2016 12 18 pm 1 John 2:12-14 The Believer’s Position

This is a different and memorable part of John’s letter. Why? Ignore the title of the audio file – This is about the believer’s position. The believer’s practice is the next sermon.

Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,
Those of you who have been here in recent weeks will know that John has introduced two of the three profession of faith tests that he sets out in this letter:
The first was the MORAL test – true believers keep His commandments – of 2:3-6 and the second was the SOCIAL test – true believers love their brothers and sisters – of vv7-11.
And we have seen that the purpose of these tests is twofold:
 On the one hand they are given to help believers recognize a false profession of faith in others. We have noted several times that Gnosticism was a problem in the church that John wrote. And John was writing in part to ‘ferret out’ these Gnostics. He wanted believers to be able to recognize those who had these false beliefs and practices.
 But these tests are given also to encourage believers who have doubts about their own salvation. The true believer will hear these tests and see that he ‘passes’ these tests and be reassured that he or she truly is a child of God.
Well, we are going to come to the third of these tests when we get to vv18ff; and that is the theological or doctrinal test – true believers know that Jesus is the Christ and continue in this profession.
But having introduced the first two tests, rather than just plough on with the third one, the Apostle pauses. And the very affectionate language that he uses, together with exactly what he says here, reveals that he pauses because HE IS A WISE AND SENSITIVE PASTOR.
1. You see, one of the realities and challenges of public ministry is the fact that every congregation or group of people that a teacher speaks to will be A MIXED GROUP in terms of their spiritual condition. Last year when I did some further study on preaching, a part of Dr. Joey Pipa’s course work dealt with application. And application is the parts of a sermon where we are told what we are supposed to believe or feel or do in response to a truth of Scripture. And Dr. Pipa said this, “Application must be addressed to different types of hearers.” And he provided a list of different types of hearers: Ignorant & un-teachable, Teachable, Arrogant, Humble, Believing, Unbelieving, Assured, Doubting, Guilty, Sad, Happy, Mixed. Each of these groups needs to hear words addressed to them in their spiritual condition. Now, let me say right here that ultimately it is the Holy Spirit who applies the Word of God to whom it needs to be applied and in the exact way it needs to be applied. And this is good because as you can see from the list, to get every point of application to perfectly match the situation of every person who is listening is beyond the ability of any preacher. And even to perfectly balance your application among those categories is beyond the abilities of any preacher. And I can’t tell you how often I have received feedback from you and others that has demonstrated how the Holy Spirit has used the words of sermons in wonderful ways I could never have anticipated. But I have to tell you that there have also been times, for example, when words I was aiming at the arrogant have been received by the humble, causing, as you can imagine, unnecessary hurt or confusion or doubt. And so, a preacher may not use the Holy Spirit’s work as an excuse not to think carefully about the impact of what he says. And our text is an example of a pastor who is very aware about his words and his readers. The Apostle has made some very strong statements about false believers – they are liars, and deceivers, and “His word is not in us,” and “the truth is not in him,” and he “is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” But the Apostle knows that these words might be taken wrongly by true believers. After all, which believer keeps God’s commandments perfectly and always loves his brothers and sisters? So words intended to encourage might create doubt. The words in our text then are WRITTEN TO ENCOURAGE BELIEVERS BY REMINDING THEM OF WHAT THEY POSSESS IN JESUS CHRIST.
2. But our text reveals a second reason why the Apostle pauses to write these words. In ch. 1 and the first part of ch. 2, we have description or what we call indicative language; there is not one single command in that whole section; John simply describes or states truth. Now, the section has lots of implications for the Christian life but there is not one direct command in that whole section. The first command or imperative comes in v15. And others will follow as we continue on. So vv12-14 also PROVIDE THE BASIS OR THE FOUNDATION FOR THE COMMANDS THAT ARE TO COME. So when John says, “I am writing to [you] because your sins are forgiven…” he is stating truth meant to encourage believers, but he is also laying a foundation for the commands that are to follow – I am writing to [you] (with these commands) because your sins are forgiven…” or, ‘in light of the fact that your sins are forgiven, I write this command…” Pastor John is reminding believers that Christians can obey the commands of Scripture. I hope that doesn’t come as shocking news to any of us! The commands of the Bible are not given to us just so we know that we are miserable sinners who break God’s commands. The Christ of the Bible is a powerful Christ! And His Spirit lives within believers. So the commands of the Bible are given that we might obey them. And we can! But only if we are believers! The Christian life is laid out in the Bible for Christians! To command a non-believer to keep God’s commandments and to love their brothers and sisters and not to love the things of the world is to speak in a language they cannot understand. The commands of vv15-17, then, are for believers; they describe the believer’s practice.


I. Now, you will see that THREE GROUPS are addressed in these verses – children, fathers, and young men. And if you read commentaries on this section of 1 John you will find pages and pages of discussion, and various schools of interpretation about who these titles refer to. But I am going to borrow Martin Lloyd Jones’ summary of the whole discussion and tell you that “we cannot decide this, and it does not matter … because what really matters is that clearly the Apostle is telling us that these truthes of the Christian life and of the Christian faith must be understood by all of us.” Now, there are particular emphases that are more important at particular ages and stages of spiritual maturity. So, little children need to know that their sins are forgiven, but all Christians need to know this, and “fathers,” or older men and women, or spiritually mature men and women, need to “know Him who is from the beginning,” but all Christians need to know this. So while there are emphases here for believers of particular ages or stages of spiritual maturity, what we read here describes the whole position of every believer.

