I John 3:1-3
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
Theme and Parts:
“You are God’s Child”
I. You are Loved by God (1)
II. You will be like Christ (2)
III. You are Pure in Christ (3)
Dear fellow redeemed,
Where do you keep your birth certificate? Many people keep them filed away or in a safe and only bring them out when needed for proof of identity. In my childhood home, the children’s bedrooms were in the upstairs of a two-level house. Lining the walls along the stairs were our birth certificates. They were carefully arranged in nice frames. I always thought that was neat. The certificates themselves were a legal reminder that we belonged to our parents and the caring display of them was a visual reminder that our parents loved us greatly. Today being mother’s day, we think of the importance of family. Our text today from St. John is all about how you belong to God’s family and what that means for you. You are God’s child.
Three times in three verses John stresses this truth for us. We are “called children of God.” “We are” children of God. “We are God’s children now.” To understand how remarkable this is, we need to recall what we were by nature. Adam and Eve were created in perfection. They were created in the image of God; this means that they had true knowledge of God and perfect holiness. They were created by God and so were His children and they had the image of God and so their relationship to God was perfect in every way.
But you know what happened next. They disobeyed God; they sinned. They listened to Satan’s lie that eating the fruit would make them like God. Instead of that happening, the image of God was corrupted in them. Yes, they retained a conscience, imperfectly so, but they were corrupted by sin and so no longer holy and no longer having the right attitudes and emotions toward God. The relationship was broken. This corruption of sin is passed on to all their descendants.
This means that by nature, from our conception we are children of wrath. We were enslaved to sin and Satan. We were bound for hell. We were created by God, yes, but were not His children, not part of His family, and did not belong to His Kingdom.
Our corruption of sin produces our sinful attitudes and emotions toward God, just as Adam and Eve no longer loved God but were afraid of Him, hid from Him, and disobeyed Him. When we have disobeyed God’s commandments, been deceived into sin by the devil, or foolishly followed the sins proudly displayed by the world, we have given evidence of this truth. This is how we are by nature.
Yet, God loves all, God loves you, so much that He would do everything to restore the relationship with mankind, to bring you into His family. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God.” This First John chapter 3 passage calls us back to John chapter 3. God loved the world so that He gave His only Son. With full comprehension and understanding of our sinful condition, God yet loved us. With the purpose of our entrance into His family, He sent His only begotten Son for us.
Christ Jesus lived a perfect life as the Son of the Father. Christ Jesus gave His perfect life so that you should be set free from the dominion of sin and the devil, forgiven of all your transgressions against God, and made a part of the Father’s kingdom. The life and death of the Son of God sets you free from bondage to sin, death, and hell unto forgiveness, life, and salvation.
We are now called the children of God, and, as John wrote, “so we are.” You have been reborn as a child of God. The Holy Spirit through the Gospel made you alive in faith in Christ Jesus. You were brought out of Satan’s kingdom, given the gift of faith which trusts in Christ, and given all the benefits of membership in God’s family. For many of you, that rebirth took place in the waters of your baptism as a small child. For others, it took place through hearing the Gospel later in life. You are born of God by God’s working in you out of His great love for you.
You all were named as God’s child in your baptism. You were baptized by name. Your baptismal certificate lists you by name and is the public record of your membership in God’s family. You are a child of God, loved by God. You know this because you are baptized.
We are now known to God, known as a loving father knows his children. The world does not understand these things. “The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” All are created by God but not all know God. The unbelieving world does not see God’s glory and it does not know God for it is not part of God’s family. Only Christians know God as Father; only Christians are His children. The image of God is being restored in Christians.
And, Christians are strange to the world because God is strange to the world. The world has false conceptions regarding God and so false conceptions about us. The world reacts badly to us because people are bound to sin and dominated by the wrong attitudes and emotions toward God, so no wonder their attitudes and emotions toward us are bad. We are different for we have right attitudes and emotions toward God and knowledge of God as produced in us by the Spirit in our rebirth. The image of God is being restored in us and will be perfectly restored in eternity. Don’t be surprised by the hostility of the world, but take heart as well: you are God’s child; you are loved by God. You are safe in God’s family, protected by your heavenly Father.
