Guys! This is the easiest week! In this little poem John gives us a clear pattern to follow with little variation from the first half to the next. And not only is it easy, for those who are in Christ, it is so very faith strengthening. John drops all hypothetical language and here speaks directly to believers. I imagine him taking my face gently into his hands, looking me squarely in the eyes, and speaking To Me, “I am writing this BECAUSE your sins are forgiven… BECAUSE you know him… BECAUSE… you have overcome.” Do you hear the certainty in his voice?
John has been giving his readers example after example of unbelievers who say one thing and live another, people who had been in church with them and seemed to be very secure in what they believed. But something went wrong, and these folks left, leaving in their wake church members who were confused and uncertain in their faith. John is reminding them of what he knows to be true of them. He is saying, “Those others were walking in the darkness and blinded by the darkness, but I know that you are walking in the light for these very simple reasons.” The false teachers made faith very confusing, but John is telling us that it need not be, and here’s why.
Memory aids for this week will be patterns, repeated words and ideas, and calm reassurance. He writes to three groups of believers 2 times each: (little) children, fathers, and young men. I won’t go into the various scholarly opinions about who these groups represent, as that’s not my purpose here, but notice that each characteristic he lists for all of these is true of every believer in Christ. (for more explanation, see my upcoming blog post about this passage from our study, lesson 7, in mid-November.) John writes two different things that he knows to be true of the “children,” the exact same thing twice to the “fathers,” and the same thing to the “young men,” with an expanded version the second time around. Easy peasy!
12 I am writing to you, little children,
because your sins are forgiven for his name’s
Three times John begins with “I am writing to you—because” Keep that pattern for every new beginning. First, he is writing to little children, because their sins are forgiven for his (Jesus’) name’s sake. This is the first thing that is true of every believer and it’s the first thing he tells them. (*There are lots of things true of every believer which compete for first place- don’t look too theologically close at that—it’s a memory aid—first things first!)
13 I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the
I am writing to you, young men,
because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, children,
because you know the Father.
Okay, this verse is just numbered in a way that includes several repeats, let’s take them one at a time. He is writing next to fathers, because they know him who is from the beginning (meaning, the Eternal God).
Then he is writing to young men, because they have overcome the evil one (as has every believer in Christ, because He has overcome the evil one). This completes our first round through the categories to whom he is writing.
He begins round two with a twist, now it’s I write to you, (x3). First up are the children (dropping “little”), who simply know the Father (again, as does every believer).
14 I write to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the
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.
Continuing the pattern, he writes again (verbatim) to fathers, because they know him who is from the beginning.
Finally, he writes to young men, but expands his reason now with a threefold explanation: because you are strong, and (why are they strong?) the word of God abides in you, and (therefore), you have overcome the evil one. Silently asking those parenthetical questions keeps me on track both with the memorization and theologically. 😉 )
John goes from this poetic reassurance straight to an authoritative command:
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world.
If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is
not in him.
His command is very simple and goes to the heart of that which separates the sheep from the goats: Do not love the world (but not only the world, but also) or the things in the world. (Why? Because—) If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. There is no neutral ground. No grey area. These are mutually exclusive loves.
After the gently comforting words which John has spoken of what he knows to be true of these Christians, the idea that they could possibly choose to love the world instead of the Father—for that is the choice before each and every one of us: to love the world or the Father—is inconceivable. For there is no room in the human heart to fit both of these loves. The love of the world and the love of the Father share no common ground and are vehemently opposed to one another. John lays before us the same choice which Joshua, indeed, every man of God from the Old Testament, demanded: “Choose you this day whom you will serve.”
The choice before us is obvious. I pray that you echo me in answering with Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)