Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Imitating Christ in John's Writings

Imitation is an important part of the Christian life.  We imitate those around us whether we want or not. No doubt this is part of the reason for Paul’s command to avoid bad company (I Cor. 15:33).  Paul also encourages his readers to imitate him as he imitates Christ (I Cor. 4:16, 11:1). Our entire Christian life is summed up as becoming a disciple and obeying everything Christ taught (Matthew 28:18-20).  Fundamentally this means looking to and like Jesus.

In John’s writing there is an emphasis on imitating Christ. This begins in John’s Gospel and carries through in his Epistles. Throughout this post I am going to focus on places where John uses the word “kathos,” which is usually translated “just as” or “as” in the English.  Here are the places where John focuses on imitation using the word "kathos." Each use of the word makes a comparison between us and Christ. 

Summary of "Kathos" in John’s Gospel
  • We are to serve one another just as Jesus served us (John 13:15).
  • We are to love one another just as Christ loved us (John 13:33, 15:12). 
  • We are not of this world, just as Jesus was not of this world (John 17:14, 16).
  • We are sent into the world, just as the Father sent the Son into the world (John 17:18). 
  • We are to be one, just as the Father and Son are one (John 17:11, 21-22).
  • We are to be one so the world will know that we are loved by the Father just as the Son is loved by the Father (John 17:23). 
What is most striking to me from this list is how we are sent into the world just as Jesus was sent into the world. Our mission is a similar mission to the mission of our Savior. He is gone, but his work continues through his Spirit empowered people. Do we view our mission as a continuation of the work of Christ? Many commentators note that when Luke wrote Acts he used language that linked up the work of the early church with the work of Christ.

Summary of "Kathos" in John’s Epistles
  • If we are to abide in the Father we must walk just as the Son did (I John 2:6). 
  • When we get to heaven we will see Christ just as he is and therefore we will be like him (I John 3:2). 
  • Those who look forward to seeing Christ purify themselves just as Christ is pure (I John 3:3).
  • The one lives a righteous life is righteous just as Jesus is righteous (I John 3:7)
  • We are not to be just as Cain was, a murderer (I John 3:12).
  • We are in this world just as He is in this world (I John 4:17). 
  • We are to walk in the truth just as the Father commanded us to (II John 1:4, III John 1:3). 
The two uses of “kathos” in 2nd and 3rd John are interesting. Both of these are connected with walking in the truth. II John 1:4 says that John was glad that some children were walking in the truth just as the Father commanded. In III John 1:3 he is glad because Gaius is in the truth, just as he is walking in the truth. While there is no specific mention of Jesus, John tells us that Jesus is the Truth (John 14:6) and the idea of  walking is associated with being like Christ (I John 2:6).  So I think we can say that John is glad that his children and Gaius are walking in the truth, just as Jesus walked in the truth.

John says we will be like Jesus when we get to Heaven and see him. But he also says that the one who does righteousness is just like Jesus right now. Here is the classic already/not yet paradigm. We are already like Jesus. We have been sent by the Father, we do righteousness, we purify ourselves, etc. But we are not yet like Jesus. We will not be truly like him until we see him face to face. The future hope of seeing Jesus helps conform our present lives to his image. 

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Let the saints be joyful in glory, let them sing aloud on their beds, let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations, and punishments on the peoples; to bind the kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron. Psalm 149:5-8