1 John 2:12-14
I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake.…
I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you, etc. Our text teaches:
1. That the revelations of redemptive truth are adapted to every season of human life. St. John writes to little children, to young men, and to fathers. To each of these classes the Bible has much to say, and much that is appropriate to each class. The Bible is the book for the little child, for the venerable sage, and for all the intermediate seasons of life.
2. That there should be an appropriate relation between the physical seasons and the spiritual experiences of human life. Some of these seasons and experiences are mentioned in our text; and to these we now turn our attention.
I. AS EXPERIENCE COMMON TO ALL CHRISTIANS. "I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his Name's sake." In this place we regard the "little children" as addressed to all the apostle's readers, irrespective of age. The word which he uses τεκνία is employed seven times in this Epistle, and always as comprehending the whole of his readers.
1. The great blessing enjoyed. "Your sins are forgiven you." This forgiveness is an accomplished fact, and is realized by the Christian as a present blessing. And how great a blessing it is! He who receives it is set free from the guilt of his sins, delivered from their condemnation, exempted from their punishment; and there is imparted to him a blessed consciousness of the favour of God - "the love of God is shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost." Dr. Maclaren has well said, "Not putting up the rod, but taking your child to your heart, is your forgiveness And pardon is the open heart of God, full of love, unaverted by any consequences of my sin, unclosed by any of my departures from him."
2. The medium through which the blessing is obtained. "For his Name's sake." The Name is that of Jesus Christ, the Saviour and the Anointed of God. The Name is suggestive of all his work for us and for our salvation - his perfect redemptive work, with which the Father was well pleased. We have forgiveness and "peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
II. AN EXPERIENCE APPROPRIATE TO CHILDHOOD. "I have written unto you, little children, because ye know the Father." The word used for "children" παιδία here is not the same as that in the preceding verse; and we think, with Ebrard, that the apostle does not now address all his readers, but those only who were children in age. One of the first indications of the intelligence of a child is its recognition of its father. Very early in life the heart of the child knows its father. Not as the result of teaching or reasoning, but in the natural unfolding of its powers it makes the recognition. And those who are children in the Christian life know God as their Father, not by evidences or arguments, but by the trust and love of their heart, which have been awakened through Jesus Christ. They know him as their Father, not only because they are his creatures, but by the gracious, loving, tender relations which he sustains to them, and by the existence and exercise of the filial spirit in themselves. They have "received the Spirit of adoption, whereby they cry, Abba, Father." It seems to us that "little children" in many cases apprehend and realize the Divine Fatherhood more clearly and fully than Christians of mature age; and that they do so because their faith in him is simpler and stronger.
III. AS EXPERIENCE APPROPRIATE TO YOUNG MANHOOD. "I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the Word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the evil one."
1. The possession of spiritual strength. "Ye are strong." Strength should characterize young manhood. Strength of body is a good thing; strength of mind is better; strength of soul is best. Spiritual strength is the strength of confidence in God, of love to God and to man, of worthy purposes, of righteous principles, and of vital accord with truth. And this strength finds expression in patient endurance, and earnest labour, and resolute resistance to wrong and battling for the right. The last aspect of this strength is probably prominent in the clause under consideration. The young men were strong in moral conflict, The interpretation is confirmed by the use of the same word in Luke 11:21," When the strong man armed," etc.; and in Hebrews 11:34, "Waxed valiant in fight," or, as in the Revised Version, "mighty in war." And this strength is derived through Jesus Christ. Apart from him we can do nothing. We can do all things in him that strengtheneth us. "Therefore be strengthened in the grace that is in Christ Jesus."
2. The possession of Divine truth. "The Word of God abideth in you." The Word of God is the revelation of his mind and will which he had made to man, with perhaps special reference to the gospel. They had received this Word, and it was prized by them; they retained it as a treasure (cf. Psalm 119:162). It dwelt within them
(1) as an illuminating force (cf. Psalm 19:7; Psalm 119:105, 130; Proverbs 6:23);
(2) as a regulative force (cf. Psalm 37:31; Psalm 119:1-11, 101).
3. The attainment of spiritual victory. "Ye have overcome the evil one," i.e., Satan. He is the wicked one, "because the first in wickedness, because most industriously wicked, and because most obstinate and persevering in wickedness." St. John cannot mean that the young men had completely and finally vanquished Satan. He does not so readily accept and submit to defeat, but renews his attacks again and again. The apostle writes of the victory achieved in conversion. There is a sense in which all who have become new creatures in Christ Jesus are already conquerors of the wicked one. They are "delivered out of the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of the Son of his love" (Colossians 1:13; and cf. chapter 1 John 5:18). As Alford says," Whatever conflict remains for them afterwards, is with a baffled and conquered enemy."
IV. AN EXPERIENCE APPROPRIATE TO MATURE MANHOOD. "I have written unto you, fathers, because ye know him which is from the beginning," i.e., Jesus Christ (cf. 1 John 1:1). The appropriate occupation of age is not conflict, but contemplation; not stormy strife, but serene meditation; to penetrate mere deeply into the heart of truth, to get clearer and deeper visions of the Eternal and the Divine, to know more and more of Jesus Christ, and of God in Christ. Maturity in the knowledge of Christ is becoming in Christian fathers. "The whole sum of Christian ripeness and experience is this knowledge of 'thee the only true God, and him whom thou didst send, even Jesus Christ.'" Let each of these classes addressed by St. John seek to realize its own appropriate experience. - W.J.
Parallel VersesKJV: I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake.