Sunday, 12 April 2020
If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him. 1 John 2:29
John now pens the last verse of the chapter. It forms a connecter between two larger thoughts – the coming of Christ and the righteousness of Christ. John will deal with the latter issue in great detail as he continues this marvelous epistle. The words of the previous verse spoke of not being ashamed at Christ’s coming by abiding in Him. Now, to form that connective bridge to the new direction, he says, “If you know that He is righteous.”
There is, as at other times, a question as to who the subject is here. Is it Jesus, or is it God? The reason is that it is Jesus who was just referred to in the previous verse. However, John will next refer to being “born of Him.” That is an act he always ties in with God – being “born” of God.
The debate is unnecessary. Jesus is God. John is dealing with the God/Man. He is not dealing merely with a human that he met along the path of life. He is speaking of Jesus Christ, and in the thought of “Christ” is the concept of both His humanity and His deity. Therefore, the One who is coming in His humanity is also the One who begets children in His deity.
This One is righteous. It is impossible to know God and not know that righteousness is a character which defines His very nature. The gospel itself implies this. Christ died for our sins. If we have sin, it is because we are unrighteous. If God sent Christ to die for our unrighteousness, then He must be righteous. John says that if you know this, “you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.”
There is a difference between the verbs translated as “know” in the first and second clauses. The first is eidó, and it signifies the ability to mentally grasp something. The second is ginóskó, and it speaks of an experiential knowledge. He is saying that if you can mentally grasp and understand that He is righteous, you will then be able to perceive through the application of that knowledge that those who practice righteousness do so because of their unique, God-birthed connection.
It is also possible that the verb is to be taken as an imperative. “If you know that He is righteous, you are also to know (actively understand) that those who practice righteousness are born of Him. The verb can be taken either way, and either way the point is that in understanding the righteousness of God in Christ, each person in Christ is also to conduct himself in righteousness. In this practicing of righteousness, a person shows that he “is born of Him.”
The verb here is in the perfect tense. It more appropriately reads, “has been begotten of Him.” A person who has been begotten of God is to conduct his life as if that is the case. It is contrary to being born of God to continue in the life that he lived before coming to God.
As a simple example, albeit not intended as a perfect one, if someone has a computer which is not connected to the internet, it will perform its functions based on its limited reach, and it will only work within those parameters. But if that computer is hooked up to a modem and is made internet-capable, it would be pointless for it to continue to operate as it once did. There is a new standard expected of it, and a new hope for it to reach out and operate as a part of a greater whole.
When one comes to God through Christ, he is to reflect the change that has taken place in him, and he is to conduct his affairs by this new standard. The reason for this verse is now understandable when connected to the previous verse. Obviously, John is teaching us that in practicing righteousness, we will not be ashamed at His coming – the very point that he stated in the previous verse. We are to “abide in Him,” and we are to practice righteousness, for this very reason.
Life application: John’s words here present a complex thought which is actually rather hard to follow. When it says, “If you know that He is righteous,” it is speaking of Jesus based on the context of the preceding verse. It also makes sense because the righteousness of God should be taken as an axiom. As this is so, then it must be speaking of Jesus’ human nature and the righteousness He demonstrated, proving His character and validating His position as the Christ.
Understanding this, we can then move to the next concept – “everyone who practices righteousness.” Being a present tense verb, it indicates practicing righteousness habitually or constantly. Immediately after this, John says that anyone who does practice (habitually) righteousness is born of Him.
With this refresher added to the main analysis of the verse, let us simply apply it to our own lives. Let us constantly apply the righteousness of God in Christ to our walk before Him. Each step that we take, we are to consider it in the light of the holiness of God, and to then move onto the next step with that same thought in mind. Step by step, we are to walk in righteousness – to the glory of God, and as it is displayed in our lives.
Lord God, surely Your word gives us wonders to consider and to learn. Thank You for challenging our understanding of the Person and work of Jesus as well as the role of the Father and the Holy Spirit. May we be given eyes and understanding to properly evaluate Your word so that we don’t fall into error as we study. To Your glory we pray. Amen.