THE IMPACT OF HOPE
"1Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. 2Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. 3And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. 4Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. 5And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. 6Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him." (1 John 3:1-6, KJV)
Faith in its Forward Posture
From still another view, hope is faith in its forward posture. Faith takes hold of the past, the present, and the future. It reaches back to the vicarious sacrifice of Christ, and appropriates reconciliation. It reaches up in the present, and appropriates grace to help in the time of need. Right now, faith equips us to live in this world, doing the will of God and resisting the devil. But faith also reaches forward, beyond the limits of time, and lays hold of the promised coming of Christ. It also moves us to prepare for our appointed confrontation of the Lord Jesus Christ.
A Constraining Factor
We will find that hope is a constraining factor in all of these aspects. It enables us to live in the power of Christ's atoning death. It compels us to live in the effectiveness of His present intercession. It also empowers us to live expectantly, dominated by a steadfast longing to forever be with the Lord.
Complete In Him
There is a marvelous sufficiency in Christ Jesus, and we do well to ponder it. The salvation wrought by Him, and appropriated by faith, is laden with "all things pertaining to life and godliness" (2 Pet 1:3). There is nothing about it that is inadequate or ineffective. We are "complete" in Christ (Col 2:10). No needed resources can be found anywhere else. Everything we really need, and all that we genuinely desire, are under the administration of Jesus Christ.
Throughout the Gospels, Acts, and especially the Epistles, the sufficiency of Christ is continually emphasized. It is seen in the merciful miracles of our Lord, as he "went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil" (Acts 10:38). The results realized through those mighty acts could not possibly have been experienced apart from Christ Jesus.
The real and rapid spread of the truth in the book of Acts was not the result of human strategies. Rather, it was evidence of a reigning Christ, working through the faith of His people.
The Epistles confirm Christ is the heart of the Kingdom. Our hearts must not be diverted from Him, for there is no salvation in any sense apart from Him. Thus, men were warned about trusting in their religious background (Rom 2:17), a system of Law (Gal 5:4), and religious disciplines of life (Col 2:20-23). If men draw back from the Lord, gravitating to some lifeless system, they move toward "perdition" (Heb 10:38-39). If they succumb to the delusions of the devil, lured away from fellowship with Christ, they will be cast into the lake of fire (Rev 20:15).
There is such a remarkable consistency in this line of reasoning that it seems almost impossible that anyone could miss it. Yet, and I speak from experience, it is possible to be so deceived by Satan's subtlety that one imagines Jesus is being embraced, when actually He has been rejected.
The Reason for the Epistle
I want to keep before you the reason for this brief Epistle. The Spirit moved John to tell us WHY this book is written. In fact, it is stated in a clear and edifying manner.
Fellowship with the Father and the Son
It is written that we might "have fellowship" with the all saints, and chiefly with the Father and the Son (1:3). The matters to which John exposes our minds, therefore, directly relate to our fellowship with the Father and the Son. Things against which we are warned jeopardize that fellowship, else we would not be warned about them. Realities we are told to appropriate enhance that fellowship, else we would not be told of them.
That Our Joy Might Be Full
This Epistle is also written to enhance our joy in the Lord, or that our joy might be "full" (1 John 1:4). The subjects John addresses, therefore, directly relate to our joy and state of joyfulness. Things against which we are warned diminish and endanger that joy, else we would not be warned about them. Realities we are told to appropriate cause that joy to abound, else we would not be told of them.
Knowing We Have Eternal Life
Finally, the Spirit moved John to write in order that we might "know we have eternal life" (1 John 5:13). The things John writes are immediately associated with our persuasion that we have eternal life. Things against which we are warned will thrust that knowledge from us, else we would not be warned about them. Realities we are told to appropriate will help to persuade us we do have eternal life, else we would not be told about them.
These Things Must Be Known
It is imperative that we keep these objectives in our minds as we consider what is written. Making it safely through this world requires these experiences. The various facets of salvation are calculated to enhance them. We do well to grasp that truth, not allowing our adversary the devil to move us to accept miserable substitutes. Without being redundant, allow me to state these objectives again.
We are to be cognizant that what is being said in this Epistle is related to our fellowship with God and His people, our joyfulness, and knowing we have eternal life. If we allow the Word to dwell richly within us, it will enhance our fellowship, increase our joy, and persuade us we have eternal life. It is difficult to conceive of anything having greater advantages than these things. The experience of them will strengthen us for both living and dying.
THE MANNER OF LOVE
The due consideration of the nature and effectiveness of the love of God is essential to our progress in the faith. There is no possibility of fellowship with God or His people where a fundamental ignorance of His love exists. Divine love is the greatest love, and therefore sheds light on all other expressions of love. Thus it is written, "We love Him, because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). In fact, His love is the definitive love: i.e., it is the love by which all other loves are measured. "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10).
Also, the joy of the Lord is directly proportionate to our grasp of the love of God, that has been poured out within us by the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5). Additionally, it is not possible to know we have eternal life if we have a shallow view of the love of God. Among other reasons, this is why the Holy Spirit sheds the love of God abroad in our hearts (Rom 5:5). It is not our love for God that permeates our whole being, but His love for us. Our love for Him is the result of perceiving His love for us.
True spiritual growth is owing more to the apprehension of Divine commitment than of human responsibility. Thus it is written, "For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that One died for all, and therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer" NIV (2 Cor 5:14-16).
While there is a need for strong exhortation, warnings, and even rebuke, they all take their place behind the proclamation of the love of God as revealed in Christ. None of these things-i.e., exhortations, warnings, rebukes, etc.-are ends of themselves. They are the appointed means of bringing us within the perimeter of Divine influence, where the love of God can be seen more clearly. If we lose sight of this, our exhortations, warnings, and rebukes will become more harsh, and actually drive lethargic souls more deeply into the mire of spiritual death. Make no mistake about it, there is a time for sternness and the total absence of compromise. That need, however, is driven by the nature of the transgressor, not that of the Savior. Coming, as Paul would say, "with a rod" (2 Cor 4:21), is always in order to bring the people to a point where they can more clearly see God's love.
The word "BEHOLD" is a summons to involve our thoughts in the good fight of faith. It is a strong word, meaning to be aware, know, consider, perceive, and understand. It is like saying, Focus your attention here! It is not a casual word, as though we are being asked to cast a fortuitous glance toward the Lord, or entertain a fleeting thought about His great love. I fear that much of what is represented as Christian thought is more on the periphery of life than at its center. The contemporary church has, to a large degree, allowed temporal matters to dominate its thinking. Our text calls for such people to turn their heads toward heaven, as it were, and focus on the marvelous expressions of Divine concern for us.
To "behold" is to look intently upon something, expecting to receive great benefit from it. Such consideration is pictured in the confrontation Peter and John had with "a certain man lame from his mother's womb." Every day, this man was "carried" and placed at "the gate of the temple, which is called Beautiful." Scripture tells us that when the poor man saw Peter and John entering into the Temple, he asked them for money. You will recall Peter challenged the man by saying, "Look at us!" It is written that the man "gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them" NKJV (Acts 5:1-5). The outcome is a commentary on the result of true beholding. His need was met as Peter said, "Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk" (Acts 3:1-8). That marvelous work was preceded by BEHOLDING, or focusing upon, the means through which the benefit was to be realized.
So it is with beholding the manner of God's love. Here is where our hearts and minds are focused upon the Source of the needed benefit. The beholder is not seeking to merely add to his knowledge, or be introduced to some novel or intriguing area of thought. Rather, the beholding one seeks to be profited by what is beheld.
To "behold" is to pass beyond the surface of learning and into the citadel of holy contemplation. When the Lord says "Behold!", great benefit is to be expected from the object of attention. There is something to be learned that cannot be appropriated any other place, or by any other means. There are spiritual advantages to be gained by considering the love of God that cannot be realized in any other way.
The Manner of Love
The love of God toward us is extraordinary. There is a "manner" evident in it that cannot be found in any other expression of love. Some versions translate the expression "how great is the love" (NIV), or "how great a love" (NASB). The idea is that of "greatness" in both quantity and quality. It differs, and excels, in both kind and measure from all others loves.
The word "manner" refers to the quality, sort, or kind of love to be pondered. It carries the idea of "wonderful," or something to be admired, esteemed, and appreciated. The accent is thus placed on WHAT is being considered, and not the act of consideration itself. It is to be understood that what is beheld has a beauty and power of its own, whether seen or not. It is the beholding that will bring that beauty and power to us. We are actually changed by our vision of Him.
The Place of Beholding
The superiority of Divine love can be comprehended only as it is considered. Our thoughts must dwell upon it as we search out its various aspects. Among other things, that means this love is not mere emotion. It is an intelligent expression of God wherein Divine purpose and preference are conferred upon those of His choosing. This is also a selective love; i.e., it is not bestowed upon men indiscriminately. No person failing to behold this love will experience the full benefits of it.
A Bestowed Love
This is not a love that is earned or purchased by those being loved. God's love is "bestowed upon us," "given us" RSV, or "lavished on us" NIV. Some of the synonyms assigned to this word are give, grant, minister, put, set, and show STRONGS. A "bestowed" love is a preferred love placed upon particular individuals-those who are especially precious to the One giving the love.
