And now, little children, abide in him

by Mike Ratliff

28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. (1 John 2:28-29 ESV)

There are two types of people in the world. There are God’s children (genuine Christians) and everyone else. One of the reasons I love to read the Gospel of John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John and Revelation is that John, the disciple whom Jesus loved (John 21:7), wrote very profound words that have no gray areas. Of course he wrote as the Spirit breathed these words through him, but God used this man’s entire makeup in that process. John was very pastoral, but he was also a Christian apologist of the highest order. He was one the three Apostles who made up the inner circle closest to our Lord during His earthly ministry. Before Jesus called him to be his disciple, he was a disciple of John the Baptist along with Andrew, Peter’s brother. Jesus called him and his brother James, the Sons of Thunder. He had great faith, but like most of us, he could get full of himself and focus inward instead of humble and lined up with our Lord’s will alone.

John loved the Lord. Tradition says that he was the only one of the remaining eleven Apostles who was not martyred. He endured persecution and exile for his faithfulness to gospel and our Lord. When he wrote Revelation he was on an island called Patmos having been exiled there for his faith. He walked as close to Jesus as Peter. When Jesus was dying on the cross He commanded John to take Mary, His mother, into his household to care for her. Jesus trusted John for this task more than His own earthly brothers. (John 19:26-27)

We live in a very spiritually confusing time. There is a great, overwhelming need for God’s people to again become centered on Him and His will. The best that the world has to offer to God’s people in their quest to know the truth is a very poor facsimile of God’s truth. Also, the visible church is rife with wolves in sheep’s clothing who keep masses of people in spiritual darkness with false gospels and false orthodoxy. Therefore, Christians need to go to God’s Word alone for the truth, making sure there is no worldly pollution intermixed with how they come to understand it. Haven’t we all seen lately where some “churches” have ordained women who minister to them, who are also professing Muslims? Since the number of people who want to hear and follow God’s truth alone is not growing, but in fact shrinking, let us go to hear what the Apostle John says about those who are the genuine Children of God.

28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. (1 John 2:28-29 ESV)

John refers to believers as “little children.” This is a term in Greek that means, “little child.” However, in the New Testament it is always plural and used figuratively as an affectionate term from a teacher to his disciples. Jesus made it clear that only His disciples are genuine believers for they deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow Him. They lose their lives in Him. (Matthew 16:24-26) They take up His yoke and rest in Him instead of laboring and taking on heavy loads God never intended for them to carry. (Matthew 11:28-30) In our roles as our Lord’s disciples, we are as “little children” to Him. Our only hope of living this life in any way pleasing to our Lord is to do so as we abide in Him. Those who abide in Him are pruned and are fruitful in the Kingdom of God. (John 15) Those who abide in Him will not be ashamed at His coming. They practice righteousness because they have been born of Him who is righteous.

1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (1 John 3:1-3 ESV)

The New Birth in Christ makes Christians New Creations. (2 Corinthians 5:17) God regenerates them. They are not the same as they were before. They are Born Again in Him. They are children of God. He created Man in His own image and all people bear that image, but the Born Again now have our Lord’s character being manifest in them as they spiritually mature. Because of this, they are now aliens within the world system. The unregenerate do not know God or understand His ways. When they see Christ’s character in His little children they become perplexed. They don’t understand because they don’t know God. God’s children will abide in Christ, remaining faithful to the end. They do not fully understand what will be their end. They can’t perceive their future. But when Christ does appear, and He will, they shall be like Him. They will behold their Saviour just as He is. Because of this blessed hope, those who are His little children purify themselves by working out their salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12)

4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:4-10 ESV)

This passage hits us in the face like a cold bucket of water. What is John talking about? Could he be saying here that Christians never sin? John wrote this passage to deal with two erroneous doctrines: Antinomianism and Perfectionism. Antinomianism contends that the covenant of grace was not established based on conditions. As a result, people cannot be held accountable to any moral law. Does that sound familiar? This heresy says that all that is required of a person is that they believe, and then he or she can live as they please. On the other hand, Perfectionism states that regeneration has eradicated all believers’ sin nature as though surgically removing it as if it was a cancer. That means that genuine Christians never sin at all. However, John exposes these doctrines as false in the following passage.

1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (1 John 2:1 ESV)

In this verse, John’s intention is to make sure we understand that we must deal with each and every sin we commit by taking them to our Lord, our advocate. This is not referring to habitual sin. On the other hand, back in 1 John 3:4-10 that is precisely what he is talking about. In v9, for instance, the phrase, “makes a practice of sinning” is in the present tense. This means it is speaking of continuous action. In 2:1 (above) the grammar is in the aorist tense. That always speaks of an action of one point in the past. What this is telling us is that genuine Christians have the ability to conquer habitual sin through their advocate, the Lord Jesus Christ. John’s call to abide in Christ is the base or foundation of how that is done. When Christians suffer under the burden of sins that seem to control them like an evil being within them, it is because they are enslaved to their flesh. Their flesh demands to be satisfied and they habitually follow the same path over and over again to feed it. However, the regenerate believer has something in their arsenal to defeat this. It is repentance coupled with abiding in Christ. We learn to kill our sin and crucify our flesh by denying it until it withers and loses all of its power over us. John Owen wrote a book on this called, The Mortification of Sin. I highly recommend it.

My fellow little children, we are in Christ and God is calling each of us to sever the cord of slavery to our flesh. Are we not children of God? Isn’t it true that our Lord is coming back? Shouldn’t we prepare ourselves for this? I do not want to be ashamed at His appearing. Everyone who hopes in Christ purifies himself or herself, as He is pure.

Soli Deo Gloria.

5 thoughts on “And now, little children, abide in him

  1. Thank you for this, my brother. I was blessed to preach at that small Baptist church in SE Oklahoma recently and observed several of the things you taught on here (two categories of people, male elders, obedience,life. etc.) and it was well rec’d by the dear brothers and sisters. I rejoice when professing Christians accept with joy the Word of God – even when He convicts us with it.

    Press on!

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  2. Outstanding one word summary Tom Klein! You got right to the heart of the message in one word.
    May I add encouraging as well?

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