16 January 2017

1 John 2:29 - 3:6

“See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God” (3:1)

Psalm: Psalm 86


Reading the first letter of John is like overhearing a telephone conversation in which a third party is being discussed. We do not know who the writer is. The letter itself does not give the writer's name; it became associated with John in later times. Nor do we know to whom the letter is addressed or, in any detail, what the problems were. We can only conclude from what is said that there has been a split in the Christian community to which the letter is sent. There have been disputes about who Jesus really is, and whether Christians are now wholly free from sin and incapable of lapsing back into it. Some who have taken a more extreme view have walked out and formed a rival group, leaving the rest shaken and uncertain. The letter is written to reassure them and strengthen their faith.

In today's passage we are reminded of the love of God, who calls us God's children. Children grow into maturity. In infancy we can only imagine what that will eventually mean, but we can be sure there will still be a family likeness (3:2). But the privilege of being regarded as God's children carries the obligation to live accordingly (3:3), a truth those who have walked out apparently deny.

1 John 3:4 is puzzling. Did the rival group draw a false distinction between sin and breaking the moral law set out in the Old Testament? We do not know.  

To Ponder

  • How would you explain to someone what it means to be called a child of God?
  • In 1 John 2:29 the writer appears to imply that anyone who does right should be regarded as God's child, regardless of their beliefs. Or is the point simply that the test of a claim to be God's child is how we live? What do you think?

Bible notes author

The Revd Brian Beck

Brian Beck is a Methodist minister, now retired, and a former president and secretary of the Methodist Conference. A large part of his ministry has been spent in theological education, both in Limuru, Kenya, and in Cambridge, England..