There are some vivid expressions of such a love in Scripture. Hear the Lord speak to ancient Israel. "The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the LORD loved you . . . " (Deut 7:7-8). Zephaniah was also moved to give us an unusual expression of Divine love. "The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing" NKJV (Zeph 3:17).
Moses told the people of this kind of love-a love bestowed upon their fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. "Only the LORD had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them" (Deut 10:15). This is the kind of love Joshua and Caleb referred to when they told the doubting Israelites, "If the LORD delight in us, then He will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey" (Num 14:8). It is the kind of love God had for Jacob. "As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated" (Rom 9:13).
This is a discriminate and distinguishing love. It is not given because of the merit or moral achievement of the ones being loved. However, neither is it without a cause, for God affirms He does nothing "without cause" (Ezek 14:23). This short Epistle will not only affirm that Divine love has been placed upon us, it will avow that love is found in Christ, and Christ alone (3:16; 4:9,10). It is unquestionably our association with Jesus that has constrained God to place His love upon us. Apart from affiliation, there can be no placement, or bestowal, of God's love upon us. Our experience of, and profit from, the love of God, is directly proportionate to our fellowship with His Son (1 Cor 1:9).
This is a vital distinction. Satan will tempt you to believe God's love is directly relates to your moral achievement. By saying "moral achievement," I mean your success in abstaining from evil and embracing the good. To be sure, both of these are an integral part of spiritual life, and are never to be minimized. However, the love of God is placed upon you because of your acceptance of, and preference for, His Son. Thus, you are "accepted in the Beloved" (Eph 1:6). You are "acceptable to God by Jesus Christ" (1 Pet 2:5). In Jesus, and Jesus alone, we are "made the righteousness of God" (2 Cor 5:21). The redemption is "in Christ Jesus" (Rom 3:24). The status of "no condemnation" is for those who are "in Christ Jesus" (Rom 8:1). That truth must be seen!
We must lay hold of this truth. God has placed His love upon us because of our acceptance of, and delight in, His Son. Our safety from the devices of the devil depends upon our understanding of this. Thus it is written, "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom 8:38-39). The poor soul who does not see this will be jostled by temptation, and become disoriented in the day of trouble.
All of this is involved in "the manner of love" the Father has placed upon, or granted to, us. It cannot be perceived in a casual manner. Nor, indeed, will it ever burst upon the soul that is not devoted to the Lord. The kind of love we experience in Christ Jesus is so grand it cannot be seen while concentrating on other things.
Allow me to briefly elaborate on this "manner of love." Among men, love must be earned-i.e., there must be a condition in the one loved that provokes that love to be placed upon him. For some, it is mere appearance. For others, it is because of the virtue of the one being loved . . . etc. But notice "manner of love" God has "bestowed" upon us. "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us . . . when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son . . . " (Rom 5:8). In this, the Spirit accentuates that God provided a just basis for the experience of His love. Even though we were wholly undeserving of His love, being "sinners" and His "enemies," He did something about our condition. What is more, He did so without violating His own integrity or character.
In short, it was Christ's atoning death that allowed God to "bestow," or put, His love upon us. In this arrangement, no one can point an accusing finger at God, saying He was unjust in placing His love upon us (Rom 8:34). We will now see precisely HOW His love was "bestowed upon us." That is, we will see the primary evidence of that love.
What We Should be Called
" . . . that we should be called the sons of God." Who is able to measure the magnitude of this expression! Accentuating the clarity of the phrase, every major translation reads the same way: "we should be called the sons of God" KJV, NKJV, ASV, RSV, NASB, NRSV, NIV. The expression is unusually strong, as shown in the additional words provided in other translations: "and such we are" ASV, "And that is what we are!" NIV, "and so we are" RSV. The justification for such a bold affirmation will be found in the next verse, which states the case quite clearly.
By saying "should be called," the correctness of our new identity is underscored. In this world, it is possible to be called by a name or title that is undeserving, or for which no real justification can be sited.
Thus, ruthless individuals can unjustly become kings, queens, and potentates apart from any righteous process. But this is not the case with the children of God!
It Is Right!
The "manner of love" God has lavished upon us makes it RIGHT for us to be called "the sons of God." To put it another way, "But as many as received Him, to them gave He power (the right) to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:12-13). Whatever you may think about our "rights," it is "RIGHT" for those in Christ Jesus to be called "the sons of God."
The rightness of being "called the sons of God" is owing to at least three things. First, God calls us that, which makes it right. Second, it is founded upon our acceptance of His Son, and that makes it right. Third, we are REALLY the sons of God, being made "partakers of Christ" and of the "Divine nature" (Heb 3:14; 2 Pet 1:4).
The Spirit of Adoption
God has not only put a "new heart" and "a new spirit" within us, He has also "given unto us His Holy Spirit" (Ezek 36:26; 1 Thess 4:8). The presence of His Holy Spirit with us is what confirms we are "the sons of God." It is a very real circumstance, and not a mere metaphor, or figure of speech. As it is written, "For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, 'Abba, Father.' The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Rom 8:15-16). The presence of the Spirit Himself confirms we are God's children (1 John 3:24; 4:13). Not only so, but the Spirit confirms our status by testifying "with our spirit that we are the children of God."
That witness, or testimony, causes eruptions of dependence to come from our own persons: "Abba, Father!" It is only a son that can speak in this manner! Hear again the testimony of the Scriptures. "And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ" (Gal 4:6-7).
Men have found it in the hearts to haggle about what the people of God are to be "called." Professed believers have even been known to divide over this issue. Some prefer "Christian," while others prefer "disciples." Still others choose "saints" (latter day), while others favor being known as simply "believers," or members of Christ's body. There are good things about all of these appellations, and none of them is to be despised. There is something, however, that none of them will yield. That is confidence, or assurance. All of them tend to relate us with other believers. I am quick to say this is not wrong, for that view is declared and encouraged by the Lord.
The Power of Knowing
However, when it comes to "the full assurance of faith," and "everlasting consolation and good hope" (Heb 10:22; 2 Thess 2:16), the individual believer must be able to see his association with God through Christ. Thus, the Spirit affirms we are "the sons of God." We have an immediate and effectual relation with the One begetting us!
We have a right to come to Him because of our acceptance of His "only begotten Son." He is drawn to us, and has placed His love upon us, because of our connection with His Son. He knows us as "sons," and is not ashamed to be called our "God" (Heb 11:16; 2 Cor 6:18). Christ knows us as His "brethren," and is "not ashamed" of us, because we have been begotten of His Father (Heb 2:11).
Much, if not all, of the division among believers exists because of a failure to grasp this truth. As a general rule, those who condemn and refuse to accept other believers do so because of a lack of assurance in themselves. We are not left to conjecture on this. The Spirit speaks with pungency on this subject. "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well" (1 John 5:1). This particular text postulates that individuals born of God KNOW that is the case. They are aware they "are the sons of God." Those, however, who live without this persuasion find it easy to reject other children of God. They do so because others do not measure up to their perceived criteria of acceptance. Such fail to see it is the "MANNER OF LOVE" bestowed upon us that brings about Divine acceptance. The awareness of that extraordinary love is what imparts the confidence and strength required to "perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord" (2 Cor 7:1). I personally consider this to be one of the greatest insights available to the saints of God. Salvation is calculated to bring this awareness to us. The Scriptures are given to clarify this reality to us.
The World's Response to Our Status
"Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him" NKJV. Why does "the world" reject the children of God? It is NOT because their new birth has made them unreasonable, inconsiderate, or harmful. In fact, of all men, those in Christ Jesus are the most considerate, the most productive, and the most amenable. They alone are empowered to "do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith" (Gal 6:10). It is not a lack of trustworthiness or unreasonableness that moves the world against the saints. Although many of these traits are, indeed, found in professed believers, that is not the reason for the world's rejection of them. They are also found in those who have not been delivered from "this present evil world" (Gal 1:4). Yet, the world loves its own, flawed of not. That is why Jesus said, "If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you"NIV (John 15:19).
How perfectly Christ's affirmation blends with our text! It is our association with God that has moved the world against us. That is why it cannot include us in their company. We should not expect the world to receive us. Jesus has chosen us "out of the world," because that is the only way we can be "joined to the Lord" (1 Cor 6:17). It is not possible to have fellowship with the Lord and fellowship with the world at the same time. When God receives us, the world rejects us. Conversely, when we become a "friend of the world," by that very affinity, we become "the enemy of God" (James 4:4).
Those who teach us to court the favor of the world are luring us into Satan's snare. Jesus does not draw people to Himself through mere friendliness and outward identity. This is not a matter of conjecture, but of revelation. Jesus said, "But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself. He said this to show the kind of death He was going to die"NIV (John 12:32-33). It is Divine consideration that draws men to Christ, not human politeness and favor.
