1 John 2:12-14

12 I am writing to you, dear children,
    because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
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.

14 I write to you, dear children,
    because you know the Father.
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 lives in you,
    and you have overcome the evil one.
(1 John 2:12-14 NIV)

John shares his pastoral heart toward the Christ followers in the Asia Minor churches in today’s reading.

John uses stages of physical life to depict stages of spiritual life.  Physical life and spiritual life may or may not be at the same stage.  John speaks to three distinct groups:

  • children
  • young men
  • fathers

As a child, what were your greatest concerns or fears?  The list is long, but two of the most common childhood fears are disconnection and vulnerability.  Children have an innate need to feel connected, accepted, and protected.  That’s how God designed and made us, in every aspect of our being – physically, socially, spiritually, economically, relationally.

John addresses both of these childhood fears as he addresses spiritual “children”.  In verse 12, John uses the word for “little children” (i.e., newborns) and reminds us that our sins are forgiven and we have peace with God and acceptance in His presence through Christ.  God will not abandon or disconnect from us – there is no need to have detachment issues with the Lord.  Babies need to be held and loved and sense physical connectedness long before they develop relational connectedness.

Remember the Lord’s promise to Joshua:

No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.
(Joshua 1:5 NIV, underline esmphasis mine)

The writer of Hebrews reminds us that God’s promise to Joshua applies to us as well:

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

“Never will I leave you;
    never will I forsake you.”
(Hebrews 13:5 NIV, quoted from Deuteronomy 31:6, 8, and Joshua 1:5)

In verse 13, John uses the word “children” (i.e., pre-adolescents) to show relational connectedness to the Lord.  We can know the Father and trust in Him for our protection and care.  God will not allow us to be spiritual orphans – He knows we are vulnerable and intervenes to protect us and provide for us.  We can look to Him and trust His heart and His promises.

John uses the age grouping of “young men” to identify the next group of Christ followers.  They are no longer babies, but have built on the relational attachment they have to the Lord and have been trained to stand in God’s ways and choose to live their lives accordingly.  John commends us for overcoming the evil one through our life choices.

And how do we go from spiritual babies to spiritual “young men” and young ladies?  Through training and study.  John says in verse 14 that “the Word of God lives in you…”  Because God’s Word lives in us, we become strong in our faith.  As we gain strength in our faith, our victory over sin and the temptations of the evil one increases proportionately.

John addresses spiritual maturity as he addresses spiritual “fathers”.  It’s important to see that John does not use other terms like “mature men” or “old men”.  Instead, John uses the root word for “patriarch”, indicating both spiritual maturity and spiritual reproduction.  The idea here is that we have progressed from spiritual children, received training to become strong adults, and now have taken root and are “abiding” in the Lord and have been used to produce spiritual “fruit” as evidence of our maturity in Christ.

Notice that John repeats the same thing to the spiritual fathers:  “… you know Him who is from the beginning.”  We have the relationship with the Lord, we have the training, now we understand and trust in the very heart and character of the Lord to carry us through every trial and situation.  Nothing can sway us from our steadfast trust in Him.

As we allow the Lord to look at our lives and hearts, where are each of us in John’s scale of spiritual maturity?

  • Children?
  • Young men?
  • Fathers?

Whatever stage we may find ourselves, may our desire be to grow and become mature in Christ, allowing God to reproduce spiritual fruit in the lives of others as Christ commanded.

Like John, I can testify that God’s promises are true, His Word is sure, and His heart is kind.  Take heart and abandon yourself to Him.  He will not leave you or forsake you.