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1 John 3:1-10: Christ is Ahead, Behind and In Between

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

1 John 3:1

Watch Week Three Day One

Effective teachers repeat important information to make sure it sticks. This truth, as old as the Latin phrase, “Repetitio est mater studiorum” (repetition is the mother of learning) might have crossed John’s mind when he wrote the passages featured in this week’s study. After presenting his moral, social, and doctrinal litmus tests, he returns to these themes to drive home his warnings about the false teachers and admonition to the believers to remain faithful.

Christ Makes us Moral

Since the false teachers purported that believers in God could continue in their sins, John returns in his letter to his moral argument against lawlessness. Wanting to avoid any thought of legalism—the thought that pleasing God comes from following the law as opposed to accepting the free gift of salvation in Christ—John grounds his moral argument in the two comings of Christ.

First, looking ahead to Christ’s eventual return to make all things new and defeat the Enemy for good, John reminds us that our future affects our present. We look forward to the day when our sight will transform us to be like Christ. As we long for that purification process, we start the work by purifying ourselves now. Certainly, Christ does the saving work by washing us, sanctifying us, setting us apart. Yet we play our part with Him by abstaining from defiling behavior. By looking ahead to Christ’s return, the believer recognizes the need to live like participants of heaven now.

Second, by looking back to Christ’s incarnation, John reminds us that Christ defeated sin and the Enemy. Our union with Christ demands that we agree with Christ’s purpose in coming the first time, and that we abstain from sin. In other words, if we say we belong to Christ and yet welcome habitual, ongoing sin in our lives, we practice the very thing Christ came to destroy. The Enemy of our Savior should be our Enemy too.

Some have used this passage of Scripture to claim that believers no longer sin. Yet, John says the very opposite in chapter 1 of this book. When John says believers “cannot keep on sinning,” he means that those who belong to Christ have the Savior working in and through them to defeat sin. The present tense use of the verbs in this passage indicates that those who claim Christ but continue on in habitual, ongoing, and unrepentant sin should take a moment to inventory their faith.

Looking ahead to Christ’s eventual return and looking back at His life, death, and resurrection, believers recognize that our union with Christ means that our lives should look like His. Believers live moral lives, not so that we will earn our way to Him but because we are already found in Him.

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