If you doubt this is the case, consider all the multitudes who experienced the favor and profound thoughtfulness of Jesus. When He dwelt among us, He brought unparalleled kindness and thoughtfulness to the masses. He fed their hungry, healed their sick, and raised their dead. As the Spirit witnesses, He "went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil" (Acts 10:38). Yet, in the end, He was opposed by "kings of the earth," "the rulers" of the chosen people, "both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel" (Acts 4:26-27). There is no record of them speaking out for Jesus when He was tried, nor do we see the vast multitudes blessed by Him gathered at the cross. As the disciples tarried in Jerusalem, awaiting the promised power, there were only "about an hundred and twenty" that were found together (Acts 1:15).
The world, even those in it who were blessed by Jesus, "did not know Him" in the sense of our text. This did not stop Jesus from "doing good" among the people, and it must not stop us either. But we must not imagine that such goodness will be met with the world's approbation. Nor, indeed, should we be surprised when those to whom we have "done good" revile and persecute us.
We are not of the world order. We have been chosen out of it, raised above it, made citizens of heaven (Phil 3:20). The world "cannot receive" the Spirit of truth, nor can it receive those in whom that Spirit dwells (John 14:17). Our text is precise on this point. The cause of the world not knowing or recognizing us is not found in our personal peculiarities. Rather, it is "because it did not know Him" NKJV. What is more, the world's hatred of those who are born of God is proof positive that it hates Jesus. Thus Jesus declared, "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you" (John 15:18). The hatred of the world thus confirms the enmity that exists between it and the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is our identity with Jesus that has caused the world to reject us. In becoming "the sons of God," we were moved away from the world and its manners. Our natures were changed, and thus our preferences and manners were also changed. The world senses the change, and therefore senses we no longer belong to its order. It therefore rejects involvement with us. It is to be acknowledged that this is a burden to us, but not an unbearable one!
WE ARE THE SONS OF GOD
This was the focal point of Satan's attack against Jesus. It will be no different with you. He will challenge your sonship. He will provoke you to think less of your status in Christ than is declared by God. He knows that when you are unsure of your acceptance in Christ, you will conduct your life in a spiritually slipshod manner, not availing yourself of the grace that belongs to you in Christ. If there was a single deficiency among believers that makes them most vulnerable, I suppose it would be this: being ignorant of who they are in Christ Jesus.
In our day, we rarely hear appeals to believers that are based upon their status in Christ Jesus. Such omissions are not the manner of the Kingdom. A few examples will assist us in grasping the power of this perspective.
The Corinthian church was "carnal," divided, unthoughtful, and tolerant of gross immortality (1 Cor 1:10; 3:1,3; 11:21; 5:1-2). They conducted themselves like spiritual babies (1 Cor 3:1-3), even abusing the gifts given to them (1 Cor 12-14).
In spite of these deplorable conditions, strong appeals were made to them upon the basis of their acceptance in Christ. "To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints . . . God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord . . . But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God; and righteousness and sanctification and redemption" (1 Cor 1:2,9,30).
The brethren at Galatia were in a most dangerous condition. They were "removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel," and were ready to be classified as "fallen from grace" -a condition in which "Christ will profit you nothing" (Gal 1:6; 5:2,4).
Still, the Spirit appealed to them upon the basis of their acceptance in Christ, thereby striving to lift them from the quagmire of iniquity. "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ . . . And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, 'Abba, Father'!" (Gal 3:26-27; 4:6).
NOW! NOW! NOW!
"NOW we are the sons of God." it is to be acknowledged that the bulk of our inheritance is ahead of us. Still, we do have part of it now, and it is sufficient to gender great confidence in our hearts. Whatever believers may not be, and whatever they may not have, they "are the sons of God." They have not "apprehended" that for which they have been "apprehended of Christ" (Phil 3:12), but they "are the sons of God!" They are not "already perfect" (Phil 3:12), but they "are the sons of God." They are to think of themselves as sons, approach the Throne as sons, and conduct their lives in this world as sons. They are not of this world!
"NOW" they are justified (Rom 5:11). "NOW" they are "dead with Christ" (Rom 6:8). "NOW" they are "delivered from the Law" (Rom 7:6). "NOW" there is "no more condemnation" (Rom 8:1). "NOW" we who were enemies "are made nigh by the blood of Christ" (Eph 2:13). It is true, we were "sometimes darkness," but "NOW" we are "light in the Lord" (Eph 5:8). Although we were "alienated and enemies in our minds by wicked works," "NOW" we are "reconciled" (Col 1:21). All of these are involved in being "the sons of God" "NOW." Be sure of this, Satan will challenge your status.
While there are times when we must hear what we "are not," and when our foolish ways must be exposed, it is also appropriate for us to know who we are. Let us declare it with more fervency and consistency. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God." This is a very real status, and there are very real benefits related with it. The awareness of this standing brings both confidence and power. We do well to remind one another, "NOW we are the sons of God." It is our business to avoid any religious thrust that makes it difficult to acknowledge this truth.
WHAT WE SHALL BE IS VEILED NOW
By saying "not yet," the Spirit is emphasizing that the "appearance" of the sons of God has been appointed, and will surely come to pass. As it is written, "When Christ, Who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory" (Col 3:4). As long, therefore, as the Lord Jesus is hidden from the world, so long will His disciples also be concealed.
The fulness of what we "shall be," however, is also hidden from us. The world cannot see who we ARE. We cannot see who we SHALL BE. Presently, we are not suited for such wonderful knowledge. Even though "the things God has prepared for them that love Him" have been revealed (1 Cor 2:9-10), they have not been revealed in their fulness. What God has "prepared" is like a great temple, filled with inexplicable blessing. What we presently have is like "Solomon's porch" (John 10:23). We are yet only on the border of the promised land! What we possess is greater than we imagine, and what we "shall be" is beyond all present comprehension, and abilities of comprehension.
It is no wonder that what we possess in Christ is termed "so great a salvation" NKJV (Heb 2:3). Lest we become complacent in our spiritual longings, we are reminded of "the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory" (2 Tim 2:10). What we ARE will yet be enlarged, enhanced, and perfected. What we HAVE will yet be expanded and intensified.
There is a marked tendency among men to grossly understate what is possessed in Christ Jesus. Over the years, I have observed the proneness to smallness among believers-myself included. It is something against which we much strive with all of our beings. Minuscule thinking is the mother of religious boredom and dissatisfaction. This is why believers allow things to enter their assemblies that contribute no edification. It is the reason for a demand for brevity and religious distraction.
Something of our future circumstance has been revealed. But it is still shrouded in mystery, and we sense the poverty of human speech and the impotence of human wisdom when we hear of these things. A few examples will suffice to confirm this is the case. "Then the sovereignty, the dominion, and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One . . . Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth . . . Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? . . . Do you not know that we shall judge angels? . . . If we endure, We shall also reign with Him . . . And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations; He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter's vessels'; as I also have received from My Father . . . He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God . . . To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne" (Dan 7:27; Matt 5:5; 1 Cor 6:2-3; 2 Tim 2:12; Rev 3:2:26; 12,21). Are these not staggering considerations, extending far beyond our fondest imaginations?
And who among us can fathom the blissfulness of a state where we "go no more out," hunger and thirst "no more," where the first heaven and earth are "passed away?" What earthly genius can unlock for us the fulness of what is involved in God wiping away "all tears" from our eyes? Or the former things not being "remembered" or coming "into mind"? And what words can perfectly clarify what it means for there to be "no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain" (Rev 3:12; 7:16; 21:2,4; Isa 65:17; Rev 21:4).
Such things remain a challenge to consider. Yet, the pondering of them brings a sweetness to the soul that scarcely can be expressed. That is because they are absolutely true. When you are tempted to despair, consider what "we shall be." More of it can be seen now, and all of it will be seen then. When you are not recognized now, remember that you will be then. His appearing will bring your's also!
When He Shall Appear
The fulness of what we shall be will not be made known until "He shall appear." When we pass from this life, we will experience increased joy and relief from the stresses of the "good fight of faith." However, what we "shall be" will not be unveiled until "He appears." Until that point, everything is introductory. As we advance in the faith here, more of it will be seen. When we are at last "absent from the body," more of it will be realized. However, its fulness is reserved for the time when the Lord Jesus will "appear."
This is the meaning of Colossians 3:4. "When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory."NKJV In a remarkable expression of this very truth, David wrote, "As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness" (Psa 17:15). Even in those spiritually primitive times, the "sweet Psalmist" knew his likeness to the Savior was contingent upon that Savior's revelation. Jesus spoke of the "appearing" of the saints in this way. "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father" (Matt 13:43). Lest we imagine this occurs when we come into Christ, or think if it as taking place in this "day of salvation," Jesus identifies the time more precisely. "The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth" (Matt 13:41-42). It is "THEN" that "the righteous" will "shine forth."
We Shall Be Like Him
The predetermined destiny of the children of God is not a mere moral transformation. That is the beginning of the process, but is by no means its culmination. God has "predestinated" His children will be "conformed to the image of His Son" (Rom 8:29). It is not that Jesus is the standard, and we all work diligently at being like Him. Surely, that is part of being in Christ, but it is not the fulness of salvation. We are BEING conformed to Christ's image, as God Himself works "all things together" for our ultimate good (Rom 8:28).
