7

I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake. 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. I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one. (1st John 2:12-14)

In this passage John splits his recipients into three groups: little children, fathers and young men.

Each time he addresses a certain one of these three groups he states the reason why he is writing this message to them and does so twice for each group. In an outline form this would look this way:

recipients:         reason of writing:

children:           1) their sins forgiven;
                    2) they have known the Father;

fathers:            1) they have known Him who is from the beginning;
                    2) they have known Him who is from the beginning;

young men:          1) they have overcome the wicked one;
                    2) they are strong, 
                       the word of God abides in them,
                       they have overcome the wicked one;

I don't quite see much difference between "having known the Father" (case with children) and "having known Him who is from the beginning" (case with fathers) - unless, of course, the Son of God is meant in the second case. However, both the Father and the Son are related to the Godhead. And, if we look at it from that perspective, then even "having the word of God abiding in" (case with young men) would also fall into that realm. This means that the matter of Godhead to a certain degree "spreads out" to all three groups.

Now, if we try to look at what is there unique for each group, then we'll probably notice that in case with children and in case with young men something negative is being dealt with: with children it is sins, and with young men it is the wicked one. We can even go a bit further and note that in case with children the main object of dealing is the negative results (sins), while in case with young men the object of dealing is the very source of those negative results (the wicked one). As for the fathers, the unique thing about them is that in what is written regarding them there is nothing negative mentioned as being dealt with - they only have something positive, the Godhead, which, as I said, can be seen in each one of the three groups.

Thus, if we try to list the unique things for each group, we'll get this:

children  - having their sins forgiven
fathers   - having nothing negative mentioned 
young men - having overcome the wicked one

And what all three groups have in common is their connection to (their inner knowledge and experience of) the Godhead.

So, my main question here is this: Why John chose exactly these unique things for each one of the three groups (in other words, why is it specifically about sins when it comes to children, why is it specifically about the wicked one when it comes to the young men, and why is there nothing negative at all, when it comes to fathers)?

2

If the repetitive structure and individual groups in 2:12-2:14 are key elements of the writer's outline, then the next step is to examine the entire passage to see how the repeating structure connects to the rest of the chapter and the primary message.

Chapter 2 begins by addressing two groups:

My little children (τεκνία - teknia), these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. (2:1-2)1

Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. (2:7-8)

The writer begins by giving teknia children instruction not to sin and if they do sin, they have an advocate, Jesus, who is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. Instruction continues with examples of how they can tell whether or not they know Jesus. If they keep His commands (2:3); keep His word (2:5); walk in His ways (2:6). Each condition is "either or." Either they know Him and keep His commands, or do not keep His commands and are a liar. (The lie is "they know Him".)

Instruction to the brethren follows a similar pattern using light and darkness; a brethren can be in the light or darkness based on love of brother. Hating a brother places one in the darkness, loving in the light. The same "either or" applies with a subtle distinction: the focus is on community. In other words, hatred toward one still results in darkness despite a love for another.

Then English translations give the appearance the repetitive device begins:

2:12 - I write to you little children τεκνία - (teknia)...
2:13 - I write to you fathers...I write to you young men...I write to you little children παιδία - (paidia)...
2:14 - I have written to you fathers...I have written to you young men...

Teknia (little children) is not repeated. It is not part of the structure (it is used a third time at 2:28). Instead the writer uses "little children" paidia in the repeating structure.

Since the writer recognizes two different groups of "little children", teknia and paidia, the overall passage recognizes five groups being addressed. The first is little children teknia (2:1) which is repeated at 2:12 and 2:28. The second (not repeated) is brethren (2:7). Then fathers, young men, and a different type of child, paidia, are used to form the structure.

