WHAT IT MEANS TO BE HIS OWN
He came to His own, and His own did not receive
Him. (John 1:11)
If we believe God knows all things
(Ps 139:1-6; Rev 1:8), we will realize that what John’s gospel describes in
John 1:11 depicts the full extent of God’s love. For even before God came to
His own, God knew His own would not receive Him. Yet, God still came and made
known His love to those whom He called “His own.”
This is the greatness of God’s
love over human love.
THE DEFINITION AND CONCEPT OF “HIS OWN”
The Greek lexical form of “his
own” in John’s gospel is idios, which is where we get English words like
“idiom,” “idiosyncrasy,” and “idiot.” Thayer’s and Smith’s Bible Dictionary
defines idios as “pertaining to one's self, one's own, belonging to one’s
The self-identifying aspect in the
definition of “His own” must be distinguished from the distinction between
“owner” and “owned.” The distinction between “owner” and “owned” helps us
understand how being “His own” is separate and distinct from being God.
But the self-identifying aspect
between “owner” and “owned” helps us realize that an owner should, in some
sense, be revealed by what he calls “His own” (cf. 1 Cor 6:19-20).
GOD REVEALS HIMSELF TO HIS OWN
So how is God revealed? And how do
we come to know God?
We might not think much about
questions like these in our day-to-day life. Like most people, we probably
immerse ourselves in our daily tasks and forget that which we cannot see. And
since nobody has ever seen God (Jn ),
God becomes a distant reality—a myth and a fiction (cf. Ps 14:1f; 2 Pet 3:3f).
But John emphasized a different
message: although no one has ever seen God, God became flesh to live and dwell
among us, so we could both see and touch Him whom no person has ever seen (1 Jn
1:1; 4:12; Ex 33:18-20).
John’s gospel teaches that the
greatness of our faith is revealed when we have faith without seeing (Jn ). Yet, John understood that
people often need to see to believe (Jn 20:30-31).
So although the Bible describes
God as one no man has seen or can see (1 Tim ; cf. Jn ),
it also teaches us that God must be revealed in ways that can both be seen and
believed; an expression of love.
Jesus Personifies God’s Love
John says that a person who does
not know how to love does not know God, for God is love, and Jesus Christ came
to reveal God’s love to us.
The Bible describes the love
revealed through Jesus Christ in this way: Jesus came to be an atoning
sacrifice for our sins (1 Jn 4:8-10; cf. Jn 14:9-10).
So Jesus said, “Greater love has
no one than this…to lay down one’s life for his friends” (Jn 15:3). In another
place, John describes this love as a love that loves “to the end” (Jn 13:1).
There is no greater love than a love that loves to the end, for this type of
love does not seek its own selfish gain but surrenders its life for others (1
Such was the love possessed by
the Lord in John 13:1.
John 13:1-20 illustrates the
depth of the Lord’s love for His own in an unforgettable way; it was unforgettable
because it was true. And that truth—that realness—once felt, is hard to forget.
If we ever saw such a love, we would not forget.
At the last supper, Jesus sat
among His disciples as both Lord and master.
But then the Lord Jesus removed
Himself from His seat. After He left His seat, Jesus set aside His garments and
girded Himself with a towel—taking the form of a servant. The transformation of
the Lord to a servant must have greatly astonished Jesus’ disciples. How much
more surprised were they when the Lord began to wash their feet? (Jn 13:4-5).
Jesus’ willingness to take the
form of a servant before His disciples reminds us that God, likewise, took the
form of a man to serve man (Phil 2:6-7). Though He had every right to be served
as a king, Jesus did not come to be served but to serve and give His life as a
ransom for others (Mt ).
THE CHURCH IS HIS OWN
To Have Part with Jesus
Through Jesus’ sacrifice, the
Lord effected the gathering of God’s fallen people to Himself (Ezek 36:24; Jn
12:32; 17:21; Eph 2:13, 17f), a concept of “the church.”
Jesus came to save and restore
God’s fallen people (Mt ;
Lk ) and to gather
what had been scattered (cf. Gen 11:7-9; Acts 2:4-6). In John’s gospel, the
concept of God’s restored people is found in the concept of “His own,” which is
related to the concepts of “church” and “fellowship.”
