1 John 2:12
I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake.
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(7) THE THINGS THEY MUST NOT LOVE IF THEY WALKED IN THE LIGHT (1John 2:12-17).—The solemnity of the thoughts of 1John 2:9; 1John 2:11 is too much for the warm heart of the Apostle. He cannot bear even to seem to suggest that his “dear little children” are shrouded in the gloomy horrors of moral darkness, haunted by the faithful memories of their sins, and enticed hither and thither by the malevolent spirits of evil. He will warn them with the most tender and pitiful affection against the wicked one, the world, the flesh, the follies and vanities of the human heart; but first he will show them frankly what he thinks of them, what he hopes of them, the trust he places in them, the grounds which he takes for granted in writing to them.

(12) I write unto you, little children.—The arrangement of these triplets should be prefaced by saying that the last “I write,” in 1John 2:13, is, according to the best reading, “I wrote,” or “I have written;” and that the “little children” of 1John 2:12 is the same word as that which he used in 1John 2:1 for the whole class of his readers, and is therefore quite general, but that the “little children” of 1John 2:13 is a different, word, meaning children in age. So we get:—

I write.

I wrote.

1.All readers.

1.Children in age. [Suggested, according to the perfect simplicity of St. John’s style, by the term used in the first set for his readers generally.]







1.Knowledge of the Father.

2.Knowledge of Christ.

2.Knowledge of Christ.


3.Strength, perseverance, victory.

Some have thought the second triplet an explanatory note that has crept into the text; others that “I write refers to what he is doing at the moment, “I wrote” the view they would take when they read what he had written. It seems better, however, if we allow the Gospel to have been written first, to refer “I am writing” to the Epistle; “I did write” to the Gospel.

Because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake.—Rather, have been forgiven. When Christ expired on the cross, the sins of all were forgiven who should in after-time believe and carry on their repentance towards perfection. The process is realised in the soul when it wakes up to a sense of love of the Saviour through faith.

(13) Fathers.—The heads of families.

Him that is from the beginning.—There can be little doubt that this means the same Person as the subject of “His name’s sake.” (Comp. John 1:1; John 8:58; John 17:5; Knowledge of Christ is assigned in both cases as the reason for addressing the elder members of his audience, because fully to understand the work, the doctrine, the example of Christ, is a work fitted for mature thought. (Comp. 1Corinthians 3:1-2.)

Young men.—They might be regarded more as still engaged in the work of settling their character, forming their habits, disciplining their inclinations, confirming the choice which all must make for themselves between good and evil. (Comp. 2Timothy 2:22.) St. John is not here addressing those who have failed in the struggle and not repented, but those who have got the better of such temptations, or are in process of getting it.

The wicked one.—Comp. 1John 3:12; 1John 5:18; Matthew 13:19; Ephesians 6:16.)

(14) Because ye have known.—To those who have once begun to understand Christ, the topic must always be delightful and interesting.

Because ye are strong.—For the reasons mentioned before, young men have more special need of strength. (Comp. Psalm 119:9.) This power can only come through the presence of the message and teaching of God in their hearts, which will be brought by faith in Christ, acceptance of His redemption, and reverential study of His example. When Christ has thus dwelt in their minds, then the victory is won, and the spirits of evil can no longer entice them.

(15) Love not the world.—Having thus affectionately expressed his hopes about each class of them, the last of the Apostles is freer to express that warning which was suggested to his mind by the mournful picture of 1John 2:11. If they would not walk in darkness—if they would be where the true Light shineth—then they must not love the world. What does “the world” mean? In Acts 17:24 it meant the universe; in John 1:9, perhaps more distinctly, the earth; in 1John 2:2 the sum total of mankind; in John 8:23 that moral order, to be found in this spot of creation, which is antagonistic to God. Thus it became a phrase for all such inventions, plans, customs, thoughts, and estimates of mankind as are not in harmony with the will and purpose of God. It is ridiculous to suppose that St. John intended to condemn the love either of natural philosophy; or of the scenery of that creation which God saw to be very good, and which sin has been unable to injure; or of all mankind, who are His children. No created thing is evil in itself; the evil lies in the use which man makes of it. We must remember that our Lord said, “I am the Light of the World” (John 8:12), so that none of the phases of the meaning of the word can be essentially evil, except where it implies man’s own ungodly creations. The world which is not to be loved is the sphere of rebellion, caprice, ambition, vanity, pride, avarice, forgetfulness of God, self-pleasing, sensuous desires and interests, connivance with standards of thought and action antagonistic to the will of God. To take one example: Christ declared all Christians brothers; any respect for rank and wealth beyond a conscientious “bowing in the house of Rimmon” is a sign of the forbidden affection.

The love of the Father is the true posture of the soul towards God. If the soul is evenly balanced between love of God and of the world it is negative and colourless. If the balance incline towards the things that distract from the pure and simple walk with God, then the emotion for Him has died away; if the balance be for Him, “the expulsive power of the new affection” makes the contrary attractions insignificant and increasingly powerless.

(16) All that is in the world.—The essence, the kernel of this sphere showing itself in countless ways.

The lust of the fleshi.e., that proceeds from the earthly nature; all desire taking possession of the soul as a motive for thought and action which does not arise from principles in harmony with the will of God.

The lust of the eyesi.e., of which the eyes are the seat; all delight in objects living or inanimate apart from their moral and religious importance; personal beauty, for instance, considered otherwise than as an index of a Christ-like soul. (Comp. John 7:24; John 8:15; 2Corinthians 5:16; James 2:1.) Our Lord’s, introspection was of moral qualities in Mark 10:21.

