Children of God – 1 John 2:28-3:10

The idea that Christians are children of God is well-known. But here in 1 John we explore what that means and how it’s helpful day to day.

John here wants to remind you of a few things that will give you ballast in life’s storms. 

He wants you to remember who you are, where you’re going, and for you to let that steer your thoughts, desires, life.

These notes accompany a sermon on YouTube. You’ll find more in the series in our Sermon Index.

Your eternal life has begun (2:28-3:3)

Read 1 John 2:28.

We begin these verses where we left off last time, with an encouragement to remain in Christ, in fellowship with him. But John gives you an interesting reason: He reminds you that life now is connected to the future.

What would you want to be found doing when Christ returns? Imagine that he returned to the earth just at the point where you were looking at an inappropriate website, having sinful thoughts about someone, etc. By remaining in Christ, you will be consciously with him – you know he will never leave you nor forsake you, and you live your life that way. Because that future time is connected to your today.

Read 1 John 2:29.

John always connects things in a tapestry of life: As you remain in him, you remain in fellowship with the promise he has made – eternal life (see v25). And, if you are in Christ, you are in the one who is righteous, in fellowship with God – a child of God.

Being a child of God is the theme of today’s verses – but not in isolation. You’re meant to see how it relates to your life today. And it’s amazing: Read 1 John 3:1. He doesn’t even say that we “will be” God’s children, or that “it’s as if” we’re God’s children. We are God’s children. That is what we are.

The unbelieving world thinks you’re a headcase. They think you’ve lost your marbles. Of course they do. If they don’t believe in God, they’ll laugh when you say you’re a child of God. You’d be slightly more believable if you claimed Elvis was your dad because they at least believe he existed.

We are children of God

But, if you’re a Christian, you’re a child of God. And v3 is amazing. Read 1 John 3:2.

You are a child of God now. That alone is wonderful. You’re in a body that will increasingly fail on you until one day it packs in. You feel temptation every day, and you sin every day. Still, you are a child of God so you can’t stay in that failing state forever.

When Jesus appears you’ll be given a new, spiritual body when mortality gives way to immortality (1 Cor 15:53). Still, says John, we don’t yet know what that means fully. “But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is.”

What does it mean to be like Christ? How can we?

  • You won’t be a god. Nor will you be all-powerful, all-knowing, infinitely everywhere, etc.
  • Will you be unchanging? Certainly you will be without decay, and yet you will be forever growing in love and wonder at the Lord. Expect to grow in him forever.
  • You will be glorious as you reflect Christ’s glory – like Moses’ shining face, but forever.
  • You will be joyously happy, as he is, as well as perfectly loving towards him and his people.
  • In particular, here for John, you will be sinless, blameless, holy and without any moral spot or blemish.
  • And you will be like this because you’ll see him.

We see now, but only dimly and partially.

Seeing Christ’s glory

The Bible is the horizon of our sight – you can’t see the Lord’s glory beyond it. You can take a bit of the ocean of his glory, one spoonful at a time as you read the Bible and meditate on him: His condescension and incarnation, his perfection in human life, his willingness to die for you. He is gloriously exalted, awaiting return. You will be blessed and sanctified to think these things.

But John says that when you see Jesus not by faith but by sight then that vision of him will be utterly transforming for you. You will see him, and you will therefore become like him.

Which makes v3 so obvious. Read 1 John 3:4.

You are a child of God now and you will be like Jesus then, so obviously you have one foot in heaven as you pursue purity of life today. So put sin to death in your life; do good at every opportunity. Cut out the porn, the laziness, the gossip, the theft, the pride.

Remain in Christ – close to him, thinking about him, praying to him. And be like him: Do right; put right; do the good he’s told you to do. Your eternal life has begun, and it’s a life like Christ’s – sinless.

Live in him, not in sin (2:4-6)

Read 1 John 3:4.

Literally, “all sin is lawlessness.” The law of God reflects God’s own character.

  • That’s whether we’re talking about the written laws of the Bible or the law in our consciences as moral creatures in God’s image.
  • His laws reflect God’s goodness and wisdom, and his care for the weak, the vulnerable, the abused and the hurt.
  • So to say sin is lawlessness means sin is rebellion against God – against his character and his good order of creation.

We all have that rebellion naturally within. If you’re to be a pure, sinless, holy child of God, your sin needs dealing with.

Read 1 John 3:5.

  • Jesus is the sacrifice of atonement for you.
  • His death is his substitutionary act – he took the punishment you deserve.
  • So he has dealt with God’s righteous anger against you (propitiation) and cleansed you of your sin (expiation).
  • And all that is his work for you, and you are called simply to trust him. To put your faith in his salvation for you.
  • And in doing that, he takes your sin away. 
  • You’re saved, and you’re a child of God. Amazing!

