Post Series on 1 John 2:28-3:10:
- Because Truth is So Much More Than Just Being Right (1 John 2:28-3:1)
- We Shall Be Like Him (1 John 3:2-3)
- Whoever is Born of God Cannot Keep on Sinning (1 John 3:4-10)
Although I place a great deal of emphasis on orthodoxy (right belief), I think that conservative Christians like myself sometimes do the world a disservice by misrepresenting why Truth is important. Very often, we speak as though being right were the only virtue in the world, almost as though theology were just one big math test that won’t give partial credit–at the end of the day, your sums are either right or wrong. Because of this tendency, we focus almost all of our time and energy toward teaching to the test, ensuring that everyone has all the right answers, but little else. As a result, we often produce Christians who can regurgitate answers, but who do not genuinely understand the material.
On the other extreme are those who reject the idea of right belief in order to exclusively pursue right action (orthopraxy). While these people are right to see a major problem in smug, fact-filled Christians who bear no resemblance to Jesus whatsoever, they lead people down the road to hell when they abandon theology in their pursuit of “love.” Why? Because Truth is so much more than just being right. Truth is the catalyst that transforms orthodoxy into orthopraxy, and Truth never produces right action apart from right belief.
In 1 John 2:28-3:1, John has just finished denouncing those who departed from the fellowship of the church in pursuit of their false teaching. In other words, John was denouncing those who had departed from the Truth. Make no mistake–Truth is a big deal to John. In 2:27, John had just written of the anointing that we have by the Holy Spirit: “But as his anointing teaches you about everything–and is true and is no lie, just as it has taught you–abide in him.”
And then in 2:28, he pleads the same imperative to abide in Christ once more: “And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.”
In this context, Truth is more than just truth–that is, more than mere facts and data. Truth is a person, the Lord Jesus Christ himself. John pleads that we would abide/remain in Christ, and nowhere else. Only if we abide in Christ will we have confidence to stand before him, and not to shrink from in him shame, at his coming.
And so John moves on to explain why it is that abiding in Christ guarantees confidence, and not shame, at Christ’s coming:
If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (1 John 2:29-3:1)
Those who abide in Christ do so because they have been born of God, having been made children of God. John can hardly contain his joy at the thought–we are not merely called children of God as an exaggeration, but we are children of God in reality!
But if we are children of God, then we will without doubt also practice righteousness. This is the spiritual paternity test: if we practice righteousness, we may be sure that we have been born of the Righteous One.
Moreover, if we do indeed resemble our heavenly Father, John warns us that the world will not recognize us for that very reason. They did not recognize Jesus Christ, the perfect image of the invisible God, the exact representation of the divine nature, and so they will not recognize those of us who are being conformed to the image of Christ.
But we will get deeper into that issue in a couple of days: John is setting up what he will write in 1 John 3:4-10, when he breaks down the only two fathers who exist: God and the devil. Each of us is a child of one or the other.
For now, suffice it to reiterate John’s plea: Abide in Christ. He is the Truth, which means that he is so much more than the right answer to theological Trivial Pursuit. He is the Truth, the Person who will conform you to his own image. He is the Truth, and when he appears you will either stand before him confidence, or shrink from him in shame.
And so, little children, abide in Christ.