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ch.2:28 to 3:10   ch. 3:11-24

 

Children Of God (ch. 2:28-3:10)

 

In verse 28 John admonishes his readers to “continue in Him”, that is, continue in Jesus.  This is very much like what John and the others heard Jesus tell them in John chapter 15.  Jesus told the disciples to remain in Him and now John passes these instructions along to his readers.

 

One problem we have as Christians, as can be seen in the Galatian church, is that we start with Jesus but end up in the flesh so to speak.  We tend to find it hard to stay in tune with Jesus as we should.

 

To suggest that his readers need to continue in Jesus means that there might be a chance that they wouldn’t continue.  The false teaching that was being spread was a cancer to the church and he did not want his readers to fall prey to this cancer.  It is apparent that  John did not believe Cerinthus and his followers were true believers, as seen in the last chapter.  Thus, if some of his readers would take up Cerinthus’ position, especially on the Deity of Christ, then they’d become like him, that is unbelievers.  I believe John does think that one can lose his salvation.

 

The positive reason why John wants his readers to continue in Jesus is in order for them to be confident at the appearing of Jesus.  If we do our best in following Jesus now, we should have a certain measure of confidence when we stand before Jesus on the last day when He will judge all mankind.  It doesn’t mean we will be arrogant.  I personally believe that I will be very much humbled on that day and fall before Jesus and almost melt away as wax melts with the heat of a flame.  There is nothing in me that deserves His mercy on that day, but I know I will receive it on account of Jesus and His work of grace demonstrated on the cross. 

 

Note also the word "ashamed" in verse 28.  How many of us will be ashamed when we stand before Jesus when He comes back to earth?  I think many of us will surely be ashamed because we have not done what we should have done on earth for His glory. 

 

By telling these people about the return of Jesus, is John suggesting that he or they may be around at His return?  Does John believe that Jesus will come in his life time?  Not necessarily.  John is  simply saying "when Jesus returns."  He's not saying He will return soon 

 

Another thing to note concerning these end time passages.  John was inspired by the Holy Spirit.  John may not have known, but the Holy Spirit knew that you and I would be reading these words about 2000 years later and would be meaningful to us, as well as those in the first century.   

 

In verse 29 John says, that “everyone who does what is right has been born of God”.  This does not mean that any righteousness that we may claim to have gets us saved.  First comes true salvation.  Real righteousness only follows true salvation. 

 

This also does not mean that one who claims or appears to be righteous is a Christian.  We are not speaking of man’s righteousness here.  The Pharisees were very righteous in their own way, but Jesus called them the sons of the devil.  We’re talking about God’s righteousness that is seen in the Bible.  Someone who lives out this righteousness is a true believer.  A religious person with religious righteousness is not necessarily a true believer.

 

In verse 29 John says, "if you know that He is righteous …"   The pronoun "he" is not capitalized in the NIV.  I do believe it refers to Jesus.  Therefore, I believe the righteousness and doing right spoken of here refers to the righteousness of Jesus, not our righteousness.  We know our righteousness is like filthy rags.  They are meaningless.    

 

In chapter 3 verse 1 John says, “how great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God”.  The early Christians understood their depravity as seen in the first two chapters of Paul’s letter to the Romans.  With the sorry state that man is in, to these early Christians, it was hard to fathom why God would love them so  much to do what He did in Jesus.  The result of what Jesus did was the calling of true believers God’s sons.  We are called God’s sons, because we have indeed become God’s sons, through Jesus and what He did.  God has adopted us into His family, where He is the Father and Jesus is our brother.  Understanding our sinful nature and then understanding the atoning work of Jesus is what John understood and would be a good thing for us to understand.

 

We should note here that the love spoken of by John is the love that makes us sons of God.   The early Christians suffered greatly for their faith in Jesus.  Many were killed.  Some of us would ask, "where is God's love in that kind of life?"  John isn't speaking of that kind of love.  He is only speaking of God's love that calls us His sons.    

 

The next phrase says, “and that is what we are”.  This is exactly what I’ve just said.  We are called God’s sons, because we “are God’s sons”, not because of anything we have done, but because of God Himself.

 

John then goes on to say that ‘the reason why the world does not know us is because it does not know Him”.  Him refers to God in this verse.  John is saying that there is a great gulf between the people of the world and true believers.  The world does not know, or does not understand Christians. There is a major disconnect between the two groups.  The world can only shake its head at us in wonder.  Yet too often they don’t shake their heads because we are too much like them and so they do understand us.  Yet in John's day this was not the case.  I believe the time is coming where true believers will stand out from the rest of the world, and what John speaks of here will be true.  

