WHOSE SON ARE YOU?
Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that He appeared so that He might take away our sins. And in Him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps in sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him. Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. (1 John 3: 4-8a)
Once again John has to address a subtle part of the false teaching circulating in the Roman Empire and undermining the pure gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Gnosticism was beginning to emerge at that time. One of the basic beliefs of Gnosticism was that there is a distinction between matter and spirit. Matter is evil in and of itself while the spirit is good. The material part of the human being, the body is, therefore, sinful and cannot be redeemed. .
Greek philosophers parted company at this point. Stoics taught that the way to deal with the sinful body is to punish it as much as possible. Epicureans taught that it was okay to indulge the body in all the sinful pleasures possible because it could not be redeemed anyway. These two opposing ideas, of course, threw doubt on the nature of the Son of God. If matter is sinful and the spirit is good, then Jesus could not possibly have been a true human being. His body was an illusion, not a real body.
John put the brakes on both of these false ideas. If the body is sinful and cannot be redeemed, then Jesus’ death on the cross was not a real death. Jesus could not have redeemed us from sin, firstly because nothing can redeem the body and secondly because His death was only an illusion. If the spirit is essentially good, there was no need for Jesus to die because the spirit does not need saving.
But, John pointed out by implication, human beings are not split up into separate compartments, matter and spirit. People sin, not bodies, and sin affects people, not some parts of them. The real issue is; not which part of us is good and which part of us is evil but what do we do with God’s commandments? Do we obey them or do we not obey them?
But Jesus Christ was a real person. He came to earth as a human baby born of a human mother. He came in the flesh to deal with sin by dying a real death in the place of the sinner. He came to do away with sin so that those who believe in Him can be free to do what is right. This involves both body and spirit as whole people.
How do we know who are the children of God are and who the children of the devil are? Look at their lives. Those who do the right thing – those who obey God’s Word – are the ones who have been born of God. What does that mean? They have been made alive by the Holy Spirit, they have God’s nature (2 Pet. 1:4) and they resemble God because they do what He tells them to do. “Children of the devil” does not mean, as some erroneously teach, that they have literally been born of the devil. Satan cannot create. Only God can and has created human beings. Every baby born is a unique creation of God (Psa. 139: 13) and is, in that sense, His son or daughter.
“Children of” refers to the one whom they resemble in their lifestyle and actions. Jesus accused the Pharisees of resembling the devil in spite of their claim to be the children of Abraham because they were planning to kill Him. Abraham was no murderer, but the devil certainly is (John 8:44).
John takes up this thought here. Sinful lives are the great dividing line. Those who keep on sinning reveal their true nature. They are still under the devil’s influence. Those who claim to be the children of God but keep on sinning negate their claim by the way they live. “Sin” here is much more than doing really bad things – in our estimation – like lying, stealing or committing murder or adultery. It includes attitudes, moods, motives, refusing to forgive, harbouring bitterness and hatred and all the other hidden sins of the heart.
Sin, from God’s perspective, is everything that does not measure up to His perfection and His holiness. For those who are “in Christ,” sin has been dealt with and removed, and we have received God’s gift of Christ’s perfect righteousness by faith. Our part is to live up to who we are – to confirm our righteous standing before God by obeying His Word. As impossible as this is for us to do on our own, the Holy Spirit in us gives us the power to follow through on our decisions and choices to be God’s obedient children.
This is the acid test, not what we say but what we do.
Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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