Sermon #14                                                                                                                               1 John Series


      Title:                                 God’s Little Children


      Text:                                  1 John 2:12-14

      Subject:               Distinctions of God’s Elect in the World

Date:                                Tuesday Evening — July 17, 2012

Tape#                  1 John 14

Readings:           Allen Kibby and Rex Bartley



The title of my message is God’s Little Children. My text is 1 John 2:11-14. In these verses the Apostle John, inspired by God the Holy Ghost, gives another sweet and blessed word of comfort to God’s elect. It is John’s purpose, throughout these five chapters to comfort, assure, and establish God’s saints in the faith. He did not want any of God’s children to be disturbed and vexed with needless doubts and fears, as they are who walk in darkness. John’s tender and loving description of the church in these verses is true concerning the family of the redeemed in all ages.


(1 John 2:12-14) “I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake. I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him [that is] from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father. I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him [that is] from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.”


Five times in this chapter the Apostle John refers to believing men and women as “little children” (1 John 2:1, 12, 13, 18, 28); but he uses two distinct words when referring to us as little children. The word translated little children in verses 1, 12, and 28 means “offspring,” or “a young child.” It is used in the New Testament to refer to a disciple, or a follower. But the word translated little children in verses 13 and 18 refers to an infant.


Proposition: So John is telling us that all God’s children are disciples, followers, and all are babes in grace, infants in Christ Jesus, constantly needing nourishment, protection, and tender care. Yet, among these spiritual infants, among God’s little children, are wise fathers, strong young men, and needy babies.


(1 John 2:1)  “My little children (τεκνια), these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”


(1 John 2:12) “I write unto you, little children (τεκνια), because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake.”


(1 John 2:13) “I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him [that is] from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children (παιδια), because ye have known the Father.”


(1 John 2:18) “Little children (παιδια), it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.”


(1 John 2:28) “And now, little children (τεκνια), abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.”


Fathers,” “young men,” “little children,” these are all family terms. Family terms are used throughout the Scriptures to refer to God’s saints in this world because God’s Church is his family. We are brothers and sisters in Christ, the family of God whose names are written in heaven.


Illustration: “Behold my mother and my brethren” (Matthew 12:49; Mark 3:34)


If you are born-again, you have entered God’s kingdom. If you have faith in Christ, you are in God’s family. If you are united to Christ, you are in his Church, a member of his body. Faith in Christ is the one thing required by which men receive all the privileges of grace. God’s church, family, and kingdom is one. The Church is that “whole family in heaven and earth.” Every believer in the Old Testament and in the New is in this Family. Everyone who is chosen of God, redeemed by Christ, and called by the Holy Spirit is in this Family. — God’s elect of every age make up one holy Family.

  • We all have God as our Father,
  • Christ as our Brother,
  • the Holy Spirit as our Comforter,
  • and heaven as our eternal inheritance.


All of God’s elect in every age are accepted on the same grounds, the righteousness and blood of Christ. We are one. God does not have one family of Jews in the Old Testament and another family of Gentiles in the New. No. Jesus Christ broke down the wall of partition. — “Now, therefore, ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God…an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19, 22). Through Christ, we are members of the household of faith. God’s church, kingdom, and family is one. Let us not divide it.


Yet, within the family of God upon this earth, there are distinctions in experience, knowledge, gifts, and maturity. John tenderly shows these distinctions in our text. There are children, young men, and fathers. Such distinctions are to be recognized. They are constantly pointed out in the Scriptures. There are great differences among true Christians. We are not all of the same stature, strength, and growth. In Christ we are the same; we are perfect; but in experience upon there are evident distinctions.

  • Our Lord in the parable talks of those who bring forth fruit, some thirty, some sixty, and some a hundred-fold. The fruit is the same in nature, but not in abundance.
  • Peter was admonished to feed Christ’s lambs and his sheep.
  • Paul speaks of those who are weak and those who are strong.
  • Some need meat, others must feed upon milk. There are both men and babes in God’s family.
  • But they are all alike little children and all are alike dear to the Father.


The fact is believers may, at the same time, be both young and old, weak and strong. For example: a man may be weak in knowledge and strong in zeal, weak in faith and temperate in behavior. The Corinthians were strong in understanding. They came behind in no gift. Yet, they were subject to carnal passions. They acted like babes. Paul wrote to them as such (1 Corinthians 3:1-3).


