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A Right View of Salvation




April 14, 2024|A Right View of Salvation| 1 John 3:1-10

JD Cutler


Click here for the sermon audio


This morning we are going to step out of the gospels and into one of the epistles of the New Testament. The epistles are the letters and writings we have from various church leaders written to various local bodies of churches to instruct, correct, or encourage these believers in their lives and in their corporate lives together. One of these writers is the Apostle John, who along with his gospel account and his revelation account, writes three letters that have been preserved for us in the scriptures. It is his first letter that we turn to this morning. It is distinct in it’s format in that he addresses no specific body of believers, and does not include the normal epistle formats of a salutation or valediction, but it retains the intimate language and marks of a letter to a group of people for a specific purpose. It is widely held that John wrote this letter to be circulated among the churches in Asia Minor late in the first century. John’s letter writing is very different from the Apostle Paul’s who seems to move systematically through topics, where John writes more freely. John’s letter is more difficult to establish a clear outline from because in this first letter he circles around a few themes in his letter, rather than simply developing one or building to one. However, one feature that plays a significant part is his overarching theme of duality. 


Light vs darkness, love vs hate, the things of the world vs the things of God, truth vs deception. The apostle John is elderly at this point and he addresses his readers as little children, and his fatherly, pastoral tone throughout is one of warning against their deception. He does not want them to be deceived by false teachers and false teachings, which is why he uses these contrasting descriptions to describe those that are in Christ and those that are not. 


In the section we pick up today John is making another contrast, this time between the children or God and the children of the devil. After laying out the evidence, he says it becomes obvious who are children of God and children of the devil by examining their lives, which by the way, immediately goes against our sensibilities as American Christians, right?


The prevailing attitude in the church at large today is judge not, right? We have become so fearful of judging that we neglect the fact that scripture commands us to judge rightly, not to avoid any semblance of judgment. 

In fact, everything the apostle John writes flies in the face of this sentiment. He encourages us to draw distinguishing lines between us and them. Those who belong to Christ and those who do not. 


Not for the purpose of exclusion, but for the good of the gospel. His great desire, maybe we could even say fear, is that someone could be deceived into thinking that they are right with God when they are in fact not. 

On the other hand he is clear that any right standing we have with God comes through Christ and Christ alone. We cannot do anything to bring assurance of salvation because we cannot do anything to secure our salvation.

His great desire, maybe we could even say fear, is that someone could be deceived into thinking that they are right with God when they are in fact not. 

This introduces a tension we have to maintain as we study 1 John. We dare not lean too far to the left and say that since salvation is in Christ our actions do not matter, anymore than we can lean too far to the right to say that we have to do certain things in order to be saved. I frame our time this morning up this way because I don't want anyone to hear me this morning and think that your assurance comes from things you do (legalism) and I certainly don’t want anyone to misunderstand me and hear me and think that your assurance comes apart from what you do (easy believism). 

Rather, hear me when I say, I think John is setting up a way for us to evaluate our salvation in light of what it has or has not produced in us. 


Legalism tells us that we evaluate our salvation by a list of things we have done or are doing.Easy believism tells us that we evaluate our salvation by an experience or moment in time where we said the right thing. Neither of these is consistent with what the apostle John writes to the church. 

As we dig into his words this morning, may we find a better way to evaluate ourselves, to evaluate those around us, and to encourage one another to assurance and hope in Jesus Christ. 


Let’s pick up in chapter 3 at verse 1.

As we read, listen for the theme of duality, for the evidence John gives for the Christian, and the foundation John gives us in the gospel truth that Jesus is the foundation of our assurance. 

  

1 John 3:1-10 (ESV) 1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. 4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.


In our text John does three things I want us to look at together by looking at three statements under the heading ‘a right view of salvation’ this morning.


A right view of salvation begins with God initiating salvation because of his love.

How does John do this? John invites his readers to contemplate the vastness and greatness of the love of God expressed towards them. 

Vs 1- See what kind of love the Father has given to us!

See- this is an imperative from John. He says- Look here! The word also carries the idea of ‘understand this’. 

We might say, begin here. 

Think about what?

What kind of love the Father has given us. 

What is John asking us to see, think about, and understand?

