In 1 John we find that John categorized believers in one of three stages little children, young men and Fathers. While thinking on these categories, I realized that this is a theme throughout the Old and New Testaments.
In 1 John 2:12-14 we find these three stages in the Christians life. John says that he writes to the little children and they know that their sins are forgiven in the name of the Lord. He writes to the young men and they are strong, the Word of God abides in them, and they have overcome the evil one. He writes to the Fathers because they know him who is from the beginning. There we have the three stages and a description of each one. Let’s see if we can dig a little deeper.
The little children stage is perfectly fine for those who are in that stage. These are they who are forgiven sinners, and that seems to be all they know and maybe even care to know at the moment. Everyone starts out in this stage and rightfully so, but there is a time to move on into stage number two. Jesus Christ didn’t come here just so you could be forgiven. His vicarious death on the cross accomplished much more than that. Let’s move on into the next stage.
The young men level is a little bit further along. The young men had also been forgiven of their sins but they had moved on and were living in victory. They were strong with the word of God dwelling in them. They had come to the place where they finally understood that the battle was in fact already won via the cross; therefore they had, in Christ, overcome the enemy already. They were fighting from the place of victory not fighting for victory.
Now we come to the father stage the stage where we are mature in our walk and we know him who is from the beginning. Knowing him who is from the beginning is an interesting phrase. In John 17:3 Jesus said “This is eternal life that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” This use of the word knowing is the same word used in the book of Genesis when it says Adam knew Eve. This is intimacy; this knowing goes further than just knowing about someone. John is telling us that the Father stage is the stage where we are identified with the Heavenly Father in such a way that we start to reproduce after our own kind. God the Father is concerned not about his own well being but the well being of others and this is the attitude of them that are at the father level. They are no longer preoccupied with their sins being forgiven or being strong and overcoming the evil one. While all of those things are great they are still focused on self.
The defining characteristic of those in the Father stage is they are no longer caught up with themselves, in fact they think of others first and how they can be of help to them. One other characteristic is they are at rest. While in the first two stages there is strife, frustration and just general conflict. While the little children and young men are striving to obtain things, even though they may be good things, the fathers have discovered that all they need is found in Christ.
With all of that said, on with the new light. While thinking of these things I realized that these stages of growth or development were on display throughout the Old Testament. The children of Israel and their journey out of bondage in Egypt, through the desert and on into the promise land is a perfect example. I mean we even call them the children of Israel.
The release of the Children of Israel from slavery in Egypt is a picture of their sins being forgiven. They were delivered and went through the Red Sea symbolic of baptism. In other words they were in the little children stage and they were forgiven but they were still very self-centered. They complained every chance they could about food, water or how hot it was which is typical of children. When they came to the entrance of the Promise land, they were frightened away because there were giants living there. Although God had already told them he would bring them victory, they would not go in; therefore God let all of them but two die in the wilderness. Forty years later God had Joshua lead them into the land. This is where the young men stage comes in.
Joshua was a warrior and he led the Children of Israel in many battles. While the land was theirs, they still had to overcome the enemy that was living in the land. In each of these first two stages, they had no rest; there was constant complaining in the children stage and never ending battle in the young men stage.
In the final stage, the father stage, we find rest. The Bible tells us that Jesus and the Father are one. When we receive Jesus, we also become one with the Father. He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit. After receiving the Spirit which is from the Father, we begin to think like him. The Bible tells us that we have the mind of Christ, and the mind of Christ always has a “put others first” mentality. In essence a father is one in whom “The Father” finds his perfect expression.
He is one that is into reproducing himself in others, and that means he is willing to suffer for the sake of others. He no longer is consumed with his own lusts and desires; rather, he is into giving of himself for others. No greater love has a man than he lay down his life for his friends. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. Now that is the heart of the Father. When we get to this stage, we too will be givers and sacrificers for others.
Written by Louie