2012-04-04 - Fruit of True Believers vs Non-Believers
The Epistles of John ~ Part 26 ~ 1 John 2
The difference between children of God and children of the devil, is whom they serve, whom they listen to. Jesus made this clear when speaking to those rejecting him:
"You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire." (John 8:44)
The battle for Christians is always against "the World, the Flesh and the Devil." If we are to stand firm for the Lord, we must recognize that we are constantly fighting on all fronts.
John wants to make sure his readers understand that he isn't questioning their faith. Consequently, he makes comparisons between the reality of the lives of believers in contrast with the fruit of the false teachers. In the first section, verses 12-14, John focuses on the believer. In verses 15-17, he turns to the fruit of the unbelievers.
John identifies three specific groups in these passages. He names the children, young men and fathers. These are representative of the body, as a whole, and therefore encompass both men and women. There are a number of views as to why he identifies these three groups. Some hold that he is giving different messages which are actually age-based. Others believe these identifications relate to levels of spiritual maturity. One can make a good argument for either of these positions. Another view, one that seems weak, is John is talking about Deacons, Elders and Bishops. This doesn't make sense, because according to Paul, Elders and Bishops are different titles for the same office.
I appreciate Hodges' position - which seems to overlap the spiritual maturity view:
"It seems best (with C.H. Dodd and I.H. Marshall) to view the terms of address as referring to all the readers in each case. Then each experience ascribed to them is appropriate to the category named. Thus, thought of as "children," the readers had experienced the forgiveness that their heavenly Father grants to His own."
Actually no one know exactly why John uses this method of breaking down this section. But we do know that God deals with us based on where we are in our walk, and the level at which we are capable of operating with the empowering of the Holy Spirit. And at times, I suspect each of us demonstrates attributes of the child, young person and the mature believer.
The other stylistic factor in the passage which also can't be explained satisfactorily, is why John repeats himself here. Except for the tense change from "I write" to "I have written," the thrust is the same. Elsewhere in Scripture, especially in the Psalms, we find that writers repeat words, phrases, sentences for emphasis - and that may be what John is doing here.
What is clear, though, is John was reminding his readers of the truths they have already learned and experienced, so they will not be led astray by the false teachers who were striving to undermine their faith.
To be continued.