1 John 2:12-14 - I Write These Things To You
I had lunch with Bill Yudchitz this week. Bill told me a story about a famous architect who was approaching his death and he decided that the best way to die would be to go swimming in the Mediterranean Sea and never come back to shore. So one day he stepped into the ocean and began to swim out to sea and he never returned.
That story made me think of these believers that John is writing too. They have found themselves swimming out into the rough seas of false teachers and their false teachings. John has come to them and dealt with them in this letter with the urgency that this situation demanded. John has spoken to them about the doctrinal test, the moral test and the relational test. John is about to give them a strong imperative command in verse 15, “Do not love the world or the things in the world.” Yet, John seems to sense that these believers may be overwhelmed and feeling like they are drowning in the rough waters that they are swimming in.
John realizes that it is now time to encourage these believers in 1 John 2:12-14 so he uses this text as an island of refuge for these weary believers. This section of the letter is meant to encourage and comfort these believers.
This Word could restore, strengthen and establish them before moving on into more things. So the apostle John pauses in this moment between his series of tests and imperative appeals so that sincere believers can receive some ‘consoling preaching’.
If these believers needed this moment of comfort by God’s Word then I need to ask you if you have taken the time to receive comfort from the Word of God this week?
One of the verses that greatly encouraged me this week was Psalm 138:1-3, “I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I will sing your praise; I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word. On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased.”
Our text this morning is 1 John 2:12-14,
I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name's sake. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
This sermon will contain four observations.
First, this is a message for men and women!
Secondly, a healthy church has people progressing in all levels of spiritual maturity.
Thirdly, We will look closer at the people spoken about
This Is A Message For Everyone!
At first glance we may think that John is only addressing children, young men and fathers. Most commentators, however, believe that when John speaks about children he is referring to the entire church as he does elsewhere. Then they believe that when he refer to the young men and fathers that he is referring to the different maturity levels of all of the people in the congregation.
This chapter begins in 1 John 2:1 with an address to the entire congregation, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.” And after our text today John addresses the entire congregation again in 2:18 by saying, “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that Antichrist is coming, so now many Antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.” And again in 2:28 John says, “And now, little children, abide in Him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from Him in shame at His coming.” John is addressing all of us!
Although John is addressing children, young men and fathers in this text it is to be received by everyone. Women should not think that this text is not for them.
Gayle Fox, Kris Burroughs and I gathered together in my office to watch some lectures that we have been going through. As we were watching the lecture the speaker asked a question, “Can a believer know that she is saved?”
When I heard him apply his question to women I found my heart crying out “I am a man but I want to experience this assurance. I want to live with a strong assurance of my salvation. I want to know beyond any shadow of doubt that God has given me eternal life.” For a brief moment, I was distracted from the message because of the pronoun that he had chosen to use. We all need assurance of salvation!
When he said, “Can a believer know that she is saved?”; it was clear that he was not implying that the need for assurance is only a woman’s issue. Every believer needs to know that they are saved.
I do not want any of the women who are here today to think that this text does not apply to you. Every woman knows that this text applies to you in all the practical ways that it would apply to men.
All believers need to grow and mature in their faith.
All believers will fight spiritual battles with the Word of God as their weapon.
All mature believers will come to experience and know God in a profound and practical way.
Dr. Peter Barns sums up our text today by saying, “All these descriptions when pulled together give a good definition of a Christian: they are forgiven for Christ’s sake; they know Christ; in Christ they have overcome Satan; and they are strong in the abiding Word of God.”
An Admonition For The Men
Having said this, I would ask that every man in this room pay particular attention to this text. There is not a woman here who would not…
celebrate and enjoy being in a church where the men are growing in their relationship with the LORD
who would not feel safe and secure when men are fighting victoriously in the spiritual battle that is before them through their use of the scriptures
who would not encourage the men in the church as they maturing, becoming spiritual fathers who know God, and as they make disciples and training others up in the truth of Scriptures.
We live in a time when the women often complain that chivalry is gone. And indeed, in this world it does often seem as though it is hard to find a man who reflects the best of what God would desire to see in us. But may the church be a place where chivalry is on full display.
Charles Spurgeon said something that may be strange to our modern ears. He said, “We do not send women and children to the battle-fields, nor do we march our recruits to war before they have been trained; neither should we expect raw youths and timid maidens to put on armor at once and face the adversaries of the gospel.” (We are not to be a church full of men like Barak in Judges 4 who would not obey the word of the LORD and go and fight the battle without taking the prophetess Deborah along with him.)
In these verses, John describes a beautiful picture of the growth, protection and stability that godly men can bring to their families and to our church family.
Men, we are to mature in our confidence that we have been saved from our +sins,
we are to engage in a spiritual battle, become strong in the Word of God and walk in the victory that was accomplished by Christ,
we are blessed to have mature men who know God and who set a godly example and actively disciple others in the truth.
A Healthy Church Has People Progressing In All Levels Of Spiritual Maturity
There are different views on the best way to interpret and understand this text. For example, is John referring to the chronological age of these believers or is he referring to the spiritual maturity of the believers? It makes most sense to me to see it as an issue primarily of spiritual maturity. Timothy was young but he was to set an example to all. David was young but he had more faith then king Saul and all of his brothers.
