Many years ago, while going through old family photos we came across a picture of my brother-in-law as a boy and had to call over one of my nephews. “Who does this look like?” we asked the young fellow. The answer was pretty obvious (we thought), for the picture of the Father and the son standing there looking at it were the spitting image of one another. It was like looking at the very same person. But our nephew didn’t see it. “I don’t know” he said “Who is it?” “Doesn’t your dad look just like you?” we asked. “But I don’t even have that shirt,” was his skeptical reply. Thus proving that He was just like his father in more than just good looks.
Dear friends in Christ, I know that you all bear some resemblance to a mother or a father, perhaps an uncanny likeness to an aunt or an uncle or grandparent generations removed. And that’s a good thing. A right thing. It’s part of being a family. But did you know that beyond those resemblances, you bear an even more striking likeness to your heavenly Father, and your Saviour Brother? Perhaps you’ve never seen it. After all most of you don’t have the beard or the robes. So maybe you’ve never considered it. But others have noticed. At times, you are the spitting image. And that shouldn’t surprise you, for that’s what happens in families.
2Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. By nature we once were the children of wrath and of satan, but now, through Holy Baptism, we have become the very children of God. Of that fact we are assured in so many passages of Scriptures that there should be no doubt in your minds. Even if you don’t always look the part, or feel the part. This confidence in that spitting image should not be shaken either by the statement that what we shall be has not yet been manifested. There are some things you must grow into spiritually, just like you do your father’s hairy ears, or the family jowls.
Although we have the certainty of our sonship even now and enjoy many of its blessings, yet the full glory of our future state has not yet been revealed to us. But when that revelation will take place, on the day when Christ will appear to us in the fullness of His glory, then we shall be as nearly like the Lord as it is possible for creatures to become. On that day the image of God will be restored in us in all of its beauty and we will be holy and righteous before Him.
No longer shall we then view Him through a glass, darkly, in things like the Word and Sacraments, but we shall see God face to face, as He truly, divinely, and fully is. This seeing of God, this dwelling with God directly, will also be the means by which that image of God in us will ever again be renewed and kept in the fullness of its glory. That is the certain hope of the believers, a confidence which saw so many saints before us through the cares and sorrows of this life to their blessed end in Him.
Notice, dear family that the concept of fear in our meeting God face-to-face is totally absent from John’s words. We will not fear to gaze upon Jesus in the fullness of His heavenly glory on the last day because we ourselves will be changed. This sinful human nature, the root of evils and sin, will be finally destroyed. We will be the spitting image of the holy and perfect and sinless Jesus. But how? By Love.
1See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Behold that miracle, that mystery, that we should be honored with the name of children of God. You have been taken out of the state of wrath and damnation, sinner that you were, and have been born anew through the power of His Spirit in the Word. You are His own family, by blood and by water. By the Word of His eternal promise. Children of God, that is what we are by faith in Christ Jesus. Sons of God, led by the Spirit of God, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. The image of God, lost by the Fall, is being renewed in us once more, Christ Himself is being formed in us and through no work of our own we are looking more and more like Him everyday.
With this assurance in our hearts we can well bear what the apostle tells us: For this reason the world does not know us, because it does not know Him. The children of this world will not know, will not acknowledge us, will consider us beneath their notice, because we are the children of God. We look strange to them. We have too much of our father about us. We speak too much of our brother for their comfort. The life of faith is a mystery and threat to the world which fills itself with the lie. The lives of believers, simply by bearing the image of God, condemn everything which the world brags of and boasts about. The world did not know, and would not acknowledge God as the Lord. It does not accept Him in faith, and therefore it cannot long be comfortable around those who bear any passing resemblance to Him, or dare to speak of Him.
Yet God’s love for them, as it is for us, is a one-sided, unconditional love. It is the kind of love shown in Jesus, and all He did for us. A sacrificial, no-holds-barred type of love which will go any distance, pay any price, to reclaim even the most unlovable for God’s family. The Father’s love is so amazing because it is undeserved. The forgiveness Jesus won for us on the cross made us part of God’s family. And it can do the same for anyone!
3And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. Every one without exception that clings to this hope of the final glorious revelation, every one that rests his confidence in God, as the Author and Finisher of his salvation, will find themselves becoming the spitting image of that One upon whom their hopes rest. We have the example of Christ before our eyes always, as one who was perfectly pure and holy. We have the grace of God in Christ reminding us that even when we don’t live up to the standard, even when we don’t look or act so much as family might be expected to do … we still are. We are family and this hope nourishes and strengthens the new life which was created in us in regeneration unto the genuine righteousness of life.
It is a promise we can all grow into. Children grow up. They mature. They gain wisdom and stature. They acquire abilities. Whether they appreciate it at the time or not, they become more and more like their Father and Mother before them. So it is with Christians. On the last Day we will reach the maturity to which God called us when He created faith in us we will be the spitting image of our heavenly Father and our Saviour Brother… and it is all due solely to God’s amazing love for us, in Jesus.