“1 ¶ And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, [even] as unto babes in Christ. 2 I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able [to bear it], neither yet now are ye able. 3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas [there is] among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)


These Corinthian believers had undergone a mighty change by the grace of God. But, in some respects they still behaved as babes. In some respects they were yet carnal. You have an example of this in Solomon. He was a man of great wisdom; thus, he was strong in spiritual knowledge. But he was a man who had many foolish lusts; and thus he was weak.


There is also a great difference at various times in our own experience. At one time, we are weak and at another time we are strong. The condition of a truly godly man’s heart is not always the same. Sometimes we are carried up into the mountain to behold Christ in his glory. At other times, we are tossed with the waves and storm, like a ship ready to sink. Yesterday, we were raptured with Paul up to the third heaven to see things which could not be uttered. Today, we are beaten down with a messenger of Satan. At one time, we would draw out a sword and defend our Redeemer’s honor. At another, we would tremble before a maid and deny him. In essence what John is telling us here is that the best of God’s saints have both their strengths and weaknesses. But they are, nonetheless, dear to the Lord. — All of God’s children have their sins forgiven; and are thereby under the strongest possible constraint to love and obey him.


Divisions:      I will give you my message in three points.

1.    Our Motive — The strongest possible motive for godliness, devotion to Christ, and brotherly love is the mercy, love, and grace of God in Christ (12).

2.    Our Family — In the family of God there are both strong and weak believers (13-14).

3.    Our Lessons — I will draw out some practical lessons from these loving statements by John.


Our Motive


First, I want you to see that the strongest possible motive for godliness, devotion to Christ, and brotherly love is the mercy, love, and grace of God in Christ. — “I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake (12).


John’s purpose here is to secure devotion, brotherly love, godly behavior, and devotion to Christ; but he never does this by holding over God’s saints the threats of the law. In this John is perfectly consistent with the entire New Testament. Never in the epistles of the New Testament are the saints of God forced into obedience and holiness by the fear of punishment. The children of God are constrained by love. The whip of the law is good enough for the legal slave. But the child of God has a stronger and more pleasant motive — “The love of Christ constraineth us.’


Things Written


Our text begins with the words, “I write unto you.” — Let’s look back to remind ourselves of what John has written to us in this Epistle. He has written to us about…

  • Our Eternal Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, Assuring us of Fellowship with the Triune God and Eternal Life in Him (1:1-3).
  • The Complete Forgiveness and Sure Salvation of All who Trust Christ (1:7, 9).
  • Our Heavenly Advocate and Blessed Propitiation (2:1-2).
  • God’s Perfect Love made Perfect in us by the Gift of Faith in Christ (2:3-5).
  • The Blessed Walk of Faith Manifest in Brotherly Love (2:6-11).


Now John tells us that the motive for this consecration to Christ, the motive for this walk of faith, the motive for this brotherly love is grace, the free grace of God in Christ experienced in the forgiveness of sins. — “I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake!


·      When Paul would teach the Corinthians to give, he did not hold over them the law of tithing. He pointed them to the great gift of God’s grace (2 Corinthians 8:7-9; 9:6-7, 15).


(2 Corinthians 8:7-9) “Therefore, as ye abound in every [thing, in] faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and [in] all diligence, and [in] your love to us, [see] that ye abound in this grace also. 8 I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love. 9 For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.”


(2 Corinthians 9:6-7) “But this [I say], He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. 7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, [so let him give]; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.”


(2 Corinthians 9:15) “Thanks [be] unto God for his unspeakable gift.”


·      When the Spirit of God would teach us our domestic responsibilities as husbands and wives, children and parents, servants and masters, he alluded not to the threats of the law, but to the bonds of grace (Ephesians 5:21 – 6:9).


·      When he urges us to holiness, setting our affections on things above, He points us to Christ in heaven and says, “Christ is all” (Colossians 3:1-11).


John’s goal in the passage before us is godliness, devotion to Christ, his cause, his church, his people, and his gospel. That is what godliness is. In order to secure this godliness, this devotion John gives out two motives: He tells us that we are God’s little children and that our sins are forgiven.




John tenderly describes all true believers as God’s little children. He is speaking of all saints in general. This is the same word that is used in verse 1. In the next verse he shows the differing characters of the saints calling them “fathers,” “young men,” and “little children.” Remember, in that verse a different word for children is used. It is a word meaning babes.


Here is John’s argument: — we were once sinners, children of wrath, even as others. But we have obtained mercy. We are the children of God. Shall we not obey our gracious Father?


