Thursday, April 12, 2012

1st John Chapter 3 Part 2

3:2-3 Beloved, 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. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.
Take note that John confesses what seems to be a paradox in this passage: now (present tense) we are sons of God; but it hasn’t been revealed what we shall be (future tense). In this present life we have eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ, 1st John 5:1; John 3:16, 18; Acts 16:31, Galatians 3:26; etc. Eternal life is not a future attainment by being faithful until death, as some professing Christian teachers would have you believe, misquoting Revelation 2:10.

Jesus made it clear that if you placed your faith in Him salvation (eternal life) was immediately a gift of God’s grace, John 5:24; 6:40, 47; Romans 5:18; 10:9, 11, 13; Ephesians 2:8; 1st John 5:11-13. Any religion that teaches us that eternal life is a future attainment God bestows upon the faithful, or it is something to be rigorously worked for is not deriving their message from Scripture but from traditions of men and demonic influence, 1st Timothy 4:1; 2nd Timothy 4:3-4.

The latter portion speaks of what we shall be. Paul addresses this paradoxical issue and sheds light on the idea that we can be sons of God, but not yet know what we shall be. Listen:

Behold, I tell you a mystery: we shall not all sleep (a euphemism for death), but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘death is swallowed up in victory,” 1st Corinthians 15:51-54.

The Bible appears to treat the topic of immortality as a future state. That is, to be clearer: eternal life is an immediate possession for the saint when they place their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Immortality is received when the born again spirit is housed in an equally immortal “spiritual body” that is created to endure forever, 1st Corinthians 15:42-44. The body of our risen Lord was a spiritual body with flesh and bones, Luke 24:39. We shall have such a body: “as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust (Adam), we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man,” 1st Corinthians 15:48-49. Note that Paul addresses such a state always in a future tense. Eternal life is our present gift from God, embodied by the reception and sealing of the Holy Spirit, 2nd Corinthians 5:5; Ephesians 1:13-14. Immortality in its true sense is a future event that awaits God’s saints.

John goes on to inform us that we know that when Jesus is revealed we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He truly is. When we finally behold our Savior our sanctification (salvation from sin’s power in our daily lives) shall be finished. We shall be perfected. Paul joins John on this topic, writing about a saint’s maturing walk and hope in Christ:

Not that I have already attained (to the resurrection of the dead), or am already perfected, but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 3:12-14.

Clearly Paul fulfilled John’s exhortation that anyone who possesses the hope of joyful reunion and perfection in Christ’s presence purifies himself as Christ is pure, anticipating his Lord’s soon return. This meeting and perfection for saints living or dead will arrive when we stand in Christ’s presence. We know that the registry of the church in heaven is presently comprised of “the spirits of just (justified) men made perfect,” Hebrews 12:23. Notice these saints were not presently described in their immortal spiritual bodies, but as spirits of just men made perfect. How did they become so? Through death they passed into the Savior’s presence and beheld Him.
We read of a time when a great number of Christians will, all at once, in the twinkling of an eye (1st Corinthians 15:52) behold Jesus and be perfected. “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ shall rise first (the constituents of the physical bodies). Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord,” 1st Thessalonians 4:15-17. Paul concludes by writing, “Therefore comfort one another with these words,” verse 18. Paul addresses the doctrine of our meeting the Lord as a comfort to saints, while John urges such eventual reunion as a motivator for holy living.

Paul wrote that we had known Christ according to the flesh but know Him thus no longer, 2nd Corinthians 5:16. Jesus’ mortal body that was capable of suffering and dying was no more; when the Father raised His Son from the grave Christ was clothed in a new body, and such a body was so glorious that when John beheld his risen Lord on Patmos he fainted as though dead, Revelation 1:17. When we see Jesus our Lord in His glory, exalted to the right hand of the Father with His intrinsic deity manifest, the sight will transform us utterly. As our Lord said, “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” John 8:32. Christ our Lord will save us to the uttermost by removing any vestige of sin’s lingering influence or power in our lives. We shall be like Him, made like Him to reflect His glory as the moon reflects the light of the sun. Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as Christ our Lord is pure.

Purification is a command; but more so it should be a desire brought about by the new life at work in us through the agency of the Holy Spirit. It is a struggle to strive against the flesh and to please our God, especially when we are younger Christians, or in a place where our particular temptations abound. But we must surrender control to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to work in us His good pleasure, Philippians 2:13. An anonymous writer once said a truly mature saint no longer prays “Not my will but Thine be done” but “may Thy will be mine!” Again and again John confronts the reader with a challenge of moral purity and fidelity to Jesus with our Lord’s amazing, condescending love and mercy as the motivating factor. Do we heed John’s challenge as Christians? Do we want to be servants and sons to our God, or do we simply want the hope of escaping Hell while keeping our priorities on an entirely earthly, sensual and demonic level? A life lived with Jesus as its center is hardly a life wasted; moreover, it is a life God can use to reach and save those around us, 2nd Timothy 2:21. Let God’s Spirit have His way, so our lives can be marked with the purity of spirit that only God’s salvation can bring.

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Ian.

    It is so wonderful that God eliminates our sin at Salvation so that we are no longer what we once were as I Corinthians 6:11 tells us, but there is a responsibility to live accordingly as verse 20 states.


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