Notes on 1 John 2:28-29 and 3:1-11

1 John 2:28‑29; 1 John 3:1‑11  •  13 min. read  •  grade level: 5
The apostle takes up again in this twenty-eighth verse all Christians in general, with an exhortation to abide in Him. You get here God in Christ so before the apostle's mind, that he says “Him,” without saying who He is. He had been talking about the anointing— “even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him.” Previously, it was rather God as such spoken of; but “when He shall appear,” we know Christ is meant thereby.
“And now, little children, abide in Him; that when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.” If they did not abide in Him, the apostle had lost all his work. It would have been so far to his shame. You get the same thing in the second epistle, (ver. 8,) “Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.” It is just what the apostle says in Corinthians. (1 Cor. 3:1212Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; (1 Corinthians 3:12), &c.) If we build upon the foundation, wood, hay, and stubble, the work will be burnt: there will be loss: he is proved to be a bad workman. The apostle here is pressing upon them to abide in Christ, that he may not be ashamed as a bad workman. It is “that we may have confidence and not be ashamed,” &c. Not you may have confidence, &c. Just what you get in the second epistle.
Then he takes up the second great object of the epistle—that communication of the divine nature of Christ, as our life, which gives us the same traits and characters that there are in God Himself— “which thing is true in him and in you.” God is love, and the Christian loves. God is holy, and the Christian is so too. In His almighty power, God, of course, is alone. But in what may be called the character of God, inasmuch as we are born of Him, we are like Him. And this divine nature enables us to enjoy God, as well as to be like Him.
Then, again, we see that God and Christ are so absolutely one, that the apostle says, “that we may not be ashamed before Him at His coming;” but immediately adds, “If ye know that He is righteous, ye know that everyone that doeth righteousness is born of Him.” We are born of God, yet it would appear to be speaking of the same that should come—which is Christ. We find the same truth in Dan. 7. The ancient of days described there, in Rev. 1 is the Son of man. We get in Christ what the character and nature of God is, in a man as living in this world; and then he shows that it is true of us too, as having the same life. He is righteous; and if a man doeth righteousness, he is born of Him. He has this nature. “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the Sons of God.” When once you come to grace, we have the Father spoken of again. We are called God's children because we really are so. “Therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not.” Who? Now the “Him” means Christ. The world knew him not: it does not know us for the same reason. We have the same life and character that He had. The world cannot recognize and own what is of Christ in us, because it did not recognize it in Christ. It is extremely remarkable and blessed for us to see this man, the humblest man that ever was, and to find out what He really was, that God really became a man. The Word was God, and was made flesh.
We have got the same life; and when we have found Christ, we know that we have found God in all His blessedness close to us. And the world cannot know us. It does not know God, and cannot know us. You will find persons with a difficulty as to knowing whether it is Christ or God here, because the apostle carefully puts them together.
“It doth not yet appear what we shall be.” It has not been seen what we are to be. The apostles saw it for a moment in the transfiguration; but as to the revelation of it, it does not yet appear. But being saints of God, having the same life, we know that we shall be like Him. He identifies God with Christ, and in a sense identifies us with Him. His glory is not yet manifested; but we shall be like Him, for “we shall see Him as He is” —not as He will be, but as He is now in heavenly glory at the right hand of God. The flesh could not see this and subsist. Daniel fell as one dead, and John too, at the appearing of it. But we shall be like Him, and therefore capable of seeing Him as He is. This is a matter of infinite blessedness. We are to be conformed to the image of God's Son, that He may be the first-born among many brethren. If we were only conscious that there was all this blessedness, and yet had the thought, I am not to be like it, that would not be joy: whereas we are in it with the consciousness that we are the same. “We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” That is, in glory as He is at the Father's right hand, and we shall see Him in that way.
“And every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.” That is, the hope of being like Him— “that hath this hope in Him,” that is in Christ—the hope of being like Himself. It does not say that he is pure as Christ is pure. But I have got the glory; and as it is mine, and I am going to be like Him, I must be as like Him as I can now. I must purify myself, and He is the measure of it. We are called by the glory to be up to it practically. The apostle says, “I press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” I have not got this resurrection from the dead, but I am pursuing it. But when Christ comes, He will change our vile bodies—and then we will have got it. The connection between glory and present walk is striking. As long as we are down here in. this corruptible body, there is not a bit of glory. But the Spirit of God applies all this glory to the affections. I long to be like Christ, and therefore I get like Him in spirit. It is like a man that has a bright lamp before him at the end of a long passage. I have not got the lamp till I get to it, but I get more of it at every step. So with the glory. I have not got it till I am in it; but I get more of it the nearer I move towards Christ. So in Ephesians, He loved the Church, and gave Himself for it. He was washing and cleansing it, and would take away all spots. But it was that He might present it to Himself without spot. The spirit takes of the things of Christ and presents them to us, and transforms us into the likeness of Christ. In Philippians he is speaking of the spiritual effect, by actual resurrection, upon the heart. “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” It is the actual thing, and he gets it applied to his heart now. “Not as though I had already attained, but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” Christ, in grace, had laid hold of him for the glory. Now he sees the glory, and follows after it. It is the glory in resurrection applied to the man's heart all along the road. So it is here. “Every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.” This bright and blessed glory fixes the affections and purifies the heart and forms the proper Christian path. It is a sanctifying hope—the soul being occupied with Christ, so that it is kept out of the evil.
