1 John 2:28 – 3:10 – Living as the Children of God

Bible Study Notes
1 John 2:28 – 3:10 – Living as the Children of God

“And this is the way to live as children of God: as many as receive Him, to them gives He
the power to become children of God. This holds true, not only of conversion and regeneration,
but of every day of my life.”
~ Andrew Murray

Review
This passage begins what is considered to be the body of John’s letter. The body continues through 4:19 and deals primarily with living as the Children of God in anticipation of His impending return and final judgment.

“The section before us (2:28—4:19) constitutes the body of the letter. That it is a unit is clear from the structural inclusio. Note the statements in 2:28 “that… we may have confidence… at His coming” and in 4:17 “that we may have confidence in the day of judgment” that bracket the unit.” (Constable)

In previous passages, John has been dealing with the divisive influences within the church and in particular, two heretical concepts of Jesus. The two heresies that were being used to mislead the were excessive legalism from the Judaizers, and excessive spiritualism from the Gnostics. Both were routed in a fundamental misunderstanding of Jesus and sin.

Now John turns his focus away from the heresy, and begins to describe what means to live in the light of God’s love. He as described how God’s love differs form the world’s love. He has also described how Jesus and His message of truth differs from the antichrists and their message of lies.

The primary motivation for this is that we are now living in the “last days.” Jesus gave us His Spirit to guide us, and the Spirit is making the distinction between Light and dark very clear and the end approaches.

The anointing from the Holy One (Jesus) comes from the Word of God (Rom 10:17), through teachers called and gifted by the Spirit of God (Rom 10:13-15) and made alive in the hearts of believers through the Holy Spirit (Heb 4:12). This anointing leads to eternal life (Jn 10:10; 28; 17:3) and protects the believer from the lies and evil of the world. (Eph 3:16-19; 6:17; 1 Tim 4:5, 8; 2 Tim 1:1; 3:16; Tit 1:2; Jas 1:12)

The message from the Spirit, through the Word of God, is very clear. We are to live or “abide” in the family of God as children. The point of having eternal life is to enter into a close relationship with God. Jesus said, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (Jn 17:3). Abiding in God’s family, loving one another, walking as Jesus walked, knowing the truth and living in the Light are all outward manifestations of the indwelling of God’s Spirit in the regenerated Child of God.

“The readers themselves can take comfort that, if they do what is righteous, this is a sign that they are born of God, and hence that they can have confidence for the day of judgment.” (I. Howard Marshall)

Stephen Smally observes that there are two promises contained in John’s opening passage: For the present, because of God’s love, believers can be called God’s children, and for the future, they will see Jesus as He really is and become like Him.

Read 1 John 2:28 – 3:3 Living as Children of God
“What exactly is the abiding experience like: Although John has already pointed out that it involves a Christlike walk (2:6), he has said little about its exact character. Yet it is already clear that it involves obedience to the command to love one another (cf. 2:7-11). Beginning at this point in the epistle, love becomes a controlling and overriding theme.” (Zane C. Hodges)

Verse 2:28 introduces the picture of meeting Jesus at the Rapture in confidence. Up to this point, John has been writing about making the right choices by avoiding a close relationship with the world system and the common temptations and corrupting influences found in the world. Now he makes his argument personal by placing the reader in the picture, face-to-face with Jesus. Verse 2:29 drives the message home: we know He is righteous, so how will we measure up?

The idea of being “born of Him” reintroduces the idea of being in His family. This idea of close fellowship with Jesus and other believers has been a theme from the beginning of the epistle, and now it becomes intimate as the reader is asked to make a personal assessment, as if facing Jesus directly. We are doing that right now, of course, in a spiritual sense, but John wants to break through the distractions of the world and grab the reader’s attention with this picture of Jesus reentering the world physically.

John has repeatedly emphasized that the key to this close fellowship, this membership in God’s family, is obedience to His commands. John often expresses this idea as walking or being in the light (1:5,7; 2:9,10). He says each one of us has sufficient spiritual discernment to determine which direction we are facing and to what degree we are walking towards that light (2:20).

