A Daily Dose of Encouragement from the Book of 1 John

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The book of I John is a portion of the Bible known as the didactic. When someone speaks of the didactic, he is referencing what is clear teaching. For example, Matthew through John is not a part of the didactic. The Gospel accounts are considered historical narrative. There is clear teaching found within their walls, but the scope of the Gospel accounts is not to present clear doctrinal teaching, per se. They were compiled together to give orderly accounts of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection.

When someone approaches Romans-Jude, he is reading the didactic. These books present clear teaching for the church. Good hermeneutics (the art and science of Scripture interpretation) teaches that if someone wants to formulate a proper theology, he must filter what he reads through what is taught in the didactic. Certainly, this can be difficult at times, but nevertheless the clear teaching of Scripture (the didactic) can help people along their way in understanding some of the difficult portions of Scripture.

Unfortunately, there will be times when reading portions of the didactic can become confusing. Even Peter expressed in one of his letters that Paul’s teachings can be difficult to grasp at times. So do not feel discouraged if, along the way, you do not understand everything that has been written. Do not feel ashamed if you believe that someone may know more than you. The Word of God can be tricky to understand at times.

It is on this point that this article now turns. The book of 1 John has some very clear teaching found within. However, there is a relatively difficult portion of Scripture that is wedged in the middle of the second chapter. In this portion of Scripture, John says that he is writing to a group of children, fathers, and young men. Questions such as the following arise: “What is the point of this?”, “Was that really his audience?”, and “What is the benefit for me?”

What is the point of this?

In 1 John 2:12-14, John tells his readers six reasons as to why he is writing his letter. Prior to this point, John came out pretty hard on his sheep. In verse 6 of chapter 1, John told his readers that if they are walking in darkness, they are liars and not practicing the truth. In verse 8, he basically called them sinners. In verse 10, John expressed that if any of them would dare to say that he has not sinned, what he is doing is making God a liar. He even said that if they were to do such a thing, the Word of God would not be in them. As he continues on in chapter 2, he declares that if any of them do not obey the commands of God while also saying that they know God, they are liars. Once again, for this individual, the truth is not in him.

John comes out strongly against those who would dare to say that they are in the light but also hate their brother. John says that for the person who hates his brother, he is actually still in darkness. He then goes on to say that the one who is in darkness (the one who hates his brother) is lost because the darkness has blinded him.

This is much of the context leading up to 1 John 2:12-14, the portion of Scripture to which this article is referring. Up to this point, it is possible that many of the readers would have been discouraged. They may have thought, “I do not obey all of God’s commands… Is the truth in me?”, “Sometimes I do not see my sin or know about it… Am I making God a liar?”, or “I do not walk in love perfectly – and even sometimes I find that I give into hatred… Am I lost?” These questions and more may have overcome the minds of God’s people.

As a result, John wanted to set the people straight. In a sense, it can be said that there was a measure of truth that the people were missing, there was a way in which they had made God a liar, and there was a manner in which they had been blinded. All of this is true in the life of every Christian. Every Christian who has ever lived has lacked truth in his heart, has made God a liar when disobeying God’s Word, and has been blinded by his sin.

John was not concerned with perfection, even though he spoke in absolute ways. He was concerned about the direction, or the trajectory, of one’s life. When he gets to 1 John 2:12-14, his aim is to encourage his people in their spiritual growth.

Was that really his audience?

But the question arises, “Was John speaking to children, fathers, and young men?” Some think that he was speaking to these groups. In actuality, it is hard to know for sure. Others think that John was speaking to various age groupings. Still another group would come to the conclusion that there was no intent to make such distinctions but that his encouragements are for all people. The latter category is the focus of this article.

It seems as though John was seeking to encourage all Christians. He spoke in terms that he was familiar with and that were relational. John speaks to children, then fathers, then young men. The order of the groups is a good indicator that there was no intent to divide them chronologically. Moreover, in 1 John 2:1, 2:18, 2:28, 3:7, 3:18, and 5:21, John refers to his readers as little children. Does this mean that much of the book of 1 John is for children? Absolutely not; it is for everyone. Therefore, so would 1 John 2:14-16 be for everyone as well.

What is the benefit for me?

So what benefit does 1 John 2:14-16 serve in the life of every Christian? The progression that John uses is of special significance. The following is John’s flow of thought: I write to you…

• Children – “because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake.” (1 John 2:12)
• Fathers – “because ye have known him that is from the beginning.” (2:13)
• Young men – “because ye have overcome the wicked one. “(2:13)
• Children – “because ye have known the Father.” (2:13)
• Fathers – “because ye have known him that is from the beginning.” (2:14)
• Young men – “because ye are strong, and the Word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.” (2:14)

Two groupings of “children, fathers, and young men” can be seen here, with much repetition. At the outset, John speaks of the forgiveness of sin. This is, in a sense, the first point of contact with the Father, and it is done for the glory of God. After one comes to the Lord in faith, he develops a relationship with God, thus coming to know Him. Finally, in this relationship with God, there is a way in which the wicked one is overcome.

Later, John tells of the way that it is the faith of a believer that overcomes the world (1 John 5:5). If you are a Christian, be encouraged in the encouragement that John gives. This encouragement is for the church today just as much as it was for the church during John’s day. The modern church may be facing some unique problems, as were the recipients of his letter. Nevertheless, be encouraged that your sins are forgiven, that you know the Father, and that you have overcome the evil one.

Final prayer

Father, I thank You that You have made the way of salvation. When left to myself, I find no hope. I find no rest, and peace seems afar off. But in Christ, I have a purpose. I can see in the midst of the darkness, and there is always a cross that calls me in the direction I ought to go. Thank You, Father, for sending Jesus to be for me all that I was not for You. In Jesus’ name, Amen

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