The pride of life.—The Greek word is only used besides in the New Testament in James 4:16. The phrase means a boastful, ostentatious attitude in regard to the good things of this life allotted by God to be spent in His service. All living up to a supposed social position instead of as the responsible steward of undeserved bounties, is hereby condemned. Of this any social organism existing for pleasure instead of for moral or religious ends might be considered illustrative.

(17) The world passeth away.—No reasonable man can set his affections on what is in its very essence perishable; for the perishable must be ever disappointing, and can in no sense satisfy. It is only passion, and the madness of folly, and the contagion of accumulated examples, that influence the soul towards what can only create the agonising ache of a growing void.

And the lust thereof.—Of all the long succession of impulses excited by the world, nothing remains but the injury which they have inflicted.

But he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.—There is no permanence but that of defeat and failure in what is in rebellion to the Supreme Author and Ruler of all things. But that which has continuously derived all its sustenance from Him, must have absorbed from Him the “bright shoots” of that “everlastingness” which is His. Everything that is good is a part of Him, and can no more fade than He can. It is by being in harmony with this undeviating tendency of righteousness to victory that real happiness discovers its own secret. (Comp. John 10:28-29; 1Corinthians 7:31; James 1:10; 1Peter 1:24.)

1 John 2:12. I write unto you, little, or beloved, children — Because this appellation is used (1 John 2:1) to denote Christians of all ages and characters. Beza, and many other critics, suppose that St. John here addresses the whole body of Christ’s disciples, as their common instructer, (see on 1 John 2:1,) whom he afterward divides into three classes. In support of this opinion, it may be observed, 1st, That the word by which, in the distribution, he expresses young Christians, is παιδια, which properly means young children, and not τεκνια, which, it seems, should be here rendered dear, or beloved children; 2d, That the reason which St. John assigns for writing to those to whom he gives the latter appellation, namely, that their sins were forgiven them, through Christ, is applicable to the whole body of believers; and was a strong reason, for such of them as John addressed, not to love the world, &c.

2:12-14 As Christians have their peculiar states, so they have peculiar duties; but there are precepts and obedience common to all, particularly mutual love, and contempt of the world. The youngest sincere disciple is pardoned: the communion of saints is attended with the forgiveness of sins. Those of the longest standing in Christ's school need further advice and instruction. Even fathers must be written unto, and preached unto; none are too old to learn. But especially young men in Christ Jesus, though they are arrived at strength of spirit and sound sense, and have successfully resisted first trials and temptations, breaking off bad habits and connexions, and entered in at the strait gate of true conversion. The different descriptions of Christians are again addressed. Children in Christ know that God is their Father; it is wisdom. Those advanced believers, who know Him that was from the beginning, before this world was made, may well be led thereby to give up this world. It will be the glory of young persons to be strong in Christ, and his grace. By the word of God they overcome the wicked one.I write unto you, little children - There has been much difference of opinion among commentators in regard to this verse and the three following verses, on account of their apparent tautology. Even Doddridge supposes that considerable error has here crept into the text, and that a portion of these verses should be omitted in order to avoid the repetition. But there is no authority for omitting any portion of the text, and the passage is very much in accordance with the general style of the apostle John. The author of this Epistle was evidently accustomed to express his thoughts in a great variety of ways, having even the appearance of tautology, that the exact idea might be before his readers, and that his meaning might not be misapprehended. In order to show that the truths which he was uttering in this Epistle pertained to all, and to secure the interest of all in them, he addresses himself to different classes, and says that there were reasons existing in regard to each class why he wrote to them.

In the expressions "I write," and "I have written," he refers to what is found in the Epistle itself, and the statements in these verses are designed to be "reasons" why he brought these truths before their minds. The word here rendered "little children" (τεκνία teknia) is different from that used in 1 John 2:13, and rendered there "little children," (παιδία paidia;) but there can be little doubt that the same class of persons is intended. Some have indeed supposed that by the term "little children" here, as in 1 John 2:1, the apostle means to address all believers - speaking to them as a father; but it seems more appropriate to suppose that he means in these verses to divide the body of Christians whom he addressed into three classes - children, young men, and the aged, and to state particular reasons why he wrote to each. If the term (τεκνία teknia) "little children" here means the same as the term (παιδία paidia) "little children" in 1 John 2:13, then he addresses each of these classes twice in these two verses, giving each time somewhat varied reasons why he addressed them. That, by the term "little children" here, he means children literally, seems to me to be clear,

(1) because this is the usual meaning of the word, and should be understood to be the meaning here, unless there is something in the connection to show that it is used in a metaphorical sense;

(2) because it seems necessary to understand the other expressions, "young men," and "fathers," in a literal sense, as denoting those more advanced in life;

(3) because this would be quite in character for the apostle John. He had recorded, and would doubtless remember the solemn injunction of the Saviour to Peter John 21:15, to "feed his lambs," and the aged apostle could not but feel that what was worthy of so solemn an injunction from the Lord, was worthy of his attention and care as an apostle; and,

(4) because in that case, each class, fathers, young men, and children, would be twice addressed in these two verses; whereas if we understood this of Christians in general, then fathers and young men would be twice addressed, and children but once.

If this is so, it may be remarked:

(1) that there were probably quite young children in the church in the time of the apostle John, for the word would naturally convey that idea.

(2) the exact age cannot be indeed determined, but two things are clear:

(a) one is, that they were undoubtedly under 20 years of age, since they were younger than the "young men" - νεανίσκοι neaniskoi - a word usually applied to those who were in the vigor of life, from about the period of 20 up to 40 years, (Notes, 1 John 2:13), and this word would embrace all who were younger than that class; and,

(b) the other is, that the word itself would convey the idea that they were in quite early life, as the word "children" - fair translation of it - does now with us. It is not possible to determine, from the use of this word, precisely of what age the class here referred to was, but the word would imply that they were in quite early life. No rule is laid down in the New Testament as to the age in which children may be admitted to the communion. The whole subject is left to the wise discretion of the church, and is safely left there. Cases must vary so much that no rule could be laid down; and little or no evil has arisen from leaving the point undetermined in the Scriptures. It may be doubted, however, whether the church has not been rather in danger of erring by having it deferred too late, than by admitting children too early.

