Everyone Is In A Different Stage Of Spiritual Development
12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake. 13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. 14 I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
Past and Present
John reaches out to three groups of believers in both the present tense (first part) and the past tense (latter part). He is writing to remind them of their spiritual state and growth in Christ. This may be due to the growth that has occurred in the church, and John wishes to remind those from where they came and where they are now. He reminds them in both tenses of essentially the same thing for each stage of spiritual development. He does this to encourage them in their spiritual growth.
Children in Christ
John first mentions the children – the babes in Christ. He reminds them that their sins are forgiven. As we throw off the grave-clothes of our old lives, and emerge freed from their restrictive effect upon our spiritual movement, we need to continually remember that we have been forgiven our sins.
The devil and his minions would continually remind us of the past, and try to get us focus on what was rather than on what is – that we are free in Christ. Young babes in Christ must be reminded that God has forgiven them their sins for two reasons:
- We should no longer act in the way that we used to
- Now that we are free, we are capable of experentially knowing the Father through participating in His character as we walk with Him
John next addresses the more mature followers in Christ – the fathers. In both tenses, he reminds them of their spiritual maturity in that they know the character of the living God. Indeed, they have participated in His character and walk in it. As they walk in God’s character, God reveals more of Himself to them so that they can walk even closer.
This is important to remember as we mature in Christ. We are to be encouraged to seek out and experience God’s character more and more each day. And we should remember that we have overcome the first two stages of spiritual development:
- Childhood – learning to walk
- Adolescence – overcoming obstacles through strength and discernment
John finally addresses those who spiritual development is in a state of great spiritual flux. These are disciples who are learning to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil. They have successfully learned to resist the temptations placed before them, and are about to embark on the more difficult journey of greater spiritual maturity.
John reminds this group in both tenses that they have overcome the evil one. That is no small thing. The Holy Spirit is the one who empowers us to walk with God. This group has been commended for yielding their lives in holy obedience to God’s word and development in discernment so that they can overcome the devil. They are beginning to mature, but are not yet walking in full maturity.
Just as young men take on more responsibility and find out who they are as men, so these disciples are finding out who they are in Christ. They are being proven as faithful and worthy, and will soon discover their place and purpose among the family of believers that they are attached to at present. Sometimes, there is no substitute for experience that difficulty in life can present. And once they are trained by it, they will bear much fruit in maturity.
A Qualifying Question
Let’s ask a question: Where am I in my spiritual growth development?
A short prayer of preparation:
Father in Heaven, it is You who have graciously given me the opportunity to walk with Your Son, Jesus Christ, in holiness and obedience. Without His sacrificial blood, I would still be lost in my sins. For this I am eternally grateful – that although You are completely just, You have shown me mercy and grace. Please extend your mercy and grace to all who do not yet know You. Woo them to You as You have done with me. Strengthen me in my walk with You that I would mature and be complete, lacking in nothing. Help me as I walk to further grow spiritually and to be dependent on You completely without reservation. Help me to be fully obedient to Your Holy Spirit. Help me to die to self, pick up my cross daily, and follow You. This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.