Volume. XXVIII, No. 16
Sunday, 20 October 2013


OUR GLORIOUS ADOPTION PART 2 ITS STRIKING ENIGMA


This article was published on 12 May 2013 in the weekly of New Life B-P Church, London. It is by Rev Richard Brooks. Reprinted with permission from Free Church Witness magazine dated September 2007)

The second of three devotional articles based on 1John 3:1-3, originally delivered at the 2006 School in Theology at Larbert.

"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." 1 John 3: 1-3

Do you ever feel that people don’t understand you – or that you scarcely understand yourself? The question, ‘Who am I?’, sounds almost corny or amusing, even though it is often presented as one of the deepest philosophical questions of all time. Yet if you are a Christian, who are you? You are a child of God. It’s the glorious truth of our adoption, or sonship: that act of God’s free grace whereby He receives us into the company of His children/family and gives to us all the rights and privileges of the divine family.

In our previous article we spoke of the marvel and of the blessings of being children of God. We proceed now to consider the enigma of it. John writes in 1John 3:1-2 of the present hidden secret and the future revealed secret of our adoption.

The flow of what he says is as follows:

v1b-2a: the world does not know us nor comprehend us, it cannot make sense of us. We are a great mystery to people. v2b: yet in due time this mystery will be revealed, all will be made clear for everyone to see. When that happens, two things will stand out: our likeness to God (‘we shall be like him’) and our vision of God (‘we shall see him as he is’).

1. A Secret Hidden

The world in its natural state (at enmity with God, separated from Christ, devoid of the Spirit, walking in darkness) cannot figure out either the true Christian or the true church. Don’t let that surprise you – and certainly don’t let it dishearten you, undermine your assurance or derail your Christian life or ministry!

We are an enigma to the world. And this is how it should be. The Lord Jesus Christ was an enigma. People could not make sense of Him. Even those who were drawn most closely to Him could not always fully ‘make Him out’, and some (even at times among His own actual family) were strongly against Him and considered Him ‘mad’. So if He was an enigma, so shall we be.

There is something about a Christian, a child of God, that cannot be explained. And, I underscore again, this is exactly how it ought to be. After all: we are partakers of the divine nature; we hold communion and fellowship with the living God in each of His three persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit); we are ushered (in measure) into the understanding of divine mysteries by the Spirit; we are ‘in’ the world without being ‘of ’ it; we are heirs of God, co-heirs with Christ, citizens of heaven. Have we ourselves grasped all of that? So shall we expect the world to do so? And the world reacts to this enigma in various ways. At the ‘softest’ end it couldn’t care less and carries on as if we didn’t even exist. Then it turns to laughter, mockery, character assassination and the laying of snares. Ultimately it can respond by way of victimisation, persecution and even murder.

As Horatius Bonar expressed it:

‘It is the way the Master went;
Should not the servant tread it still?’

The great mistake that Christians and churches so easily make in the light of this is to seek to be more ‘like’ the world. It is the worst thing we can do! Yet even so much of Reformed evangelicalism has done this and is doing it.

2. A Secret Revealed

Yet whatever the world does not and cannot know about who and what we are, we know something very special: we shall be like our God and we shall see our God. And, of course, there is a rich and vital connection between the two, because it is the pure in heart who shall see God (Mt.5:8); it is those who pursue holiness who shall see the Lord (Heb.12:14); and it is those upon whose foreheads is His name written who shall see His face (Rev.22:4). The little word almost at the end of 1John 3:2, translated ‘for’ or ‘because’ establishes this essential connection. At the moment our adoption is very much a secret hidden, but it will not always remain so.

At this point it is instructive to raise a translation query. The statement ‘when he shall appear’ is regularly taken as a reference to the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (oh! glorious day!) as being the time and context of the secret hidden becoming the secret revealed. Certainly the second coming has just been mentioned by John in 2:28, and so it makes complete sense to render the phrase in 3:2 as ‘when he shall appear’. But we are not bound to translate it that way. The original will bear the alternative translation ‘it’ – hence ‘when it shall appear’. ‘It’? What is ‘it’? The secret! When the secret is revealed. Thus the flow of the context is this: right now we are the
children of God, yet it doesn’t yet appear what we shall be – but we know this, that ‘when it shall appear’ (in the sense of ‘when it does appear’) then will be the time when ‘we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is’. The ‘him’ and ‘he’ refer to God the Father, in the face of the Lord Jesus Christ. At the end of the day, we do not have to make a choice between the renderings ‘when he shall appear’ or ‘when it shall appear’. Both are possible. Both enrich what John is declaring. And if you are minded to argue that, either way, it will all happen at the second coming anyway – fair enough!

Our likeness to God: ‘we shall see him’. Breathtaking! Like God! Godly through and through! No more, ‘O wretched man that I am!’ Then it really will be ‘like Father, like son’. No more ‘fightings without and fears within’. Robert Candlish has written: ‘The crowning glory and joy of sonship is to be like Him whose sons we are’. It will be Christ formed in us – at last! The secret about us will have been revealed: just what it is that explains and accounts for us, makes us ‘tick’.

