At the Appearing of Christ
April 15th, 1973 @ 8:15 AM
1 John 3:1-8
AT THE APPEARING OF CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 John 3:1-8
4-15-73 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled At the Appearing of Christ. It is an exposition of a passage in the third chapter of 1 John. In our preaching through this beautiful Epistle, written by the beloved disciple, we have come to chapter 3. And these are the words of the text:
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.
Beloved, 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.
And every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.
Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
And we know that He was manifested to take away our sins; and in Him is no sin . . .
He 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.
[1 John 3:1-8]
The chapter begins with an exclamation, "Behold!" [1 John 3:1], and the apostle then lays before us a wonder, a complex of wonders. And isn’t that impressive as we think of this disciple? For he had lived in the midst of wonders, he had followed the ministry of our Lord Jesus and the wonder of the things that Christ could do; the miracles under His gracious hands and the astonishment that those miracles – those supernatural evidences brought to the heart of this disciple – he lived in the midst of wonders. And as though that were not enough, think of the wonders that he saw on the isle of Patmos [Revelation 1:9-22:21], when God rolled back the heavens like a scroll and He revealed to this apostle all of the ages of the unfolding future, down to the eternity that is yet to come. If ever there was a seer to whom wonders were a commonplace, it was this disciple John. Yet he begins the chapter with an exclamation, "Look, behold!" and the wonder, the miracle, "What manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!" [1 John 3:1].
Beloved, now are we the sons of God [1 John 3:2]. By regeneration we have been made into the image of God [Titus 3:5]; by adoption we have been made a part of the family of God [Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:5-7]. And that aggregate of wonders brings this exclamation to the heart of the apostle: that we should be children of God! [1 John 3:1]. And it is emphasized far more in the text than we realize just by reading it here in the English King James Version.
Let me show you. "Look!" he says, "Behold!" he says, "What manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!" [1 John 3:1]. Now, in those ancient manuscripts, there are two words added there that are left out in the Textus Receptus, which is the basis of the King James Version. The two words are added there, "that we should be called the sons of God," the two words are kai esmen, "and we are." The version of 1901 translated, "And such we are." Then, he repeats it: "Beloved, nun esmen, now we are." Isn’t that a wonderful thing to have "now" in the faith, and a "now" in the religion? Now, "now we are the sons of God" [1 John 3:2].
Well, who says so? How do you know so? We know so because our Father in heaven says so. He has taught us to say, "Our Father who art in heaven" [Matthew 6:9]. How do you know you are children of God? Jesus says so. He referred to "My Father," and "your Father" [John 20:17]. In the first chapter of the Gospel of John:
He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But unto them that received Him, to them gave He the right to become the sons of God, even to them that trust in His name.
Jesus says so, the Holy Spirit says so, "The Holy Spirit hath sent to us the Spirit of adoption in our hearts, whereby we cry, Abba, Father" [Romans 8:15]. He has taught us that we are the children of God, God’s sons and daughters.
And the providences of life teach us that we are the children of God; the trials, and the heartaches, and the tears, and the sorrows. Yesterday, I visited with a man in our church who is facing trial and trouble and he’s doing it on his knees in prayer, asking God to teach him the meaning of the lesson and to make of him a better Christian and a more devout follower of the Lord. And I said to him, this is a sign that you are a true Christian; for trouble and trial do one of two things to all who experience them: it either embitters you, or it humbles you, bows you, and draws you closer to God. The providences of life teach us and show us that we are the children of God. "Behold! Look at this wonder. Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God" [1 John 3:1]. He does not say, "Behold, look, what honor is bestowed upon us, that we should be the sons of God"; or, "Look what unusual grace, or providence, or remembrance." He says, "What manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us."
