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Updated November 18, 2018
"Stages of Spiritual Growth"

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"Stages of Spiritual Growth" (posted November 18, 2018)
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   I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake.
   - 1 John 2:12

The apostle John views believers as forming the family of God, and he uses the relationships of the ordinary life-- fathers, young men and babes-- to set forth different stages of spiritual growth in the apprehension of the truth and in Christian experience.

He does not use these terms to set forth stages in the natural life, but, rather, distinctions in spiritual growth. A person converted at an advanced age would be spiritually but a babe, whereas a believer comparatively young in years might, by spiritual progress, become a father. The apostle sets forth, moreover, the special snares to which believers are exposed at different stages of growth.

But before speaking of the different stages of spiritual growth, the apostle refers to the blessing that is true of the whole family of God (verse 12). He addresses all believers as "children;" this is a term of endearment. He then states that forgiveness of sins is the great blessing that marks every member of the family of God. Apart from this blessing they would not belong to this family.

The apostle does not write to sinners in order that they may be forgiven, but to believers because they are forgiven. Moreover, as he is going to speak of experiences and spiritual progress, he reminds believers that they are forgiven "for His Name's sake." As believers, he reminds us that we are not forgiven because of anything that we are, or because of any experience however real-- for that would be for our sakes. We are forgiven because of what God has found in Christ and His work-- "for His Name's sake."

The Lord Himself had instructed His disciples "that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His Name among all nations" (Luke 24:47). Peter, in carrying out the Lord's commission, proclaims to the Gentiles "that through His Name whosoever believes in Him shall receive remission of sins" (Acts 10:43). Thus forgiveness of sins is not a matter of attainment; it is proclaimed to us through the Lord Jesus and received by faith in Christ (Acts 13:38, 39).

Hamilton Smith

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