Stages of Spiritual Development

There’s this interesting passage in 1 John 2:12-14

12 I write to you, little children,

Because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake.

13 I write to you, fathers,

Because you have known Him who is from the beginning.

I write to you, young men,

Because you have overcome the wicked one.

I write to you, little children,

Because you have known the Father.

14 I have written to you, fathers,

Because you have known Him who is from the beginning.

I have written to you, young men,

Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you,

And you have overcome the wicked one.

Since I’ve been obsessing with the thought of believers growing up, this seemed appropriate to discuss.

In the English translations of this passage, there are three stages of development, each is repeated twice:

1. Children

2. Young Men

3. Fathers.

In the original Greek language, “young men” twice is a translation of neaniskos, which is literally, a young man, a man under 40 years of age. Both times, “fathers” is a translation of pater which is not a giant intellectual leap.

But John uses two different words for "children." The first time, he uses the Greek word teknion, which means “children”, but is only used figuratively in the New Testament: it’s a term of affection by a teacher to his disciples connoting tenderness. The second time, he uses the word paidon, an infant freshly born.

Distinguishing those two, we show four stages of development. But since John is a father of the faith, since he is writing to his spiritual children, then his stages of development are stages of spiritual development:

1. fresh newborns, characterized by knowing God as Father.

2. young children, disciples, characterized by the revelation of forgiveness, and that forgiveness is for “His name's sake.”

3. young men, both times described as “have overcome the wicked one,” and the second time adds “you are strong, and the word of God abides in you.” In other words, the young men (who may or may not actually be “men”) are the warriors (they overcome the wicked one) and they’re strong (“you are strong”) because the word of God of God abides (dwells, lives) in them.

4. fathers, both times described as “you have known Him who is from the beginning.” Fathers, of course, are people who are raising the next generation, in this time, the next generation of the church. But John describes them not in terms of their actions, but as he does the other stages: by how they know God. The fathers have a knowledge of God as the eternal one, the deepest, most experienced knowledge of Him.

When I teach this to young believers, I always follow it up with two questions, which I present for your consideration:

1) Looking at the descriptions, who are you? Which group do you fit in? What is your stage of spiritual development?

2) Looking at the descriptions of that group, what is the thing you should be working on now? How do you need to know God in this stage of spiritual growth? How well do you know him in that way? Then stop worrying about not living up to the other stages if they’re not where God has you right now!!

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous8:49 PM

    I like this article. It's a good reminder for me of who I am now. And I really liked your article on Obama. I enjoy reading your stuff.


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