1 John 2:12-14

John changes his tone now and even introduces four verses of poetry. He has spoken strong words on sin and challenged the heresy that was creeping into churches. Now he wants to reinforce the truth that the good news about Jesus is for everyone, regardless of status or position. Here, in these few verses, John gives us the keys to living and growing in God’s kingdom. He particularly mentions the NAME and the WORD of God and it's important that we learn how to use them before the enemy has us tied up in knots.

He addresses his readers as "dear children" and writes from the position of a senior church leader. His pastoral heart speaks on a softer, more intimate level and shows his love and excitement for all those who have overcome the evil one and received forgiveness for their sins. He sees them coming together as his family. He has covered the difficult issues and now begins to focus on "life issues" such as having the right attitude towards the world outside the kingdom of God, dealing with our enemy - the devil - and loving one another.

1 John 2:12

The NAME of Jesus

"Your sins have been forgiven on account of His name." (1 John 2:12) This is the basic foundation of the good news and cannot be compromised. The "name" of Jesus indicates the only way by which we can have our sins forgiven. This amazing gift must be received personally and individually. No one else can make this choice for us, not even our parents. It is not something that we inherit by virtue of having been born in a particular family or country; it is a completely personal decision. When John talks about the "name" of Jesus, he understands a "name" to be a picture of the nature or character of that person, so "Jesus" is the "rescuer" and "saviour".

"Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”. (Acts 2:38) This is what Peter proclaimed to the crowds on the Day of Pentecost so we see that, from immediately after Jesus' resurrection, the power for forgiveness of sin was found in His "name". Later, Peter explained this more fully: “By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus' name and the faith that comes through Him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see”. (Acts 3:16) All we need for healing is faith in the name of Jesus Christ. The "name" of Jesus is vital to the guarantee of our eternal future and our victory over all the wily ways of the devil. (Acts 4:12) What would we do if someone we love were to call us and say, "Please pay my massive debt because I can’t." Provided that we had the ability to clear that debt, we would do so willingly. By submitting to death at the hands of the Roman government, Jesus paid everyone’s debt of sin willingly so that all we have to do is call out in His name. “If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)

Salvation is simple and open to all, be they children, young people or "fathers". “Therefore, God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name that, at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” (Philippians 2:9-10) The name of Jesus (His nature and character) is also the means by which we develop and grow from being children to becoming young people, then parents in the family of Christ. It is the name of Jesus that gives us authority, as children of God, to reinforce Satan’s defeat that Jesus paid for with His death. Our enemy never stops trying to deceive us into believing that he still has some power, but it is time to put the devil under our feet, to use Jesus' authority and remind the devil of the name of his victor. Let's bind ourselves to the love and power of God in the name of Jesus, then let loose angelic forces in His name to work on our behalf by speaking God's word. Then we shall see changes to problems in our homes, jobs, churches, matters of finance and health. (Matthew 16:19; Hebrews 1:14) We have heard the name of Jesus being used every day as a swear word but let's not forget how powerful His name is in our mouths as His children. It is a tremendous key to walking in victory and helps us remember to whom we belong and where our enemy should be.

1 John 2:13-14

The word of God lives in you

This is the second key to our growth and it applies through all the stages of our Christian journey. John points out to his readers that, in their growth, they have resisted temptation and so have built themselves up in their faith. They have discovered that obedience to God's word and the use of His word as a weapon gives them victory over all the temptations of the enemy. (Ephesians 6:17) Jesus Himself needed the word in order to overcome Satan. (Matthew 4:1-11) How much more do we need to put the word in our hearts! It is so important that "fathers" in churches should teach the word of God to "young men". Nothing matters more for the future health and strength of Christ’s body. This is the greatest weapon that we have to guard against error in our day and we neglect it at our peril.

Uses for the Bible

  • The Bible is the inspired word of God. (2 Peter 1:20-21)
  • As we see prophecy fulfilled, we know that it is true. (Acts 1:16)
  • God uses the Bible to speak to us daily. (Hebrews 4:12-13)
  • The Bible is food for our whole life. (John 6:35)
  • The Bible straightens out our thinking. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
  • The Bible helps us to stop sinning. (Psalm 119:11)
  • The Bible enables us to have wisdom. (Philippians 2:16)
  • The Bible gives us life, peace, direction and encouragement. (Romans 15:4; John 6:63)
  • We receive spiritual victory when we live by God's word. (Ephesians 6:13-18)
  • The Bible gives us guidance as to how to pray. (Ephesians 1:15-22)
  • The Bible is vital for giving us guidance. (Psalm 119:105)
  • If we are given any words of prophecy for our personal situation, we can check them against the Bible. (2 Peter 1:19-21)
  • The Bible needs to be studied and researched. (2 Timothy 2:15; Hebrews 5:11-14)

Growing in our faith as Christians is not difficult, if only we take the authority of His name and speak His word. It is really helpful to keep note of verses that we have learned; to keep using them, believing them and speaking them out. As we read the Bible, let's ask God to speak to us. (Joshua 1:8) When He does, again it's helpful to keep a note of what He says. It's amazing how quickly our stock of verses can increase until we have a enormous arsenal of weapons to use at the moment when spiritual attack comes on us - as, inevitably, it will.

