28 And now, little children, abide in Him; in order that, when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at His coming. 29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that every one that does righteousness is born of him1 John 2:28-29
John is bringing this particular section in for a landing. Like a skilled composer he has introduced themes and motifs that continue to build and crescendo throughout his letter. Here he introduces a glorious note which will grow in glory as the argument continues: confidence in our union with God. Our fellowship with God by abiding in Christ brings confidence, and leaves no room for shame. Abiding in the true Gospel is not only how we avoid being seduced by the false gospels of antichrists, it also brings confidence. Many saints have struggled with assurance of salvation, but this is a trumpet blast of boldness that should rally the confidence of even the most feeble and doubting saint. Have you been joined to the Father through baptism into Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh? Then have confidence that when He comes you will not need be ashamed.
This is true generally for the believer, but John also introduces a new component, that of Christ’s appearing. This reference to Christ’s coming, or parousia, raises the question of which coming is being referred to here. Consistently in the NT this refers to Christ’s own prediction (Cf. Mt. 24) of His coming in judgement on unbelieving Jerusalem. If we take John to be referring to this event, this fortifies the view that John is writing prior to Jerusalem’s fall. Now, of course the Fall of Jerusalem (which John calls Egypt & Babylon in his apocalyptic vision) itself points towards Christ’s final coming to “judge the quick and the dead”. We should also be free to apply this as a principle when it comes to each of our individual deaths. For the saint, Christ comes to us in our death; thus we should live accordingly, by remaining in the unction with which He has anointed us, abiding in the faith once delivered to us.
But for the saints John is writing to, they were on the cusp of world-altering convulsions. The persecutions and upheavals on the near horizon should not rattle them, for they abide in the Christ who is coming to bring judgement on Jerusalem. Those who abide in Him need not fear this judgement, but join in singing the song of the heavenly saints: “Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God: For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. And again they said, Alleluia. And her smoke rose up for ever and ever (Rev 19:1-3).”
Verse 29 finishes the thought found in verse 24 that abiding in the Son means you are abiding in the Father also. Knowing Christ the Righteous (Cf. 2:1) enables the saint to recognize the proof of those who are born of Him. Seeing Christ as our righteousness, far from producing moral laxness, brings forth the moral uprightness which can only come by being born of Him. A finer point of doctrinal clarification should be mentioned here, we are born of God the Father through Christ. The “Him” should be taken as referring to the Father, rather than the Son.
Finally, one commentator makes a wonderful exegetical point about the mood of the verb εἰδῆτε (you know): “It enfeebles the sentence to take the verb as indicat[ive].1” John is exhorting believers to take this knowledge up, that in so doing they might see also the birthmark of those begotten of God. Good works spring from this simple faith. Christ is righteous, rest in it, have confidence in it, and so also recognize those born of God, yourself included.
1 Smith, David. The Expositors Greek Testament. Edited by W. Robertson Nicoll. Vol. Five. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1979. Pg 182
- 1 John 3:23-24 | The Nail in Timidity’s Coffin
- 1 John 3:19-22 | God is Greater than Our Hearts
- 1 John 3:13-18 | The World Hates You
- 1 John 3:10-12 | Children of God, Children of the Devil
- 1 John 3:7-9 | To Destroy the Works of the Devil
- 1 John 3:4-6 | Sin is Lawlessness
- 1 John 3:1-3 | What Unearthly Love
- 1 John 2:28-29 | A Trumpet Blast for Feeble Saints
- 1 John 2:24-27 | The Pastoral Prerogative for Run-on Sentences
- 1 John 2:20-23 | Knowing All Things