One of the reasons that John wrote his first epistle was to give assurance to his original audience in light of the doubts created when false teachers claiming to know the truth left the community. The primary way he does this is to give tests by which professing Christians can test themselves to see whether their faith is genuine. Two of these tests, personal holiness and love of other believers, have been our primary focus for the past two weeks.
However, in offering assurance to his audience, John does not only give them tests by which they themselves can “measure” their salvation, he also gives them assurance by telling them that they are genuine Christians. As their faithful pastor, John was well equipped to impart assurance because he personally knew these individuals and saw evidence for the authenticity of their profession.
In today’s passage, John comforts his audience by reminding them that they in fact are genuine Christians. In 1 John 2:12–14, we read John’s words of assurance that the sins of his audience are forgiven, that they have known the Father, and that they have overcome the evil one. His words and the tests for assurance were designed to encourage them to see their authentic Christianity.
Though John addresses three different groups (little children, fathers, and young men) in this passage, it is probably best to see him addressing every one in his audience, enumerating the qualities that all mature believers should have by way of allusion to different stages of life. Like young children, mature believers should know their Father and remember basic Christian truths such as the forgiveness of sins. Mature Christians, like young men, should exhibit strength — in this case, spiritual strength, which enables them to overcome the evil one. This strength, verse 14 tells us, comes because the Word of God dwells in them. Finally, just as older people have a special knowledge of the faithfulness of God because they have seen Him work over the course of their entire lives, so too should mature Christians be confident in the One who has been with them from the beginning of their faith.
The qualities mentioned in today’s passage are qualities for which all Christians should strive, and each of them contributes to the believer’s assurance. As we engage in the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible study, worship, stewardship, service, and fellowship we will grow confident of our forgiveness, become firm in the knowledge of God, and grow strong enough to overcome the evil one. Seek out friends who will help you grow in these ways.