1 John 3 - Children of God

INTRODUCTION: John has some interesting points to make in this chapter regarding the children of God and there ability to be free of sin through the power of Christ. It is helpful to consider passages from the gospels and from letters to the church written by other apostles to have a more complete insight from scripture about this subject. It is a challenge to understand the past and present effects of sin on those who are children of both the first Adam, and of the last Adam while still in the flesh.

NOTE: All Bible passages are taken from the World English Bible unless otherwise designated.


A - CHILDREN OF GOD

1 John 3 "1 Behold, how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! For this cause the world doesn't know us, because it didn't know him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it is not yet revealed what we will be. But we know that, when he is revealed, we will be like him; for we will see him just as he is. 3 Everyone who has this hope set on him purifies himself, even as he is pure."

COMMENTS: To be called a child of God is truly a great demonstration of the Lord's love for us because we cannot bring about our own new birth, just as we did not bring about our birth in the flesh. "Jesus answered and said to him, Truly, truly, I say to you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3 AKJV).

Paul wrote this in 2 Timothy "1:9 who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before times eternal," We need to be called by God since all people have by nature been separated by sin that is inherited from Adam the progenitor of all people, at the beginning in the Garden of Eden. Romans "5:12 Therefore, as sin entered into the world through one man, and death through sin; and so death passed to all men, because all sinned." God then provided a way by grace through faith in Christ Jesus to have our broken relationship with our creator restored. Romans "5:21 that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

The "world," or those who have not experienced the second birth and are still part of the fallen world system, cannot understand who we are in Christ because the world continues to reject him and his truth. We are children of God by his love, but there is even more in store for us that will be revealed as we become like him when we see Jesus because he will allow us to see that which cannot presently be seen by us. John says that while we wait for that indescribable time with hope secured by Christ Jesus, we must determine to purify ourselves as he is pure. Just as our Lord secures the hope of what is to come, only his power working in us will enable us to purify ourselves as we yield our will to his will, as found in the Word. The apostle Peter also speaks of purifying our souls in the referenced passage under COMMENTS in Part "C" below.


B - LAWLESSNESS DOES NOT CHARACTERIZE THOSE WHO REMAIN IN CHRIST

1 John 3 "4 Everyone who sins also commits lawlessness. Sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he was revealed to take away our sins, and in him is no sin. 6 Whoever remains in him doesn't sin. Whoever sins hasn't seen him, neither knows him. 7 Little children, let no one lead you astray. He who does righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. 8 He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. To this end the Son of God was revealed, that he might destroy the works of the devil."

COMMENTS: The devil appeared in the garden to deceive Adam who then took the lawless course of eating the forbidden fruit. Christ then appeared to destroy the works of the devil by the redemption he made available through his substitutionary sacrifice. The grace and mercy of our Lord to forgive our sin should become more precious as we meditate on this truth. Psalms "103:8-14 Yahweh is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness. He will not always accuse; neither will he stay angry forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor repaid us for our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his loving kindness toward those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Like a father has compassion on his children, so Yahweh has compassion on those who fear him. For he knows how we are made. He remembers that we are dust."

All people who live are descendents of Adam, and our bodies are appointed to return to dust, so in that sense all are already dead (under God's sentence of death) unless they receive the gift of new life. Ephesians "2:1-5 You were made alive when you were dead in transgressions and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the children of disobedience; among whom we also all once lived in the lust of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, for his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),"

The Lord will respond to a request by faith because of his great mercy and for his own sake so all glory goes to him! David made this entreaty based on the faithfulness of the Lord. Psalms "25:7 Don't remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions. Remember me according to your loving kindness, for your goodness' sake, Yahweh." Centuries later the prophet wrote this truth about the LORD God. Isaiah "43:25 I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake; and I will not remember your sins."

The book of Acts gives us documentation of the fact that Christ Jesus destroyed the power of sin, that those who believe may be justified before God. Acts "13:38-39 Be it known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man is proclaimed to you remission of sins, and by him everyone who believes is justified from all things, from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses."

Paul testified about his encounter with the risen Lord Jesus. Acts "26:15-18 "I said, 'Who are you, Lord?'" He said, 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But arise, and stand on your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose: to appoint you a servant and a witness both of the things which you have seen, and of the things which I will reveal to you; delivering you from the people, and from the Gentiles, to whom I send you, to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive remission of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in me.'"


C - LOVE YOUR BROTHER AND DO NOT SIN

1 John 3 "9 Whoever is born of God doesn't commit sin, because his seed remains in him; and he can't sin, because he is born of God. 10 In this the children of God are revealed, and the children of the devil. Whoever doesn't do righteousness is not of God, neither is he who doesn't love his brother. 11 For this is the message which you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; 12 unlike Cain, who was of the evil one, and killed his brother. Why did he kill him? Because his works were evil, and his brother's righteous. 13 Don't be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you."

COMMENTS: What an incredible truth to ponder, that being born of God, we have the seed (or the blood line of God) within our self! That seed remains in us forever, even after the body of flesh withers away. That seed will bring about within us the desire for the milk of the Word of God whereby we will grow more like Christ, and we will love those who also have that seed. 1 Peter "1:22-2:3 Seeing you have purified your souls in your obedience to the truth through the Spirit in sincere brotherly affection, love one another from the heart fervently: having been born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the word of God, which lives and remains forever. For, "All flesh is like grass, and all of man's glory like the flower in the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls; but the Lord's word endures forever. This is the word of Good News which was preached to you." Putting away therefore all wickedness, all deceit, hypocrisies, envies, and all evil speaking, as newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the Word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious:"

The apostle Paul advises us in this manner, because there is a struggle involved in loving our brothers and sisters in Christ, and in avoiding the temptations to sin. Galatians "5:16-17 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you won't fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, that you may not do the things that you desire." Cain offered his own form of sacrifice to God and it was rejected because he did not do what was right, then he followed the rebellion of the Devil as he killed his brother Abel. John warns Christians that there should be no surprise if those who are still of the world through rejection of Christ, demonstrate hate against those who openly love God.

