1 John 2:28-3:3 A Child of God, Now and Forever (Rev. Erik Veerman)
1 John 2:28-3:3
Rev. Erik Veerman
A Child of God, Now and Forever
I’ve really enjoyed our study of 1 John so far. Every time I read through it, I see something else that I hadn’t seen before.
It’s very different, from say, the book of Romans. In Romans, you know, Paul presents more of a legal treatise on faith. It has a very logical flow, step by step. 1 John, on the other hand, is very free flowing. It has so many intertwined layers like knowing God, abiding in Christ, walking in faith, loving others, identifying false beliefs, and following God’s commands.
Those themes which are included in the four life tests that we’ve worked through are now going to be applied. Do you remember the tests? Obedience, love, the world, and doctrine. And as John applies them, we will see them overlap in different ways.
Really, we’re at a transition point. The apostle John has just given us external confirmations of authentic faith. And now he will give us the internal reality of what that means.
These are perhaps the most powerful words of the entire book.
Please turn to 1 John 2:28. You can find that on page 1211. We’ll read through 3:3
Stand as able.
Reading of God’s word.
At the beginning of the pandemic, a middle-aged man named Rob Kenney started a new YouTube channel. It’s called, “Dad, how do I?”
You see, when Rob was young, his parents divorced. His father got custody, but when Rob was 14, his father walked away from Rob and his siblings. It was incredibly difficult, like many situations. Over the years, Rob decided he did not want his children to go through that kind of pain, so he determined to be a faithful father… and also a father figure to others.
So, at age 57, he started up a YouTube Channel, “Dad, how do I?” His first video was “how to tie a tie.” You can find a whole bunch of videos like “how to put up a shelf,” “how to jump start a car,” “how to make chili,” “how to file your taxes,” “how to unclog a sink.” Besides explaining how to do those things, he’s very loving, he tells dad jokes, he likes to say “I’m very proud of you” and he includes fatherly advice.
As of this week, Rob is up to about 4.4 million subscribers. He’s been called the internet dad. And he had no idea this would happen.
The reason so many people have resonated with Rob is because so many have strained relationships with their fathers, or have absent fathers, or are painfully aware of the failures of their earthly fathers. You see, there’s something deep down in us that wants our fathers to love us. That desires our fathers to give us wisdom, to be there for us. That longs to know our fathers, or be reconciled to him, or to be with him again. I know that’s the heart desire of many of you.
And that’s why these verses are so personally meaningful. That despite the weakness and failings and sin of our earthly fathers, we have a God who is a loving Father. His fatherly love goes far beyond any earthly father’s love. That’s not to minimize the encouraging love of some of our earthly fathers. But God’s fatherly love to his children is infinitely deeper. And if you know God the Father, and his Son, as verses 23 and 24 speak about (that was last week), then you are a child of God. You have all the blessings and benefits of being his child. You are his. You are a member of his family. You can call him Father. He is with you. You can go to him and he will listen. And he will be present with you, forever.
I think these verses in 1 John are the epitome of Scripture’s declaration that God is our heavenly Father and we are his beloved children. To be sure, there are many many verses in Scripture that speak of God’s people as his children, and God as Father. But these verses capture the amazement of that truth. John is expressing an overwhelming assurance of God’s love for his children. It’s an eternal assurance that we possess now and forever. An assurance and love that we can abide in. That pretty much captures the heart of this text.
Before we work through what that all means, there’s another father here. Meaning, there’s another father mentioned in these verses. Really the whole book. An earthly father, a spiritual father. And that is the apostle John. Over and over, he calls his readers, “children” or “little children”. We’ve seen that already. That’s because he is writing to his church. John is writing to the people whom God had entrusted into his spiritual care. As we’ve worked through 1 John so far, we’ve experienced John’s love for them. Sometimes it has been a tough love. The love of this spiritual father for his spiritual children has required love paired with firmness. Clarity paired with sensitivity. That’s because children need discipline and direction.
Kids, Do you like it when you are punished? Of course not. Who does? Do you like it when your mom or dad sits you down and says, “we need to talk?” Probably not! But the thing is, that discipline and that tough guidance is meant to mature you. The more you resist it, the harder it will be for you. Jesus said, “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” Kids, the discipline that your parents exercise with you will help you to mature and bear spiritual fruit in your life. And your parents do it because they love you. Let me say, it’s easier and better for you if you receive that tough love rather than resist it (Parents, you can thank me later for that one!)
You see, John has been very firm with them, because some in his church were not displaying a true faith. Either their disobedient words and actions… or their lack love for others… or their love of the world… or their false beliefs… demonstrated a false faith. And the source of this, as we read last week, were false teachers who rejected Jesus. They had left, but their mark had been made. And they were still seeking to deceive the church from the outside.
