1 John 2:13
I write to you, fathers, because you have known him that is from the beginning. I write to you, young men…
1. There is a great difference among Christians; all are not of one stature, strength, and growth in godliness; as here, there are fathers, young men, and babes. He supposeth the more elderly will be fathers in Christ, and that everyone hath profited according to his time and standing. God created Adam and Eve in their full perfection, but doth not regenerate us into our full stature in Christ.
2. It may fall out that the elder Christians may be babes in Christ, and the younger Christians rather fathers for their longer experience in the things of God, and for the better government of their passions. David when young was wiser than his enemies, than his teachers, than the ancients (Psalm 119:100). Gracious abilities come not from age, but from the Spirit. Ancient men try several conclusions to their own loss; but God is more ancient than they, and at one prospect seeth all things; if He will direct me I am safe. Joseph young, at seventeen years old, was wiser than his brethren. Daniel and his fellows ten times more than all the astrologers and magicians, though children (Daniel 1:17-20). And many times youth goeth before the aged in ripeness of wisdom, and in solid manners, though they are so much behind them in number of years.
3. As to spiritual growth, some may be weak and strong, young and old at the same time, in different respects, as we see by experience. Some are weak in knowledge and unsettled in the faith, who yet have a good zeal towards God, and are temperate, just, and holy, and have a great command over their affections and passions. On the other side, some are of a good understanding, and they come behind in no gift, yet are subject to carnal passions and affections, and so are babes in that respect (1 Corinthians 3:1-3). A spiritual people is not a people of parts, knowledge, and abilities, but of grace and sanctification.
4. There is a wonderful difference between Christians and themselves at sundry times; so that these three degrees may be coincident. The gravest father may be as weak as the youngest child, as violently tempted as the young man. Satan's design is against the spiritual Christian, and those who are more eminent than others, to throw them into the mire, that religion may have the greater wound and dishonour. In violent gusts of wind, even cedars may fall to the ground. Therefore, as we grow in grace, we should increase in humility and godly fear.
5. All this doth not hinder but that some from their settled constant frame may be called "fathers," "young men," and "babes."(1) Fathers are such who, through long experience and much acquaintance with a godly life, do walk more constantly, cheerfully, and fruitfully in the ways of God than others do.
(2) Young men in Christ are such as have most courage, resolution, and earnestness, yet not that experience which Christ's old servants have gotten; a middle sort of Christians, not so settled as the aged, nor yet altogether so weak as babes. They are more exercised with temptations, and a life of conflicts, as having many rebellious passions to subdue, which being irritated by the suggestions of Satan and the baits of sense, do put them. to no small trouble.
(3) There are babes or little children.Use — 1. If there be "fathers," "young men," and "children," then —
(1) Let us "not despise the day of small things" (Zechariah 4:10), not in ourselves nor others.
(2) Let us not despise the meanest degree of grace in others. Time was when everyone was a babe in Christ, and time may be when those who are but babes may grow old men (Matthew 20:16).Use — 2. Let us consider in what rank we are, that we may wisely apply ourselves to the duties proper to our condition. Usually that which old men want is fervour; that which young men want, if they know their hearts, is sincerity; the one must beg quickening grace, as David doth often in Psalm 119.Use — 3. To awaken us to labour after the highest rank of grace. God is the more honoured the more fruitful we are (Philippians 1:9).
(T. Manton, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, little children, because you know the Father.