As we live by faith, the Holy Spirit moves us from one stage of glory to another, shaping us into the image of God's "only begotten Son." Scripture states it this way, "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord" NKJV (2 Cor 3:18). Gradually, He is preparing us for the time when we will put on our "house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens" (2 Cor 5:1). That "house" is nothing less than our resurrection body, with which we will be ultimately "clothed."
That this will occur when Jesus comes again is made clear in Philippians 3:20-21. "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body." Lest we despair at this announcement, thinking such a blessing is beyond us, it is added, "according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself."
Thus, with surety and finality, it is affirmed, "We shall be like Him!" Then, the revealed purpose of God will be culminated as we begin our reign with Jesus "for ever and ever" (Rev 22:5). That destiny is as sure as the Word of God itself!
The Cause of the Change
The Spirit now declares the cause of the appointed "change." "We shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is" NASB. When the Spirit says "see Him as He is," He does not suggest that the vision of faith is not accurate, but that it is not complete. As powerful as faith is, it only introduces us to the glory of Christ. We will yet see Him in a new and indescribable way. God will yet show Him to us fully, withholding no part of His glory from us.
It is the sight itself that will change us! This should not surprise us, because we have already experienced an introduction to such transformation. The new birth itself is affected by exposure to the glory of God. Here is how it is stated in the fourth chapter of Second Corinthians. "For God, who said, 'Light shall shine out of darkness,' is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" (4:6). The means by which the transformation takes place is "the face of Christ." The One accomplishing it is "God." The objective is to give us "the light of the glory of God," or cause us to "participate in the Divine nature" (2 Pet 1:4).
The only effective understanding of God comes through Jesus Christ-"the face of Christ." It is the Gospel that opens Christ Jesus to us. As we behold that glory, by faith, we "are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory" by the very "Spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor 3:18). Just as the glory of God changed the face of Moses, so the glory of Jesus changes the character of the saints (2 Cor 3:7-9,18).
This same process will occur when Jesus comes again in all of His own glory, the glory of His Father, and the glory of the holy angels (Lk 9:26). Not only will the heavens and the earth flee from before His face (Rev 20:11), but all that has concealed the saints of God will be totally removed. Then their transformation will be complete, and they will fully "bear the image of the heavenly" (1 Cor 15:49). Until that time, however far we may have advanced, we are still in a state of transition-of being conformed.
As an addendum to this observation, it is only to the degree that we see Christ NOW, that any effective change is wrought within us. The kind of change God has determined cannot be accomplished by moral disciplines, however hallowed they may be. Souls who refuse to look to the Jesus (Heb 12:2) cannot be changed into His likeness. They have, by that refusal, shut themselves into a condemned state.
In view of this circumstance, we should make much of Jesus in our preaching. His atoning death, effective intercession, and return in glory must be in the forefront of all our preaching and teaching. How succinctly this is stated in the ninth chapter of Hebrews. Three appearings are mentioned, all of which are imperative for our salvation. "For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us . . . but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself . . . To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation" (Heb 9:24-28). His appearing to put away sin provided a righteous basis for our initial change -the new birth. His present appearing provides the means for our continued change "from glory unto glory"-sanctification. His "second" appearing will be the means of our final transformation, when we will "be like Him"-Resurrection. The consideration of these things brings great grace to the soul.
THE PURIFYING IMPACT OF HOPE
"3And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure." Throughout history believers have struggled with holiness. The struggle has not been in the area of desire, but in the fulfilling of the desire. Of old, David said, "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me" (Psa 51:10). With strong cryings he pleaded with God, "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psa 139:23-24). Jesus pronounced an unequivocal blessing upon those who "hunger and thirst for righteousness" (Matt 5:6). He also demanded, "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God AND HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS" (Matt 6:33). With great solemnity, the Holy Spirit admonishes us: "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord" (Heb 12:14). "All filthiness and flesh and spirit" is to be purged from our lives (2 Cor 7:1). Godly men and women have always known this. The challenge is seeing to it that holiness and purity are appropriated. It is good to underscore that these qualities MUST be appropriated. There is no place for sin in Christ's kingdom-none at all! Provision has been made for the remission of sin, but absolutely no provision has been made for the presence of sin. This, I am convinced, is a reality that has not yet burst on many souls. Our text addresses this situation. The Lord knows we must have a powerful incentive not to sin, and to mortify the remnants of it that remain in us.
For some, the incentive is imagined to be law-moral demands placed upon the individual. However, that was not a sufficient motivation for Israel, and it will not be for you. As it is written, "the law made nothing perfect" (Heb 7:19). Even though the law is holy and just and good, it still cannot bring holiness to us. It is too demanding, and offers no resources for the accomplishment of its demands. It is "weak through the flesh" (Rom 8:3). Human inability renders the Law incapable of pronouncing us righteous.
Men cannot be commanded into heaven, nor can righteousness come by means of law-any law. Were that possible, "Christ is dead in vain" (Gal 2:21). The Spirit makes this unequivocal statement: "For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law" (Gal 3:21). A better way is required.
Fear of Death
For others, the threat of death is thought adequate for the task. But this did not work either, as confirmed under the Law. Such fear only induced slavery. Jesus was sent, among other things, to "deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Heb 2:15). Even threatening people with hell-fire is but a temporary incentive. Unless a more powerful stimulus is introduced, the potency of such a threat soon wears off, and men lapse back into their lethargic ways. The book of Judges provides a most excellent example of this principle, as well as the Israelites' journey through the wilderness.
The church has been inundated with purveyors of human disciplines. These are secrets to subduing the flesh that rely completely upon the personal discipline of the individual. The Spirit informs us this approach is in sharp conflict with the very nature of the Kingdom. "Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honor to the satisfying of the flesh" (Col 2:20-23).
Although quite popular in religious circles, this approach contradicts the fact that we are "dead with Christ." It also relies primarily upon the wisdom of men and the power of the human will. However, as rigorous as such disciplines may be, they cannot take away the desire to sin: "they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence"NIV. Until the desire for sin is decidedly diminished, it will exercise power over us.
A Better Way
Our text introduces the appointed way of accomplishing holiness-of purging ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit. It is the "hope" of being "like Him"-something that will be accomplished when He comes again. The impact of this hope is absolutely consistent in every one possessing it. It will not fail. "And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure." There are no exceptions to the rule. If an individual is not purifying himself, it is because he does not have the hope "in him."
Keep in mind, this "hope" has been precisely stated. "But we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is" (3:2). Thus, the believer acquiesces with the determined purpose of God: to "conform" us to "the image of His Son" (Rom 8:29). That is what faith moves us to both desire and confidently anticipate.
Something that is Imperative
There is no value at all to a religion that does not have this hope. If the confident expectation of Christ's appearing does not dominate us, our religion is pointless and vain. It is a mere exercise in futility. I understand this has far reaching implications. Nevertheless, it is the truth, and is powerfully affirmed by both Christ and the Apostles.
This is the "hope that is set before us," and is an "anchor for the soul" (Heb 6:18-19). The anticipation of the Lord's return "from heaven" (1 Thess 4:16) keeps us from drifting so far from heaven we cannot hear Him who speaks from there (Heb 12:25). Drifting souls are unanchored souls, and unanchored souls are those who do not look earnestly for the return of their Lord.
This "hope" is integral to the life of faith. This is marvelously stated in First Thessalonians: "you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven" (1:9-10). It is ludicrous to imagine a person could prepare for eternity without turning from idols. It is equally foolish to think that one could expect to dwell forever with the Lord without serving the "living and true God" now. But it is also true that glory cannot be expected apart from waiting for God's "Son from heaven." Among the churches with whom I have been affiliated, this is virtually unknown. Rarely are sermons delivered on the subject, and it is even more uncommon to hear any conversations on the subject. It is quite possible to visit many churches over an extended period of time, and not even hear that the Lord is going to come again. This condition betrays a deplorable lack of faith, and is not to be excused.
Saved by Hope
The most strenuous activity is not related to getting into the Kingdom, but abiding in Christ. There is where the most hearty and extended endeavor is required. This by no means diminishes what is involved in entering the Kingdom. It DOES accentuate where our emphasis must be placed. Only those who "endure to the end" will be saved (Matt 10:22; 24;13). To put it another way, the promises of glory are only to those who "overcome" (Rev 2:7,11,17,26; 3:5,12; 21:7). The question is, how can one overcome? What will enable the believer to "endure to the end?" Is it enough to know that this is necessary? Honest souls know this is not the case. We need some help on this matter.
The Spirit affirms, "For we are saved by hope" (Rom 8:24). The particular "hope" to which He refers is "the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body" (Rom 8:23). That "redemption" will take place when our Lord returns. As it is written, "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself" NKJV (Phil 3:20-21). Our text also affirms this to be the case. "Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" NKJV(1 John 3:2). This is the "hope" that "saves" us.
