Summary: 1) General Reassurance (1 John 2:12), 2) Assurance to Spiritual Children (1 John 2:13c), 3) Assurance to Spiritual Young Men (1 John 2:13b, 14b), 4) Assurance to Spiritual Fathers (1 John 2:13a, 14a)
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is urging global leaders to rely more on government spending and less on monetary policy to spur growth as he prepares a budget that will push (Canada) into deficit. This week, Statistics Canada reported that output grew just 1.2 per cent in 2015, down from 2.5 per cent in 2014. (http://business.financialpost.com/news/economy/justin-trudeaus-message-to-world-let-government-spending-do-the-work)
One essence of life is growth. This is true in both the physical realm and in the spiritual realm. Just as living seeds grow into mature plants and infants grow into mature adults, so new Christians grow into Christlikeness. When growth is hindered in the physical realm, either by malnutrition, disease, or birth defects, the results can be tragic. But it is an even greater tragedy when believers fail to grow and mature spiritually. After all, immature Christians cannot fully appreciate all the blessings and privileges that God has reserved for them, nor serve Him with the usefulness He desires (John 15:4–5; 17:21; Rom. 5:2; 8:28, 34; 9:23; 2 Cor. 4:15–17; Eph. 2:19; 3:12, 20; Phil. 4:7; Heb. 7:25; James 1:17; 2 Peter 1:4; cf. Pss. 18:2; 27:1; 46:11; 48:14; Isa. 40:11).
The apostle John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, placed his discussion in 1 John 2:12-14 to give assurance and comfort to his readers that they were the true children of God, unlike the false teachers and counterfeit believers who threatened them. In view of the doctrinal and practical tests that John had already presented—the test about belief in Christ, the test about recognition of sin, the tests for obedience and love—the apostle wanted to confirm the authenticity of his readers’ salvation. This paragraph underscores his subsequently stated purpose for the entire letter: “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13; cf. 1:4).
Obviously, not all original or current readers of this letter were or are at equal stages of spiritual maturity. Some are spiritual infants while others are spiritual adults. In order to effectively encourage all recipients, John began this very definitive section with a 1) General Reassurance (1 John 2:12), after which he gave specific assurance to those at each general stage of spiritual growth: 2) Little Children (1 John 2:13c), 3) Young Men (1 John 2:13b, 14b), and 4) Fathers. These are metaphors which refer to the various levels of spiritual maturity among his readers (Hindson, E. E., & Kroll, W. M. (Eds.). (1994). KJV Bible Commentary (p. 2633). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.)
1) General Reassurance (1 John 2:12)
1 John 2:12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake. (ESV)
John knew that the people to whom he was writing were believers and that their sins are forgiven. In this verse, and in the verses that follow, the apostle said “I am writing to you” or “I have written to you” six times, in order to emphatically state that his message was limited to his readers, the ones who truly were part of God’s family. All of the verbs in these verses (except “I am writing” or “I write”) are PERFECT TENSE, which speak of action in the past resulting in an ongoing state of being (Utley, R. J. (1999). The Beloved Disciple’s Memoirs and Letters: The Gospel of John, I, II, and III John (Vol. Volume 4, p. 206). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.).
The word translated little children (teknia) means “born ones,” speaking of offspring in a general sense without regard for age. It is commonly used in the New Testament to describe believers as the children of God (John 13:33; 1 John 2:1, 28; 3:7, 18; 4:4; 5:21; cf. Gal. 4:19, 28). By using this term, the apostle was addressing all who were true offspring of God, at any level of spiritual maturity. His focus was on all who mourned over their sinful condition (Matt. 5:4), trusted Jesus Christ as their only Lord and Savior (Acts 16:31), had their lives transformed by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5), lived in obedience to God’s Word (Rom. 6:17), and showed sincere love for one another (1 Peter 1:22). Only two spiritual families exist from God’s perspective: children of God and children of Satan (cf. John 8:39–44). God’s children do not love Satan’s family or give their allegiance to the world he controls (cf. 1 John 2:15). Instead, they grow (though not all at the same rate or with equal consistency) in their love for the Lord, a love that will manifest itself in heartfelt obedience and service (cf. John 14:15). In regards to the groups addressed here, when John addresses children, fathers, and young men, he does not mean that what he says of one group is not true of the other. That’s obvious as you read the whole letter and see each of these privileges applied to the church as a whole (Piper, J. (2007). Sermons from John Piper (1980–1989). Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God.).