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Knowing Christ and Overcoming the Devil

A sermon 1 John 2:12-14 preached at Christ the King Church on 1/1/06

Prayer:  Father in heaven, be with us now through your Spirit so that we might look rightly into your Word and see your Son, Jesus, in whose name we pray.  Amen. 

Introduction:  A few years ago I resolved (I think it may have even been New Year’s Day) to read my Bible more often and more prayerfully, to refresh and advance my basic knowledge of Koine Greek, and to study the writings of the Church Fathers.  Well, I am proud to say (in a humble sort of way) that these resolutions have been kept.  Each morning I study my Greek grammar, I read my Bible, and then I open a book from a series called, The Ancient Christian Writers, where I read letters or sermons or theological works from some of the earliest Christian writers.

One of these writers is Maximus of Turin, a 4th century Christian leader.  This Monday I began to read his sermons, which I have found to be quite interesting.  His third sermon (or what is listed as his third sermon) especially caught my attention, for this sermon starts quite startlingly.  Listen to how it begins:  “Beloved brethren, I think that it is sufficient reproof to you that on the previous Sunday, when I was about to depart, I dispensed no spiritual gifts to you from the sacred Scriptures but upbraided and accused you because of sin, dismissing you without any consoling preaching.”[1] 

We do not have the previous sermon he mentions in this sermon.  But it is interesting to note that in the sermon we do have (this third sermon) Maximus tells us how he scolded his congregation for their sin, and how he disciplined them by withholding Bible teaching, what he calls, “the sacraments of the heavenly Scripture.”  So, he preached to them, but he preached only hard words, words of rebuke and reproof.  He gave them no “consoling preaching.”  

Now, the congregation to which the apostle John was writing had likewise been given little consolation thus far.  In fact, the recipients of his First Letter had heard some pretty hard words, not ‘hard’ so much in the sense that he was scolding them, but hard in the way he was challenging them.  What we have studied in 1:1-2:11 are not easy words.  They are not comforting, or consoling words.  They are hard words, challenging words.

If you recall, one of the main reasons John was writing this letter, was to test their faith, to test the authenticity of their confession of Christ.  If you really know God, he told them, well then you will “walk in the light as He is in the light.”  That is, you will “keep His commandments” and you will “love your brother.”  If you are a genuine Christian you will pass the theological, the moral, and the social tests of life.  You will affirm that Jesus, who is fully God, came in the flesh.  You will obey God’s Word.  And you will love all those you encounter, especially within the church.

So, you see, at this point in John’s letter (as you have listened to what I have had to say about it), you (like the original audience) might be taking inventory and asking yourself, “Am I truly a Christian?  Have I been forgiven of my sins?  Do I really know God?  Do I really know Christ?  Has the Devil still got a vice-grip on my heart?” 

Well, in the passage that is before us today, we thankfully and finally have some “consoling preaching”- words of comfort, words of encouragement, words of assurance.  Now, in vv.15-17, John will go back on the attack, he will give us perhaps his most “stringent demands” yet.[2]  But, here in vv.12-14, we find, what F.F. Bruce rightly calls, “a threefold encouragement.”[3]

 

Who is Being Addressed?

In much of his letter thus far, John has been challenging the confession Christian, who is a talker but not a walker.  He has been challenging the phony follower.  But now, he shifts his attention, and says to the true believer (and him/her alone), “Now I’m talking to you.”  Look at his language.  Just look at how each sentence starts:  “I am writing to you, I am writing to you, I am writing to you….  I write to you, I write to you, I write to you.”[4]

 

John is now writing directly to the Christians, to those who walk their talk.  And look at what he calls them.  He gives them three names.  In typical Johnaine language, he calls them, “little children” and “children,” but also he calls them, “fathers” and “young men.”

 

Now, as you can imagine, with such imaginative labeling, there is much debate over the identity of these three groups.  All commentators agree that Christians are being addressed, but they divide over whether John is speaking literally or metaphorically.  In other words, is John here addressing different ages of people within the church, literally children, young men, and fathers?  Or is he addressing different stages of spiritual maturity?   

It is my view, based on the content of the messages and the poetic style and structure itself, that these three groups represent three different stages of “spiritual pilgrimage.”[5]  So, the threefold grouping relates, not to “years reckoned by the calendar,”[6] but to spiritual maturity.  John Stott summarizes it this way:  “The little children are those newborn in Christ.  The young men are more developed Christians, strong and victorious in spiritual warfare; while the fathers posses the depth and stability of ripe Christian experience.”[7]

Our ESV translators have nicely divided our text into a little poem, which shows us the symmetrical structure and the deliberate repetition.[8]  I have added a bulletin insert to better clarify this and also to clarify the message given to each group.  If you haven’t done so already, I invite you now to take that out and take a good look at it.

12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name's sake. 

13 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. 

14 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.