(3) such children, if worthy the attention of an aged apostle, should receive the particular notice of pastors now. Compare the notes at John 21:15. There are reasons in all cases now, as there were then, why this part of a congregation should receive the special attention of a minister of religion. The hopes of a church are in them. Their minds are susceptible to impression. The character of the piety in the next age will depend on their views of religion. All that there is of value in the church and the world will soon pass into their hands. The houses, farms, factories; the pulpits, and the chairs of professors in colleges; the seats of senators and the benches of judges; the great offices of state, and all the offices in the church; the interests of learning, and of benevolence and liberty, are all soon to be under their control. Everything valuable in this world will soon depend on their conduct and character; and who, therefore, can over-estimate the importance of training them up in just views of religion. As John "wrote" to this class, should not pastors "preach" to them?

Because - ὅτι hoti. This particle may be rendered "for," or "because;" and the meaning may be either that the fact that their sins were forgiven was a reason for writing to them, since it would be proper, on that ground, to exhort them to a holy life; or that he wrote to them because it was a privilege to address them as those who were forgiven, for he felt that, in speaking to them, he could address them as such. It seems to me that it is to be taken as a causal particle, and that the apostle, in the various specifications which he makes, designs to assign particular reasons why he wrote to each class, enjoining on them the duties of a holy life. Compare 1 John 2:21.

Your sins are forgiven you - That is, this is a reason why he wrote to them, and enjoined these things on them. The meaning seems to be, that the fact that our past sins are blotted out furnishes a strong reason why we should be holy. That reason is founded on the goodness of God in doing it, and on the obligation under which we are brought by the fact that God has had mercy on us. This is a consideration which children will feel as well as others; for there is nothing which will tend more to make a child obedient hereafter, than the fact that a parent freely forgives the past.


12. little children—Greek, "little sons," or "dear sons and daughters"; not the same Greek as in 1Jo 2:13, "little children," "infants" (in age and standing). He calls ALL to whom he writes, "little sons" (1Jo 2:1, Greek; 1Jo 2:28; 3:18; 4:4; 5:21); but only in 1Jo 2:13, 18 he uses the term "little children," or "infants." Our Lord, whose Spirit John so deeply drank into, used to His disciples (Joh 13:33) the term "little sons," or dear sons and daughters; but in Joh 21:5, "little children." It is an undesigned coincidence with the Epistle here, that in John's Gospel somewhat similarly the classification, "lambs, sheep, sheep," occurs.

are forgiven—"have been, and are forgiven you": ALL God's sons and daughters alike enjoy this privilege.

He here uses an appellation before {1Jo 2:1} applied to all in common, being put alone; but being now set in contradistinction to others, must be understood to intend a distinct rank of Christians, viz. those more newly entered into the Christian state; and to them he suggests the free remission of their sins

for his name’s sake, i.e. for his own sake, as the reason why they should, out of ingenuity, and a new, recent sense of God’s mercy towards them, comply with his holy pleasure in the following precept. The remission of their sins being a first and most early privilege with them, that commenced from the beginning of their sincere Christianity, and which was sealed to them in their late baptism, it is the more fitly mentioned to this first rank of Christians.

I write unto you, little children,.... By whom the apostle means in common all the saints he writes to, whom he afterwards distributes into fathers, young men, and little children; for the same word is used here as in 1 John 2:1; and a different one from that which is rendered little children in 1 John 2:13; and besides, the following blessing of pardon of sin is common to all the children of God of different ages: now what the apostle says he writes unto them, intends not the epistle in general, but the new commandment of love in particular; and which he urges and enforces on them all, for this reason,

because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake; these little children had been sinners by nature and practice, and were not now without sin, but they shared in the blessing of the forgiveness of it; which arises from the abundant mercy and rich grace of God, and proceeds on the blood and sacrifice of Christ; and therefore is said to be "for his name's sake"; not for the sake of any merits in men, any services or works of theirs, but for the sake of Christ, his blood, sacrifice and satisfaction; and it reaches to all sins, original and actual, secret and open, past, present, and to come; and here intends the application of it by the Spirit of God, and the reception of it by faith: and which, as it is a reason and argument encouraging love to God, who freely and fully forgives, and to Christ, whose blood was shed for the remission of sin, so to their brethren and fellow Christians; who are equally sharers in the same blessing, and when they should love, because they are loved of God and Christ; and whom they should forgive, because God, for Christ's sake, has forgiven them. It may be, they may be called here "little children", with a view to their interest in this blessing of grace. So the Jews say (f), that Saul was called

""the son of one year in his reign"; 1 Samuel 13:1; because all his iniquities were forgiven him, "as a sucking child" of a year old.''

(f) T. Hieros. Biccurim, fol. 65. 4.

{i} I write unto you, {9} little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his {k} name's sake.

(i) Therefore I write to you, because you are of their number whom God has reconciled to himself.

(9) He returns again from the sanctification to remission of sins, because that free reconciliation in Christ is the ground of our salvation upon which afterwards sanctification must be built as upon a foundation.

(k) For his own sake: in that he names Christ he eliminates all others, whether they are in heaven or on earth.

1 John 2:12-14. After the apostle has depicted the Christian life in its essential features, he passes on to exhortation. To this these verses form the introduction, in which the apostle assures his readers that their Christianity is the ground of his writing. The motive of this, which explains also the form of expression, is the earnest longing which inspires the apostle, that his readers may take home to themselves the following exhortation.

