Our first-year seminary guys just finished reading through 1 John. It’s remarkable. In the space of three or four months, they’ve gone from no knowledge of Greek to reading an entire New Testament letter. Are they sharp? Well, of course. Do they have a good teacher? What can I say? Is John’s Greek relatively easy? Come on, they read an entire New Testament letter!
One place along the way popped out to me this time around. It was 1 John 2:12–14. It’s where John addresses two or three different groups in his audience and twice tells each what is true of it. He tells the “children”—here I think he’s got everybody in mind—“your sins have been forgiven on account of his [i.e., Jesus’s] name” and “you know the Father.” Twice he tells the “fathers” that they’ve “know[n] him who is from the beginning.” And twice he tells the “young men” they’ve “overcome the evil one,” the second time around adding, “you are strong” and “the word of God lives in you.”
As you’d expect, we debated all sorts of things in this short passage. Is John really referring to different demographics in his congregation? If so, is he thinking primarily about age or spiritual maturity? Why does he speak to each group twice and in a few places say the exact same thing? And why does he say the things he does to each group? Do only the young men need to be reminded that they’ve overcome the devil? We even wrestled with the fact that the first time around, John tells the groups he’s “writing to them.” Then, in the second, he tells them he “wrote to them” (see, e.g., NLT). What are we to make of that? These were only the questions we asked about the first three verses in the passage they’d translated, to say nothing of the technical Greek questions we discussed. It’s no wonder the end of class would sneak up on us most weeks.
What made this text stand out, however, wasn’t the brilliant answers we offered to these tricky questions. It was something far simpler and far too easy to overlook: that a pastor—the original Pastor John—took the time to write his troubled friends a letter and tell them things that were true about them because of their relationship with Jesus. And he didn’t just say these true things once. He said them twice, because he knew, as we do, that for encouragement to really sink in, it often takes hearing it again.
There are times to warn and rebuke and challenge and question. John does this. And we must too. But sometimes what we and our friends need most is simply to be told—at least twice—what is true about us because of the gospel. It’s a simple gift. But sometimes those are the best. So let me encourage you to receive John’s simple gift this Advent season…and, of course, feel very free to regift it.
Dr. Jared Compton
Assistant Professor of New Testament and Greek
- Pray that God would refresh our students, faculty, and staff during the Christmas break.
- Pray that our students would encourage and bless their families, friends, and churches while on break.
- Pray for Serious Joy: The 34th Bethlehem Conference for Pastors, which we will be relaunching in February 2022. Our theme is Gravity and Gladness in a Groaning World. Pray for both our preparation and the pastors who will be joining us.
- Pray whether God might be calling you to begin, reactivate, or increase your support of the Serious Joy Scholarships which allow our students to graduate and launch immediately into life and ministry without a burden of student loan debt.