But in what sense does "hope" save us? It is not in the sense of remitting our sins, or imparting righteousness to us. That is accomplished "by grace through faith" (Eph 2:8-10). He is not speaking of "hope" in the sense of justification. Rather, it is in the import of sanctification. The salvation of which he speaks is the same as mentioned in Philippians 2:12: "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." This refers to cleansing "ourselves of all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord" (2 Cor 7:1). It is keeping ourselves "unspotted from the world" (James 1:27), refusing to be "conformed to this world" (Rom 12:2). From the standpoint of focus, it is placing our affection "on things above, and not on things on the earth" (Col 3:1-3). From the outlook of abstinence, it is refusing to "love the world, or the things that are in the world" (1 John 2:15-17). "Saved," in this text, involves resisting the devil (James 4:7), fleeing sins of the flesh (1 Cor 6:18; 2 Tim 2:22), and not sinning (1 John 2:1).
From yet another view, "saved" includes laying "hold on eternal life" (1 Tim 6:12,19), finding "grace to help in the time of need" (Heb 4:16), and consistently "looking unto Jesus" (Heb 12:1-2). It also includes the addition of spiritual qualities to our faith (1 Pet 1:5-8), walking "in the Spirit"(Gal 5:16,25), and living "by faith" (Heb 10:38-39). Other Divinely appointed requirements include not making a place for the devil (Eph 4:27), not quenching the Spirit (1 Thess 5:19), and not refusing Him who is speaking from heaven (Heb 12:25).
How are all of these requirements to be realized? For some, these are so lofty they imagine they are only theoretical goals that are beyond our reach. First, there must be a settled persuasion that being "saved" requires all of our effort. The necessity of such involvement has not yet registered on many souls. However, those who are persuaded of the necessity of these things, are most interested in the means whereby they can be accomplished. Our text deals with this.
Here is a marvelous promise. "And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself." There are no exceptions to the rule: "everyone!" When the text refers to "hope in Him," the "Him" is Jesus, not the individual possessing the hope. The hope does reside in the believer, to be sure. The Spirit so strengthens us that we can "abound in hope" (Rom 15:13). However, lest we attach too much significance to the expectation itself, we must remember the emphasis is on the Object of our expectation, Jesus Christ. Thus it is written, "Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father" (1 Thess 1:3). Again, it is written, "the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope" (1 Tim 1:1).
The idea is that if Jesus does not come, we have no hope at all. However, if He is coming (and He IS), we "rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Rom 5:2). That joyful anticipation compels us to purify ourselves, putting off the "old man," and putting on the "new man" (Eph 4:22-24; Col 3:9-10). Take that hope away, and the required purity cannot be achieved. There is no human resource capable of producing such results.
"Even as He is Pure"
This purity is not defined by human wisdom. Even religious tradition, as hoary as it may be, cannot specify the purity in question. The kind of purity toward which believers strive is found in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the ultimate "Man," and thus is the prototype for us all. It is said of Him, "who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners . . . Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth . . . in Him is no sin" (Heb 7:26; 1 Pet 2:22; 1 John 3:5).
If we are going to be conformed to Christ in our bodies, it makes perfect sense to seek conformity to His character while we await that final change. Without any deviation whatsoever, Jesus said of His relationship to the Father, "I do always those things that please Him" (John 8:29). Of His words He said, "I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father hath taught Me, I speak these things" (John 8:28). Of His works He said, "The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do: for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise" (John 5:19).
All of these things reveal the extent of our Lord's purity. He is the standard of pureness, and thus His purity is the goal for which we strive in the power of the Spirit-"as He is pure."
We must not allow a manner of thinking to dominate us that puts Jesus' purity beyond our reach. Salvation not only brings Jesus within our reach, it also brings purity within our grasp. This is involved in becoming "partakers of Christ" (Heb 3:14), and participating in the "Divine nature" (2 Pet 1:4). It is requisite to being "conformed to the image" of God's "Son."
We must settle it in our minds: there is no place in heaven for anyone unlike Jesus! As great as salvation is, it makes no provision for unChrist-like character. The grace of God is powerful and effective, but it will not allow us to remain in sin. The Lord has decreed this and will not repent, without holiness, "no man shall see the Lord" (Heb 13:12). Believers must be convinced of this.
The "hope" of which the text speaks has no power unless it dominates the heart. It cannot "save" us, enabling us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, if it remains in the background of our thinking. Its effectiveness is found in its controlling presence. Where hope is weak, spiritual effort is correspondingly weak. Where it is strong, men become more fervent in their quest for the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.
This is what the Scriptures call "abounding in hope," and it is accomplished "through the power of the Holy Spirit" (Rom 15:13). Our text affirms that such hope is found in every single person who has placed their hope in Christ and His appearing.
It goes without saying, that Christ's return must be a point of emphasis among believers. It is "the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ" (Tit 2:13). The lack of stress upon our Lord's return has yielded miserable results among professed believers. It has also opened the door for a diversity of human doctrines, all of which are impotent to effect holiness in those embracing them.
This "hope" does not yield shame or frustration in any degree. As it is written, "Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us"NKJV (Rom 5:5). Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the marvelous love of God and the hope of the believer have been joined together. The more we are convinced God loves us, the more we long for His Son "from heaven." No believer will be disappointed or dissatisfied with this hope. When our Lord comes, we will receive even more than we have dared to imagine. There are no disadvantages to hope-none at all! Further, if we do not quench the Spirit, He will see to it that hope flourishes in our hearts. You must know that the Spirit is an effective and productive Worker. If He is not quenched, He will bring God's work in you to its appointed culmination.
SIN IS THE TRANSGRESSION OF THE LAW
"4Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law." It might appear strange that defining sin follows a strong affirmation of hope. However, it must be remembered that purification has been introduced, and that has to do with a conscientious effort to eliminate sin from our lives. Viewed from this perspective, the whole matter of salvation has to do with extrication from sin. Because of the flesh, there is a temptation to lightly regard sin, imagining it can be indulged with impunity. Every believer must remember there is "another law" in them, "warring against" the law of their mind (Rom 7:23). We will not be rid of this law until we are fully conformed to the image of God's Son, and that will occur when Jesus appears "the second time" (Phil 3:20-21; Heb 9:28). For this reason, we must be warned about the danger of sinning, and what is involved in transgression.
Sin is something that is committed. It is not an involuntary action. The will is involved in sinning. A choice is made to sin-a deliberate choice. While it is possible to sin, yet not realize you have sinned, it is not possible to sin without choosing to do so. As simplistic as this might seem, the transgressor, apart from the conviction of the Holy Spirit, is not ready to admit sin was by choice. When Adam confronted God after he had sinned, he explained his transgression by saying, "The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate" (Gen 3:12NKJV). When the Lord asked Eve, "What is this you have done?", she replied, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate" (Gen 3:13NKJV). These explanations, however, did not reduce the magnitude of the sin committed- one small jot or tittle.
Often men are alarmed when they hear of some friend or well known person "falling into sin." When the Scriptures say "but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression" (1 Tim 2:14), the finality of the transgression is emphasized. The idea is that she toppled from her lofty position into the pit of transgression, where sin became the norm. But Eve sinned because she wanted to sin, and she wanted to sin because Satan deceived her. It is still that way. People sin because they want to sin. Satan deceives them into thinking there is an advantage to be had in sinning. In the wake of her delusion, Eve "saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise" (Gen 3:6). Her assessments could not possibly have been more wrong! The tree was NOT good for food! It was NOT pleasant to insightful eyes. It was NOT the way to become wise.
Thus, sin is always "committed," or "done," with the will, and by choice. Even when we are sorely tempted, if we do not COMMIT what we are tempted to do, it is not sin. That is why Paul could say of the invasion of wretched thoughts, "Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me" (Rom 7:17). Involuntary thoughts are fiery darts from the wicked one. If they are not "committed," we have not sinned. It is one thing for the believer to be "drawn away of his own lust, and enticed." It is quite another matter for lust to "conceive" and bring forth sin (James 1:13-14). Our text is speaking about what enticement leads to, and not enticement itself.
Why bring Up Sin?
Why is sin brought up in this context? It seems as though we plummet from the lofty heights of anticipation to the dark halls of danger. There is a reason for what appears to be a diversion.
The very concept of "hope" presents the status of waiting on our part, and seeming "delay" on Christ's part. Mind you, the Lord is not actually delaying His return, but it appears to unbelief as though that is the case. When men begin to reason in this manner-that the Lord's return is delayed-they are naturally attracted to sin.
Jesus spoke of this tendency in a significant teaching about stewardship. "Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath"NKJV (Luke 12:42-44). Faith compels the servant of Christ to faithfully handle his stewardship until his Lord returns. Although that return may not come for a long time, yet when it occurs, the faithful servant will be found doing his Lord's will.
However, if the steward begins to reason that he has time enough to be idle, he will leave his stewardship and indulge the appetites of the flesh. This Jesus continued, "But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers"NKJV (Luke 12:45-46).
The test of time is the reason for this word about sin. Were the sky blazing with the glory of the returning Savior, no one would have to be warned about sin. But that is not the case now, and the Spirit will not allow us to ignore the presence of sin and our vulnerability to it. Our love for Christ must not diminish while we wait for Him! If it does diminish, we will sin, and God has no tolerance for sin.
