Summary: 1 John seems to reveal a generation gap for the first time in Christian experience. How do we handle this? John’s message is helpful here.
(The audio version of this is longer and more complete)
How do we pass on the truth to the next generation? How keep from losing our children to the world? Every generation has a choice to make. The gospel and letters of John may have been written to address this very subject. John writes to build Christian faith and love in us. Over and over he tells us what and why he is writing these things. Over and over he also reminds us of what we already know.
Last week we noted that John seems to have written his letters after the first generation of Christians has grown old and another new generation of Christians is on the scene. The second generation of Christianity is growing up and some are not content with the message they have received. One grave danger is that the next generation will want something new and improved and depart from the truth. When the newness wears off, what happens next? Wednesday night Jim Siler’s devotional topic was, “Is that all there is?” He talked about being disillusioned. This term “disillusioned” technically means, to remove the illusion or false euphoria. In other words, it means to come into reality. John tells us that the gospel is the ultimate reality, and it offers eternal benefits of fellowship with God, with one another, and complete joy.
Christians of the first generation were filled with glorious and inexpressible joy, even as they faced the trials of persecution and suffering. Many years have passed by the time John writes this, a new generation of Christians is now in the church and there is a severe doctrinal struggle within the church with many false teachers leading people astray. (Look at 2:19 & 26). Who are these? The church has faced the suffering of persecution, but perhaps now that has lessened. Now, while it is peaceful some of the Christians of the new generation begin to want to make Christianity fit into the world around them. They want a faith that fits, you know, one that works well in the philosophy of the times.
Someone has described the church as a group that is separated from the world and yet moving in the same direction as the world does, but from a distance. John warns us in this second chapter: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
Let’s just look at this chapter in an overview:
Verses 1-2 tell us that we are not to be in the sinning business, but when we do sin, we have one who helps us, that is Jesus.
Verses 3-6 tells us how we know we have Jesus. It is simple: we obey him and imitate him. Anyone who says they know Jesus but does not obey and live like Jesus is a liar, pure and simple.
Verses 7-8 remind us of what is commanded. It is as old as the gospel and as new as the gospel and it brings us into the light. (By the way, the gospel, summed up, is how God showed his love through Jesus Christ).
Verses 9-11 says love for our brothers is a proof that we walk in the light. It is the foundational expression of knowing Jesus Christ, obeying his commandments, and walking in the light of God’s truth. John says, hating your brother is walking in darkness. Do that and you have no clue where you are going!
Then verses 12-14 are poetic but also seems to indicate different age groups in the church: Fathers, young men, children. Could these be three generations? Burton Coffman thinks so, and I agree with him. All are walking in the light, but each is addressed by John to include each age group and encourage each to be faithful. Perhaps this is a God inspired way to help pass on the faith to the next generation. We need to address and encourage each age group in our congregation and acknowledge each one’s contribution to the fellowship.
Verses 15-17. Notice next that John warns everyone that the Christian’s love is carefully directed. This word love is agape. Don’t agape the world, neither the things that are in the world! Agape has been called “unconditional love.” Well, it may be unconditional, but it is not without clear direction. Some things you must not love.
God loves sinners but he hates sin. God loves us not based on our condition, but he calls us out of our sinful condition and into the condition of obedience, faith and righteousness.
Verses 18-27 deserve special attention. Here we meet the enemy, the liar. Here also we are reminded and encouraged to listen to God, recognize the truth and distinguish truth from lies, and remain under the leadership of the Holy Spirit’s teaching.