1 JOHN – SERIES : NR 8
Scripture: 1 John 2: 28 – 3: 3
Theme : Children of God
Is it true that all people are the children of God?
It is a rather popular view among ordinary secular people. Even from some circles within the church one hears that. It is said that God is everyone’s creator and therefore everyone is His child. A very common idea is that most people who die “rest in peace” – RIP. Everyone is – after death – in some way in a kind of heavenly condition. Because God is love and He is not cruel. Of course, everyone somehow is His child. All people somehow belong to one big brotherhood. Humanity is one great divine family.
That is why nobody is concerned about what will happen to him/her after their death. There is sure to be some kind of heaven waiting out there. It is perhaps just those who are like Adolph Hitler who will not make it.
That is how the world argues and thinks.
You will immediately see that the Scriptures do not use such language. The children of God are those who are IN CHRIST. Verse 28 states it clearly. The Fatherhood of God has only reference to those who by His grace are reborn into God’s family and came to repentance and faith in Christ.
While the false preachers – under the leadership of Cerinthius – the Gnostics – confused the churches – the Apostle John wanted to emphasise only one thing to them. They must REMAIN in the true teaching which they have heard from the Apostles and in that way REMAIN in Christ in whom they are included by a miracle of God and in THAT way they must be steady and persevere and look forward to the return of the Lord. DO NOT LOOK LEFT OR RIGHT, says the Apostle. LOOK ONLY STRAIGHT AHEAD. And you will not lose the trial.
This paragraph SEEMS therefore as if it has fallen out of thin air and does not connect with the rest, but it is not true. Verse 28 connects perfectly with the previous verses where John spoke about the issue of REMAINING IN HIM (studied last Sunday). REMAIN IN THE TRUTH and REMAIN IN HIM…
But he takes it a step further. There is a second coming that is waiting. The return of the Lord Jesus in full glory. The great event that nobody, but nobody can escape or flee from. Literally, EVERY human being shall be there – including the unsaved and also those who have already died.
The Apostle, therefore, tells the churches: “Do not be discouraged and do not allow your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ to be thwarted by the misleading spirits of the false preachers who came to confuse your hearts – do not allow it – but look ahead and look forward to the coming of the Lord and persevere (be true) with the devout way.
Look at verse 28 and you shall see it. “CONTINUE with faith-confidence in the living Lord. Because when the Lord returns, you shall be confident and unashamed before Him. Fantastic! It makes everything worthwhile.”
Is the Gospel message not the most marvelous thing? That a sinner who only deserves death may stand before the living God without any fear and distress.
Is it not the most wonderful thing, that IN CHRIST JESUS, I may be delivered from my fear about the future! Because I know exactly what the future holds for me because the Word of God assures me about it beforehand. And if I persevere in following Him and place my hope upon His victory on the cross, I shall NOT be sent away from Him in shame/disgrace when He appears. Never shall I have to hide my face in shame and disgrace before Him, because I do not appear before Him clothed with my merit, but in connectedness with the Lord Jesus who already cleared the way. I do not have to make the way. HE has done it. I simply follow it.
Read verse 28 again and see if it is true what I say…
And of course, it is also true that the life of a person who is born of God and who will be unashamed before the Lord at his return shall show it NOW ALREADY in a practical way.
The Lord Jesus himself is the great Righteous One because He is (NO 1) without any sin, and (NO 2) He brings sinners into the right relationship with God. He is in other words 100% RIGHT (righteous).
And when a person who is connected with Him, the Righteous One, it shall become evident in your daily life. You begin to live righteously (that is: RIGHT). And when that happens, we know that such a person is reborn, born of God. That supernatural rebirth bears FRUIT. You start to live righteously (right).
That does not mean that the child of the Lord will start to live a perfect life and completely without sin. But it means that a complete change of direction has taken place in your life. And other people notice it. By that, you know that you have undergone rebirth out of God.
This indeed is the FIFTH vital sign. You will remember that John has in the previous paragraphs already mentioned FOUR such vital signs by which a person can know that you have truly become a child of God.
We just mention the previous four:
1 > Lifestyle of obedience
2> God’s love starts to become evident
3 > Christ’s life that breaks through in you
4 > Your love for other Christians
And here is the fifth: Your life starts to be righteous. Justified. And you will notice this hunger and thirst and alignment in yourself. It shows you that there is divine life in you. It comes forth out of the birth that came from Him. Because you are included in the Righteous One = Jesus himself. And that has an impact on your life. You are affected.
The life of a tiny little person who is born of his/her mother SHALL begin to manifest that. It is visible to everyone that there is a baby born.
Read verse 29 to see if it is truly like that…
When one hears these things, it brings great wonder into your heart, not so? Because you then simply realise: That which has happened in your life and that which is waiting for you at the second coming and the end, do not come out of yourself. You are not the cause of it YOURSELF. It all flows out of the great love of God the Father!
Not one person has it inherent within themselves.
What we do have inherent in our self, is a broken relationship with God and fundamental depravity, so much so that we cannot go for 5 minutes without breaking the commandments of the Holy God in some way or another.
It is only the unfathomable love of the Father that does NOT give me what I deserve to receive – namely punishment and hell and terror at Jesus’s second coming.
Now I receive the exact opposite – as verses 28-29 of chapter 2 said.
