1 John 2:12-14 - Overcoming the evil one
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I write to you, young men, because you are strong and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. 1 John 2:14.
Every year the students went out on mission into areas of the country that were little evangelised. One year, we had a student who had been involved in traditional witchcraft before he became a Christian. As a result, he was not afraid to preach in houses where others held back. In one such house, a medicine man challenged him to a duel. He claimed superpowers that enabled him to eat unpalatable foods without harm. If the student’s God could protect him, then the medicine man would also become a Christian. Our student had 24 hours in which to fast and pray. He then went back to the house and joined the man in the meal. When nothing untoward happened, the medicine man declared that the student’s God had overcome his own powers and true to his promise, he became a Christian.
The word of God teaches us that the presence of the evil one is a reality in this world. At the Fall, Satan showed himself the enemy of God and his creation (Gen 3). When Adam and Eve listened to him instead of God, they placed themselves in Satan’s grip so that their whole lives were now lived in a battle with the powers of sin and death. Later in the sermon, John will remind us that their eldest son, Cain, gave in to the power of the evil one and murdered his brother (1 John 3:12).
However, lest the church should despair, in this section, John interjects a poetic piece to help them remember the victory that is theirs in Christ. He reminds people of all ages in the church, which can also be read figuratively as those in different stages of maturity, of the confidence that they have in Christ.
In this poem, John may have been alluding to the blessings found in the new covenant prophesied by the prophet Jeremiah, “I will be their God and they will be my people … for they shall all know me from the least of them to the greatest … for I will forgive their iniquity and I will remember their sin no more” (Jer.31:34).
He reminds them of three points that he has already made. First, that their sins have been forgiven through Christ (1 John 1: 7-2:2). Second, that they know “the one who is from the beginning,” whom we have already seen is the Son, Jesus Christ. In addition, they now know the Father and live in fellowship with the Triune God as the word of God abides in them (1 John 1:1-3). Third, they have overcome the evil one by coming out of the darkness of idolatry and walking in the light of the love of God in Christ (1 John 1: 6-2; 1 John 2:3-11).
The result of being forgiven, living in fellowship with God in Christ and walking in the light in obedience to his commands is that Christians are “strong,” the word of God “abides” in them and they have overcome the power of the “evil one” (v.14). This gives them confidence in the face of attack by the false teachers.
Today, let us give thanks and take confidence in our position in Christ. Calvin writes, “We are conquerors before we engage with the enemy; for our head Christ has once for all conquered for us the whole world” (p.184). In whatever our trials or difficulties, let us rejoice in forgiveness and restoration into fellowship with God, and find strength as we abide in his word and overcome the evil one.
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Jer 31:34).
Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we give thanks to you this day for your new covenant in Jesus Christ. We bless you for the gift of forgiveness of sins, for restoration into fellowship with you, for the word of God that abides in us and for the strength to overcome the evil one.
In Jesus Christ our Lord,
Pray with us today's prayer request:
In June we prayed for the Diocese of Beni in DR Congo where there are very large numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs). There are 918 IDPs accommodated and cared for by church families. Thank God that The Anglican Relief Development Fund, Australia, has been able to partner with the Anglicans in Beni to provide emergency supplies. Please continue to pray for this partnership and the witness of the Anglican church.
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