To understand the relationship
between “His own” and “church,” we must first understand that the church is
more than a mere building or human organization. The church is the body of
Christ (Eph -23) and
consists of the fellowship of those people especially chosen and purchased by
God’s blood (Acts ).
Going back to John Chapter 13,
Jesus tells Peter that if He does not wash his feet Peter will have no part
with Him (Jn 13:8).
Peter’s not having a part with
Jesus did not simply mean that Peter would no longer see or associate with
Jesus in a physical sense, for when Jesus said, “If I do not wash you, you will
have no part with Me,” Jesus knew full well He would soon depart soon and could
no longer be physically present with His disciples (Jn 13:1).
So Jesus was not focused on
having continued physical fellowship with Peter; rather, Jesus was teaching
Peter about the importance of spiritual fellowship with Him as “His own,” which
should be contrasted against Judas Iscariot’s rejection of fellowship with the
Lord as “His own” (Jn 13:10f; Acts 1:17-20).
From Jesus’ conversation with
Peter in John Chapter 13, we realize that “having a part” with Jesus implies
more than having a part with Jesus in a physical sense; it implicates our
fellowship with the Lord on an even deeper level—spiritually—as “His own.”
So when Jesus knew His hour of
departure had come, Jesus focused His teachings to His disciples on the
promised Holy Spirit—to highlight the importance His disciples’ continued
spiritual fellowship with Him (John 13-17).
Jesus had to depart from His
disciples after His death and resurrection (Jn ), so the Holy Spirit became the new basis for fellowship
with the Lord. This “spiritual fellowship” was fully realized in the church, on
Pentecost, when God’s Spirit was poured out according to the prophets (Acts
2:1, 16-21, 41-42; cf. 1 Jn 4:12f; Jn ).
In John 16:14, Jesus told His
disciples about the Comforter—the Spirit of truth—who would “take of what is
Mine [i.e., of Jesus] and declare it to you.” So the Holy Spirit reveals the
Lord Jesus—His Spirit—to His disciples.
The practical application of this
revealing of the Spirit of the Lord is found in 1 John 1:3, which says, “[T]hat
which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have
fellowship with us…” 1 John 1:3 is essentially a teaching about the basis of
our fellowship in the Lord: sharing what we have seen and heard from the Lord
After the Spirit reveals the Lord
to us, practically speaking, we need to declare the Lord to others (cf. 2 Cor -18). That is the natural
progression of God’s revelation.
But if our fellowship is devoid
of the Spirit, our fellowship cannot declare or manifest the Lord to others.
Without the Lord’s Spirit, our declarations are no more than declarations of
the human spirit. However noble the human spirit, the church must declare the
Lord with the power of His Spirit (1 Cor 2:4; Rom 15:19; 1 Thess 1:5).
When we realize the Spirit is the
source of strength in our fellowship, we will begin to realize the invaluable
role the Holy Spirit plays in guiding the church. Furthermore, we will better
appreciate the Spirit of fellowship and gathering that alone can truly reveal
the Lord to others.
For others to identify and see
God in our gathering, we must reveal the Spirit of the Lord, which is love.
Jesus said, “[Love] one another; as I have loved you…By this all will know that
you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:34f).
The church is not God; it can
never replace God. But the church is an extension of God in the world—having a
part with Him as His own. And as His own, the church has an affirmative duty to
reveal God in ways others can see and touch—just as Jesus did.
LOVE UNVEILS US AS HIS OWN
Armed with an understanding of
what it means to be “His own” in John’s gospel, we must realize that love is
the highest expression of idios.
But love is just a word—and idios just a concept—until
it is revealed in real and concrete ways. True love should be vibrant enough to
reveal itself to a world living in darkness.
In the same way, the truth of the
gospel remains a theory until it is tangibly revealed.
Jesus did not just speak the truth;
He revealed it in tangible ways. When crowds of sick and diseased people
surrounded the Lord, despite being exhausted, He saw the peoples’ needs and not
their potential to burden Him (Mt 9:35f).
And by this we learn from the Lord
what it means to represent God in the world, for we are sent into the world just
as He was (Jn 17:18, 20f).
Jesus once presented a challenge
to Philip as they were facing a multitude of hungry people: “Where shall we buy
bread, that these may eat?” (Jn 6:5f) It was a challenge of faith.
