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. St. John says, "I write," and by and by, "I have written," this shows, I think, the importance of his subject. If he has already written upon it, he must think it to be a very necessary truth if he writes upon it yet again. Foundation stones should be laid with scrupulous care; and truth, which is fundamental, should be repeated by the teacher till the disciple has learned it beyond all fear of ever forgetting it.
2. This form of speech also reveals the unchanging conviction of the writer, who, having written once, is glad to write the same things again. This shows a mind made up and decided, from which proceeds consistent testimony. If we live a thousand years, at the close of life we shall have nothing more nor less to say than the imutable truth of God. We hope to understand the truth better, but we shall never discover better truth.
3. "I write," and "I have written," also indicate the abiding need of men: they require the same teaching from time to time. Men's natures are still the same, men's spiritual conflicts and dangers are still the same, and hence the same truth is suitable, not only from day to day, but from century to century. Though we can now digest the solid meat of the kingdom, yet the children's bread has lost none of its relish in our esteem.
I. WHO ARE THE FATHERS?
1. We usually associate that idea somewhat with age; but we must take care that we do not make a mistake here, because age in grace, albeit that it may run parallel with age in nature in many cases, does not always do so. In the Church of God there are children who are seventy years old. One would not like to say of a man of eighty that he had scarcely cut his wisdom teeth, and yet there are such. On the other hand, there are fathers in the Church of God, wise, stable, instructed, who are comparatively young men. The Lord can cause His people to grow rapidly, and far outstrip their years. From their early youth they have a discernment of God's Word, and a quickness of apprehension wonderful to notice. More than that, I have even observed a depth of experience within a very short time granted to certain young believers, so that though they were but youths in age they were fathers in piety. Nevertheless, as a usual thing, it is to be expected that advancement in grace should be accompanied with advancement in years. These are the fathers, then, men who have aged in grace, have come to the full development of their spiritual manhood, and have been confirmed in that development by the test of time and trials.
2. "Fathers," again, are persons of maturity, men who are not raw and green, not fresh recruits. These men know what they know, for they have thought over the gospel, studied it, and have embraced it with full intensity of conviction.
3. "Fathers," again, are men of stability and strength. As the Spartans pointed to their citizens as the real walls of Sparta, so do we point to these substantial men as, under God, the brazen walls and bulwarks of the Church. Men who are well taught, confirmed, experienced, and trained by the Spirit of God are pillars in the house of our God.
4. The fathers of the Church are men of heart, who naturally care for the souls of others.
5. Having this care upon him the father comes to be tender; he partakes somewhat of the tenderness of a mother, and thus is called a nursing father. Sympathetic care and hearty tenderness are gifts of the Holy Spirit, and will bring you a happiness which will richly compensate you for your pains.
6. Not yet have I quite reached the full meaning of a father; for the father is the author, under God, of the being of his children; and happy is a Church that has many in it who are spiritual parents in Zion, through having brought sinners to Christ.
II. WHAT IS THE PROMINENT CHARACTERISTIC OF A FATHER IN CHRIST? "I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known Him that is from the beginning."
1. Observe here the concentration of their knowledge. Twice he says, "Ye have known Him that is from the beginning." Now, a babe in grace knows twenty things: a young man in Christ knows ten things: but a father in Christ knows one thing, and that one thing he knows thoroughly. Oh, to have one heart, one eye, for our one Lord, and for Him alone!
2. Note the peculiarity of their knowledge as to its object: they know "Him that was from the beginning." Do not the babes in Christ know the Lord Jesus? Yes, they do; but they do not know Him in His full character. They know Him as having forgiven their sins, and that is much, but it is not all. Yes, and as I grow and become a young man, I approach nearer to Jesus, and get another view of Him; for I overcome the wicked one even as He did, and thus I stand side by side with Him in the conflict. But if I come to be a father I enter into fellowship with the great Father Himself; for it is union with God the Father that makes a man a father in God. When you become a father in Christ you see Christ from the Father's point of view; not as newly come to save, but as "from the beginning" the Saviour of men. The father in grace rejoices to behold the Lord Jesus as God: he beholds the glory of His adorable person as forever with the Father or ever the earth was. He sees that covenant even from of old ordered in all things and sure in the hand of Him that was from the beginning. There is one point that the father in Christ delights to think upon, namely, that the coming of Christ was not an expedient adopted after an unforeseen disaster in order to retrieve the honour of God; but he understands that the whole scheme of events was planned in the purpose of Divine wisdom for the glorifying of Christ, so that from the beginning it was part of Jehovah's plan that Jesus should take upon Himself human nature, and should manifest in that nature all the attributes of the Father.
3. I want to notice again, that this knowledge is in itself special: the knowledge itself is remarkable as well as the object of the knowledge. "Ye have known Him." Yes, we do know the Lord as a living, bright reality, a daily friend, councillor, and companion. True fathers in grace not only know the Lord by much meditation, but they know Him by actual intercourse; they walk with Him, they talk with Him. They look upon matters not from man's standpoint, but from Christ's point of view, and hence they understand much of the Lord's ways which aforetime were dark to them. He who very deeply sympathises with a man knows Him well. Learning by faith to sit still and believingly wait the event, these fathers calmly expect that all things will work together for good to them: and hence they understand the unbroken serenity of the heart of Jesus, and know Him in His joys as well as in His sorrows.
III. WHAT IS THE MESSAGE TO THE FATHERS? I would indicate that message by referring to the context.
1. John has been saying that we should love one another. If you are truly fathers you cannot help loving all the family: the fatherly instinct is love, and fathers in Christ should be brimful of it.
2. The next message immediately succeeds the text, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world." You have all the marks of what they call declining years — I call them ascending years; you will soon be gone from the world and its changing vanities, therefore do not set your love on earthly treasures.
3. While they are not to love the world they must take care that they do not fall victims to any of the lusts of this present evil world, such as the lust of the flesh. You are grown ripe in grace, and will soon enter heaven, live accordingly.
4. The next exhortation to the fathers is that they should watch, for, says the apostle, "Ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now there are many antichrists." Oh, valiant fathers, keep ye watch and ward.
5. Lastly, it is the duty of the fathers to prepare for the coming of the Lord. "Abide in Him, that, when He shall appear, ye may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming."
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
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.