 

One problem that I feel we have as present day Christians, and as the church, is that we are too much like the world in many respects.  I'm not speaking of legalism here.  I'm not speaking about the kind of music we play or the clothes we wear.  I'm speaking of how we conduct our lives, and how we conduct the church.  We conduct our lives and church life too much like the world.  For example, many churches look more like a business than a church.  In  this respect we are too much like the world.   

 

In verse 2 John says that “we are now the children of God”.  There’s no doubt about this.  Right now every true believer in Jesus is a child of God.  Yet John goes on to say that it is not certain what we shall be.  There’s much mystery about our future.  Even  John, to whom the book of Revelation was revealed to, doesn’t totally understand the future, or so I believe.  The future for true believers in Jesus is way beyond our ability to comprehend.  It's going to be simply amazing, out of this world. 

 

Though John, and us too, don’t totally understand the future and what we’ll be like, we do have some glimpses.  We know we will have a glorified body.  The details to that is somewhat obscure.  But John tells us here that when we see Jesus, we will become like Him.  In some way shape or form we will be like Jesus.  We won’t be like Him in His ministry and who He is.  We will be like Him in the sense that we will have a body like His.  Thus is the love of God shown to us.  It is my thinking that Jesus did not have such a body before He was incarnated on earth.  Jesus changed his very nature of existence when He came to earth in His great act of love.  The change is eternal.  He will never return to be just exactly the way He was, that is, the eternal Word of God that spoke creation into being.

 

In verse 3  John says that “everyone who has this hope purifies himself”.  We have a part to play in the sanctification process.  We take some initiative to bring change in the way we live, and we do this because of the hope we have that some day Jesus will return for us.  We want to be ready for Him.  We want to get all fixed up and clean when we meet Him in the air so to speak.

 

John speaks of hope in verse 3.  Some people see hope as "weak faith", or "a lack of faith".  They view hope in some kind of  sub-light to faith.  That should not be.  Hope is important and is Biblical.  Christians do hope for the next life to come.  There is nothing wrong with hope, and it certainly isn't weak faith. 

 

In verse 4 John says that “everyone who sins breaks the law, in fact sin is lawlessness”. There are a few definitions of sin in the Bible and this is one of them.  John says that sin is breaking the law, and I think he's thinking of God's law as in the Law of Moses.  We all sin, even Christians. 

 

Lawlessness means acting as if there is no law.  If there is no law, then we live unto ourselves.  But we know God has laws, these laws go far beyond the Ten Commandments. Sin is in fact laying these laws aside and living as if there are no laws.  This is John’s definition of sin.

 

We can lay aside the commands of Jesus just as easy as we can lay aside the Ten Commandments, and again, Christians do that every day.  That is why Jesus is our great high priest.  He intercedes to the Father on our behalf all of the time.   

 

In verse 5 John tells us that Jesus appeared to “take away sin”.  How has Jesus done this?  First of all when Jesus died on the cross, He received the punishment for our sins.  Thus God’s sense of justice was satisfied.  Sin was accounted for and punished.  He thus no longer has to look at us and feel He needs to punish us, even for the sins we still commit. In that sense, Jesus has taken away our sins before the eyes of God.  That being said, we still sin, but those sins are covered by the blood of Jesus.  

 

Yet the coming of the Holy Spirit helps us to overcome the sins that have been forgiven.  In this sense our sins are being taken away as well, one by one, as we live in the light of the gospel we are overcoming sin.

 

Then when Jesus returns, our sins that we still commit and did not get rid of will be gone forever.  In this sense of the word, Jesus will take away our sins at some future date.

 

In my opinion verse 6 is much misunderstood, at least by the casual reader.  John says that those “who live in Him do not continue to sin”.  What does this mean?  Does it mean, we don’t sin any more.  I think the rule of logic, and other Scriptures tell us that we still sin.  So if this is the case, what is John saying?   I believe John is saying that we do not continue in a lifestyle of sin where sin is prevalent in all we do.  We will sin, but we don’t want to sin.  We do not make sin the way of life. 

 

Another way of putting it is looking at John’s definition of sin which is lawlessness.  Lawlessness means without any law.  There are two groups of people.  Christians live by the law of Christ, and sinners live by no law.  They make their own laws up to suit their individual sinful nature.  Thus the person who is born of God lives by Christ’s laws.  They may sin from time to time, but they do not live a life of lawlessness.  While those not born of God live a lifestyle of lawlessness.  They are a law unto themselves, that is, they live according to their own rules.    