And as their spiritual father, John desired to spiritually care for his spiritual children. And that included a firmness but full of love and reassurance. That is kind of the theme of the whole book. And these verses, today, take it to another level. Because John says to his spiritual children, if you truly know and abide in Christ, you are God’s children. You are born of God. And that is truly amazing.
I mentioned that we’re at a transition point. We’re going to come back to verse 28, but look down at verse 29. You’ll see evidence that these verses are a transition point. Verse 29 does two things.
First, it summarizes the life tests, and second, it sets up the second half of John’s letter. It says, “If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.”
At the beginning of chapter 2, in the first verse, Jesus is given a title: “Jesus Christ, the righteous.” When verse 29 says “if you know that he is righteous” it’s referring to Christ. He is the one from which all righteousness emanates. He’s the embodiment of righteousness. Sometimes we think of that word righteous (or righteousness), and we just think of Biblical morality. You know, living according to God’s commands, loving others. But the word righteous includes more than just our character and our conduct. It includes our attitudes and our understandings – our beliefs. To be righteous is to be right in the eyes of God, which includes believing what is right and wrong. Verse 29 is saying that righteousness emanates from Christ, who is righteous. In fact, Jesus is our righteousness, we have his righteousness.
And true believers seek to work out Jesus’ righteousness in their lives. From the inside out. Notice that is talks about everyone who “practices righteousness.” That’s what it’s referring to - striving to reflect the righteousness we’ve been given in Christ. That’s why verse 29 is a summary of the life tests. “Practicing righteousness” testifies to a life of faith in Christ.
So, verse 29 summarizes chapter 2. But, it also previews chapter 3, 4 and 5. That word “practice” or “practices” is used 5 times in chapter 3. So, we’re going to get into what that means in more depth next week. Also, the phrase “born of him” “born of Christ” is introduced here in verse 29. And it’s used several times in the rest of the letter, especially chapter 5.
Let me say it this way, if the life tests of chapter 2 reveal that you have a genuine faith, then you have been “born of him.” Him is referring to the righteous one, Jesus. You have been born of Christ. You are a child of God.
So that’s verse 29. When we get into chapter 3, it begins to answer the question, what does it mean to be a child of God? 1 John 2:28 through 3:3 doesn’t give us the full picture, but what it does is establish the fact. Believers in Christ are children of God. God is our Father. We are his children. These verses establish the relationship between God and us as Father and children.
If you are a follower of Christ, and your life and beliefs testify to a true faith in him, redeemed by him, then you are a child of God. A child of the king. You have a heavenly Father who loves and cares for and provides for and hears and protects you.
That is truly incredible. That the creator God of the whole universe…. The God who created time and space, who set in motion the stars and the galaxies, whose power is infinite, who knows all and sees all and whose justice is perfect. This same God, the one true God, in all of his grandeur and majesty and might determined, in his perfect will, to call and make us his children. Those who know and abide in him, through Christ, are children of the living God. He’s established a relationship between himself, the creator God, and you, his creature. He is your perfect loving Father… if you are believer, as the apostle has affirmed through chapter 2, then you are born of him.
Verse 1 of chapter 3 affirms that in a tremendous way.
The English translation that we use, I don’t believe really captures the underlying Greek. It says, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God.”
The word for “see” is at it’s root the same word for “know” – to intimately know. And immediately after that is the phrase “what kind of love.” It’s two words in the Greek. If you were to translate it directly, it would literally be “from what country is this love.” The sense is the incredible origin of God’s love. So, see or know the incredible nature of the love from the Father that we should be called children of God.
Other translations put it this way:
•“See how great a love the Father has given us…”
•Another one “See how very much our Father loves us…”
•Or my favorite, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!”
The defining characteristic of God’s relationship to his people is a loving father to his beloved children.
Well-known atheist Christopher Hitchens wrote a book titled God is Not Great. An atheist is someone who does not believe that God exists. In the book, Hitchens includes what he thinks God would be like if God were actually real.
He wrote these sad words regarding God’s existence: “I think it would be rather awful if it was true. If there was a permanent, total, round-the-clock divine supervision… of everything you did, you would never have a waking or sleeping moment when you weren't being watched and controlled and supervised by some celestial entity from the moment of your conception to the moment of your death … . It would be like living in North Korea.”
I cannot think of a more inaccurate description of God and especially his relationship with his people. It tragically misunderstands the God of the Scriptures. 1 John 3:1 gives us a radically different perspective.
JI Packer, in his book, Knowing God, has a very pertinent response to this kind of misunderstanding. Packer wrote, "If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God's child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all."
