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Children of God February 16, 2014

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on 1 John 2:28-3:10.

Summary: John begins by stating that everyone who lives righteously has been born of Christ.

John then states that God the Father has benevolently declared believers to be His children; since the world does not know Him, though, it treats believers with ridicule and contempt. Although believers are surrounded by miseries, they know that when Christ is revealed in the power of His kingdom, they will share the divine glory – as they will see Him as a friend. This hope leads them straight to Christ, who is a perfect pattern of purity.

Now John asserts that everyone who wholeheartedly runs into evil transgresses the divine law. Yet Christ was sent by God the Father to destroy the reigning power of sin; indeed, there is no room for sin wherever Christ diffuses His efficacious grace. Moreover, those who are made one with Christ do not consent to sin; those who consent to sin lack the knowledge of Christ.

John then notes that everyone who is conformed to Christ will manifest their new life by their good works. On the other hand, everyone who is conformed to the devil – who has been an apostate since the creation of the world – will manifest their servitude to him by their perverse deeds. Yet Christ came to take away sins; thus, all of God’s children lead righteous and holy lives, as the Holy Spirit has a sovereign presence in them. The hearts of God’s children are effectually governed by the Holy Spirit; thus, they follow His guidance. John concludes by stating that God’s children will fear Him from the heart and walk in His commands, as they are endued with benevolence and humanity.

Thoughts: In this passage, John describes the attributes of a child of God. This reminds me of a recent sermon by one of our pastors. During that sermon, he showed a slide with two images; one depicted a father leading his child on a walk along a beach, and the other depicted the Sun. He then asked the congregation to determine the image that served as the best approximation of their conception of God. After giving this some thought, I concluded that the image of the Sun was the best approximation of my conception of God. In particular, I have a strong sense of God’s power and majesty as revealed by His creation. I can also sense God’s power as revealed by His guiding me through various difficulties over the years. Yet I rarely sense that I am one of God’s children. For me, it is simpler to think of God as my Lord than to view Him as my Father. Now I should note that our above-mentioned pastor exhorted us to view God as being both powerful and fatherly; this sounds like a worthy – albeit difficult – goal to pursue.

In verse 9, John states that if the Holy Spirit dwells in a person, then they will not continue to sin. Calvin offers some challenging thoughts on this point:

Here, the apostle ascends higher, for he plainly declares that the hearts of the godly are so effectually governed by the Spirit of God that through an inflexible disposition they follow his guidance…Moreover, it is easy to refute the absurd argument of the Sophists that the will is taken away from us. They are wrong because the will is a natural power. But nature is corrupted; so the will only has depraved inclinations. Hence God’s Spirit has to renew it in order that it may begin to be good.

I am quite eager to meet Calvin in the next life so that I can discuss free will with him. Now it certainly seems that if believers are led by “an inflexible disposition,” then they do not have free will; this viewpoint would align with that of the Sophists, which Calvin belittles. If the will is renewed by the Holy Spirit, does it retain the power to make choices that contravene His desires? Attempting to resolve this apparent paradox has been a can of worms for me since I began pondering this issue as an undergraduate. I certainly hope that God will explain the relationship between free will and predestination to me at some point…

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