Saturday, July 18, 2009

I John 2:12- 14- Christ of different ages

Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

7/18 I John 2:12-14

12 I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. 13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young people, because you have overcome the evil one. 14 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 people, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

Calvin abridged: 2:12- “Little children” By this John means children of all ages, and this applies to all uses in this chapter. When John speaks of little children he calls them "paida" (Grk.), a word that expresses age; but here, as a spiritual father, he calls the old as well as the young, "teknia" (Grk.). Here the writer affirms the forgiveness of sins, which uniquely belongs to those who have faith. In order to make sure this promise of forgiveness is certain, he lays salvation up for us in Christ alone (for his names sake). Holiness of life ought to be urged, the fear of God ought to be carefully encouraged, people ought to be sharply pressed to repentance, newness of life, together with its fruits, ought to be commended; but still we ought to always remember lest the doctrine of faith be smothered, that Christ is the only author of salvation and of all blessings; This moderation of good works should be presented so that faith will retain its primacy. This rule is given to us by John: having spoken of good works, he carefully calls us back to contemplate the grace of Christ. “Your sins are forgiven”- Without this assurance, religion would not be anything but fading and shadowy; The ones who forget the free remission of sins, and dwell on other things, build without a foundation. John teaches that nothing is more suitable to stimulate the fear of God than when we are taught the blessings Christ has brought us (cf. Phil. 2:1). The ground of what John is saying is that God is so benevolent to us so that our sins are not imputed to us.
“For his name’s sake” It would not be sufficient to know that God forgives us our sins, except that we come directly to Christ seeing the price he paid on the cross for us. Foolish people try to pacify God by various satisfactions, and devise numerous kinds of expiations for the purpose of redeeming ourselves. We are prevented from approaching God by the many means we try to come up with to earn our own pardon. So John adds that God is forgiving toward us out of a regard for Christ, in order that he might exclude all other reasons for pardon. We who enjoy his blessings, should pass by and forget all other names, and rely only on the name of Christ.
2:13- “I write to you fathers”- John now comes to enumerate different ages that he might show that what he taught is suitable to everyone. Our sinfulness is so deep that few think that what is addressed to all belongs to them. The old often excuse themselves, because they have exceeded the age of learning; children refuse to learn, because they are not yet old enough; the middle aged do not listen, because they are occupied with other pursuits. So John accommodates and applies the Gospel to all, mentioning three ages- the most common divisions of life (cf. Lacedemonian chorus). He begins with the old, and says that the Gospel applies to them because they learned from it to know the eternal Son of God. The elderly become unteachable because they measure wisdom by the number of years. Horace (Art of Poetry) says that they praise the time of their youth and reject whatever is done or said differently. But the Gospel contains not only ancient knowledge but also leads us to the eternity of God. He says Christ was “from the beginning”- which refers to the Divine presence as being co-eternal and co-powerful with the Father, so that what he was yesterday he is today (cf. Hebrews). It is as though he says, “If antiquity delights you, you have Christ, who is superior to all antiquity; therefore the disciples ought not to be ashamed of him who includes all ages in himself (Heb. 13:8)
“I write to you young men”- though it be a demeaning word, "neaniskoi" yet he directs it to those who are in the full bloom of their age. Those of this age tend to be so addicted to the vain cares of the world, that they think very little of the kingdom of God. The rigor of their minds and the strength of their bodies inebriate them. So the Apostle reminds theme where their true strength lies, that they may not exult in their own flesh.
“You are strong because you have overcome Satan” That strength is what we ought to seek, for it is a spiritual strength that is not obtained except from Christ. He says that those still engaged in the contest had conquered. While in human war the end is in doubt, there is no doubt that Christ has conquered for us the whole world.
2:13- “I write to you, young children”- the gospel is well adapted for young children because they find the Father in it. But this really applies to all of us as there is nothing in us except what is frail and fading, except the power of Christ dwelling inside us. We are all like orphans until we attain the grace of adoption by the Gospel.
2:14- “I have written to you fathers”- these repetitions are superfluous and probably the result of copyists.

Calvin takes a view that each age has a particular reason for denying Christ. He could have taken the view that each age has a reason to accept Him, but he emphasizes our blindness. On the other hand, he in this passage as in many others typically (unlike many others in his day including Luther) downplays Satan’s role (vs. 13) leaving out any mention of “the wicked one.” What is so helpful is that he helps us see that each age makes up excuses for denying our faith. We ought to ask ourselves, where our own temptations lie in making up excuses to deny God in our lives.

Prayer: Thank you Lord, that you are God yesterday, today and forever. From generation to generation you are God. Forgive us when we continually think our generation is superior to the previous one.

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