lie. When that teaching abides in us then we abide in Christ. We noted in our last lesson that “the anointing” was John’s metaphor to describe the work of the Holy Spirit in revealing God’s will and word through the apostles to the world. Christians have the knowledge of God and do not need a teacher to bring some “new” revelation. Abiding in the teaching of the apostles means that we are abiding in Christ (cf. 1 John 1:1-4).
“Abide” is not a word we really use, and I don’t find any translation to be terribly helpful in communicating what it means to “abide in Christ” or “remain in God’s word.” But “abide” and “remain” seem to be the words that are used. The Greek word is used to speak of living in a particular location. The word also carries with it the idea of persistence, where one continues to live. What we need to be thinking about when we read that we are to “abide” in something or “remain” in someone is that we are persistently living in that location. We are persistently living in Christ. Our life is all about him. We are staying with him. In the same way, when John said that the anointing abides in them, we need to think about the revealed word of God persistently living and ruling our lives. When we sing the song, “Abide With Me,” we are asking for the Lord to stay with us through all of life’s good times and bad times. We are asking for the Lord to persistently hold on to us. John is calling for us to persistently live our lives in Christ and his word, and not in the world (cf. 1 John 2:15)
Look at what we have when we are abiding in Christ. “When he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.” There is no reason to fear the return of Christ for those who are abiding in Christ. In fact, John says that we are to have confidence and we will not shrink in shame at his coming. We are not fearful of that day but are looking forward to that day. There is only one reason that we can have confidence at the Lord’s return when he comes in judgment. We have been justified (pronounced not guilty) through the blood of Jesus.
Born of God (2:29)
There is a second status that is described of Christians: being born of God. Those who practice righteousness are those who are born of God because they know that God is righteous. Being born of God carries a simple picture. Since God is righteous, then it is not possible for us to be born of God unless we also practice righteousness. It is a matter of character traits. We will act in keeping with God’s righteous character. Only those who are truly born of God demonstrate the tangible fruit of righteousness. Righteous conduct is the result of our birth. Those who are not born of God do not have righteous conduct. I want to further emphasize that we practice righteousness because we see that God is righteous. The apostle John is the one who records these words of Jesus: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) Being born reminds us that we are a new person in Christ. The old life is gone and the new life comes. We are a new creation acting in ways that are consistent with God’s righteous character.
Children of God (3:1-3)
The third picture of hope given to us is that we are children of God. Notice how John boils over with excitement in the first verse of chapter 3. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God.” Do you see the great love God has shown that we can be called children of God? The ESV and NKJV keep the original idea that John is proclaiming. John is not merely asking us to see the great love that has been shown. That’s not the point of the Greek words. John wants us to see “what kind of love” or “what manner of love” that has been given. It is a foreign love, a love that humans have never experienced and cannot experience with one another. This terminology is used in Matthew 8:27 when Jesus stilled the winds and waves. The disciples asked, “What kind of man is this that the winds and the waves obey him?” The point is not how great Jesus is, though that is certainly included in the disciples’ thought process. The point was that this person, Jesus, was different than all others. What he was able to do was foreign to humanity. That is the picture John is illustrating. The love of the Father that he has given to us is foreign to the world and foreign to anything we would know. Thus, God calls us to live lives that are foreign to the world around us. Do you see what kind of love the Father has given to us?
It is unbelievable love shown to us by the Father that we can be called children of God! But look at what John says in the middle of verse 1: “And so we are!” That is what we are: children of God. We are to have confidence in who we are. We are children of God. The greatness in God’s love is seen in what it has done for us. His love makes us God’s children. We are part of God’s family. Therefore, we do not fear but have confidence as we look for the return of Christ.
This love is what distinguishes us from the world. This love that the Father has so that we are children of God is the reason why the world does not know us. The world is not going to understand us because the world does not know God. The world will never understand us because it does not know God. We are going to practice righteousness and worship God and it will confuse the world. They will not understand who we are and will not understand the way we act until they come to know God. This is why the approval of the world cannot be our desire. This is why we cannot love the world or the things in the world. The way of the world is incompatible with the way of God. The love of God has changed our lives and the world does not understand it.
Notice the continuing confidence that John gives his readers. You are God’s children now (3:2). Notice the two promises given to us. Because we are God’s children we will be like him and see him as he is. When Christ returns we are going to be like him. We are going to be transformed so that we can see him as he is. This is an amazing thought! We will be changed so that we can fully experience who God is. John does not describe how this will happen or what it looks like. The promise is simple: we will be changed and we will see him as he is.
Those who have this hope purifies himself (3:3). Children are to act like their parents. God is pure. Therefore we must be purifying ourselves. The motivation of our purification is the hope that he has promised to us.
Four Purifying Contrasts (3:4-10)
Sin is lawlessness (3:4-5).
Practicing sin is practicing lawlessness. Christians operate within the boundaries of God’s law. Sinning is to go outside God’s laws, acting in rebellion to his will. Jesus came to take away sins and there is no sin in him. Therefore, we must purify ourselves and not fall back into sin. Otherwise we are acting directly against the work of Christ. Jesus took away sin. Why are we going back into sin? You are born of God. But there is no sin in God so you cannot have sin in you.
Does not practice sin (3:6).
The one who permanently lives and is grounded in Christ does not practice sin. Therefore whoever keeps on sinning has not seen him nor knows him. If we have sin in our lives that we continue to practice, then we do not live with Christ ruling our lives. Instead, we have no relationship at all with Christ. We clearly have not seen him and do not know him.
Practice righteousness (3:7-8).
Do not be deceived. Only those who practice righteous living are those who are declared righteous by God. Justified disciples do not continue in sin. The justified are those practice righteous living. Those who have the life of sin are not born of God, but are of the devil. You are not acting like your heavenly Father. Our practice of sinning shows that our father is the devil. Christ has come to destroy the works of Satan. Therefore we are enemies of Jesus if we continue in sin.
Children of God do not practice sin (3:9-10).
No one who is truly born of God makes a practice of sinning. It is evident who are the children of God and the children of the devil. Our actions reveal our allegiance. Those who are born of God cannot continue in sin because God’s seed (the word of God; the teachings of the apostles) living in them. “Seed” in scriptures is frequently used as a metaphor for the word of God.
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:22–25 ESV)
When Jesus told parables about scattering seed he was referring to the proclamation of God’s word. Therefore, if we are continuing to practice sin, it tells us something important. It shows that we do not have God’s word living in us and therefore we are not born of God. There are many who think they are born of God and are children of God who are not because they practice habitual sin.
- If what I feel in my Christian walk is where my assurance is anchored, then my confidence will be weak and frail. Our confidence in Christ is based on objective observations, not subjective feelings.
- Security in Christ comes from knowing that we are children of God now.
- Our security is evidenced by our pure lives. If our lives are not pure, then we need to see what sin or idol is ruling our lives. Continuing sin shows we are not born of God.