The apostle addresses them under four different names: τεκνία and παιδία, πατέρες, νεανίσκοι. By the two latter names they are distinguished according to the two corresponding degrees of age;[119] in the case of ΠΑΤΈΡΕς the proper meaning is not to be strictly retained, but in contrast to ΝΕΑΝΊΣΚΟΙ it is = ΓΈΡΟΝΤΕς or ΠΡΕΣΒΎΤΕΡΟΙ, the members of the church who are already in advanced age; thus Erasmus, Calvin, Socinus, Morus, Carpzov, Lange, Paulus, de Wette-Brückner, Lücke, Düsterdieck, Braune, etc.

The ΝΕΑΝΊΣΚΟΙ are the younger members of the church; Calvin: tametsi diminutivo utitur, non tamen dubium est, quin sermonem ad omnes dirigat, qui sunt in aetatis flore et statu. The view of Augustine is to be rejected, that under the three names the same persons are addressed, whom the apostle only designates differently in different aspects: filioli, quia baptismo neonati sunt; patres, quia Christum patrem et antiquum dierum agnoscunt; adoleseentes, quia fortes sunt et validi. So also is the opinion that the apostle has in view, not the difference in age, but the difference in the degree, or even in the length of existence of Christian life; a Lapide: triplici hoc aetatis gradu triplicem Christianorum in virtute gradum et quasi aetatum repraesentat; pueri enim repraesentant incipientes et neophytos; juvenes repraesentant proficientes; senes perfectos; similarly Clemens, Oecumenius, further Gagneius, Cajetanus, Russmeyer, Grotius,[120] etc. Some commentators (as Erasmus, Socinus, J. Lange, Myrberg) also refer the two expressions: ΤΕΚΝΊΑ (1 John 2:12) and ΠΑΙΔΊΑ (1 John 2:13), to the difference of age, and understand by them children, in the proper sense of the word; but more prevalent is the view that this is true of παιδία only, and that ΤΕΚΝΊΑ, on the other hand, is to be regarded as a form of address to all Christians; Calvin: haec (namely, 1 John 2:12) adhuc generalis est sententia, mox speciales sententias accomodabit singulis aetatibus; similarly Luther, Beza, Calov, Wolf, Baumgarten-Crusius, Sander, Neander, Besser, Ebrard, etc. With the first view there arises a wrong succession, namely: children, fathers, young men, instead of: children, young men, fathers, or: fathers, young men, children; and, moreover, since τεκνία is in the Epistle frequently the form of address to all readers, and not only with, but also without ΜΟΜ (see on 1 John 2:1), so it is to be taken here also. Equally, however, by ΠΑΙΔΊΑ the apostle addresses all readers, as Lücke, de Wette-Brückner, Düsterdieck, Gerlach, Erdmann, Ewald, Braune rightly interpret. If we read before παιδία, with the Receptus: γράφω ὑμῖν, there certainly results, if ΠΑΙΔΊΑ is taken as alluding to children, a more accurate succession: fathers, young men, children; but (1) according to almost all authorities we must read, not ΓΡΆΦΩ, but ἜΓΡΑΨΑ, and the former reading can only be explained in this way, that ΠΑΙΔΊΑ was understood in its proper sense, and it was thought that this clause must be brought into the closest connection with the preceding; (2) then in the repetition of the same succession in 1 John 2:14 one member of it is wanting, as the children are not mentioned again; and (3) in 1 John 2:18 ΠΑΙΔΊΑ is used as a form of address in reference to all readers; comp. John 21:5. Against the two last reasons it might indeed be alleged, with Bengel, Sander, and Besser, that from 1 John 2:14 to 1 John 2:17 is still intended for the ΝΕΑΝΊΣΚΟΙς, and that then in 1 John 2:18 the address to the children comes in, and that the sequel as far as 1 John 2:27 refers to them. But against this construction is—(1) the dissimilarity in the form of the sentences that thereby results; (2) the absence of an exhortation addressed to the fathers; (3) the unsuitable reference of the warning against false teachers specially to the children, with the additional remark: οἴδατε πάντα, 1 John 2:20, and Οὐ ΧΡΕΊΑΝ ἜΧΕΤΕ, ἽΝΑ ΤῚς ΔΙΔΆΣΚῌ ὙΜᾶς, even though the warning against false teachers in chap. 1 John 4:1 ff. is referred without distinction to all readers; and finally, (4) the close connection of 1 John 2:17 and 1 John 2:18 : Ὁ ΚΌΣΜΟς ΠΑΡΆΓΕΤΑΙ (comp. 1 John 2:8 : Ἡ ΣΚΟΤΊΑ ΠΑΡΆΓΕΤΑΙ), and ἘΣΧΆΤΗ ὭΡΑ ἘΣΤΊ.

According to the true construction of the sentences, they fall into two groups; in each group first all Christians, and then specially the older and the younger members of the church, are addressed;[121] the correctness of this construction is shown also by this, that in reference to πατέρες, and equally to νεανίσκοι, in both groups the same thing is expressed, but in reference to all there are different statements. The arbitrary conjecture of Calvin (with whom Wall agrees), that both the clauses of 1 John 2:14 are spurious, and interpolated temere by ignorant readers, requires no refutation.

