Spiritual Maturity (I John: 2:12-14)
12I am writing to you, dear children,
because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
13I 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.
14I 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.
John addresses his readers according to their measure of spiritual maturity. The three levels of spiritual maturity:
I John: 2:12-14 presents three levels of spiritual maturity:
• The child knows his sins are forgiven and he is beginning to know God.
• The young man knows the Word of God and he is able to fight evil.
• The father is one who knows God intimately and is able to reproduce that pursuit of God in others.
We must mature from children who have experienced salvation; to young men who know the Word of God and can wage the spiritual battle; to fathers who have also walked with God over a significant period of time and reproduce the next generation of spiritual mentors/fathers. The reproduction completes the spiritual lifecycle, bringing spiritual renewal to the church. This is true Discipling and Discipleship.
1) Dear children, who have their sins forgiven.
(1 John 2:12) I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
A) I am writing to you, dear children: We each begin the Christian life as children. When we are in this state spiritually, it is enough for us to know and be amazed at the forgiveness of our sins, and all it took for God to forgive us righteously in Jesus Christ.
B) Because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name: This is something to rejoice in. If we do not rejoice in this, something is wrong with us. We probably fail to see the wickedness of our sin and the greatness of His forgiveness. When we see how great our sin is, and how great the cost was to gain our forgiveness, we are obsessed with gratitude at having been forgiven. Think carefully: Who would you literally go to death on the Cross for? Who would you be whipped for? Who would you allow nails to be pounded into your wrists and feet for? Jesus did this, and much more, so we could be forgiven.
C) Dear children: This forgiveness is the special joy of God's dear children, because God's forgiveness does not come by degrees. Even the youngest Christian is completely forgiven. They will never be "more forgiven." Forgiveness is God's gift, not man's achievement.
D) Note it well: your sins have been forgiven on account of his name: The reasons for forgiveness are not found in us, but in God.
2) Fathers, who have years of experience, observation, and relationship with Jesus.
(1 John 2:13a) I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.
A) I am writing to you, fathers: Just as surely as there are little children, there are also fathers. These are men and women of deep, long spiritual standing. They have the kind of walk with God that doesn't come overnight. These are like great oak trees in the Lord, that have grown big and strong through the years.
B) you know him: This is what spiritual maturity has its roots in. It is not so much in an intellectual knowledge (though that is a part of it), but more so in the depth of fellowship and relationship we have with Jesus. There is no substitute for years and years of experience, observation, and relationship with Jesus.
3) Young men, who have known spiritual victory.
(1 John 2:13b) I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.
A) I am writing to you, young men: As much as there are little children and fathers, so also there are young men. These are men and women who are no longer little children, but still not yet fathers. They are the "front line" of God's work among His people.
B) Because you have overcome the evil one: They are engaged in battle with the evil one. We don't send our little children out to war, and we don't send our old men to the front lines. The greatest effort, the greatest cost, and the greatest strength are expected of the young men.
C) Overcome the evil one: These young men have overcome the spiritual foes that would seek to destroy their spiritual life. They know what it is to battle against Satan and his emissaries as a partner with God.
4) Dear children, who know the Father.
(1 John 2:13c) I write to you, dear children, because you know the Father.
A) Because you know the Father: In this first stage of spiritual growth, we sink our roots deep in the Fatherly love and care of God. We know Him as our caring Father, and see ourselves as His dependent children.
B) Dear children: John uses different words for dear children in verses 12 and 13 (teknia and paidia). Teknia has more of an emphasis on a child's relationship of dependence on a parent, while paidia has more of an emphasis on a child's immaturity and need for instruction.
5) Fathers, who have years of experience, observation, and relationship with Jesus.
(1 John 2:14a) I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.
A) because you know him who is from the beginning: The repetition of the same idea from 14a shows that it should be emphasized. The relationship with Jesus Christ that people at this stage of spiritual growth have is both true and deep.
B) I write to you: Sometimes we might think, "Well, isn't there more? It's fine for these fathers to know Jesus, but shouldn't they go beyond?" This repetition reminds us that there is no beyond. Knowing Jesus is truly the highest spiritual achievement.
C) Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, could say that he counted all his previous spiritual achievements as rubbish, compared to the surpassing greatness of just knowing Jesus. That I may know Him is the powerful way Paul phrased it in Philippians 3:10.
6) Young men, who are strong and know spiritual victory.
(1 John 2:14b) 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.
A) I write to you, young men: Again, the repetition of the idea indicates emphasis. Not only have the young men . . . overcome the evil one, but they have done it through the strength that comes to them through the word of God. God's Word is our source of spiritual strength.
B) the word of God lives in you: These young men, who had gained some measure of spiritual maturity, were known by the fact that God's Word lived in them. The Word of God had made itself at home in their hearts.