The repeating sequence actually begins at verse 13:

First sequence:
I write to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, Because you have overcome the wicked one. I write to you, little children (paidia), Because you have known the Father. (2:13)

Second sequence:
I have written to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, And you have overcome the wicked one. (2:14)...Little children (paidia), it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us. (2:18-19)

Here is the writer's use of repetition and comparison of recipient and reason:

Recipient:              Verse: 
Children (teknia)       2:1, 2:12, and 2:28
Fathers                 2:13 and 2:14
Young men               2:13 and 2:14
Children (paidia)       2:13 and 2:18


Recipient:               Reason for Writing:
Children (teknia):       1) (2:1) that they might not sin
                         2) (2:12) their sins are forgiven
                         3) (2:28) not ashamed at His coming

Fathers:                 1) (2:13) they have known Him who is from the beginning
                         2) (2:14) they have known Him who is from the beginning

Young men:               1) (2:13) they have overcome the wicked one
                         2) (2:14) they are strong 
                            (2:14) the word of God abides in them
                            (2:14) they have overcome the wicked one

Children (paidia):       1) (2:13) they have known the Father
                         2) (2:18) they know it is the last hour and know the antichrist  
                         3) (2:20) they know all things

The teknia receive a three-fold message on sin. Fathers receive a message repeated verbatim; both young men are told you overcome the wicked one and the second have strength and the Word of God abiding in them; the paidia know The Father, and it is the last hour, and, since the antichrist is identified, they know that too because they know all things (v20).

As was common for this period a main point was placed in the middle of the passage: some left comes a v19. What had been a single group is now divided. One purpose of the repeating structure is to show those who remain they had always been made up of different groups. In fact, since the passage closes as it begins, by addressing the teknia children, the same groups still remain. The church was not and is not homogeneous. The false disciples left, yet people of different ages and different stages of true discipleship remain.

The writer has used the natural family showing the community has always been made up of different parts before presenting their central argument:

  1. Those that left were not truly with them. Their departure is proof they were not had not been true members.

  2. Those remaining have gained knowledge, in particular, they know the truth: "But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth." (2:20-21)

The use of the natural family ties the structure to the Gospel: 2

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32)

and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children (paidia) , you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3 - also Luke 18:16)

Those who remained withstood the attack (from within); by doing so they became stronger, have the Word of God abiding in them, withstood the evil one, and know all things. In essence, they are true disciples (John 8:32) because they are paidia children.

Finally, who are the teknia children?

And now, little children (teknia), abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him. (2:28-29)

The chapter ends as it begins, with a message to the teknia children. As with the other messages, it focuses on basic or elementary precepts of the Christian faith. Therefore, this group is made up of either new or immature believers (who were still strong enough not to leave), or they are people who have not yet committed to believe (and so need the basics of the Gospel repeated).

Traditionally John's letter was taken to be written in Ephesus and would circulate to the other churches in Asia (similar to the letters to the churches in Revelation). So while division took place in one city, other cities may not yet have been affected. The false teachers may have been circulating among all locations but the division has affected one. Therefore the writer's message also addresses the situation where division has not reached the point of actual break-up, or the situation where the break-up has started but there are some "undecided" over whether to stay.


1. All Scripture from the New King James Version.
2. John's Gospel uses teknia once (13:33) and paidia once (21:5). The use of the two terms in the letter follows the pattern of the "growth" of the disciples from the Last Supper to breakfast by the sea of Tiberas. After washing their feet they are teknia who will seek Jesus but cannot go where He goes; after the resurrection, they are paidia going into the world.

  • Honestly, quite confusing. – brilliant May 3 '15 at 0:36
1

I see John revealing to us the simplicity of the fact, that it is the same Word of God which ministers to each group of persons. It is the same Word that John speaks throughout his epistles to all of the church but it is the Spirit of God that is able to minister the Word to each person at whatever stage of development they find themselves. First, he writes to the children:

1Jo:2:12: I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake.