Now, as you can see, while the repetition of the three groups and of the message addressed to them is not absolutely similar, they are nearly similar.  You can see that what is said to the “fathers” is exactly the same.  Then, what is said to the “young men” is also the same.  What is said in v.14 is just an addition to what is said in v.13. 

The biggest difference is with the first group mentioned.  In v.12 they are called, “little children” (which is teknia in Greek), and in v.12 they are called “children” (paidia in Greek).  Some argue, based on this difference, that John is addressing two different groups, Christians in general when he says “little children,” and then immature or young Christians when he says “children.” 

 

 

 

When I first read this text that was the position I held.  I changed my mind, however, when I discovered that (in John’s Gospel) Jesus used both terms (teknia and paidia) for His disciples;[9] and also (and more obviously) because here John appears to set before us two sets of triplets (which I have tried to make plain with my color-coded insert).  So, I think the two terms are “probably synonymous.”[10]  John is addressing young or new Christians with the words “little children” and “children.”

 

 

What is Being Said?

 

Now as we look at what was said to each group, I will, for the sake of clarity, cluster or group-together the names.[11]  So, look again at our text and notice first the message to the children.  Look at v.12 and at the end of v.13, at those red-colored verses.  “I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake….  I write to you, children, because you know the Father.”

 

John calls the Christians here “children” both because he is much older than them (some think he is very nearly a hundred years old),[12] and because it is a Gospel-term that emphasizes both the freshness and humility of their faith and their utter dependence they now have on their Lord.  So, to these newborns John gives the pure milk of the Gospel, from one side the forgiveness of sins and from the other side the fatherhood of God.[13]  Let me first say a few words about the fatherhood of God.

It is a wonderful blessing that our Lord in His kind providence has brought little Brandon, the 11 month-old boy adopted from Guatemala, to the Vonder family and to this church family.  Like all of you, I was overjoyed to see him here at church on Christmas day.  When I went back to the nursery to meet the young lad, I held him for a while, made a joke about his curly hair and how it resembled his father’s (John’s plentiful dome), and then returned him to Kim and asked her if Brandon was saying any words yet.  She replied, “No, not really.  He is just saying, ‘Da Da.’” I said, “Well, you know that that will soon turn into Daddy.”  She smiled in agreement. 

You see, my brothers and sisters in Christ, the little life of Brandon is a perfect example of what has happened to us spiritually.  Through faith in Christ, we are adopted into God’s family.  We were once distant from God.  But through Jesus we have been brought near and brought into a relationship with God.  And like most children, our first words of faith are, “Daddy, Abba, Father.”  Jesus taught His disciples to pray, saying, “Our Father….” And Paul taught us in Romans 8:15 that we “have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba!  Father!’”[14]

 

So, here John comforts these newborn babes in Christ reminding them of the unique fact of the Christian faith:  that God is their father, which means, He will lovingly provide and protect and nourish and nurture.  I am sure no little child here this morning is thinking, “Oh, I wonder if my father will disown me.  I wonder if my father will stop loving me.”  John says, “Be comforted, dear Christian, and know that God’s fatherly love in upon you, a love that will never leave or forsake.”

“The fatherhood of God”- that is John’s first word of encouragement.  The “forgiveness of sin” – that is the second word.  He is writing them, as he says in v.13, to remind them that their “sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.”  B.F. Westcott wrote, “The proclamation of the forgiveness of sin [is] the message of the Gospel.”[15]  And that is right. 

After Christ’s resurrection, He opened the Scriptures to His disciples and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations” (Luke 24:46-47).  In nearly every sermon represented in The Acts of the Apostles, we find that message.  In Peter’s Pentecost sermon he preached, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” 

 

Later, Peter will preach, “To him [to Christ] all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

What’s in a name?  The Bible says, “Quite a lot.”  A name says much about a person’s character and ability.  In 1 John Jesus has been called our propitiation and our advocate.  Jesus’ name is pregnant (if you will) with His divine person and His saving purpose.[16]  So when John says that our sins are forgiven “for his name’s sake,” he is reminding us that we are forgiven not because our name, our character and reputation, is pleasing before God, but because Christ’s name is pleasing and acceptable before the Father.  So, when we place our trust in Jesus, like a newly married bride, we take on our Bridegroom’s name, the name of Jesus, the only “name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Some of you here this morning, may be young in the faith.  You may have come to Christ in recent days, perhaps in the last few months or years.  Well, God has a word of encouragement for you today.  You too have God as your father.  You know God.  And, through your faith in Christ, you have been given forgiven on behalf of Jesus’ name.  You may need a scolding for your faithlessness or your backsliding.  But this morning, God seeks to push you along with words of encouragement. 

So, accept this grace with gratitude, and thank the Lord for His goodness to you, His adoption and His redemption of your soul.               

The first group John addresses is “the children,” the newborns in Christ.  The second group is the “fathers,” those most mature in the faith.  Look at the beginning of v.13 and v.14 (look at the blue-colored text).  John gives the same message twice:  “I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.”

