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…
Counsel is the prerogative of age. Christianity is preeminently an experience. Even from the religious standpoint we look upon youth as militant, rather than as victorious. The fight with the evil one is upon them; but the victory is in the future. Are we right in this view of the religious possibilities of youth? Certainly not. Our apostle addresses the young men as having overcome the evil one, as having the word of God abiding in them. Now, in fact, we reason just as John does when we look at youth in its relations to society. On that side we frankly recognise their strength, victory, and susceptibility to truth. They are accepted as important factors in the aggressive relations of life. In like manner we assume their ability to receive and apply the teachings of human wisdom. The history of great literary successes is largely a history of youthful triumphs; it makes a place for itself in spite of obstacles. In the secular sense it does overcome the world. "I write unto you, young men, because ye are strong." There may be strength without maturity. People act upon that principle everywhere. A man who wants a good horse looks out for a young horse. A lady who wants an active servant does not seek for an old man or woman. Not only so, but we expect real and telling service from youth. Ought the case to be any different in the Church of Christ? The work of pushing the gospel into new fields, of bringing other youth under its influence, of carrying on benevolent and missionary enterprises, is work which young men and women can do. Yes, you are strong; and the Church of Christ lays claim to your strength. Service is not to be an incident of your Christian life: it is to be its law, as it was the law of Christ's life. But the question is not only of Christian work: it is also of Christian character lying behind the work, and inspiring it. There can be no good work without good character. Here we see that the strength of which John speaks is the strength which comes of the abiding of the Word of God in the heart, and of victory over evil. Youth is susceptible to bad influences — takes them in, is shaped by them. Is it not likewise susceptible to good ones? With all the sneers at early piety, early piety is a blessed fact. And why not? It is very evident what youth can do in the way of victory over self and temptation when a great worldly end is to be gained; and are we to say that the young Christian, with Christ's inspiration in his heart, and Christian influences around him, shall not take up the great cross of Christian service, and practise its grand self-denials, and resist and overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil? No; John is right. He does not assert too much when he says, "Ye have overcome the evil one." If youth can be Christian it can overcome. If it is truly Christian it will overcome, for Christ is victory. And once more, what of the Word abiding in the youth? "The Word of God abideth in you." In the order of the text this comes before the conquest over the evil one, and rightly; because the Word in the heart stands to conquest as means to end. John's thought here centres in the word "abideth." His emphasis is on the permanent power of the Word over youth. Paul assumes the same thing with reference to Timothy. He calls to mind the unfeigned faith which dwelt in his mother and in his grandmother, and adds, "And I am persuaded that in thee also." Young people have, many of them, come to think that such mastery by the Word is impracticable. They think they must master the Word before they are mastered by it. In science and art and philosophy the difficulty of a subject does not repel youth. They study, and that intelligently, the works of master minds. They work out hard problems in engineering and astronomy. And what I complain of in a certain class of young people is, that they will not apply to the Bible the same amount of attention and labour which they bestow on other things. Whatever mystery may attach to the Bible, the materials for character building lie on its very surface. If there are parts of this great Divine map which we must still mark "unknown land," the track to goodness and to heaven is sharply drawn. You are, then, as young men and women, bound by your Christian profession to have the Word of God abiding in you, as a permanent impulse and formative force in your character and life. The Holy Spirit is as ready to make its precepts a living power in you as He is in me. You know, in other spheres, what it is to work on a principle and for a purpose; and it is no harder to know this when the principle is laid down by Christ, and when the purpose is holiness and heaven. The Word of God abideth in you. O young Christians! can you say that this is true of you? Has the power of the Word over you become stronger, more steady, more direct, since you began to follow Christ?
(M. Vincent, 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.