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1 John 3:1-7

Lesson Focus

We will remain children of God as long as we continually seek to return to God the love and faithfulness that God has breathed into us.  

Lesson Outcomes

Through this lesson students should: 

  1. Understand that we are children of God.

  2. Understand that we do not need to sin.

  3. Seek to participate in spiritual exercises and disciplines such as acts of service and mercy, prayer and worship, as a means of remaining in fellowship with God and neighbor. 

Catching up on the Story

John continues to instruct those who are the intended recipients of the letter.  As we recall, John’s intention, first and foremost, is to remind us that Jesus, the one the believing community of faith has seen, heard and touched, is really fully God as well as human.  We are to have fellowship with God through Jesus so that we might have fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Sin, on the other hand, keeps us from both forms of fellowship.  

John goes on to warn us about deceiving ourselves.  If we say we love God, but don’t follow God’s commands, then we are liars.  If we obey God’s word, however, then the love of God has reached perfection in us (2:5).  The chapter we have skipped, 2:1-29, can be broken down into two sections.  The first, 2:1-15, deals with God’s command for us to love our neighbor.  John makes it really clear that we cannot walk in the light of God’s fellowship while hating our brother and sister.   The second, 2:16-29, warns us about the “antichrist.”  Here, John is not making specific claims about who the antichrist is.  In fact, he claims there are many who have been “antichrists,” that is, deniers of Christ.  Anyone who has denied that the Son and the Father are one is an antichrist.  We are warned not to listen to their teaching, but to remain (abide) in fellowship with the community of faith and in fellowship with the Father through the Son.  

Section #1: Who are we?

Verse 29 of chapter 2 acts as a bridge between the two chapters. The proof of who enjoys true fellowship with the Father through the Son is found in their deeds and their teaching. Those who believe and obey have been born of God.  

Throughout the letter, John has addressed his hearers as “little children.”  Now, John will help us consider more fully what it means to be children of God. First and foremost, being called children of God is rooted in the initiative that God has taken in calling us to be children of God because of his love for humanity. In the Father’s great love for creation, he sends forth his Son so that we might be adopted into God’s family. We are God’s children because God wants us to be God’s children.  In love, God has called us. John is speaking to those who have heard the loving call of God and have responded in mutual love. The initiative is God’s. We respond to God’s love, and we are thus adopted into God’s family, which begins our transformation into a people who look like the Son.  

Our status as children of God, who are becoming more and more like Jesus, creates for us a bit of static with the world around us.  We are misunderstood, rejected, harassed and the like because, in our Christ likeness, the world does not recognize us as something it needs.  This is precisely how the world responded to Jesus.  It rejected him because it did not know him.  

In verse 2, John leaves the world behind to further the conversation about who we are and what we will become as God’s children.  John reminds us that we are now God’s children, but explains that this status as children has consequences for all of eternity.  We will not stop being children of God at our death.  We will, however, change.  Even now, as we are becoming more and more like Jesus, our transformation is not complete and will not be complete until Christ returns.  John says, “what we will be has not yet been revealed.”  We do not yet know what we will be like in the end because we do not yet fully know Christ.  When Jesus returns he will be fully revealed and we will finally and fully see who he is.  This revelation of the fullness of Christ will transform us into his likeness (Wesley, Notes, 661).