Exploring 1 John Session 9 1 John 2:12-14
Exploring 1 John Session 9 1 John 2:12-14
We are in session 9 of our exploration of the letter entitled 1 John. All the previous sessions can be found online at www.hbcc.life or on YouTube, the channel is HBCC life.
Has anyone ever told you your theology is wrong, that your doctrine is off, that your practice of the faith is wanting? What happens when these kinds of accusations come at you from those that you have enjoyed fellowship with? The congregation has now split, us and them, those that stay, those the left, and the one group are now saying to the other: “You’re not a real Christian. You don’t know God. You are lacking.” What we have here is disunity and you should know that such disunity is sin (John 17:21, 1 Corinthians 12:25). You should know that God’s blessings are never coming upon the accuser (Revelation 12:9-11).
John is writing this letter to people who are suffering from a situation most likely as this. It has shaken the faith of those that remained, those that remained loyal to the teachings that John had given them about Jesus and about being a disciple of Jesus.
Those teachings go something like this: Every person is in a spiritual prison under a spiritual death sentence. Jesus is the liberator, bringing release for the captive and granting spiritual life. Jesus' death makes your liberation possible, Jesus resurrection validates the possibility. The folks to whom John has written acknowledged that they were estranged from God, guilty of sin, of deterring, damaging, and destroying their relationships with others, guilty of acts of selfishness which deprived others, guilty of creating hell’s on earth These folks believed that Jesus is the way the truth the life (John 14:6). Jesus is redeemer, liberator, deliverer, reconciler, the one who terms messes into masterpieces, the one who takes the last and puts them to the head of the line, the one who leads people out of the darkness and into the light. The folks who read this letter had committed themselves to John’s teaching and living ethically to love God and love others. Each individual in this congregation asked God to accept their acknowledging, believing, committing, that they might be changed, that they might be made as God has always intended for them to be. God welcomed them into the light, into the fellowship, into the family. This same invitation goes out to you. You can be forgiven, you can be reconciled to God, you can live your life to the full. Acknowledge your situation, believe that Jesus is the only solution to your situation, commit yourself to live the life of love and liberty Jesus guides you into, then ask, simply ask God to accept your faith. If that is your decision today, let me welcome you into a new life, let me know of your decision so that I can help you grow in your newfound faith.
This congregation of acknowledging, believing, committed disciples has been shaken by the accusations of those that have left the fellowship that they have no knowledge of God, that their faith is lacking, and they are deceived. John wants to reassure his dear children that this is not the case at all.
1 John 2:12-14 (MSG)
I remind you, my dear children: Your sins are forgiven in Jesus' name. You veterans were in on the ground floor, and know the One who started all this; you newcomers have won a big victory over the Evil One.
And a second reminder, dear children: You know the Father from personal experience. You veterans know the One who started it all; and you newcomers—such vitality and strength! God's word is so steady in you. Your fellowship with God enables you to gain a victory over the Evil One.
John could have meant this as poetry, it could be the song lyrics to a hymn sung by those believers, it could be just the facts. How it is written makes it difficult to discern what John meant. For certain it is to assure the congregation of their position in Christ. There is the assurance of sins forgiven, the assurance of knowing God, and the assurance of being an overcomer.
It is possible to see in these two verses levels of maturity. In the original language, there are three groups to whom this is addressed: children, the young, the fathers.
Let’s read a translation that is a little closer to the original language.
1 John 2:12-14 (RSV)
I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his 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.
[teknia, the dear children, i.e. infant; padia, The young, one who lacks in experience needing training and discipline, i.e. adolescent; patera, the fathers, one who is able to lead, i.e. the adult]
People brand new to the faith have been likened to spiritual infants, babes in Christ.
1 Peter 2:3 (MSG)
Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God's pure kindness. Then you'll grow up mature and whole in God.
People who are brand new to the faith are expected to grow. When they don’t grow there’s a problem.
Hebrews 5:12-14 (MSG)
By this time you ought to be teachers yourselves, yet here I find you need someone to sit down with you and go over the basics on God again, starting from square one—baby's milk, when you should have been on solid food long ago! Milk is for beginners, inexperienced in God's ways; solid food is for the mature, who have some practice in telling right from wrong.
1 Corinthians 3:1-2 (MSG)
But for right now, friends, I'm completely frustrated by your unspiritual dealings with each other and with God. You're acting like infants in relation to Christ, capable of nothing much more than nursing at the breast.
Spiritual infants are learning the basics of being a follower of Jesus. There is a level of enthusiasm and excitement that permeates their new lives in Christ. There is a spiritual hunger that must be satisfied. Spiritual infants are immature; they are learning to rid themselves of the ways of darkness and to walk in the light. John assures those dear children that their sins have been forgiven and that they know God through continued personal experience.
