Those who have the certain hope of being resurrected and glorified to join the Son in His everlasting rule live a life of ethical cooperation with the Holy Spirit to be made pure, outfitted just as Jesus is for the Father’s holy use.
If you’ve had or have small children, you’re likely very familiar with the following scenario. Your son wearing his father’s baseball cap as he’s about to run into a wall he can’t see. Your daughter tottering about in her mom’s shoes. It’s cute and heartwarming to see their attempts to imitate you or your spouse, but their efforts are all the more striking for a reason we often don’t recall. Our children, on the basis of both nature and nurture, are bound to grow up to look and act just like us. Yet, they see us and want to do all they can to be like us as we are now, headwear and footwear included. They’re eager to grow up. They just can’t wait.
There’s a similar dynamic at work in 1 John 3:3: “And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure” (1 John 3:3, NRSV). Here, John writes to Christians about the relationship between being God’s true children and one’s ethical or moral life as such. Understanding what John says here is key for us as we seek to live in light of who Christ is and who we are now (as well as who we are not yet) in Him. To do this, we need to look closely at the nature and content of the hope that all God’s true children are said to possess in Christ. This will help clarify what it means to say that all God’s children purify themselves and what connection this has with the fact that Christ is pure.
To begin, John clearly identifies God’s true children as possessing “this” hope. He wants us to recall the specific promise of which he just spoke in the preceding context. From the very beginning of the letter, he has addressed his Christian readers as “children.” More than simply a title of affection, this term leads to the great expression in 3:1: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” This speaks of God’s adoption of us through our union with Christ, His beloved and only begotten Son. All the benefits and blessings Jesus received as God’s Son with respect to His humanity are now shared and held by all those who have been placed in Him and united with Him through faith. As Paul says, “If children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17).