A workman in the house, a slave or a servant, is paid off and that ends it. But a son, a daughter in the house is a son and a daughter forever. And John says it is the love of God for us that has made us so. In the sixteenth chapter of the prophet Ezekiel is one of the most effective of all of the imageries of God’s love that I have ever found in the Holy Word, and it goes like this. The Lord speaking to Israel says:
I was passing by, and I saw thee, a newborn child, cast into a field. The navel cord was not cut and you lay polluted in your own blood, exposed and dying.
And the Lord says:
Passing by, I saw thee, and loved thee, and pitied thee, had compassion upon thee; and I took thee and I washed thee, and bathed thee, and anointed thee, and loved thee, and you became My child.
Ah! The gripping imagery of that prophetic description of God’s love; the Lord hath taken us from the dung hill and has washed us and bathed us from our pollution. He hath anointed us and showered affection upon us, comforted us, strengthened us, encouraged us, loved us, and made us children of God. "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God" [1 John 3:1], kai esmen, "and we are"; nun esmen, "now we are." Not someday, but now.
Then in the passage, the apostle describes the purposes of the manifestation, phaneroō, translated here sometimes, "the appearing of Christ," translated here sometimes, "the manifestation of Christ." And he speaks of the purpose of that manifestation of our Lord in three ways. One, he says, "And ye know that He was manifested, He appeared, phaneroō, to take away our sins" [1 John 3:5]. The purpose of His coming is to take away our sins. For no man can see God without holiness. Sin shuts us from His presence [Isaiah 59:2]. Well, how does one lift himself up into the presence of God? How can he, being defiled and polluted, a sinner? You know, there is no possibility of such elevation into the holiness and purity in the white glory of God apart from the touch, the miraculous intervention of God Himself; it is something God has to do for us. An angel cannot wash us, and men cannot cleanse us; it is something God has to do [Mark 2:7-12].
Look at these miracles. I’m talking about now miracles. Look at it. There is no way for the mineral to be elevated up into life, of say, the vegetable, without the miracle of the hand of God. When the inert matter of the earth becomes living, say, a vegetable – it’s grass, or it’s fruit, or it’s flower, or it’s trees – it’s living, and it’s the miracle of God that elevates the mineral into the living vegetable. All right, let’s take it a step higher. It is a miracle of God, and one that is inexplicable, we just look at it, how the life of the vegetable is elevated up into animal life. Our own life, eating, and it’s quickened into us. So the cow that grazes in the pasture, eating vegetable life and it is quickened into animal life; now once again, the miracle of God, how the animal life, the carnal life, can be elevated into the spiritual life by the miraculous hand of God. God does it. It’s a miracle of Him. The Lord said, raised from the dead, "Why are you affrighted and terrified as though you had seen a spirit?" [Luke 24:37-38].
For a spirit hath not flesh and bone such as ye see Me have. Come, handle Me.
Then He said, Have ye here any meat, anything to eat? And they gave Him a broiled fish, and an honeycomb; and He did eat before them.
Raised, resurrected, immortalized from the dead; what happened? The glorious touch of the hand of God, raising, elevating, up and up the miracle; the mineral into a life, a vegetable life, a vegetable life into an animal life, a body life, a somatikos life; and then the touch of God, the miracle of God, one more elevation. And the broiled fish and the honeycomb was elevated into the spiritual life of the resurrected body of our Lord; it is God that does that, every step of it is a miracle.
And that is what God does for us in Christ; He elevates us, and elevates us, and raises us, and finally we are in perfection in glory, without sin. "For this purpose did He come into the world" [1 John 3:5]; His first coming, His incarnation was that, that He might have a body to offer in sacrifice for our sins [Hebrews 10:5-14]. He came into the world to save us from our sins. The Book says so. "Thou shalt call His name Jesus," Savior, Jesus; "for He shall save His people from their sins" [Matthew 1:21]. His death on the cross was that. He kept the law perfectly for us, He died as our substitute, in our stead [Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21]. His resurrection is that, that we might have a faithful High Priest, touched, moved by the feeling of our infirmities [Hebrews 4:15]. "He ever liveth to make intercession for us, therefore He is able to save us to the uttermost who come unto God by Him" [Hebrews 7:25]. And His return is that, "For at the end of the world," says the author of Hebrews in chapter 9:
For at the end of the world Christ came to take away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
As it is appointed unto men once to die, and after that the judgment:
So Christ was once offered to take away sin: and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time apart from sin unto salvation.
