1 John 2: 28 to 3:3 Abiding in Jesus Christ - staying true to the gospel

1 John 2:28 to 3:3

28 And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. 29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.

1 Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 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. 3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.


Starting at verse 28 with the first two words "And now"! This is an interesting place to start today's study. As you may have noticed, I have been missing the last two weeks, and therefore have not heard the previous passages being explained by our brother Colin. Maybe, some others of you were not here last week, but no matter, it bodes to look at what "And now" is referring to. Obviously something has been emphasised and John is ready for the next step of encouragement, exhortation and message to his audience. So, hopefully, a brief recap of what you may have learned last week!

John had just written: Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning.[1] Here John is telling the Christian to follow the truth that came from the beginning, that which came from the gospels and the early writers. Keep in mind that these would include notable people such as Paul, Peter and James. John is saying: Keep the truth as it were taught and ensure that whatever you are hearing now is that which matches the truth of the beginning. This applies to us today as this quotation says very well: We should test everything by "What do the Scriptures say?" If a teaching does not agree with the Bible, then we should reject it also. As Dr. Ironside used to say, "If it's new, it's not true, and if it's true, it's not new."[2] What does this mean? It means that whatever is taught, today with this sermon, later with someone else's, a commentary you read, a Bible study group discussion, whatever a person says about the Christian way, you must test it. If the Bible does not have that idea, or emphasis as that you have heard or read, the latter is wrong. It does not matter how eminent a scholar the person is, if the Bible cannot verify, then reject. The latest new so-called 'christian' creeds that are being taught, are new, and therefore do not match Biblical truths, for example, acceptance of homosexuality is a classic example of this problem in today's society.

John had just emphasized how the believer would know the truth about God, Christ, the Gospel, and about being a Christian - that of relying on God, and His Word. This brings us to today's study's first verse "And now". Now that you have that firmly fixed in your mind, and now that you know how to identify a teacher to follow, whose words to embrace, then, comes the next part, the hard act to follow, the doing. A little parable in Mathew 7:24-27 explains this whole point very well. You all know this parable, as it is something that is taught from Sunday School up, however, John has to write this to the brethren and exhort them to remember such parables, and learn from them, so do we today:

24 "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.

26 "But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand:27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall."

Note the repetitive words here of 'does' and 'do'. How does one do? John starts by ensuring the reader knows who is writing the instruction first, his status as it were, as he emphasizes very neatly an almost subtle reminder of his age, and with this memory, that he was with Christ. He states: "And now, little children" not as a put down, rather a term of endearment, and a place for them to read his words from. This is a place where some us still need to read these words from as well, that of the junior member of the team - nothing about our physical age, but all about our spiritual maturity. John the great elder and apostle, wants his reader to remember that there is much to grow into. I think that it is good sometimes to return to that place of a child, and remember what we were first taught. In identifying this we will see what we have forgotten or lost on the way, especially when being Christian becomes part of living. Even with Christians, familiarity breeds contempt, we lose the awe of knowing God, as we did when we first met Him, we stop or slow honing of skills of holy living, and loose the thirst to continually increase knowledge of the Word. Perhaps this not you, where life's continuos input, demands, and speed erodes our time, including the time we ought to be spending in quietness and meditation with God. Perhaps, you are steadily growing, and this is very good, as it will enable those like myself to have an example to follow, and a gauge to inspire to. But John did not place any parenthesis here, all the readers were little children. It is worth noting this.

I was listening to a commentator the other day, whose name I cannot remember, it may have been Chuck Missler, a prophecy scholar. That does not matter. However, what was said stuck with me, and as I wrote this piece, it continues to be in the frame. And the context of this point explains what I mean. I have written about 900 words so far, and have spoken to the first four words of the text. We often get caught up in bigger picture stuff (this commentator said) that we forget to ensure we are looking at every word to see how the words are being built in sentences and sentences into paragraphs, and so on. God does not use a singe word unheeded, does not place a singe comma where it should not be, and as such, we all need to read Greek and Hebrew to get the total meaning God has for us!! So my point? Those first four words are extremely important to the content of the paragraph we are studying.

However, let us move on to the next few words: "abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming" Here the big picture is obvious. Using the original Word, the Truth, all believers, no matter where you think you are on the spiritual gradient of holiness, abide in Him. Him? In your text, the word Him should have a caps lock for the H. This always means that God is being spoken of, or one of the other of the Trinity, and in this case, the rest of the sentence tells us that it is Christ, for it is He who is returning. How about the word Abide. Abide, can be the word 'remain', 'to dwell', 'to stay in a given place', and John adds a small extra word in the Greek. Abide has the addition of the word 'in' - a fixator. If one dwells in, that fixes you at that spot. There is no room for wandering with these two simple words tied together. Why do we need to do this abiding part. So we are not ashamed at His coming, that is Christ's return. That is the big picture.