Consider the example of facing a bright light. When you are facing it, what do you see? Now turn completely around and face away from the light. What do you see facing this way? No matter how far away from the light you may be, and no matter how slowly you may be approaching the light, every believer can tell which way they are facing.

What are you going to say to Jesus when you come face-to-face with Him? What if you are facing the wrong way?

Beginning with vv. 3:1-3, the subject turns to love as the overriding command, and as the primary characteristic of family resemblance. Our response to His love gets us into His family, and our practice of His love confirms that we continue to abide in His family. The theme revolves around His love and our response to it. We can choose to imitate that love and be like Him, or imitate the world.

The Holy Spirit works the gift of love within us, but we must let that gift out. The world cannot recognize this, so we could not recognize it before conversion. But now we can understand God’s love for the world. Even though we cannot fully appreciate what all that means, we must begin to cooperate with the Holy Spirit as He conforms us to the image of God.

If we hope to meet Jesus when He returns for us, we do all that we can to be ready. John says we must do all that we can to be pure “just as He is pure.”

How can we purify ourselves, i.e. how do we walk in the light as He is in the light?

What happens to the Church and its mission if we do not always walk in the light?

What if we are not completely pure when Jesus returns?

Read 1 John 3:4 – 3:10
In v. 4 John uses the word ἀνομία anŏmia, translated “lawlessness.” Constable explains the meaning of this word in context: “Sin stands in opposition to purity. Furthermore sin is very serious. The use of the Greek word translated “lawlessness” carries a connotation of wickedness (cf. Matt. 7:23; 13:41; 24:2; 2 Thess. 2:7). It means rejection of law, flagrant opposition to God, rather than just breaking God’s law.”

v. 5 contrasts Jesus’ life with ours. First, His purpose was to remove sin from us. He did not come to fellowship with us, but to make it possible for us to fellowship with Him. Second, Christ was Himself completely without sin. This emphasizes his complete and total opposition to sin. No sin is too small to be acceptable or excusable to Jesus.

The one and only way for us to achieve this level of perfection is to abide (live) fully in Christ. That means to walk every step of our lives in complete obedience. John has already said that we cannot do this (1:8, 10), but here he is making the point that if we are true believers, we will try, and the way to try is to get close to Jesus. John has also already made the point that fellowship with Jesus is fellowship with other believers (1:7).

Jesus is in midst of His church (Mt 18:20; 28:20; Rev 1:12, 13, 20; 2:1), so then that’s where the believer has the best possibility of being next to Jesus and living without sin.

Constable puts it this way, “There was no sin whatsoever in Jesus Christ (v. 5). He consistently abode in (obeyed) the Father (cf. John 14:9). The Christian who consistently “abides” in a sinless Person does not sin (v. 6). If we could abide in Christ without interruption, we would be sinless. Unfortunately we cannot do that.”

In vv. 7-8 John draws the distinction very sharply. Believers do not accept sin in their lives. It is impossible to live a life focused on Jesus, and at the same time entertain sin.

John Wesley introduced the concept of Christian perfection to respond to this concept. He said that a believer could live perfect life if they eliminated every sin and potential for sin that they became aware of, and if they constantly asked God to reveal additional sin or potential for sin.

In v. 9 John reminds us that we have been born again and no longer have the sin nature to contend with. We can overpower that nature by the power of the Spirit who lives within us.

Discuss the concept of a engaging in a sinful lifestyle and how it is different from unintentional or occasional sin.

Think about these words: rebellion, disobedience, carelessness, distraction, sincerity and purity.

As a believer is obedient to study and grow in the Word, how does his/her concept of sin change?

What do we do when we realize that we have sinned?

What do we do when we realize that we are sinning? (Is there a difference in these questions?)

About Pastor John

Pastor John is a retired pastor and theology professor residing in Mountain Home, AR. See his full biography under the "About" page on this website.
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