How can you know that someone has really become a Christian?

Read 1 John 3:6. More literally (CSB): Everyone who remains in him does not sin; everyone who sins has not seen him or known him.

Chapter 1 made it clear that you will sin, even as a Christian. You’ll stumble along, even as you try to walk in the light. But you won’t stand in the dark in deliberate disobedience and rebellion against God. You won’t be perfect, but you will be changed. Your desires begin to change as you lose appetite for the things you used to do. An unchanged life belongs to a person who has not seen Jesus by faith and does not know him.

Are you ever unsure whether you’re a Christian or not? Do you ever doubt? It’s perfectly normal to do so.

But look: The world doesn’t care about God or whether or not they’re saved – and yet you do. 

  • Do you stumble in the light, or do you walk in the dark?
  • Have you seen Jesus by faith, asking for forgiveness and coming to know him (however imperfect that might be)?
  • If you are unsure, you go to him. Remain in him.
  • Remain in fellowship with him and his people.
  • He won’t let you go. He can’t. For an amazing reason:

You are a child of God (3:7-10)

Read 1 John 3:7-8.

He wants you to live a life appropriate to a child of God. You’re to have and enjoy fellowship with God in union with Christ, so it would be horrendous if someone led you astray by saying something is good, when it’s actually sinful.

  • If someone is sinning, don’t follow them. Don’t let them redefine bad as good and good as bad and tell you it’s ok.
  • Don’t listen to anyone who asks, “Did God really say…?” because that’s the devil’s trick, to cause you to doubt God’s word and God’s goodness.

The devil does evil by nature and speaks lies as his native tongue. God is light and there is no darkness in him at all. And every man, woman and child alive is a child of God or of the devil. No other possibility exists.

The next verse is especially daring: Read 1 John 3:9.

The verse works as a kind of “chiasm” or “sandwich”.

  • It mentions being “born of God” on the outside layer
  • Then John speaks of not sinning as the inner layer
  • And in the middle he says that the reason someone “born of God” isn’t able to sin is that God’s “seed” remains in them (where NLT says “God’s life is in them”)

Only John refers to God’s “seed” in the Bible. What’s he mean?

  • Certainly God’s word remains in you (1 John 2:24)
  • The Holy Spirit clearly remains in you (1 John 2:27)
  • And yet John seems to be saying something even more daring by deliberately choosing the word “seed”.

Adoption “Plus”

You know that you’re adopted by God. Romans 8:15 says you have received the “Spirit of adoption” whereby you can call God, Father.

  • But John seems to be taking adoption a shade further than human adoption can go.
  • If Julia & I adopted a child, a DNA test would instantly show that I wasn’t the biological father of that child.
  • But when God adopts you, his seed remains in you, and you have an updated spiritual DNA, as it were.
  • See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!

God won’t say of you that he loves you like you’re his own child. He says you are his child.

God is light by nature. As a child of God, his nature is now in you.

  • You’re not capable of outright, whole-life rebellion.
  • Yes, you’ll stumble and sin, until you see him and become like him.
  • But you are born again. Born “from above.”
  • John 1:12-13 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:17 If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.

So the final verse is obvious – and yet does have a final surprise.

Love for other Christians (again)

Read 1 John 3:10. A child of God has a new nature; you will walk in the light as he is in the light. You will live a life of righteousness. But more, you will love other believers – because God lives in you, and he loves all his children equally.

A righteous life and a love for other believers flow naturally from the realisation that you’re a child of God, that he lives in you, and that he loves through you.

I’ve said a few times that John has key themes that he weaves together throughout the letter. There are 3 major themes – tests by which you can see who is a true Christian and who isn’t

Two of the three tests come together right here: A true Christian will have live a Right Life (a life of righteousness in Christ) and show a Right Love (towards all other Christians as children of God, regardless of social, cultural, or even religious differences).


  1. Remain in Christ. Plan to have time with him. Develop good habits for prayer and Bible time. But remember to focus on him – spirit to Spirit, heart to heart. Engage him.
  2. Do righteousness. Make sure your Christian walk is more characterised by the good things you do than the bad things you don’t – at work, at thome, anywhere.
  3. Love all God’s people. Simple things like staying for coffee and a chat. Be deliberate about conversation and fellowship (“Are you reading any Christian books? Would you like to read with me?”). Phone people up (e.g. Elaine, Nita, Ida, Cilla).
    1. Take an interest in other local churches, e.g. WGP.
    2. Take a prayerful interest in the suffering church.

You are a child of God. Hold that thought, that diamond up and ponder every face of it. And let it shine!