We should remember that John’s reasons for writing this letter can be summed up in one single verse (5:13): “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” Everything in this letter can be viewed in this overall context, and in fact falls neatly into an order of a sort when so viewed.
John is writing to believers to tell them the reasons they may have confidence that Jesus is in fact the Messiah and that His self-sacrifice on the cross is enough to deal with the penalty for their sins, as well as their subsequent sanctification, that is the making holy of those believers, right up to their glorification in the resurrection at the right time. In the last chapter, he pointed out that he and the other apostles all saw these things and were eyewitnesses to what he writes of here, and then he began a detailed analysis of the human with a concept called sin, the violation of God’s holy standard. In tonight’s portion, he defines and explains how it works.
As such, I have broken down the chapter as follows:
KV6: Salvation defined and explained
1-2: Our sin is dealt with by Christ
3-6: Our salvation is shown by our obedience
7-11: Obedience is expressed in our love for other believers
12-14: John’s reasons for writing to his readers
KV6: Salvation defined and explained
Verse 6 reads, “…the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” I will pause to recognize the truth of the statement, but I must acknowledge that this isn’t me saying it, it is the Apostle John. Given that he was “the disciple whom Jesus loved” in the Gospel of John, I would say he is intimately familiar with the subject of the gospel. People seem to get this wrong. They try to tell us that there was more than one author of the scriptures named John, they tell us that John didn’t write the Gospel of John, that he wrote Revelation (singular, not plural, because the thing being revealed is Jesus Christ, and that’s a pet peeve of mine). They are wrong. These things come from 18th and 19th century so-called “higher criticism” and are meant to attack the word of God under the guise of studying it’s truths, so we will pointedly ignore that and actually study the text with a traditional understanding that the Apostle John wrote all of them.
In Verse 6, John tells us that the one who claims to BE a Christian should WALK LIKE CHRIST. Wow, John just called us to let the rubber meet the road and put the pedal to the floor, Beloved. I know the analogy is mine, but the intention is his. If you want to be a Christian, you have to obey Christ, and if you don’t, all that is proving is that you are not a Christian. I’ll never forget this video I saw once about 2012 or so on YouTube. It was Miley Cyrus and a friend of hers sitting there claiming to be Christians, and telling people not to judge them because they were real Christians and nobody could tell them otherwise. This was around the time of her infamous twerking episode at either AMA or Grammys, not sure which. This verse came to mind.
Another term for this kind of idea has been recently (though not that recently) introduced to describe this. That term I get from Dr. John MacArthur, but it is “Lordship Salvation.” Now, I know I just said a controversial term, but allow me to explain first that salvation will happen to an individual long before the works of the Spirit begin to manifest themselves in that believer. With that said, you have to think about this: if you are claiming that Jesus is your saviour, and you are not willing to let Him be your Lord, with a capital L, then He is neither your Lord NOR your Saviour, and you require repentance and to believe in Him and His finished work on the cross. Now that you know that, it is up to you to obey Him or argue the point away until you die in your sins. Whatever you choose, I’m moving on, having discharged my duty as a preacher and teacher to point that out.
And what is that I’m pointing out exactly? Let’s get into tonight’s text to find out.
1-2: Our sin is dealt with by Christ
The very first thing that needs to be said is that our sin is dealt with by and in Christ. We did nothing to deal with it, nor could we. Recall for a moment Romans 6:23a: “The wages of sin is death.” This is all we earn for ourselves with our works, that is our attempts to earn our own salvation and reconciliation with God. We are all under this wrong notion that we have to clean our own act up before we can approach God for redemption, but it isn’t that way. Instead, because we could not, He died in our place, and then gave it to all who will turn to Him in faith as a gift. Romans 6:23b: “…but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We will pick up the text here.