The young, if I may, those who are adolescents in the faith, have learned the basics. They are daily practicing the 7 Habits of a disciple: Bible reading, prayer, fellowship, service, worship, obedience, and contemplation. As they grow they become aware of a spiritual problem. Sometimes they are loving God and loving others with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength but other times they fall back into selfishness. There is a fight going on within, the Spirit conflicting with egoism. Egoism is the flesh, the sinful nature, the sinful self. They confess, they repent of these deeds of egoism, of darkness, but it’s like being on a spiritual roller coaster where the highs are when everything is right between them and God and the lows are when they realized they have sinned. This can lead the adolescent in the faith to even wonder if they have been permitted to walk in the light, that they indeed have been saved. John assures these who are young in the faith, the adolescents, that being in the fight, not surrendering, but rather continuing in the faith, determined to love God and love others, that they have overcome the evil one.
1 John 2:13 & 14b (Revised Standard Version)
“I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one…”
“…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.”
The overcomer (nikao) is the one in the fight that vanquishes all foes. There is a spiritual battle raging within, but being strong by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit makes them spiritually mighty. In the very striving, the evil one is overcome.
The fathers are the ones who know God. They are the spiritual adults, dealing with the adult-sized challenges of the faith. There is a second work of grace the separates the spiritual adolescent from the spiritual adult. When the adolescent realizes their problem that their best intentions often get hijacked, they want to be loving God and loving others but find themselves doing the exact opposite (Romans 7:15-20), this struggle is an invitation of the Holy Spirit for a deeper change. The adolescent sees the problem of the Spirit and Egoism in conflict (Galatians 5:17). They confess the problem of self-will, of a divided heart. (Psalm 86:11). What motivates this confession is sorrow, not because they have done wrong, even though they have, but it is more a feeling of sorrow that their hijacked behaviors have deterred, damaged or even destroyed righteous relationships, that they have grieved the heart of God (1 Corinthians 7:10, Ephesians 4:30). Their repentance takes on the form of a total consecration (Exodus 19:10-15). Consecration involves giving ourselves over totally to God, to surrender in a more informed way, to bend the knee (Galatians 2:20). Consecration is the affirmative response to God’s calling to live a devout and holy life (1 Thessalonians 4:3,1 Peter 2:5). Consecration is the act of presenting yourself as a living sacrifice to God (Romans 12:1). Having acknowledged, repented, and consecrated you ask God to change you so that sin can no longer hijack your best intentions. This event is a fulfillment of prophecy: Ezekiel 11:19, 36:26, Jeremiah 31:33, the prophecy of a new heart, one with God laws engraved within (Hebrews 10:16), being filled with a willing spirit (Psalm 51:12). The difference between the adolescent and the adult is that egoism can only tempt, it cannot hijack. Now when tempted the spiritual adult is responsible for their choices, they decide to resist the temptation to reject it, they decide to obey or disobey. In the Church of the Nazarene, we call this event entire sanctification, it is the work of the Holy Spirit that transforms you into a spiritual adult. Now you are empowered to face the challenges of a spiritual adult. Now you are empowered to fulfill your calling in the Kingdom. You will continue to grow, continue to increase in your capacity to love, broaden your knowledge of God, be consistent in loving God, and loving others, you will continue to be tempted to prove your love. This is what it means to know God. Will you choose wrongly, do something selfish, refuse to be a lover? Well if that happens you 1 John 1:9 it! repenting of, learning from, and despising your act of sin.
“I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.” Are you a spiritual adult? Are you consistently overcoming the temptation to sin? Are you willing one thing, love for God and love for others? Are you perfecting your love for God and love for others? If not today you can be transformed from a spiritual adolescent into a spiritual adult.
When you first came into the light, you acknowledged your sin, believing Jesus has all the answers, you committed yourself to discipleship. You asked God to accept your faith and God did, and you became a child of the faith. Now you have grown, you know you are in a battle, oftentimes your own worst enemy, you want to serve God will your whole heart but your best intentions are hijacked. As long as you remain in the battle, in the struggle for righteousness, you are still in the light. If that is where you are in your spiritual journey then you can acknowledge this problem, repent of it because you know your behavior grieves the heart of God, you know it is a hindrance to you loving God and loving others, and then you consecrate yourself to God, by presenting yourself as a living sacrifice, by dying to self, forsaking selfishness, forsaking your right to govern your life. This is the path to spiritual adulthood. Take it. Shine brilliantly as you walk in the light. Let me know of your decision.
John has assured his congregation and us that in keeping the teachings of the gospel that he has passed on we can know that our sins are forgiven, that we are and will overcome the evil one in all our struggles, and that we know God. Those who would say otherwise are the ones with the problem. Don’t allow anything or anyone to shake you from your faith.