 

Here John highlights their knowledge.  All Christians have knowledge of God.[17]  The “little children” know Him as “the Father.”  The more experienced and established Christians, the “fathers,” also know Him as “the Father.”  Yet their knowledge of God is more expansive.  They know Him as, “that which is from the beginning.” 

Here, I believe, John is emphasizing both an experiential and intellectual apprehension of the divine plan and person of Christ.[18]  And I say Christ, because that is who I think John is referring to with the phrase, “Him who is from the beginning.”[19] 

That title for Jesus takes us back to the opening verse of the letter and the prologue of John’s Gospel.[20]  In contrast to what the false teachers have been teaching, these “fathers” in the faith know that Jesus is more than a mere man.  He is the eternal deity, the preexistent Son of God. 

If you were here on Christmas Eve and you listened to the children’s message, you heard Professor Michael Graves teach, among other things, about the connection between the historical Santa Claus (St. Nicholas) and the Nicene Creed.  (We have quite advanced children here at Christ the King).  Mike mentioned how this 4th century bishop, known for his generosity and love of children, was a delegate to the Council of Nicea, and thus one of the authors of the Nicene Creed.  That Council, which was held in A.D. 325, was called to do battle with a heretic named Arius.  Arius denied the deity of Christ. 

Now, what Mike didn’t share with the children was how, at one point in the debate, jolly old St. Nick, was so fed up with Arius’ arguments, that he walked over to him and slapped him in the face!  While the great majority of other bishops there accepted Nicholas’s theological position, they did not condone his behavior.  He was almost stripped of his office, which would have included being stripped of his bishop’s hat and gown (which were, by the way, red and white). 

Now, despite this outburst of anger, Nicholas was a genuine “father” of the church- a Church Father.  He was a mature Christian who stood up against those who opposed “Him who is from the beginning.” 

 

There are men and women in the church today, and even in this church today, that have that same responsibility.  On Thursday a woman walked into my office with a book in hand, and she asked me a very direct question, “Is this a good author or is he a heretic?”  I said, “He is a heretic.”  Why?  Because this man, a bishop no less in the Episcopal Church, is a strong advocate for the ordination of homosexuals and (worst than that) he denies some of the essential doctrines of Christianity. 

Such a man needs a slap, at least a slap of sorts.  He is just the kind of person John is attacking and warning against in First John.  So, those who are “fathers” in the church, those who are “fathers” in this church, have the experience and the intelligence to defend and proclaim the truth.  What Paul writes of an elder in Titus 1:9 is true of all those fatherly figures in the church; a father “must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”  Now that, I think, is the basic application to those most mature here this morning.  The fathers of this church, with their deep knowledge of “Him who is from the beginning,” must continue to declare and defend the faith. 

So, we have looked at the “children” and at the “fathers.”  Let’s look lastly at the “young men,” those people in the church who are strong and victorious in spiritual warfare.  Look at the middle of v.13 and at the end of v.14 (the green portions):  “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.”

 

John calls these persons “strong.”  That is their greatest characteristic!  Then he tells us how that strength is derived.  They are strong because “the word of God abides in them.”  Finally, he tells us how that strength is displayed.  It is displayed in their victory over the Devil.  They “have overcome the evil one.”  So, while most of the young men in our culture spend their strength on the lusts and desires of the world,[21] these “young men,” empowered through “the Word” have conquered the enemy.  They have, in the language of Paul in Romans 16:20, crushed Satan under their feet.      

       

Every successful army must have frontline “soldiers,” those who risk their lives to defeat the enemy.[22]  In the church such spiritual soldiers, whether they are men or women, young or old, are called here “young men.” 

 

 

And John understands just how important such souls are to the church, for that is perhaps why he places this group last and reserves his the lengthiest comments for them.[23] 

Now, whether or not we classify ourselves as such soldiers (as young men), there is much we all can learn from the message to them.  The Christian life is about forgiveness, forgiveness of our sins through the blood of Jesus Christ.  The Christian life is also about fellowship, fellowship with the Father through a saving knowledge of Jesus.  But, the Christian life is also about fighting, fighting the enemy, who John calls “the evil one.”[24] 

Now, under this final category of Christian, let me give us all a few applications.  First, we must all recognize that we all have a real enemy.  The “young men” in our text understand Satan is a reality, for they have done battle with him, and been victorious through trials and temptations.  But the rest of us, need to know that “the evil one” is not an idea, an abstract concept.  He is real. 

 

It is interesting to note how the Lord’s Prayer begins and ends.  It begins, as I have noted, with the words, “Our father who art in heaven.”  But how does it end?  It ends with the petition, “And deliver us from evil”- (literally in the Greek, “deliver us from the evil one”).  So, you see, just as we know and believe we have a father in heaven, so we must recognize that we have an enemy on earth (cf. Eph 6:12). 

Martin Luther certainly understood the Devil to be real.  In fact, the Devil was so real to him that on one day while writing Luther reportedly threw his inkwell at this invisible enemy.  That’s how real the presence of evil was to him.

