In verse 18 John begins with the address “children”. He is using the Greek noun in the Vocative, Neuter of PAIDION, which he used in verse 13. In the neuter it is a generic address and is referencing “young or new believers”, both male and female.
Even though John addresses the group with the word “children” throughout the Book of 1 John, this is the last time he addresses them as PAIDION. Hereafter he uses TEKNION, translated “little children”. As we have seen before TEKNION is an “address of affection between a teacher and student”. Yet PAIDION is speaking to “a stage of spiritual growth”.
Why does he use this address here? Simply because some one or some group, most likely the Gnostics who denied the deity of Christ, is spreading all kinds of false doctrines among this group, (verse 26), and they have become frightened by what they are hearing.
This is like the little child who is easily frightened when their imagination runs wild with various thoughts and fears. At the sound of thunder, they can become terrified. At the thought of the boogey man in their closet, they are fearful. When their parent leaves the room, they are afraid they won’t return. All of these things happen in the natural realm to infants and the young.
In the spiritual realm the same thing happens to the immature believer as they are easily swayed by false doctrines and easily frightened about loosing their salvation, the potential of difficulties in life or even the fact that angels both elect and fallen are all around them.
1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not mature in love.
At the time of John’s writing there were those from the Gnostic cult who had infiltrated the early Christian church and were spreading false doctrines about Christ. They said that deity and humanity could not be one; therefore, Christ could not be the God / Man who died for our sins. They also held that knowledge was the path for ascension to God. These are the antichrists referred to by John.
2 John 1:7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.
1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
So in writing this letter, John is ensuring the church that the man Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that eternal life is through Him and Him alone (vs 25 and 1:2), and that He will come again (3:2).
1 John 5:13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.
The other main point John brings out in this letter is that operating in impersonal / unconditional love demonstrates that you are a believer in Christ. You will know them by their fruit. Mat 7:16, 20
Immature believers are easily frightened by life’s situations of trials, tribulations and difficulties because they don’t have enough doctrine in their soul yet for spiritual stability. Those who have grown spiritually and are young adults or mature adults have the doctrine in their soul for spiritual stability. They have reached one of the three stages of Spiritual Adulthood: Spiritual Self-Esteem, Spiritual Autonomy and Spiritual Maturity.
So let’s look at the first stage of Spiritual Adulthood, Spiritual Self-Esteem and see how through the intake and application of Bible Doctrine you have stability within your soul.
The Characteristics of Spiritual Self-Esteem:
Adapted from R.B. Thieme, Jr.
Spiritual Self Esteem (S.S.E.):
What is S.S.E.? It is the continual application of Bible doctrine resident in the soul. It is living by your own thinking from that doctrine and is making application of metabolized doctrine under all circumstances including suffering for blessing.
The Christian who gains S.S.E. has crossed the dividing line between spiritual childhood and spiritual adulthood, between spiritual dependence and spiritual independence, between punitive suffering and suffering for blessing.
S.S.E. is the giant step in the believer’s life as the first stage of spiritual adulthood having these characteristics in the believer:
1.] THE BEGINNING OF CONTENTMENT = Contentment, or capacity for happiness in one’s present circumstances, begins in spiritual self-esteem, grows stronger in spiritual autonomy and reaches a peak in spiritual maturity [2Co 12:10; 1Ti 6:6-8; Heb 13:5]. In spiritual adulthood, sharing the happiness of God is the Christian’s greatest and most effective problem-solving device [Phi 4:11].
Phil 4:11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.
2.] MENTAL STABILITY = A stabilized mentality comes from the consistent and accurate application of Bible Doctrine in adversity and in prosperity [Phi 4:12,13].
Phil 4:12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
3.] COMPOSURE MARKED BY SELF-ASSURANCE = Self-assurance is characteristic of the believer who can consistently and accurately apply doctrine to life and who has experienced the efficacy of doctrine in his own life [Jam 1:22-25].