Our vision of God: ‘we shall see him as he is’. Another word for ‘vision’ would be ‘sight’. This is what is called ‘the beatific vision’, ‘beatific’ signifying blessed beyond words or imagination. It means seeing the king in his beauty (Is.33:17), beholding God’s face (that face which has shone upon us all the way through our pilgrimage to heaven).

Thomas Watson expounds it as a transparent sight (unveiled, clear, perfect); a transcendent sight (all-surpassing in its glory); a transforming sight (we shall be changed into His glory); a joyful sight (filled with joy in His presence); a satisfying, an unwearying and a beneficial sight; a perpetual sight (it will never grow dim nor fade away); a speedy sight (immediately upon death). And note this detail: ‘we shall see him as he is’. Not partially, but completely. Not blurredly, but focussedly. Not ‘mistakenly’, but accurately. And not distantly, but intimately.

Next week: Our Glorious Adoption Part 3 - It’s Purifying Hope.

More Lively Hope

 

Announcements

Special thanks to Rev Jim Keatch & Pembroke School for allowing us to worship at RA Cook Chapel last Lord’s Day at short notice.
*Worship Services will be held at St Augustine’s Anglican Church until further notice.
*Christmas Concert rehearsals began yesterday at the home of Elder David & Sis Giok Yeo. All are encouraged to join. For further details, please see Sis Sally Teng.
*No Tiny Tots Sing-a-long on Tues due to unavailability of location.
*Demolition of damaged ceilings in Sanctuary completed. Repair work has commenced.
*Lost & Found: an umbrella and a lunch box left behind at RA Cook Chapel last Lord’s Day.

Praise & Thanksgiving
Journey mercies: Ps Okman & Sis Myung Ki (London); Deaconess Joyce Gong (Adl); Sisters Mary Ting (Syd) & Amy Wong (Adl); & others who are travelling.  
God’s provision: places for worship (Pembroke & St Augustine’s) while demolition and repairs are being carried out.
Church Activities in the past week.
God’s daily mercy, guidance & blessings.
Visitors & new worshippers.
Thanksgiving today: Life BPC - 63rd Anniversary (S’pore) & Ebenezer BPC - 14th Anniversary (Melb).

Prayer Items
Health & God’s healing - Dr Gary Cohen (USA), Dr SH Tow (S’pore); Pastor Okman & Sis Myung Ki (S’pore); Rev Edward (post-op recovery) & Sis Lehia Paauwe; Rev George van Buuren; Bro Colin & Sis Kathleen Creaser; Bro Len & Sis Margaret Pearson; Preacher Zhang (Sihanoukville); Grandpa Ki (S’pore); Bros Surish Dharmalingam (Laos), Elton Law & Kang Fun Tan (S’pore); Sisters Lai Kheng Chiong, Margaret Hooper, Grace Gan’s father (healing), Choon Fong Lee (KL), Corinne Teng, Susan Varadi, Sylvia White & Sis Mavis Wong’s mother (salvation & healing); Mr Swee Liang Ng; Mr Mang Soo Ong; Bro Peng Cheong Wong (Dn Wai Kin Wong’s father); Mrs Maggie D’Mello; Mr Tony Zhang; & others in affliction.
Special Prayer: Bro Yaw Chiew Tan (Chemotherapy): Bro Edwin D’Mello’s sister (Jennifer) with Dengue fever; Sis Margaret Pearson  - healing, rehab & health & Sis Nita Chong’s cousin (Mr Seck Aik Foo - salvation & healing).
iSketch & Tell Studio, YouTube Ministry & preparation for Ordination: Ps Hai Seng Lim.
Cambodia Missions - Life University (Sihanoukville)
Ministry in New Life BPC (London) & God’s guidance for the future: Ps & Sis Ki. Ps Ki’s sponsorship & UK visa issues.
Ministry in Hope BPC - God’s guidance for future - Preacher David & Sis Susan Weng.  
Journey mercies: Sisters Mary Ting (Adl) & Amy Wong; Bros Raymond Ang & Daniel Volvricht (NT/Adl); & those travelling.
Interpreters of sermon into Mandarin.
Job - Bros Timothy Ngoma & Jonathan Liao (Syd); Sisters Xiao Hui Chye, Corinne Teng & Sharon Ying (Per); & others looking for  stable jobs.
Australian Visas - Sisters Clara Sim & Sharon Ying (Perth - for PR).
Hope BPC - new Pastor; God’s wisdom & encouragement for 7th Session & congregation.
Year 12 students: for strength & encouragement in their studies.
Federal, State & Territory Parliaments not to pass laws favouring same sex marriages.
Repairs at Sanctuary & library to be completed without delays, accidents & problems.

 

 

© Hope Bible-Presbyterian Church
PO Box 398, Fullarton, Adelaide, South Australia 5063