He came the first time to offer Himself once for all, a sacrifice for our sins [Hebrews 10:5-14]. It is complete; He had to do it but one time. And a man is saved one time and forever [John 10:28-30]. "And unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time," this time, "apart from sin" [Hebrews 9:28]; sin done with. And there we stand, holy and pure, in the presence of God [Revelation 19:8].
Not only that, but, "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested: that He might destroy the works of the devil" [1 John 3:8]. It was not God’s purpose, the terror, and the violence, and the crime; it was not God’s purpose, the age, and the suffering, and the disease, and the death; it was not God’s purpose, the blasting and the cursing of this earth and us included. That was not God’s purpose. When God made the earth, He looked at it and said, "It is good." And when God created the world of life, He looked at it and said, "It is good." And when God created the man and his wife, the woman He placed in his bosom, the Lord looked at it and said, "It is good." It was God’s intention that it be a paradise, and it was. God looked at it and said, "It is very good" [Genesis 1:4, 12, 18, 25, 31]. Then came an interloper, an enemy, and he oversowed God’s beautiful handiwork [Matthew 13:25]. Where there was wheat, he sowed tares. Where there was joy and bliss he sowed sorrow and heartache. And where there was love and affection he over-sowed it with hatred and blood and violence. And God’s beautiful world came into the hands of the evil one; and the world is bathed in tears, and it is soaked in blood, and it’s now a planet in which we dig graves to bury God’s sons and God’s daughters.
"But for this purpose the Son of God was manifested: that He might destroy the works of the devil" [1 John 3:8]. Not ameliorate them or extenuate them, but destroy them. When a tree is cut down, maybe at the smell of water it will spring up again, and live again. Not what Christ shall do with the evil one: it is God’s purpose, it is Christ’s purpose, it was the manifested purpose of the Lord Christ to destroy the works of the devil, root and all, absolutely purge it out. There shall be nothing of him that remains, nothing. In the new heaven and the new earth [Revelation 21:1], there shall be nothing of the works of Satan that can be seen; they shall be utterly destroyed.
Here again I cannot but comment how helpless we are before him. There’s no ableness in us against him. Michael the archangel was disputing with Satan about the body of Moses, "Even Michael durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee" [Jude 1:9]. And if Michael could not stand in the presence of Satan, Lucifer, and rebuke him, if Michael could not, how much less can we who are made of flesh and blood? But our helplessness but emphasizes the wonder and the glory of our Lord Christ. He has overcome. In His own lair, in the sepulcher and in the grave did He destroy death [1 Corinthians 15:55-57; 2 Timothy 1:10]; and the ultimate victory shall lie when He comes again and the works of the Satan are destroyed [1 John 3:8].
And one other: not only was our Savior manifested and not only shall our Savior appear to take away sin [1 John 3:5], and to destroy the works of the devil [1 John 3:8], but look, "Now are we the sons of God, and it doth not appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear," remember this is the word "manifest," phaneroō, "when He shall be manifest, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is [1 John 3:2] . . . It doth not yet appear what we shall be, it is not yet manifested what we shall be." Behold, a chrysalis, and the little thing inside that chrysalis could have no idea of its life as a butterfly. Behold! Look, an unborn child; the unborn child could have no idea of its life out in the world into which it is to be born. Look, behold! The seed; how would you ever have guessed the life of the plant from just the seed? How can we enter into the fullness of the glory of that life that is yet to be? It is beyond us. "Beloved, now, nun esmen, now we are the sons of God" [1 John 3:2]; and we have no idea. It is, as Paul said:
The eye of man hath never seen it, and the ear of a man has never heard it, and the heart of a man has never been able to imagine it, what God hath prepared for those who love Him…
[1 Corinthians 2:9]
"It doth not yet appear what we shall be" [1 John 3:2]; it is too glorious for our little finite minds to encompass what God hath prepared for us, that sweet, and heavenly, and glorious thing for which we pray, that God hath prepared for us. But he says we know that "when He is manifested, when we see Him, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is." The apostle calls that a wonder; and a wonder it is. A "behold" [1 John 3:1], an exclamation, "We know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is" [1 John 3:2].