The love of god is obviously the focus but what about it?


Two things- the fact that he gave it to us and of what kind it is. 

What manner of love has God given us? This should remind us of the way John records Jesus’ words in his gospel to Nicodemus. 

For God so loved the world. We talked about this a few weeks ago. For in this way God loved the world. 

What way? (ESV) that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

There he is talking about the expression of God’s love, here he is talking about the results of it. 

On Wednesday evenings when we break a verse down for study, we also look to the connectives. Words like But, and, therefore. Words that help us trace the author’s argument. John says, See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that…

The connective here is one that denotes purpose or result. The manner of God’s love is such that as recipients of it we should be called children of God. 

That is we now have a title as a result of God’s love that we did not before. Children of God. 

It’s important for our understanding to know that this is not the first time John has used this title for his readers. It doesn’t come out of nowhere. 

John 1:9-13 (ESV) 9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.


Follow John’s logic with me for a minute. 

Jesus came, the only begotten of the Father, given by the Father, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 

When he came, he was rejected by some and received by some, for those who received him, who believed in his name, he gave them the right to become children of God. 

How?

Being born again by the will of God. 

How does someone become a child of God?

They are born of God.

How are they born of God?

Through belief and reception of his only begotten son Jesus Christ.

How do we have opportunity to believe and receive Christ?

Because God sent him into the world.

Why did he send him into the world?

Because of his love. .

So why does anyone get the right to become a child of God?

Because of God’s love.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God. 


John says, think about this, without God’s love, no one could be called a child of God, but not only can we be called that, so we are!

This is one word in the Greek, the present active indicative plural verb tense of the word ‘to be’ or ‘to exist’ which is to say John is stating a simple truth about those who have received God’s love are in fact, in reality, surely children of God. 

John is not stating an abstract truth but a concrete reality. Those who have been beneficiaries of God’s great love are his children. 


This is where John starts. He will restate it in verse 2 and then remind us in verse 9 that he is talking about those who have been born of God. 

Let me ask you this question, what did you contribute to your physical birth?

Was it by your will, your desire that you were born? Of course not.

Did you cause yourself to grow, to mature until you were fully gestated? Of course not.

Did you bring yourself forward and deliver yourself? Of course not. 

You played no active role in your physical birth, and this is the way Jesus first and John second chooses to describe the experience of becoming a child of God. You were born. Why? Because of God’s great love. 

God initiates salvation because of his love and this love he gives to us, bestows on us. With beginning here, John wants us to understand that salvation is not something that we can accomplish in our own power, but a gift bestowed upon us by the Father because of his love. 

God initiates salvation because of his love and this love he gives to us, bestows on us.

A right view of salvation must begin here. The first statement we have looked at this morning is a right view of salvation begins with the fact that God initiated salvation because of his love, the second is…


A right view of salvation accepts the dynamic of already and not yet.

How does John do this? John illustrates the tension between our present reality and our future hope.

He sums up verse 1 with verse 2. 

2 Beloved, we are God’s children now

What does he call them in verse 2? Beloved. The tense here can be either a direct address or exclamatory. Beloved. 


Those who are loved. By whom?

Could be John’s way of addressing them in a loving way or he could be using it to exclaim, You loved of God, listen. From the context, I lean towards the second. 


In this way he is saying, You who are loved by God, you are God’s child now. This is what I mean by so we are. We are in reality, children of God, at this moment. 

Let’s stop there for a moment and ask some questions. 

John says the world does not know us because it does not know him. 

Having moved from death to life, from not a child to a child, shouldn't there be some physical change that takes place?

Shouldn’t we now look completely different from the world?Shouldn’t we expect our lives to be radically different? Shouldn’t we now be exempt from the suffering in the world caused by sin and the fall? I mean doesn’t being a child of God mean that everything should be perfect and good for me?


Even if you have never expressed it that way, have you not felt some of those thoughts creeping into your mind?

Why if I am God’s and that person is not, does it seem that they are getting all the good things in this life?

Why if I am God’s and that person is not, does it seem that everything is going in their favor and nothing is going in mine?