The interchange of γράφω with the aorist ἔγραψα is peculiar, and is not to be explained by saying that ἔγραψα points to another writing of the apostle, whether it be the Gospel (Storr, Lange, Baumgarten-Crusius, Schott, Ebrard, Hofmann, Schriftbew. II. 2, § 336; Braune[122]), or even an earlier Epistle (Michaelis); both expressions rather refer, as most of the commentators have recognised, to this Epistle; not, however, to the same thing, as some commentators suppose; thus Bengel, who regards the two expressions as synonymous, explains: verbo scribendi ex praesenti in praeterito transposito innuit commonitionem firmissimam, which cannot be grammatically justified;[123] and Düsterdieck, who thinks that the “different import of the present and of the aorist can only be sought for in the representation of the writing itself; that both times the apostle means the whole Epistle lying before him; that by γράφω he represents himself in the immediately present act of writing, and by ἔγραψα, on the other hand, his readers, who have received the completed Epistle;” opposed to this, however, is the fact that such a change of the mere form of representation would certainly be rather trifling. The ἔγραψα must be referred to something else than the preceding γράφω; yet it is not, with Neander and Erdmann,[124] to be referred to that which is expressed in the clauses beginning with γράφω; for, on the one hand, the clauses beginning with ἔγραψα have not the form of confirmation, and, on the other hand, there is no real cause apparent for the addition of such a confirmation; it seems more appropriate when Rickli thinks that γράφω refers to what follows, and ἔγραψα to what precedes;[125] but opposed to this is the fact that ἜΓΡΑΨΑ would then stand more naturally before ΓΡΆΦΩ. The correct view has been taken by de Wette, Brückner, and Ewald, who refer ἜΓΡΑΨΑ to what was already written, and ΓΡΆΦΩ to the immediate act of writing, and hence to the Epistle in general; taking this view, it is quite in order for John to write ΓΡΆΦΩ first, and that he then refers specially by ἜΓΡΑΨΑ to what has been already written is explained in this way, that this contains the principal grounds for the following exhortations and amplifications.[126]

In each part a clause beginning with ὍΤΙ follows the address; this ὍΤΙ is not objective or declarative = “that” (Socinus, Lange, Russmeyer, Bengel, Paulus, Johannsen, Neander, Hilgenfeld, etc.), but causal: “because” (Calvin, Beza, Baumgarten-Crusius, Lücke, de Wette-Brückner, Gerlach, Düsterdieck, Myrberg, Ebrard,[127] etc.). The apostle does not want to say what he is writing, but why he is writing to them; comp. especially 1 John 2:20, also 1 John 2:21; 1 John 2:27; 1 John 3:5; 1 John 3:14-15; 1 John 5:18-20. The particular Christian experiences of his readers form the fundamental presuppositions of the Epistle; it is not anything new that the apostle declares unto them, but he reminds them of what they know, so that they may take it more seriously to heart.

The first thing that the apostle, addressing all, reminds them of is: ὅτι ἀφέωνται ὑμῖν αἱ ἁμαρτίαι διὰ τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ. The forgiveness of sins is the basis of all Christian life; therefore this is put first.

On the form used here, the perfect passive ἈΦΈΩΝΤΑΙ, see Buttmann, Ausf. gr. Gr. § 97, Anmerk. 3, and § 108, note 1; and Winer, p. 74, VII. p. 77. The Vulgate and Luther incorrectly translated it as if it were the present: “are forgiven” (similarly Rickli and others; Paulus strangely interprets, deriving it from ἀφʼ ἑάω = ἈΦʼ ἙῶΝΤΑΙ, dimittuntur).

ΔΙΆ with the accusative is not = “through” (this meaning, as is well known, it has only with the genitive, comp. Acts 10:43 : ἌΦΕΣΙΝ ἉΜΑΡΤΙῶΝ ΛΑΒΕῖΝ ΔΙᾺ ΤΟῦ ὈΝΌΜΑΤΟς ΑὐΤΟῦ), but = “for the sake of;αὐτοῦ = ΧΡΙΣΤΟῦ, not = ΘΕΟῦ (Socinus, Paulus). According to most of the commentators, ΔΙᾺ Τ. ὌΝ. ΑὐΤΟῦ refers to the objective ground of the forgiveness of sins, and ΤῸ ὌΝΟΜΑ ΑὐΤΟῦ signifies Christ Himself; thus Düsterdieck: “Christ who is what His name signifies;”[128] but this is contrary to the Biblical usus loquendi; if by διά Christ is referred to as the author of salvation, the preposition is always construed with the genitive; by ΔΙᾺ ΤῸ ὌΝΟΜΑ ΑὐΤΟῦ, therefore, it is the subjective ground of forgiveness that is stated (de Wette-Brückner, Braune), in this sense: because His name is in you, i.e. because ye believe on His name (comp. 1 John 2:23 : πιστεύειν τῷ ὀνόματι Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ). The name is therefore not regarded as empty, but as the form which includes the contents and reveals them; so that the subjective ground embraces in itself the objective.

In the second group it is said, in regard to the readers of the Epistle there called ΠΑΙΔΊΑ: ΓΡ. ὙΜῖΝὍΤΙ ἘΓΝΏΚΑΤΕ ΤῸΝ ΠΑΤΈΡΑ. By Ὁ ΠΑΤΉΡ we are not to understand, with Hornejus, Christ, inasmuch as believers per fidem in nomen ejus renati sunt, for such a designation of Christ has the constant usus loquendi of Scripture against it, but God; for the name ὁ πατήρ is used here without any more particular definition, with clear reference to ΠΑΙΔΊΑ, and so God is here so called, not merely on account of His relationship to Christ, but equally on account of His relationship to those who, by faith in Christ, have obtained the forgiveness of their sins, and are thereby placed in the relationship of children to God. From this it is clear also how exactly ὍΤΙ ἈΦΈΩΝΤΑΙ ὙΜῖΝ ΑἹ ἉΜΑΡΤΊΑΙ and ὍΤΙ ἘΓΝΏΚΑΤΕ ΤῸΝ ΠΑΤΈΡΑ correspond with one another. But in the fact that John ascribes to the believers both of these, he testifies to them that they are in possession of the fulness of divine peace and of divine truth.