Satan was also quite real to Jesus.  Besides the obvious (His temptation in the wilderness), Jesus also taught about this enemy’s evil activities.  In the Parable of the Soils, Jesus said that when the gospel is preached and initially received, the Devil seeks to snatch away what has been sown in the heart (Matthew 13:19).  In the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, our Lord speaks about Satan’s planting weeds among the wheat (13:39).  The apostle Peter picks up on this demonic activity, likening the Devil to a “roaring lion” who “prowls around…seeking someone to devour.”  The Devil is real.  That’s the first point for all of us to consider. 

Now, that first point leads to our second point and to this question:  Since the Devil is real and he wants the worst for us, how ought we to fight against him?  In that same 1 Peter passage, Peter’s advice is threefold, to “be sober-minded,” to “be watchful,” and to “resist him, standing firm in your faith.” 

 

 

 

 

 

Paul, in his passage on spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6), talks about standing up “against the schemes of the devil,” by “standing firm” through “putting on the whole armor God,” which includes “the belt of truth…the breastplate of righteousness…the shoes of readiness…the shield of faith…the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

 

Here in our passage John emphasizes this “sword of the Spirit,” the word.  Paul commands Christians to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.”  And John confesses that that strength comes from “the word of God which abides in you.” 

The psalmist in Psalm 119:9, writes, “How can a young man keep his way pure?”  In other words, how can he resist the temptations of the Devil, so that he might be pure, not only in regards to sexual ethics, but also in regards to all that is written in God’s law.  The answer:  “By guarding it according to your word.”  Two verses later the psalmist will say, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”  Beloved, we must store up the gospel in our hearts.  We must store up the truths of the Bible in our hearts.  We must store up the word so that we might not sin against God and so that we might, like these “young men,” slay Satan with the sword of the Spirit.

On Wednesday, I went (as some of you did) to the memorial service for Allison’s mother, Audie.  There I received the impression that Audie was a prayer warrior (and “warrior” is the appropriate term).  She was a solider against Satan.  And in the bulletin for that service the family sought to highlight this fact by printing her prayer list.  Among her prayers for her grandchildren there was one prayer that especially struck a cord with me.  And it was this:  “When the devil comes around (not “if” the devil comes around, but “when” he comes around),” Audie prayed that her grandchildren “would hold on to the Lord.” 

Next to that petition was written 1 Corinthians 10:13, which says, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

 

My brothers and sisters, we are in a battle, and thus we must fight!  But know that God has this enemy on a leash.  And the Lord will not let Satan tempt us beyond our ability to resist.  So, when temptation comes, when trials fall upon us, we must submit ourselves to Christ; we must, as James says, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from us” (James 4:7).  And we must know that our condition as Christians is different than an army who fights under human banners, for the outcome of our war is certain. 

We are conquerors before we engage with the enemy, for the captain of our faith, Christ, has conquered the whole world and its powers.[25]  When it will be all said and done, we are on the winning side.  In Revelation 12:11, God’s people are described as those who have conquered the enemy “by the blood of the Lamb.”  So, whatever your stage of spiritual maturity, you are called to fight, knowing that you can overcome because Jesus overcame.[26]

Conclusion

 

Perhaps you arrived at church this morning a bit downcast.  And perhaps my previous sermons on First John have greatly troubled your soul.  Perhaps you were questioning your faith or questioning the goodness of God.  Perhaps the darkness of doubt is still clouding your soul.  Well, this morning I have sought to bring you, in the words of Maximus of Turin, some “consoling preaching,” to bring you words of comfort and encouragement. 

Christian, whether you are a little child or a young man or a father, wherever you are on the spiritual spectrum, you are a “child” of God, and thus you know the Father, thus your sins have been forgiven, thus you know now Christ- “Him who is from the beginning,” and thus you have been given the strength to face and overcome the evil one.[27] 

Through faith in Christ you have entered into the new covenant, a new relationship in which you can enjoy, as prophesied (e.g., Jeremiah 31:33-34), the forgiveness, the knowledge, and the power of God.[28]  What a wonderful consolation that should be to all of us as we begin this New Year!  Amen. 

 Prayer:  Father, I pray that the qualities mentioned here in your Word of these different Christians would all be true of us- that we would know your fatherly kindness; that we would know our sins are forgiven on account of Jesus; that we would declare and defend the truth about Jesus’ person; and that we would be strong, strong enough to overcome the evil one.  We ask this in that great and holy name, the only name which bestows these riches upon us, the riches of our salvation- Jesus.  Amen. 

 

Benediction:  In Daniel 10:19 we have recorded God’s comforting word to Daniel.  There He said, “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.”  May God’s Word be the same to us this morning.  May we hear from the Lord today of His love for us so that we might also be strong and of good courage.  Amen.               