1: My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;
- This is pretty straight forward. There are a few things worth pointing out. There is actually here a bit of a proof of John’s advanced age. His first words here are teknia mou, which translates as “My little children.” The choice by the Apostle and therefore the Holy Spirit with whom John wrote in inspired concert indicates at least to me that John was quite a bit older than those to whom he wrote. It is thought that when he wrote these letters, he was in his late eighties, having written them sometime after AD 90 but before AD 95. In terms of the average lifespan, which at the time was between 35 and 50 years and I’m being generous, John would have been much older than the oldest of his audience, and this language only by the providence of God. For comparison, Paul reached 60 most likely. Peter may have reached 65. Today, I can expect to reach 81 with all of my various health issues, though I’m wondering if I can take the pain that long. [Ha ha ha.] John would have been surrounded by adults who were 30-40 years his junior. To him, a 50-year-old man would have been considered a child. Little children indeed. When I read through the letter, I feel like a junior to him, too. The depth of his theological understanding makes me feel like a child. And he was writing to all of those believers for a purpose: their holiness. “I am writing these things to you that you may not sin.”
- John was no fool, either. He knew that us sinning was possible. If we go back a moment to the last few verses of the last chapter, we can see that. If anyone says he doesn’t sin, he’s a liar and the truth isn’t in him. He doesn’t say he’s deceived, he flat-out calls that individual a liar. But again, he tells us in verse 9 that if we will confess our sins to Christ, He will forgive us for those sins and cleanse us from that and all other unrighteousness. [read 1 Jn. 1:8-10]. That’s why John ends this verse by telling us that if we DO fall into sin, we have an advocate [parakleton] with the Father. Then it names the helper: Jesus Christ the righteous [dikaios, the state of being right or straight, by implication, innocent].
- John is telling us that Jesus Christ is the solution to our sin, and the key to our holiness all at once. He who is walking with Christ is not living in sin, but his renewed and sinless ways are in the new nature that Christ has given him. And should he fall back into sin, that will become less frequent over time if he is a true believer. Why? Verse 6, which we have already looked at as the key verse of this text.
2: and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
- John continues with the gospel as his theme here, declaring that our advocate before the heavenly
Father has performed the work Himself! Look here–“and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins.” What does “propitiation” mean? I mean that’s a big word, right? The Greek here is hilasmos, and it literally means “merciful,” but extends to the act of expiation another big word, but one you would do well to learn, because it is also involved in your salvation! According to Vine, it is the “means whereby sin is covered and remitted.” Let me read what else Vine says, because it is very clear: “It is used in the NT of Christ Himself as “the propitiation,” in 1 John 2:2 and 4:10, signifying that He Himself, through the expiatory sacrifice of His death, is the personal means by whom God shows mercy to the sinner who believes on Christ as the One thus provided. In the former passage He is described as “the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world.”
- Now, you all know I use the NASB for these studies, as well as the new LSB, and even occasionally the ESV. But you should also know I love the KJV, it was the first bible I ever read at about 8 years old, and I still have a tendency to remember and quote the KJV because of the beautiful Shakespearean language it has, and I am a fan of the Bard. Here, however, is where the KJV makes a mistake. If you look, you will see that “those of” is italicized in your NAS, and “the sins of” is italicised in the KJV. This gives a wrong interpretation the way we speak English today, and that surprises me a bit from the NAS. Universalists love the KJV as proof text on this for this reason. What is actually being indicated is that Christ made provision for the whole world, and that means that no one is predetermined to be rejected by God. However, the efficacy of the propitiation here will only apply to those who will believe it. We talked about that a couple of weeks ago on Sunday morning. It is possible for someone to sit in our midst, sing the same hymns, read the same scriptures, even give mental assent to all of the correct doctrine, and still not be a believer. The only way we can know is to see the fruit that is displayed as they live their life, and I’m getting that from not just the Apostles, but our Lord Himself in the Gospels. You are not excluded by default, and you have the responsibility to turn if He calls you. There is not other way to see this in the Greek the way John wrote it down. This is not, as some like to shout at me, “my interpretation.” It is proper Greek grammar. I may not speak Koine Greek fluently yet, but I am getting a handle on the grammar.
This is John’s version of “In Christ Alone.” Only Christ could do this, and He did it by Himself, with only the Father and the Holy Spirit helping Him, because to be sure, all three persons of the Godhead were involved. It is in Christ alone that we find our reconciliation with God, and any other way that man will try to find it is already doomed to failure, and worse, it has the consequence of an eternity of separation from His love, and that will be a place of great burning, sorrow, and suffering for all those who will not responsibly follow Christ, which brings us to our next section..
