1 John 2:12-14 October 23, 2016
Sermon Series on I John Sermon #6 “Encouragement to Carry On”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
“I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, dear children, because you have known the Father.
I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.”
If you’re in the midst of a long and difficult project, you definitely need some encouragement along the way. Whether it’s a major home improvement project, an assignment at work from the boss, or trying to lose weight and get healthier, you will be helped to reach your goal if someone is cheering you on and giving you encouraging words, right?
In the same way, while the Apostle John wants to encourage his readers and us by reminding each one of their standing in Christ, to that we can carry on in our faith. John wants them to be assured of their wonderful spiritual blessings in Christ in three ways here: first, that they are enjoying the forgiveness of their sins; second, that they have a personal relationship with God; and third, that God has given them the power to overcome spiritual opposition. Aren’t those three things that you want to be assured of, to help you to carry on?
John wants to motivate us to carry on through the confidence of our victory in Christ. And to that goal the apostle makes six statements of encouragement, and each one begins with “I write to you” or “I have written to you.”
Let’s pause and consider the power of a written letter (or an email or a text message.) Think about how encouraged you are when someone writes to express appreciation for what you have done. May I share that I need that kind of encouragement! In fact I have a file folder with letters and notes of encouragement and appreciation that people like you have written over the last four decades. Every once in a while, when I feel discouraged, it can be helpful to read a few of those letters, and be reminded of how God has used me in the lives of other. Therefore I urge you to write to others, to express appreciation for what you see the Lord doing in their lives!
We quickly notice the structure of John’s writing here, as he divides his readers into three groups, each of whom he addresses twice: dear children, fathers, and young men. What are we to make of these categories? Some think John is addressing his readers according to their chronological age. But if so, it is strange that he doesn’t address them in order of their age, putting the fathers before the young men. We might also wonder why John doesn’t address the young women or the mothers, as Paul does in Titus 2.
I think the best understanding of these three categories is that John is addressing the believers, both men and women, according to their spiritual development. That is, he writes to them according to their spiritual maturity. Augustine thought that they represent three different stages of spiritual pilgrimage:
- The dear or little children are those who are new in Christ.
2. The young men are those who are more developed believers, who are gaining strength and victory in spiritual warfare.
3. The fathers possess the depth and stability of more mature Christians.
Note that when John addresses children, fathers, and young men, he does not mean that what he says of one group is not true of the other. That’s obvious as you read the whole letter and see each of these privileges applied to the church as a whole.
I. “Dear Children”: The Blessings of Becoming a Child of God
John uses two different Greek words to describe this category of believers. The first (teknia, from the idea of to give birth to) emphasizes the close relationship between a child and his parents. The second word (paidia) focuses more on the obedient discipline that a child should have in relation to her parents. Combining the two ideas then, we have both close kinship and a willing obedience and submission. And those two ideas highlight the main blessings of becoming a child of God: knowing God personally, and willingly submit to Christ as Lord!
John writes that these new believers in Christ have two things: (1) “your sins have been forgiven on account of his name” and (2) “you have known the Father.”
(1) We saw two Sundays ago how our sins are forgiven in Christ, as He is our Advocate, our Righteousness, and our Propitiation (2:1-2). The “His name” represents both Christ’s person and his saving work on our behalf. (Acts 4:12)
(2) The second blessing literally is “You have come to know the Father;” that is, one of the great benefits of being born again is that we have a close relationship with God! I can remember when God opened my eyes to His truth, and I discovered that I could know God personally! I had known about God for 17 years, but I never knew God, until I was born of God’s Spirit!
Indeed, these blessings, forgiveness of our sins and knowing God personally, are two of our earliest conscious blessing after we are born again, right? Forgiveness of our sins through Christ and fellowship with God the Father! The Holy Spirit works in us and causes us to cry with joy, “Abba, Father!” (Romans 8:15-16; Gal. 4:6)
My friends, do you have this kind of relationship with God, through faith in Jesus Christ?