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, application one is know we have an enemy, application two is know how to fight against him, and then application three (our final application) is to fight.  We must actually fight this enemy, knowing that we have and can win the victory.    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let me give a less than adequate illustration of what is taught here.  Two or three years ago, Geoff Dennis and I were in Toronto for ETS, the Evangelical Theological Society.  At that time we knew the assistant coach of the Toronto Raptors, Dick Helm, and so we arranged for him to provide us with some free tickets to a game.  Shortly before the game, Coach Helm called me to tell me everything had been arranged.  All we need to do was simply go to the ticket booth at the game, say his name, and they will give me the tickets (the $150 tickets no less).  Well, that is precisely what I did.  I went up to the ticket booth and said, “My name is Doug O’Donnell.  There are some tickets set aside of me under the name Dick Helm.”  She immediately grabbed an envelope and handed the tickets to us.  On the envelop with written the name, “Dick Helm.”

Now, getting into a Raptors game for free does not, of course, compare to getting into heaven.  Yet, I hope the analogy helps you see that we gained free entrance into that game because I knew not just a coach’s name (but the coach himself); and so too will we gain entrance into the kingdom of God, not simply because we know the name of Jesus, but because we have a relationship with the very person behind the name.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, me also give an application, or better, an implication that will apply to all.  Here John teaches that “the Father” can only be known through “Him who is from the beginning.”  In modern English that means, “God can only be known through His Son.”[29]  Many religious and political leaders today advocate the fatherhood of God without the embracing the unique son-ship of Christ.  But John says here somewhat vaguely here he says clearly in 2:23, where he writes, “No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.”  Jesus expressed it this way:  “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

·       Repeated Phrases

o   I am writing to you/I write to you (6x)- or I write to you/I have written to you

o   Children (2x), fathers (2x), young men (2x)

o   Because (6x)

o   Know (3x)

o     Overcome the evil one (2x)

o     Him who is from the beginning (2x)

\

12 Gra,fw u`mi/n( tekni,a( o[ti avfe,wntai u`mi/n ai` a`marti,ai dia. to. o;noma auvtou/Å  

I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven on account of his name.

13 gra,fw u`mi/n( pate,rej( o[ti evgnw,kate to.n avpV avrch/jÅ gra,fw u`mi/n( neani,skoi( o[ti nenikh,kate to.n ponhro,nÅ  

I write to you, fathers, because you know the one from [the] beginning.  I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.

14  e;graya u`mi/n( paidi,a( o[ti evgnw,kate to.n pate,raÅ e;graya u`mi/n( pate,rej( o[ti evgnw,kate to.n avpV avrch/jÅ e;graya u`mi/n( neani,skoi( o[ti ivscuroi, evste kai. o` lo,goj tou/ qeou/ evn u`mi/n me,nei kai. nenikh,kate to.n ponhro,nÅ  

I have written to you, little children, because you know the Father.  I have written to you, fathers, because you know him from [the] beginning.  I have written to you, young men, because you are strong and the word of God remains in you and you have overcome the evil one.   

12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name's sake.  13 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.  14 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.

 

 

 

 

 

Introduction: 

·       My morning ritual- Greek, Bible, CH

·       This week I began a new book, Maximus of Turin:  The sermon (Sermon Three) that was only tough on them.  That sermon reminded me of what we have heard thus far in 1 John.

·       John has been giving difficult words.  “John has abruptly concluded his exposition of his second test” (Stott, 95)  

·       The Christian might be inventorying his/her life and saying, “Am I truly forgiven?  Do I really know God?  Do I really know Christ?  Has the Devil still got a hold on my life?  Am I failing the tests?” 

·       There are more “stringent demands” he will place upon them in vv.15-17 (perhaps his most stringent yet), but here we find words of comfort/encouragement/assurance.  Bruce calls it a “threefold encouragement” (Bruce, 57)

·       Now, I am writing “to you” (to you, genuine Christian)

Who is being addressed?

·       To You – (three names for Christians: children, fathers, young men)

·       The Opinions (for who holds different positions, see Boice, 59)

o   Why is it not literal (see Barclay, 52)

·       I think John is speaking not of different ages, but of different stages (in their spiritual development)

o   “The distinct content of the message addressed to the three groups favours the view some ancient Latin commentators such as Augustine that they represent three different stages of spiritual pilgrimage.  The little children are those newborn in Christ.  The young men are more developed Christians, strong and victorious in spiritual warfare; while the fathers posses the depth and stability of ripe Christian experience” (Stott, 96)

o   “The threefold grouping relates to spiritual maturity, not years reckoned by the calendar” (Bruce, 58)

·       “These qualities ought to be true to all believers.  All Christians should know that their sins are forgiven, should be strong against the evil one, and should have mature knowledge of God and his Word” (Barton, 40)