This raises two questions that I wish to spend some time on. The first is How? It is easy to be ashamed, but how does one abide in Him. The second is the concept of being ashamed. How can one be ashamed?

How does one abide in Christ? Let us turn to Genesis, chapter 1, verse 1. We read "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth". Now, if we go to the back of the Bible to Revelations we read in chapter 22 verse 21: "The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all, Amen". Every thing between these two verses teaches us how to abide in Christ. It also gives us every example known to man about how man does not abide in Christ. It tells us all about the last verse of the Bible - Grace. It shows us that life on earth is not fair, but God is just, life is painful, but God is a comforter, He cares, in life we know that man cannot be trusted, but God can always be trusted. We know absolutely that what we expect and what God delivers can be poles apart, but He is always right it is our pole that is in the wrong spot, the Bible tells us that God can be trusted to deliver on every promise, some the very next second, some hundreds of years later, but the promise is delivered exactly as He said it would happen. I will repeat this a little later, but if you have forgotten that Christ is coming back to claim His bride, watch this space, He said He would, the stage is set all but precisely as the Bible describes the setting for the very last days before we are taken.

However, to return to the text and the question - how do we abide? We read God's word, we dwell on its meaning, we pray that the Holy Spirit guides, we help each other, we meet regularly and with great community as believers, we encourage and exhort each other. We understand what sin is, we search our hearts and find it and we take them to God and ask for forgiveness. We LOVE God and each other always, even when the person next to us is driving us completely batty, because loving them may change their heart and disposition. Best of all, we can talk to God however, whenever, and wherever we like, because if we are really talking to God, He knows why we are saying what we are saying, and He will respond in such a way, that even if we are angry with God, His answer will calm the heart, mend the broken spirit, and bring us back into communion with Him.

Which brings as to arguably the best part of the whole verse in its own unique way - being ashamed. I ask you this question: Can you be ashamed without knowing the wrong? Somehow I doubt it. Therefore, to be ashamed, one must know what it is that is wrong to be able to respond in this way. I found it difficult to find a concise verse to provide more insight into this. Romans is pretty good, but unfortunately, we cannot read all of this great book now (Not that every book is great in its own right and appeal!). But the bottom line can be found in some of these verses found in Romans: 1:20 "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened." If you cannot see because of a darkened heart, can you feel ashamed? Roman's Chapter 5 takes us the next step: 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation." Reconciliation means that God has stopped us being His enemies, through the Lord Jesus Christ and His death. If someone has saved our life and we are throwing it away, can we feel shamed? The answer must be Yes! Can we be perfect, and not have those moments? Never! The very well known verses in Romans must come to mind here: Paul's great struggle in chapter 7 verse 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. To write this, one must be able to understand the difference between the two states, of what one should practice, and know what one is practising. Paul knew and was willing to confess his bad points, an example for us, and what we should be willing to do.

To emphasise this most important point I want to highlight the hidden treasure in the verse, that of what is "great" as it were, about being shamed. This verse gives us a clue to a fantastic truth, that of eternal salvation - and that is the "great" part. When Christ comes, some will be ashamed. If they are ashamed, Christ has obviously gathered them up, despite the circumstances they were in at that moment, but they are not feeling too good about where they were, or what they were doing when the trumpet calls. To me, this highlights that if we are truly His, and we fail, no matter what, we are still His, though there will be consequences. Imagine that feeling of shame. I doubt if it will be just hanging the head and blushing in embarrassment. We see from John's exhortation, that this is not where you or I will want ourselves to be. So abide in Him. Seriously live with God, and through His word so that shame is not ours.

Therefore, with that point embedded in our heart, we can read the next verse and see that John is reiterating the abide part of his emphasis. This tells each of us, what our standard is, how we should be, and the word is repeated twice over, righteous. I will wrap this verse in some other verses that creates the picture far better than I can:

29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.. This goes hand in glove with a little more of Romans: 8:10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you." And moving further into the chapter. 26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

Therefore, to abide in Him, gives us the Holy Spirit, who not only will help us in our weakness, but will also intercede for us, and as it says, all this will work together for good, rather than shame. Also, as we see, if we have any skerrick of righteousness, then we have to be born of Him. The bottom line here is this triplet of thoughts - one: Know what the Truth is, two: abide in that truth, and three: righteousness and other gifts of God will enable us to be unashamed when He comes again.

Moving on as time winds down, we note that a chapter break is there, but scholars have re-ordered the paragraph, noting that the first three verses of the next chapter is actually part of the thoughts and words of the above verses. Therefore, we need to have a look at this. It is easy to see in a way why someone started a new chapter afresh here, John waxes lyrical here, in an almost singing fashion in the English, though I cannot guess how the Greek sounds:

1 Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 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. 3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

Behold the words, behold the Word itself. Behold brothers and sisters! The sentence is beginning with an exclamation mark, and we need to sit up and take notice, and get as excited as John is. He is talking of the love of the Father, and John is really into the love of God. You will have seen the word used many times in his writing. He extols, and emphasises this aspect of God, that makes a Christian's life so worthwhile. What? You may ask. My life is a heap of misery. Sure, but God loves you, despite your misery, love is not necessarily happiness as in having a good time, easy life, love is something altogether different, but that really is a different sermon.

