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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.
1 John 2:12-14
In this chapter, John uses very strong language as he warns believers about the dangers of false teachers who are actively trying to deceive them. In verse 11 of our text, John says that if a person does not love their brother, they are in the darkness (not a Christian). And in verse 15 of our text, John says that if a person loves the world, they do not have the love of the Father in them (not a Christian). However, in between these strong warnings John inserts a much needed section of encouragement for those of us who may be discouraged. John wants us to remember and celebrate what God has done thus far in our lives, regardless of what stage in the Christian life we may find ourselves in. The Holy Spirit, through John's inspired writing, wants each of us to possess a powerful assurance of our salvation.
“John wants us to remember and celebrate what God has done thus far in our lives, regardless of what stage in the Christian life we may find ourselves in.”
Verse 12 of our text says, “I’m writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for his name’s sake.” John uses the phrase “little children” throughout this letter to address all of his readers. However, in this particular context, he is most likely using the phrase “little children” to refer to those who are newly converted. When John tells these new believers that their sins are forgiven “for his name’s sake,” he is reminding them that their sins were forgiven on account of the person and work of Jesus Christ on the cross. He is reassuring these individuals that their sins were not forgiven due to anything that they did. Forgiveness of sins, on the basis of Christ's finished work, is something that the youngest child of God can, and absolutely must, experience. It is foundational to our Christian walk that we know that our sins have been forgiven.
“Forgiveness of sins, on the basis of Christ's finished work, is something that the youngest child of God can experience.”
John addresses this same group of new believers again in the last portion of verse 13 when he writes, “I have written to you, children, because you know the Father.” As with the forgiveness of sins, so knowing God as our Father is foundational to our Christian walk. From the earliest stages of our Christian life, we must know God as our Father. We must continually fight to believe that God loves us and cares for us far more than any earthly father ever could. As John will go on to say, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are” (1 John 3:1).
In the first portion of verse 13 and in the first portion of verse 14, John repeats exactly the same thing. He is now addressing “fathers.” This title is reserved by the apostle for those who are spiritually mature. John says that the spiritually mature “know him who has been from the beginning.” In this context, the verb “know” is in the perfect tense. It means that these individuals have come to know God and still know him. The Greek verb means to know by experience.
“Spiritual fathers are individuals who have come to know God by experience, and despite all the challenges of life, they still know him.”
THE BRIDGE IN BETWEEN
So how do we grow from “little children” who are spiritual infants to “fathers” who are spiritually mature? In the second portion of verse 13 and the second half of verse 14, John writes to “young men.” This title is used to refer to those who are traveling from new faith in Christ to spiritual maturity. These individuals are somewhere in between “little children” and “fathers.” The first time John addresses this group in verse 13 he says that they “have overcome the evil one.” However, the second time John addresses this group in verse 14 he reveals the secret for how these individuals have overcome the evil one by writing this: “The word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.”
“The word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.”
The enemy of our souls wields a weapon of deception. As Paul wrote, “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3). In light of this, we must constantly be on alert to the devil's schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11). It is only when we allow the Word of God to abide in us that we overcome the deceptive strategies of the enemy. Even our Lord Jesus overcame Satan in the wilderness by quoting Scripture (Matthew 4:4-10). The only way that we will grow in spiritual maturity and overcome the evil one is to let the Word of God dwell richly in our hearts by diligently meditating on it day and night (Psalm 1).
Regardless of where you presently are in your Christian walk, God wants you to frequently recognize and remember past evidences of his grace in your life. One of the ways that Satan inhibits our future sanctification is by robbing us of the assurance of our past sanctification, and by proxy, Satan robs us of the assurance of our justification. The promises of God that are offered in the gospel are the greatest source of motivation towards sanctification that the Christian will ever possess. However, all of these promises are completely emptied of their power if the Christian loses the assurance of their salvation. Sanctification is one of the leading proofs for assurance, but at the same time, sanctification will never occur in the life of an individual who possesses no assurance at all.
1) Do you see assurance of salvation as merely a “pass-or-fail system?” What dangers come about as a result of this view?
2) If assurance of salvation is actually more like a “sliding scale,” how would you rate yourself in the three areas of 1) Doctrine: a biblical and personal confession of Jesus, 2) Relationships: love for God and love for his people, and 3) Morality: Obedience to God's commands?
3) What is the primary contributing factor for a lack of assurance of salvation in your life?
AN EXCITING NEW ANNOUNCEMENT!
Effective immediately, Right Response Ministries will be airing brand new episodes of our most popular show/podcast, “THEOLOGY APPLIED,” every single week! Our vision for “THEOLOGY APPLIED” is simple: To demonstrate the perfect sufficiency of Scripture by providing clear instruction for how Christians can practically apply biblically faithful theology to every area of their lives.
To date, Right Response Ministries has only produced new episodes of “THEOLOGY APPLIED” every other week. Although we are incredibly excited about airing new episodes on a weekly basis, this new transition will significantly increase our ministry's workload. In short, we are stepping out in faith. Through much prayer, we have decided to commit to more than we can presently accomplish. We made this decision because we wholeheartedly trust the Lord to move on the hearts of individuals like you to generously provide the necessary resources in order to make this new endeavor sustainable. To that end, we sincerely thank you for your continued prayers and generosity.
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