II. “Fathers”: The Blessing of Reaching Maturity in Christ
John now addresses those who are more spiritually mature in the congregation. They are still experiencing the blessings of forgiveness and of intimacy with God the Father. And now by God’s grace, John writes (2x) that “you have known him who is from the beginning.” What does John mean? Well, while all believers have come to know the Lord, it means that our experiential knowledge of God ripens and matures over the years and decades that we have grown in our faith. We have learned more of His ways and His character. We have learned to rest more in His sovereign love and wisdom for us. We have fought through many spiritual battles in the past decades. We are men and women who have labored for the Lord and have walked with Christ through many battlefields, and now we can confidently proclaim that the Lord has always been faithful, gracious, and sovereign!
Many people look forward to the later years of life, when they can retire, enjoy the grandchildren, and take trips. But the believer in Christ should look forward much more to the decades of spiritual maturity that come only through the struggles and the devoted disciplines of the Christian life. Our denomination has a website and Facebook page called BFC Finishers, for those 55 and over, to encourage spiritual growth and service in our later years. I am encouraged by a number of you who are volunteering your retirement years to serve with ministries such as Every Good Gift, the Whosoever Gospel Mission, and others. Praise God that the One we have known from the beginning, when we first believed, has proven Himself to be everything He promised to us in the gospel, and so much more!
III. “Young Men”: The Blessing of Overcoming the Evil One
After covering the babes in Christ and then the senior saints, John now addresses the young men: “Because you have overcome the evil one… because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.”
John Stott writes that “The Christian life is not just enjoying the forgiveness and the fellowship of God, but also fighting the enemy. The forgiveness of past sins must be followed by deliverance from sin’s present power, and justification followed by sanctification.” Our conflict with evil should eventually lead to a conquest over evil.
It may be helpful to point out here that in each of the main verbs in these six sentences, John uses the perfect tense, which indicates the present power and outworking of a past event. In other words, the finished work of Christ in His death, resurrection, and exaltation is continually being applied to us, as we grow in Christ. So, for instance, because Christ conquered Satan at the cross and the empty tomb, therefore we experience His power to conquer and overcome the Evil One today and every day.
Note what John writes in 14b: “because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” He says two things about these young men: (1) They are strong, and (2) the Word of God lives in them. That is, they have overcome the devil because they are strong, and the reason why they are strong is because the Word of God lives in them.
Of course, this is not just true of young men. The principle is the same for every Christian. The evil one is conquered by the strength that comes from having the word of God live in us.
Therefore when Satan accuses us with our sins, when he throws them in our face, and accuses us of not being God’s children, what do we do? We overcome the evil one with the Word of God!
And when the devil tempts us to sin, to give into our idols, what do we do? We overcome the devil by the Word of God! In both cases, we overcome Satan by the power of God’s Word! God’s Word gives us hope, power, and encouragement to carry on, and not give up!
John knows that none of us can overcome Satan’s condemnation and temptation if we feel that our sins have not been forgiven, and that it’s inevitable that we will eventually give in to temptation.
Unless there is hope of winning there is no motivation to fight. When all hope is gone, then strength and motivation disappear. But John’s aim is that we might overcome the darkness, that we would keep God’s commandments, and that we might walk in the light! The Lord wants us to be full of joy, and to conquer hate, and to love one another, so that the world will see it and give glory to God. His aim is to give us a surge of hope and courage to grab the weapon of the Word of God and mow down the demons of our lives!
And where does that kind of hope and courage come from? It comes from the gospel truths of 1 John 2:12-14. “Your sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake. You do know Christ; he is not far away. In him you have already conquered the enemy.” John wrote these truths as a gift, to lift you up, so that you might carry on in the journey of walking with Jesus Christ!
So there is reason for much encouragement. Your sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake. You know that Christ is King. Your enemy is defeated. Indeed, “The prince of darkness grim, We tremble not for him, His rage we can endure, For lo his doom is sure: One little word will fell him.”