The Transgression of the Law
The Word of God does not speak kindly about sin or sinners. Although human nature is corrupt, the Spirit will not allow us to excuse sin because we are "human." Sin is not seen as the unavoidable consequence of being human, but as "the transgression of the law." It is not explained as a sort of sickness over which believers have no power, but as "the transgression of the law." Sin is not the result of an unfortunate circumstance, or being treated unjustly, but is "the transgression of the law."
I am careful to point out again that the text is not speaking of the tendency to sin that is resident in the "old man," or "the flesh." Nor, indeed, is it referring to the presence of unwanted thoughts, hurled at us by the wicked one. I will even go so far as to say he is not speaking of those who love the Lord and abhor sin, yet must confess "I have sinned." Such departures, though common, are not excused by God. They must, and can be, forgiven (1 John 1:9; 2:1). But this is not the matter addressed by this text. "Sin," in this case, emphasizes the deliberateness of the deed. It is something "committed."
Just what is "transgression?" The word itself has the sound of harshness in it. This word comes from avnomi,an (a-nom-ian), and means wickedness, or lawlessness Barclay-Newman. It is often translated "iniquity" (Matt 7:23; 13:41; 24:12; Rom 6:19; Heb 1:9). It speaks more of a spirit than of a deed. For example, when Adam and Eve sinned, the appearance of their deed did not seem to be that serious-eating some fruit. However, in order to eat that fruit, they had to do the following, all of which were wicked.
In summary, our ancient parents had to consider themselves above their God in order to eat that fruit. That is the sum of "iniquity" or "lawlessness"-"transgression." It is the usurpation of Divine authority and the exaltation of self. You cannot sin without ignoring God and what He has said. To transgress is to see a restraining barrier before what is forbidden, and leap over the barrier doing what is forbidden anyway.
Our Lord does "forgive iniquity and transgression," but He cannot ignore it (Ex 34:7; Num 14:18). When sin is "committed," the guilty party must acknowledge what has been done. No excuse must be presented to the Lord for such deeds.
"Sin is the transgression of the law." More contemporary versions read, "sin is lawlessness." That translation is linguistically correct but doctrinally weak. "Lawlessness" presumes principles that have been articulated, or clearly stated. In fact, the Scriptures clearly state, "where there is no law there is no transgression" (Rom 4:15). In this very expression, we find a token of Divine mercy. Not willing to leave men in total ignorance, God makes known what He approves and disapproves.
We must not conclude from this that the absence of, or ignorance of, law excuses the sinner. It is elsewhere written, "For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them)" (Rom 2:12-15). Thus, even though God's law may not be known in a written, or codified, manner, yet God has given man a conscious awareness of right and wrong. Although that consciousness is not as thorough as the written law, it becomes a basis for the judgment of the individual.
When, therefore, a person who is ignorant of the written law, goes against his conscience, given to him by God, he also transgresses the law. "Sin is the transgression of the law," whether written on tables of stone or "written in their hearts." To put it another way, sin is never excusable.
Correctly seen, "the law" is a reflection of the character of God. It places the Divine nature in a moral code, outlining what He does and does not do, imposing those characteristics upon men. The Ten Commandments are God's moral law in summation. When giving the Law to Moses, the Lord said, "Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them" (Ex 24:12).
"The Law" is affirmed to have defined sin, showing what is right and what is wrong. It was not given to justify men, but to show them they could not be justified apart from Divine intervention. Thus it is written, "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin"NKJV (Rom 3:20). Sin, therefore, is not defined by the church or some religious council. It is defined by the Law of God.
Writing of this very thing, Paul says, "What shall we say then? is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet" (Rom 7:7).
Sin, therefore, "is the transgression of the law." It is crossing over a clearly defined barrier, and doing so willingly. As great as salvation is, it makes no provision for transgressing God's law. Even though we are left to struggle against an adversary and inward inclinations to evil, the Lord will not allow a place for sin. At some point, those who will dwell in the house of the Lord forever must come to grips with sin. They must appropriate the appointed remedy for sin. They must declare war upon sin. There must be in them a certain distaste for sin, and revulsion at the thought of it. No matter how long they wait for their Lord, they must strengthen their hearts against sin.
The boundaries established by the Law have not been removed. The Law itself remains wherever the lawless are found. As it is written, "Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers [general murderers], for whoremongers [male prostitute, or sodomite], for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers [one who enslaves another], for liars, for perjured persons [giving false testimony], and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine" (1 Tim 1:9-10).
In summation, the Spirit has alerted us to the jeopardy of time. We are in the stance of "waiting," looking for the return of our Lord. The Lord has made no provision for us to sin during that period, taking our attention away from Christ's coming and placing it upon the things of this world. It is imperative that we be pure when He finds us. Our faith must be strong, and our resistance of the devil consistent. Although this is a most ambitious assignment, the hope of Christ's return, and our change into His likeness, provide the incentive to "purify" ourselves, "even as He is pure."
Those who are mindful or their Lord's return will find sin distasteful. They will be more alert to the devil's devices, and more energetic in appropriating "all things pertaining to life and godliness." However, should we choose to minimize Christ's return, conducting our lives without an acute awareness of its imminence, we will be brought to the place where we will sin. There is no soul strong enough to avoid sin without the dominance of "the blessed hope." Where, therefore, there is an absence of reduction of emphasize on the return of our Lord, a place has been made for Satan-and he will occupy that place! Part of our armor has thus been laid aside--the "helmet, the hope of salvation" (1 Thess 5:8). Make sure of this, you cannot survive Satan's assault without your helmet.
MADE KNOWN TO TAKE AWAY OUR SINS
All of this confirms that being "saved" does not refer to a fixed state, but to a work in process. Thus, those in Christ are told they "shall be saved from wrath through Him" (Rom 5:9), and "shall be saved by His life" (Rom 5:10). They "are being saved" (1 Cor 1:18), and the "day" of their "salvation is "nearer than when [they] first believed" (Rom 13:11). There should be no further need to substantiate this point.
Salvation, in all of its aspects, is inexorably connected with the Gospel of Christ. At no point does salvation move beyond the Gospel, or render it unnecessary to the believer. It is imperative that it be kept "in memory" if we are to be "saved" (1 Cor 15:1-3). Further, no word from Jesus or the Apostles suggests that such a retention of the Gospel is possible apart from its proclamation.
The Apostolic Manner
Because there has been a deluge of confusion on this matter, it is necessary to establish the necessity of the Gospel to our hearts. This is germane, for we are being told of the role of hope in our preparation for the Lord's return, and the purifying of ourselves from sin. The Gospel relates to this subject.
The death of Christ, for example, is referred to at least 95 times in the Epistles (Romans through Jude). Justification, redemption, and remission are associated with that death (Rom 3:24-25). The logic behind being saved by Christ's intercession is founded upon the accomplishments of His death (Rom 5:6-11). The validity of our baptism is confirmed by its association with the Gospel (Rom 6:3-10). The absurdity of committing fornication is unveiled by the powerful Gospel (1 Cor 6:19-20). An incentive for giving is found in the Gospel of Christ (2 Cor 8:9). The correction of the Galatians propensity to law was addressed by the Gospel (Gal 3:10-13; 4:4-5). The need and reasonableness of holiness is supported by the Gospel (Tit 2:14).
Time will not allow for a more thorough coverage of this subject. It is necessary that the people of God develop a hunger for the Gospel. It must be seen as a vast ocean with unplumbed depths. It always is associated with living by faith and walking in the Spirit. The path of the godly never leads beyond the sound of the Gospel. When the Gospel seems to have no relevance, the individual has wandered beyond the perimeter of Divine acceptance. Such a one stands in jeopardy of condemnation. God Himself cannot forget what His Son has done. The person who imagines he can do so, only betrays an abysmal level of ignorance.
Manifested to Take Away Our Sins
When the "Word was made flesh and dwelt among us," He went about "doing good, healing all that were oppressed of the devil" (Acts 10:38). But that is not why He was manifested, or made known. He did not come to feed the multitudes, although He did on at least two occasions. Neither, indeed, did He come into the world to address its social injustices. There was a higher purpose that governed the degree of our Lord's involvement in all these things.
Here is something we "KNOW." That is, it is something that is common to all believers. The Gospel has brought this to our awareness. "He was manifested to take away our sins." Although His "goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting" (Micah 5:2), our sins were taken away by Him being "manifested," made incarnate, or displayed visibly before the sons of men.
Our sins could not be taken away by a Divine fiat, or pronouncement. The worlds were summoned into existence by God's Word, but redemption could not be accomplished by an utterance. Sin could not be simply expelled from God's presence, as Satan was from heaven. It was imperative that "a body" be "prepared" for the Word, and He enter into the fallen realm (Heb 10:5-8).
In coming into the world as "a babe," or "seed of woman," our Lord assumed identity with the ones God had determined to save. He did not come as an angel, "For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham"NRSV (Heb 2:6). The "help" He came to give was not of a temporary nature, i.e., healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and raising the dead. None of those marvelous displays of Divine mercy required Him to come into the world "born of a woman, born under the law" (Gal 4:4). He came into the world to "take away our sins."
This is precisely what John the Baptist revealed about Jesus. "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"NKJV (John 1:29). Our text says He came to "take away OUR sins." John said "the sins of the world." What is the difference? Or is there any? John's declaration was of Divine provision-a provision that reached as far as the curse: "the world." Our text is confirming how unreasonable sin is for the believer.
