Staff & Sling

Joseph E. Hébert, Ph.D.

98119 N 3745 Rd
Okemah, OK  74859
918 623 3078

Do You Know You're Saved III

In I John 2: 12 - 14 John is once again explaining why he writes this epistle. But this time he seems to offer different reasons to three different groups of Christians. He first explains why he writes to little children, then to fathers, and finally to young men. And then, in what confuses many, he reiterates his explanation changing to the past tense the second time he addresses the fathers and young men. So before we deliberate his explanations let's clarify this redundant addressing of multiple groups.

Many interpret the three age groups as qualifying the spiritual maturity of the readers. They interpret the children to be young Christians who are newly saved, fathers as being the church elders who are mature in their faith, and the young men as those who are intermediate in their spiritual growth. And while such an interpretation is not entirely wrong in principle, I believe it is wrong in the specifics of it's application. If John had intended these three groups thusly, he would have put them in order of importance. He wouldn't have addressed the youngest first, the eldest second and the middle last. He would most likely have addressed the eldest first, the middle next and the youngest last.

Furthermore, I believe this erroneous interpretation makes it's way into the minds of modern readers because they lose sight of that fact that I made a point of addressing earlier in this series, namely that John didn't write his epistles in chapters and verses. Once again, we must consciously consider the entire epistle as a whole. By trying to read this passage as an independent statement, the reader loses sight of the fact that John routinely refers to the entire group of his readers as little children (e.g. verse 1 of this chapter). In particular, he refers to his readers (in the Greek) as J,6<4", an endearing term meaning born one. By understanding this the order makes sense. He says he is writing to the whole group of Christians, the born-again, first to the elders and then to the younger. Then he says why he's writing to the whole group again, but this time switching to the past tense as he elaborates first to the elders and then to the younger.

Some suggest that this change of tense delineates the epistle. They interpret the previous future tense statements to mean the things that follow in this epistle, while the latter past tense statements refer to the parts already written (i.e. I John 1: 1 - 2: 11). But I do not subscribe to this interpretation. I believe the two sets of statements refer to two separate writings. In particular, I believe the present tense statements refer to this epistle (written a.D. 90 - 95), while the past tense statements refer to his gospel written some five years earlier (a.D. 85 - 90).

Now with this understanding, let's consider his reasons. He says he's writing to all born again Christians, because our sins are forgiven "for His name's sake." He's writing to elders because they've known "Him that is from the beginning," and younger because they've "overcome the wicked one."

Then he says he writes to us all because we've known the Father, elders again because they've known "Him that is from the beginning," and younger because they're strong and the Word abides in them and they're overcomers.

Note these reasons are his motivations, not his objectives. In verse 1 he wrote "... that ye sin not, ...." In I John 1: 4 he says he's writing " ... that your joy may be full." These are his objectives. They are things he hopes to accomplish be writing. But in verses 12 - 14 he describes his reasons for writing. In other words, if these things weren't already true, he wouldn't have written at all.

And just what were his reasons? In simplest terms, he's writing to Christians because they are Christians. In both cases he writes to fathers because they've known Jesus (Him that is from the beginning; John 1: 1, 2, 14). Note the past tense, that they've already known Him. In other words they've already matured in Christ. In both cases he writes to the younger because they're overcomers. In other words, he writes to them because they've accepted Christ as their savior. In other words, he's writing to the younger because they're the younger. He's writing to all born again Christians because they've known the father, or as he said to begin with, because their sins are forgiven for Jesus' name's sake (His name meaning Jehovah is Salvation).

And now that he's explained why he's writing to us, he goes on to tell us (in verses 15 - 17) not to love the world or the things in the world. Here he tells us one way to know if we're not saved, that if we love the world, or the things in the world, then God's love is not in us.

Note in verse 16 how he describes all that is in the world. He calls it the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. Consider the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, as it appeared to Eve (Genesis 3: 6). First she saw that it was good for food (the lust of the flesh), and that it was pleasing to look at (the lust of the eyes), and that it was desirable to make her wise (the pride of life). These things are not of God, but are of the world. If you love these things, then the love of God is not in you.