Why did my scan come back positive, why was I the one laid off, why did my loved one die, etc…


To which John would reply. Beloved, you are God’s child now, but…

But what we will be has not yet appeared; not yet visible, not yet manifested, that is there is a sense in which the full implications of our status as a child of God has not yet been realized. 

Why not? Because although we have been spiritually united with Christ in his death and resurrection we have not yet physically been united with him. That part comes when we see him face to face. 

John says. but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

...although we have been spiritually united with Christ in his death and resurrection we have not yet physically been united with him.

John has already alluded to this appearance in the preceding verses. 1 John 2:28 (ESV) 28 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.

John uses the word appear four times in this text to describe Jesus two distinct appearances.

1 John 3:5 (ESV) You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.

1 John 3:8b (ESV) The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.

This describes Jesus’ first appearance when he dealt with sin as the lamb of God. 

Yet John talks about a second appearance in our text. 

but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

1 John 2:28 (ESV) 28 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.

This describes Jesus’ second coming when he comes to take his bride to himself. To usher his people into everlasting life. It is at that coming that we will finally understand what it truly means to be a child of God. It will be fully revealed. 

How do we, as John says, know this? Because this is what is promised in scripture. 

Philippians 3:20-21 (ESV) 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.


1 Corinthians 15:51-57 (ESV) 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”

55 “O death, where is your victory?

O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.


What a day that we wait for! Whether we have died or we are alive when he comes, all who are his will be changed to be like he is, and then shall come to pass the saying that is written, death is swallowed up in victory. 


Why will this happen? because we shall see him as he is. Face to face with the living savior will radically and completely change us forever. That which he began in us he will carry to completion. This is the promise, this is the hope, this is the not yet of our salvation. 

It is between these two appearances that we live. One commentator said it this way, (Reformed Expository Commentary) Between those two appearances, we abide and emulate: we remain in Christ and resemble Christ.


Any view of salvation that puts all the emphasis on our earthly experience or that puts all the emphasis on our heavenly one is not a right view of salvation. Being a child of God is both a present reality and a future hope. 

Which is where John turns his attention to know. The third statement this morning is that…

Any view of salvation that puts all the emphasis on our earthly experience or that puts all the emphasis on our heavenly one is not a right view of salvation.

A right view of salvation understands the transforming nature of it. 

How does John do this? John indicts those who do not live in light of this love and reality. 

John makes a statement in verse 3 that we need to look at again. 

1 John 3:3 (ESV) 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him- what hope is John talking about?

Everyone who has this hope in him? What hope? That when Christ appears, we shall be like him. 

That because we have been saved we will one day be glorified. This is the hope of the gospel, this is the hope of salvation. 

Having established what the hope is, John says everyone who has this hope purifies himself as he is pure.

What is John saying? If we are going to be like him then, it ought to change how we view ourselves now

What does purifies mean here?

It relates to either ceremonial or moral cleanliness. 

For instance when they translated the Old Testament into Greek they used this word for passages such as…

(ESV) 21 And the Levites purified themselves from sin and washed their clothes,

Joshua 3:5 (ESV) 5 Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.”

1 Chronicles 15:14 (ESV) 14 So the priests and the Levites consecrated themselves to bring up the ark of the LORD, the God of Israel.

The idea is to cleanse oneself before God by participating in the means of purification that God has given his people. 

In the Old Testament what constituted cleanness was not bound in the physical methods of washing, sprinkling, etc… but in obedience to God’s commands of how to cleanse oneself. 

Notice John doesn’t say, those who have this hope might purify themselves. Or should purify themselves, he simply says that they purify themselves. He states it as a simple matter of fact that those who have this hope purifies themselves. 


I think he is rooting our activity in our identity. That is to say, if we have this hope, it follows that we have received Christ and have been born of God and that we are now purified because of the precious blood of Christ. 


The rest of what John says through verse 10 finds its roots here. 

Being saved not only changes whose we are, but it transforms who we are.

This is the argument that John is going to lay out in the following verses as he draws the parallels between children of God and children of the devil. 

Being saved not only changes whose we are, but it transforms who we are.

Look at verses 4-6

4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.


In drawing these distinctions John says, there are those who abide in him and those that do not. 

Those that do not, continue sinning, which is lawlessness, or living as though there was no law.

Those that do, do not continue sinning, or living as though there was no law. 


