I John 2:12-14: Encouragement for the Family of God

August 24, 2017


“Years ago, a Dear Abby (Arizona Daily Sun [1/10/99]) column ran a story by a retired schoolteacher. One day she had her students take out two sheets of paper and list the names of the other students in the room. Then she told them to think of the nicest thing they could say about each of their classmates and write it down by their names.


She took the papers home that weekend and compiled a list for each student of what the others had said about him or her. On Monday she gave each student his or her list. Before long, everyone was smiling. ‘Really’’ one whispered. “I never knew that meant anything to anyone. I didn’t know anyone liked me that much!’

Years later, the teacher went to the funeral of one of her former students, who had been killed in Vietnam. Many who had been in that class years before were there. After the service, the young man’s parents approached the teacher and said, ‘We want to show you something. Mark was carrying this when he was killed.’ The father pulled out of a wallet the list of all the good things Mark’s classmates had said about him. ‘Thank you so much for doing that,’ Mark’s mother said. ‘As you can see, Mark treasured it.’ A group of Mark’s classmates overheard the exchange. One smiled sheepishly and said, “I still have my list. It’s in my top desk drawer at home.’ Another said, ‘I have mine, too. It’s in my diary.’ ‘I put mine in our wedding album,’ said a third. ‘I bet we all saved them,’ said a fourth. ‘I carry mine with me at all times.’ At that point, the teacher sat down and cried. And, she used that assignment in every class for the rest of her teaching career.


That story shows how much we all need encouragement.” –Stephen J. Cole, bible.org

1 John2:12-14 forms an interruption or a pause in the apostle’s argument. Here the Apostle confirms for us to whom he is writing. He wants to encourage us, no matter our level of maturity. This is encouraging to us as believers because in every church there are different levels of maturity.

This section consists of six sentences, each beginning with the verb “write” The author counsels three groups: “little children,” ‘”fathers,” and “young men.” More than likely, “children” is a general title for believers.


Verse 12a:

“I write [I am writing] to you…”  “Write” in Greek is grapho, here it is in the present tense which speaks of the continuing effect John intends for his words to have on the hearts and minds of his readers.

Verse 12b: “…little children…”

“Little children” in Greek is teknion, to bring forth, bear children, be born, literally “born ones.” This is a term for a small child. It is also a term of affection used by a teacher to His students, as when Jesus addressed His Twelve disciples just before His death. By this time John must have been nearly a hundred years old; all the members of his churches were of a much younger generation and to him they were all “little children” in the same way as a teacher or professor may still think of his students who have long since become adults.

Verse 12c:  “Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.”

“Forgiven” in Greek is aphiemi, it depicts an action which causes total separation from a previous condition, in this case from the penalty and power of Sin in our life. This is in the perfect tense which indicates that our sins were forgiven at a point in time in the past. What moment? That moment of conviction of sin, resulting in belief and receiving of Christ’s sacrificial, substitutionary, work on the cross of Calvary.

No one can grow in their Christian life until they know they are forgiven and accepted. In light of the words he had just written, John wants his readers to understand that they are children of God who had received His unqualified forgiveness and are eternally “accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6).

“That's where family life in the household of God begins—we are born into the family as little children. The most simple, basic, and elementary concept we have as children of God is that of forgiveness of sins. That is indeed a blessed truth, but we eventually must get beyond forgiveness, otherwise we will remain babes in Christ.”–John Phillips

I am amazed at God’s amazing grace! Look at these four scriptures that show the extent of God’s forgiveness:

Psalm 103:12, “As far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us.” God is saying that our sin has been removed an infinite distance from us. His forgiveness is total, complete, and unconditional.

Isaiah 38:17, “In love You have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for You have cast all my sins behind Your back.” When something is behind our back, it’s out of sight.  God says He has done that with our sins.  Even as we continue to sin daily, God does not see our sin but rather, as we confess our sin (1 John 1:9) He sees the righteousness of Christ as a covering for our sin.

