Big Idea: As we think about the nature of the church and our love for our brothers and sisters in Christ, we see that there is strength in our diversity. That each one of us have something to offer to the spiritual growth and doctrinal fidelity of the church. And that each stage of growth has strengths and weaknesses.
John is talking here about 3 stages of spiritual maturity. He is not necessarily speaking to physical ages, although our physical age can contribute to our maturity. He is addressing children, fathers, and young men as three categories of spiritually mature believers. We could say those who are young in the faith, those who are strong in the faith, and those who are seasoned in the faith.
1 John 2:1, 3:7, 3:18, 4:4, 5:21
…I am inclined to think that in this case John really does divide the entire church into three classes: the babes in grace, or the children, those who have not long been born into the family. Then follow the young men: these are the second class, and they are a valued body of Christians, in the fullness of their vigor; strong in faith, giving glory to God; mighty in prayer; vehement in action, bold in testimony.
Then there is the third class: the fathers, the mature, the experienced. These do not quite so much delight in war as the young men do, but at home they diligently care for the household of faith, watching over the feeble, strengthening and comforting them. These are able by their experience to answer gainsayers, to edify the untaught, and to guide the ignorant. Their knowledge is deep, and they are, therefore, able to become teachers of others; they are men of spiritual force, and have come to the full stature of men in Christ Jesus; therefore they are the solid strength of the church. If the young men are the church’s arm, these are the church’s backbone. We need to have many such, though it is to be feared that our churches are much like the apostolic ones, of which Paul said, “You do not have many fathers” (1 Cor 4:15).
John is speaking to the diversity and strength of the church. Or to say it another way, the strength of the church is in its diversity.
_________________________ in Christ
1 John 2:12 (ESV) — 12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.
1 John 2:13 (ESV) — 13 …I write to you, children, because you know the Father.
Teknia: “This is a nursery term for a ‘small child.’”
Hebrews 12:5–6 (ESV) — 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline (padia) of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines (padia) the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”
Nehemiah 9:16–17 (ESV) 16 “But they and our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey your commandments. 17 They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.
Psalm 103:11–14 (ESV) — 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. 13 As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. 14 For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
Psalm 51:1–2 (ESV) — 1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!
Questions to Consider
Are you new to the faith? What might you learn from those who are more established in the faith? Are you seeking to grow in your understanding of the gospel?
When is the last time you sat down with