But it was also a challenge of
It reminds us of another challenge
Jesus presented: “The harvest truly is plentiful but the laborers are few” (Mt ). Without love, who will reap
Today, the mission of the True
Jesus Church stands or falls, not based on our wisdom, our knowledge, or our
skill, but upon our willingness to reveal God’s truth in love.
Doctrinal truth and apologetics,
while vital aspects of the church’s ministry, should not overtake the practical
aspect of the church’s mission—reflecting God’s nature through justice and
through love (Lk ).
Love should not to be reflected towards ourselves alone but also to the world
If we have a part with the Lord,
then we are called to be “His own.” This is a special privilege that beckons us
to fulfill the Lord’s commissions and live out the truth He entrusted to us.
As His own, we must come to
realize that just as Jesus revealed God, who is true (Jn ; 1 Jn ), we are entrusted by God to concretely reveal the
true Jesus to the world. This is the essence of the True Jesus Church.
The first two verses referring to
“His own” in John’s gospel (i.e., Jn ,
41) reflect both the progression of God’s revelation to the world and the
mission of God’s true church.
First Verse: John 1:11 reveals
how Jesus came to His own, which is a revelation of Him who is true (God) to
Second Verse: John 1:41 reveals
how John the Baptist witnessed about the Lord Jesus to Andrew, who then found his
own brother, Peter, and witnessed to him.
Following the progression of
these two verses, the first verse is an expression of God’s revealing to the
world through Jesus and the second an expression of our revealing of God to
others through witnessing.
But we must have a deeper
understanding of “His own” in these two verses, for the two verses are,
foremost, an expression of love, without which there is no meaning (1 Cor
In order to reveal God to the
world (i.e., Jn ) and
make others (who do not know the Lord) “His own” (i.e., Jn ), the church must reveal the Lord through
For without love Jesus would not
bother coming to His own, especially when His own would not receive Him.
Without love, Andrew would not bother witnessing to his own brother, Peter, and
the church would be missing a pillar (Gal 2:9).
Therefore, love is fundamental to
the mission of the True Jesus Church. Without it, God’s true church remains
veiled, and the “invisible church” remains invisible.
So how do we love? John encouraged
us to love, not in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth (1 Jn 3:18).
Apostle Paul summarized love’s
practical application for us in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:
Love suffers long and is kind
Love does not envy
Love does not parade itself, is not puffed up
Love does not behave rudely, does not seek its
own, is not provoked
Love thinks no evil
Love does not rejoice in iniquities, but
rejoices in the truth
Love bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things
If we can apply these principles
of love to our own life, we will be well on our way to learning how to love
just as the Lord loved.
Let’s study a final example of
love from John’s gospel. In John 19:26f, as Jesus was crucified on the cross,
Jesus saw both His mother and His beloved disciple underneath the cross.
Jesus’ mother, Mary, was the only
person to witness both the Savior’s birth and His death. To give birth to the
Jesus was not an easy task for Mary to bear (Mt 1:18f; ). But to see her own son die on a cross
like a common thief, as a mother, must have been even more unbearable.
But hanging on the cross, Jesus
entrusted His beloved disciple with an important mission. Jesus turned to His
mother and said, “Behold your son…” Then, turning to His beloved disciple, He
said, “Behold your mother…” The beloved disciple understood completely.
After the cross, Jesus knew He
could no longer be a son to His mother, so Jesus turned to His beloved
disciple. And from that time forward the beloved disciple did what Jesus could
not: he took Jesus’ mother into his own home.
This reminds us about how we love.
The highest form of idios is love
and to know how to love is what it truly means to be “His own.” For we are
ambassadors of Christ to the world—reconciling, representing, and revealing an
unseen God to a world living in darkness (2 Cor 5:18-20).
Through us others can see God’s
presence and feel God’s love in real and concrete ways (1 Jn ). As “His own,” we bear the
responsibility of love, for we have each been graced with a love that loved us
to the very end.
God loved and continues to love
“His own” in the world with a great love. But if that grain of truth cannot
find root in our heart, we will continue to be oblivious to how we ought to
receive His love.
The truth of John 1:11, then,
remains just as true today as it did many years ago: “He came to His own, and
His own did not receive Him.” And if that is the ultimate truth, we must all
bear responsibility for it.
And we know that the Son of God has come and has
given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him
who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. (1