1 John (5): Confidence as Children of God (2:28-3:10)
You must gain confidence by remaining in Him (v2:28). John explains that abiding or remaining in Him by continuing to believe in Christ and loving the brethren produces confidence before the Lord whether we “go to Him” or He comes in the Second Advent. We are to have open confidence (parrasia) when Christ is fully revealed (parousia). Parrasia is often translated “publicly/openly” (Jn 7:13, 10:24, 18:20) and parousia means “arrival” or “presence” (2Cor. 10:10, Phil. 2:12), including even the “first advent” of the Lord (2Pet. 1:16). The OT concept here is “coming in judgment” (Is. 13:9, 31:4, 40:10), as Jesus taught in Matthew 24:30–34, “And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky . . . they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory. . . this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” In this passage Jesus references Dan. 7:13 which concerns His Ascension to power (Psalm 110:1), demonstrated by the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Many of John’s hearers were persecuted and martyred in connection to these cataclysmic events.
You must gain confidence by identity in Him (vv2:29-3:3). John connects the full knowledge of our confidence to being “born of Him” (2:29, also John 1:12-13). This “new covenant” rebirth is shown by our faithfulness. Abiding/remaining/staying in Christ has two themes in 1 John: 1) Believing the apostolic Gospel which teaches that Jesus of Nazareth is the Divine Son of God. 2) Loving the brethren, thus persevering in the Apostolic Community. We should wonder at the love of God for us that He makes us children by the sacrifice of Christ. We shall also be “publicly” manifested as the children of God in the eschaton (at the Last Day). The glorious qualities and transformed nature of resurrection bodies, etc. of being God’s children are not yet manifest. This hope transforms us now as we live with an eternal perspective. This begins with knowing our true identity as the children of God and living by this rather than our other rival identities.
You must gain confidence by obedience in Him (vv3:4-10). We gain confidence by obedience to His will. Those who know and abide in Him obey. Practicing sin shows that you are “of the devil” rather than born of God. “The children of God and the children of the devil are obvious” (3:10). This is a very challenging point, but remember we are also known by confessing our sins and receiving forgiveness (1:8-9). Many commentators call this the “obedience” test. Sin is lawlessness, thus obedience to the “law” is a requirement to maintain that we are “born of Him.” Certainly this is true, but the emphasis evident in all of the epistle, is not brute moral obedience to the many laws, but rather the law of love. The specific kind of obedience that John has in mind is manifest in the contrast in vv 3:10: “nor the one who does not love his brother.” This is the transitional catch-phrase to the next and center section. Love for the brethren is the repeated theme of showing our “doing righteousness” in 1 John. At the very center of the book the Message is Sacrificial Love for One Another. We know John 3:16, but we should know 1 John 3:16: “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more