3-6: Our salvation is shown by our obedience
If justification is by grace through faith in Christ alone, and we can literally do nothing to earn the merit required to save ourselves, but such is only given by the gift of God, then we have no control over it, and it is all the work of God. That means any good thing that comes from any of us has come from Him as we obey His Word, the holy writ of Scripture. This good conduct or “good works” that we do are the result of His saving us, and NOT things we need to do to merit His salvation. John addresses this in this thought unit. Let’s see what he meant.
3: By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.
- The very first thing John here really addresses is assurance. I encounter this a fair bit. “But Gerry,” I hear, “I said the prayer, and then I went right back to stealing cars,” or whatever the particular individual’s sin of choice is that brings them comfort, and they aren’t always that clear. John gives us the only measuring stick there is that can be trusted as regards our salvation: If we have come to know Him, we keep His commandments.
- We also need to understand what John meant by that. There is a notion out there today that we need to obey the voice of God, but I must tell you that this does not occur outside of Scripture. I have never heard an audible voice, and used to Be a Pentecostal. I was tossed out of the Pentecostal movement in the summer of 1987 when I recognized that Kenneth Hagin did not know the context of 1 Corinthians 14 and was bold and dumb enough to speak up at a church “bible study,” in which we read a Kenneth Hagin book where he took bible verses out of context and tried to tell people how to pray by telling people lies about what prayer actually is, but I digress.
- My point here is that God does not speak to people today with an audible voice in the main. He has one, and He has even used it. But no one has heard it since He identified His Son publicly about 2000 years ago now. Today, God speak through His Word. Those are His commandments. If you want to hear God speak, all you need to do is read the Bible. If you want to hear God speak audibly, read it out loud. When someone tells you that God spoke to them and then tell you something that is not contained in the word of God, they are lying to you. Worse, these people put words in God’s mouth that God did not say, speaking with authority that God did not give, about things that God did not decree as they suggest. Beloved, don’t follow these people, and definitely don’t BE one of these people. It will not go well for them.
- Let that not be so with us. If God has truly saved us, He will sanctify us, that is make us holy by teaching us His precepts and the need and reasons and means to obey them. If we have come to know Him, we WILL keep His commandments, and He will help us to do that, and that behaviour, according to what we read in Peter’s letters, will continue to increase in us right up until He returns.
4: The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him;
- John also addresses those who falsely claim that they are followers of Christ but do not live like He has made a difference in their life. Such people may still be saved, but it will be difficult to tell, because such people are not walking in His Spirit, and are thus not obeying Him and are not following Christ. That’s the best case scenario here.
- The most likely case though is something else. Jesus told us that when He returns, he will divide people into sheep and goats. The sheep are His people, and the goats are not. Before anything happens with the goats, He tells his people to enter into the joy of their Lord, and God willing, that is where we will all be. And then He addresses the goats in Matt.25:
- “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (vv.41-46)
- The goats are not real believers, and clearly they thought they were. Look how they answer the charges of the Lord: “Lord, when did we NOT…[fill in the blank].” And this is the second time that the Lord addressed this topic with the disciples. Look at Matt. 7:
- “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’
- And this is right after the Lord speaks about false teachers, incidentally. Those people that put words in God’s mouth that He did not say. And you know what these wingnuts say? They claim to “prophecy” in the name of Christ. They don’t, He never told them to say that. They also claim to cast demons out of people. Particularly Christians. Beloved, Christians, that have the Holy Spirit come and live inside them when they are justified before God, CANNOT be possessed by anything less powerful than GOD. Demons are less powerful than God. In fact, all of them put together are less powerful than God. So that’s a lie also. They also claim to perform many miracles. Some claim to heal falsely. Slow motion video can confirm that it’s a lie, by the way, and it has been done in a number of cases. Some claim to be able to raise the dead. Isn’t it funny that there is no evidence of this recorded? I mean in an age where everyone carries a cell phone that has a really good video camera that is capable of livestreaming or of saving really large video files, NO ONE has ever captured any of this on a video? And never mind if you go try to verify this, the people they talk about don’t seem to be able to talk about it. What happened when Jesus did miracles for people? For the most part, he told them not to talk about it…and they couldn’t stop themselves! No one is claiming that one of these shysters has raised them from the dead. No, Beloved, when you meet one of these liars, and that’s what the Lord Jesus Christ Himself called them, you are safe in not believing them, ignoring their blather, and walking away, and that’s what I personally recommend you do unless you have a discernment ministry like Justin Peters or Chris Rosebrough.