One of the things that I find encouraging about this text is that the apostle John spoke to all members of this congregation. John expected that this letter would be read to the congregation and that all of them would be present to hear the Word of God. He believed that the Word of God would be profitable to the young as well as to the old. It would be profitable to the men and to the women. The Word of God is our daily bread, our strength in battle, and our comfort in the conflict.
In the Old Testament we see that the people were commanded to gather together to hear the scriptures. Consider Deuteronomy 31:12-13 which says, “Gather the people together, men and women and little ones, and the stranger who is within your gates, that they may hear and that they may learn to fear the Lord your God and carefully observe all the words of this law, and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God as long as you live in the land which you cross the Jordan to possess.”
Nehemiah 8:2 says, “So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it...”
Let’s Consider The Text And The People John Addresses
Our text begins with John addressing the spiritual children in the church. These are the ones who have come to know that their sins have been forgiven for His names sake and they have come to know the Father (13). They may not be as strong as the ‘young men’ or as mature as the ‘fathers'; but the foundation is there to build the rest of their Christian life upon – they have been forgiven through the cross work of Christ and they have come into fellowship with the Father through Christ.
The word ‘forgiven’ is a verb that is in the perfect indicative passive form. This speaks of a fact that was done in the past which continues to this day. It is also in the passive form which points our attention to Jesus whose life, death, and resurrection have provided this forgiveness to us as a gift. The forgiveness which is spoken of here is efficient to bring a believer into a personal relationship with the Father where they come to know Him by the Spirit through His Word. These are great blessing to the young believer. A new Christian has been given great grace; yet, it takes time to grow in their knowledge of the Word of God which makes them strong.
Charles Spurgeon once said, “Sometimes truth is like a keen weapon in a child’s hand, it makes little impression because it is weakly wielded. Do not therefore blame the truth, but the weak hand. In many cases of controversy the apparent victory of error has been due to the unfitness of the warrior who championed truth. It may for some men be their truest service to the good cause to leave it in the stronger hands. Let us all pray to be strengthened, that our inner life, growing day by day, may reach a fullness of stature and firmness of strength worthy of the heavenly weapon which the LORD has put into our hand.”
The apostle John also addresses in our text young believers who have grown strong and have proven to be able to wield the sword of the Word with great power and effectiveness.
These young Christians overcome (perfect indicative active verb) the evil one by something that has happened in the past that profoundly impacts them today. In other words, the devil was decisively defeated and disarmed through Jesus’ work on the cross. When a believer learns to look to Christ and apply His accomplished work to their lives they will walk in the victory that is theirs in Christ. They are not strong because of any strength of their own; but rather, they are made strong through the Word of God and because of the Holy Spirit who dwells in them. (1 John 4:4 John says, “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world..” And in 1 John 5:4-5, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”)
John addresses the spiritually mature in the congregation- the fathers. These individuals are simply described as those who know Him who was from the beginning.
Recently my daughter showed me a video of a big old shark who was all scratched and scared from years of living in the ocean. When I think of these faithful mature believers I think of something like that. They have faced testings, trials, battles, challenges and conflicts and they may even have the scars from these things. They know now more now than they ever have before that they ‘know the one who was from the beginning’.
They have spent years in the Word of God growing and maturing in the truths of God’s Word. In some ways they know more of the complexities of the Scriptures than most. In other ways, they have come to know the basics of the gospel and the profoundness of the simple gospel more now than ever before.
These mature believers are a great encouragement to the body of Christ and they can guide us in truth in word and deed. We can also see that God has faithfully preserved them through all of these things. Young Christians would be well served to consider how God has preserved these believers through so many trials; so that we can be more hopeful and assured.
I think that it is a good reminder for us to see that every church will have godly, seasoned, mature believers there. The churches that John has written to were under attack. Some of the members had left the church. The false teachers taught that those who were left in the church lacked true knowledge. But John reminds this church that there are wise mature Christians in this congregation who were faithful to the LORD.
I think that we have a tendency to act as though there are no wise mature believers in our congregations. Paul addressed this when he wrote to the Corinthians saying, “Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers?” (1 Cor. 6:5)
There is a large group of people who spends a lot of time listening to evangelists and pastors from big churches as though the local church is lacking in spiritual gifts and mature people. This ought to motive us all to grow in the Word of God so that we can be used for noble purposes in the church.
This text should also teach us that we are all in some process of maturing. We need to be full of grace, patience and love with each other as we grow. None of us are at the same level of maturity in the church. None of us, even the most mature among us have arrived at perfection. Therefore we ought to consider 1 Thessalonians 5:14 – And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.
We also must admit that every Christian is fighting a spiritual battle of some sort. No one is immune. In Galatians 6:1-2 we read, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
Young Christians often fight very intense battles and they desperately need the help of more mature believers. Even the most mature believers among us will face trials and temptations so we should support each other.
We also should see in this text that we must be growing in our Christian walk. No one gets to retire because they have obtained perfection; rather, we are to press ahead and strain for the prize that is ahead. We need to be intentional in our discipleship, give attention to the Word of God, and work to retain what we have learned. Consider what Paul says in Philippians 3:12-16,
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.