John then warns us, in verse 17, that all of these things, the world and all of its lusts, will pass away. But, he says, we that doeth God's will abide forever. Again, this is not a new doctrine of salvation by works. What is the will of the Father? What was His will when Jesus prayed "not my will but thine" in Gethsemane? Matthew 18: 14 tells us that it is not God's will that any should perish. Thus we can see that God's will is the reconciliation of man to Himself, our salvation. That is, after all, the whole point of His plan and His work on this Earth.

In verse 18 John once again refers to us as "little children." He tells them (and us) that these are the end times (literally in the Greek "a last hour"). He warns, not only of the Antichrist, but of many antichrists. It is by their advent, he tells us, that we know that the end times have begun.

Note in verse 19 that these antichrists went out from the early church, which certainly implies that they called themselves Christians, but according to John they were never of the early church. In other words, he explains, if they had ever been saved they wouldn't have fallen away. Instead, they were never saved, never born again, and this was made manifest by their falling away.

So who are these antichrists? Clearly they are deceived. They are some of those who will stand before Jesus on that day and say "Lord, Lord," but who Jesus will send away (Matthew 7: 22, 23). More specifically, antichrists deny that Jesus is the Messiah, i.e. the Christ; they deny the Son and the Father (verse 22).

How many people today call themselves Christian, but do not actually believe that Jesus and the Father are one, that Jesus is Immanuel, i.e. God With Us. We know that Mohammed denied that Jesus was the Messiah. He claimed that Jesus' crucifixion, and thus subsequent resurrection, was a hoax (An-Nisa 157, the Koran). How many others, who call themselves Christian, join Mohammed in claiming that Jesus was just a good man, perhaps even a prophet of God, but that He isn't necessarily the only way to get to heaven?

And this brings us directly back to the whole point of this study, the whole point of I John, to know that we are not among those who are deceived. John points out in verses 20 & 21 that we have an unction, i.e. an anointing, of the Holy Spirit, and so we know the truth. In verse 27 he tells us that we have no need of any man to teach us because the Holy Spirit teaches us. He is therefore writing to us about the antichrists, those who would seduce us, i.e. lead us astray (verse 26), not so much as a warning but instead as reassurance. He tells us that we need only cling to what we know, what we've known from the beginning, and we can see plainly who the liars are, and wherein lies the truth, not because of our own faculties but because of God who dwells in us.

Finally, in verse 29, John tells us that we know Jesus is righteous, and that therefore everyone that does righteousness is born of Jesus. Again, this does not mean that we must do righteousness in order to be saved. Neither does it mean that we must do works in order to prove that we are saved. In point of fact, if we were to do "good works" of our own volition we would be like those Jesus spoke of in Mathew 7: 22, 23. To the contrary of a new doctrine of works, John is telling us that the only way we can do true righteousness is if we have been made new creatures in Christ Jesus. Thus, when we observe this behavior in ourselves, these characteristics that are so antithetical to human nature, it can only be because of God's influence in us.

I John 2
12    I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake. 
13    I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father. 
14    I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.

I John 2: 1    My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:

I John 1: 4    And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.

John 1
1    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 
2    The same was in the beginning with God.
14    And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

I John 2
15    Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 
16    For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 
17    And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

Genesis 3: 6    And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

Matthew 18: 14    Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.

I John 2
18    Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. 
19    They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. 
20    But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. 
21    I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth. 
22    Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. 
23    Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also. 
24    Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father. 
25    And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life. 
26    These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. 
27    But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.

Mathew 7: 22, 23    Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

An-Nisa 157    And because of their saying (in boast), "We killed Messiah 'Iesa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary), the Messenger of Allah," - but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but the resemblance of 'Iesa (Jesus) was put over another man (and they killed that man), and those who differ therein are full of doubts. They have no (certain) knowledge, they follow nothing but conjecture. For surely; they killed him not [i.e. 'Iesa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary)]:

I John 2
28    And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming. 
29    If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.