To summarize so far: You are a child of God if your life and beliefs testify to Christ’s righteousness in you. You still sin, but the broader pattern of your life and beliefs confirm your faith. If that is you, you are born of him – Jesus. And you therefore have God as your Father. It is an amazing display of love that we can behold.
Ok, besides the description of the Father-child relationship that God’s has with those born of him, we’re also given the extent of the relationship. It’s described here as present and future. It’s a present tense reality with the promise that will last into eternity.
The present tense reality is right there in verses 1 and 2 of chapter 3. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God;” And look what it says next, “and so we are.”
It’s not just a “will be” and it’s definitely not a “have been.” It’s a “we are” his children. And if John’s readers didn’t catch that in verse 1, he emphasizes the reality in verse 2. “Beloved, we are God’s children now.” Right now, if you have been born of him, you are a child of God. And you have all the benefits of being a child.
I’ve already touched upon some of those benefits. In other places in the New Testament, the word adopted is used. We’ve been adopted into the family of God. We have the status of being a full member of the family “now.”
What does that mean? That means we bear the name of God in Christ. It’s like we’re given a new last name because we are now his adopted child. As a child of God, we have full access to him through prayer. And because God loves us, he desires for us to come to him, to seek him, to know him. God desires us to know that he knows us, intimately.
Besides that, being a child of God also means that God will provide and protect you. He’ll provide for all your needs. He will comfort you through trials. He’ll be there in times of sadness and grief and sickness, because he’ll be present with you at all times. And none of your true enemies will ever overcome you. Sin, death, and the devil. Because God has conquered them for you.
Those are all present benefits of being a child of God.
But these verses also establish our eternal status as a child of God. Forever. When you become a child of God, he will never let you go.
Jesus said, “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand”
Let’s now go back to verse 28. It says, “little children, abide in him, so that when he appears.” John is writing about the second coming of Christ. “when he appears.” Or “when he comes again.”, “we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.” Confidence that we will be his on that day. We don’t need to shrink back, or worry, or fear that we’ll lose our status. That cannot happen. If you are his, you are his forever. Chapter 3 verse 2 also speaks of the future. In fact, right after it says that we are his children now, it speaks of the future promise. “…we know that when he appears,” It's speaking of the same thing. The appearing of Christ when he returns. “When he appears, we shall be like him because we shall see him as he is.”
Christ has been exalted to the heavens. He has a resurrected body. And on that day of his second coming, we will have resurrected bodies just as he has. We don’t fully know what that means. The apostle Paul’s said as much. In 1 Corinthians 2, he quoted Isaiah 64: “…no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.” We don’t know what it will be like for us when Christ returns, but it will be a glorious thing. We will be, in some way, physically present with our Savior forever.
As God’s children, we will be heirs with Christ in eternity. That is the future benefit of being an adopted child of God – being a future heir of the king. Having the assurance that all that is his is ours. SO being a child of God not only means the present reality with all the comfort, protection, and presence that comes with God being our Father. But it also means that being a child of God is an eternal blessing. We will be glorified with Christ, forever.
This week, I went looking for statistics… comparing families with a father in the home to families without a father. I was blown away by the number of studies. The presence of a father, especially a father engaged in the life of his children, has a profound positive impact on children. There are tons of different statistics from different angles. A devoted father in a home brings stability and direction and confidence to children. It’s not without exception but it’s overwhelming. On the other side, a home with an absent or disconnected father often leads to various struggles including crime and depression.
And of course, our earthly fathers run the gamut of faithful to unfaithfulness. Even those of us that seek to be faithful dads are limited and often fail. Whether or not you know or knew your earthly father, whether or not he sinned against you (a little or a lot), whether or not he was present and there for you, whether or not he gave you wisdom and sought to protect you. Through any or all of those situations, if you are a child of God, you have a loving heavenly Father. And in him, you can draw strength, and confidence, and peace. You can rest assured in his faithful love. You can abide in him. For you ARE his, now. You have all of those blessings, and they will be blessings forever.
And it’s all because you have been born of him. Born of Christ. God the Son has made you a son or a daughter of God the Father. Jesus is the one who has given you his status as son. You are a child of God because in Christ you have been reconciled to God, AND through him, you have been united to him by faith. And through that union, you are God’s child.
If you are not a child of God, there’s no special hoops to jump through, no mounds of adoption paperwork, there’s no good works that you have to accomplish before becoming a child of God. No, it’s as simple as turning your life to him by faith. It’s believing in Christ as Savior of your soul and Lord of your life. And when you come to him confessing your sin and your shame, he will make you his child forever.
Next week, we’ll continue through chapter 3. We’ll continue exploring what it means to be born of God. We didn’t touch upon verse 3 this morning, but we’ll come back to that next week. In the meantime, rest assured as a child of your Heavenly Father. Amen?