Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


1 John 2:13

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

I write unto you, fathers - By fathers it is very likely that the apostle means persons who had embraced Christianity on its first promulgation in Judea and in the Lesser Asia, some of them had probably seen Christ in the flesh; for this appears to be what is meant by, Ye have known him from the beginning. These were the elders and eye witnesses, who were of the longest standing in the Church, and well established in the truths of the Gospel, and in Christian experience. But τον απ ' αρχης, him who is from the beginning, may mean Jesus Christ in the eternity of his nature, see John 1:1, John 1:2; but the sense is the same.

I write unto you, young men - These were confirmed disciples of Christ; persons who were well-grounded in the truth, had been thoroughly exercised in the Christian warfare, were no longer agitated by doubts and fears, but had arrived at the abiding testimony of the Spirit of God in their consciences; hence they are said to have overcome the wicked one, 1 John 2:14. They were persons in the prime of life, and in the zenith of their faith and love.

I write unto you, little children - Παιδια, a very different term from that used in the 12th verse, τεκνια, which means beloved children, as we have already seen. This is another class, and their state is differently described: Ye have known the Father. If the apostle does not use these two words indifferently, four states instead of three, are here described: -

  1. Fathers, πατερες· those who had been converted at the very commencement of Christianity, and had seen the eternal Word manifested in the flesh.
  • Young Men, νεανισκοι· youths in the prime of their spiritual life, valiant soldiers, fighting under the banner of Christ, who had confounded Satan in his wiles, and overcome him by the blood of the Lamb.
  • Little Children, παιδια· disciples of Christ, not of very long standing in the Church, nor of much experience, but who had known the Father; i.e. persons who had been made sons: God had sent the Spirit of his Son into their hearts, whereby they cried Abba, Father!
  • Beloved Children, τεκνια· the most recent converts, and particularly those among young men and women who, from their youth, simplicity, openheartedness, and affectionate attachment to God and his cause, were peculiarly dear to this aged apostle of Jesus Christ. These are represented as having their sins forgiven them on account of his name, δια το ονομα αυτου, that is, for the sake of Jesus, or on account of his merit or worthiness.
  • These four classes constituted the household or family of God; each class, in ascending gradation, seems to have had more light, experience, and holiness than the other.

    1. The τεκνια, beloved children, or infants, are those who are just born into the heavenly family.
  • The παιδια, little children, are those who are able to walk and speak; they know their heavenly Father, and can call him by that name.
  • The νεανισκοι, young men, are such as are grown up to man's estate; these perform the most difficult part of the labor, and are called to fight the battles of the Lord.
  • The πατερες, fathers, are those who are at the foundation of the spiritual family, and have known the whole economy of the work of God in themselves and in others. These have the largest stock of spiritual wisdom and religious experience.
  • All these answer to the component members of a perfect human family.

    1. There is the beloved infant dandled on the knees of its parents.
  • There are the little children that can speak a little, run about, answer to their own names, distinguish and call on their father and mother, and are now put under instruction.
  • There are the youths, those who are grown up to man's estate, are strong to labor, retain the instructions they have received, act upon them, and are occasionally called upon to defend their family, property, and country, against spoilers and oppressors.
  • 4. There are the parents, the father and mother, from whom the family sprang, and who are the governors and directors of the household. To these four classes, in a perfect family, the apostle appears to allude; and we see, considered in this light, with what delicacy and propriety he uses these images.

    Albert Barnes
    Notes on the Whole Bible

    I write unto you, fathers - As there were special reasons for writing to children, so there were also for writing to those who were more mature in life. The class here addressed would embrace all those who were in advance of the νεανίσκοί neaniskoior young men, and would properly include those who were at the head of families.

    Because ye have known him that is from the beginning - That is, the Lord Jesus Christ. Notes, 1 John 1:1. The argument is, that they had been long acquainted with the principles of his religion, and understood well its doctrines and duties. It cannot be certainly inferred from this that they had had a personal acquaintance with the Lord Jesus: yet that this might have been is not impossible, for John had himself personally known him, and there may have been some among those to whom he wrote who had also seen and known him. If this were so, it would give additional impressiveness to the reason assigned here for writing to them, and for reminding them of the principles of that religion which they had learned from his own lips and example. But perhaps all that is necessarily implied in this passage is, that they had had long opportunity of becoming acquainted with the religion of the Son of God, and that having understood that thoroughly, it was proper to address them as aged and established Christians, and to call on them to maintain the true doctrines of the gospel, against the specious but dangerous errors which then prevailed.

    I write unto you, young men - νεανίσκοι neaniskoiThis word would properly embrace those who were in the vigor of life, midway between children and old men. It is uniformly rendered “young men” in the New Testament: Matthew 19:20, Matthew 19:22; Mark 14:51; Mark 16:5; Luke 7:14; Acts 2:17; Acts 5:10; and in the passages before us. It does not elsewhere occur. It is commonly understood as embracing those in the prime and vigor of manhood up to the period of about forty years. - Robinson.