5: but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him:
- Now the previous verse was about the goats, this one is for all the sheep. In the person that God has truly justified, or regenerated, or saved, or however you want to refer to the propitiation we started with in verse 2, those are the ones that will keep His word, remember, that means to obey the Scriptures. In fact, they cannot help but do so. I’m not saying, and neither is John, that we can live sinless lives. Sin can be enjoyable, and we tend to pursue those things that make us feel good until we have a better reason not to do so. You want to know if you are saved? Take an honest look, I mean a really honest look at your own life. If you need to, ask your pastor for help, because it is part of the job. Ask him what you need to work on. I’m betting he has an answer if he is worth his office and you have spent time cultivating a relationship with him. Please don’t mistake me, HE is not in charge of YOUR life. HE cannot fix YOU, or fix it FOR you. You have to deal with this before Christ yourself. Having said that, I have some decided ideas on how you can do that, and I am willing to share. If you don’t HAVE a pastor, find a biblical one that serves a real congregation. You could also email me, and we will give that address out later in case you miss it here: PastoreGer@outlook.com. It is also scrolling across the bottom of your screen right now if you’re watching the livestream or the video later on. Moving on.
6: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.
- Beloved, we spoke about this at the beginning of the study this evening. The one who says that he abides in Him, that is the one who claims to be a Christian, should actually walk in the manner Christ walked! How did Christ walk? Read the Gospels for yourself and find out! His behaviour is recorded for us! And the reasons and regulations to follow are written in the very epistles that we are studying. Many of these quote passages of the Old Testament, and you can find where those things are written down there. We can KNOW how our Lord Jesus Christ walked, Beloved! The task becomes more difficult when He asks us to follow Him in obedience to His recorded standards.
The theological phrase that is assigned to this idea, again, is “Lordship Salvation.” Many people that think they have some choice in whether they are saved or not become filled with pride at that term, and automatically close their ears, or worse, rail against it. To these individuals, I will humbly ask this question: If you will not yield to Him completely and submit to Him as doulos Iesou Christou, then why would He see fit to save you? And even if you see that, you still do in fact have the responsibility to turn to Him and choose to submit to Him as your Lord so that He will be your Saviour. And before all you guys out there in the back row of the internet start asking dumb questions, no I cannot reconcile those two idea, and I don’t have to, that’s up to God. To be honest, I think of that issue as a proof that we are not able in all of our intelligence and wisdom as men to understand God. Someday, He will explain it to us if we ask nicely. Next paragraph.
7-11: Obedience is expressed in our love for other believers
Now that we have talked about obedience as a requirement for those that name the name of Christ, John turns to what that looks like in our walking with Christ in the Spirit. It turns out that we need to have AND DEMONSTRATE our love for other believers. The world gets this wrong all the time because they don’t understand what is being said, nor do they understand in our day and age the very words that are being used. I remember back to my Grade 12 English class, my teacher tried to instill in us the idea that WORDS have MEANINGS. Actually, Mr. Larman wasn’t the only one that did that, either, there were a number of teachers in my high school that tried to instill that idea, and I only realized it after I went to university, but this isn’t about that. This is about words actually having meanings. For example, did you know that in the original Greek, there are four different words used to translate into the English word “Love?” Each of those reflect differences in kind and meaning. So it turns out that love is not love is not love, for those that know what I’m talking about. The kind of love that John speaks of here is in found in verse 10, and is a form of the Greek word agape, the word that the translators of the Septuagint chose to translate the Love of God. Until that purpose, the word was not used very much in Greek. It describes a love that can only be divine, separated from emotional reactions, and yet with an emotional component. It is more than just a feeling, it is a commitment to put the interests of others ahead of your own. Beloved, it is self-deprecating, self-sacrificing, and complete in its resolution to do for your brothers and sisters in Christ. We already know this from Paul and Peter, but John is using the same definition clearly. With that understood, we will look at what John puts into words for us.
