Tuesday, August 18, 2009

1 John 2:12-17

V12-17 – 12I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of His name. 13I 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. 14I 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. 15Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world. 17The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

Coming to v12-14, John wants to reassure his faithful children in the faith that they are secure in Christ. His teaching to this point in the letter may have caused them some concern over their own salvation. So he speaks to “dear children,” “fathers,” and “young men,” commending their faithfulness to God. Some commentators suggest that this address to three groups is actually to one group. That one group would be “children” – through forgiveness, now a part of God’s family – “fathers” – experiential knowledge of Christ brings responsibility to train the next generation – and “young men” – decisive rejection of Satan equals victory akin to Jesus’ in the wilderness.

Other commentators say that this address is indeed to three different groups within any given congregation. First, speaking to the “dear children,” or “little children,” John is addressing the newer believers in his audience. He says that their sins have been forgiven – for the sake of Jesus’ Name (or on account of His Name – see Acts 2:38, 3:6; 4:12, and John 17:11), and that they have known the Father. Do you see how critical these simple statements are to new believers? They are objective statements, encouraging and edifying and reassuring; forgiveness is not based on our performance in any way. God saves sinners when they are in their sin, not those who try hard not to be sinners. And they know God.

Second, speaking to “fathers,” John is addressing the spiritually mature people in his audience. He says they “have known Him who is from the beginning.” It’s a beautiful description that we know well. Certainly you have been around the spiritually mature and walked away thinking, “That person just loves Jesus.” There’s not necessarily a specific thing that stands out, because their full character carries the aroma of Christ and Life and Love and Light. It’s because they have know the eternal Lord.

Third, speaking to the “young men,” John is addressing those Christians who might not yet be considered spiritually mature, but who are certainly on their way in the growth in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ that Peter commands (2 Peter 3:18). John encourages them by declaring that they have overcome the evil one; they are strong, and the word of God lives in them. Basically, they can take heart, because the power of sin has been broken in their lives. They still fall, but they experience deliverance not only from the penalty of sin but also from the power of sin. And they do that because the word of God dwells in them richly. They fight sin by the word of God, and equipped to live for God and die to sin, they have overcome.

Since the fifth verse of the first chapter, John has combated three errors, described a moral test and a relational test of authentic Christianity (he still will discuss the doctrinal test later), and provided words of encouragement for every level of Christian, the new believer, the believer growing in grace, and the spiritually mature believer. In this short passage (V15-17), John describes perhaps the most noticeable thing about Christian behavior – being in the world without loving the world.

The word “world” can mean several things, but here John means, as one preacher put it, “‘evil men over against God’ – the sum total life of human life, human culture, the ordered world considered apart from, alienated from, hostile to God with Satan as its head” (1 John 3:1,13; 5:19). John likes dichotomies, and he often makes our grays into black and white; light and darkness, truth and lies, love and hate, and here, love for the things of God and love for the world. Also, the word “love” refers, as the preacher put it, “to a fondness and affection for an object because of its value, an appetite, a desire, something that I take pleasure in, something that I set my heart upon; what I am emotionally, physically, spiritually invested in; where I get my comfort, hope, and security. We’re not talking about things in and of themselves but our attitude toward things.” In other words, what is precious to you? Appetites for the things of the world are in complete conflict with those for God and His Kingdom. John Piper’s ministry, Desiring God, is all about making Jesus supremely valuable to mankind.

John breaks down the things of the world – desires (natural and necessary), lust (natural but unnecessary), and boasting (neither natural nor necessary) – and acknowledges that they do not come from the Father. What does your appetite say about who you are and what you love? What do the things you watch or look at say about who you are and what you love? And what do the things you have and way you spend your time say about who you are and what you love most? And these things, John says, pass away; but “the man who does the will of God lives forever.” Regarding God’s will, Calvin says, “What is spoken of here is not the perfect keeping of the law, but the obedience of faith, which, however imperfect it may be, is yet approved by God.”

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