I was halfway out to my car at the end of a long day. I thought, “Did I lock the workshop? Better go back and check.” I knew it was locked, but I couldn’t get past the feeling of doubt that was seeping into my mind. I went back and shook the door; it was locked (of course…). Turned around and went back to the car. But something inside my head was going, “Are you sure? Maybe it just seemed locked…” Did you ever find yourself doubting something you knew was true? It’s okay; you don’t have to raise your hand. I think most of us have had moments of doubt like that.
John was a man who had walked with Jesus, saw Him die, and who spoke with Him after his resurrection. Now, perhaps as much as 40 years later, with the wisdom and perspective that only come to the elderly, he observes some troubling changes in the body of believers. He could have scolded them, tried to lay down the law. But John knew that if he could solidify some of the basic truths in their hearts, help them turn away from doubting things they knew to be true, that the Holy Spirit would keep them on track. So he writes a kind of song to the believers – to the ones newest in the faith, to those who are in their most robust years of living out their faith, and to those who have grown old in the faith.
To the newest believers, he writes:
because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. (1 John 2:12)
When someone says, “I forgive you,” even though it is a relief, we more or less assume that they haven’t done so completely, or that if we did the same bad thing again they would “unforgive” us. That’s why it is so hard for new believers to truly understand that God’s forgiveness doesn’t work that way. When God forgives our sins, they have been forgiven, all of them. It’s over! John knows that doubting that can undermine our understanding and experience of everything else about our life in Jesus. John knows Satan knows that, too, and loves to tempt us to doubt. So he nails it down for the children in the faith. You are forgiven.
A bit later, he addresses the newest Christians again:
because you have known the Father. (1 John 2:13c)
John knows how essential it is for us to understand that God – Almighty God, Creator of the Universe – is our Father. Jesus taught us by His example to approach God as our “Abba,” our Papa, particularly in times of great distress (Mark 14:36).
John “sings” to the new believer, reminding him (or her) that God, Who is their loving Father, has completely and irrevocably forgiven them all their sins. He has not done so capriciously, but rather has accepted full payment on their behalf in the blood of His Son, Jesus. “…your sins have been forgiven on account of His Name.”
Maybe you have had some doubts about those basic truths. Let John’s “song” sing to you.