III. Spiritual Maturity and the Enemies of Fellowship (1 John 2:12-29)


III. Spiritual Maturity and the Enemies of Fellowship (2:12-29)

2:12-14 In these verses, John reminds his audience of who they are. He begins by telling them they are little children whose sins have been forgiven (2:12). All Christians enjoy God’s judicial forgiveness and have been adopted as his children. Then, in 2:13-14, John divides believers into three categories: fathers . . . young men . . . children (this is a different Greek word for children than is used in 2:12). These three terms correspond to different stages of spiritual development. Their goal is maturity.

Children . . . have come to know the Father (2:14). We all begin as children—both physically and spiritually. And babies get to know their daddies. New Christians come to know God as Father. But we must not remain children. So, next are the young men, the spiritual adolescents. In the teen years, there are many battles and temptations. But John wants people to know that they need not listen to Satan’s lies; they have conquered the evil one through Christ. Finally, there are the mature believers: fathers. They have come to know the one who is from the beginning (2:13, 14). They have persevered over the long haul. Circumstances do not dictate their actions. Their eyes are on the eternal. In which developmental stage are you?

2:15 When the moon shines, it’s actually reflecting the light of the sun. Sometimes the earth gets in the way, though, so that the moon’s light is diminished. Similarly, we have an enemy that prevents us from reflecting the Son’s light on us. That enemy is called the world.

Do not love the world. When John talks about “the world,” he’s not talking about planet earth. He’s talking about an organized system headed by Satan that draws us away from God’s love and will. If you love the world, you lose intimate fellowship with God. You love the world when it owns your affections and governs your choices by getting you to exclude God.

2:16-17 What does the world offer you? First, it promises to satisfy legitimate desires in illegitimate ways (the lust of the flesh). Eating is legitimate; gluttony is worldly. Sex is legitimate; immorality is worldly. Second, the world tempts your mind through what your eyes see (the lust of the eyes). The biblical word for this is covetousness, which is desiring and pursuing that which is not legitimate for you to have. Third, there is the pride in one’s possessions (2:16)—that is, living to impress others. What those in love with the world forget, however, is that the world with its lust is passing away. Worldliness makes the “now” more important than eternity. But you are passing through, and the world is passing by. It’s transient. Only the one who does the will of God remains forever (2:17). The price tag for loving the world is the loss of personal intimacy with God.

2:18-19 John wants them to know the time: It is the last hour. He means the last segment of time, from the coming of Christ until his return. During this period of history, we know antichrist is coming but even now many antichrists have come (2:18). Though Antichrist will appear during the tribulation when the church is raptured (see Dan 9:26-27; 1 Thess 4:13-18; 2 Thess 2:3; Rev 11:2; 13:1-8), little antichrists are active already. An “antichrist” opposes and replaces Christ with the goal of distracting and derailing Christians from pursuing Christ. Some antichrists had been involved among the believers to whom John was writing. However, like Judas, they eventually demonstrated their true colors and agenda by departing (2:19). They tried to deceive Christians (2:26), but when the truth reigned, they left.

2:20-29 What did these antichrists teach? It was probably an early form of a second-century heresy called Gnosticism that imparted false views about Jesus. Regardless, John says they were liars who denied that Jesus is the Christ (2:22). And, importantly, no one who denies the Son has the Father (2:23). John understands what the Lord Jesus himself taught when he said, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Access to God is only found in his Son, Jesus Christ.

What power and protection do believers have against these liars? The anointing and the truth (2:20-21). “The anointing” is not some special gift shared by only elite clergy. John is addressing spiritual “children” (2:18). Every Christian has the anointing: the internal teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit who illuminates the believer’s mind to understand and apply God’s truth, as well as to detect deception. Paul refers to it as having the “mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16). Jesus told his disciples that the Holy Spirit would teach them and guide them into truth (John 14:26; 16:13). Indeed, the anointing you received from him remains in you and teaches you (2:27).

What you have heard from the beginning is to remain in you (2:24). John’s point here is that the Holy Spirit’s ministry always remains available to teach Christians, but the truth (“what you have heard from the beginning”) must remain in us. Think of it like satellite TV. The satellite communicates, but your satellite dish must receive the signal. The power of the Holy Spirit is available to every believer, but many believers do not operate in a position of dependence on the Spirit because their satellite dishes only function on Sunday mornings.

So what should we do? Remain in him (2:28). Again, there’s that word that John loves so much (2:6, 10, 27). If you remain or abide in Jesus, you will have confidence and not be ashamed before him at his coming (2:28). A Christian can be accepted but not “acceptable.” A child who plays in the mud, for instance, is accepted by his parents; he is not, however, in an acceptable condition. Live everyday on high alert, looking for Jesus to return, and it will influence how you live.