 

Then John says that those who continue to sin really have never seen or known Him.  Those who continue in a selfish lifestyle of sin, even though they may claim to know God, don’t, and there are many so-called Christians today who live in a lifestyle of sin.   

 

In verse 7 John admonishes his readers to “not let anyone lead them astray”.  Men like Cerinthus was attempting just that.  John then says that “he that does what is right is righteous just as He is righteous”.  Remember, we are thinking of God’s righteousness here, not man’s righteousness, not like the righteousness of the Pharisees.  We are speaking of Biblical righteousness.  Just because a person appears to be righteous by man’s standards of righteousness does not mean he is truly righteous. 

 

These false teachers may have had a look of righteousness about them, but if they were teaching wrong doctrine, especially concerning Jesus, then they were not righteous.  John even goes on to say that they are of the devil, not of God. 

 

In verse 8 John says that he who is sinful is of the devil because the devil has been sinning from the beginning.  I don’t believe that John is speaking of immoral sin alone here.  I think in context the sin of spreading wrong doctrine is also to be considered in sin.  One wrong doctrine that we’ve seen these men to be promoting is that they don’t sin in the first place.  Well that statement itself is a sin. 

 

Wrong doctrine is something we don't get too upset about these days, but we should.  We don't even really think that doctrine is important.  As a matter of fact, doctrine in some circles is a bad word.  What a sad place we have come to.  It was because of false doctrine that we have this letter from John in the first place.  He was very disturbed over false doctrine.  

 

John seems to be saying that there are only two sides of the fence to be on.  You’re either on God’s side or the devil’s side.  Some might add another side and that is man’s side.  I used to think this way, but not any more.  When Adam and Eve left God’s side, they didn’t go to their own side. They went to the devil’s side.  They followed his advise, not their own advice.  John doesn’t seem to leave room for people to be in either one of three camps.  He only notes two camps. I believe we're either on God's side or the devil's side.  That's it.  Man's ways belong to the devil. 

 

In verse 8 John says that “the reason why the son of man appeared was to destroy the works of the devil”.  The appearing of the Son of God came at the incarnation of Jesus.  From that point onward, and even now Jesus is in the process of destroying the work of the devil, or to put it another way, He is undoing what satan began in the Garden of Eden. The cross was a big part of Jesus’ destruction of the devil.  Yet even now as He lives by the right hand of God His work of destroying the devil is continuing.

 

Verse 9 speaks of being born again, being born of God, as Jesus spoke in John's gospel book,  chapter 3.  John says that if you are really born of God, you will not continue to sin.  Once again, John is not saying we never commit another sin.  He is saying that we will not live in a lifestyle of sin.  We all sin, but Christians don't want to sin, and their whole life doesn't revolve around sin.   John says that we don't sin because "His seed" is in us.  Paul explains that the "seed" is Jesus.  Jesus, by His Spirit lives in us.  We still sin.  We struggle with sin, but our lives revolve around Jesus, not our sin.     

 

There should be a notable difference between people of the world and people of the New World .  People of the world follow their sinful and natural ways.  People of the New World follow Jesus by the Spirit.  The foundation of the New World people’s lifestyle is altogether different than those of the world.  Yet even with this being so, we are all fallible  people and still live in a fallible world.  This means that we will still sin, but as John says, sin will not continue, or in my words, sin will not be the basis of our way of living.  Righteousness is the underlying motivation in our lives.  Yet there is a battle going on within us.  Sin is at war with righteousness within us.  If we are not aware of this battle it is because we’re giving into sin too much and it has more control over us than it should. 

 

To say that people born of God never sin does not fit into the context of the Bible as a whole.  We must interpret what John is saying by understanding what the Bible says about sin, righteousness, fallen man, and other such topics.  To say that Christians don’t sin is also a contradiction  of what John says in this very letter.

 

In verse 10 John concludes that this is how we know those who are children of God and those who are children of the devil.  Note again, only two camps – God’s camp or the devil’s camp.  For the most part true Christians can tell another true Christian because of this underlying attitude to do right.  I admit on the odd occasion this may not be so clear.  Some people you may just wonder about.  It is in the Lord’s hands. The wheat grows with the weeds, and some day Jesus will make the separation.  That’ s not our job.

