“In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.”
the children of God and the children of the devil
We find only two classes of people in the world – the children of God and the children of the Devil. John distinguishes between God’s children and the children of the Devil. There is an obvious distinction between them.
All non-Christians are the children of the Devil. The unbeliever is under the absolute control of his sin capacity. He does not possess a divine capacity, so he cannot produce anything from God.
The one thing that the believer has that distinguishes him from non-Christians is his divine nature, the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. The indwelling in itself is not enough; he must also allow the Holy Spirit to control or fill him. The Christian receives the indwelling of the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation. God never commands him to be indwelt with the Spirit. However, God does command the believer to be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18).
The whole thrust of verse 10 is to show how to distinguish between absolutes. Christians can imitate the children of the Devil, or they can produce the character of Christ. The characteristics of the unbeliever are one thing, and the characteristics of God are another.
The Christian and the non-Christian have two different natures that produce two different results.
Earlier in the chapter, John said, “it does not appear what we shall be” (1 Jn 3:2), yet in this passage, he says that the children of God are “manifest.” It is already abundantly clear what a Christian in fellowship is. He stands in stark contrast to what the world stands for.
Not all children of the Devil sin crudely. Some of them sin in sophisticated ways. Not all of them are violent or openly immoral. Some of them are very religious and moral. The Devil’s ministers are “ministers of righteousness” (2 Co 11:14). They come with culture and high morality draped in religion. Jesus said to some of the most religious people of his day that they were of their father, the Devil (Jn 8:39-47). Jesus told a religious leader that he needed to be “born again” (Jn 3:3,7).
We do not mean by this to project the idea that “the children of God” are better than non-Christians. Our sin capacity is just as bad as any non-Christian’s sin capacity. We are far from perfect except for our judicial perfection in Christ.
A child of the Devil might pray regularly and attend church every Sunday. They can clean up the exterior of their lives so that they appear to be right. They have a form of righteousness but not the righteousness of God.
The Devil always sows his people among God’s people. That is why we have tares with wheat. It is important to distinguish between wheat and tares, true believers, and the fakers (Mt 13:36-39).
A believer down on fellow Christians does not love according to God’s standard of loving. He hates or despises his brother. He commits mental homicide. A person controlled by the Holy Spirit acts like the Spirit who produced a new nature in him.
Look at your life. If you hate someone, if you are bitter toward them, if you resent them, you are definitely 100% carnal. When our sin capacity controls us, we appear no different than the non-Christian. We may make respectable noises. We may look pious or spiritual, but we are out of fellowship. We might give generously and witness continuously, but we are out of fellowship. We are no different from the non-Christian except that we possess eternal life.