7: Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard.
- Here we get into the commandment to love one another. This commandment has been present since the beginning of the world. It isn’t anything new. I hear people make this mistake all the time. They think that the God of the Old Testament didn’t love anyone, and that simply wasn’t the truth. If he didn’t love His creation, we never would have made it out of the garden of Eden. This is what John means in my opinion when he says this commandment we have had from the beginning. In fact the earliest it is codified in a recognizable form in Scripture is Leviticus 19:17-18, which reads: “You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.” This has been around a long time. Jesus tells us that it is like that greatest commandment, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And all of his brothers and sisters in Christ would have heard it, probably from John himself.
8: On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining.
- Now I wondered if John here had started playing word games, but I arrived at the conclusion that he had not, and that he was serious in his message. How can an old commandment be new? John explains. It is true in Him, and it is also true in us in the same way. I really like how Matthew Henry puts it in his famous commentary, which I will quote here: “The command to love one another had been in force from the beginning of the world; but it might be called a new command as given to Christians. It was new in them, as their situation was new in respect of its motives, rules, and obligations.” He brings home the point by telling us that the darkness is passing away. I thought about that, and I have to admit that it doesn’t seem like it. In fact, things seem to be getting darker and darker in ways, but it isn’t really the case. The true Light, that is Christ, is already shining. How? In his love for us and in our love for Him and each other. This doesn’t mean we know how to do it, or that we do it right every time, but I refer you again to verse 2, because it is Christ Himself that covers our sins.
9: The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now.
- And here, John makes rubber meet the proverbial road. Oh, yes, I’m a Christian, you say. Do you “hate” your sibling in Christ? No, no, or course not, you will say. But do you actually hate them? The word for “hate” here is a form of the Greek miseō, and Vine defines this as “malicious and unjustifiable feelings towards others, whether towards the innocent or by mutual animosity.” This is of course a metaphorical use of the word, because John is equating this with darkness. A tip: when metaphors are used, you may employ a spiritual meaning to the word as opposed to a physical or literary use.
- What John is saying here is that loving your brother or sister in Christ is a way you can test this within yourself. If you have malicious and unjustifiable feelings towards others, you are not loving your brother in Christ. Now, I know people that will then attempt to inspect the fruit of another’s life and work here to make those feelings justifiable, but given that Christ died for us while we were His enemies, and He commands us to follow His example in that, THIS is not walking love, it is darkness within one’s soul. Some will say, you aren’t saved, but I cannot do that here. What I can say for sure is that you are walking in the flesh, because if you would put that aside and really walk in the Spirit, you would see this point. If you can’t, you aren’t, and Beloved, we ALL get this way.
10: The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him.
- John simply states that if you are actually loving your brother or sister in Christ (and further that last point, you do not get to decide who is unregenerate if they claim Christ without some special exercise and examination with witnesses, stop trying to be a fruit inspector for everyone else, stick to your own, the only one you can actually control), you are “remaining” or “continuing” in the Light. Please note here the capital L on Light. This is using the word metaphorically for Christ. If you are loving your brothers, and you do not get to pick who those individuals are, you are walking with Christ.
- Now if that is your case, John says there is no cause for stumbling in you. Beloved, that is a single Greek word: skandalon. We get our English word “scandal” from it, but it has a different meaning in the Greek, sort of. Originally, the skandalon was the name of the part of the trap to which bait was attached. From there, it developed into a reference to the entire trap. According to Vine, “In NT skandalon is always used metaphorically, and ordinarily of anything that arouses prejudice, or becomes a hindrance to others, or causes them to fall by the way. Sometimes the hindrance is in itself good, and those stumbled by it are the wicked.” Now before anyone can start using his or her fleshly mind to figure out good things that can be used to reveal wickedness in people we don’t like, John says in this verse that there is NO skandalon in the one who is walking with Christ. That behaviour is simply not allowed for the one that is following Jesus. Anyone wanting to see this kind of skandalon in operation should be at some of the church council meetings I have attended recently. This is NOT walking with Christ. NONE of it. This is exactly the opposite of what John is saying here. Where is the demonstrated obedience to the commanded example of Christ by Paul, James, Peter, John, Luke, and others here? NOWHERE, and that means we ALL need to REPENT. Why?
