So far in 1 John, we would be forgiven for thinking that it’s all about warnings and the like (1.5-2.11). Here in 2.12-24, however, John writes some very reassuring words.
“I am writing to you, little children, that your sins have been forgiven because of his name.
I am writing to you, fathers, that you have known him who has been from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young people, that you have conquered the evil one.
I have written to you, children, that you have known the Father.
I have written to you, fathers, that you have known him who has been from the beginning.
I have written to you, young people, that you are strong, and the word of God resides in you, and you have conquered the evil one”.
A few people have a few ideas about the use of children, fathers, and young people, but perhaps the best and most inclusive way to view these statements is that each can apply to believers in different situations. Simply, all of them are for all of us.
Thinking of believers – and ourselves – as children means accepting the childlike joy and gratitude that comes from knowing you are unconditionally loved and forgiven by a parent (v.12, 14).
Thinking of believers – and ourselves – as fathers means accepting that there are things in our world that have outlived us and will outlive us. This is a peculiar realisation that often sets in at the same time parenthood is experienced. Honestly, until I looked our first child in the eye I had not really considered that the world will continue after I breathe my last. Now, I pray that it does for his sake (and his brother’s). Taking this mindset – of fathers – is to accept that there is more to life than us (v.13).
Thinking of believers – and ourselves – as young people means taking on the mindset that we are enthused and energetic for the life of obedience and love that John is portraying. It means that we are engaged in a tussle that takes all our energy and focus plus some essential supernatural help (v.13, 14).
Zane Hodges writes on this short passage:
“Thought of in this way, the sequence “children,” “fathers,” and “young [people]” is meaningful. The readers knew what it was to have sins forgiven and then have fellowship with the Eternal One. As a result they were like vigorous young [people] who had defeated satanic assaults”.
So far then, John has given his readers – and us – some pretty clear guidance and warnings (1.5-2.11). For some this will read as a burden, but here in 2.12-14 there is a breath of fresh air where we remember that our Christian character is multi-faceted. We are, at the same time, children, fathers, and young people. Each one is for all of us, and how grateful we are for this.