We are the children of God by eternal adoption. In the covenant of grace we were called and designated the sons of God (1 John 3:1; Ephesians 1:5; Galatians 4:6). We have become the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:26; John 1:12). But John is specifically speaking of the new nature that is ours as the children of God.


God has not only chosen us as his sons, in the fullness of time he sent his Spirit into our hearts, giving us the nature of his sons. According to his Divine power, God has made us “partakers of the divine nature.” As John says, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God” (3:2).

  • In the new birth we were given a new nature. All things have become new to us. We have entered into a new life in Christ, with new thoughts, new desires, new hopes, new purposes, new enjoyments. If you have not been made new, you are not one of God’s little children (2 Corinthians 5:17).
  • In this world all believers are to be as little children. This is what our Lord said, “Except ye be converted, and become as a little child, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:1-3). His disciples were striving after greatness. But children do not seek such things. One part of the work of grace is to make us humble and small in our own eyes (Psalm 131:1-2).


(Psalms 131:1-2) “LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me. 2 Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul [is] even as a weaned child.”


  • Like children, the grace of God makes believing sinners harmless and forgiving. Paul say, “Brethren, be not children in understanding; howbeit, in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men” (1 Corinthians 14:20).


In these respects all the family of God are “little children.” We have been born-again and given a new nature. We have been humbled in our opinion of ourselves. And we walk in meekness and humility before God.




Then John assures us that as the children of God we have the forgiveness of our sins. — He says, “I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake.”


Long ago, David wrote, — “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile” Psalm 32:1-2). And, now, John assures us that, as we are God’s own little children, our sins are forgiven.


What is the forgiveness of sin? — The forgiveness of sin is an act of God’s love and justice towards his people. Because of his great love for us, God is willing to forgive our sins. And because his justice is satisfied on our behalf, he is able to forgive us of our sins. Forgiveness is the non-imputation and non-remembrance of sin.

·      In forgiving us God freely puts away our transgressions. The forgiveness of sin cost Christ dearly; but it is freely granted to us. — “Thus saith the Lord, ye have sold yourselves for nought; and ye shall be redeemed without money” (Isaiah 52:3). “I, even I, am the Lord, that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins” (Isaiah 43:25).

·      God forgives us of our sins fully, universally, and eternally, so that he will never treat us any the less graciously because of sin. He removes our sins from us as far as the east is from the west, and casts them into the depth of the sea.

·      God graciously frees us from the guilt and punishment of sin.


How is this forgiveness obtained?“For his name’s sake.” God in holy justice cannot forgive sin without the just satisfaction of his law. But for Christ’s sake, he forgives our sins. — “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.” In Christ, “we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sin.”

·      Jesus Christ fully satisfied God’s law as our Substitute, fulfilling its every demand of righteousness.

·      Our dear Substitute has fully satisfied the demands of the law’s justice and curse, dying in our place.

·      And now God forgives our sins for the honor of his Son’s name. Christ is the means by which God is propitious toward us (Romans 3:24-25).


(Romans 3:24-26) “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 Whom God hath set forth [to be] a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26 To declare, [I say], at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”


Moreover, God forgives our sins for his own name’s sake. For the glory of his great name, he puts away our sin! — “For thy name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my iniquity, for it is great!” (Psalm 25:11).


Who has this forgiveness of sin?

  • Every soul for whom Christ died is forgiven.
  • We receive the forgiveness of sins by faith in the blood of Christ. (Acts 10:38-39, 43).
  • All who acknowledge and confess their sins, trusting in the righteousness and blood of Christ, have the forgiveness of sins. — “I acknowledge my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin” (Psalm 32:5).
  • All of God’s little children have the forgiveness of sin.


Our Family


Second, John shows us that in the family of God there are both strong and weak believers. Tenderly, the Apostle comforts us with the assurance of our salvation, while, at the same time, pointing out our weaknesses in the flesh (vv. 13-14).


“13 I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him [that is] from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father. 14 I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him [that is] from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.” (1 John 2:13-14)


Even while he points out the infirmities of our nature, John gives us reasons to rejoice in that which God has done in us by his grace.


NOTE: These categorical divisions of men are not at all intended to suggest physical features. For example, a young man in age might be a father in grace. And an old man in age might be a babe in grace. Elihu was correct in his assessment (Job 32:7-9). Samuel, Jeremiah, David, Daniel, and Timothy were young in years, but strong in grace, and Naaman’s young Hebrew maid was wiser than her master.


