Thursday, August 20, 2009

1 John 2:29; 3:1-6

V29,1-6 – 29If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of Him…. 1How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. 2Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears [or, when it is made known], we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 3Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. 4Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5But you know that He appeared so that He might take away our sins. And in Him is no sin. 6No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him.

John has laid out three tests of authentic Christianity for his audience, the moral test, the relational test, and the doctrinal test. He visits those themes repeatedly, and here in this passage, John is transitioning from the doctrinal test with which he wraps up chapter two (v29) into a revisiting of the moral test mentioned earlier in chapter two (v1-10). “If you know that Christ is righteous (that’s a doctrinal assertion), you know that everyone who does what is right (there’s the moral test) has been born of Him.” In other words, “If Jesus is righteous, and we are united to Him, then we are to be righteous, even if for no other reason than to show our union with Him.”

The pursuit of holiness is not how we gain rebirth; rather the pursuit of holiness proves that we have already been born again, born from above, born of God. This teaching echoes John’s earlier teaching, from his gospel (John 1:12-13). Faith saves; but Jesus did not come only to forgive our debts. He came to change us, as v2 declares. Romans 8:29 says, “We are predestined to be conformed to the likeness of [Jesus].” Since that is true, we are to strive for righteousness, holy living in this life by the Spirit.

John teaches in v1-2 that God’s love is so deep and amazing that we have been made children of God. Again, the teaching echoes John 1:12-13. We who were by nature children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3), have been adopted as sons and daughters, given new natures worthy of being called children of God and co-heirs with Christ of all things. And in v2 John elaborates on the claim that we are children of God. He says that we already are, but that “what we will be has not yet been made known.” In other words, we don’t look like Christ just yet; but “we shall be like Him.” We already bear His image, but it’s faint; at glorification day, we’ll see the fullness of “Christ in me” revealed (Philippians 3:21; Colossians 3:3-4). 1 Corinthians 13:12 says, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” John says, “We shall see Him as He is.

John recognizes the hope that v2 brings, and so he builds on that hope to bring a proper response in v3. We don’t just hope and sit back and wait; rather, we purify ourselves, “just as He is pure.” Calvin says, “Though we have not Christ now present before our eyes, yet if we hope in Him, it cannot be but that this hope will excite and stimulate us to follow purity, for it leads us straight to Christ, whom we know to be a perfect pattern of purity.” If we truly want to be like Christ, we’ll pursue that end starting now.

V4-6 offer illustrations of this truth. First, in v4, John claims that continuing in sin is lawlessness, a rejection of God’s word and provision in Christ. He is affirming the need to obey God’s law as part of the new covenant Christian life. Second, in v5, John reminds his audience of the doctrine of Christ’s sinlessness and the purpose of His coming – to take away our sins as the Lamb of God, echoing John the Baptist. And third, in v6, John ties v4-5 together, explaining that true faith brings change. “No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning.” But if we continue to sin, we prove that we do not know Him. It’s the moral test of genuine Christianity.

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