1See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2Beloved, 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. 3And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. 4Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. 7Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.
Summary—God could have rescued us from hell, and even given us heaven, without making us His children; but, He did—what love (v.1)! And although we can say that we are God’s children, we cannot yet say what God’s children mature into—except to say that it will be like Christ, because we’ll see Him as He is (v.2). If we have this hope—this hope that we will be like Christ—we’ll start purifying ourselves now (v.3). If you are not purifying yourself now, it’s because you do not have this hope (v.3), do not abide in Him (v.6), and do not know Him (v.6). After all, He was revealed for the purpose of taking away sins (v.5). But be assured, if you’re doing what is right, by faith, for God’s glory, it’s because you’re united to Christ’s righteousness (v.7).
Insight—St. Augustine, in his homily on this passage, says in reference to verses two and three, “‘We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.’ The tongue has done what it could, has sounded the words: let the rest be thought by the heart…We return to that unction of Him, we return to that unction which inwardly teaches that which we cannot speak: and because ye cannot at present see, let your part and duty be in desire. The whole life of a good Christian is an holy desire. Now what you long for, you do not yet see: howbeit by longing, you are made capable, so that when that which you may see has come, you shall be filled. For just as if you would fill a bag, and know how great the thing is that shall be given, you stretch the opening of the sack or the skin, or whatever else it be; you know how much you would put in, and see that the bag is narrow; by stretching you make it capable of holding more: so God, by deferring our hope, stretches our desire; by the desiring, stretches the mind; by stretching, makes it more capacious. Let us desire therefore, my brethren, for we shall be filled…This is our life, that by longing we should be exercised. But holy longing exercises us just so much as we prune off our longings from the love of the world. We have already said, ‘Empty out that which is to be filled.’ You are to be filled with good: pour out the bad. Suppose that God would fill you with honey: if you are full of vinegar, where will you put the honey? That which the vessel bore in it must be poured out: the vessel itself must be cleansed; must be cleansed, albeit with labor, albeit with hard rubbing, that it may become fit for that thing, whatever it be. Let us say honey, say gold, say wine; whatever we say it is, being that which cannot be said, whatever we would fain say, It is called— God. And when we say God, what have we said? Is that one syllable the whole of that we look for? So then, whatever we have had power to say is beneath Him: let us stretch ourselves unto Him, that when He shall come, He may fill us.”
Child Catechism—If you confidently look forward to God making you as pure as Jesus, what will you do? I will purify myself.
Discussion—How does the confidence that you will be like Christ lead you to purify yourself, now?
Prayer—O Father, what love You have given us, that we should be called Your children! And we do not yet know what You are making us, but we know that we will be like our Elder Brother, Jesus. Grant that we might hope, might trust, might long for that day in such a way that we would, even now, be purifying ourselves, knowing that we may do so only because Jesus was revealed to take away sins. Grant accordingly that we might abide in Him, and thereby be assured that we know Him; that we might do right, and thereby know that we are united to the righteousness of He who always lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God forever. Amen.
Contributed by Scott Cline