In regard to the ΠΑΤΈΡΕς, the apostle brings out the same thing in both groups, 1 John 2:13-14 : ὍΤΙ ἘΓΝΏΚΑΤΕ ΤῸΝ ἈΠʼ ἈΡΧῆς. If the forgiveness of sins and the knowledge of God are common to all, the knowledge of Him who is ἈΠʼ ἈΡΧῆς is specially appropriate to the older members of the church. When some commentators, as a Lapide, Grotius, (novistis Deum, qui Senex dierum; Daniel 7:9; Dan. 13:22), and others, understand by Ὁ ἈΠʼ ἈΡΧῆς God, they ignore the deeper connection which exists between the particular ideas; Ὁ ἈΠʼ ἈΡΧῆς is Christ, but not so called because He is the author of Christianity (Socinus: novi foederis et evangelii patefacti primum initium; Semler: qui inde ab initio auctor fuit hujus melioris religionis), but because He is from all eternity; ἈΠʼ ἈΡΧῆς is used in the same sense as in chap. 1 John 1:1. John brings out by this designation of Christ the truth that Christ is subject of their knowledge in the quality of His being herein mentioned; it is therefore incorrect to understand ἘΓΝΏΚΑΤΕ of the personal knowledge of Him who was manifest in the flesh (Bengel, Schoettgen, etc.); the word has rather the same meaning as in 1 John 2:3.[129] John ascribes this knowledge to the fathers, because he might with justice assume that they had not contented themselves with a superficial knowledge of Christ in His appearance according to the sense, but had looked more deeply into the eternal nature of the Lord.

In regard to the young men, it is said in both groups: ὅτι νενικήκαΊατε τὸν πονηρόν; not as if the same were not true also of the older members of the church, but John attributes this eminently to the young men, because they—in accordance with their age—had just recently obtained this victory, and their care therefore must be specially this, not to lose again what had been lately won. That ὁ πονηρός is the devil (comp. Matthew 13:19; Matthew 13:38-39; Ephesians 6:16; 1 John 3:12; 1 John 5:18-19) the commentators have rightly recognised.[130] Carpzov suitably says: Viris fortibus et robustis tribuiter supra fortissimum et robustissimum victoria. In the second group some further subordinate clauses precede that word, which state the conditions under which the young men have attained their victory: ὍΤΙ ἸΣΧΥΡΟΊ ἘΣΤΕ; ἸΣΧΥΡΟΊ, “strong in spirit,” with special reference to the fight, comp. Hebrews 11:34; Luke 11:21; Matthew 12:29 (Düsterdieck); here also ὅτι is “because,” not: “that,” thus: “because ye are strong,” not: “that ye are to be strong” (Paulus).

This conquering power of the young men is not their “own moral strength” (Baumgarten-Crusius), but the effect of the Word of God; therefore John adds: καὶ ὁ λόγος τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐν ὑμῖν μένει, and only then brings in ΚΑῚ ΝΕΝΙΚΉΚΑΤΕ Κ.Τ.Λ.

The individual sentences are simply placed side by side in order to let each of them appear the more strongly in its own meaning. The train of thought, however, is this, that their strength has its ground in the Word of God, which is permanent in them (ΜΈΝΕΙ), and that it is in this power that they have attained the victory.[131] This relation is correctly stated by Grotius, who explains the first καί by quia, the second by ob id.

ὁ λόγος τοῦ Θεοῦ is not = Christ, but the word proceeding from God, i.e. the Gospel, of which the personal Christ is no doubt the substance.

[119] That “the distinction between church leaders and church members appears in the distinction between old and young” (Hilgenfeld), is in no way suggested.

[120] Grotius: Partitur Christianos in tres classes, quae discrimina non secundum aetatem, sed secundum gradus diversos ejus profectus, qui in Christo est, intelligi debent, cf. 1 Corinthians 13:11-121 John 2:12-17. The Appeal of Experience. “I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake; I am writing to you, fathers, because ye have got to know Him that it is from the beginning I am writing to you, young men, because ye have conquered the Evil One. I wrote to you, little ones, because ye have got to know the Father; I wrote to you, fathers, because ye have got to know Him that is from the beginning; I wrote to you, young men, because ye are strong, and the Word of God abideth in you, and ye have conquered the Evil One. Love not the world, nor the things that are in the world. If any one loveth the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because everything that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the braggart boast of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away and the lust of it, but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”

The Apostle has been setting forth searching truths and is about to make an exacting claim; and here he pauses and with much tenderness reassures his readers: “I am not addressing you as unbelievers or casting doubt upon the sincerity of your faith. On the contrary, it is because I am assured thereof that I am writing this letter to you and wrote the Gospel which accompanies it”.

12–14. Threefold Statement of Reasons for Writing

“Hitherto St John has stated briefly the main scope of his Epistle. He has shewn what is the great problem of life, and how the Gospel meets it with an answer and a law complete and progressive, old and new. He now pauses, as it were to contemplate those whom he is addressing more distinctly and directly, and to gather up in a more definite form the charge which is at once the foundation and the end of all he writes” (Westcott).

These verses have given rise to much discussion (1) as to the different classes addressed, (2) as to the meaning of the change of tense, from ‘I write’ to ‘I wrote’ or ‘have written’.

