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Last time we were together we saw John reminding the church of some truths they already knew. He wasn’t writing any new commandments, but then he told them a new commandment. This new commandment was summed up by love. If you’re in the Light, you have the ability and expectation to love others. This morning, we’re going to look at some reasons John wrote to three specific groups of people.
Take a look at 1 John 2:12-14.
The first groups John addresses is the little children. These three verses seem to be out of place in this letter. John’s been talking about words being the same as actions. That our behavior should match up with what we say. Isn’t John so sweet to be speaking to little kids? Remember it was Jesus in Matt. 19:14 who said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” This term doesn’t refer to children by age; John is talking to all believers. In context, the term “little children” means he’s either talking to new believers or young children. John frequently uses the term children to identify children of God regardless of age or spiritual maturity. It seems more likely that he’s talking to new converts given the other groups of people he addresses – the young men and the fathers. So he says he’s writing, “Because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake.” What great encouragement! No one can bring up your past sin. No one gets to remind you of what you did wrong. Ps 103:12 says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” Forgiven is in the perfect tense meaning something that has occurred in the past, but produced something that affects us to this day.
Everyone needs to be reminded that the atoning sacrifice of Jesus gives us that forgiveness. Forgiveness is possible because of 1 John 2:1-2. Acts 10:43, “Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.” John wants these little children to know that their sins have been forgiven in the past and it’s still good. The mercy and grace of God is available to anyone who repents of their sin and believes in the name of Christ. These little children have been forgiven, “For His name’s sake.” Names used to mean a lot more than they do now. Jones comes from the given name Jon. Smith means metal worker. King was originally a nickname for someone who either acted in a kingly manner or who worked for or was otherwise associated with a king. My last name means people with teeth. Not a bad thing I suppose. There is power in Jesus’ name. “At the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2:10-11)
In the last part of v. 13 John says, “I have written to you children, because you know the Father.” This is the verb know. Remember from v. 3, “come to know Him” means to learn to know a person through direct personal contact. These children know the Father. These children have a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Now Paul turns to the young men. We’ll come back to v. 13a in a moment. John’s writing to the young men because they “Have overcome the evil one.” Have overcome is in the perfect tense. That means the action took place in the past, but has continuing results. They have overcome the evil one, the devil. They’ve withstood his attacks, his subtle plans to remove them from the community of true believers. Remember the Gnostics were preaching a false gospel. They have overcome because of Jesus. John calls these young men strong in v. 14. Strong could mean physically strong, but that isn’t consistent with the context. They are strong in the Lord. Deut. 31:6 says, “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” That’s how they can recognize the devil’s schemes. They are strong in the Lord because the Word of God abides in them. Eph. 6:10-12, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” They have stood strong against the devil because of God’s power. This battle against evil will continue and when you think about what John has already written, the major battle he’s writing about is ethics. Young men here probably refer to a group of people, but the application is for all Christians. Our claim of Christianity must be backed up by actions. They “have overcome.” Past tense. The victory was won by Christ at Calvary.
Now for the fathers. The first phrase of v. 13 and 14 are identical except John changes the tense of the verb write. When trouble or doubts come – and they will – it does us good to be reminded of what we know. Fathers, “Know Him who has been from the beginning.” While the “Him” could be God the Father, it most likely refers to Jesus Christ. Back in the first verse of this letter, John says, “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life.” (1 Jo. 1:1) In the beginning was the Word. Our faith hinges on the incarnate Christ.
It is good to be reminded of what we know. John provides some practical examples of what these three groups of people know and what that means for them in their daily lives. What we know should affect how we live daily on a daily basis.
Our Christianity cannot be put on or off. You either live for Christ or you don’t.