He basically says in this opening verse, I may call you children, but look, God the Father's love is so great for you that even He calls you His children. Go to chapter 4 verse 7 - 7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Or John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,. How much does God love us? Enough to give His Son, enough to call us His children. Does this have a consequence - if we accept His love and allow ourselves to abide in Him? Sure it does, these next few words tells us exactly that - "therefore the world does not know us." we are rejected by the world, we are different. We are to be mocked, scorned, written and spoken against, tortured, maimed, killed, ignored, forgotten. by the world. Loving God has its price. Jesus gave up His entire 'world' (heaven), His place on high in order to go through exactly that - for the undeserving. Surely we can abide in the Father and go through whatever our lot, for we are totally deserving of all of these things, that during our lives we will view as bad, and negative. BUT, John does not leave it there in the depths. He provides the hope the human soul always needs, the light at the end of the tunnel, a glimpse that it is all worth it. After all, God may love us, but when we are wet and cold, or hot, thirsty, and uncomfortable, and things are looking grim, God's love does not always seem quite there, or particularly real or worthwhile. But, as long as somewhere inside, we maintain the spark of hope, then all will be revealed as He says.

I itch to include Job in this little piece. Job is such a lesson. Away from the depth of the theology found in Job and the amazing details of science first revealed in Job, we can ask the simple question: how did he feel sitting in the ash and ruins of his home? Did he feel like a child of God, loved, and beloved. Listen carefully from Job chapter 1.

11 "Why did I not die at birth? Why did I not perish when I came from the womb? 12 Why did the knees receive me? Or why the breasts, that I should nurse? 13 For now I would have lain still and been quiet, I would have been asleep; Then I would have been at rest 14 With kings and counsellors of the earth, Who built ruins for themselves, 15 Or with princes who had gold, Who filled their houses with silver; 16 Or why was I not hidden like a stillborn child, Like infants who never saw light? 17 There the wicked cease from troubling, And there the weary are at rest. 18 There the prisoners rest together; They do not hear the voice of the oppressor. 19 The small and great are there, And the servant is free from his master.

Was there a touch of hope there, a glimmer - listen again - why did I not die. I would have been asleep. the servant is free from his master. Yes, a glimmer amidst the woe, in death Job saw peace to be had, an end to the torment. What is our hope: but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Fascinating is it not? When Christ is revealed - when He comes for the believers - then we shall be like Him. and so forth. When is this hope for us? When we meet with Christ, not whilst we live on this earth.

However, let us not forget what we have here in our sojourn with Christ at our helm. We can have peace of the heart, along with the pain, that is for sure. We can have comfort, we can have joy in the heart, even as we shrivel and dehydrate in the desert. We need to overcome the physical, and focus on the spiritual. Sure, many have good lives, little suffering. Perhaps God knows something that we don't about those people, He knows each of our limits, Yes? God knows infinitely more than we know, and he has us, our situation well and truly in hand, if we take it - the hand, and allow ourselves to be led. Particularly, this is true for the people who seem to suffer no matter their faithfulness. But in these words of John he is building a picture that we need to encapsulate in our lives. These verses are saying - in the future, God's love now, will bring even greater later.

We have even greater benefit than those of yesteryear. Why? God has planned a new beginning. As it seems that this is coming sooner than ever before, as I mentioned earlier. As an aside, there are a few scholar's who say this one thing - watch the nation of Turkey. It is the last piece of the puzzle, just waiting for its moment in time. Christ is returning, maybe even today.

To finish, John adds one further piece of advice for the reader. He says - there is a hope, but, BUT: 3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. A return to the opening thoughts - know the truth and abide in it. Be pure, because if you have the hope, you have Christ. If you have Christ, you have the means to be pure, not through your strength, not through what other's teach or say, not through a rejecting world, but through Him and the Holy Spirit who dwells within. Remember and learn verse 29 in this lesson, righteousness also comes from that same source, as grace, love, purity. Righteousness and purity - high standards indeed for each and every one of us. I have included in most of my sermons the following additions that I will repeat today - Live Holy, Humble lives. Or as we can now say having learned this lesson from John, Through the Hope that comes from knowing Him, live Holy, Humble, Pure and Righteous lives, as children of the Father, as guided by the Holy Spirit.

[1] The New King James Version. 1996, c1982. Thomas Nelson: Nashville

[2] MacDonald, W., & Farstad, A. 1997, c1995. Believer's Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments . Thomas Nelson: Nashville

Stephen B Simon (CCC 14 December 2008)
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