The spiritual state of the union is a matter of critical importance. Of course, I refer to your union with the Lord Jesus Christ. Dr. R. David Rightmire explains, “Union with Christ is the result of an act of divine grace, the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Baptized into Christ (Gal 3:27), the believer is incorporated into the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:13). A variety of biblical metaphors describe this union: vine and branches (John 15:1-6); head and body (Eph 1:22-23; 4:15-16; 5:23); marital relation of Christ and the church (Eph 5:23-32). The result of identification with Christ is organic union and spiritual life.”[i]
1 John 2:12-17 reads, “I write to you, little children, Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake. I write to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, Because you have overcome the wicked one. I write to you, little children, Because you have known the Father. I have written to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is 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 wicked one. Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” Notice three movements in our passage.
First, note the word about Development. 1 John 2:12-13 reads, “I write to you, little children, Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake. I write to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, Because you have overcome the wicked one. I write to you, little children, Because you have known the Father. I have written to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is 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 wicked one.”
Dr. Lehman Strauss (1901-1997) writes, “In verse 13 the whole family is divided into three stages of spiritual development, ‘fathers… young men… little children.’ The ‘little children’ in verse 13 are either those who are young in the faith in relation to time, or else they are victims of arrested development. I dare say that some of you know exactly what I mean, and you know also in which part of the heavenly family you fit. The New Testament Epistles are full of the idea of progress. We are to ‘press toward the mark’ (Philippians 3:14), ‘increase more and more’ (1 Thessalonians 4:10), ‘go on unto perfection’ (Hebrews 6:1), ‘add to your [our] faith’ (2 Peter 1:5), ‘grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’ (2 Peter 3:18). But, alas, too many remain ‘babes in Christ’ (1 Corinthians 3:1). (See also Hebrews 5:11-14.)”[ii] Hebrews 5:11-14 reads, “of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”
Listen for these three voices in the church. First, the voice of enthusiasm “Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake . . . . Because you have known the Father” (1 John 2:12, 13); Second, the voice of education, “Because you have overcome the wicked one. . . . Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, And you have overcome the wicked one” (1 John 2:13, 14); and Third, the voice of experience, “Because you have known Him who is from the beginning . . . Because you have known Him who is from the beginning” (1 John 2:13, 14).
Dr. R. C. H. Lenski (1864-1936) explains, “Now these heretics are denying the deity of Jesus, are claiming that he is the natural son of Joseph, that his blood is not that of ‘the Son of God’ (see 1:7; also 1:1, ‘the Logos of the Life,’ and 1:3, ‘his Son Jesus Christ’). . . . Our fellowship with God (1:7) is that of Father and children, no less. This we ‘know’ in the way explained in 2:3; see 3:1. What the heretics claim to know about their fellowship with God without a reference to sins, to Christ, God’s Son, and to his cleansing blood, is a lying claim (1:5-10). These men are trying to get their lying claim to take the place of the knowledge in the hearts of the readers. John writes because of the knowledge of his readers, to preserve and to fortify this knowledge.”[iii]
Rev. Matthew Henry (1662-1714) writes, “All Christians are not of the same standing and stature; there are babes in Christ, there are grown men, and old disciples. As these their particular states, so they have their particular duties; but there are precepts and correspondent obedience common to them all, as particularly mutual love and contempt for the world. We see also that wise pastors will judiciously distribute the word of life, and give the several members of Christ’s family their several suitable portions.”[iv]
1 Corinthians 3:1-4 reads, “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not carnal?”
Part Two Coming Soon!
[i]Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell, “Union with Christ, R. David Rightmire, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 1996), Accessed: 03/09/15, http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/bakers-evangelical-dictionary/union-with-christ.html .
[ii]Lehman Strauss, The Epistles of John: Devotional Studies on John’s Three Letters (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1962), 58.
[iii]R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude, (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1961), 417. Database © 2008 WORDsearch Corp.
[iv]Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, 106. Database © 2014 WORDsearch.