(1) It will be observed that we have two triplets, each consisting of little children, fathers and young men. There is a slight change of wording in the Greek not apparent in the English, the word for ‘little children’ in the first triplet (τεκνία) being not the same as in the second (παιδία). But this need not make us give a different interpretation in each case. ‘Little children’ throughout the Epistle, whether expressed as in 1 John 2:14; 1 John 2:18 (παιδία), or as in 1 John 2:1; 1 John 2:12; 1 John 2:28, 1 John 3:7; 1 John 3:18, 1 John 4:4, 1 John 5:21 (τεκνία), probably means the Apostle’s readers generally, and has nothing to do with age or with standing in the Christian community. It indicates neither those who are of tender years, nor those who are young in the faith. It is a term of affection for all the Apostle’s ‘dear children’. But this is not the case with either ‘fathers’ or ‘young men’. These terms are probably in each triplet to be understood of the older and younger men among the Christians addressed. This fully accounts for the order in each triplet; first the whole community, then the old, then the young. If ‘little children’ had reference to age, we should have had either ‘children, youths, fathers’, or ‘fathers, youths, children’. There is, however, something to be said for the view that all S. John’s readers are addressed in all three cases, the Christian life of all having analogies with youth, manhood, and age; with the innocence of childhood, the strength of prime, and the experience of full maturity.

(2) The change of tense cannot be explained with so much confidence. But an important correction of reading must first be noticed. We ought not to read with A. V. ‘I write’ four times and then ‘I have written’ twice: but with R. V. ‘I write’ thrice and then ‘I have written’ or ‘I wrote’ thrice. This correction confirms the explanation given above of the different classes addressed. The following interpretations of the change from the present to the aorist have been suggested. 1. ‘I write’ refers to the Epistle, ‘I wrote’ to the Gospel which it accompanies. The Apostle first gives reasons why he is writing this letter to the Church and to particular portions of it; and then gives reasons, partly the same and partly not, why he wrote the Gospel to which it makes such frequent allusions. On the whole this seems most satisfactory. It gives a thoroughly intelligible meaning to each tense and accounts for the abrupt change. 2. ‘I write’ refers to this Epistle; ‘I wrote’ to a former Epistle. But of any former Epistle we have no evidence whatever. 3. ‘I write’ refers to the whole Epistle; ‘I wrote’ to the first part down to 1 John 2:11. But would S. John have first said that he wrote the whole letter for certain reasons, and then said that he wrote a portion of it for much the same reasons? Had ‘I wrote’ preceded ‘I write’, and had the reasons in each triplet been more different, this explanation would have been more satisfactory. 4. ‘I write’ refers to what follows, ‘I wrote’ to what precedes. This is a construction louche indeed! The objection urged against the preceding explanation applies still more strongly. 5. ‘I write’ is written from the writer’s point of view, ‘I wrote’ from the reader’s point of view: the latter is the epistolary aorist, like scripsi or scribebam in Latin (comp. Php 2:25; Php 2:28; Philemon 1:12, and especially 19 and 21). But is it likely that S. John would make three statements from his own stand-point, and then repeat them from his readers’ stand-point? And if so, why make any change in them? 6. The repetition is made for emphasis. This explains the repetition, but not the change of tense. Hence ‘What I have written, I have written’ (John 19:22), and ‘Rejoice … and again I will say, rejoice’ (Php 4:4) are not analogous; for there the same tense is repeated. 7. S. John may have left off writing at the end of 1 John 2:13, and then on resuming may have partly repeated himself from the new point of time, saying ‘I wrote’ where he had previously said ‘I write’. This is conceivable, but is a little fine-drawn.—Without, therefore, confidently affirming that it is the right explanation, we fall back upon the one first stated, as intelligible in itself and more satisfactory than the others.

little children] All his readers; as in 1 John 2:1; 1 John 2:28, 1 John 3:7; 1 John 3:18, &c.

because your sins are forgiven you] Some would render ‘that your sins are forgiven you’; and so in each of these sentences substituting ‘that’ for ‘because’. This is grammatically quite possible, but is otherwise highly improbable: comp. 1 John 2:21. S. John is not telling them what he is writing, but why he writes it. The forgiveness of sins is the very first condition of Christian morals (1 John 1:7); therefore he reminds them all of this first.

for His name’s sake] Of course Jesus Christ’s. It was by believing on His Name that they acquired the right to become children of God (John 1:12). ‘The Name of Jesus Christ’ is not a mere periphrasis for Jesus Christ. Names in Scripture are constantly given as marks of character possessed or of functions to be performed. This is the case with all the Divine Names. The Name of Jesus Christ indicates His attributes and His relations to man and to God. It is through these that the sins of S. John’s dear children have been forgiven.

12–28. The Things and Persons to be Avoided

These are summed up under two heads: i. The World and the Things in the World (15–17); ii. Antichrists (18–26). The section begins with a threefold statement of the happy experiences which those addressed have had in the Gospel, and gives these as a reason for their being addressed (12–14), and ends with an exhortation to abide in Christ as the best safeguard from the dangers against which the Apostle has been warning them (27, 28).

