posted on Jul, 14 2017 @ 05:01 PM
When John writes his first epistle, he is not, like Paul, addressing himself to a specific church under particular circumstances.
He writes, on behalf of himself and his fellow teachers, to anyone in the Christian body who will take his advice. Though his first readers were
probably in Ephesus and that region of Asia Minor.
His purpose is to teach these Christians, or remind them, that they are dwelling in God, through Christ, and to show them how this knowledge should be
affecting their conduct.
As John has been describing at the beginning of the second chapter, one major obstacle to our fellowship with God is a failure to maintain fellowship
with the brethren, who are themselves
in fellowship with God.
But he spends a portion of the chapter discussing a more general obstacle, viz. the rival attractions of “the world”.
He addresses his readers, affectionately, as “children”.
Then he speaks to them in two groups, as “fathers” and as “young men”.
This will be about seniority in knowledge and experience of the gospel, rather than physical age.
But it also matches the classic social division between the young men who go out and fight battles and the older men who apply their wisdom and
experience to decision-taking at home.
So the young men, traditionally, are marked out by their strength, and the older men by their knowledge.
First John explains the reasons for his confidence in making this appeal (vv12-13)
He is writing to them as children because their sins have been forgiven for the sake of “the name”- that is, the name of Christ. That is the
pre-requisite for their status as children. They are those who have “believed in the name of the Son of God” (ch5 v13), and as believers they have
life “in his name”.
He writes to them as fathers, men of knowledge, because they know “him who was from the beginning”; that is, they know the Word, Jesus Christ (see
He writes to them as young men, men of strength, because they have overcome “the evil one”.
There is a principle at work which leads astray the human mind. James says “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.
Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin” (James ch1 vv14-15).
However, John is personalising this principle, making it a more tangible adversary.
If one asks when these people overcame the evil one, the answer must be that it occurred when they believed in the name of Christ and received
forgiveness of their sins. “They have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb…” (Revelation ch12 v11).
In fact “knowing Christ”, and “having been forgiven” and “having overcome the evil one” are three alternate ways of saying the same
Then John says it all over again in slightly different words (v14)
He addresses them as children once more, this time using a word which emphasises their need for protection (PAIDEA) rather than their kinship
“As ‘little children’ we are all bound to one another by the bond of natural affection. As ‘little ones’ we all recognise our equal
feebleness in the presence of the one Father” (Westcott, ad loc).
He is writing to them because they know the Father (which follows on from the forgiveness of their sins),
He writes to them as fathers for the same reason as before.
He writes to them as young men for the same reason as before, developing the point by observing that they are “strong”, as the Christian soldier
should be, and that the Word of God abides in them as the source of their life and strength.
So John’s message for these people is that their victory is already complete. It’s just a question, now, of living up to that victory.
It is on that basis that John warns them not to love “the world”- that is, the finite creation treated in detachment from the Creator God.
For it is not possible to love the world and to love the Father at the same time.
They are polar opposites, as long as things of this world are seen as ends in their own right.
The false attraction can be summed up in terms of three features.
There is “the lust of the flesh”.
Since “the flesh” is not spirit, the flesh will not desire what is spiritual. It can only desire what is like itself.
There is “the lust of the eyes”, which transfers attention from the actual enjoyment of pleasure to thoughts of the enjoyment of pleasure.
Finally there is “the pride of life”, or “the boasting of life”. This implies a falsity in the sense of values, preferring the opposite of
what is true and good.
All these things are about choosing what is not God (vv15-16).
In the same way, James says “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” (James ch4 v4)
The decisive point is that the world, and the lusts which are attached to it, will pass away (v17).
Similarly Paul observes, to those who value food for the sake of the stomach, that “God will destroy both one and the other” (1 Corinthians ch6
If we are caught up in something which will soon vanish, then we will vanish along with it.
Whereas, in contrast, he who does the will of God (and therefore abides in God) abides for ever.