Monday, November 23, 2020

Children in the Church

"I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of His name" (1 John 2:12).

Seven times in the course of his letter, John addresses the saints as “dear children” (Greek, teknia). In chapter two of his letter, he divides these dear children into three groups: fathers, young men, and little children (Greek, paideia). The way John addresses each of these groups in chapter 2 is revealing.

To start with, consider how he addresses all of them. He calls them dear children. The Greek teknia implies a relationship. It is a word used for the child of a parent. John implicitly identifies himself as their earthly parent in the Spirit. In 1 John 2:1 he tells them he writes that they not sin, but that if they do sin they have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ. In verse 12 he tells them their sins have been forgiven. Finally, in verse 28 he exhorts the dear children to continue to walk in union with Christ and avoid sin.

Sandwiched between the addresses to the dear children in verses 12 and 28 are specific addresses to each of three groups. First, in verses 13 and 14 John writes to the fathers “because [they] have known Him who is from the beginning.” He says this twice, and that is all he says to the fathers. Those who are mature in the faith, men and women, have a stable confidence and walk with the changeless, eternal God of the universe.

Second, in verse 13b John writes to the young men “because [they] have overcome the evil one.” He expands on this thought in verses 14b–17, telling the young men (and women) that they are strong and that they must resist the love of the world, for they are engaged in spiritual battle and need encouragement to fight the good fight.

Finally, in verse 13 John writes to the little children. The Greek paideia means “small child.” John tells them that they have known the Father. These are the new converts and the unstable and childish among those in the church. In verses 18–27 John addresses the little children at length, warning them against the antichrists, who are the heretics who would draw them away from the Father. He tells them not to worry about the apostates because they never were true believers at all, and he exhorts them to continue in the faith.

John has the most to say to the little children. Notice that the little children are the prey of heretics, and that they are all worked up about the coming of the antichrists. New believers often become caught up in prophetic speculations. Resist this temptation. Focus on the central truths of the faith and learn them.