How on earth is that possible?
The Apostle says: It is all thanks to the extraordinary, incomprehensible, inexplicable love of God the Father. He allowed the new birth to happen to me through the miraculous work of atonement that the Lord Jesus did on the cross. And when such a new birth comes over you, worldly people who have NOT undergone it, will not want to know you. They do not know HIM, why would they want to know you?
Read 3:1 and see for yourself…
The fact that the Christ-believer is a CHILD OF GOD, is not wishful thinking to make you feel great. It is a reality. The Christ-believer is REALLY a child of God. And he/she may claim that for themselves because GOD himself calls them that (see John 1:12).
The Gnostics who were pestering the churches said that man must have a mysterious unity with God. You should feel released from this earthly, physical life and experience unity with God by way of certain instructions. Even today we still hear this nonsense from 21st century Gnostics who teach at theological faculties. You also hear it from Western Hindu and eastern religions.
But that is not what the Bible teaches. Nobody can climb up to God by doing this or doing that. No, He descended to people, and out of love, He gives this great life-change by including you with Christ Jesus’s great works of atonement.
I ask you this morning: If GOD calls me a child of God, am I one or am I not. If HE calls me a child of God, why may I not call myself that? Why must I always doubt and remain unsure? For no reason. Only ignorance. But the letter of John removes the ignorance and pours in the blessed assurance.
The Gnosticism inspected this Gospel, but they did not want anything to do with the Christians. They are really of the world, says the Apostle. That is why they do not know you. Because they do not know God. They are unsaved and lost, even though they are so very religious. WORLD in this text means the terrain who were standing in enmity against the true God and His Truth and His children. It is still the same today. Whoever belongs to the Lord, shall live it and be in disfavour with the world. It is simply impossible to be a follower of Christ and be friends with the world. Filiation with God is not future music for one day in heaven. It is here and now and the tension with the world shows it.
One sometimes hears people say something like: “I am not 100% sure whether I am now already a true child of God (reborn). I will have to wait and see how the Lord will one day judge me.”
Such a viewpoint is absolutely wrong. Christ-believers are NOW ALREADY children of God, says verse 2.
Read verse 2…
What a wonderful comforting/edifying verse.
Instead of saying: “I do not know if I am now already a child of God, I will have to wait until the Lord comes and then see…” verse 2 says something much greater…
The Christ-believer is NOW ALREADY truly a child of God and at the coming of Jesus, he/she shall not only still be a child of God, but BE LIKE CHRIST and SEE HIM AS HE REALY IS! In other words, there is a progression from wonderful to glorious. So glorious, that we cannot form any concept of what we will truly be when the Lord comes! “What we will have not yet been made known” declares the Apostle John. All that is being kept as a surprise.
There is something therefore that is true now and something that is not yet true. The glory that will be revealed at the second coming of Jesus, is concealed from us. Yes, the Christ-believer shall be LIKE HIM, that is for sure, but it is not certain what is meant by that. Yes, the Christ-believer shall see Him as He truly is, but it is not certain what exactly is meant with that.
BE LIKE JESUS > can not mean that the saved person will undergo deification. The Christ-believer will not be like Jesus in the sense of being a god. That was indeed what Gnosticism taught. The see-of-Jesus turns you into a god, they say. But, it is absolutely unbiblical teaching.
BE LIKE JESUS means that the Christ-believer will undergo a change although he/she remains a HUMAN, but yet become equal with the glory of Christ. What that implies, the Apostle does not know, because it has not been revealed by God, he says. And what God has not revealed, we do not know (Deut 29:29).
FOR WE SHALL SEE HIM IN ALL HIS GLORY and shall not die.
That must be the most wonderful aspect of heaven. And to think: It will never end. To see the glory of Christ and keep on to see and see!
Again: WHAT exactly that implies, is not made known to us. No image of His glory as He truly is has been revealed to us. But it certainly is something to look forward to.
There is a difference to see the Lord Jesus Christ through the lens of the Scriptures – although it is 100% reliable and true – and seeing Him face to face as He physically is in reality. Always you have known Him by faith-confidence, but then suddenly: face to face.
What a breath-taking expectation it creates in the Christ-believer. A future expectation. In extreme.
And such a future expectation should indeed already have an impact on the Christ-believer.
If you look forward to something that is months away in the future – like your wedding day – it affects you now.
Look at what verse 3 is saying… (READ IT…)
The future expectation of verse 2 has a purifying effect on the Christ-believer – verse 3. Almost like: “I am going to see the Lord Jesus face to face and as a human I am going to be equal to His glory – I do not know exactly what that means – but I would like to reflect some of that already today”.
The Lord Jesus is pure, says the Apostle. In 3:5 he compares it to Jesus’s sinless perfection.
The Christ-believer purifies himself as Jesus is pure, says the Apostle.
That does not mean that the believer must try to also be sinless-perfect. It is not about struggling in one’s strength.
It is the purification that takes place by way of continuous repentance – turning to Christ – turning away from sin – forgiveness by the blood of Christ. Exactly as he explained it in chapter 1 already. It is the God-given way in which the Holy Spirit carries the child of God day by day in purification. A typical attribute of someone who truly got to know the Lord.
Look at the great love the Father is showing us: He calls us children of God!
Translated by Marthie Wilson