11: But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
- Read that again slowly. The one who has malice and feelings that are not to be justified toward one who names the Name of Christ is in the darkness. If I may restate that with a biblical synonym, this one is walking in the flesh and not the Spirit. This one who is in the flesh will walk in the flesh. As a result, they will have no clear path forward because they are wandering around unable to see in the dark, as opposed to being filled with the Light, who is Christ. Much harm has been done to the saints of God by this kind of wandering around in the flesh, in the darkness.
- Now, does this mean you are not saved? Not necessarily, we can all walk in this way, but since your fruit is on display, and you’re not really caring about it, it makes me wonder about you. And it should make a pastor wonder. If anyone has to rely on the fruit that is displayed for pastoral counselling, he does. When I see verbal jousting about issues of who controls what, and passive aggressive behaviour that tries to take control from another, and faces turning red and heavy breathing, I am fairly certain I need to start praying for all involved, because it is clear to me that everyone’s flesh is clearly on display.
As I stated earlier, this does not mean we are unsaved, it could mean we are walking in the flesh. But if you catch yourself in that place, or worse, if someone points it out to you personally, you need to spend some time repenting of not walking in the Spirit and dealing with your resentments toward those people before the throne. And you should notice here that John is not discussing who is right and who is wrong. He is addressing the conduct that EVERYONE should reflect. Especially those that like to bait traps, which NONE of us should be doing. You can get indignant with me about this if you like, but I will simply point out that I didn’t say this, JOHN did. And John is right.
12-14: John’s reasons for writing to his readers
With all that said, John states his reasons for the letter here, and this isn’t the only place. Here, he names all of his target audience, and gives the reasons for why he wrote to each group specifically. It’s very encouraging, and in it, you can see the development of real believers, and that’s always worth looking at for a number of reasons.
12: I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake.
- Now the phrase “little children” is the Greek word teknion. This is a diminutive form of teknon, a small child, and only ever used metaphorically in the NT. It is always plural (the actual word used in the manuscript is teknia), and John is the author that uses it most. It can be taken to mean that these teknia had a relationship of Christian love with John, and it is a term of endearment, but his whole target audience would have that same relationship, so it isn’t critical to the meaning here.
- Why is John writing to the teknia? Because they are believers, and here John reminds them of just what that means; their sins have been forgiven them because of Him and the sake of His reputation in the universe. (What else is a “name” for in that sense?)
13: I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father.
- As well as naming the other subgroups in his target audience, John states the reasons with them. To the fathers [Gk., pateres], They have the deepest knowledge of the divine. “…you know Him who has been from the beginning.” Now because there are people that will try to say that means God had a beginning or that Christ was a created being, that isn’t what the Greek says. The Greek for “beginning” is a form of the word arche, and it means the one who was there at the beginning, speaking of the undefined origins as opposed to a beginning point of time. I know that’s a nuance, but it’s an important one. The group of fathers (parents if you will) know the eternal One the best. That is what John is saying.
- The next group John reveals is the young men, but the Greek text says neaniskoi, again, a plural, dimunutive form of the word that simply means a youth. This is distinct from little children as a group. The little children usually know they have been saved from God’s wrath and that their sins have been forgiven. The youth are walking in the Spirit, and they are experiencing the power of Christ in their lives to mortify sin, to steal Paul’s phrase and translate it through John Owen. These are moment by moment overcoming their sin natures and the traps that the enemy of their souls has set for them, and learning from it every time they fail at it. That is the third group. John concludes with the teknia “because they know the Father.”
- If you think about the order in this verse, you can see the flow of the knowledge and teaching from old to young as well. Those who know the Eternal One best are to teach the younger ones, who will be examples for those that are but little ones in Christ. I am reminded of my old friend from my hometown that always referred to herself as “just a little baby Christian.” We both were then. It’s a great way of looking at this, too. Babies grow into youth, who eventually become parents. That’s what is supposed to happen according to God’s design, but we’ll leave that thought for another time.
