Children of God

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1a).

- 1 John 3:1–3

In today’s passage, John develops further the idea of being a child of God that he introduced in 1 John 2:29. We saw yesterday that all those who have been born of God will necessarily resemble Him with respect to His righteousness. John will return to this idea again in verse 3 of today’s passage. But before he does, the beloved disciple takes time to marvel at the great love of the Father in granting us the privilege of being His children.

In 3:1a, John expresses great wonder at the love God has showed in making us His children. We must always remember that God was under no obligation to save us from our sin. Even less was He obligated to grant us the privilege of sonship that we might receive an inheritance in His Son (Eph. 1:11). God would have been just to leave us in our sins or simply to call us slaves, without the great love and honor a child receives from a good father. Yet in His great love, He has not only saved us but has adopted us into His family, and has given us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Eph. 1:3–6). May we never become ungrateful for this tremendous love!

However, the question remains: what does it mean to be a child of God? The answer is that to be a child of God is to be righteous in Christ. This is implicit in 1 John 3:1b where the apostle speaks of the world rejecting us in ways analogous to Jesus’ own rejection by the world (John 1:10; 16:2–3). That we are also rejected implies that we will be like Christ who is Himself the only begotten Son of God.

That to be a child of God means to be like Christ is made explicit in 1 John 3:2–3 (see also 2:29). At Christ’s return we will be like Him, but even now this likeness is a present, though partial, reality since we are already God’s children. At His return we will be more like Jesus, even though we do not know all of what this will entail for us (v. 2).

We can say, however, that being like Christ now and forever involves moral purity. Verse 3 tells us that those who hope in Christ purify themselves as He is pure. As we hope in Jesus alone, our lives will be transformed. We will become more holy in this life, and at His return be conformed fully to His spotless image (1 Cor. 15:49).

Coram Deo

Are you frustrated with your current progression in holiness? Do you think that you will never overcome your persistent sins? If you hope in Christ, you should not feel this way. For if you truly hope in Him you are His child and are already becoming more like Him. In prayer, ask the Lord to remind you that you are His child and as such you can resist temptation. Thank Him for restoring you when you do fall, and hope on Him today so that you might live accordingly.

Passages for Further Study

Deut. 1:30–31
Isa. 43:1–7
John 1:9–13
Rom. 8:14–17

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