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 third category of Christian growth and experience, after “little Children” and “Young Men” are those who are called “Fathers” by the Apostle.
Who are these “Fathers”? This would include those designated and recognized as official Elders, and Church leaders, but not limited to them.
Anyone (men or women) in the church, who has passed through the previous stages, remaining faithful to Christ, having “warred a good warfare” and gone on into a mature Christian attainment, would play the role described as “Fathers”.
Perhaps we can define what John meant by “Fathers’ by listening to Paul the Apostle. In the Epistle to the Corinthians He pled with his ‘sons’ in the gospel to imitate him as a Father.
I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.For though ye have ten thousand instructers in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.( I Corinthians 4:13-15)
Fathers and Mothers in the Faith, are those who have ‘begotten’ others, they have taken in hand to disciple and nurture others, and communicated eternal life to them.
What is the unique grace John twice attributed to these Fathers by the Holy Spirit?
The Fathers in Christ “…know Him who is from the beginning…”. They have come to know Christ as the eternal Word of God, the Word of the Father.
The knowledge that a child has of his Father, is of a different quality than the knowledge that a young son would have, or even an adult man would have of his own Father.
The Children are assured that they “know the Father”.This is the privilege of all children of God, as well as the promise of full forgiveness of Sins. The reality of the Father’s Love, discipline, protection and provision, with all of it’s ethical implications is everything to the young Christian.
The season of testing that Christians eventually are called into, and the necessity of applying the revealed truths and principles in the arena of conflict, serves to deepen the reality of fellowship with God as Father, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent. The “Young Men” , resort to a strength they hadn’t experienced, and find that the Faith and promises of the Father are sufficient in the battle.
The testing of faith actually re-inforces the reality of Eternal Life, and prevailing in spiritual strife, is a means of the assurance of salvation.
What is it that these Fathers attain after years of maintaining faith, enduring conflict, nourishing and nurturing other believers unto maturity?
“You have known Him that is from the beginning”.
Robert Law, in his valuable commentary on I John, “The Tests of Life” puts it well,
“Hence, it is the Fathers who know Him who is from the beginning. We look to mature experience for a largeness of view , a calm untroubled depth of conviction, a clear eyed judgment upon life which youth cannot have…. in the coarse of a moderately long life a man may have witnessed a great many changes and commotions in society, violent oscillations of opinion, temporary eclipses of truth and triumphs of wrong; but he may have learned that at the same time, how through all of these, the undeviating purpose of God pursues it’s way, How the great principles of Truth and right assert themselves, amid all changes, as things God has settled and that cannot be shaken”( Robert Law, “The Tests of Life” Baker publishing)
The Fathers are rooted in the knowledge of the unchanging one. They cannot be shaken, they have walked with Him who never changes. The Fathers have gone through the various shakings, they have maintained the church through the persecutions, denials of Truth, defection by the powerful, and intellectual and moral challenges. They know that love and truth will prevail and that God’s purpose cannot be altered.
A Prayer based on I John 2:12-14
May God’s church always teem with the newly born again. Babes hungry and thirsty for Righteousness, and constantly ‘knowing and believing the Love God has to them”, and resorting to the “throne of Grace for the Forgiveness of Sins.
May God house also sport a dedicated cadre of “young men” who know how to speak and apply the Word of God, and who will not shirk from the cosmic warfare. Let them discover that in the armor of light and with the weapons of righteousness, “they are strong, and the Word of God remains in them, and they have overcome the wicked One”.
Finally, may there be “Fathers” in the church, men and women who have weathered the cultural and spiritual storms, holding faith and a good conscience. May we always be blessed in the congregation with those who have come to the knowledge of “Him who is from the beginning”, unshaken, rooted in Him, even in the face of persecution, defection or death.