I write Unto You Little Children, Fathers and Young Men (I John 2: 12-14). 07055617111
I was once in a church and someone preached that John wrote to little children because he was very old. True as that may be, that is not the reason for this writing. If it were true, he would not have referred to some as “fathers.” As I write this, I am trusting the Holy Spirit to lead us into His eternal truth so that we will be educated for our future walk with Him. But before we proceed, let’s have a look at what is in the Scriptures (1 John 2: 12-14).
“I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. I am writing to you, fathers because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, dear children, because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.”
Look at verse 12, “Dear children.” Some versions of the bible use “little children.” Whichever is the case, the truth here is that this group are children and their “sins have been forgiven.” This group have just received the Lord. They are just children in the Lord. This is the group that St. Paul classifies as carnal Christians (1 Corinthians 3: 1-3). They are just converted and need to be followed up. The best way to see this group is to compare them with our African mothers when they have little children.
When an African mother is feeding her little child you will pity the child. The partially block the nose of the little child and the child struggles to breath and as such gulps down some food. Christians in the group of little children must be forced to feed if not they will die. They must be forced to feed on the word of God. A newly converted Christian hates the gospel with passion. When a Christian goes to church and the preacher preaches for an hour or more and the Christian is very uncomfortable, he is a little child in the eyes of the Lord. He cannot stand in the wave of any small temptation or persecution. The same Christian can sit in front of a television for 2 hours watching African magic or football.
When there is a crusade and some Christians are harvested as new comers, if they are not followed up closely, they will return to the level of carnal Christians or “little children.” That is why the Bible says that the lazy hunter does not prepare his prey (Proverbs 12:27).
If there is a man that kills buffalos and he is regarded as the greatest hunter in the village; yet, after killing the buffalo he does not prepare it for food through roasting and cutting the meat into small portions, can he called a great hunter? The animal will just get rotten. In the same way, when a Christian is newly converted and he is not followed up very closely, he will get back to his old way of life. Jesus referred to preaching and conversion as a sower that went out to sow (Matthew 13:
“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
This is particularly true of crusades and revivals. This is the time when the word of God is broadcast like grains. This parable of the sower does not mean that those who hear the word being preached will not go to church. What it does mean is that little children are produced. From the above saying of the Master, 75 per cent of those who hear the word will still be carnal. Even among the 25 per cent that will be fruitful, there are still varying degrees of how they will profit from the word.
From this, as genuine Christians, visitation to the house of newly converted Christians is very essential if we must produce matured Christians who are ready to stand for Christ. Those not followed up will remain carnal or little children in the Lord.
There are very many classes of people that talk about “fathers.” For instance, I hear of people talking about our “father in faith.” Abraham is referred to as the father of faith in the Scriptures. John would say, “I am writing to you, fathers because you know him…” What makes a man a father is that he knows God. He is not “newly” or “loosely” converted as the little children. What I am talking about has nothing to do with chronological age. A man can be 50 years old and be a little child as far as Christianity is concerned because he is a baby in the Lord. Another man can be just eight years as Josiah in the Bible (2 Kings 22:1) and be referred to as a father. The truth about Josiah, for instance, is that he did what was right in the sight of the Lord (2 Kings 22:2). What this means is that Josiah knew God. He knew the way of God. He knew what to do that would please God. Psalm 103:7 says:
“He made His ways known unto Moses, His acts unto the children of Israel.”
People like Moses are those we can call fathers. Moses knew what to do to please God and could bring fire down as in Leviticus 9 and 10. The knowing God we are talking about is not the shallow knowledge of Him. The Bible said, “He spoke to Moses face to face” (Exodus 33:11). On the other hand, the children of Israel knew only His acts.
When a man knows only the act of God, he can still sin at random. He may not be a sinner now just because there is no opportunity yet for it. He is by nature a sinner. Knowing the acts of God did not stop the children of Israel from murmuring against God. Just like in Nigeria where more than 99 per cent of the people murmur against everything from the government of the day to the market price of various goods. Most of the church goers are in this class including the so called men of God. That they knew only the acts of God does not mean they were not Israelites just like those who are called little children are also Christians. People like St. Paul will write in Philippians 3:10:
“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.”
