"I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name's sake. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one." (1 John 2:12-14)We are born anew as children in Christ. As children we have come to know the Father and to receive and experience His forgiveness. Our sins are covered and we begin a relationship with God our Father. As we grow into young men and women of God we grow strong in His word and this strength helps us to overcome the evil one. Not only have our sins been forgiven but we are learning to live holy and righteous lives; His word is helping us to avoid sin and defeat the evil one. As we become mature in God we come into a greater and fuller knowledge of Him whom is from everlasting to everlasting. Our knowledge of Him grows to where He becomes our all-in-all and fills every part of us. We become satisfied, not with the things He has to offer, but with Him alone.
Full-grown men and women of God know God, but what does it mean to know God? God describes Himself this way in Jeremiah.
"Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things." (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
Those who know God have come to know His character and nature, that He is a god of lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness. However, later on God adds,
" 'Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. He pled the cause of the afflicted and needy; then it was well. Is not that what it means to know Me?" Declares the Lord." (Jeremiah 22:15-16)
To know God is not only to know about Him but also to imitate Him in His nature and character. It is evident that the man that God was describing above knew God because he imitated God; God is a God of justice and he did justice, God is a God of righteousness and he did righteousness God is a God of lovingkindness and he demonstrated lovingkindness by pleading the cause of the lowly. To know God is to imitate God. We can claim all the knowledge of God we wish, but if our lives do not imitate His then our claims are hollow.
Jesus, in reminding His disciples to love one another said,
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35)
It was not that they were just to love one another, but they were to love one another as Christ had loved them. Their love for one another was to be in imitation of His loved for them. This is how the world was to recognize them as His disciples, not that they loved, but that they loved as Christ loved; that the disciples had become like their teacher and had learned to love.
It is God's will and purpose that we might be remade, or renewed, into the image of His Son. Paul reminds us,
"For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren." (Romans 8:29)
God desires, not one Son, but many sons and daughters all made in His image; many sons and daughters all imitating His Christ. God's desire is to fulfill His original intent for mankind.
"Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness' ... God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." (Genesis 1:26-27)
We are all made in His image in that we are all rational and creative beings and that we bear the same nature as our creator, a nature that longs for righteousness, justice, and lovingkindness. However, we have all come short of His likeness.
"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23)
Many of the early christian writers distinguished between the image and likeness of God. One we have by birth and the other that we are regaining by re-birth. Clement of Alexandria writes of this when he says,
"It is time, then, for us to say that the pious Christian alone is rich and wise, and of noble birth, and thus call and believe him to be God’s image, and also His likeness, having become righteous and holy and wise by Jesus Christ, and so far already like God. Accordingly this grace is indicated by the prophet, when he says, 'I said that ye are gods, and all sons of the Highest.' " (Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Heathen, Chapter 12)
The full-grown man and woman of God is one who truly know God and one who, in that knowledge, imitates God in both his character and actions. The full-grown man and woman of God has come full-circle to find what had once been lost and to regain what had once been taken, to find themselves renewed into the likeness of God, to become "gods and all sons and daughters of the Highest."