4.] GRACE ORIENTATION TO LIFE = The believer with S.S.E. appreciates the extension of God’s grace toward him without distorting that grace policy into antinomian license [Rom 6:1]. Furthermore, he demonstrates a gracious attitude toward other people without distorting toleration into compromise of integrity [Rom 12:10].
Rom 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.
5.] DOCTRINAL ORIENTATION TO REALITY = S.S.E. orients the believer to reality by maintaining his humility, by avoiding inordinate ambition and competition, by developing spiritual common sense, spiritual independence and a sense of humor [Rom 12:3; Eph 4:23].
Rom 12:3 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.
6.] GOOD DECISIONS FROM A POSITION OF STRENGTH = God’s Power System is the position of strength in which good decisions are possible, based on divine viewpoint thinking, motivated from personal love for God. [Eph 6:10; Phi 2:2; Col 1:11].
Col 1:11 strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously 12giving thanks to the Father,…
7.] THE BEGINNING OF PERSONAL CONTROL OF ONE’S LIFE = Spiritual independence is based on maximum use of one’s royal priesthood, by which the believer represents himself before God. His perspective in life is focused on God rather than on people [1 Peter 2:9; Col 2:7; Heb 12:2,3].
Co 2:7 having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.
8.] THE USE OF SPIRITUAL SELF-ESTEEM AS A PROBLEM-SOLVING DEVICE = S.S.E. solves the problem of inadequacy, fear, emotional disturbance, lack of personality identity and uncertainty concerning one’s niche in life [2 Tim 1:7]. The believer views difficulties as opportunities to utilize the doctrine in his soul [2 Tim 2:3,4].
2 Tim 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.
9.] THE BEGINNING OF A PERSONAL SENSE OF DESTINY = The meaning, purpose and definition of your life becomes clear as you resolve your relationships with God, self and people. [Acts 4:28; Rom 8:29-30; Eph 1:5, 11]
Acts 4:28 To do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.
10.] COMMAND OF SELF = Fulfilling the responsibilities that accompany independence, the believer exercises self-control, self-restraint, poise and self-regulation [Pro 19:11; 1 Cor 14:33; 2 Tim 2:10]. Command of self facilitates good communication with other people, which is mandatory in all successful relationships.
2 Tim 2:10 For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.
11.] A NEW ATTITUDE TOWARD LIFE = Personal love for God gives the believer a dynamic attitude, viewpoint and perspective on life. His thoughts and priorities change as his focus on Christ motivates him in everything he does [John 15:10-17 – unconditional love].
12.] QUALIFICATION FOR PROVIDENTIAL PREVENTATIVE SUFFERING = S.S.E. gives the believer the ability to handle suffering for blessing and qualifies him to pass the test of providential preventative suffering and advance him into the next stage of spiritual adulthood; spiritual autonomy [1Peter 4:12-16].
13.] RENEWING OF YOUR MIND – [a.k.a. – Post-salvation Epistemological Rehabilitation (P.E.R.)] = Epistemology is the study of knowledge itself, addressing the question of how man knows what he knows. After salvation the believer must concentrate on a new source of truth, Bible Doctrine, under the teaching ministry of an academically prepared pastor, theologically orthodox pastor/teacher filled with the Spirit. The believer must acquire a new doctrinal frame of reference through learning and metabolizing the Word of God by faith, for “the righteous believer shall live by faith” [Rom 1:17]. P.E.R. is a term that encompasses all the Bible Doctrine the believer has learned between salvation and spiritual adulthood. This renovation of thought includes everything from understanding spirituality and how to execute the Pre-designed Plan of God (P.P.O.G.), to appreciating one’s portfolio of invisible assets. [Rom 12:2]
Rom 12:22And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
14.] ATTAINMENT OF THE FIRST PHASE OF THE UNIQUE LIFE = God has designed a unique life for the Church Age believer, part of which is experienced and part of which is not [Rom 8:10]. The non-experiential aspect of the unique life includes the indwelling of all three members of the Trinity. This is the Church Age believer’s permanent status, not his progressive experience. The experiential aspect of the unique life is the glorification of Christ in the body of the believer [Eph 5:1; 1 Cor 6:20].
Eph 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.