Now, just for a moment, listen to me. What is he talking about when he says, "We know that when He is manifested, when He comes, when He appears," the second time, "we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is?" [1 John 3:2]. What a remarkable thing! We are going to be like Him because we shall see Him as He is. Now, look at that just for this moment: the disciples, in the days of the flesh of our Lord, saw just a little of what Jesus really is because His deity, His glory was veiled with His flesh and they saw just little of Him. A miracle here, a wonder there, a marvelous wisdom of speech there; just for a transient, temporal moment when He was transfigured, they saw deity shining through His face [Matthew 17:1-2] – a little angle here, a little introduction there, a little glimpse yonder – now, can you imagine the effect those little glimpses and those little revelations in so brief a time, just three years, had upon those apostles?
Why, Peter is a common, ordinary fisherman. Matthew was a common, ordinary tax gatherer. The disciples were just common, ordinary men; but just by the vision, the looking upon Christ, they became something else. Simon Peter, John, Matthew; oh, the elevation of those men in the presence of Christ!
Now, carry that that a step further. You think of the wonder, the miracle, the glory of what shall happen to us when we see our Lord as He actually is in the fullness of His glory. The apostle John, in the first chapter of the Apocalypse, looking upon Him, fell at His feet as one dead [Revelation 1:17]. What effect will that have upon us? Well, the apostle John says that in that vision beatific, when we stand in the presence of the glorified Lord and we see Him as He is, he says the effect of that is going to be that we shall become like Him [1 John 3:2].
I began thinking about that, preparing this message. Do you remember the passage by the apostle Paul? It is the last verse in the third chapter of 2 Corinthians, "But we all, beholding as in a mirror, the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord" [2 Corinthians 3:18].
Looking at Jesus, now it is just as one looks in a mirror; but even now, beholding the glory of the Lord we are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, elevated up, and up, and up, just contemplating the Lord. That happens to a man now; now; now. When a man thinks about Jesus and contemplates the Lord, and looks into His face something happens to him now. He is transformed into the same image from glory, to glory, to glory, to glory. He speaks of it, the apostle does, in the next chapter in 2 Corinthians:
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give . . . the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
[2 Corinthians 4:6]
Looking upon it we are transformed. The image of Christ becomes one with us; we are identified with it, we get to be like Him. Paul will say in 1 Corinthians 13, "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face" [1 Corinthians 13:12]. The effect of the glory of Christ upon us who see Him is one of transformation, glorification, elevation:
Now what I see and understand is so small,
The eye of faith is dim;
But it ’tis enough that He knows all,
And we shall be like Him.
[from "Lord It Belongs Not to My Care"; Richard Baxter]
O blessed Lord, the fullness of the glory of God revealed, manifested in Christ Jesus, and through Him to us all.
Our time is far spent. We stand in a moment to sing our hymn of appeal. And as the Spirit shall press the word to your heart, would you come and stand by me? "Pastor, today I give you my hand; it is a token that I have given my heart to God." "Pastor, we are all coming this morning, placing our lives in the circle and circumference of this sweet church." As God shall make the appeal, a family, or a couple, or you, make the decision now in your heart, and on the first note of that first stanza come, while we stand and while we sing.