 

John adds one more point concerning those that we recognize as being born of God.  These truly born again people love their brothers in Christ.  There should be a genuine love to Christian brothers with true Christians.  We should understand that we love people and our brothers in Christ in different degrees.  We cannot express the same intensity of love to everyone, but we can love with more intensity those the Lord has placed us with.  It is obvious that we can’t love our brothers in Africa because we’ll never have the chance to see them.  But we can love the brother that Jesus has set us beside in the Body of Christ.  That being said, we can love the brother in Africa who is in need by sending money or whatever he needs.

 

 

Love One Another (ch. 3:11-24)

 

In verse 11 John once again uses the words “in the beginning”.  This time he’s speaking about the beginning of his readers relationship with Jesus and the gospel.  The message of love is central.  God loved us so He sent His Son to redeem us and provide salvation for us.  By the same token we should love one another.  I’m sure the divisions caused by the false teachers provided ample opportunities for hard feelings among people.

 

So John tells us to love one another and not be like Cain who killed his brother Abel.  Obviously Cain did not love his brother.  It is clear that one of the first results of the fall of man was the laying aside of true love, something that Adam and Eve must have had. 

 

In verse 12 John says that Cain “belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother”.  This means that at some point prior to the murder Cain gave himself to the devil.  This is an interesting commentary on the Genesis account of Cain and Abel.  Many people have asked why God accepted Abel's sacrifice and not Cain's. They've said that it was because of the nature of the sacrifice.  It wasn't an animal.  I've never believed that.  It was a matter of Cain's heart before the Lord.  John said that before Cain offered his sacrifice, he gave himself to the devil. 

 

This is interesting because if Cain gave himself to the devil, the devil must have been still hanging around, speaking to Cain as he spoke to his mother Eve.  It is thus clear that the devil tempted those in the firs two generations of mankind and has done so ever since.   

 

In verse 12 John says that Cain’s actions were evil while Abel’s were righteous.  So prior to the murder Cain had done other evil things.  The question could be asked, “when did Cain give himself to the devil”? 

 

The story of Cain and Abel goes like this.  They were the sons of Adam and Eve.  Cain was born first.  Cain worked the land while Abel worked with livestock.  Both came to sacrifice before God.  We do not have any  written information of God telling anyone to offer sacrifices for sin but it is clear that He did or else these two men would not have done so.

 

It is also clear that God told these men to offer animal sacrifices.  The shedding of blood was, and is, important for the atoning of out sins.  Abel provided an animal sacrifice as instructed but Cain didn’t.  Being one who worked the fields, Cain brought an offering from the field, of which God was not pleased with. 

 

One thing to note here is that any offering brought to God had to be as He instructed.  Any good intention on man’s part was not good enough if it was not as God instructed.  Thus the idea of “good works” is seen very early in human history.  Just because we think something should satisfy God isn’t good enough.  We must do as He wants, not what we think He wants, or what we think is good, as Cain did.

 

God was angry with Cain and punished Him and in turn Cain was angry with God.  This most likely made Cain turn to the devil even more.  Thus the struggle between good and evil, God and satan continued into the second generation of mankind.

 

In verse 13 John tells us that we should not be surprised if the world hates us.  Like Cain hated Abel, so the world will hate us.  Of course this is assuming that we are like Abel and doing righteous things.  If we aren’t so righteous, we’ll be like the world and they will have no need to hate us.  Thus is the situation for the most part in the modern church.  Thus the real battle is between us and the devil, and between God and the devil

 

In verse 14 John says that “we know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers”.  John is speaking about brothers in Christ at this point.  Extending love to our Christian brothers and sisters is evidence that we have passed from death into life. 

 

The Bible teaches that sin leads to death.  If we live in a lifestyle of sin, we live in death.  But once being born again of the Holy Spirit, we pass from this death caused  by sin into life.

 

What does passing from death into life mean.  We are born apart from God, apart from Jesus, the author of life.  When the Holy Spirit comes to live within us, we enter into the world of eternal life, that eternal life that was with the Father throughout eternity.  We’ve been elevated into a new existence, which is life for ever.

 

Those outside of Jesus are still in the realm of death. This death is eternal separation from God, and ultimately carries on into eternal death, that is, always dying but never being able to die. It is our trust in Jesus that takes us from death to life, and nothing else.                      

                

John goes on to say in verse 15 that if we hate our brother it is like we are a murderer.  Jesus said the same thing. Yet John does not stop there.  He says that if we hate our brother, we don’t have eternal life in him.  These are strong words.  Hatred towards Christian brothers is evidence of not being a real Christian.  We might want to distinguish between hatred and simply not  liking a person at this point.  Dislike and hated are not the same.  Brothers may have struggles with each other, and maybe even have disputes that separate them, but I'm not convinced that this can be classified as hate.  