The expression "take away" is rooted in the types and shadows established under the Old Covenant. It portrays bearing, or carrying, the sins away from the presence of the Lord. On the day of atonement, Aaron was to offer special sacrifices: a young bull for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering. The young bull was to be offered for himself and his house. He was also to take two goats from the children of Israel for a "sin offering." These were to be presented before the Lord at "the door of the tabernacle of the congregation." Lots were then cast for the two goats. One lot was "for the Lord," and the other "for the scapegoat." The goat on which the lot fell "to be the scape goat" was "presented alive before the LORD, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness."
After killing the young bull, Aaron was to take its blood "and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times." Then he was to kill the goat of the sin offering, and do precisely the same thing with its blood "for the people." No other man was allowed in the tabernacle when this atonement was being performed.
After extensive ceremony for the atonement of the altar, the children of Israel, and the tabernacle itself, Aaron turned his attention to the remaining live goat. With deliberation, he was commanded to "lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat." Then, choosing a suitable and strong man, Aaron was to "send him (the goat) away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: and the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness" (Lev 16:1-22).
In this ceremony, a vivid picture of the atoning sacrifice of Christ was depicted. The ritual was extensive because the atonement Jesus would accomplish would be extensive.
When the Spirit uses the phrase "take away the sins of the world," He is referring to the imagery developed under the law. Jesus bore the sins of the world like that goat bore the sins of Israel. Just as the goat was released in a land that was not inhabited, so our sins were taken where God no longer remembered them.
Our sins were, in fact, removed from the face of the Lord God Himself. As long as they remained before Him, He could not bless us as He promised. However, once they were righteously and effectively "taken away," He could deal with us as sons. In this arrangement, the sufficient Savior is the High Priest, the young bull, the ram, the two goats, and the fit man-all in One! He thoroughly implements the extensive shadow, leaving no part of it unfulfilled.
The Logic of the Text
There is a spiritual logic to this text that is powerful. If Jesus was revealed to "take away our sins," what possible reason can be cited for taking them up again? What explanation can be offered for being "overcome" by the very sins that were "taken away"? It simply is not possible for those in Christ to sin unless they are deceived and moved to disregard the reason for Christ being made known.
No person in Christ will boast that they have not sinned-at least they cannot say such a thing truthfully. But they will all acknowledge there is no satisfactory reason that can be given to God for such transgression. It is therefore to be "confessed" and forgiveness thereby appropriated.
In Him IS No Sin
There is much significance in the way in which this is stated. The text does not say "in Him WAS not sin," but "in Him IS no sin." In other places, the Scriptures affirm the sinlessness of Christ WHEN He was offered to God. "For He [the Father] made Him [the Son] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor 5:21). Again, it is written, "Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth" (1 Pet 2:21-22). In both of these verses, the sinlessness of Christ is in the past tense: "knew no sin," and "did no sin." Much of this is made elsewhere in Scripture. He "offered Himself without spot to God" (Heb 9:14, "a Lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Pet 1:19), and "was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Heb 4:15). All of this points to His worthiness as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
But our text is in the present tense, not the past: i.e., "in Him there is no sin." Here the Spirit is not addressing the matter of Christ's personal holiness. Rather, He is showing that "IN Christ," that is, in our union with Him, there is no sin. Our union with Jesus will yield no sin, for there is no sin in Him. He did bear our sins "in His body on the tree" (1 Pet 2:24). But those sins were taken away, so to speak, into an unihabitable place, where they could not be dredged up again. Believers are now "in Christ" (Rom 6:3; 2 Cor 5:17; Gal 3:27). It is to be acknowledged by every believer that there is no room for sin "in Christ." Even though men allow its entrance into their presence, be sure Jesus does NOT! He is not capable of living together with sin. When sin comes in, either it must leave, or Jesus will.
Sin never results from fellowship with Christ! There is "no sin" in Him! There is nothing-absolutely nothing-about Jesus that encourages or condones sin. Unanimity with Him will never draw a person into sin. "In Him there IS no sin." Thus, the lines are clearly drawn for all believers. God has made provision for the remission of sin, but not for remaining in sin. Fellowship with Christ makes sin distasteful, and never palatable. What Jesus did not allow to enter into Himself when He was here, He will not condone entering into you while you are in fellowship with Him. Sin is always unreasonable, foolish, and the result of deception. There is no acceptable reason for or explanation for sin.
Sin and faith cannot cohabit. As soon as sin is entertained, faith begins to wane, and will finally be denied altogether unless sin is abhorred. Although this is apparent to us when we are living by faith, it becomes obscure when our attention is drawn to forbidden things. Satan's design, of course, is to intrigue us with evil. He knows very well we will commit sin if we look at it long enough. This Epistle is written to strengthen our grasp of the Gospel, thereby reducing the possibility of being attracted to sin.
A BOLD AFFIRMATION
Whosoever Abides in Him
John has already affirmed the necessity of continuing "in the Son, and in the Father" (2:24). There is no salvation apart from involvement with the Son. Further, this "great salvation" provides the means for abiding in Him. It is as the "anointing" which we have "received from" Him abides in and teaches us that we are promised, "you will abide in Him" (2:27). The abiding of reference, therefore, assumes we have neither grieved nor quenched the Holy Spirit, and are "walking in the light."
This is the part of us that has been regenerated: the "new man," or "inner man." It is the redeemed "I" of the seventh chapter of Romans (verses 15-25), that finds delight in the Law of God, and hates every false way. It is essential that we see this because of the strength of this statement. There is a part of us that is NOT in Christ-namely our body, as well as the other parts encompassed in the larger word "flesh." In a sense, we carry the entirety of Calvary in our persons. The Christ of the cross dwells within us. The penitent thief is represented by the "new man." The hardened and impenitent thief is also represented by the "old man," the remnant of our former self that will remain with us as long we are in the body. This form of reasoning is represented extensively in the sixth chapter of Romans, as well as the fourth chapter of Ephesians and the third chapter of Colossians. There is a part of us that is to be "put off," as well as a part to be "put on." There is a component to be nurtured and a part to be crucified.
When our text says "Whoever abides in Him," it is specifically speaking about those who are "in Christ Jesus," living by faith and walking in the Spirit. Such an one "abides" in Christ by maintaining the relationship into which he was translated by God Himself (Col 1:13). He stays where God has placed Him (1 Cor 1:30), receiving nourishment from the Head, and being conformed to the image of God's Son. Abiding in Him is another way of saying ALIVE, for apart from being joined to Christ, there is only death.
Does Not Sin
And what may be said of the person abiding in Christ? "Whoever abides in Him does not sin"NKJV. Other versions read, "No one who abides in Him sins"NASB. "No one who lives in him keeps on sinning"NIV. "Anyone who is in Him does no sin"BBE.
Inconsistent with Abiding in Christ
The first thing to see is that sin is altogether inconsistent with abiding in Christ. Our text does not mean that it is impossible for a Christian to sin. Earlier we were told, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us," and "If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us" (1:8,10). Further, we have been apprized that provision has been made for believers who do sin. "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (2:1). However, sin is always out of harmony with life in Christ. It always has to do with death, not life.
Some have concluded that "does not sin" really means does not sin habitually. The verb is active indicative which means "does not keep on sinning." However, that is quite different than saying habitually sin. If keeps on sinning continually is meant, it would have better been stated, "Whoever abides in Him does not abide in sin." But that is not how the Spirit states the case. He compares abiding in Christ with continuing to sin. He certainly does not mean abiding in Christ is a habit, or a way of life-something that is occasional, but not consistent. Where is such a view of life in Christ ever promulgated by the Spirit?
The idea is that sin finds its terminal point in Christ, and cannot continue "in Him." As an environment (and we are "in Christ"), Jesus suffocates sin. It cannot exist in His presence, nor can the one abiding in Him continue sinning. This is the same line of reasoning used in the sixth chapter of Romans. "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" (6:1-2).
This precise word (a`marta,nei)is used six times in Scripture. Three of them are in First John (3:6,8; 5:18). In First Corinthians 6:18, it refers to committing fornication, and may be committed in a single act. In First Corinthians 7:36, it refers to a man who married to avoid fornication, stating in marrying "his virgin" he was not sinning-a single deed. Titus 3:11 uses the word to describe a heretic (divisive person) who does not listen to admonition.
I conclude, therefore, that the use of the word, as well as the consistent doctrine of Scripture, does not justify saying "does not sin" means does not sin habitually. Rather, it confirms that sin and Christ cannot be joined. To the degree we are in Christ, we do not sin. To the degree we are not in Christ, we do sin. That there are, in fact, degrees of conformity to Christ is clearly proclaimed. We are being "changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another" by the Spirit of God (2 Cor 3:18). Christ is also being "formed" in us (Gal 4:19).
Later the Spirit will say "Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God" NKJV(1 John 3:9). The part of us that is in Christ can no more sin on the earth than it can in heaven. Jesus in you will not sin just as surely as He did not sin when He dwelt among us. Without laboring the point, and as I have already said, there is more to you, however, that what is "in Christ." There is "another law" at work in OUR "members," and it is relentless in its demands (Rom 7:23). That "law," however, is powerless as we "put on the new man." It is ever true, "Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh" (Gal 5:16).