II. But before we consider what Pastor John reveals about the believer’s position, let us consider one more summary observation about this passage. Another area of speculation by commentators has to do with the repetition in this passage; why does John basically repeat what he says to each of these groups, twice? And I mention this point only because this is likely to be a question that some of us will have also: Why the repetition? Now, we can only guess why, because John does not give us his reasons. But if we remember that this was a time when very few people had access to the written word of God, in terms of their own personal copy, the poetic structure of this passage and the repetition would greatly help with MEMORIZATION. Perhaps more than any other part of this letter, John wanted this passage to make a deep impact on these believers. So he wrote it in such a way that it would be very easy to memorize. One of the songs we learn as young children is the song “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” And the rhyming and the tune help us to remember words that are actually very important and very helpful. Well many commentators believe that memorization is probably the best explanation for why Pastor John wrote this part of his letter this way.

So, three points then as we consider the believer’s position: The first is that the believer’s sins are forgiven, the second is that the believer knows the Father and the Son, and the third is that the believer has victory over Satan and sin. So let’s take each of these in turn:

I. Firstly, THE BELIEVER’S SINS ARE FORGIVEN. And we see this in v12 where we read, “I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for His name’s sake.”
A. When the Lord Jesus spoke with His disciples just prior to His betrayal and arrest, He told them that He would send the Holy Spirit to them. He said, “When He comes, He will convict the world concerning sin.” So the work of the Holy Spirit in a believer begins when they become conscious of their sin and guilt. And then the Spirit helps them to see that the only solution to the problem of sin and guilt is the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. When the crowd in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost came under the conviction of sin and asked the disciples what they should do, Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” When the Apostle Paul gives thanks for salvation in Colossians and Ephesians, he talks about the Lord Jesus Christ “in whom we have … the forgiveness of our sins.” So the Christian is not a person who hopes to be forgiven or who is trying to earn forgiveness or who seeks forgiveness; the Christian is a person who knows that he or she has been forgiven.
B. And their certainty is not because of anything they have done themselves. v12 says, “Your sins are forgiven for HIS NAME’S SAKE.” It is all about the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ and His promise that all those who repent of their sins and believe in Him receive the complete and full forgiveness of all their sins.
C. Do you know this about yourself? Do you know that your sins are forgiven for Jesus’ sake? What a privilege! What an unspeakable joy to know that your sins are forgiven. And what a powerful motivation for your obedience!

II. So the believer knows that his or her sins are forgiven. But the second part of the believer’s position is that THE BELIEVER KNOWS THE FATHER AND THE SON: v13a, “I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who is from the beginning,” and v13b, “I write to you, children, because you know the Father,” and v14a, “I write to you, fathers, because you know Him who is from the beginning.”
A. The “HIM” in v13a and 14a refers to the Lord Jesus, because John opened his letter by referring to Jesus as the One who was “from the beginning,” and all of the Bible’s references to the One who is “from the beginning” refer to the Lord Jesus.
B. And listen to what Jesus said about eternal life in JOHN 17:3, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” So knowing God and Jesus is the heart or essence of salvation.
C. But what was so wonderful and new about how Jesus revealed God was that He spoke of Him as FATHER. He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” And pointing His disciples ahead to the cross and then the coming of the Holy Spirit, Jesus said, “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” The believer knows God, not as a cosmic force or a great power or the universe’s policeman, but as his or her Father in heaven.
D. There are lots of people in this building who if they wanted to see me would say something like Pastor, can I make an appointment to see you? But there are five people in this building who can say, Dad, can we talk? And that is because of our relationship.
E. Well, Jesus said, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” And in the Lord Jesus we have “a high priest who is [able] to sympathize with our weaknesses, [because He] has been tempted as we are … Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
F. Do you know the Father and the Son? If you do, what a wonderful privilege. What an unspeakable joy it is to be a child of God! And again, what a powerful motivation for our obedience! So the believer knows that his or her sins are forgiven and that he or she is a child of God.

III. But the third and last part of the believer’s position is KNOWING VICTORY OVER SATAN AND SIN: v13b, “I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one,” and v14b, “I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.”
A. And most importantly of everything we shall say in relation to this point is that what is said here about overcoming is in the PAST TENSE – “you have overcome the evil one.” The precise moment that a person repents of his or her sin and believes in Jesus Christ there is a decisive and immediate victory over sin and Satan. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Romans 8:1-2 puts it like this: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” The believer has victory over Satan and sin.
B. But you and I know very well that this does not mean that we are now sinless and untroubled by the evil one. Far from it! We are told in Ephesians 6 to “put on the whole armour of God in order to stand against the schemes of the devil.” But before we are told to put on the whole armour of God, we are told to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.” So we are being reminded here also about the power that is at work within us to continue to overcome Satan and sin.
C. And that power is the power of Christ at work in us. Galatians 2:20 speaks of this when it says, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Do I have power in myself to obey God’s commands? No. Do I have power in myself to resist temptation? No. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
D. But does this mean I can lie back and just let Christ do as He wishes within me? No. For the power of Christ works in us BY HIS WORD AND SPIRIT. That is why reference is made to “the word of God [that] abides in you.” It is as we continue to read His word and hear it preached and meditate on it and study it with others that we are equipped to obey the commands of the Lord and to resist temptation.

So, you maybe young, you may be old. You may be a young Christian or you may have known the Lord for many years. Whatever the case, Pastor John would have you know that regardless of where you are in your spiritual pilgrimage, your sins are forgiven in Christ, you know the Father and the Son, and you know victory over Satan and sin through Christ. This is your position as a believer. And knowing that makes you ready to consider the believer’s practice, which we shall do next, God willing. Amen.