He then goes on to another thing. If I go and commit sin, it is the lawlessness of the flesh, and nothing to do with Christ. “Whosoever committeth sin, committeth lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.” He does his own will in spite of God if he can. Because without the law sin was in the world. It is a kind of background he is taking. If you are not purifying yourselves, as Christ is pure, it is the lawlessness of the flesh; it is entirely opposite to Christ. There is no middle path. There is nothing good in this world. It is either Christ or flesh. Man is fallen and out of paradise, and there is nothing owned at all of man now. God made paradise, and man is out of it; and He made heaven, and man is not in it. But between the two there is nothing that God owns. God never made the world as it is, nor man as he is, i.e., not the moral state that the world and man are in. It grew up when God had driven man out from His presence. Then Cain went and built a city, and established himself and his seed outside God. It must be either “ye are from beneath,” or “I am from above.” “I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing.” If the law, then, is applied to the flesh, of course the flesh transgresses it.
“And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.” There was no sin in Him; and He came to do this away.
Then he takes in the strongest way the opposition between the two. “In him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.” He is taking the two things as opposed in every way. Because, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves,” he says to the same persons. But here, “Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not,” &c. The divine nature cannot sin. The thing that is born of God cannot sin, and that is ourselves so far as we are in Christ. As the apostle says, “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” Of course, that is not sin. The saint is never looked at as in the flesh; but “he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.” It is not merely that you are changed, but you are made partakers of the divine nature. “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.” He has got the same nature which walks in the same path. Christ has died as regards our guilt, and what is spoken of now is the communication of this nature. A man might come and make a great boast of high doctrine, and not do righteousness. Then I say, “That is not the divine nature. We have it in Rom. 6: “How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein?” You are dead. How can you be living in sin? Through carelessness you may fall into it, but that is not living in it. In general he takes what the truth is in itself, that we may know it in all its force. “He that committeth sin is of there devil.” He takes the opposite thing altogether. “For the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin.” How can he “For his seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” It does not say, “he ought not to sin,” but “he cannot.” It is not a question of progress, but of the nature. The nature a man is born of is the nature he has, Take any animal you please, and this is true of it. We are born of God, and we have got that nature, and I say that cannot sin. I have got the treasure in an earthen vessel—that is true. The flesh is there, but the new nature is a sinless nature. It is, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin,” &c. “In this the children of God are manifested and the children of the devil: whosoever doth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.” There are the two traits which show themselves in a thousand details of life—righteousness, practical righteousness and love of the brethren. Mere amiable nature you find in dogs and other animals, it is animal nature; but the love of the brethren is a divine motive. I love them because they are of God. I have communion in divine things with them. A man may be very unamiable naturally, and yet love the brethren with all his heart; and another may be very amiable, and have no love for them at all. Lower down, he says “We know that we have passed from death unto life, be. cause we love the brethren.” It is the great test of the divine nature. It is the life of Christ which is in us, reproduced in our ways and walk. It is not merely avoiding sin, because there is more in Christ than the absence of sin. There was the manifestation of this divine nature. He was the divine nature walking through this world, and He had special love to the disciples, as we shall have special love to the brethren. He was a new being, introduced into this world to manifest God in it. And that is what we have always to do—to represent God in this world. “Ye are the epistle of Christ.” People ought to read Christ in you, as they read the Ten Commandments on the tables of stone. If they read that, they will not read evil. We have the flesh to struggle against, but not to walk after. It is not an effort to try and be like Christ, but that being full of Him it comes out. Therefore He talks of abiding in Him. So “he that eateth me abideth in me.” He has become our life, but he is also our life in every-day exercises. We are sent to be in the world to manifest God. Then comes difficulties and hindrances, and if we are not full of Christ we give way to them; whereas if we are full of Christ, we manifest Him in them. If not, we show heat, temper, or some evil thing. But there is no need of living in the old nature. We never can excuse ourselves for living in it, because Christ is ours.