In meditating on this 2nd chapter of 1 John, I see a call to maturity and steadfast behavior under God’s rule. I see a call to His people whose source is Christ, His Unique Son.
For Christ is how we know we know God. The Apostle John speaks to this conception of God by the contrast of those that keep God commandments and from others who do not. He declares we do what God says. The reason we do what He says is that we believe what He says.
I think there are two responses people that we must consider in verses 3-6:
#1 The Bad-Weak Belief = This is a fading faith resulting in unbelief or at best, belief without action. Weak belief can be a lack of self-denial in one’s character; much like James says, “such a person is double-minded unstable in all they do” (James 1: 8 NIV).
#2 The Good Belief = We, in our weakness, hold on to God’s word knowing God and growing deep in our bound with Him.
Verses 7 to 11 in 1 John 2 are fundamental because of his use of contrast that makes it so transparent that GOD is in a category of His own and His character is the standard for our lives, which for us seems an impossible standard to realize. Nevertheless, it is here that God is calling for our maturity. This is where our falling short of His glory can be addressed so we can grow. Furthermore, to abide is to grow in Christ (our atoning sacrifice) through whom what we are in the personal substance of our character can be exposed and we can progressively confess God’s glory in our actions.
John follows this up by encouraging the new converts to be established in Christ. He calls them “Children of God” because of their unwillingness to deny Christ which has revealed they are of the Truth.
Next, I think John addresses and encourages faith in Christ by acknowledging their witness and development of faithfulness to God in verses 12-14. He calls them “little children” because these are people who accept the Gospel Message as true. Likely, I think, many would be new to the faith and have recently trusted God for the forgiveness of their sins. Nevertheless, this is not to say their belief is not firm, only that they are early in the walk with Christ.
“Fathers” know God. Those that know God have fought and are fighting the good fight. Therefore, John calls them “fathers” because they are a source of guidance, a family pillar, and spiritual-bread winner.
“Young men” are also addressed. Though this word in most translations may be rendered in the masculine, I don’t think it is to one gender that John is speaking, but to all those young in the Christian faith. For instance, the NET Bible renders the Greek word neh-an-is-kos as “young people” because it is about where John’s disciples are in their walk with God that is his concern. John states they have been tested and overcame. So, they have been Christians long enough to show some loyalty to Christ. They had remained in Him or as John puts it, “the word of God abides in you.” These young people trust in Christ’s atonement for their sin but have held to that truth through some level of testing. This testing is more than just believing their sins are forgiven.
“Don’t love the world,” John writes this at beginning at verse 15. This is easier said than done! Deception is a real thing of which we are all vulnerable in our human weakness. Two things can happen: One, we can embrace something of the world and in so doing, deny God. Two, we can hold to God’s way, but not by our strength, but in His grace which can be hard and will bring forth real growth pains (spiritually speaking).
Let’s be real, there is a lot to love in the world! Yet we cannot love the world’s things if we are God’s children. So, don’t love the world or the things of the world because you are made for something more, namely God. Better yet, read Jesus words, “what good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? (Matt. 16:26 NIV)
Moreove, at verse 18, he begins a warning not to deny Christ. Better put, he begins to positively reinforce to continue believing in Christ. John tells them, if what you heard remains in you (that is through belief, not merit), you will continue in God. Since progressively we who believe are confessing Christ as Lord and exposing our weakness after conversion, we do not shrink back into our former coping mechanisms based on human strength.
Instead, we voluntarily submit to the Holy Spirit working in us which in our times of testing develops our character to reflect Christ. So, by this process, we can go from “little children” to “young people” and to “fathers” (those that know GOD). We then realize abiding faith in Christ because the only way to overcome is to believe by means of Christs’ cross. We are under grace (Christ giving of Himself) so that we can all work through our issues, trouble, and even the loss of life and come to know our Lord.
Yes, in this way we learn to recognize Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the same human way Jesus lived. John says it himself in verse 6, “The one who says he resides in God ought to walk just as Jesus walked” (NET).