The Purifying Effect of Looking at Christ

See 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. 2 Beloved, 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. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
1 John 3:1-3

In 1 John 3:1-3, the author speaks of that great day when we will see Christ face to face. He admits that it is not entirely clear what this will entail, but he does assert on thing very confidently: “when he appears we shall be like him because we shall see him as he is.” But being transformed into the image of Christ is not something that is only a future hope. In the very next verse John asserts “everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” As I read the text, it seems to me that the implication is that in our present condition we are also purified as look upon Christ. In our present condition that looking takes place as we “see” Christ in the proclamation and incarnation of the gospel with the eyes of faith. (Cp. the similar line of through in Paul at 2 Cor 3:18-4:6)

Central, then, to growth in holiness (or as it is sometimes called today “spiritual formation”) is looking at Christ.

5 thoughts on “The Purifying Effect of Looking at Christ”

  1. In looking at 1 John 3, I also noticed Titus 2:11ff parallels it as well: Christ brings salvation, Christians are to be living pure lives (right now)… while looking for the blessed hope of His appearing!

  2. Well said! I think there is a common (mis)belief that death saves. Believers start seeing death as a good thing that will change us, “free” us from our sinful bodies and make us like Christ. They miss the point you have made: death doesn’t change us, seeing Christ changes us. And we can see Christ now, and become more and more like him now.

  3. I wonder if John could close his eyes and still see the real face of Jesus. I wonder if that image faded with time and he longed for the day when he could see that face clearly again, and with his eyes open. I wonder if the hope of seeing Jesus again and the memory of the time they shared together also helped motivate him to keep himself pure. Just wondering.

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