1 John 2:12-14

12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake.
13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one I have written to you, children, because you know the Father.
14 I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning I have written 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 2:12-14

We have three figures from three generations: little children, fathers, and young men. He repeats admonitions to them twice, according to this chart:

Generation Reason for writing now Reason for writing in the past
little children sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake you know Him who has been from the beginning
fathers you know Him who has been from the beginning you know Him has has been from the beginning
young men you have overcome the evil one you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

Here are some observations about this passage.

  • Notice the prevalence of knowing Him who has been from the beginning. It’s the only virtue the fathers seem to hang on. The children have forgiveness which is associated closely with this knowledge.
  • The young men do not hang on knowing, but on action, and John seems to be OK with that. They have overcome, they are strong.
  • The fathers don’t seem to hang so much on forgiveness as on knowledge of Him.
  • Knowing Him is qualified by the idea of knowing Him as the One from the beginning, the inception of all things, as the eternal God. This must refer to Christ, because God as understood by Jews held this as a given.
  • It is particularly addressed to males for the older figures, young men and fathers. The children are undifferentiated.
  • At first he says he IS writing them, secondly he says he HAS written to them. Was there another letter? It is unclear.
  • He is writing or has written to them. Words, and receiving words, is an important part of ministry.
  • He recognizes strengths in these figures, and these strengths are the genesis or cause of his writing. We can give messages, not only as correction but as encouragement. We must read all of 1 John under this rubric of writing because of true knowledge and service toward God, because he says clearly here that this is why he is writing to them.
  • The young men are repeated to have overcome the evil one. We might surmise that the battle with the evil one lies particularly strong with the young men. Thus they are said to be strong.
  • Note also, concerning young men, that the word abides in them, and there must be a connection between their strength and the dwelling of the word in them.
  • The young men are not said to be in the process of overcoming the evil one. They are said to have already overcome the evil one.
  • There is an evil one. He might be said to be particularly focused on young men.
  • The fathers know Him who has been from the beginning, at the time of this writing, and at the time of the prior writing. The children knew Him in the past, but presently needed to be reminded that their sins are forgiven.
  • How interesting, that the children’s sins are forgiven, not (only?) for their own sakes, but for HIS NAME’s sake. It occurs to me that we ought not contest His forgiveness, because His name suffers if we consider ourselves to be unforgiven.
  • It doesn’t say that young men don’t know Him who has been from the beginning, nor does it say that the fathers have not overcome the evil one. By asserting the truth of one category of male, it doesn’t deny that truth concerning the other categories.
  • It would seem that a great deal hinges on KNOWING Him. It is the Greek word “Ginosko”, which means variously “be aware of”, feel, perceive, be resolved, can speak (as in, God can speak to them, they hear), to be sure, to understand.
  • A great deal for the young men seems to hinge on the idea of “overcoming”. It is the Greek “Nikao”, (from the Gr “nike”) – to conquer, to overcome, to prevail, to get the victory, to triumph.
  • Perhaps there is that in young men which needs to conquer, and grace to them is giving them a challenge and allowing them the chance to prove their strength and win. This is not something which John seeks to take away from them by telling them to be still and know. He praises their overcoming.

These are raw observations sprinkled with some speculation on this text. I pray it spurs your own thinking on this important passage in 1 John.

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