Posted by: Billy Marsh | September 17, 2007

Are You A Child of God? Part II

Previously, I posted an article entitled, “Are You a Child of God? The Test of Truth and the Test of Love” which dealt with the content of 1 John 4. I noted two main tests that John required all true believers to pass.

First, the test of truth consisted of discerning in people and in your own personal life the “Spirit of truth and the spirit of error (v 6).” This was done by seeing if that spirit confessed Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God come in the flesh. Thus, a true Christian must confess the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, in the sense of it being something in which they place faith. This concept draws upon the understanding that a “confession” is the result of someone’s prior beliefs.

Second, the test of love identified true believers by the emulation of their God who is love (v 8). John states clearly that the one who does not love most obviously does not know God. If he did, then he would instinctively be loving, especially in light of the atoning work of Christ which John equates with the entire essence of love (v 10). Not to mention, John further removes from the believer any excuse for not being loving due to the fact that God himself supplies us with the love to care for one another (v 7).

At the end of this article, I promised Part II which would tie these conclusions into John’s three main purposes in writing 1 John. Here, I will try to do that as succinctly and clearly as possible.

Purpose 1: “And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” 1 John 1:4 ~ Very simply, John is writing this letter to help confirm and encourage the faith of his readers. His desire is to see them steadfast and growing in the Lord. In vv 1-4, John unfolds his sensory perceptive portrayal of his eye-witness gospel account of Jesus Christ as the true Son of God, the Word of life.

Therefore, the test of truth comes into play here obviously from the need for his believers to confess Jesus as the Christ which requires knowledge of the truth.

The test of love is seen somewhat indirectly in the nature of his tone. His plea for fellowship with his community of readers, fellowship with the Father, and fellowship with the Son show his loving spirit and his love for the body. His joy is not individualistic, but instead is geared towards the corporate body of Christ and the Church’s fellowship and love towards God (1:2-3).

Purpose 2: “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.” 1 John 2:1a ~ Christians must be on their guard against sin. A true Christian will not have a life identified with or characterized by sin, though we must not be under the illusion that we will not sin. In fact, John anticipates this response in 2:1b which he calls to the aid of the Christian who does sin our Advocate to the Father, namely Jesus Christ “the righteous”.

The test of truth in this case can be seen from John’s comments in the previous verse where he says that “If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us (1:10).” Likewise, a few lines earlier, the Beloved Disciples posits, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1:8).” Therefore, the test of truth applied to a potential Christian ought to reveal his acknowledgement that he is a sinner and is in need of forgiveness; however, someone who has the “Spirit of truth” abiding in him will not live a life characterized by sin which is a sign of the “Spirit of error” since this spirit proceeds from loving the world (4:5-6).

The test of love here adheres to a love for God which is empowered by knowing what he has done for us through the atoning work of Jesus Christ. Once again, Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice is the foundation from which we learn to battle sin and love one another. John shows us this point very clearly in 3:16 when he sums up this thought, “By this we know love, that he laid down his for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”

Furthermore, John says in 2:3, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.” We know from 1 John 4 that the one who does not love does not know God. Therefore, if knowing God is a result of keeping his commandments, then must not his commandments include loving God and our neighbors? This truth is obviously reminiscent of Mark 12, but also foreshadows John’s teachings later in the letter in verses such as 3:23 where he repeats this theme, “And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.”

Well, I have realized that I’ve already abused the length of this post and betrayed my promise at the beginning of the article to write within reason. So, I will postpone my excursus on Purpose 3 for a later post, maybe tomorrow or in a few days. However, I hope these two connections will give you plenty to consider in John’s letter concerning the qualifications for being a true child of God.


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