Because it is essential for the newly born again to understand that they have had their sins forgiven. Without this understanding how could we have confidence to approach unto God and begin to have the proper relationship with Him. We must have this confidence in the promise of God, that if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins(1Jn.1:9, Eph.3:12). It is paramount that the children comprehend that they are accepted of the Father not on their own merit but on the merits of Christ's work; having their hearts established with grace;

Heb:13:9: Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.

John writes to the young men in 1 Jn. 2:13 that they have overcome the wicked one. But in verse 2:14, John shows how the young men have overcome the wicked one: because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you. Strength here is not in relation to physical but spiritual strength (Ec:9:11-18) and it is obtained through the knowledge of God. Once we, as children, have understood that our sins have been forgiven, we must go on to grow in the Word and abide within the truth that we have revealed unto us (Jn. 15:1-8). The example of how to defeat the wicked one has been given to us when Jesus overcame the devil by skillfully quoting and obeying the Word in each occasion He was tempted (Mat. 4:1-11).

And finally John addresses the fathers (elders) as well by reminding them that they have known the Father; reiterating the same in both verses of 1 Jn. 2:13+14. This word known is used to establish that these fathers have had an intimate relationship with the Father. These elders as opposed to the children and even the young men are recognized as having been established in the faith and in the knowledge of the Word as a result of their experiences in spiritual matters. This knowing speaks to the understanding they have of the nature and ways of the Father (Jer.9:24):

Heb:5:13: For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. Heb:5:14: But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

These verses in 1 Jn. 2:12-14 allow us to understand that there is a correlation between how in the natural there is a growth process of children to young men to fathers, so too in the spiritual there is a similar pattern. Believers must have patience to be nurtured by the Spirit of God into every age group. Peter in his epistles ministers similarly:

1Pe:2:1: Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, 1Pe:2:2: As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: 1Pe:2:3: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

Peter further elaborates in 2 Pe.1:1-15 on this growth process and how we should continually remind ourselves that there is this process involved in our spiritual development.

I hope that using the scriptures quoted above helps to shed some understanding on the question

The fact that John begins with the children is because that's where a believer begins his walk (relationship)--vs.12 "because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake"; and as a new born babe what is imperative is that a believer understand that he has been received into the family God (Gal. 4:4-8) and now is considered a "son" and now know God as Father--vs.13 "because ye have known the Father". Regarding the order of fathers first, then young men second and children last in verses 13+14, I would say It is in order of authority in the body of Christ. The elders having more experience and having their senses exercised to discern between good and evil,they know (understand) "Him (God) that is from the beginning" and have a charge to look out for the younger (1 Pet.5:1-5, Heb. 13:17). And the younger have a charge to submit themselves unto the elder (1Tim. 5:1, Heb.13:17, 1Pet.5:5). As you have noted the message to the fathers in verses 13+14 is the same, "ye have known him that is from the beginning" And the message to the young men is essentially the same "ye have overcome the wicked one"; the difference in verse 14 is John shows how the young men overcame, "men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you". As is common often the same thing is stated twice to bring emphasis to the statement. But where we seem to see things differently is in your statement:

"So, my main question here is this: Why John chose exactly these unique things for each one of the three groups (in other words, why is it specifically about sins when it comes to children, why is it specifically about the wicked one when it comes to the young men, and why is there nothing negative at all, when it comes to fathers)?"

I can only see positive things being addressed to the children: vs.12 "your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake" and vs.13 "ye have known the Father". And only positive to the young men: vs.13 "ye have overcome the wicked one" and vs.14 "ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one". It seems like your question is more of a statement than an inquiry. As though there is some hidden deeper meaning in looking for negatives in the address to the children and young men (where none is stated). For me, the children are introduced into the kingdom and realize their sins are forgiven. The young men continue in the way and come to realize that they are in a spiritual warfare and learn to overcome the enemy through their knowledge of the Word and trust in the grace of God. The fathers are settled (1Pet.5:10) into the way and help the younger to attain unto "the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph.4:11-14).

