The Fathers

 •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 7
“babes,” or “little children.” The “fathers” are those who have grown old in the truth. The “babes” are those newly born into the family of God. The “young men” are a class between, who have the strength of manhood, being no longer children, tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine; nor yet having reached that experimental knowledge by which they have learned the utter vanity of everything apart from Christ. The “fathers,” on the contrary, have had full experience and, like Solomon, have written “vanity” on all that is under the sun. They have learned to know Christ as their only and enduring portion. “I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known Him that is from the beginning” (1 John 2:1313I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father. (1 John 2:13)).
It will be noticed that the Apostle addresses each class separately — the “fathers,” then the “young men,” then the “babes.” In verse 13 all three classes are addressed. Then in verse 14 the “fathers” and “young men” are addressed the second time, and in verse 18, the “babes,” the message running on to the close of verse 27.
We will now look more particularly at the message to the “fathers.” We have already quoted from verse 13, where they are addressed the first time. When they are addressed the second time, in verse 14, the message is the same; and there is nothing added. It is simply, “I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known Him that is from the beginning.” And this is most beautiful, and instructive. There was nothing to warn them against, and there was nothing new or further to set before them — nothing which they did not already have. They had Christ — “Him that is from the beginning” — and that was enough. There was nothing to go back to — nothing to go forward to. To go back would be to return to the world which they had found to be only vanity. There would be no gain in that. And they could not go forward to anything beyond without giving up Christ and Christianity, and there would be no gain in that. Christ was their all. They knew Him as the sum of all their blessing, their enduring, their eternal portion. This is what characterized the fathers in Christ.
I have said there was nothing to warn them against. They were acquainted with the flesh and its ways, with the world and its attractions, and had judged both as worthless and evil. It was not something merely that they had been taught; they had learned it experimentally. In their own experience they had proved what the flesh is in its utter insubordination to God, and had learned that God’s judgment of it in the cross and death of Christ was the only remedy for it. It was a judgment which was according to truth and holiness, a judicial ending before God of what was in a state of fixed and eternal enmity against His nature, and incapable of being subject to His holy law (Rom. 8:77Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. (Romans 8:7)). They had learned the truth of this judgment, and had bowed to it experimentally in their own souls. It was not something they needed to learn now, even in experience. They knew it in such a way as not to need any warning against it.
So also it was as to the world which is in enmity against God as well as the flesh, and which also has been morally judged in the cross. To the fathers the world was but the scene in which the flesh flourishes that to which the flesh in its nature and desires fully answers, and which furnishes the food on which the flesh subsists. Moreover, the world had cast out and crucified God’s well beloved Son, and thus its whole status and condition was laid bare. The fathers had learned its true character. They knew it as an evil system estranged from God, and governed by Satan’s will and power. Whatever might be its pretension, whatever its glitter and show, whatever its allurements and enticing temptations, to the fathers it was all a vain show, a scene of gilded sin and wickedness which could not endure in its midst the presence of the holy and blessed Son of God. And besides, there was nothing in it that could satisfy the soul or give real joy and happiness. To them it was practically a judged scene in which they had neither part nor lot. Through the death and resurrection of Christ, they had been delivered from it; and in their practical life and spiritual mode of existence, they were outside of it, and had no desire to return to it. Happy deliverance!
But all this experience had been gone through in connection with the truth of Christ. Apart from Christ these things could not be learned. And the result of the experience was that Christ was known as the only worthy object of the heart. All else proved to be but vanity. When all else failed, Christ remained the same, the faithful, unchanging One, “the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Heb. 13:88Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. (Hebrews 13:8)), the One who will remain the same throughout eternity, filling and satisfying the soul, when experience has become a thing only of the past, and when flesh and the world are no more.
This blessed Christ the fathers know. They have proved Him as the One in whom they can always trust. In all their varied experiences and trials, they have found Him faithful. In every time of need He has proved the succorer of their souls. He has been their joy in sorrow, their strength in weakness, their stay in adversity, their unfailing resource at all times. And He is the eternal Sun of their souls, the chiefest among ten thousand, the One altogether lovely, their all in all for time and eternity. They have followed Him, they have served Him, they have walked with Him, they have communed with Him, and they know Him, not merely by report, but by intimate and personal acquaintance. Blessed knowledge! It is what we shall have in eternity. Only then it will be in glory, and in a fullness far transcending aught that is known in the poor earthly tabernacle here. But the same thing is known in the soul now that will be known then, though the soul be fettered and held within bounds and limits. Now we see through a glass darkly, then face to face. Now we know in part, then we shall know as we are known. There will be no fetters, no bonds then — nothing to hinder or cloud the glorified vision. Christ will be known then in all the brightness and blessedness it is possible to communicate to His glorified people.
Yet even now, though it be not in the same brightness or fullness, because of the body in which we still groan, through all our varied experiences Christ reveals Himself to our souls in a most blessed way, and we learn to know Him as friends know friends — not merely as the One who has saved us from wrath and judgment, but as the One who is ever with us, bearing us on His heart, sustaining, comforting, blessing, and drawing our hearts and affections out to His own blessed Person. The fullness of His grace meeting all our need by the way is realized; the varied beauties and glories and perfection of His Person and character are discovered; and His unchanging and eternal love fills the heart and satisfies the affections He Himself has awakened. Blessed, glorious Christ! infinite delight of the Father! eternal brightness of God’s glory! light and joy and center of courts above! Object worthy of eternal homage and praise! may we learn to know Him more and more. May we so learn to know Him that before the brightness of His presence every other object may fade away, leaving Himself the alone object of our hearts, our all-sufficient, our present and eternal portion.