I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake. 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, 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 2:12-14)
The Apostle John addressed three phases of Christian growth in his first Epistle; Little Children, Young Men and Fathers. Each is given a Word appropriate to their own situation. These phases apply to both sexes, the Children are those newly born-again, male and female, the Young Men also includes young women as well, and of course Fathers is all about maturity, for the church has it’s mothers as well, but John didn’t live in an age of hyper gender sensitivity, people knew what he meant.
Who are the ‘young men’? They are those who have been born again and who have grown spiritually, past the stage where the primary needs are simple; assurance of forgiveness of sins, and the knowledge of God as Father. Eventually, every Christian comes to a point of testing in every way.
God allows all of us to be exposed to various temptations and tests to show us what is in us, (or what should be in us but isn’t). Temptation doesn’t give anyone faith, nor can it ever take it away. What Temptation serves to do is to reveal the faith we have within us, and to purify it through testing.
“Young Men” are those in the church being proved, and hopefully approved.
The “wicked One”, the Devil, is allowed to test us in order to, “sift us like wheat”. The tests vary, for he appeals to pride in this one, to lust in another one, each according to the personality type. It is normal for all Christians to undergo testing and trials,
… now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:
That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: ( I Peter 1:6-7)
God wants his children to be overcomers; of the World, the Flesh and the Devil.
We who are born again have been given faith, but within our hearts is also much dross. The fire is turned up, and as the Christian remains faithful and true in the fire of temptation and testing, He matures and overcomes the Tempter. His faith is purified and shines as gold.
Conflict is the eventual arena which all Christians must pass through this stage. We are “warring a good warfare”as we “Fight the good fight of faith”.
Always at stake in the conflict are the spiritual principles which are being called into question by the various temptations we all face; “Is God’s way really the best way?”, “Is the Word of God sufficient?”, ” Shouldn’t you turn those stones into bread?
Why wait for God, do something out of yourself?”
“Do I really want to confess Jesus before men?”
The Young men take up the fight, they apply the Word of God to the questions which are raised, and are deepened and strengthened in the process. The call to evangelize and share faith is part also of the conflict, as the ‘young men’ engage in the spiritual warfare of the church, some involving themselves in the questions of apologetics, others in evangelism of the lost or equipping their fellow saints to be faithful.
Of course there is also the serious conflict which arises from overcoming indwelling sin.
This is a normal and healthy phase of Christian progress.
I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one.
They learn in the strife that Temptation doesn’t last forever, and that the real satisfaction in life is in believing and obeying God.
Righteousness only deepens every time they yield to God rather than to their passions and lusts, and they also learn the Christian art of ‘mortification of sin in their members’, and thus strangle sin in their lives. Every time they say “Yes” to God and “No” to self, they incline themselves more to do the same the next time. It is true, “Sin does not have Dominion over us…” as Paul tells us in Romans 6.
As in physical life, and in a healthy family, the older children are an inspiration and example to the younger ones. They emulate them and want to be like them. I remember certain ones around me, when I was first born again into the church, who I admired for their zeal, boldness, and hunger for Righteousness.
They wanted to know something about the Christian answer to Evolution and other manifestations of atheism, so they took it on themselves to study. They wanted to enter the debate where they were, ( It was a university town). The issues vary, ( there are many issues like evolution, by which the wicked One is deceiving and denying the Faith) but, the impulse is the same and real in the hearts of Christ’s ‘young men’, they want to overcome the wicked one, it is born into them by God.