Part 1: John’s Message To The Church, “My Little Children”

John's Message To The Church: "My Little Children"

By the year 81AD, when the Apostle John penned this first epistle, Ephesus was the center for the Christian church. This was significant because Ephesus was a Gentile city and the church there was Gentile as well, showing the transition of the Gospel message from the Jew to the Gentile was complete. 

Unlike many of the New Testament Epistles, John does not address his Epistle to a specific church or individual. He is writing to the family of God, the body of Christ at the close of the century. There are eight times in I John that he refers to believers as “little children.” 

  1. I John 2:1 – my little children
  2. I John 2:12 – little children
  3. I John 2:18 – little children
  4. I John 2:28 – and now, little children
  5. I John 3:7 – little children, let no man deceive you
  6. I John 3:18 – my little children, let us not love in word
  7. I John 4:4 – ye are of God, little children
  8. I John 5:21 – little children, keep yourselves from idols

Bible Terms For “Children”

The Bible has something to say about every stage of our life. In the English language have words to describe periods of a child’s life: infant, toddler, youth, pre-teen, teenager, etc. There are also words in the Bible for each of these stages of youth. 

  1. Brephos – the unborn child, or newly born baby. (Acts 7:19)
  2. Nepios – the little child who is without the power of full speech. (Eph. 4:14)
  3. Padion – a little child up to the age of 7 or 8. A child still dependent on their parents. 
  4. Teknon – a general word for “children” in the Bible with no specific age reference. 
It’s the word teknon that John uses when referring to “little children” in the epistle. Why would John make this reference for the believer? There are three reasons to consider: 
1. John uses is figuratively. The believers he is writing too were in the early stages of their Christian life; their knowledge of the Bible, and their experience with Jesus Christ. They were “new-born” believers. 
2. John may also be using the term “little children” our of his affection for them. He is like an older father to them in the faith. 
3. The primary reason John uses the term “little children” to show the relationship between the Christian and God. We are the children of God. We need God, as as a child needs a father and mother, to care for us, train us, and protect us. In this epistle, John talks about fellow believers being our “brothers in the faith.” So, the primary understanding of why John uses this  phrase “little children” is to emphasize the true church as the family of God. 

8 References To “Little Children” In First John

 1. I John 2:1My little children, 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.
What things is John referring to? The burden of the epistle is how to live the Christian life in the last days. John was writing at the last days of the New Testament and there are necessary truths in this epistle that reflect the needs of our own generation as the last days before the coming of the Lord. 
John’s emphasis is clear, that as little children, “we sin not”. John uses the word hamartia for sin, meaning “missing the mark”. This is an act of sin, that misses the mark of obedience. Acts of sin are not the character of the Christian. 
But there is an important distinction to be seen here. In this reference of 2:1, John is talking about a singular act of sin, not a continuous practice of sinning. In the next chapter John makes the statement, 3:6 – Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. In the context of 3:6, John is not speaking of an act of sin, but the continuous practicing of sin. Sinning as a part of the nature of the person. 
The child of God is NOT living a life of continuous sinning. If I am living a life of continuous sinning, then I am a sinner. John tells the believer in 2:1 to “sin not”. Do not commit an act of sin. An act which is not common to their new life in Christ, but the exception to the rule. 

BUT, if the believer does commit an act of sin, we have an advocate with the Father. Notice that John does not say “You have an advocate”, but he makes it very personal. “We have an advocate”. John knows he too needs and advocate. 

What is an advocate? An advocate is a comforter, a defender. It is one who comes alongside and represents you, speaking in your defense. Our advocate is Jesus Christ. He speaks in our defense before the Father. 

In the next verse, 2:2, John reveals more about our advocate. Jesus Christ is also our propitiation. And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for our’s only, but also for the sins of the whole world. Christ has taken the punishment of our sins upon Him. This is the work of the Atonement. 

Propitiation means to turn away God’s wrath against the sinner by an atoning sacrifice. John is telling us here in 2:2 that the propitiation is Jesus Christ himself. He brings this truth up once again in ch. 4:10, Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

There is an Old Testament illustration of the work of propitiation found in the mercy seat of the Tabernacle. On the Day of Atonement, the priest would perform a sacrifice at the altar, then take the blood of the sacrifice into the Holy Place. The blood was then sprinkled on the mercy seat, which sits at the top of the altar. The priest was never to wipe the blood from the mercy seat once the sprinkling was completed. The blood would collect year after year, coating the mercy seat. 

