Children of God or Children of the Devil?
I John 3:1-24
1Behold, 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. 2Beloved, 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. 3And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. 4Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. 5And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.
6Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. 7Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. 8He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. 9Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
10In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. 11For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous. 13Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you. 14We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.
15Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. 16Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17But whoso hath this world’s goods, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?
18My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. 19And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. 20For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. 21Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. 22And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.
23And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. 24And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.
John was warning his readers about false teachings. To protect themselves against these false teachings, John urged his readers to rely upon the knowledge they had received through God’s Word.
In Chapter 3, John turns to the theme of love and hate, using the example of the sacrificial death of Christ. He urges his readers to love one another. The message is still not out of date nor ever will be.
The United States Treasury Department has a special group of men whose job it is to track down counterfeiters. Naturally, these men need to know a counterfeit bill when they see it. Oddly enough, they are not trained by spending hours examining counterfeit money; rather, they study the real thing. They become so familiar with authentic bills that they can spot a counterfeit by looking at it, or, often simply by feeling it.
This is the approach in I John 3 which warns us that in today’s world, there are “counterfeit Christians,” that is, children of the devil. Instead of listing the evil characteristics of Satan’s children, the Scripture gives us a clear description of God’s children. The contrast between the two is obvious.
I John 3:10
In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.
A true child of God practices righteousness and loves other Christians despite differences. We expect children to resemble their parents. Children inherit their physical traits from their parents genetically and they pick up mannerisms and expressions from them in the family environment. The same principle applies in the spiritual realm. Because of God’s great love that provided a Savior for us, we are now, through faith in Jesus’ atoning work on the cross, His children. We also have a purifying hope that when Christ returns, we will be transformed into His likeness.
While we are waiting for Christ to return we should be manifesting godly characteristics on earth. It is, in fact, our present behavior that proves we are in God’s family. A consistent life of righteousness and love demonstrate that we are partakers of His nature.
By our love for one another, or our lack of love, we give evidence of our spiritual lineage. A Christian has Divine resources to draw upon. God’s love for us is unique.
I John 3:1
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.
The whole wonderful plan of salvation begins with the love of God. We are God’s children! We do not expect the world to understand this thrilling relationship because it does not even understand God. Only a person who has been redeemed through Christ’s blood can fully appreciate what it means to be called a child of God.
God’s love for us does not stop with the “new birth”. It continues throughout our lives and takes us right up to the return of Jesus Christ. When our Lord appears in the clouds, coming for His children, all true believers will join Him.
Revelation 1:7, 8
7Behold he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so. Amen. 8I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.
Philippians 3:20, 21
20For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.
We will have new glorified bodies suited to Heaven. The apostle does not stop there with his explanation. He has told us what we are and what we shall be. Now, in I John 3:3 he tells us what we should do. In view of the return of Jesus Christ, we should keep our lives clean.
I John 3:3
And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.
An unbeliever who sins is a creature sinning against his Creator. A Christian who sins is a child sinning against his Father.
I John 3:6
Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.
It is this communion, abiding with Christ, that keeps us from deliberately disobeying His Word.
The devil, our enemy, is real and has many different names in Scripture: Satan, Destroyer, Prince of this World, Devil and Adversary. Whatever name you call him, keep in mind that his chief activity is to oppose Christ and God’s people.
Satan is eternal, as is God. Satan is a created angel. He was not created sinful. His present nature is a result of his past rebellion toward Jehovah God. Satan is not like God; he is not all-powerful, not all-knowing nor everywhere present. He is, however, assisted by an army of spirit creatures known as demons through whom the devil works in many places all at once. Satan’s eternal and final destination is the Lake of Fire.
10Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high Places.
This Scripture tells us to put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the “wiles of the devil.” Christ is God, yet HE was willing to become a servant. Satan was an angel created by God yet Satan wanted to become God. From the beginning of his career, Satan has been a sinner.
Christ came to destroy the works of the devil. Satan is still a mighty foe but he is no match for the power of God. Each time a lost sinner is won to Christ, more of Satan’s spoils are taken from him.
For many months after the close of World War II, Japanese troops were discovered hidden in the caves and jungles of the Pacific Islands. They had been living like frightened savages. They didn’t know the war was over. Once they understood that it was no longer necessary for them to fight, they surrendered.
Christians may rest in the truth that Satan is a defeated enemy. He may still win a few battles here and there but he has already lost the war. Sentence has been pronounced on him but it will be a while before the punishment is meted out. A person who knows Christ and who has been delivered from the bondage of sin through Christ’s death on the cross, has no desire to obey Satan and live like a rebel.
The Christian is also given a new position. He is set apart for God’s own purposes, to live for His glory. Unless a Christian spends some time daily meditating on the Word of God, his inner man will lack power. We as Christians should look into the Word of God as a mirror, daily, and examine ourselves. Are we obedient to the truth we know from God’s Word?
22But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. 23For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 24For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. 25But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the word, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
John observed the widespread inconsistency between profession and practice. He appealed to the little children, saying, “Let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” The proof of a person’s love is seen in the good deeds it produces.
Love sometimes has its emotional side but it also is practical. It overlooks petty differences that divide Christians in churches. It leads us to forgive those who have wronged us. It causes us to sacrifice our time, effort, goods and money to help those in need. To love in word simply means to talk about a need, but to love in deed means to do something about meeting the need. Love calls for sacrificial responses. Love is to be the distinguishing characteristics of the Christian.
John 13:35 (Jesus speaking)
By this shall all Men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
Having stated that we are to love one another, John proceeded to show us what love is not. Cain was the world’s first murderer. He killed his own brother, Abel.
God is characterized by love. The devil is the complete opposite of love.
The hatred that motivated Cain to murder Abel is very much in evidence in the world today. We might be inclined to think of hatred as a relatively insignificant problem of one’s attitude while we categorize murder as an overt sinful act, but Jesus warns us about the attitude of our hearts.
Matthew 5:8 (Jesus speaking)
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Hatred is not simply a harmless attitude of mind. The person who continually hates another is the equivalent of a murderer. Hatred is murder in thought and such an attitude indicates that the one who possesses it is not right with God.
I John 3:15
Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.
Both love and hate have consequences.
Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
In our day there are emotional, mental, spiritual and material needs. Words don’t cost very much and they won’t provide much food for the hungry or shelter for the homeless. By our own deeds of helpfulness to those who are in need, we give visible expressions to the love of God in our hearts. To love in truth is to show that our love is real, not a sham or pretense. We can give without loving, but we cannot love without giving.
The Scripture teaches us in Proverbs 23:7 that “as one thinketh in his heart, so is he.”
If one plans a robbery, in his heart he is a robber even if he doesn’t carry out his plans. If one seeks to deceive others with falsehoods, he is a liar, even if he never utters a word. That is the reason we must guard the issues of our hearts with all diligence. The best way to do that is to fill our hearts with love.
Agape love is an unselfish love that sees the needs in others, moves to meet those needs, does not count the cost and does not calculate what it will get in return. To love one another involves being sensitive to the needs other people have and to participate in meeting those needs.
The need might be fellowship, financial, transportation, food or clothes. Whatever the need, Jesus said to love one another. That Christlike love can be expressed by the willing heart to minister to a need in the life of those whose lives cross our paths.
If we refuse to help, how dwelleth the love of God in us?