1 John 2:13
I write to you, fathers, because you have known him that is from the beginning. I write to you, young men…
John abounded in charity, but with the utmost stretch of it he could not have written to all young men in this style, for, alas! all young men are not strong, nor doth the Word of God abide in them all, nor have they all overcome the wicked one. Shame that it should be, that when the devil seeks recruits for his army, he should straightway send his recruiting sergeant for these fine young fellows, who ought to serve a better master.
I. THE PHOTOGRAPH OF THE MODEL YOUNG MAN.
1. What is spoken in the text has to do only with spiritual qualifications, and it deals with three points. First, this young man is strong. The strength here meant is not mere natural vigour, but a spiritual strength, a strength which is the result of an indwelling of the Spirit; a strength which brings out and consecrates the natural energy, and makes the young man with his vigour to be vigorous in the right direction.
(1) Now, the spiritually strong man may be described in this way — he is one who is very decided for Christ. He is not half-hearted, halting between two opinions. Whoever may be for the false, he is for the true. Whoever may side with the unjust, he is for the honest. He is decided, not only in his service of Christ, but in his opinions. He holds firmly what he does hold. He is a strong man in the truth. God has made him strong in integrity of heart.
(2) While thus strong in decision, he is also strong in the matter of establishment. He once believed truths because he was so taught, but now he has proved, if not all things, yet enough to hold fast that which is good.
(3) He has become strong, through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, in a vigour diffused throughout his whole spiritual constitution. He knows that he lives. Others in our Churches do something for Christ, and know that they are alive, but their whole spiritual system is relaxed. If they take up the hammer and work for God, they strike such feeble blows that the nails do not know it. Meanwhile, he is not only strong in actual service, but he is strong in what he cannot do. The strong young man will have many schemes crossing his brain, and while he is in his youth he will not be able to realise them, but they will flit before him so often, that at last he will pluck up courage, and as he grows in years and possibilities, he will at last make real that which was once but a dream.
2. The text gives a further description of the model Christian young man in the words, "And the Word of God abideth in you." Her Majesty was on the south side of the water today, but she does not abide there. All the pomp and sunshine of her presence have vanished, and Westminster Bridge and Stangate are as they were before. The Word of God sometimes comes with right royal pomp into the minds of young men; they are affected by it for a time, and they rejoice therein, but, alas! that blessed Word soon departs, and they are none the better for that which they have heard. The model young man in the text is not of this kind. The Word of God abideth in him, by which I understand that he is one who understands the Word, for it must get into him before it can abide in him, and it can only enter by the door of the understanding: he understands the Word, and then by having an affection for the Word he shuts to that door and entertains the truth. The Word of God abides in him, that is, he is constantly feeling its effects. It abides in him — a sacred fire consuming his sins, and comforting his spirit. It abides in him, a heavenly messenger revealing to him the freshness of celestial truth, uplifting him from earthly desires, and preparing him for the mansions in the skies.
3. Thirdly, the text adds, "And ye have overcome the wicked one." Some young men have overcome that blue devil which keeps men despairing, doubting, trembling, and fearing. Then there is that dust eating devil, of whom we can never speak too badly — the yellow devil of the mammon of unrighteousness, the love of gold and silver; the dread god of London, rolling over this city as if it were all his own. Another form of the wicked one we must speak of but softly, but oh! how hard to be overcome by the young man. I mean Madam Wanton, that fair but foul, that smiling but murderous fiend of hell, by whom so many are deluded. Young man, if you are strong, and have overcome the wicked one, you have overcome, I trust, that Lucifer of pride, and it is your endeavour to walk humbly with your God! You have given up all idea of merit. You cannot boast nor exalt yourself, but you bow humbly at the foot of the Cross, adoring Him who has saved you from the wrath to come. You have given up also, I trust, young man, all subjection to the great red dragon of fashion, who draws with his tail even the very stars of heaven.
II. Let us further observe that THESE THINGS WHICH CONSTITUTE HIM WHAT HE IS ARE HIS QUALIFICATIONS FOR USEFULNESS. "I write unto you, young men, for ye are strong." We beg you to use that strength in winning souls for Christ. Remember that this very strength which brings a blessing to yourself will benefit another. That very faith which brought you to Christ is all you want to bring others to Christ. As the angel said to Gideon, so say I to you, young man, "The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour"; and yet, again, "Go in this thy strength." If the young man inquires for tools and weapons with which to serve his Master, we refer him to the next point in the text, "The Word of God abideth in you." Now, if you desire to teach others, you have not to ask what the lesson shall be, for it abides in you. Do you want a text that will impress the careless? What impressed you? You cannot have a better. You desire to speak a word in season from the Word of God which shall be likely to comfort the disconsolate. What has comforted your own soul? You cannot have a better guide. Once again, "you have overcome the wicked one." The man who has once given Satan a slap in the face need not be afraid of men. If you have often stood foot to foot with a violent temptation, and, after wrestling, have overcome it, you can laugh to scorn all the puny adversaries who assail you.
III. The wording of the text suggested to me, TO FORCE THE CONSCRIPTION. "I have written unto you, young men." In the French wars, certain young men, unhappily, found their names written down in the conscription, and were marched to the wars. Now, in a war from which none of us desire to escape, I hope there are young men here whose names are written down — heavenly conscripts — who are summoned more fully than ever before in their lives, to go forth to the battle of the Lord of Hosts. I invite every young man here who is already converted to God, to dedicate himself to the Lord Jesus Christ tonight. It will be well if you take a step further as conscripts. You "holy work folk" — as they used to call those who dwelt around the cathedral at Durham, and were exempt from all service to the baron because they served the church — I want you now to think of some particular walk and department in which as young men and young women you can devote yourselves wholly to Christ. Generalities in religion are always to be avoided, more especially generalities in service. What can you do? What is your calling? Ragged schools? Sunday schools? Street preaching? Tract distribution? Here is a choice for you, which do you select? I would inquire next, whether there may not be young men here who can give themselves up to the Christian ministry, which is a step farther. Take care you keep not back whom God would have. Then, further, I have to say, may there not be here some young man who will become a conscript for missionary service abroad? I might tonight read a sort of proclamation such as I see sometimes issued by Her Majesty — "Wanted, young men." We give no description about the inches either in girth or the height, but we do give this description — "Wanted, young men who are strong; in whom the Word of God abideth, and who have overcome the wicked one." Once again. If this be impossible, and I suppose it may be to the most of us, then may we not get up a conscription tonight of young men who will resolve to help at home those who have the courage to go abroad?
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father.
WEB: I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, little children, because you know the Father.