1 John 2:12-17

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

February 4, 1998


John, the aging apostle has written a letter to the church at large.

Some of the themes weíve seen so far are:

The importance of loving others.

The importance of our actions, the importance of not living continuous lives of sin.

:12-14 Stages of Christian Growth

There is an unusual, but common thread throughout the next three verses. Except for two words at the end of verse 14 ("are strong", "abideth"), all the verbs are in the "perfect" tense.

This means that these are all actions that have been done in the past, with the results continuing on into the present.

What John is doing, in his unorganized kind of way, is to give us stages of growth that Christians go through, almost like steps toward maturity.

Each of these descriptions are things that these various groups have gone through, almost like merit badges that theyíve earned and continue to keep.

I think we can maybe get an idea of where we stand in maturity in the Lord from these descriptions.

Little Children

Young men


1) Have known the Father

2) Forgiven

Overcome the wicked one

Have known Him that is from the beginning


:12 I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake.

little children Ė teknion Ė a little child, it refers to ones who have been birthed.


Maturity starts with forgiveness.

One of the very first steps a person takes as a newborn baby in Christ is that of entering into Godís forgiveness.

This is where it all starts. Every person at every stage must come through this point.

Because itís a "perfect" tense in Greek, this is also not where it ends, but forgiveness is something that we start with and continue with.

:13 I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning.

John is going to repeat this word for word in verse 14, weíll look at it there.

:13 I write unto you, young men Ö

This too will be covered a little more in detail in verse 14, weíll look at it there.

:13 I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father.

little children ĖJohn uses a different word than what he used in verse 12 (teknion) Ė paidion Ėa young child, infant


Another beginning step of maturity is being Godís child.

Having a new start, having a spiritual birth, being born of the Father.

Itís knowing God as your "Abba".

(Rom 8:15 KJV) For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

This is also something that continues on through our life in the Lord, knowing Him as our Father.

:14 I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning.


Maturity comes with stretching your concept of God.

Heís not just "da-da" anymore.

We begin to understand that He is the Almighty, the Creator, the One who has existed from before the beginning of time.

We come to understand just how awesome, powerful, knowledgeable, timeless, etc., He is.

John wrote,

(1 John 1:1 KJV) That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;

Donít let your understanding of God stagnate. Grow in your understanding of God.

Isa 40:12-15 Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? {13} Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him? {14} With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and showed to him the way of understanding? {15} Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.

If you think you know all there is to know about God, then you donít know Him at all.

:14 young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one

Overcome Ė nikao Ė to conquer

The verb here is a "perfect" tense, meaning that the overcoming has happened in the past, and continues to show itís results into the present.

They have overcome, and continue to overcome.

strong Ė ischuros Ė strong, mighty; strong either in body or in mind


Maturity comes from sustained victory.

Victory over sin is not an optional thing in a growing Christian life.

Itís a necessity.


Victory comes from staying in the Word.

John has told us how the "young men" have overcome the wicked one Ė

They are strong because Godís Word abides in them.

I know in my life, when I forget to regularly wash my mind in the water of the Word, it gets pretty cloudy and filthy.


Keep growing.

Godís desire is not that you remain constantly defeated.

I think that a personís teenage years are some of the most difficult times a person has to go through.

The hormones. The challenging of authority. The challenging of ideas. The beginnings of real responsibility.

The good news is that you donít have to stay a teen forever. You can grow up.

:15 Love not the world Ö

John has been talking about how we are to love if weíre Christians.

Now itís time to draw a line as to how far our love goes.


A group of first graders had just completed a tour of a hospital, and the nurse who had directed them was asking for questions. Immediately a hand went up. "How come the people who work here are always washing their hands?" a little fellow asked. After the laughter had subsided, the nurse gave a wise answer: "They are Ďalways washing their handsí for two reasons. First, they love health; and second, they hate germs". (Wiersbe)

Now, you might be wondering, why canít we love the world? Doesnít God love the world (John 3:16)?

God loves the people in the world, but not the world system.

John is going to kind of give us a definition of what he means by the "world".

:16 the lust of the flesh

lust Ė epithumia Ė desire, craving, longing, desire for what is forbidden, lust

We have some specific ideas of what "lust" means, but our ideas are usually limited to sexual things. The word means "strong desire", and usually a "strong desire" for the wrong things.

flesh Ėsarx Ė it can mean the physical skin and flesh we have covering our bones, but here it carries the idea of our "sin nature", that invisible part of us that craves to disobey God.