In the family of God some are fathers. They are those who are mature in grace, spiritual, well-taught, knowledgeable, and established in the things of God. They are not like children tossed to and fro in the various controversies, nor with every wind of doctrine. In understanding they are men.

  • This spiritual growth is a gift of the Holy Spirit.
  • These fathers are the men from whom the elders and deacons of the church are to be chosen. (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:7-9). They are not covetous, brawling men given to their passions.
  • They are sober, grace, and temperate. — “Let no man despise thy youth.


A young man in years may be a father in Israel. God has given his church many young men, full of grace and truth. Calvin wrote and published his institutes before he was twenty-six. Spurgeon became pastor of the congregation in London when he was just nineteen. And that thriving church had a long history of pastors who were but young men. McCheyne, Brainard, and Baxter all died as young men, having accomplished great things for the glory of God. Josiah was but a boy when he became king in Israel, but he walked with God. Titus and Timothy were young pastors appointed by the apostles. Yet, a young man should wait for his gifts and graces to be recognized by others. He must not thrust himself upon the church, lest others despise his youth.


Fathers in Israel are urged to obey God, because of their knowledge of him. — “I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning.” With those words John tenderly assures these fathers of their interest in Christ, and, at the same time, urges them to follow him.

  • These men knew God the Father by his revelation of himself in Christ.
  • They knew Christ, the eternal Son of God, the everlasting Mediator, the eternal Word.
  • They knew God the Holy Ghost, the Sancitfier of his people.
  • They knew God’s covenant and his love.


Old men like to talk about old things, and these men knew the Ancient of Days. They were well acquainted with his ways of grace.


In the family of God some are young men too. — Young men are warm, zealous, and full of strength. They are sometimes passionate; but their fervency and zeal for the glory of God and service to Christ are unquestioned. Young men like to glory in their strength. They do not need the cane old men use, nor the gentle hand to lead them like babes. Therefore, John assures all of Christ’s young men of their true strength.

  • They are strong, for the Lord of Hosts is their strength.
  • They are strong, for Christ the living Word of God dwells in them.
  • They are strong, for the Word of the Gospel abides in them.
  • They are strong, having overcome Satan. — Representatively in Christ! — Experimentally in the New Birth! — Daily in the Walk of Faith! — “In the Lord have I righteousness and strength!” — “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me!



And some in the family of God are babes. — For these tender lambs, John has this word of comfort, — “Ye have known the Father.” The new-born babes are not strong, and they are not wise; but there is a Spirit within crying, “Abba, Father!” They know God in Christ as their Father. They love him and trust him. They put themselves under his care. They may not be strong in the battle. But they all are still loved of God. And they lay in the breasts of consolation, feeding on the sincere milk of the Word.


John tenderly cares for the fathers, the young men, and the babes of the elect family. He repeats his admonition to the fathers. He knew that the fathers would be tempted to cleave to the world. They would be tempted to grow lukewarm and indifferent to the things of God.


To the young men, there is a repeated and enlarged exhortation. The apostle would keep them from pride and self-satisfaction. He stirs them up, firing their souls with the blessings of God, which they enjoyed. John was fearful of our fleshly lusts; therefore, he would inflame our hearts with spiritual zeal.


But, for the babies, there is no hint of reproof and no strict requirement. The new-born babe has enough doubts enough without being called to self-examination. They need only the comfortable assurance of their tender and loving relation to their Father.


Our Lessons


In the last place, I will draw out some practical lessons from John’s loving statements. John has given us these words of consolation with the definite purpose of establishing, strengthening, and settling the children of God. From them, there are a few practical and needful lessons for us.


Let us learn to love God supremely and our brethren as ourselves. This was John’s great desire. He wanted to stir up our hearts to obey God in all things.

  • We all have great reason to love God.
  • If we love God, we love our brethren also.


We must recognize that among true believers there are great differences.

·      In the kingdom of Christ there are babes as well as fathers.

·      Be certain that you do not despise a brother, because he lacks spiritual growth and strength.

·      Let us seek to be men.


At all times, let us remember that we are the children of God in this world. Let us then walk as children.


Children of God, I give you this one reminder of comfort. — “Your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake.”

  • Whether fathers, young men, or babes, our only standing before God is upon the merits of Christ our Redeemer.
  • Now, as God has forgiven us for Christ’s sake, let us forgive one another.


1 Peter 5:10-11“The God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”


If he makes you strong, he will make you to know how utterly weak you are. There is no other way to be strong.

  • Peter’s Fall
  • Paul’s Thorn










Don Fortner



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