John heard these words directly from the Lord Jesus, John "15:19-20 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. But because you are not of the world, since I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his lord. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will keep yours also." Paul gives us this viewpoint about Cain and Abel. Galatians "4:29 But as then, he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now."


D - PASSED FROM DEATH TO LIFE

1 John 3 "14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. He who doesn't love his brother remains in death. 15 Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life remaining in him. 16 By this we know love, because he laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and closes his heart of compassion against him, how does the love of God remain in him? 18 My little children, let's not love in word only, neither with the tongue only, but in deed and truth. 19 And by this we know that we are of the truth, and persuade our hearts before him,"

COMMENTS: John tells us that we have passed from death (that is impending death) to an irrevocable promise of life when we place our trust in Christ. We can see from scripture that all mankind is under the sentence of death, but the gift of eternal life is made possible through Christ. Genesis "2:17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it; for in the day that you eat of it you will surely die." Adam and Eve did disobey, and through them physical death surely awaits everyone who is born. Paul speaks of death by one, and life by one. Romans "5:16-17 The gift is not as through one who sinned: for the judgment came by one to condemnation, but the free gift came of many trespasses to justification. For if by the trespass of the one, death reigned through the one; so much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ."

We also have these words from Jesus in John "5:24-29 Most certainly I tell you, he who hears my word, and believes him who sent me, has eternal life, and doesn't come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. Most certainly, I tell you, the hour comes, and now is, when the dead will hear the Son of God's voice; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, even so he gave to the Son also to have life in himself. He also gave him authority to execute judgment, because he is a son of man. Don't marvel at this, for the hour comes, in which all that are in the tombs will hear his voice, and will come out; those who have done good, to the resurrection of life; and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment."

Jesus told his disciples, John "15:12-13 This is my commandment, that you love one another, even as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." John draws our attention in this letter to the fact that we must start with the demonstration that we are willing to share what we have to meet the basics needs of others, if we truly have the capacity for the greater step of giving our lives. This principal of sharing has long been a serious standard from God, with consequences, as indicated by the law given through Moses. Deuteronomy "15:7-11 If a poor man, one of your brothers, is with you within any of your gates in your land which Yahweh your God gives you, you shall not harden your heart, nor shut your hand from your poor brother; but you shall surely open your hand to him, and shall surely lend him sufficient for his need, which he lacks. Beware that there not be a base thought in your heart, saying, "The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand"; and your eye be evil against your poor brother, and you give him nothing; and he cry to Yahweh against you, and it be sin to you. You shall surely give him, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him; because that for this thing Yahweh your God will bless you in all your work, and in all that you put your hand to. For the poor will never cease out of the land: therefore I command you, saying, you shall surely open your hand to your brother, to your needy, and to your poor, in your land."


E - JESUS REMAINS IN US BY THE SPIRIT HE GAVE US

1 John 3 "20 because if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. 21 Beloved, if our hearts don't condemn us, we have boldness toward God; 22 and whatever we ask, we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do the things that are pleasing in his sight. 23 This is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, even as he commanded. 24 He who keeps his commandments remains in him, and he in him. By this we know that he remains in us, by the Spirit which he gave us."

COMMENTS: If our hearts condemn us (that is, we blame ourselves for sin that Christ has already cleansed from us), then we need to regain full faith by affirming that God is greater than any doubt of our hearts. If our hearts do not condemn us, it is because we firmly believe that Christ Jesus has the power to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. John has already said in this letter, 1 John "1:8-9 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us the sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." And in 1 John "2:28 Now, little children, remain in him, that when he appears, we may have boldness, and not be ashamed before him at his coming." Jesus gives us the boldness because he holds us to himself securely. John "10:28-30 I give eternal life to them. They will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one."

We have boldness because we are sealed with his Spirit, and it is all for his glory! Ephesians "1:13-14 in whom you also, having heard the word of the truth, the Good News of your salvation - in whom, having also believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is a pledge of our inheritance, to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of his glory." What a blessing that we are guarded by him and for him. 1 Peter "1:3-5 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his great mercy became our father again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an incorruptible and undefiled inheritance that doesn't fade away, reserved in Heaven for you, who by the power of God are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."


--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

I thank you Lord for the unequalled hope I have as a child of God because of your renewing work in my soul and the secure promise of eternal life. I want to continually search your Word that I may thus be in the process of purifying my heart and thereby become more like Christ. I want to avoid the lawlessness that comes from ignoring and disdaining your laws of righteousness. When I falter in my confidence and begin to believe that I am not forgiven for past sins, draw me back to you as I confess my weakness in the flesh and ask for your strength to live for you. I want to have evidence in my life that I love brothers and sisters in Christ. I realize that those who are open about faith in Christ Jesus should not be surprised when attacks come from those who reject Jesus as LORD. Guide my thoughts so my requests of you will be centered on your honor and glory. I believe that you, Jesus, are the Son of God, and that I have passed from death to life; and I believe that your life giving Spirit will remain in me forever. Amen and Hallelujah!

1 John, Chapter 1 - Fellowship with the Father and the Son
1 John, Chapter 2 - Our Counselor and Atoning Sacrifice
1 John, Chapter 4 - Perfect Love Casts Out Fear
1 John, Chapter 5 - Keep Yourselves From Idols
The Apostle John - A 4 part series.

Published 17 September 2011