·       Three groupings of Christians

Little Children All Christians (his common expression for them)- teknia 8x in 1 John 2:1; 2:12; 2:28; 3:7; 3:18; 4:4; 5:21 Why does he call them that?  Jesus called his disciples that in John 13:33, after given the “new commandment”
Fathers Mature (possess depth and stability)
Young Men More Developed (victorious in spiritual warfare)
Children Newborns in Christ

 

Little Children Because your sins are forgiven for his name's sake
Fathers Because you know him who is from the beginning
Young Men Because you have overcome the evil one
Children Because you know the Father
Fathers Because you know him who is from the beginning
Young Men Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one

 

*Add insert showing structure:  “The structure is clearly and deliberately symmetrical” (Jackman, 55); “two sets of triplets” (Barton, 39); “The symmetry of the corresponding clauses is remarkable” (Westcott, 58); “This passage is not exactly poetry but it is certain poetical and strongly rhythmical” (Barclay, 50)- read it in Greek?

What is Being Said?

 

“For the sake of clarity, I will cluster the names” (Burge, 111)- Children, Fathers, Young Men (follow John’s order)

·       “He first ‘writes’ and then confirms what he ‘has written’” (Stott, 96)- epistolary aorist (see Barclay, 50)

·       What is said to the groups twice is merely a “poetic” repetition (Brown, 112)

·       “The repetition of three groups and of the messages addressed to them, which if not the same are similar, is no doubt intended for emphasis” (Stott, 96)

 

12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake….14a I write to you, children, because you know the Father.  

 

Little Children/Children

·       Burge argues that teknia and paidia are “probably synonymous”- “No doubt the two words merged since Jesus in the Fourth Gospel uses each for his disciples (13:33; 21:5)” (111)

·       They are John’s little children, for he is very nearly a hundred years old (Barclay, 52)

·       Spiritual we all must become like little children to enter the kingdom

·       “The two main assurances to the children in verses 12,14 concern the principal difficulties with the false propagandists, namely, the forgiveness of sins, and true knowledge of the Father” (Brown, 112)

·       “Two general ideas of forgiveness and fatherhood” (Westcott, 61)

Father

·       Illustration:  (1) we are all adopted, (2) we say “daddy” often as first words- e.g., Brandon now saying “da, da”

o   In the same way, when we come to Christ we come to God as “Abba”  (cf. Romans 8:15,16; Gal 4:6) 

·       Harnack’s view of the fatherhood of God

·       God as father is unique to Christianity- “Our Father…”

·       What do newborn Christians understand about the fatherhood of God?

o   His love, protection, provision, etc.

o   My daughters are not now thinking of me, “Oh, I wonder if he will disown me….”

Your Sins are Forgiven

·       Forgiveness of sins is an overall summary of the gospel message (Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38; 5:31; 10:43; 13:38; 26:18; Eph 1:7; Col 1:14; 2:13)

·       “The proclamation of the forgiveness of sins was the message of the Gospel” (Brooke Foss Westcott, 59)

·       Examples of Jesus forgiving people in the Gospels (Mark 2:5; Luke 7:48)

For His Name’s Sake

·       His name = Christ’s name (1 John 2:1-2; 3:23; cf. John 1:12; 20:31; Acts 3:16; 4:12; 10:43)

·       Christ, our propitiation and advocate (2:1,2)- His name “represents both His divine person and His saving work [see Acts 4:12]” (Stott, 97)

·       “The pregnant use of ‘the name’ as summing up that which is made known of Christ, explains how it came to be used as equivalent to ‘the faith’ (2 John 7)” (Westcott, 59)

·       Illustration:  Ticket for Raptors Game- Just give my name and your name will be on my guest list

Application

·       For all Christians

·       For newborns in Christ

13a I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning….14b I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.   

Fathers  

·       We use of Founding Fathers, Church Fathers, etc.

·       Used of prophet, priest, and teachers in the OT (see Westcott, 60)

·       Paul as a father-figure - 1 Corinthians 4:15  15 For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Know

·       “We are all like orphans until we reach the grace of adoption by the Gospel.  Hence, what he declares respecting young children is also true for the old” (Calvin, 38)

·       “Their first flush of ecstasy in receiving forgiveness and fellowship with the Father was an experience of long ago.  Even the battles of the young men, to which he will next refer, are past.  The fathers have progressed into a deep communion with God” (Stott, 97)

·        “Spiritual experience is emphasized” (Bruce, 58)- especially the length of their experience (Westcott, 57)

·       “For the Jew knowledge was not merely an intellectual thing.  To know God was not merely to know him as the philosopher knows him; it was to know him as a friend knows him.  In Hebrew to know is used of the relationship between husband and wife and especially of the sexual act, the most intimate of all relationships (cp. Genesis 4:1)” (Barclay, 54)

·       “The little children know Him as the Father; the Fathers have come to know Him as him that is from the beginning…” (Stott, 97); The fathers have a deep “intellectual apprehension of the divine plan” and person (Westcott, 61)

Him who is from the beginning - Jesus (footnote Kruse, 89-90)

