1 John 3:1-4 (the love of the Father; growing in purity)


(1Jo 3:1-2 ESV) See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

John exults in our new relationship with God. God calls us his “children” — meaning that he is our Father. Ponder that! The creator of the universe, a being larger and older than the universe, has adopted us as his very own children — in perfect knowledge of our frailty, our weakness, and our brokenness!

He loves us as a father loves his own children. And he will not quickly let go of us — he will not disinherit us any more easily than an earthly father would disinherit his own flesh and blood. Yes, children sometimes so rebel against their earthly fathers that they are disinherited, but this happens only rarely  and never easily.

Readers who are parents should reflect on the number of times their own children have said and done awful, disrespectful, disobedient things and yet remained beloved members of the family. Readers who are children should reflect on the hateful things they’ve said to their parents and other mistakes they’ve made — and marvel at how their parents continued to patiently love them.

God loves us even more.

The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

Consider that one. Does the world know us? Sometimes I think the world knows us all too well! They know us as judgmental, hypocritical, and far too concerned with the trivial and unconcerned with the plight of a desperate, hurting world. You see, we aren’t enough like God to be unknowable to the world.

But we’re supposed to be so strange and foreign to the world that they find us perplexing. Our decision making shouldn’t be like their decision making. Our choices shouldn’t be like their choices. Sadly, though, we’re so worldly that we perplex no one. They see right through us.

If we were to live like Jesus, if we were to pour ourselves out like a drink offering, if we were to really honor God’s word, the world wouldn’t know what to make of us.

we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is

John is speaking of the resurrection. When Jesus returns, we’ll see him in his resurrected, transformed state, and we’ll join him — both by being resurrected and by having a resurrected body.

(1Co 15:23 ESV)  23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

(1Co 15:35-44 ESV)  35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?”  36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.  37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain.  38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.  39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish.  40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another.  41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.  42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable.  43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.  44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

In v. 44, “spiritual” does not mean “made of spirit.” It means “coming from the Spirit.”

John’s point is that, although we’ve not yet received our spiritual bodies, we know that Jesus has been resurrected and God transformed into body into spiritual body — a body that could ascend to heaven to be with God. And this fact assures us that we will one day receive the same gifts.

(1Jo 3:3 ESV)  And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

This assurance of the resurrection and a life with God is “hope.” Now, the New Testament idea of “hope” is unlike the modern, English use of the word. We think of “hope” as something we wish for that may never happen: “I hope one day to travel to the moon.” No, the New Testament concept of hope is an assured promise. My wife promised to bring me lunch, she always keeps her word, and she has brought be lunch many times. Therefore, today, I have hope that she’ll bring me lunch again. “Hope” might be better translated “confidence” — confidence based on the character of the one making the promises and on promises previously kept.

We have a hope so certain that we already begin to prepare ourselves to live with God. Indeed, the goal of the entire story of the Bible is to return us to the image of God. And so we cooperate with the Spirit to become more and more pure — like God.

(1Jo 3:4 ESV)  Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.

Now, the opposite of purity is lawlessness. John is not merely defining “sin” as a violation of God’s law, although that is certainly true. Rather, he is dividing between he who “purifies himself” and he who “practices lawlessness.” Those are the two choices.

You see, the way to defeat sin is not by preserving the status quo. You defeat sin by growing in purity, by becoming more and like Jesus.

(Rom 8:5-7 ESV)  5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.  7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.

We either live according to the flesh or we live according to the Spirit.

(Rom 8:13-14 ESV) 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.  14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

“Put to death the deeds of the body” is the same thought as “purifies himself.” Those who are growing in Jesus have a confident hope. Those who practice lawlessness, who are led by the flesh, do not.

The key is growth. Like a tree, those who stop growing die. There is no such thing as the Christian who has it all together and need not grow any more. Indeed, the believer who concludes that he’s as pure as he needs to be is already in grave danger of falling away — because he is judging himself by himself and not by God. He’s taken his eyes off the goal.



About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
This entry was posted in 1 John, 1 John, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.