    Because ye have overcome the wicked one - That is, because you have vigor, (see the next verse), and that vigor you have shown by overcoming the assaults of the wicked one - the devil. You have triumphed over the passions which prevail in early life; you have combated the allurements of vice, ambition, covetousness, and sensuality; and you have shown that there is a strength of character and of piety on which reliance can be placed in promoting religion. It is proper, therefore, to exhort you not to disgrace the victory which you have already gained, but to employ your vigor of character in maintaining the cause of the Saviour. The thing to which John appeals here is the energy of those at this period of life, and it is proper at all times to make this the ground of appeal in addressing a church. It is right to call on those who are in the prime of life, and who are endowed with energy of character, to employ their talents in the service of the Lord Jesus, and to stand up as the open advocates of truth. Thus, the apostle calls on the three great classes into which a community or a church may be considered as divided: youth, because their sins were already forgiven, and, though young, they had actually entered on a career of virtue and religion, a career which by all means they ought to be exhorted to pursue; “fathers,” or aged men, because they had had long experience in religion, and had a thorough acquaintance with the doctrines and duties of the gospel, and they might be expected to stand steadfastly as examples to others; and “young men,” those who were in the vigor and prime of life, because they had shown that they had power to resist evil, and were endowed with strength, and it was proper to call on them to exert their vigor in the sacred cause of religion.

    I write unto you, little children - Many manuscripts read here, “I have written” - ἔγραψα egrapsa- instead of “I write” - γράφω graphōThis reading is found in both the ancient Syriac versions, and in the Coptic; it was followed by Origen, Cyril, Photius, and OEeumenius; and it is adopted by Grotius, Mill, and Hahn, and is probably the true reading. The connection seems to demand this. In 1 John 2:12-13, the apostle uses the word γράφω graphō- I write - in relation to children, fathers, and young men; in the passage before us, and in the next verse, he again addresses children, fathers, and young men, and in relation to the two latter, he says ἔγραψα egrapsa- “I have written.” The connection, therefore, seems to demand that the same word should be employed here also. Some persons have supposed that the whole passage is spurious, but of that there is no evidence; and, as we have elsewhere seen, it is not uncommon for John to repeat a sentiment, and to place it in a variety of lights, in order that he might make it certain that he was not misapprehended.

    Some have supposed, also, that the expression “I have written,” refers to some former epistle which is now lost, or to the Gospel by the same author, which had been sent to them (Hug.), and that he means here to remind them that he had written to them on some former occasion, inculcating the same sentiments which he now expressed. But there is no evidence of this, and this supposition is not necessary in order to a correct understanding of the passage. In the former expression, “I write,” the state of mind would be that of one who fixed his attention on what he was “then” doing, and the particular reason “why” he did it - and the apostle states these reasons in 1 John 2:12-13. Yet it would not be unnatural for him immediately to throw his mind into the past, and to state the reasons why he had resolved to write to them at all, and then to look at what he had purposed to say as already done, and to state the reasons why that was done.

    Thus one who sat down to write a letter to a friend might appropriately state in any part of the letter the reasons which had induced him to write at all to him on the subject. If he fixed his attention on the fact that he was actually writing, and on the reasons why he wrote, he would express himself in the present tense - I write; if on the previous purpose, or the reasons which induced him to write at all, he would use the past tense - “I have written” for such and such reasons. So John seems here, in order to make what he says emphatic, to refer to two states of his own mind: the one when he resolved to write, and the reasons which occurred to him then; and the other when he was actually writing, and the reasons which occurred to him then. The reasons are indeed substantially the same, but they are contemplated from different points of view, and that fact shows that what he did was done with deliberation, and from a deep sense of duty.

    Because ye have known the Father - In 1 John 2:12, the reason assigned for writing to this class is, that their sins were forgiven. The reason assigned here is, that in early life they had become acquainted with God as a Father. He desires that they would show themselves dutiful and faithful children in this relation which they sustained to him. Even children may learn to regard God as their Father, and may have toward him all the affectionate interest which grows out of this relation.

    Matthew Henry
    Concise Bible Commentary
    As Christians have their peculiar states, so they have peculiar duties; but there are precepts and obedience common to all, particularly mutual love, and contempt of the world. The youngest sincere disciple is pardoned: the communion of saints is attended with the forgiveness of sins. Those of the longest standing in Christ's school need further advice and instruction. Even fathers must be written unto, and preached unto; none are too old to learn. But especially young men in Christ Jesus, though they are arrived at strength of spirit and sound sense, and have successfully resisted first trials and temptations, breaking off bad habits and connexions, and entered in at the strait gate of true conversion. The different descriptions of Christians are again addressed. Children in Christ know that God is their Father; it is wisdom. Those advanced believers, who know Him that was from the beginning, before this world was made, may well be led thereby to give up this world. It will be the glory of young persons to be strong in Christ, and his grace. By the word of God they overcome the wicked one.
    Ellen G. White
    My Life Today, 5

    My Consecration Today

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    Ellen G. White
    This Day With God, 266.2

    The Christian parent should never lose the sense that he is one of God's little children, and that he is to cultivate a courteous, compassionate disposition, because he is an educator. He is to represent Jesus to his children. In his dealing with them, there is to be seen no impetuosity, and neither is there to be seen the cold, icy dignity that freezes love in the heart. He is to be so kind, so tender, that the hearts of the children will be softened and subdued, prepared to receive the love and grace of Christ. No harsh words are to be spoken by a Christian to any one, old or young. Such words are prompted by the enemy.... TDG 266.2

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