Growing up

This passage also shows the right pathway for spiritual growth: from "children" to "young people" and, eventually, to "parenthood". One of the biggest causes of division in churches today is immaturity. Rebellious independence lies at the heart of humanity's rejection of God, but that same attitude has also crept into many churches. Immaturity is about continuing to behave like a child, even after you know full well that there is no longer any excuse to behave like a child. John repeats his encouragement here to grow up. We would think it peculiar if a fourteen year old child was still being fed by a bottle. In the same way, it is not right for Christians to be constantly going over and over the basics of the Christian faith, even after they have walked with Jesus for some time. (Hebrews 5:12-14) Christians need to learn to use the solid food of God's word to train themselves in knowing good from evil. This is vital for all believers. When we look at young people coming to Christ today, we see a great zeal for the things of God and a real hunger for the word of God. Many are growing to maturity in Christ far quicker than older people who have been Christians for many years. "Fathers" must not despise the young because age alone is not a reliable indication of maturity in Christ. (1 Timothy 4:12) The fruit of the Holy Spirit and zeal are the true thermometers of maturity.

The language of the immature runs along these lines:

  • "I didn’t mean to hurt you";
  • "It’s not my fault;
  • "I couldn’t help it";
  • "It’s all down to my past";
  • "I'll cry if I want to!".

"Friendly fire" has killed many more people in churches than enemy fire ever did and it has an amazing, ripple effect. We need to be much less tolerant towards immaturity in ourselves; in short, we need to grow up! "If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other." (Galatians 5:15) Immaturity can wreck the house of God and we keep ignoring it or making allowances for it, even though it is destroying all that some mature members have worked hard to establish in their church.

The attitude of: "If I am not getting my way, neither will anyone else" is so far from Jesus' attitude. In many families, homes and relationships are destroyed by those who should be behaving in a mature way, with adults not taking their responsibilities seriously. The same can be true in the family of God. Immaturity will always be present in both, but we must encourage all Christians to grow spiritually if we are to avoid our churches becoming spiritual "shipwrecks" through ignorance and foolishness. The model of a family is widely used in the Bible as God's way of building healthy societies. It shows how people at all stages of life can get on together with love as the glue and parental guidance to give direction, encouragement and vision that allows everyone to develop and grow. John uses this same model here to encourage churches also to survive immaturity and become healthy centres of spiritual growth.

What are some causes of immaturity?

  • Unbelief; (Matthew 17:17)
  • Unspiritual (carnal) behaviour; (Romans 7:23-24)
  • Self-centredness; (Galatians 5:19-21)
  • Wrong images of our position in Christ; (Ephesians 1:3-7)
  • Wrong relationships with God; (John 15:5-6)
  • Rebellion; (Romans 13:2)
  • Laziness; (Hebrews 6:12)
  • Comfort; (Luke 12:19-21)
  • Criticism; (Galatians 5:15)
  • Human traditions; (Matthew 15:6)
  • Hardness of heart. (Ephesians 4:17-18)

Some cures for immaturity:

  • Knowing what we believe; (James 1:2-8)
  • Walking in the Holy Spirit; (Galatians 5:16-18; Galatians 5:25)
  • Being centred in God; (John 17:23)
  • Being focused on who we are in Christ; (Romans 8:1-2)
  • Drawing close to God; (Hebrews 10:22)
  • Obeying all that God tells us to do; (1 Peter 1:14-15)
  • Enjoyment of the journey; (Psalm 119:105)
  • Dying to self and living for Christ; (Romans 6:8-10; Galatians 2:20)
  • Living by God's word; (Hebrews 4:12-13)
  • Giving praise in all circumstances; (Philippians 4:4)
  • Taking responsibility. (2 Peter 1:3-4)

When lots of immature people get together, it can be very noisy with whining, complaining, strong opinions and fights over status and position. Being immersed in God’s word and presence has got to be the answer to this problem, which we see so often now in churches. “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (2 Peter 1:3-4)

Paul spent some of his life trying to rescue churches which were in danger of dying because of immaturity. The church at Corinth is a good example: "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me." (1 Corinthians 13:11) Let us too put immaturity behind us and not be infatuated by status, gossip or getting our own way.

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good”. (1 Peter 2:1-3) God intends for us to grow up, so He wants us to feed on His word. If we wanted to learn about a new subject, we would follow a self-help book or get a tutor. How much more, when learning about our eternal future and who has paid the full price for us, should we grow up into Christ? We must move from the "milk" of the word described so well in Hebrews: "In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil." (Hebrews 5:12-14) We need to grow up!

We can only be the women that God has designed us to be and the women that this generation needs, if we put immaturity behind us and ask the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us. Let's ask Him to give us a passion for His word and then obey it! (Titus 2:1-8)

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