Summary: God’s love, sin, brotherhood, and brotherly love all come together in this chapter. John says four times, "This is how we know..."
(The audio version of this concludes better)
What does this chapter say about Children of God?
The Old Testament describes a privileged relationship between God and his chosen people in terms of “covenant.” God made a covenant with Noah, with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the children of Israel through Moses. This chosen, covenant relationship between God and Israel was initiated by God himself. It had contingencies with it that gave clear responsibilities to God’s people. Covenants must be kept. At least the kind of covenants we read about in the Bible do. God always keeps his promises, and he always tells His people to keep theirs.
I’m reading the Bible in 90 days again, and have just finished Kings and am in the Chronicles. These scriptures remind us again and again of God’s patience and grace, but also they remind us of God’s wrath against those who rebel against Him and disobey his laws and break the covenant He establishes. God desires to be close with His people, but He will not tolerate sin and defiance of His authority. He punishes those that reject Him, first, in hopes that they will return and be restored, but finally – if there is no repentance – God gives them over to their own devices and allows them to suffer the consequences of their own destructive behaviors.
When we come to the New Testament we discover a new kind of relationship with God through Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son. Jesus Christ came here and took on flesh so that He could establish this new relationship between us and God. The new relationship is described in the terms “born again” or “adoption.” This new relationship with God is possible only because God initiated it and redeemed us from that which separated us from Himself- our sins- and he did it through the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.
John speaks about this in the first few verses of chapter 3 and I believe this to be the theme of the chapter. “Behold, what manner of love the Father has given unto us, that we should be called the children of God, and that is what we are.” How amazing is this privilege? I doubt that it is possible to comprehend or describe the awesome gift these words speak of.
On your handout notice the highlighted words that refer to the Children of God: The very first thing we see in the scriptures here is that this condition is a gift of God’s love to us. Then there are three aspects of being children of God that follow: first, it is a present condition. That is what we are! Now! Not something we will be, or hope for, but a present, real provision of God’s grace to us. Second, it is for this reason that there is a separation between us and the world. It does not know us. The world is no longer ours and we are no longer of the world. We have a new citizenship in heaven. But, we still reside in this world and that brings us several challenges. John simply informs us and reminds us that the world didn’t know Jesus Christ either. We can take comfort in this realization that while we face troubles in this world, our Lord did too, and He is with us throughout the journey home. Third, John tells us again that we are presently, actually, really children of God, but there is much more to come that we will not experience or even be able to grasp until Jesus Christ appears. That is when the ultimate blessing and glory will come for us. When Jesus appears in glory we who are the children of God now, will become just like Him. This, John says, is our hope. It is something we know is coming. The song says, “When we see Jesus, coming in glory, when he comes from his home in the sky, then we shall meet him in that bright mansion, we’ll understand it all by and by. “ More than that… John tells us, we’ll be just like him! Now that is a hope worth living for! That is a hope worth dying for! Paul wrote to the Philippians, (3:7-15).
Just as the covenant relationship with God had stipulations and laws, this new testament adoption relationship or new birth relationship also has clear stipulations and boundaries. John has already given us several of these boundaries in the first two chapters and he will continue to describe them as the book continues. Today, as we study through this third chapter together, let’s listen to God’s word and let Him speak to our hearts and minds and give us clear instructions as a Father teaches His children.
God desires for us to be with Him. Jesus didn’t die on the cross so you and I would be condemned. Jesus died to destroy the devil’s work and to take away our sins. He rose to give us new life and new birth from above. These glorious gifts and blessings are freely offered to us. They are ours in Christ, when we receive them as God’s word instructs us. And remember, this is not a democratic process. We are not called by God to vote on what we want. God’s instructions are not negotiable and they do not need our improvement. Our input would only mess things up. I say that to bring into focus that our proper response to God’s grace is always praise, thankfulness, humility and fully surrendered obedience. As the eyes of the maid look to the hand of her master, we are to fix our gaze on Jesus Christ our Lord and seek to discover what pleases Him. Losing ourselves, looking to Him, listening to Him, learning from Him, loving like Him, living in Him, we discover our new life through Him. In doing so, we will be more and more like Him. The world becomes more and more estranged to us.