Study 5 THE BIRTH-MARKS OF A CHILD OF GOD
THE LETTERS OF JOHN
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: 1 John 4:1-10)
Several times in John’s First Letter we read of those who are “born of God” or “born of him”, born into God’s family. In his Gospel, John emphasised the absolute necessity of the new birth. No-one is saved, no-one will enter Heaven, except by the new birth – look up John 3:3. The only way to enter the kingdom of God, the family of God, is by being born into that family – a spiritual birth. In his First Letter, John tells us what born-again people should be like; he mentions what we might call their birth-marks, evidences that they really are genuine members of the family of God. As we look at some of these evidences let us notice: first, what the Bible says; and second, how we stand in regard to what it says – in other words, whether these evidences are true of us.
1. A true child of God is one who believes on, has received and has put his whole trust in Jesus Christ as his Saviour and Lord.
We learn this from 1 John 5:1. The way to be born again is to believe the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ, to act upon what we believe, and then to put our trust in Him and receive Him as our personal Saviour – look up John 1:12-13. When we receive Him we become a child of God – and this is the first mark (or evidence) of the new birth. How do you stand in regard to this matter?
2. A true child of God is one who will do what is right in God’s sight.
We learn this from 1 John 2:29. God Himself is righteous, and those who are born again are also righteous because they receive His nature. ‘Like father, like son!’ A child exhibits the parent’s character because he shares the parent’s nature. If we share the life and nature of our Heavenly Father, because He is righteous we shall be righteous in our ways. This does not mean that our lives will be perfect; it means that they will be lived in harmony with our Heavenly Father who is altogether righteous. We shall want to do what is right. Look up Luke 19:8. Zacchaeus made this decision because he had been born into God’s family, had received His nature and now wanted to do what is right. Or, look up Acts 16:33-34, where we read that the jailer showed love and compassion towards Paul and Silas after he had been born again. This is what God’s Word teaches. How do you stand in regard to this matter?
3. A true child of God is one who does not habitually practise sin.
We learn this from 1 John 3:9. John is not saying that the child of God cannot sin or that he never sins. To say this would contradict 1 John 1:8,9,10; 2:1. Although we are God’s children we do fail, but we have an Advocate – look up 1 John 2:1. When we fail our conscience stings us, for we have a new nature within us which does not continue to sin, and which cannot sin – look up 2 Corinthians 5:17 and compare with 1 John 3:9 and 5:18. This is what God’s Word teaches. How do you stand in regard to this matter?
4. A true child of God loves every other child of God.
We learn this from 1 John 4:7. As His children we have received the very nature of God. This has been imparted to us – look up 2 Peter 1:4; and as God is love, we now have a ‘love nature’ and we especially love the other members of God’s family. The same truth is brought out in 1 John 3:14. A born-again man will love all in the family of God, rich and poor, educated and illiterate, young and old, irrespective of their colour – look up and compare 1 John 3:11-12, 16-18. This is what God’s Word teaches. How do you stand in regard to this matter?
5. The true child of God overcomes the world.
We learn this from 1 John 5:4. This means that the true child of God finds within himself a complete lack of harmony and sympathy with the world, for living in the world he is out of his right element – like a ‘fish out of water’. Children of God belong to another world, and they begin here and now to live for that other world. Jesus Himself said so in John 16:33! Through faith in Him we share His victory and thus do not accept the world’s standards, engage in the world’s pursuits, enjoy many of the world’s pleasures, copy the world’s habits, speak the world’s language or rely upon and conform to the world’s wisdom. Which world are you living for? This is what the Bible teaches.
In concluding this study please notice 1 John 5:18. In the first part of the verse the apostle is repeating what he said in 1 John 3:9, but the second part literally reads: ‘the One who was begotten of God (that is, Jesus) watches over and protects him – Christ’s divine presence within him preserves him against the evil – and the wicked one does not lay hold or get a grip on him or touch him’ (Amplified Bible). Now notice:
- The verb ‘born’ (in all the instances we have noticed) is in the perfect tense denoting that the original verse has permanent effects; it has taken place once and for all and it cannot be undone. There is no such thing as excommunication from the family of God. Once we are a child of God we are always a child of God.
- This is so because we are kept by the Saviour; kept by the power of God – look up 1 Peter 1:5; and preserved by Him – look up Jude 24-25, which in the Amplified Bible reads like this:
‘Now to Him who is able to keep you without stumbling, or slipping, or falling and to present you unblemished (blameless and faultless) before the presence of His glory – with unspeakable, ecstatic delight – in triumphant joy and exultation, to the one only God, our Saviour through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory (splendour), majesty, might and dominion, and power and authority, before all time and now and forever – unto all the ages of eternity. Amen.’