1 John 2:12. Ἔγραψα ὑμῖν, τεκνία, I have written to you, my sons) John, throughout the whole of the Epistle, and in this chapter, calls all to whom he writes, τεκνία, sons; but in 1 John 2:13-27, he particularly divides them into fathers, young men, and παιδία, or children. Wherefore τεκνία and παιδία are not synonymous. Writing to τεκνία, his sons, ch. 1 John 2:1, he says, at the beginning of the paragraph, I write, 1 John 2:1 (comp. 1 John 2:7-8); and here, at the conclusion, he sub joins, I have written; not changing the things already mentioned, but confirming them again and again: 1 John 2:12. Comp. 1 Peter 5:12, I have written. Thence he suitably addresses three degrees of age, which are according to nature, but variously imbued with grace: and he addresses as fathers, those who had witnessed the time of Jesus Christ engaged on earth: as young men, those who, having overcome the wicked one, ought also boldly to have subdued the world lying in the wicked one, and the lust of the world: as παιδία, little children, those whom, after the departure of the fathers and the young men, the last hour was unexpectedly[1] coming upon, and in it Antichrist. This address has a proposition or statement, and a discussion of the subject. In the statement he says: I write to you, fathers: I write to you, young men: I write to you, παιδία, little children: 1 John 2:13; but in the discussion of the subject, he says, I have written to you, fathers, 1 John 2:14 : I have written to you, young men, 1 John 2:14-17 : I have written to you, παιδία, little children, 1 John 2:18-27; the word, I have written, being itself twice inserted at 1 John 2:21; 1 John 2:26. The method of these passages very closely resembles that of the beginning and conclusion of the Epistle: for ch. 1 John 1:4, he uses the verb, of writing, in the present tense; but in ch. 1 John 5:13 he says, I have written. Having ended the threefold address, he returns to them collectively, again addressing them as τεκνία, beloved sons, 1 John 2:28. From this division the various readings in 12th[2] and following verses, noticed in the Apparatus, are more easily refuted.—ὑμῖν, to you) The doctrine of the remission of sins belongs to the fathers also, respecting whom we have just spoken.—ἀφέωνται, are remitted) The apostle puts this summing up of the things which he has hitherto treated of, proceeding to other things which are built upon the remission of sins as a foundation.—διὰ) on account of.—αὐτοῦ, of Himself) Jesus Christ.

[1] Occupo, like φθάνω, used in the sense of taking by surprise. He warns them that the last time, in which Antichrist should appear, was about to come. The last time was in a certain sense already come, but its decided development was to be after the death of the fathers and young men.—T.

[2] Inferior authorities read παιδία for τεκνία in 1 John 2:13.—E.

Verses 12-14. - Before passing on to the second thing which walking in the light excludes, viz. love of the world (verses 15-17), the apostle twice makes a threefold address, first stating why he writes γράφω, and secondly why he wrote ἔγραψα, to the three classes named. This suggests several questions.

(1) What is the difference between "I write" (or, "am writing") and "I wrote" (or, "have written;" for this is a case where the English perfect may represent the Greek aorist)? Five answers are given.

(a) The change is made for emphasis: "I write; I wrote; there is nothing more to be said." But in this case the past tense should come first: "I wrote; I write it again." Moreover, we should expect the perfect rather than the aorist, as in ο{ γέγραφα γέγραφα.

(b) "I write" refers to what follows; "I wrote," to what precedes. And some have even tried to find out the three different portions in each part of the Epistle; e.g., "I write to you, little children" (1 John 2:15-17); "to you, fathers" (1 John 2:18-27); "to you, young men" (1 John 2:28-3:22): "I wrote to you, children" (1 John 1:5-7); "to you, fathers" (chapter 1:8-2:2); "to you, young men" (1 John 2:3-11). But this is fanciful and very arbitrary; and in this case also the past tense should come first: "I have written thus far to you; again I proceed to write to you."

(c) "I write" refers to the whole Epistle; "I wrote," to what precedes. This answer has the sanction of the 'Speaker's Commentary;' but it seems to be quite frivolous. What could induce St. John first of all to tell each class that he writes the whole Epistle to them, and then to tell them that he wrote the first part of it to them? There would be little enough sense in first saying that he wrote the beginning to them, and then that he writes the whole to them; but there is no sense in the former statement if it comes after the latter.

(d) "I am writing" is from St. John's point of view, as he pens the growing letter. "I wrote" is from the readers' point of view, as they peruse the completed letter. But what is gained by this change of standpoint? Is it probable that St. John would make three distinct addresses in the position of the writer of the Epistle, and then solemnly repeat them in the position of the recipients of it?

(e) The Epistle is written as a companion to the Gospel: therefore "I write" refers to the Epistle, which he is in the act of composing; "I wrote," to the Gospel, which lies completed before him, and on which the Epistle serves as a commentary. This seems to be the most satisfactory explanation (see on chapter 1 John 1:4).

(2) Who are indicated by the three classes? In the first triplet, τεκνία, as elsewhere in the Epistle (verses 1, 28; 1 John 3:18; 1 John 4:4, 5, 21), refers to his readers as a whole, of whom πάτρες and νεανίσκοι are two component divisions. This is probably the case in the second triplet also, although the change from τεκνία to παιδία renders this a little doubtful (see on verse 13).

(3) Does the difference between "fathers" and "young men" refer to age as men or age as Christians? Probably the former. In both Gospel and Epistle St. John writes to mature and well-instructed Christians. The following table will illustrate the view taken: -

I write this Epistle: ? Reasons for writing it:

1. To all of you. ? You have been forgiven.

2. To the old among you ? You have knowledge of the Word.

3. To the young among you. ? You have conquered the evil one.

I wrote my Gospel: ? Reasons for writing it:

1. To all of you (?). ? You have knowledge of the Father.

2. To the old among you ? You have knowledge of the Word.

3. To the young among you. ? You have strength, have God's revelation in your hearts, and have conquered the evil one. Verse 12. - I am writing to you, little children (see on verse 1), because, etc. Beyond reasonable doubt, ὅτι, is "because," not "that," in verses 12-14; it gives the reason for his writing, not the substance of what he has to say (cf. verse 21). For his Name's sake must refer to Christ, not only because of the context, but also of the instrumental διά (cf. 1 John 3:23; 1 John 5:13; John 1:12); and Christ's Name means his character, especially as Saviour. Because they have already partaken of the ἱλασμός (verse 2), and have had their sins washed away in the blood of Christ (1 John 1:7), therefore he writes to them this Epistle. Note the perfects throughout, indicating the permanent result of past action: ἀφέωνται ἐγνώκατε νενικήκατε. 1 John 2:12Little children

See on 1 John 2:1, and John 1:12. Not children in age, but addressed to the readers generally.


See on John 1:12; see on John 2:23.

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