 

John says that eternal life lives in us.  The reality is that God’s Spirit, who is eternal, lives in us.  It is God’s Spirit who has placed us into a new existence of life, and not death.

 

In verse 16 John says that "this is how we know what real love is."  He says that Jesus laid down His life for us.  Jesus was selfless.  We should be the same. That is true love, thinking of others before you think of yourself.  So, if we never lay down our lives for our brothers, if we always think of ourselves first, then, we really don't know the love of God. 

 

John goes on to say in verse 17 that if a brother lacks in some material way, and we can supply that material lack but don't, then God’s love isn’t really in us. John is saying that the proof of love is seen in our material giving to others that are in need.  Love must be practical or it isn’t love.  It love isn't seen, I question if it is love. 

 

Verse 18 says it clearly.  “… let us not love in word and tongue, but in actions and in truth”.  The addition of the word “truth” is important.  Loving in action is easy to understand.  But what is loving in truth?

 

Jesus is the central truth of the universe.  Our loving actions should go forth based on the truth of Jesus.  People can love outside of Jesus, and often do.  But John is saying that we should love as Jesus does, and this love should be done in His name so to speak.  We should love as Jesus loves.  This might require strong and stern words at times.  Loving in truth means that we do not accept and tolerate  all sorts of activity in the name of love as the world teaches today.  We must love according to the truth of Jesus.

 

This kind of love is clearly seen by John in his denouncement  of Cerinthus and the false teachers.  He did not tolerate these men out of love.  He rebuked them in the name of truth.

 

Again, John says that we must love in action.  Love, by its very nature exists in action.  If you simply tell someone you love them and don't show it, you don't love the person you say you do. 

 

Verse 19 is somewhat of a conclusion.  John says that this is how we know we belong to the truth and can set out heart’s at rest in the presence of God.  When our loving actions are based on truth, we are of the truth and our heart’s can rest assured before the Lord.

 

John acknowledges that  our heart’s still may condemn us, even when loving from truth.  If this is the case, then we should know that God does not condemn us.  He “knows all things” as John says.  He can see our actions and the motivations of our actions.  If God does not condemn us, we should not condemn ourselves.

 

Yet on the other hand we should know that if we aren’t loving people in truth, and if our heart’s condemn us as a result, then we need to change.  Our heart's condemnation of us is right.  We deserve to have our hearts condemn us.

 

In verses 21 and 22 John says that if our heart’s don’t condemn us we are confident towards God and we can ask what we will and He will give it to us.  Why?  Because John says that we do the things that please God.  We don’t ask out of selfishness. 

 

We also need to note that some people’s heart’s don’t condemn them even though they are doing wrong.  Paul speaks of such a person when he says that his conscience is seared as with a hot iron. (1 Tim. 4:2)  Their consciousness of sin has been completely destroyed so they have no sense of condemnation.  They do wrong and don’t feel bad about it.  So just because you don’t feel condemned, doesn’t mean you are living right.  The way we know we are living right is by loving in truth.  Loving in truth is an evidence of righteousness.  The lack of the feeling of condemnation is not the evidence of doing right.

 

In verse 22 John gives another reason why we can ask things of God, and that is if we obey His commands.  Receiving from God depends on obedience, not merely on our asking, and not certainly on our faith alone.

 

The phrase "do what pleases Him' in verse 22 is important.  That should always be at the forefront of our hearts and minds.  We should always want to do what pleases our Lord.  That should be the main motivation of our lives.

 

In verse 23 John gives us two commands from God Himself.  The first is to believe in God’s Son.  Believing is more than mentally agreeing with the truth of Jesus’ existence.  It is in fact giving your life to Him in trust.  This is faith.

 

Once we have given our lives to Jesus in trust, the next command is to love one another.  We’ve seen above what John means by love.  It is serious love.

 

John then says in verse 24 that those who obey His commands live in Him and He in them.  By obeying this first command, that is, giving your life to Jesus, we are elevated into a new existence.  The eternal life of the universe lives in us and we in Him.

 

John closes this chapter by mentioning the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit is evidence that we have obeyed the command to give ourselves to Jesus.  Receiving the Holy Spirit is the direct result of this obedience. 

 

We often wonder why the church today is not like the early church, with miraculous power.  I think it is because we are not doing what John says here.  We really don't love our brothers, and we really don't do the will of God.  I'm not even convinced that the church knows what the will of God is because we are so far removed from knowing it that we think we are in God's will when in fact we aren't.   Laying aside the Bible has brought us to this place of ineffectiveness.  

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