Paul gives us an idea of what the "flesh" is about Ė

(Gal 5:19-21 NLT) When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce these evil results: sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, {20} idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group, {21} envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other kinds of sin. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

The "lust of the flesh" is to have a strong desire for these kinds of things.


Inner desires are a gateway to sin.

Itís these "lusts", these "strong desires" that can result in sinful actions Ė

James 1:13-15 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: {14} But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. {15} Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

One of the ways that we are tempted is right from the inside, inside our own wicked hearts.

If we allow ourselves to be "drawn away" (Greek "exelko" carries the idea of luring a fish onto a hook) and give into the thought, thatís when lust gives birth to sin.

It may not be a sinful action, but simply the dwelling upon a sinful thought.


The flesh must die.

We try all kinds of things to reform the flesh.

We try to restrain it by "cutting back" a little.

This is Godís answer to the flesh Ė

Rom 6:6-7 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. {7} For he that is dead is freed from sin.

(Gal 2:20 KJV) I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

The answer is not in "babying" our flesh, itís killing it.

Somehow, when we begin to cut ourselves off from the things that "feed" our flesh, and our "flesh" begins to cry and whimper that itís going to whither away and die, we seem surprised that itís so painful to die.

Death of the flesh is never pleasant. Otherwise it wouldnít be called "crucifixion".

:16 and the lust of the eyes

This doesnít mean that a blind person canít be tempted, since they canít see, but the eyes are just the most obvious way the most of us receive temptation.


The senses can be a gateway to sin.

One example of this is Eveís Temptation Ė

Gen 3:1-6 Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? {2} And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: {3} But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. {4} And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: {5} For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. {6} And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

In a way, you can kind of see all three descriptions of the world here:

Lust of the flesh Ė it was good for food

Lust of the eyes Ė it was pleasant to the eyes.

Pride of life Ė desired to make one wise.

But the basic problem Eve had was that the temptation got into her through her eyes.

A.T. Robertson, writing in 1932 said, "The use of the "movies" today for gain by lustful exhibitions is a case in point." Interesting Ö


The solution for the eyes is to remove the stimulation.

We can see this operating in the life of young Joseph Ė

(Gen 39:7-10 KJV) And it came to pass after these things, that his master's wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me. {8} But he refused, and said unto his master's wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand; {9} There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? {10} And it came to pass, as she spake to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her.

As much as he could, he stayed away from the woman.

There will come a day when thatís not going to be possible, but because heís been avoiding her, heís going to be stronger to resist the temptation when it comes. And he does.


Eyes + Lust = Sin

If we neglect to crucify the flesh and to flee temptation, weíre in for trouble.

When the eyes get together with the lust, then sin has already occurred:

Mt 5:28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

Lit., "each one who is looking at a woman for the purpose of lusting after her, has already committed adultery with her in his heart"

Itís not wrong to look at a woman without lust.

Itís not wrong to have a lustful thought come into your mind, as long as you deal with it.

(2 Cor 10:5 KJV) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

But when looking is combined with lust, then sin has already occurred.

It might be a guy looking at pornography, now a days it might be a group of girls standing around talking about the men in the office as they walk by.

:16 and the pride of life

The idea here is "empty bragging about the things that sustain your life"

We might call it "pride in possessions"


Whatís valuable to you?

Luke 12:13-23 And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me. {14} And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you? {15} And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. {16} And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: {17} And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? {18} And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. {19} And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. {20} But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? {21} So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. {22} And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. {23} The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.

Itís hard for us "poor folk" to see it, because itís hard for us to get away from the idea that if we just had a little "more", then weíd be satisfied.

But countless people have "struck it rich", and they all seem to say the same thing, "thereís still an emptiness".

Where is your treasure? Is it something that can be "stolen"? Is it something thatís going to be outdated a week after you buy it?

You can tell a lot about your heart by where your treasure is.


Worldliness brings lack of fruit.

Jesus warned that these kinds of worldly desires can choke the fruitfulness out of our spiritual life. In the parable of the sower and the four kinds of soil, there were some of the seed that fell on thorny soil Ė

(Mark 4:18-19 KJV) And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, {19} And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.

:16 is not of the Father, but is of the world.

God does not want us to go "out of the world", as in living in some kind of Christian commune on a far away mountain.

We are to be "in the world", but not "of it".

How else will they hear about heaven?

:17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof:

The one who is caught up in the things of the world is caught up in something thatís on its way out.

2Pe 3:11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,

:17 but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

Note Ė Again, itís not the one that "says" any certain thing about God, but the one that doeth the will of God.