Verses like this will develop a certain abhorrence for sin within us, if we will allow them to do so. They are not to be approached with a mind to work out theological differences between professed believers, or to buttress sectarian dogmas. Rather, they confirm the absolute intolerance God has for sin, how there is no place for it in Jesus, and the new creation is not capable of living in contradiction of Christ. The part of us that does sin is not in Christ. That is precisely why it is to be "crucified." That is why we are to "put to death your members which are on the earth"-the part that is capable of sin and incapable of righteousness (Col 3:5).
This is precisely the point made in the eighth chapter of Romans. In order to live after the flesh, one must live in disassociation from Jesus. In order to "set" our minds on the flesh, we must remove them from "the things of the Spirit" (Rom 8:5). To be "carnally minded" (set the mind on the flesh, RSV) "is death" (Rom 8:6), and places one at war with God (Rom 8:7), and renders the person incapable of pleasing God (Rom 8:8). It should therefore be clear that the Divine nature that is in you is incapable of sin. Yet, that nature must be "put on," else the remnants of our old nature that remain with us will soon gain control of us. But "put on," he means live in its power.
If we imagine that the first part of this verse is strong, the second is even stronger. The Spirit speaks with such pungency that it is not possible to ignore what is said. "Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him." Wherever there is no newness of life, there can only be sin! Too, wherever sin continues, there is no affinity with Jesus. Sin can only continue by reverting to the realm where it can be expressed-the world and the flesh. It has wisely been said, "Christ is never dormant where He reigns." Just as the sun drives the darkness away, so the "Sun of righteousness" dispels the captivating darkness of sin. That is the reason for this statement.
The Spirit will now show us that sin springs from NOT seeing or knowing Christ. It is the result of a broken fellowship, for neither the perception or fellowship of Jesus can foster sin.
Has Not Seen Him "Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him." He does not say the one who IS sinning IS not seeing Christ, but that He has not SEEN Him. Be clear about this. He does not mean that when we sin we cease to see Christ. Rather, He means we sin because we have ceased to see Him!
There is a line of reasoning here that must not escape us. Just as beholding Christ transforms us into his likeness, so failing to behold Him causes us to sin. That, of course, is the whole point the Spirit is making. Our conversion took place when the "light of the glory of God" was seen "in the face of Christ Jesus." Our bodies will be "changed" when we see our Savior "as He is" (1 John 3:1-2). Both changes are effected by beholding. In the meantime, we are being "changed from glory to glory" by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, and that is also accomplished by "beholding" (2 Cor 3:18).
There is only one part of you that can keep on sinning-the "flesh," "old man," or "natural man." That part has not and cannot see the Lord, and has no part of the Kingdom of God. As a son of God, you are required to reject its call for attention. If you refuse to do so, the flesh will soon dominate you again, and that state is a most dreadful one. Of that condition the Spirit says, "For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them" (2 Pet 2:20-21).
There is another aspect to this passage that should be noted. John has told us about false teachers that went of from them, but were not of them (2:19). Just so, there are those who bear the name of Jesus, yet really have no part of Him. They have, in every sense of the word, never seen the Lord. That is why they continue to live in the realm from which Jesus delivers us.
Has Not Known Him
"Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him." To "know" God and Christ IS eternal life (John 17:3; 1 John 5:20). That knowledge, or acquaintance and experience with Deity, is what keeps us from sinning. Thus, when sin erupts, it is sure evidence that, at the very best, the knowledge of God has been imperfect. At the worst, it may never have existed at all.
Again, He does not say whoever is sinning does not know Him, but HAS NOT known Him. The lack of the knowledge of God is the soil, in which sin grows and flourishes. To put it another way, the less aware and appreciative we are of the Lord, the more attractive sin is, and the more vulnerable we become to the devices of the devil. It is not possible to live at a distance from Christ and NOT sin. When we do not know Him experientially, walking in conscious fellowship with Him, we are shut up to transgression.
While this is thought jars upon the lethargic soul, it is imperative that its truth be grasped. The flesh, or the natural part of us, is wholly incapable of resisting the devil or laying hold on eternal life. That is what Jesus meant when He said it "profits nothing" (John 6:63). It can bring us no advantage in the matter of salvation-which is the whole of the matter.
Further, even the "new creation" can make no advance whatsoever apart from fellowship with Christ. At no point, or at any time, may the child of God dispense with Christ, as though He were no longer needed. At the very moment we cease to have a life-giving connection with the Head, we begin to die. A gravitation to the flesh begins, the glory of God starts to wane, and the devil becomes more powerful against us. Unless that process is aborted by running eagerly back to Christ, there is not a shred of hope. However, the moment our eye falls upon the Lord Jesus, renewal and recover begins, and the devil commences to lose his power.
In declaring such things, care must be taken to ensure the struggling believer that he does not waffle between the condemned and uncondemned state, standing in jeopardy every moment of his life. Many a trembling soul has been dominated by fear, supposing there is never a moment of safety in Christ Jesus. Such souls must be assured that God is "able to keep us from falling, and present us faultless before His presence with exceeding joy" (Jude 24-25). However, it is through our faith-our perception of and sensitivity to Him-that He keeps us.
Thus, our text has called upon us to stretch to look upward and forward. We have been assured our Lord is coming again, and that we will be like Him when we see Him as He is. In the meantime, while we eagerly wait, full provision has been made for us to be fully oriented for our final change. The Lord will continue to conform us to the image of His Son if we will look to Him. The more we perceive Him in truth, the more we become like Him.
To the extent we are unlike Christ, to that extent we have neither seen or known Him. To the measure we bear His likeness, to that degree we HAVE seen and known Him. As our hearts take these words seriously, they will assist us in overcoming the devil and appropriating the rich things that belong to us in Christ Jesus. As we examine ourselves, these texts will be seen as most valuable, and to be highly regarded. They set before us things indispensable to the perfecting of holiness and fellowship with Christ Jesus. I bid you to take hold of them, take them into your heart and mind, and live in the glorious power of them.
Through the Spirit, John is speaking from an elevated view-from the heavenly perspective. He is showing us that such things as loving God, knowing Him, and believing Jesus is the Christ, involve infinitely more than can be perceived by a casual glance. Each of these things, involves Divine activity as well as our own. As such, they are profound expressions with unimaginable potential. If we are to comprehend this book, we must come up higher, into the "heavenly places" where all of the blessings are found.
Feed the Flock of God
The text we have reviewed underscores the necessity of feeding the flock of God, as He appointed (John 21:15-17; 1 Pet 5:2). It is altogether too common for the Christ's body to be given a meager diet of the things of God. When the attention of the church is turned to numerical expansion and community impression, it is done at the expense of God's people. A highly organized institution that offers a variety of activities to the public may appear to be spiritually influential, but that may not be the case at all. The Lord does not work through mechanisms in which He is not preeminent. The Divine objective for the church is met by means of its immediate contact with Jesus Christ. Each member is to hold fast to "the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God" (Col 2:19). That process is accomplished through edification, and leads to increasing glory. The lack of edification aborts the process, pushing the body of Christ back into darkness and inevitable sin. It is becoming increasingly evident to me that this has not yet been seen by the masses in Christendom.
No Allowance for the Flesh
This text also confirms the nature of the Kingdom of God, which makes no allowance for the indulgence of the flesh. Regardless of its refinement and culture, there is no place for "the flesh" in the Kingdom of God. The Lord has provided no door through which it can enter, and makes no allowance for its expression. "The flesh profits nothing," and those who operate in its domain "cannot please God." Flesh belongs to the realm of darkness and alienation. It is to be crucified, denied, and refused expression. If heeded, it will rob the child of God of faith and hope, and finally cause him to be disqualified from the race and the obtaining of the prize.
The Spirit also substantiates the essentiality of being close to, and perceptive of, the Lord Jesus Christ. This Epistle, you will remember, is written that we might have fellowship with both the Father and the Son. That is where spiritual life is realized and advanced. The joy that we require is found in the Lord's presence. As it is written, "in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (Psa 16:11).
There can be no glory without transformation, and there can be no transformation without exposure to the glory of God "in the face of Christ Jesus."
Where there is no fellowship with the Son, there can be no growth in Him. Nothing that God requires can be fulfilled without fellowship with His Son. In His dealings with us, God cannot do without Jesus, and neither can you.
The Prominence of Hope
Finally, the prominence of hope is declared with great power. The anticipation of our Lord's return, and of ourselves being "like Him" exercises a powerful influence upon us. In the energy of that hope, the child of God will extricate from his life everything that contaminates the soul and makes us unprepared for Christ's coming.
In order to do this, hope must be dominant. Hope will not stand behind lesser things, or wait for the hour of crisis to do its work. It must rule, or it will not stay.
Whatever minimizes, or even stifles, hope is an enemy to the soul. Such things jeopardize our salvation, and have the potential of alienating us from God. When, however, our anticipation of the glory to come is strengthened, we have gained unspeakable advantage. I challenge you to major things that promote the "one hope."