What does John mean when he says ‘makes a practice of sinning’, or ‘keeps on sinning’?

If he means that the child of God is supposed to be sinless, then what do we do with his previous commands?

1 John 1:6-10 (ESV) 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Is John talking about our initial confession of sin when we are saved, or is the invitation to confess our sins, ongoing and necessary because even as a child of God we sin? Immediately after that he says, 

1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.


John clearly allows for a believer to sin otherwise he would not remind us that when we do we have an advocate with the Father in Christ Jesus. 

So we have to acknowledge that when he says that no one who abides in him keeps on sinning is not a perfectionist statement that after being made alive and joined with Christ we will never sin. 

But he does have to mean something, right?

Something has changed in our relation to sinning. 


It would seem that the false teachers John is refuting were advocating for a system that would allow someone to claim to be in the faith and yet have no change happen in their life as a result. John is pointing out the ludacris notion that one could be joined with the sinless savior and not have something change in their life. 

To which he says, let no one deceive you. This, as I said in the beginning, was his concern. 

That the churches would be led away from the truth of the gospel into deceit. 


A salvation that does not address your lifestyle is a salvation foreign to the scriptures.

You can not be of God and make a practice of sinning. Christ came to destroy the works of the devil, who has sinned from the beginning. 

The key words for us are the repeated use of words like ‘makes a practice of’ in makes a practice of sinning or who practices righteousness, or words like ‘keep on sinning’.


This is a description of an ongoing product, literally the word means to make or do, what one produces.

Here is where John is clearly drawing a line for us. 

There are those whose lives produce a lifestyle of sin and there are those whose lives produce a lifestyle of righteousness. Things that are out of line with God’s revealed will and law and things that are in accordance with God's revealed will and law. 

 

Here’s where the tension increases. How do you measure something like this? 

What constitutes a life producing righteousness while acknowledging that we can and do sin?


One of the questions I ask someone who is struggling with assurance, or seasons of doubt is when you look back over your life after Christ is it marked by obedience and faith with seasons or times of sin and disobedience or is it marked by disobedience and sin with seasons of occasional obedience? 

If we take your overarching life in Christ is it trending towards righteousness or is it trending towards sin and disobedience. 


People can muster up enough self-control within themselves to not do some bad things, right? They can avoid the big sins, they can go to church, they can check some boxes, for a time. But trying to live righteously in the flesh always fails, it is demanding and draining and no one can do it. That is literally the message of the gospel. You cannot save yourself. 


On the other hand, someone who is saved can struggle with sin, they can fall into temptation, but they cannot stay there. In the same way, it ought to be so hard to reconcile what you are doing with who you are that you do not stay there in sin. 

Indeed John says you cannot because God's seed abides in you, you have been born of God. 

Our very nature in God is to hate sin and to desire holiness. Will we be perfect, of course not, there is only one perfect man. 

Will we be transformed, will we grow in obedience and holiness, yes! How could we not? God has begun a work in us that fundamentally changes who we are. 


This, John says, makes it evident who belongs to God and who does not. 

The implication then is that not only can we evaluate ourselves and one another, we should, by the measures that he has laid out of the transformative nature of salvation. 


Conclusion:

John’s first letter seeks to give the believers he wrote assurance of their fellowship with the Father, His son Jesus Christ, and the rest of the church. 

As James Montgomery Boice summarizes, “to lead those who already believe to a deeper understanding of the faith and to confidence in that which they already possess.”


John’s letter should not cause genuine Christians to concern but rather celebrate that the God who saved them has not abandoned them. He has made them children, he has indwelt them with his Spirit and he will produce in their lives things in accordance to their new nature culminating in the blessed hope of seeing our savior face to face and being transformed before him.


But for any who might be deceived and any who would deceive it shines a light on what salvation produces in the life of a believer, and in doing so draws clear lines between those who are in Christ and those who are not. 


Here is what I would ask of you this morning, that each of us would ask the following questions of ourselves. 

Does my understanding of salvation begin with the fact that God initiated salvation because of his loves, does it accept the dynamic of already and not yet reality, and does it understand the transforming nature of it?


May God help us examine our hearts this morning. 

Let us pray.






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