As at the time St. Paul was writing this, handkerchiefs were being taken from his body and taken to touch the sick and they were being healed. Yet, he was saying that he had not known him enough. As such those who know God from the beginning and have remained steadfast are the ones that are qualified to be called fathers. Jeremiah would further add to this by saying that (Jeremiah 9:23-24):
“This is what the Lord says: ‘Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the Lord.”
No. You do not become a father because of your wisdom or intelligence. In fact, your intelligence may even be your problem. You do not become a father because of your education. If you like, you can do ten PhDs, that will not make you a father. You cannot be a father because you are very strong. If fact, by human strength can no man prevail (1 Samuel 2:9). The other thing that is useless before God is riches. A rich man today can be a poor man any day and vice versa. In fact, God can create wealth out of nothing or even stones or leaves. The real boasting for any man is that he knows God. If you know God to the extent that He becomes your all in all, then you can begin to be grateful. You are a father.
The Young Ones
Who are those in this group? They are not little children or the fathers. Yet they do not have the mastery of the things of God like the fathers of the faith. Most genuine Christians belong to this class. They can be preachers, evangelists, teachers, apostles, etc. However, they need to be taught more of the things of God. There are good examples in the Bible. One that readily comes to mind is Apollos. The Bible said he is mighty in the word of God (Acts 18:24). In fact, some translations put it better.
The New International Version says that,
“Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures.”
In the same vein, the New Living Translation says,
“Meanwhile, a Jew named Apollos, an eloquent speaker who knew the Scriptures well, had arrived in Ephesus from Alexandria in Egypt.”
Look at the two translations above. One said “he had a thorough knowledge of the scriptures,” while the other said “he was an eloquent man.” Yet, Priscilla and Aquila had to take him home for tutelage and to be taught perfectly (Acts 18:26). The young men’s group knows the word of God but they are not perfect. One of the ways to identify this class of people is that they are strong-willed. For instance, in the story of Appolos we just read, look at what Paul said about him (1 Corinthians 16:12):
“Now about our brother Apollos: I strongly urged him to go to you with the brothers. He was quite unwilling to go now, but he will go when he has the opportunity.”
This why many of these people are genuine Christians but they are not the fathers. They are very strong-willed, difficult to bend.
When a child is born, he is very young, innocent and his heart is described in Latin as tabla rasa. The heart is clean and nothing is written on it. As the child begins to pick up knowledge from the environment, he begins to form his own opinion as he grows up. Many people use this innocent state of children very well. They teach them the tenets of their religion. In some religions, they are taught to kill and hate infidels who do not belong to the same group. When a child’s heart is clean, whatever they take in “becomes flesh.” It sticks. They believe it without doubt. If I tell my three year old daughter that I will buy her a real plane, she will be very happy, not knowing that I cannot afford it. That is why certain evil doctrines of some religions are difficult to wipe out of the memory of some people. Ordinary preaching rarely converts such people except Jesus Himself appears to them. When my daughter is 12 years old, if I tell her I want to buy a plane for her she will agree and will add, “Daddy but…” She is trying to say, “Do you have that kind of money?” At the time she is 17, she will simply laugh me to scorn if I tell her I want to buy her a plane. She will say, “That is not possible; stop deceiving me!”
In Christianity we rarely use the tabla rasa stage of our children’s lives. We allow them to grow and get solidified before we begin to teach them. As such most people are often at the stage of baby Christians because by the time they start going to church their attitudes are already formed in other areas of life. Remember, if you are forty years and you become a genuine Christian today at age 40, you are just one day old as a Christian and as such your old man will still be holding you down. For us to benefit as Christians, the issue of catechism must be tailored to very young age. In churches where Sunday school is the practice, they can bring this to their children at very tender age. When a man is caught for Christ at this tender age he can hardly return to the world. What we do as Christians is to try to bend dry fish! That will not happen and cannot happen. Why there are even some good results is because of the mercy and grace of God. Let’s change our tactics.
Let me conclude with an experience I had recently in Israel. Someone asked a rabbi why the Jews do not believe in Christ. “After all, he said, The New Testament explains everything in the Old Testament.” The rabbi simply answered, “You know Christianity started from here. All the first Christians were Jews. Yet, you Christians do not do what God expects.” To me that was a big challenge. What makes Christianity to thrive are all disappearing before our eyes. If we do not change our tactics, we will wake up one day to find out that Christianity is no more. May God forbid that in Jesus Name.