6 August 2016

1 John 3:1-3

"Beloved, we are God's children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is." (v.2)

Psalm: Psalm 27



1 John doesn't share many characteristics with the other New Testament letters, particularly in that it is unclear who is being addressed and there aren't the normal words of greetings.

It seems to be prompted by a crisis among the community to which it is addressed. There would appear to be certain people who are upsetting the community and its beliefs. There is a deep pastoral feeling to the writing and the impression is given that the writer knows and cares about this community. If you read the whole letter you will notice that the recipients are often referred to as 'Beloved' and 'Children'. Both terms of address are used in this short passage.

The writer declares that we are 'children of God' as a consequence of God's generous actions of love. This, in some way, separates the Christian community from the wider world, as not all people are here described as 'children of God'. The passage contains a sense of tension between what is already the case and what is to come. The Christian community are already children of God and their final state is, as yet, unknown, other than it will be "like him". This is a reference to Christ.

Living in this in-between time should be marked by three things, according to this passage:

  • marveling at being children of God
  • a sense of security in being children of God
  • a deep hope concerning what is to come, even though there is a sense in which that remains unknown.

All of this should lead the reader to purify themselves. The verse which precedes this passage and the verses that follow, particularly verse 7, suggest that this purity has to do with doing what is right.


To Ponder

  • What does it mean, or would it mean, to you to see yourself as a child of God?
  • The passage assumes the world does not understand the Christian community. To what extent do you think that is inevitable, or perhaps even true?
  • Living in between times was very real for early Christian communities. What sense do you have of being 'between' times or between the dawn of the Christian community and its fulfillment?
  • Where and in what ways are you being challenged to do what is right?

Bible notes author

The Revd Peter Barber

Peter Barber is an ordained Methodist presbyter currently serving as the chair of district for the Chester and Stoke-on-Trent District of the Methodist Church in Britain. Previously he has served in circuits in Cornwall, Aberystwyth, and Harpenden.