1Jn 2:12-14 “I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake. 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. I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.”
John makes it plain here that he is not writing simply because he has nothing better to do. His purpose in writing is to assure his audience of the power and purpose of the work of Jesus Christ. There is also a reason why he is writing to this particular audience.
John first addresses a broad audience. Strong’s defines the phrase little children as “an infant, that is, (plural figurative) darlings (Christian converts).” Those newly come to the knowledge of the truth of Jesus Christ are first addressed with a great reassurance. John declares to them that “your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake.” Our sins are (here and now) forgiven us for the sake of Jesus’ name. Sins are not forgiven us for the sake of our identity, for the sake of our works, or for the sake of what we have believed. Our sins are forgiven us because of the authority and character of Jesus Christ!
John continues by addressing the fathers. He is speaking to those who have a mature faith. As fathers, they have been examples to the little children of the worship and honor due to Jesus Christ. They are not new converts, but have known (Strong’s “to know absolutely”) him that is from the beginning. By grace, they understand that this Jesus is the one spoken of by the prophets. In this grace, they have assumed the role of fathers, or instructors, concerning the power and truth of Jesus as the promised Messiah and Savior.
As it is today, so it was in that day: there were many who denied and despised the wonderful name of Jesus. We have an adversary (the wicked one) who is always ready to slander the name of Jesus and any who would follow His way. Thankfully, there are also young men (defined by Strong’s as being less than 40 years old) in the prime of their service to Jesus. Through the leadership of the Spirit, they are strong in the keeping of the commandments (both old and new) that John was speaking of immediately before these verses.
At this point, John has been speaking to these different groups concerning their present situation. He also addresses the fathers and young men a second time. He speaks to them, not about his current writing, but about the fact that this is not the first time he has addressed them. He is telling these that he is writing to them as a continuation and confirmation of his previous writing. He is commending them for their consistent service and faith. In my mind, I see these as being among those that read John’s gospel: “In the beginning was the Word…”
They were blessed by the Holy Spirit to not only “hear” what John wrote with the intellect, but to know the truth of it in their souls. They had been faithful to teach, nurture, and defend. These were well grounded in the truth and would not flee at the approaching of the adversary. John is putting them in remembrance (something that Peter said was important) that the word of God dwells in them continually.
John’s epistle points out an important fact. The kingdom of God is made up of a diverse group who are not all at the same place in their level of maturity. They all have a place and purpose in His kingdom. Someday the little children will be young men. Someday the young men will be fathers. There will be “new” little children, and the fathers will step off this stage of life as so many have already done. What a wonderful assurance that Jesus is there with us, no matter the stage of service we may be in.
May we rejoice daily that our sins are forgiven, that we have young men standing firmly against the adversary, and that we have fathers to share the instruction of the word, all according to the will and purpose of God!