Today, we have an amazing text, one that I have never really appreciated until about 10 minutes ago. It just hit me: Wow!
I must have been a victim of my training, because this is a transitional passage between John’s introductory section and the rest of the letter. In verses 1:1-2:11, John has been going through this comparison and contrast that shows his readers who is and who is not in Christ. Great section, lots of insight! Now, he is giving the reasons he has written the letter, and after this he gets into some very deep thoughts. We often just blow by this little transition and wade into the content that begins in verse 15, but hold on a minute; the transition is amazing!
I am writing to you, dear children,
because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, dear children,
because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
because you are strong,
and the word of God lives in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.
1 John 2:12-14
Do you see what this is? It isn’t so much the “who” John is addressing, it’s the “why” that is important, contrary to so much that has been written and discussed over the years! Let’s restructure these verses:
If you are in Christ, John is writing to you BECAUSE:
1. YOUR sins have been forgiven on account of His name.
2. YOU know Him who is from the beginning.
3. YOU HAVE OVERCOME THE EVIL ONE.
4. YOU know the Father.
5. YOU know Him who is from the beginning.
6. YOU are strong.
7. The Word of God lives in YOU.
8. YOU HAVE OVERCOME THE EVIL ONE.
Did you notice the tense used here? Each of these “because” statements is either in present or past tense, indicating that they are facts at this very moment, not something to come in the future. I’m sure that I need not mention that there are no “buts” in any of these statements. Now, as for the “who,” there are three “who’s” in the passage, “dear children,” “fathers” and “young men.”
“Dear children” as we have already seen is one of the ways that John addressed the community of believers; it is an inclusive term. “Fathers” can either be literally a father of children, or it can refer to the head of the household, and in Scripture this is often the case; certainly it is when referring to a patriarch. In those cases, something that is true of the father is true of the household. It seems to me that here, because of the inclusive reference at the beginning, the inclusive meaning is also true of fathers, particularly since there is nothing in the text that would indicate specificity of intent. “young men” are the heads of households yet to be born, and I think we can take this reference to mean that not only are these things true in believing households of today, but they will also be true of future generations of believing households. You might wonder about a household of one, but remember that in John’s day, households of one were extremely unusual if not non-existent; they are actually quite a modern development. Looking at the list of statements again, it seems that we can take them to refer to all of us who are in Christ. That is also the context of the previous and following sections…
Notice that there is some repetition. Numbers 2 and 5 are the same, but 2 comes after a reference to the Son, while 5 comes after a reference to the Father. If you know Jesus, then you also know the Father. Having overcome the evil one is mentioned twice also, numbers 3 and 8. Both are directed to young men, and it seems to me interesting that it is repeated the second time in a series of three statements made to young men. Now if we have an accurate understanding of “young men,” then let’s consider these future heads of household. They are the future, but they are also young. They are the ones who need encouragement and the mentoring of the Elder Apostle the most, and so they, who will bear the spiritual battle in the future need a little more instruction that those who are experienced, the veterans we might say. Here, John gives an extra assurance that they are strong, filled with the Word, and have overcome. I would guess that this is as much comfort to John’s “young men” in their day, as this whole list should be to us in our day. This is particularly true when we get into the rest of this letter; John is getting his readers prepared for what is coming.
Take another look at the list of statements:
Would accepting these statements as the facts they are, with no “buts” attached, alter your view of the challenges you face in life?
Is God speaking to you in this text?
If so, what is He saying?
What will you do about it?