  • (1) "These verses in 1 Jn. 2:12-14 allow us to understand that there is a correlation between how in the natural there is a growth process of children to young men to fathers" - Throughout your whole answer you are stressing this spiritual-growth progression: little children -> young men -> fathers, and you are completely ignoring the fact that John is, in fact, follows quite another sequence: little children -> fathers -> young men; and he does so twice! Do you have any explanation as to why John chose that sequence? – brilliant May 4 '15 at 5:24
  • (2) Indeed, if I were to write about a spiritual growth, I would naturally follow the "little children -> young men -> fathers" sequence - that would be clearer and more consistent with my thought. There would be no reason fro me to change that sequence. However, John chose another order of things. Why? – brilliant May 4 '15 at 5:24
0

`The author of 1 John is not identified within the text and does not claim to be an apostle but suggests that he knew Jesus personally:

1Jn 1:1 That which was from the beginning [of Jesus' ministry], which we have heard [first hand], which we have seen [directly] with our eyes, which we looked upon [directly] and have [physically] touched with our hands, concerning the word [message] of life—

This author writes with affection but also authority suggesting that they are an apostle. Traditionally this letter is ascribed to the author of the fourth canonical gospel which in turn is traditionally ascribed to "John".

John is in the inner circle of Jesus. He is called "the disciple whom Jesus loved":

Joh_19:26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son!"

Joh_20:2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him."

Joh_21:7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea.

John's intimacy with Jesus is graphically described as "the one who leaned back against Jesus during supper":

Joh_21:20 Peter turned and saw **the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, "Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?"**

Excursis: While I'm of the humble opinion that the scriptures insist that in the scriptures marriage is "one man, one woman for life" it must be admitted that this description suggests that Jesus had no issues with and participated in a special "love" with one of his disciples and took and gave comfort in physical intimacy with him. In other words, this is described as a bit of a "bromance" ala David and Jonathon and may be an allusion. There is no sexual dimension in either narrative, nor is it denied but such same sex intimacy is also practiced between Jesus and his father so it is not a necessary component:

Darby Joh 1:18 No one has seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him .

Lazarus is not numbered among the 12 however he is also described as someone Jesus particularly loved:

Joh 11:3 So the sisters sent to him, saying, "Lord, he whom you love is ill." ... Joh 11:5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.

And in a fable Jesus speaks of a Lazarus who is dines with Abraham, reclining on his chest:

Luk 16:22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;

It is a feature of our times that men cannot enjoy deep affection for one another without stigma.

Back to the point So my point is that the author, whether John or Lazarus (most likely John) was intimate with Jesus and when he writes he draws on this direct first hand knowledge of Jesus' life and ministry to provide credentials to his hearers.

"Fathers" likewise knew Jesus first hand:

1Jn_2:13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you [also] know him [first hand] who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father. 1Jn_2:14 I write to you, fathers, because you [also] know him [directly] who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

"Young men" have learned from these "fathers" so they too share a robust knowledge of the message. The "children" are those who lack this direct knowledge and are dependent on "fathers" to teach and train them.

  • Can you provide sources? – brilliant Apr 5 '16 at 10:28
  • @brilliant I provided the scriptures for each of my assertions. Which assertion did I make that lacks a source? – user10231 Apr 5 '16 at 10:35
  • So...is it like you are the only source of all those assertions? – brilliant Apr 5 '16 at 12:44
  • @brilliant I am the source of those interpretations, not of the text under consideration. For this discussion the writings of "John" are the primary text and thus the truest source. Is there a particular assertion that you find that lacks a source? – user10231 Apr 5 '16 at 12:45
  • (1) "For this discussion the writings of "John" are the primary text and thus the truest source" - since those assertions are merely interpretations of the said scriptures, the scriptures themselves are not the source of those assertions because scriptures do not assert the points put forth in those interpretations. For example, the scriptures DO assert that – brilliant Apr 5 '16 at 14:12

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