• Babies Bring Joy When a healthy baby is born, there is much joy in the family. “Isn’t that baby just darling?” or “Look at those cute little hands!” are typical exclamations heard during visiting hours on the maternity floor. But it isn’t long after the baby arrives home that the hard work and important responsibility of teaching begins. Once the baby begins to crawl and then walk around the house, it is of utmost importance for the young child to receive a course in “beware of dangers.” At this stage of growth it is very important to teach babies not to touch hot stoves or electrical outlets, and not to go near stairs.
It is not difficult to see the parallel between the above illustration of a new baby and a new Christian. When a person is born into the family of God, there is much joy among the older brothers and sisters – as well as joy in heaven (Lk. 15:10). But the very important task of teaching begins immediately. And one of the first areas of learning for the new baby in Christ must involve the “bewares.” Frequently, new Christians get “burned” or hurt because they were not taught to avoid certain hazardous areas.
In 1 John 2:18-27 new Christians are directly addressed and are told to be particularly aware of false teachers and their false teaching. The fact that the word “children” is used in verse 18 above indicates that recent additions to the family of God are primarily in view. This word for “children” here is not the same word that is translated “children” throughout most of 1 John. In fact, this word for “children” is used only twice in the epistle of 1 John – once in 2:13 and here in 2:18. The word signifies a young child or baby, and refers to new believers in the fellowship, in contrast to the “young men” or “fathers” (2:13-14) – those more mature in the faith. The more common word which is translated “children” in 1 John signifies the whole family of believers, regardless of growth or number of years in the faith. It refers to all persons who have been born into God’s family. This more general term is used in 2:1, 2:12, 2:28, 3:7, 3:18, 4:4 and 5:21. Unfortunately, in our English translations the distinction between these words is lost and it can be very confusing, especially since the more general term is sometimes translated “little children.” But this phrase “little children” is not used in the sense of lack of growth, but rather in the sense of John’s parental affection for the whole family.
In any case, here in chapter 2 the whole family of believers (2:12) is broken down into three different growth categories – fathers, young men and babies (2:13). In verses 2:14-17 the “young men” category of believers is specifically exhorted not to love the world. Certainly this exhortation applies to all Christians, but it is particularly addressed here to the young men. This term, by the way, does not mean men in contrast to women, but rather the middle growth or maturity level of believers of both sexes. The same holds true for the word “fathers.” It is used here for the highest level of growth and maturity. The “fathers” that John was addressing had come to know the Lord as many as 40 years earlier when the apostle Paul had evangelized the greater Ephesus area. Now that leaves most of us in the “young men” or “baby” category! And if you are not a new Christian, you are probably in the “young men” category and are warned to watch out for the world. The “young men” level of Christians are particularly vulnerable to yielding to the values of this evil world system. Let us remember the three principles of operation of Satan’s world system (2:16) – it appeals to the strong desires of the flesh (pleasure), it appeals to the strong desires of the eyes (possessions), and it appeals to the pride of life or vanity (power and prestige). Let’s not think that our few years as a Christian will make us immune to the attacks of the enemy. He knows that the “young men” category is very susceptible to the contagious disease of worldliness.
• Beware False Teaching
Now let’s return to the subject of baby Christians. This category of believers is addressed in 2:18-27. Because new believers are especially vulnerable to false teaching, this section of Scripture is a loud and clear “beware.” New Christians are generally caught up in the joy and excitement of their new life in Christ and are not hung up with worldliness – but they are wide open to the possibility of swallowing false doctrine. This does not mean that a new Christian is not spiritual. A baby Christian can be just as spiritual as a long-in-the-faith believer. Growth and spirituality are not synonymous terms. It is growth, not spirituality, that is in view in the categorizing of believers in this portion of God’s Word. Warning and protection from false teachers are of utmost importance to the proper growth of new Christians. Just as young children must be protected from all the things they try to put into their mouths, so baby Christians must be protected from imbibing false teaching. There are a lot of “wolves in sheep’s clothing” around today just waiting to feed poison to newly-awakened spiritual appetites (Mt. 7:15). What a responsibility older brothers and sisters have towards the new members of the family!
Are you a new Christian? Beware of false teachers and their false doctrine! Not every so-called “spiritual leader” is one of God’s gifts to the Church!
How can false doctrine be detected? Is there a clue or signal that new Christians should watch for when they come into contact with religious teachers? Yes! Is it their fake smile? No! Is it their pushiness? No! Is it their pressure to read their literature? No! Some true servants of God may exhibit all these “signs.” The sure sign of false teachers is their false doctrine concerning Christ. First John 2:22 tells us that the core of false doctrine is the denial of Jesus Christ as fully God. False teachers may say that Jesus is “divine” or “of God” or even “a son of God.” But they won’t admit that Jesus is God. Be on the alert for this subtle but obvious clue! Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, Christian Scientists and Unitarians are just a few of the cults and sects around today in which one encounters this false teaching. Verse 23 indicates that all who deny the deity of Christ are not of God! In fact, they are antichrists (2:18,22). They may be very nice and upright and even attending your fellowship, but, as in John’s day (2:19), they are unbelievers – they are not true Christians.
• Two Safeguards
Has God given His children any safeguards against the dangers of false doctrine? Yes! Our text tells us that the Scripture and the Spirit are given to protect us from the dangers of false teaching. Verse 2:24 refers to the safeguard of Scripture. John’s readers were not to let themselves be taken in by the new teachings of the deceivers (2:26). They were to abide in the Word that they had been taught from their conversion. The Word of God had been brought to them by the apostles, and they were to let that Word abide in them. This is what the new believer needs today for protection from the almost overwhelming waves of false philosophies and insidious teachings which abound in the secular classroom as well as the religious sanctuary. How important it is to take time to teach baby Christians the Word of God!
The Holy Spirit is also a safeguard against false doctrine and is referred to as “the anointing” in verses 20 and 27. It is important to note that this Scripture teaches that all believers have the Holy Spirit – regardless of growth level! Remember that these verses are particularly addressed to baby Christians, and yet verse 27 clearly indicates that they all had the Holy Spirit abiding in them. The statement, “You have no need for anyone to teach you,” does not mean that Bible teachers are a waste of time! The point is that new believers need not be sucked in by some “new teaching” of the deceivers of verse 2:26. The Holy Spirit sounds a warning in the believer when the truth is attacked or distorted. The Word of God illumined by the Spirit of God was, and is, the method by which believers are preserved and protected from false teaching.
By David R. Reid
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org