Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.
In verse 1, John calls our attention to a most astonishing fact. “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.”
To be called the sons of God means to receive the title or position of sons of God and be recognized as such. And notice who it is that calls us the sons of God. It is God Himself! God has called us His sons from eternity in that He has chosen us to be His sons. Consequently, in time God adopts us to be His sons and even transforms us into His own image through a new birth. And always does He acknowledge us as His sons, as He will also in the day of judgment.
John extols the manner of God’s love that gave us that position. “What manner of love….” It is a love that is first and that seeks us out even when we were enemies. It is a love that sent His only begotten Son to the cross to secure our sonship.
In the verses we consider for this meditation John addresses the church as beloved, which means loved ones. They were loved by John. But more importantly they were loved of God. In keeping with this theme of love, John shows the church its future as the sons of God. It does not yet appear what we shall be. But when Jesus shall appear we shall be like Him.
This hope in turn leads the sons of God to purify themselves.
Let’s consider this hope of the sons of God, that we may be led to purify ourselves.
A glorious hope!
Hope is a certain expectation and longing for some future good. There are especially three elements in hope. Hope is living in daily expectation of some future good. It is also a longing and desire for that future good to come. And, contrary to the way we use the term hope today, the biblical concept of hope expresses a certainty that this future good will come and be ours.
As the sons of God we have a certain hope for future good.
Interestingly, the ungodly, who are not the sons of God but of Satan, also have hope for the future. Their hope is limited by their unbelief. Their hope rises no higher than the earthly horizon. They look only for a greater earthly good, for earthly peace and prosperity. But their hope will ultimately fail because it is based on human achievement.
As the sons of God, we have a certain, that is, sure, hope for future good. This is because our hope is based on the perfect work of Jesus Christ. John speaks of one that “hath this hope in him.” This “him” is Jesus Christ. John is speaking of a hope that is “in” or literally “upon” Jesus. This is a hope that rests upon Jesus. Such a hope is a certain hope.
John explains what this hope is in verse 2.
Now we are the sons of God.
In Christ we belong to the family of God through adoption and a spiritual rebirth. Because we are members of His heavenly household, God lives with us as our constant companion and friend and provides for all our needs for body and soul, both in time and eternity.
What a gift of love!
And it doth not yet appear what we shall be.
Greater things await us as sons of God.
When Jesus shall appear, we shall be like Him.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God come in the flesh, died on the cross and was subsequently raised from the dead and glorified in heaven with a heavenly body. One day He will appear on the clouds of heaven in great glory to judge the living and the dead. In that day we shall be like Him.
We shall be like Him, first, in that we will be raised as He was raised to receive a heavenly body. In the resurrection the corruptible (perishable) bodies we have now will be raised in incorruption. Our dishonorable and weak bodies that have succumbed to death will be raised in power and glory. Our present natural and earthly bodies that limit us to the physical realm will be raised as spiritual bodies, adapted for the glories of heaven. In other words, we will be raised from the grave, even as Jesus was raised, so that we will be like Him.
But there is more.
We will also be purified from all sin, so that the image of God as it is in Jesus Christ will be perfected in us. As the sons of God we bear the image of God but imperfectly. There remains much of sin in us. This is because the work of salvation is only begun. But when Christ appears, we will be made like Him in that we will be conformed perfectly to the image of Jesus, who is the image of the invisible God. This will complete the work of salvation in us, enabling us to live in perfect communion and fellowship with God in the new creation.
We know this!
The meaning is that this is a well-known fact among the sons of God. It is well known that when Jesus shall appear, we shall be made like Him. And we know this because of another well-known fact. When Jesus appears, we shall see Him as He is. Jesus made this clear shortly before He was crucified. Jesus, in His high priestly prayer, said, “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me” (). Closely related to this is what Jesus taught in His great Sermon on the Mount. “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” ( ). The meaning is that we shall see God in all His glory as He is revealed in Jesus Christ. And we shall not see Him simply to gaze on Him, although that would be wonderful indeed. Think of Peter, James, and John, who were thrilled just to see Jesus in His glory on the Mount of Transfiguration shortly before His death. We shall see God, rather, in that we will be able to commune with Him through Jesus Christ in the fullness of fellowship. When we make an appointment to see the doctor, it is not just to stand in the room to look at him but rather to discuss with him our health concerns. So also when we shall see God, we will stand in His glorious presence as He appears to us in Jesus Christ, to commune with Him.
John sets this forth as the proof that we shall be made like Jesus in the day of His appearing. None can see God in the day of days except those who are perfectly conformed to the image of His Son Christ Jesus. Those who appear in the judgment in sin, bearing yet the image of Satan, shall not see God. They will be rejected and cast into hell.
This then is the hope of the sons of God: to be made like Jesus in the final resurrection and, in Him, to see God in perfect friendship and fellowship.
The psalmist expressed this hope in: “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.”
A sure fruit!
“And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (v. 3).
The principle is that one’s hope for the future will determine his behavior today. For example, a person whose hope is to retire in luxury will work hard and save up for the future. A young person whose hope is to be a professional athlete will practice hard to keep in shape and to hone his skills.
In like manner, the hope that the sons of God have for the perfection and glory that await them in Jesus Christ will have a dramatic effect on their behavior here below. They will purify themselves.
The hope of the sons of God is to gain the final perfection of all things so that they may be made like unto Jesus and, without the hindrance of sin, to enjoy the eternal bliss of God’s friendship and fellowship.
This hope of the sons of God will necessarily lead them to purify themselves in anticipation of and in preparation for that day. One does not hope for final perfection, then give himself to the defilement of sin. Those who defile themselves with sin without repentance declare that they are not the sons of God and that their hope is only in earthly things. Those who hope for the complete perfection that awaits the sons of God will purify themselves daily.
This purifying consists of two parts. It consists of removing the guilt of sin so that we are forgiven by God and reconciled to Him. It also consists of turning away from sin in our lives to live an undefiled life of holiness in the service of God. Since perfection is not attainable in this life, this aspect of purifying oneself means a daily turning from sin to serve the Lord and to grow in holiness.
This is possible only in Jesus Christ. We are totally incapable of purifying ourselves. All purifying and cleansing of sin is found in the purifying blood of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ made the perfect sacrifice that alone can cleanse us from our sins. His sacrifice alone removes our guilt before God so that we can be forgiven. His perfect sacrifice is also the power to turn us from sin to a holy life. And so one purifies himself by turning to Jesus in faith, to find forgiveness and the power of a new and holy life.
This is what a son of God does in anticipation of and in preparation for the hope that he has for the perfection of heaven.
A necessary calling!
Our calling is to purify ourselves as the sons of God.
Notice that the passage of this meditation simply informs us what the sons of God do. In this hope of final perfection they purify themselves.
But this implies the calling to purify ourselves daily in the cleansing blood of the cross.
This calling follows the pattern of Scripture. It tells us what the fruit of God’s saving grace is and then admonishes us to live that way. These admonitions are the power of God to produce these fruits of grace in us.
So also here.
Let us live as true sons of God who, in the hope of final perfection, daily purify themselves in the blood of Christ, remembering always the admonition of, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”