14: I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
- This is John continuing the thought from the previous verse. To the fathers, a similar concept to the elders or the leaders in the congregation, he tells of writing because they “know [in the sense of understand completely, Vine] Him [capital H, God] who has been from the beginning [Gk., archē, the One who was there at the beginning, not the one that came into being at the beginning].” The mark of a father here is one who knows what the younger ones need to learn, and therefore is to be taught, by small groups, by book studies, like that today. This is not a teacher as in Ephesians, that is a different Greek word, didaskikos, the one who teaches the doctrine given by God to the church. In this sense, all older Christians have a responsibility to demonstrate and live what they know, and explain to younger ones why they do it that way. This is kind of anti-hypocrite; people naturally will not do things they are told by people that don’t represent it with authority in their own lives, no matter how “qualified” they may be on paper.
- To the youth, he declared that he has written to them because they are strong [Gk., ichuros, strong or mighty, referring in this use to the spiritual strength that comes from the Word of God] and that stregth allows them to overcome the evil [one is understood by some]. That evil is certainly referring to the enemy, but I think it also refers to the evilness found in our own flesh that puylls us by default toward sin, and this happens when we walk in the flesh. This is the very evil that John Owen wrote a treatise about, telling us to “mortify” it, or put it to death by walking in the Spirit. How can they do this? Because the Word of God abides in them. What does that mean? Exactly what it says. John isn’t the only Apostle that communicates this. Look at Paul’s words in Gal. 2:20–“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Paul is saying that he is still alive, but really it is Christ that lives in him and now acts by the power of that new nature Christ gave us as a result of the cross.
You see, Christ is the one that is responsible for our salvation. Yes, the Father and the Spirit are also responsible, but it is Christ that actually became human forever. It is Christ that lived a sinless life under the Law of Moses in perfect submission to the Father. It is Christ that loved us while we were His enemies, and some of us actually shook our fists at the sky in anger and enmity. One of my friends that was saved when we were in high school once told me that on the night the Lord saved him, he was actually out looking for ways to duke it out with God. I think my friend lost, but in losing, he won.
All of our lives, we should be yielding to Christ, living in that new nature that He died to give us, and that we receive when we finally yield to Him as He justifies us in real time, in history. Another way of saying this is obeying Him, or walking in obedience, as we looked at in our second paragraph this evening. If we yield to Him, we will walk in the light and we will have peace and His agapē love for our brothers, and in fact all of the people that surround us. We won’t be sniping at them from the shadows, baiting traps to catch them in acts of disqualification, sin, or just to make them look dumb in front of others. This behavior is NOT Christian, though Christians can do it if they continue to walk in disobedience. In the final thought unit we looked at tonight, John explains the reasons that he wrote his letter to the various groups in his target audience, and ALL of it was centered around Christ and how he has justified us before God and is sanctifying us as we walk in our new nature, His Holy Spirit, the One that He sent to live in us at justification by faith.
What does this say about our paltry and fleshly existence? Beloved, it means that we need to repent of every wrong we have ever done, and not walk in them any longer. The Scriptures call this “repentance.” We admit to God that what we are doing is SIN, and then we STOP DOING IT. If we are continually refusing to do that, or if we are continually justifying our walking in the flesh like this, we walk in disobedience, and we need to repent of that, whether we are actual believers or not. Perhaps this realization can help us to see that we need to live like Christ paying for our sins personally on the cross actually made the difference it is supposed to make, and not like recording artists that say they belong to Christ and live like they work for the other team by their behaviour. Beloved, if He is not your Lord that you daily and willingly obey, He is not your saviour either, because you are not changed. His mark of the new nature is not on your life. If you find yourself here, what do you do?
[pause and let it sink in]
You repent and believe the gospel. In other words that mean that very thing, you stop your wrongful, sinful actions because you are actually sorry for them, not because you got caught and called out. Then you believe that Jesus Christ paid the price for your sins personally with His death on the cross, and that He has called you to Himself. You will believe that God raised Him from the dead to show that your sins personally have been paid for, and if that happens, you will be freed from the sentence that has already been passed on all those who will not turn from their wicked disobedience of the Christ and His command to repent.
That’s what I saw in the text this evening.