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Growing In Grace And Strength (1 John 2:12-17)

Gary Vanderet, 12/11/1988
Part of the 1 John: Living Confidently in the Light series, preached at a Sunday Morning service

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PENINSULA BIBLE CHURCH CUPERTINO

Growing in Grace and Strength

1 John 2:3-11

Gary Vanderet

Series: Living Confidently in the Light
Fourth Message
Catalog No. 716
December 11, 1988


Have you ever been misunderstood? Perhaps something you said did not come out exactly the way you wanted, or maybe someone took something you said and twisted it to mean something you never intended. Faulty communication can occasionally be humorous, especially when we catch it in print. Perhaps you have even caught a few typographical errors in our church bulletins. Here are a few mistakes that have come across my desk in church bulletins:

  • “This afternoon there will be a meeting in the north and south ends of the church. Children will be baptized at both ends.”
  • “This being Easter Sunday, we will ask Mrs. Franklin to come forward before the offering and lay an egg on the altar.”
  • “On Wednesday, the Ladies Literary Society will meet. Mrs. Willard will sing ‘Put Me in My Little Bed,’ accompanied by the Reverend.”

Sometimes our mistakes are corrected by greater mistakes. Listen to this comedy of errors that actually appeared in a newspaper several years ago. On the first day, the advertisement read:

FOR SALE—R. D. Jones has one sewing machine for sale. Phone 958-3030 after 7 p.m. and ask for Mrs. Kelly who lives with him cheap.

On the next day the ad was “corrected” by the newspaper to read:

NOTICE—We regret having erred in R. D. Jones’ ad yesterday. It should have read: One sewing machine for sale. Cheap. Phone 958-3030 and ask for Mrs. Kelly who lives with him after 7 p.m.

The correction was “corrected” the day after:

R. D. Jones has informed us that he received several anonymous telephone phone calls because of the error we made in the classified ad yesterday. His ad stands corrected as follows:

FOR SALE—R. D. Jones has one sewing machine for sale. Cheap. Phone 958-3030 after 7 p.m. and ask for Mrs. Kelly who loves with him.

Finally, Mr. Jones corrected the ad himself with a second ad:

NOTICE—I, R. D. Jones, have no sewing machine for sale. I SMASHED IT. Don’t call 958-3030 as the telephone has been taken out. I have not been carrying on with Mrs. Kelly. Until yesterday she was my housekeeper, but SHE QUIT.

Poor guy! He not only lost his sale, he lost his help.

Fortunately for the apostle John, there is no error in his communication. There are no typos in his epistle. However, he is deeply concerned about faulty communication. John has been discussing the tests by which the presence of the life of God within an individual can be discerned, and conversely he has spoken of those in whom it is not present. At times, his words have been harsh. He has said that those who profess to know God but who fail to obey his laws are liars. He has added that those who say they love God but fail to love their brothers are walking in the dark, and do not know where they are going.

What would be the reaction of John’s readers to these words? Maybe they reacted as some of you have in the past weeks. We can imagine that some of them took these words personally, admitting that at times they did not obey God, that they did not love one another. Surely some would have wondered if they were truly born again. But this is not how John wants them to think. In fact, he is writing his letter not to increase their doubt but to strengthen their assurance.

Thus, he interrupts his presentation of the tests to direct a personal word to his readers. First, he assures them, in spite of what he has said, that he has no doubt of their having come to a knowledge of God. In fact, it is because they know God, rather than not knowing him, that he is writing to them. It is the false teachers whom he regards as spurious, not the loyal members of the church. After that word of assurance, he offers a word of warning which reveals the way in which his remarks are to be taken by Christians.

The word of assurance is given in verses 12-14, the warning in verses 15-17. Let us examine first John’s word of assurance.

I. A Word of Assurance to the Church (2:12-14)

I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name sake. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. (1 John 2:12-14 NASB)

In six parallel statements, John addresses three groups of Christians using the terminology of a family—children, young men, and fathers. However, he is not referring to actual groups of people but to different stages of spiritual life. They have no relation to physical age or sex, but to spiritual development in a Christian’s life—the innocence of childhood, the strength of youth, and the mature knowledge of age. The “little children” are the newborn in Christ. The “young men” are more developed Christians, strong and victorious in spiritual warfare, and the “fathers” possess the depth and stability of Christian experience.

It is significant that in each of these six statements the verb is in the perfect tense which indicates the present consequence of a past event. John is emphasizing the assured standing which every Christian has, regardless of his stage of spiritual development. In fact, I believe John’s point in these verses is this:

As Christians, We Are Assured of God’s Love at Every Stage of Growth

As Children, We Experience His Forgiveness—John says, “I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name sake,” and secondly, “I have written to you, children, because you know the Father.” These are the earliest conscious experiences of the newborn Christian. He rejoices in the forgiveness of his sins through Christ and in his consequent fellowship with God. The Holy Spirit within him makes him aware of his sonship and causes him to cry, “Abba! Father!”

Although this is true of all Christians at all stages of development, it is the first fact that we are aware of as believers. There is the lifting of the load of guilt, the solving of the problem of destiny, the awareness of the wonderful fact of the forgiveness of sins. John Bunyan describes this well in Pilgrim’s Progress when Christian struggles through the Slough of Despond. He is terribly discouraged having the great burden of guilt on his back. Then he sees a cross far in the distance. As he approaches it, he feels the burden roll off his back and experiences release and freedom.

I vividly remember that experience in my own life. I grew up in a nominally religious home. I always believed in a God, but it never had much effect in my life. I had a fear of God but no knowledge of his love and provision. It was not until I was in college that a friend invited me to church and gave me a New Testament to read. As I read it, I was overwhelmed by the person of Jesus Christ and his love for me. How well I remember the evening in January 1970 at a Campus Crusade meeting on the campus of Whittier College when I asked Jesus Christ to come into my life! As I did so, I remember the joy I experienced in knowing that my sins were forgiven. There was such freedom inside my heart. Having never had a father growing up, it was especially meaningful to me that God was no longer an stern, austere judge, but a loving heavenly Father.

There is such a wonderful innocence about infancy! It does not matter that infants demand so much attention and are so self-centered—everyone is thrilled with new life. Having a newborn around our house, I know the joy they bring to a family. Although little Timothy contributes nothing to the running of our household at this point, there is joy in knowing he is a part of our family. And the fact that he knows his daddy is good enough for me! This is John’s point: children know their Father.

Now John moves on to the other end of the growth process, to the fully mature Christians—the fathers.

As Fathers, We Experience His Intimacy—Fathers are the spiritual adults in the congregation. Their first flush of ecstasy in receiving forgiveness of sins and fellowship with the Father is long past. Even the battles of the young men, to which John will refer next, are past. The fathers have passed into a deep communion with God. Although children also know the Father, those who have spent many years with the Lord know him as He who is “from the beginning,” referring to the eternal God who does not change with advancing years, as men do, but who is forever the same.

The fathers have spent many years in fellowship with God, and they have seen his faithfulness through all the seasons of life. There is a stability that this long fellowship produces, and their deep joy is found in knowing and loving this God whom they have served. They are already consciously living in eternity.

I value the spiritual fathers in our congregation, and the stability these men and women have produced in our fellowship. I would like to publicly thank you for the faithful model you are of our loving heavenly Father.

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