·       “There is no direct antecedent; but from v.6 the thought of Christ as the perfect exemplar of divine love has been present to the mind of the apostle; and the pronoun clearly refers to Him” (Westcott, 59)

·       “The title sums up shortly what is expressed in its successive stages in John 1:1-14” (Westcott, 60)

·       Christ’s divine presence, as being co-equal with the Father (cf. Hebrews 13:8) (Calvin, 37)

·        “It has been used in reference to the message that was passed on about Jesus (2:24; 3:11) or even about Jesus himself (1:1)” (Burge, 112)

·       “This description of Christ takes us back to the opening verse of the letter and the prologue to the gospel as it underlines the preexistence and eternal deity of the Lord Jesus Christ” – in contrast to what the false teachers believe and teach (Jackman, 57)

·       Christianity was thought of as being a new sect, yet here we learn that Christian is an old as Christ, eternal.

One Implication, Two Applications

·       Implication:  “God can only be known through His Son” (Westcott, 60); “Hence John, not satisfied with simply stating the doctrine that God forgives our sins, expressly adds that God is propitious to us because he has regard for Christ, and so the apostle excludes all other reasons.  We also, if we are to enjoy this blessing, must ignore and forget all other names and rely only on the name of Christ” (Calvin, 37)

o   So many today have the fatherhood of God without the unique sonship of Christ- But Jesus says, “I am the way….no one comes to the Father….”

·       The same relationship that is in the home should be in the church (Eph 6:1-2)

·       The responsibilities of elders- Titus 1:9   9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

o   Defend the deity of Christ

o   Illustration:  St. Nick, an early church father (slapping article)

13b I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one…. 14c 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 lengthiest comments are reserved for the young men” (Boice, 61)

·       “John’s placing young men last in both lists may have been his way of underlining their importance.  The young men do the work and fight in the frontline” (Phillips, 55)

·       Illustration:  In CH God has often used young men to do his frontline work (see Phillips, 59)

·       “We also know that those of that age are so addicted to the vain cares of the world that they think little of the kingdom of God, for the vigor of their minds and the strength of their bodies make them drunk, as it were.  The apostle, then, reminds them where true strength comes from, so that they might no longer exult as usual in the flesh” (Calvin, 38)

·       Westcott calls the Fathers “the thinkers” and the young men “the soldiers” in the Christian army; the “spring of wisdom/spring of strength”… “The characteristic of ‘fathers’ is knowledge, the fruit of experience; that of ‘young men,’ victory, the prize of strength” (Westcott, 59)

·       These young men are “busily involved in the battle of Christian living” (Stott, 97)

·       John says three things of these men:  (1) They are strong, (2) How that power is derived: The are strong because the Word abides in them (3) How that power is displayed:  thus or as a result they have gained victory the evil one 

o   “Word” = the Gospel and/or divine revelation in general (which would include Christ and the Bible)

o   “Their conflict has become a conquest” (Stott, 98)

·       “He says that people who have conquered are still engaged in the battle; but our condition is quite different from that of those who are fighting under human banners, for the outcome of war is uncertain to them, whereas we are conquerors before we engage with the enemy, for our head, Christ, has once for all conquered the whole world for us” (Calvin, 38)

·       “The Evil One” = Satan

Application

“The Christian life, then, is not just enjoying the forgiveness and the fellowship of God, but fighting the enemy.  The forgiveness of past sins must be followed by deliverance from sin’s present power, justification by sanctification” (Stott, 98)

·       We must know we have a real enemy, not an idea

o   Jesus’ experience (Matt 4) and view:  Lord’s Prayer (Matt 6:13 “the evil one”), Parable of the Sower (Matt 13:19), Parable of the Wheat and Tares (Matt 13:38-39), High Priestly Prayer (John 17:15)

o   “He does not speak in the abstract of conquering evil; he speaks of conquering the Evil One” (Barcl, 55)

o   Illustration:  Luther throwing an inkwell at the Devil (biography title)

o   Illustration:  the depiction of the Devil in The Passion of the Christ

·       We must know how to ought against Him- see Psalm 119:9; Rev 12:11; Eph 6:17

·       We must actually fight, knowing that we have and can overcome (“Overcome” = the image is common in John’s writings)

o    “As young men are urged to ‘flee youthful lusts’ (2 Tim 2:22), we are to flee from fornication and from idolatry (1 Cor 6:18;10:14) and from the ‘many foolish and hurtful lusts’ that accompany the love of money (1 Tim 6:9-10).  But we are not told to flee from the Devil.  He would simply stab us in the back.  We are told, in contrast, to submit ourselves to God and to ‘resist the Devil,’ and he will flee from us (James 4:7)

o    “Because Christ has already defeated Satan, all Christians can go into the battle knowing that they are on the winning side (see Romans 8:31-39; Eph 6:10-18; Col 2:15)” (Barton, 41)

o    “The theme of overcoming is present, and in all it is through Christ, the supreme Overcomer, that His people overcome” (Bruce, 59)- Jesus in the wilderness overcame the evil one, so too on the Cross

o   “It is significant that in each of these six messages the verb is in the perfect sense, which indicates the present consequence of a past event.  John is laying emphasis on the assured standing into which every Christian has come, whatever his stage of spiritual development” (Stott, 98)

