Little Children, Fathers, Young Men
LITTLE CHILDREN, FATHERS, AND YOUNG MEN
1 John 2:12-17
___________ do you have a watch? Here is what I am going to do…I am writing a number down and if you guess the number you get to keep the watch, but if you don’t guess the number, I get the watch!
- That doesn’t make much sense because he already has the watch…it is his!
- Why should he give it up regardless of what number I have?
I am sure that most of you have had some young men come by your house and they want to tell you about their prophet…and they want to give you their prophet’s so called “Latter Day Revelation.”
- Let me ask you this? Don’t you already have what you need for salvation?
- Why would you need something else?
- Why would you give up what is already yours for something else?
The reason I mention these things to you is because that is basically what John is saying here in this passage: Why would you give up what is already yours for something else?
- Look at the passage starting in verse 12.
Now it is important that you keep in mind that John is writing this to counter what the Gnostics were teaching and to counter their influence on these Christians.
- There were several different Gnostic teachings such as “You can live any way you want and still have fellowship with God because what you do in the flesh has no bearing on the spiritual.”
- Or they said that “they had fellowship with God because they weren’t sinners.”
- Others said you didn’t have to keep the commandments of God and still others hated their brothers while claiming to have fellowship with God.
- And basically what they were doing is they were influencing these Christians to do the same thing they were.
- So John is writing to counter that influence.
So look at this passage…
- The first thing I want you to notice is the 3 different categories of people that John writes this to.
- They are all Christians…they are all IN Christ…but in verse 12 and 13 he is writing to “little children”…in verse 13 and 14 he is writing to “”
- And in verse 13-14 he is writing to “young men.”
Now, obviously, when he says he is writing to “little children” he isn’t referring to age.
- Little children can’t read little on comprehend what the Gnostics were teaching.
- So when John speaks of “little children, young men, and fathers” he is not referring to their ages.
Instead, he is referring to their spiritual chronology…their spiritual maturity.
- The “little children” are new converts.
- The “young men” are 2nd generation Christians…more mature.
- And “fathers” are those who have heard the message of Christ from the beginning…they are first generation Christians.
Now look at verse 12: I am writing to you (present tense) little children, because your sins are forgiven you (perfect tense in the Greek: speaks of a present state resulting from a past completed action; their sins were forgiven in the past and they are still being forgiven) for His name’s sake.
- Do you understand what they already have?
- These “little children”…these new converts are the most vulnerable to the influence of the Gnostics…and John, to keep them from falling for the false teachings of the Gnostics says, “Your sins were forgiven in the past and they are still forgiven!”
- Because of their obedient faith in Christ…and because of their acknowledgement that they are sinners…for His name sake God, out of honor to Jesus, keeps forgiving their sins.
Look at what else John says to these “little children” or these new coverts…look at the end of vs. 13:
I have written to you (now it is past tense – this speaks of past correspondence), children, because you know the Father (perfect tense).
- If they didn’t “know the father” their sins would not be forgiven.” Do you remember what John said about how you can tell who “knows” God?
Now, if their sins are forgiven…and if they know the Father…they don’t need to listen to the Gnostic doctrine. The Gnostic doctrine is of no value to them.
- Why would they give up what they already have for something else?
And the same is true for us…”why give up what you already have…for something else?”
Now look at what else John says in vs. 13: I am writing to you (present tense), fathers, because you know (perfect tense – again, this speaks of a present state as the result of a past completed action) Him who has been from the beginning (the beginning of Christianity).
- These “fathers”, these first generation Christians had obeyed the Lord’s commandments in the past and they were still keeping His commandments.
Now look at verse 14:
I have written to you (past tense- speaks of past correspondence), fathers, because you know Him (perfect tense) who has been from the beginning.
- In both verses John says to these more mature Christians…these who are first generation Christians…that they “know Him…they know God!”
- They know His commands…they know His commands of love…and they know His commands of righteousness!
- Now if they know God, if they have fellowship with God…why would they need anything that these Gnostics would teach them?
Why would they give up what they already have for something else or why would they have to add to it?
And the same is true for us…”why give up what you already have…for something else?”
Now, look at the “young men” in verse 13:
I am writing to you (present tense), young men, because you have overcome (perfect tense) the evil one.
- Through Christ they had overcome “the evil one” and they were still over coming him.
- Why would they need or want anything the Gnostics had to offer?
Vs. 14: I have written to you (past tense- speaks of past correspondence), young men, because you are strong (present tense), and the word of God abides (present tense) in you, and you have overcome (perfect tense) the evil one.
- If they are strong…if the word of God abides in them…if they have already heard the Gnostics’ teachings and rejected it…
- If they know the truth and have fellowship with God…then they do not need to even listen to what the Gnostics have to say.
And isn’t that true for us today?
And notice the results of John’s past correspondence. Because of his past correspondence the little children, fathers, and young men “know Him; they have overcome the evil one, they are strong, and the word abides in them.”
- John’s past correspondence either refers to the Gospel of John or the Book of Revelation; probably the book of Revelation because those who are faithful have “overcome, they are strong, and they are victorious.”
But regardless, because of John’s past correspondence and his present writing, these “little children, young men, and fathers” are in fellowship with God.
- Why would they even listen to what the Gnostics have to say?
And the same is true for us.
If anyone who comes to your door and says, “You need this new revelation or you need what this “latter day prophet” has to say, they are doing the same thing that these Gnostics were doing when John wrote this letter.
- God has given us everything we need to know for salvation…
- Through His Son we have the forgiveness of sins…we have the full revelation…we have fellowship with God, the Son and the apostles…
- If we already have that…why then would we want to listen to anything they have to say?
- If it is already ours…it wouldn’t make much sense to give it up no matter what they have to offer.
Now, why do you suppose that John writes to all three categories of people here: little children, young men, and fathers?
- Why write these reminders of what they already knew and have?
- Because every one is vulnerable.
- The “little children”…the new converts…without a doubt were the most vulnerable.
- But the young men and the fathers were not without vulnerability.
- We have all seen a new Christian be led astray by some silver tongued preacher.
- But it happens to the more mature as well.
- We need to all take heed lest we fall.
Now, look at verse 15…again…remember that John is dealing with the influence of the Gnostic’s teaching. Look what he says:
15 Do not love the world, nor the things in the world.
- The word “love” is the Greek word “agapao.”
- That speaks of a “sacrificial love.”
- John says here that the world and the things of the world do not deserve sacrificial devotion.
- A lot of people “sacrifice” what is important for what the world has to offer.
Look what John says next: “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
- It’s not hard to discern what the Gnostic teaching was.
- They taught that you could do both…love the world and all its sinful pleasures…and love the Father.
- Split devotion.
- John says, “You cannot serve to Masters…you cannot fellowship darkness and be devoted to the light.”
Vs. 16: For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh (internal appetite for what you do not have) and the lust of the eyes (external appetite for what you do not have) and the boastful pride of life (wrong attitude concerning internal and external that we do have…the haughty display of possessions) is not from the Father, but is from the world.
- These things can only give us temporary gratification of our fleshly appetites.
- So John is saying, “Don’t just love those things which satisfy the less noble side of man.
- Instead, love the Father…and look at why in verse 17:
17 And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever.
The world can build up your ego and satisfy your fleshly appetites…but that is all it can give you.
- And a lot of people sacrifice the eternal for the things of the world.
- The question is: is it a good trade?
Brethren, what we have in Christ…is incomparably more valuable and precious…than all that the world can offer and give.
© Sunset Ridge Church of Christ 2024