You are God’s child and you will be like Christ. John wrote, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared.” This is the “already and not yet” of the Christian life. In your baptism, you were clothed with Christ, your brother. His holiness covers your unholiness. His victory over death is your victory over death. His life is your life. His inheritance in paradise is your inheritance. All this you possess now; as God’s child, this is yours. Yet, these things are invisible at the present time.
The full glory of this will be revealed in the future when Christ returns: “but we know that when he appears we shall be like him.” Christ Jesus is alive. He rose from death. His human body and human soul are reunited. Just as He rose from death, He is going to raise from death all of God’s children.
Christ Jesus is going to return. He will return to raise believers to everlasting life. By His power, He will put our bodies back together and reunite them with our souls. He will raise up to paradise in body and soul those yet living when He returns. This is the crowning glory of Jesus’ work.
When Christ raises our bodies on the last day, our bodies will be glorified; they will be like Christ’s glorified body. Here is how Martin Luther once explained that: “God is infinite, but we are finite creatures. Moreover, the creature will never be the Creator. Yet we shall be like Him. God is life. Therefore we, too, shall live. God is righteous. Therefore we, too, shall be filled with righteousness. God is immortal and blessed. Therefore we, too, shall enjoy everlasting bliss.”
Our glory will be seen. Just as Jesus’ risen body is free from suffering, is incorruptible, is immortal, and is full of splendor and glory, so too will our bodies be. The image of God will be fully restored in us at that time. We will have that perfect knowledge of God and perfect holiness which Adam and Eve were created with.
As a child of God, you will spend eternity, in body and soul, in paradise. All this glory of heaven “because we shall see him as he is.” With these same eyes, glorified and perfected but the same eyes, you will see Christ face to face. You will see Jesus in all the inexpressible beautify of His holiness and love. This seeing of God will be the means by which you are given perfect joy and blessedness and the image of God kept in all its glory. All your attitudes and emotions will be good and right. All that you experience will be joy and perfection. Christ will supply your bliss. The devil, the world, and our sinful nature will be gone completely. The corruption from Satan’s lie will be completely undone.
As you wait for that day, you do so in the confidence and strength that, as God’s child, you are pure in Christ. “And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” As a child of God, you have hope. You have the hope that you are free from bondage to sin, death, and hell. You have hope for the glory and perfection of eternity. You have hope for God’s care and love to sustain you while you wait. That hope rests upon Christ. He is the one who fulfills that hope. That hope is the confidence which grows out of faith.
Christ is “pure.” He is inherently pure for He has no sin. He lived a life of perfect purity by living a completely holy life. His thoughts, actions, and words were always and only pure. They were right. They were sin-free. That pure life was the pure sacrifice to remove all of your impurity of sin. You are declared pure in Christ. You are justified, declared forgiven of all sin and declared to be righteous, pure, in Christ. This is all a free gift; it costs you nothing. That is what you, a child of God, are – pure in Christ.
In light of all this, St. John urges us to act like what we are, to act like God’s children. We are no longer slaves to sin but our sinful attitudes, actions, and emotions are not yet gone. The image of God is not fully restored until Christ brings us home, but the Holy Spirit renews in us the desire and strength to forsake sin and to grow in pure living. That’s our sanctification. The Spirit works this through the power given us in the Word and Sacraments. The image of God is being restored in us.
As we grow in our faith, we grow in our determination to let go of sinful attitudes, actions, and emotions; we fight against sin. We grow in our sanctification. We grow in our daily lives being purified. We repent of our sins – we confess them, receive forgiveness, receive strength to strive against sin, and fight against sin. We are no longer slaves to sin. As those who have been purified in Christ, we seek after that which is pure. We are free to serve our God.
Dear friends, do you know where your baptism certificate is? If you don’t or don’t have one, talk to me and we can find a way to create a new one. I encourage you to frame it and put it on your wall. It is a powerful visual reminder that you belong to your heavenly Father and all that goes along with that. God pours out His love upon you. When Christ returns, you will rise and be like Christ, your brother. In Christ you are pure and being purified as you wait for that day when you will enter into the purity of paradise. All this because you are God’s child. Amen.