"I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake. I 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 wicked one. I write to you, little children, because you have known the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is 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 wicked one.” (1 John 2:12-14)
If you are a Christian, you fall into one of these three categories: fathers (literally, "parents" since it applies to male or female believers), young men ("youths" of either gender) or little children (spiritual infants).
John says over and over "I write you....because..." The fact that he is writing in itself is not why he is saying this. WHAT he writes to each is determined by where they are in their spiritual journey from newborn baby to mature.
For any of us who are not brand new Christians, it is our own responsibility to grow and develop as believers. This is not like physical growth that just happens as we keep living, eating and sleeping.
Spiritual growth comes through abiding in Christ.
This has to do with remaining in trials even though it is uncomfortable as we entrust ourselves to God (1 Corinthians 10:13), with reading God’s Word and applying it to our lives, with submitting to one another in vital, interactive, and real gatherings of Christ’s body (Hebrews 10:25), with prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and with allowing ourselves to be discipled by someone AND discipling others (Matthew 28:19-20).
Spiritual growth can only happen fluidly when humility is practiced and we can only really practice genuine humility (confidence in Jesus more than in anything else) as we abide in Him.
Holy Spirit, through the Apostle John, acknowledges that there will be some who will choose to remain little children or babies spiritually. He also recognizes that some will remain young men in the spiritual sense. And, of course, some will mature to spiritual adulthood.
It is fine to be a spiritual little baby when we are newly born again or a spiritual young person when we are in the early stages of walking with Jesus.
However, it is NOT fine if we remain like this.
“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” (1 Corinthians 13:11)
It is VERY important that we sense when the Spirit prompts us to feel uncomfortable with being spiritually childish – to the degree that we will seek Him and allow Him to grow us up spiritually.
We must evaluate our Christian relationships and be ready to abandon any that (knowingly or unknowingly) keep us dependent on anything but Jesus and impede our spiritual maturing.
God has something much better for us.
John tells us that little children in the Spirit just see Christianity in terms of having had their sins forgiven and knowing the Father some (1 John 2:12).
Little children in the physical are only concerned about what they get and it’s this way will spiritual infants as well. This is why they tend to approach the Body of Christ as consumers.
Young men and women have matured beyond that. They are stronger, the Word of God abides or lives inside them (it accomplishes something) and they have, to some degree at least, have overcome the wicked one (1 John 2:13b; 14b). These are more aware than are the babies that there is a world outside themselves and they are motivated to engage satan in the battle.
Their area of growth will be to become more attuned to doing this in worship of and for Jesus than for the excitement they get out of their part in the battle.
Spiritual fathers (parents) have known Jesus (1 John 2:13a; 14a). These recognize, are ever aware of, and understand the King in all things. They are intimate with Him and are concerned most with what matters to Jesus.
John is an interesting man. He spent many years banished to a lonely island in the Aegean Sea. It is very likely that he was the only Christian there; however, he was not alone as the Holy Spirit of God kept him company.
“But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.” (1 John 2:20)
When John says that, he knows the value of having in his human spirit, God the Holy Spirit. As the Apostle closes out what we know as 1 John 2 he will say something interesting startling in verse 27:
“But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.” (1 John 2:27)
Yes. He actually says that “you do not need that anyone teach you.”
It doesn’t sound correct, does it? Yet, there it is in the Bible.
I’ve taught a good bit in congregational styles of church and in small intimate meetings as well as online, through my books, FaceBook devotionals and my articles. I’ve also spent many, many hours of my life being taught by men in pulpits, in Sunday schools and in the other ways I myself have taught.
I obviously value the disciplines of teaching and being taught by God through people.
What John says in 1 John 2:27 is not to discourage us from being taught by others.
What it DOES emphasize is that there is no reason for Christians to be totally dependent upon other people for their teaching.
Because God the Holy Spirit lives inside us!
Remember, this letter was written by a man who was most likely not able to be taught by others since he was one of the first leaders of the Church and then was banished to a barren island. He couldn’t be dependent on other people; he had to depend upon the Lord.
We must also remember that this was written by Holy Spirit through John and the Spirit knew that over the centuries religious systems would be created by man (not by God) that would very often inadvertently insulate people from the personal touch of the Living God.
Dependency upon a special class of Christians (clergy), neither of which ideas God has ever sanctioned, would be encouraged by people and this would cause millions of Christians over the centuries to believe they sorely needed what John says in 1 John 2:27 that we really do not need at all: dependency upon other humans for teaching.
What I’ve written just now is not to focus on that non-biblical dependency upon people to teach us. Rather, it is to strongly encourage us to seize the right and privilege we have as children of the Most High God to be taught by Him – through Holy Spirit Who indwells all born again people.
When we do avail ourselves of formal teaching opportunities in conferences, Sunday school classes, seminars, training programs and in homes, offices or restaurants let’s be wise about who we allow to speak into our lives. Let’s try to only seek those who actively try to allow Holy Spirit to teach through them in the spirit of Galatians 2:20 and similar verses.
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
We can’t assume that just because a person is positioned to teach us that he or she is teaching by the Holy Spirit of God. Many in Christendom routinely teach out of their own flesh. We don’t need that at all.
We should humble ourselves and allow others to teach us. Even so, let’s resolve never to let that be our sole source of spiritual input. Nothing will ever replace Holy Spirit being our primary tutor. This is one main reason Father God sent Him in the first place.
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” (John 14:26)
“For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.’ (Luke 12:12)
Finally, let’s all practice what John encouraged spiritual infants to do:
“And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.” (1 John 2:28)
“Abiding” in Christ means a lot more than just staying in Him and it certainly means a lot more than sitting in a church service regularly. It means to actively and comfortably live somewhere the way we do when we are in our own homes and enjoy free access to all parts of our home.
Thankfully, learning to be with Jesus the way the Apostle John encourages us to be does not require that we first be banished to a barren island in the Aegean Sea.
“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.’” (John 14:23)
All we really have to do in order to grow from spiritual infancy to spiritual adulthood is to love Jesus, personally spend time with Him and depend upon God alone – even when being taught by Holy Spirit through mere humans like me.
I pray that you experience what I am experiencing having read 1 John 2 today. I pray that you live hungry to keep growing until Jesus calls us to heaven. I pray that if the Lord reveals to any that they are spiritual infants or young men that they will press on to adulthood in the Spirit.
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.” (2 Corinthians 13:14)
Pastor Mike McInerney
Mike McInerney Ministries, Inc.
Decatur, TX 76234
© January 20, 2016
(For use with permission)