This is the symbol of the blood of Christ covering My SINS! So Christ is the blood AND Christ is the mercy seat. He is the propitiation for my sins and the sins of the whole world. AMEN!

2. I John 2:12I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake. 

These little children had been saved from the wretchedness of sin. They were now not without sin, but shared in the blessing of the forgiveness of sin. It is a forgiveness that comes from the mercy and grace of God, through the blood and sacrifice of Christ. Not for the sake of any merit of my own, but for the sake of Christ. His blood shed, His sacrifice and satisfaction of the justice of God for the sins of mankind. 

3. I John 2:13I 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

Let us notice the significance of the word known. You have known the Father… or, you have perceived. This is a personal knowledge of the Father. The Bible tells us that knowledge is the fruit of experience. The longer we walk with God, the more about Him we will learn. 

4. I John 2:18Little children, 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

John will now reveal to the believer that it is the last time, or the last hour, the last days, the end time. This is a critical season of history. 

II Timothy 3:1-5 gives us a description of the last days: 

    1. The last days perilous times will come. 
    2. Men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy. 
    3. Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 
    4. Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 
    5. Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away

John adds to this list here in I John 2:18, that there will also be many antichrists in the last time. 2:19 tells us that antichrists are those who called themselves Christians but they went out from us – meaning they left the doctrine of the faith, denying Jesus Christ as the Son of God. They stand against Christ, while claiming to be Christ or Christ-like. 

John, at this early point of church history is already warning the church of antichrists and the spirit of antichrist. One of the duties of the end-time pastor is to warn the little children of the deception of antichrists. 

5. I John 2:28And now, little children, abide in hi; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming

Abide in who? Christ! John tells us in his Gospel that Jesus said, Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. (John 15:4)

What is it that we abide in? What do we give our thoughts too? Or hopes or our future? Our desires? It is all fruitless, if those things are not first, Christ Jesus. John is telling the believer, the little children, to abide in CHRIST!

6. I John 3:7Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.

We live in the most deceitful period of human history. How do we know what is the truth with so many voices in the world saying they are the truth? 

John warns the believer against men deceiving us, but how will we know? God will never deceive us. So we must judge the words of men according to the Words of God. 

He that doeth righteousness – this is a measure to judge things so we will not be deceived. Christ is all Righteousness, so if we hear a man say he has the truth, but his life does not match Christ’s righteousness, then we know he does not speak the truth, but is speaking a lie. 

7. I John 3:18My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth

There is a connection between ‘doing’ and ‘knowing’, between ‘profession’ and ‘practice’. We are not to love in word only but that word is proven by our actions. 

A seed that does nothing is worth nothing. That seed must grow, become strong, and bear fruit. But our fruit must be the result of the root grounded in our faith in Jesus Christ. If we say we are a Christian, then the deeds of my life must reflect that Jesus has done a work in my heart. 

But here is a warning. I can also have deeds done in the flesh. Many may be religious but not faithful to God. John is very clear that the deeds of our Christian faith must be done in TRUTH!

8. I John 5:21Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen

The final exhortation to the little children is against idolatry. But let us understand, John is not simply referring to the worship of images. 

An idol is anything we give ourselves too that robs God of His honor. We serve another god when we allow anything of ourselves or this world to replace God’s presence in our life. 

We may never build an idol of wood or stone, place it in our room and light candles to it, say a prayer to it or worship it. But, we may set up idols in our heart, and that can prove to be a worse evil than bowing down before an image. 

The root of idolatry is worshipping and serving God’s creatures, which includes myself, more than God Himself. So, whoever makes anything of this earth more an object of his thoughts, and allows it to fill a greater space in his thinking than God fills, then that person is guilty of idolatry in the spiritual sense. Idols of this world lure our hearts away from God. 

John is commanding us, keep – or separate – yourselves from anything that would steal your heart and affections away from God. 

But an idol can also be made of something within the church. The holiest of things may become a snare, if we do it legalistically, religiously, without the true spirit of God. 

John’s message in his first epistle is a message for the Christian living in the last days and the evidences of their fellowship with God. He encourages the believer to a life of obedience and complete dependence on the daily fellowship with the Father. Through Christ I am made a child of God, and through Christ I may know the keeping power of the Father in such perilous days as these. 

We can neither have fellowship with the Father, nor with one another, unless we have fellowship with the Son, oneness in thought, feeling, spirit, purpose, and character. 

Preach The Word

Preach The Word