Purifying Ourselves in Hope

Rev. Heys is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.

And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

I John 3:3

To appreciate this truth in regard to our hope, we do well to bear in mind that to hope, basically, is desiring with expectation. So often we use that word merely as meaning to desire to have something happen. We hope to have the sun shine and the rain to stop. We hope to have surgery help us stay alive in good health. However, correctly, as in the Webster Dictionary, the word hope means to desire with confident expectation.

When then, in the text quoted above, we read that every believer has hope of his purification, we understand it to mean that he not only desires it but also expects it, as God’s gift to His elect. The born-again, believing children of God do not simply desire salvation. They hope for it in the sense that they expect it to come, as the fulfillment of God’s promise.

What is more, in the verse immediately preceding the text quoted above, we read: “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.”

For to hope is much more than to desire purification and glory. We hope to have Christ return, in the sense that we are absolutely sure that He will come with the fullness of our salvation. The apostle John does not here merely express our desire. The desire is in our hope; but it is in us because we expect to be purified completely and everlastingly when Christ returns.

Take note of the fact that John begins this chapter with this truth: “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.” Now being called the sons of God means that we are called into being as such sons of God. Our hope is our expectation of enjoying that blessedness. We expect to be like Christ Jesus, who rose up out of the death into which the sinful Jews brought Him.

Now the glory of our bodies, as well as of our souls, which Christ promises us will not come upon us until Christ returns and bestows that promised glory upon us. That which the child of God hopes for, then, is to enjoy the fulfillment of what God has promised us. That promise came the day that Adam and Eve fell into spiritual death. That day God promised to make His elect hate Satan. That is why we, according to the text above, have hope of that which God promised. God promised to fallen Adam and Eve that they would hate Satan. He promised to put enmity in the hearts of His elect. That is why we have, in the text above, that truth concerning our salvation. We have “desire with expectation” to love God, as His elect; and we have that already in this present life, from the day we are born again spiritually. Enmity against Satan means love towards God. Adam and Eve lost that; but they were promised the return of it.

Now then, that we have this hope and purify ourselves does not mean that God saves us because we begin to hope to have salvation. We want that salvation only because He has already begun it in us. Before God has begun it in us, we cannot want it. Rather, we continue to want what Satan promised us. We see that so clearly in the world today. The Sabbath day reveals that by what the unbelievers do. But on every day of the week they manifest the hatred of God, taking His name in vain, striving in many ways to break every one of His commandments.

We do well, therefore, to take note of what John wrote in the first verse of this chapter. He wrote: “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not.” Likewise in Psalm 23:1 we read: “The Lord is my shepherd: I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” God begins salvation in us before we can want it.

We can purify ourselves only because God gives us the grace to do so. And we must hold on tightly to that truth. The whole false doctrine of Arminianism reveals impurity, _ rather than the purity of which our God here speaks through John. We can purify ourselves only because God has begun purity in us. That we purify ourselves means that God has caused our hearts and minds to enjoy the purity which He gives us through His Son. We have that in the first promise of God, found inGenesis 3:15. After Adam and Eve had turned away from God and followed Satan’s advice that they become gods, God came with the promise to put enmity in His elect against Satan. In Genesis 3:8-11 He preached the first sermon to Adam and Eve concerning their salvation. Adam and Eve had not said one word against Satan. Adam blamed Eve; and Eve blamed Satan. Neither one confessed sin before God. They blamed Satan; but they did not fall on their knees in sadness and grief for their ungodly sin. They tried to defend themselves by accusing Satan.

Adam and Eve revealed absolutely no desire or hope for salvation. They tried to get away from their guilt by blaming Satan. They revealed no sorrow over their sins. They only, desired physical protection. There was no prayer for restoration of purification. They did not try to purify themselves. That they could not do, because they had died spiritually, while still strongly alive physically.

Adam and Eve revealed the desire to be saved from the punishment which they deserved; but they manifested absolutely no protection from Satan and his evil. The sad thing is that in many churches today salvation is presented merely as deliverance from punishment, rather than from the love of sm. Satan is still today working in mankind, getting people to want escape from punishment, but not from the love and joy of performing sinful deeds.

We do well to note that every man with hope, that is, with expectation of freedom from sin—not merely from punishment—is one whom God has already caused to desire deliverance from sin, and to delight in ability and desire to do what pleases Him, as our God. For God sent His Son to earn salvation for us. In that mother promise, presented in Genesis 3:15, God does not there promise only deliverance from punishment. He promises first of all deliverance from Satan and sin. And every one who today has that hope will purify himself, in the sense of fighting against his old man of sin.

That purification is the desire and expectation of becoming lovers of God; and those who desire it will begin to serve Him in love. That will reveal what God has begun in them. After making them righteous by His Son, God also works love in their hearts. He causes them to desire to purify themselves and to stop their old man of sin from his wickedness.

That desire and attempt to walk in holiness manifests that God began salvation in us. After our physical death we will have a perfect spiritual life; and in the new Jerusalem we will walk everlastingly and constantly in love toward God. God makes His elect hate Satan and sin, and He causes them to love Himself and to enjoy walking in love toward Himself.

Let us take note of the fact that we are here taught that we do purify ourselves after God has worked that hope in us. We are not saved merely from the punishment which we deserve. We are saved so that we can and do fight the good fight of faith, in that we purify ourselves; that is, our new man in Christ purifies us, causing us to walk in thankfulness to God for our salvation.

Now that statement “even as he is pure” can refer to every man who loves God. All those who by God’s grace hope for salvation have a new and pure man, who loves God and strives to serve Him. When we are born again, we receive a new spiritual life that is pure. Regeneration does bring us into a new, pure spiritual life. Yes, we still have our old man of sin. But what God said to Satan, when he caused Adam and Eve to fall into sin, was that He would put enmity in His elect, and against Satan and sin.

However, the statement “he is pure” refers to Christ Jesus, our Savior. We, by God’s grace, become as holy as Christ Jesus our Savior is. We become members of His body, the holy church. As we sing from Psalter number 383:1,

All that I am I owe to Thee,

Thy wisdom, Lord, hath fashioned me.

And in Matthew 28:1 and 2 we find this blessed truth that Christ was risen, and had come out of His tomb, before the stone of that sepulchre had been opened to Mary Magdalene and the other women who came to the sepulchre. Christ’s body did not need that stone to be rolled away to let Him out of the sepulchre. It was a resurrection body, a body more wonderful even than Adam and Eve had when they were created.

Take hold, then, of that comforting truth. We shall have bodies like the one our Savior has now in heaven. Go back to Psalm 139:14, on which that verse of Psalternumber 383:1 is based. There we read: “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.”

Yes, our souls know right well what a wonder God has wrought for us through His Son, who came in our flesh. That means that we are thankful for this work of salvation, not simply because we receive such wonderful bodies, but because we will, with body as well as soul, be purified by our Savior when He returns to establish His kingdom of heaven, and when our hope, our desire with expectation, is completed. We will see our purification of ourselves as God’s work in us and for us. And we will praise God from whom all these blessings flow. We will see our purifying of ourselves as due to God’s power and grace.