An Aged Apostle's Message to His Children

 •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 9
In the first chapter of his first epistle, the Apostle John presents to us the Word of life — the eternal Word — the eternal Son of the Father — in whom eternal life subsisted, and in whom, as a man, it was manifested in time down here in this world; and all this that we might have fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. Then there is a message declaring God’s inflexible holiness — light admitting no degree of darkness — speaking at the same time of the blood that cleanseth from all sin, and gives fitness to be in the light of that holy presence.
In the opening of the next chapter we have, in the Advocate with the Father, the divine provision for failure in the walk of those who have been brought into the light, and the means of restoration to communion when it has been broken by sin. Then follow the great characteristic traits of the divine life in man — obedience and love. These were perfectly displayed in Christ; and Christ having become our life, these are the tests of reality in us.
Having established these fundamental principles, the aged Apostle goes on to address his children, first all together, and then in three classes — “fathers,” “young men,” and “babes.” There is that which was common to all; and then there is that which was peculiar to each of these three classes, all presented in beautiful order.
We will first look at that which was common to all. This was forgiveness of sins. He writes to them all as having been forgiven. In doing so, he calls them “children.” The word “little” is not in the original. When he divides them into three classes, “fathers,” “young men,” and “little children,” the last is a different word, which does mean “little children” or “babes.” But in the first instance it is simply “children,” and the term includes all that the Apostle addresses in the epistle, the same as in verse 1 and in verse 28 of the same chapter. “I write unto you,... children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.” He does not write to them in order that they might receive forgiveness, but because they had already received it. He wrote to them as those whom God had forgiven for the name’s sake of His beloved Son.
He had already written that which would test the reality of those who bore the name of Christ, and which would distinguish between the true and the false. But this was not intended in any wise to shake the confidence of any who had really been born into the family of God. Those who, without reality, and in carelessness of heart, had taken a place among the children of God, might well tremble at what the Apostle had written, and which necessarily condemned them, as when he says, “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth” (1 John 1:5-6). “He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (1 John 2:4). “He that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes” (1 John 2:11).
These were the solemn and heart-searching words before which the careless, or the hypocrite, or the false teachers, might well pause, and consider their bearings, and learn in the truth whether their profession was real, or whether they were blindly drifting on in darkness, soon to be plunged into the dark abyss of eternal woe. But solemn as are the warnings given to such in God’s Word, they are never intended to shake, or disturb in any degree, the peace of those who have believed on the Lord Jesus, and who are seeking with purpose of heart to serve and follow Him. On the contrary, this aged Apostle and father seeks to assure his children in the most happy way, by telling them that he writes to them for the very reason that their sins had been forgiven them for Jesus’ name’s sake. Not a cloud would he throw over the mind of the youngest or the feeblest in all the family of God. He would have all in the full blessed consciousness, and unclouded assurance, that they were in the light, and without a spot upon them — the youngest babe as much as the most aged father, or the most holy apostle, washed and made whiter than snow in “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son,” which “cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
And blessed it is to our poor hearts to know that the knowledge of forgiveness is not something to be attained only when the Christian course has been nearly run — perhaps only on a deathbed or, it may be, not till the poor storm-tossed soul stands before the great white throne, overwhelmed with terror, and crushed with dark uncertainty, while it awaits the sentence which is to fix its eternal destiny. No, dear reader, forgiveness of sins meets us at the very threshold of Christianity; and the assurance of it greets our souls the moment we believe the gospel of our salvation. Christ is the meeting point between our souls and God. But it is a Christ who died, who was buried, who was raised again; and the moment we meet God in Him, we find Him a Christ who has borne our sins, having been delivered for our offenses, and raised again for our justification. Thus all is settled between our souls and God, and “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 4:24-25;5:1.)
Christian attainments there surely are, but forgiveness of sins is not one of them; for if I have not forgiveness of sins I am not a Christian at all. My sins are still between my soul and God, and exclude me from His holy presence, leaving me under judgment and exposed to eternal wrath. Forgiveness cannot, therefore, be a Christian attainment at all. I know there may be such a thing as being forgiven, and not knowing it; but this is not a normal condition of soul. It is a result, either of wrong teaching, or of inadequate apprehension of the truth. The very gospel that announces salvation to the lost, and forgiveness to the guilty, through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, gives also, in the most assuring terms, the knowledge of forgiveness to all who believe it. “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man [Christ Jesus] is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:38-39).
In such terms as these the blessed gospel of God’s grace speaks to the poor sinner, and such assurance it gives to the one who believes it. It speaks unconditional and eternal pardon to him who, falling down before God as helpless and guilty and lost, believes in Jesus; and it assures such a one that his sins are blotted out forever, and his guilt canceled by the atoning blood of the cross, never to be brought to light again. “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more,” (Heb. 10:17) is the conscience-purging word of the blessed God who pardons through faith in Jesus’ blood. And the words John writes to his children are in happy confirmation of this blessed truth. “I write unto you,... children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake” (1 John 2:12). Happy children! Their sins may have been many, yea, more than the hairs of their heads, and they may be conscious that they are poor, feeble, failing creatures still; and Satan may thunder in their consciences, and seek to accuse and condemn, but the word of Him who cannot lie sustains their souls in unclouded peace. “Your sins are forgiven you.”
And it is “for His name’s sake.” Were it for anything in us, we might well question, and doubt, and fear. But if it is “for His name’s sake,” who in heaven or earth or hell can challenge our title? God has owned that blessed Savior, and exalted His name above all. He has given Him a name that is above every name. Before that name all thrones and dominions must yield subjection, and every knee — all angels, all men, all demons — must bow. It is THE NAME OF JESUS. It is the name of Him who suffered on the cross, whose blood was shed for the putting away of sin, who by His atoning sacrifice has infinitely glorified God, and who has vanquished forever the adversary of our souls. “For His name’s sake.” God forgives.
Dear reader, have you believed God’s testimony to that wonderful name? Have you believed in the name of Jesus? Then listen to that dear old Apostle that knew Him so well, and the cleansing power of His precious blood, and hear him addressing you among the children to whom he writes these words: “I write unto you,... children, because your sins ARE forgiven you FOR HIS NAME’S SAKE” (1 John 2:12).