Conclusion:     

·            “John has been warning his people of the perils of the dark and the necessity of walking in the light and now he says that in every case their best defense is to remember what they are and what has been done for them.  No matter who they are, their sins have been forgiven; no matter who they are, they know him who is from the beginning; no matter who they are, they have the strength which can face and over the Evil One” (Barclay, 50)- “For John it was of supreme importance that the Christian should remember the status and the benefits he has in Jesus Christ, for these would be his defense against error and against sin” (51)

·           He does not mean to give his readers the impression that he thinks they are in darkness or that he doubts the reality of their Christian faith….  They are in the new age all right and are enjoying the forgiveness, the knowledge of God and the power to overcome which had been prophesied (e.g., Jeremiah 31:33,34) of the new covenant” (Stott, 95)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

·       Repeated Phrases

o   I am writing to you/I write to you (6x)- or I write to you/I have written to you

o   Children (2x), fathers (2x), young men (2x)

o   Because (6x)

o   Know (3x)

o     Overcome the evil one (2x)

o     Him who is from the beginning (2x)

\

 

 

 

 

 

 


----

[1] St. Maximus of Turin, ACW, 19.

[2] Bruce, 57.

[3] Ibid.

[4] “He first ‘writes’ and then confirms what he ‘has written’” (Stott, 96)- epistolary aorist (see Barclay, 50)

[5] In Stott, 96.

[6] Bruce, 58.

[7] Stott, 96; the NLT translates “fathers” as “those who are mature.”

[8] Jackman, 55; The point of the repetition, in my opinion, is simply for emphasis (Stott, 96).  John applies a poetic device to emphasis his message.     

[9] John 13:33 and 21:5.

[10] Burge, 111.

[11] Burge, 111.

[12] According to Barclay, 52.

[13] Westcott, 61; Also, it is interestingly to note:  “The two main assurances to the children in verses 12,14 concern the principal difficulties with the false propagandists, namely, the forgiveness of sins, and true knowledge of the Father” (Brown, 112)

[14] Cf. Galatians 4:6   6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!"   

[15] Westcott, 59.

[16] Stott, 97; “The pregnant use of ‘the name’ as summing up that which is made known of Christ, explains how it came to be used as equivalent to ‘the faith’ (2 John 7)” (Westcott, 59).

[17] “We are all like orphans until we reach the grace of adoption by the Gospel.  Hence, what he declares respecting young children is also true for the old” (Calvin, 38); “For the Jew knowledge was not merely an intellectual thing.  To know God was not merely to know him as the philosopher knows him; it was to know him as a friend knows him.  In Hebrew to know is used of the relationship between husband and wife and especially of the sexual act, the most intimate of all relationships (cp. Genesis 4:1)” (Barclay, 54).

[18] Westcott, 61; “Spiritual experience is emphasized” (Bruce, 58)- especially the length of their experience (Westcott, 57); One commentator describes them this way:  “Their first flush of ecstasy in receiving forgiveness and fellowship with the Father was an experience of long ago.  Even the battles of the young men, to which he will next refer, are past.  The fathers have progressed into a deep communion with God (Stott, 97).

[19] “There is no direct antecedent; but from v.6 the thought of Christ as the perfect exemplar of divine love has been present to the mind of the apostle; and the pronoun clearly refers to Him….  The title sums up shortly what is expressed in its successive stages in John 1:1-14” (Westcott, 59-60).  Cf. Kruse, 89-90.

[20] Jackman, 57.

[21] “We also know that those of that age are so addicted to the vain cares of the world that they think little of the kingdom of God, for the vigor of their minds and the strength of their bodies make them drunk, as it were.  The apostle, then, reminds them where true strength comes from, so that they might no longer exult as usual in the flesh” (Calvin, 38)

[22] See Westcott, 59 and Phillips, 55.

[23] Phillips, 55.

[24] Stott, 98.

[25] See Calvin, 38.

[26] “It is significant that in each of these six messages the verb is in the perfect sense, which indicates the present consequence of a past event.  John is laying emphasis on the assured standing into which every Christian has come, whatever his stage of spiritual development” (Stott, 98).

[27] “John has been warning his people of the perils of the dark and the necessity of walking in the light and now he says that in every case their best defense is to remember what they are and what has been done for them.  No matter who they are, their sins have been forgiven; no matter who they are, they know him who is from the beginning; no matter who they are, they have the strength which can face and over the Evil One” (Barclay, 50)- “For John it was of supreme importance that the Christian should remember the status and the benefits he has in Jesus Christ, for these would be his defense against error and against sin” (51)

[28] See Stott, 95.

[29] Westcott, 60.

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