Micah 7:19, “You [God] will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” Then we look at eternity future, not only does he cast my sins into the sea, He is going to do away with the sea. “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea” (Revelation 21:1).

Isaiah 43:25, “I am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” Recently I helped a young lady, who was in the hospital to receive Christ. I explained the Gospel, how that God sent His Son to die for our sins, then rise from the dead. She understood, prayed with me and gave her heart to Jesus. In process of my counsel I told her, “As of this very moment, every sin you have ever committed is covered by the death of Christ,” in utter amazement she said, “Really?”

Yes, really! God removes our sins from our record completely and remembers them no more.  When we trust Jesus as our Savior, God removes our record from the file.  He doesn’t keep it there or daily add the long list of sins we continue to commit even as Christians.  Lastly, He will not remember our sins, they are gone, never to be brought up again.

When I became a believer in 1958, a popular youth chorus was, “My sins are gone.”

Gone, gone, gone, gone! Yes, my sins are gone.

Now my soul is free and in my heart’s a song;

Buried in the deepest sea. Yes, that’s good enough for me;

I shall live eternally, Praise God! My sins are gone!

–Helen Griggs

Verse 12d: “…for His name’s sake.”

John goes on to explain how our sins are forgiven. How can he be so certain? He explains that it is “for His Name's sake.” Whose Name? “The Name above all names” (Philippians 2:9-11); and that “God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).

So, “forgiveness of sins” is for “His name’s sake.”  It is not for anything we have done or can do (Romans 3:23). All we can do is receive salvation by faith.  The enemy will repeatedly come to accuse and condemn you for your sins. Answer him every time, not with your performance, but with the name and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

“One simple soul found faith in Christ at the end of a service through reading John 3:16. Her counselor had given her a New Testament and marked the verse for her. After she retired to bed that night, however, doubts began to arise about her newly received salvation. She decided Satan was filling her mind with these troublesome thoughts, and she reasoned further that since Satan was said to love darkness rather than light he must be under her bed, the darkest place in the room. She turned on a light, found the marked place in her Bible, put her finger on the verse, and thrust the New Testament under the bed. "Here," she said to the Devil, ‘read it for yourself!’ That was good enough for a start! She would soon need to know much more than that.” – John Phillips

Spurgeon is quoted as saying that he was so sure of his salvation that he could grab on to a cornstalk and swing out over the fires of hell, look into the face of the devil, and sing, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!” When the storms of life, the winds of trouble, and the sea of discomfort and emotional agony seem to overwhelm, we have to say with the songwriter, “Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness…We dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.” –C.H. Spurgeon

Lost are saved find their way at the sound of your great name.

All condemned feel no shame at the sound of your great name.

Every fear has no place at the sound of your great name.

The enemy—he has to leave at the sound of your great name.

You are high and lifted up and all the world will praise your great name!

All the weak find their strength at the sound of your great name.

Hungry souls receive grace at the sound of your great name.

The fatherless—they find their rest at the sound of your great name.

The sick are healed and the dead are raised at the sound of your great name.

–Amy Grant

Verse 13a: “I write to you, fathers,”

“Fathers,” in Greek is pater in this context refers to more mature believers who are able to provide moral and intellectual upbringing to younger believers. Paul uses pater in his instructions to Timothy (a younger man) instructing him “Do not rebuke an older man (presbuteros), but exhort him as a father (pater), younger men as brothers” (1 Timothy 5:1).

“Fathers” is suggestive both of maturity and authority. They are the older men in the heavenly family, those who by reason of experience are looked up to for sympathy and guidance and assistance.  Spiritual parents who are mature in years, have passed from basic knowledge of God to what John Stott calls a 'deep communion with the Father.” –Vine

“Father,” pater is used naturally of those who stand in a position of responsible authority. Thus it is applied in the Old Testament to prophets: (2 Kings 2:12; 6:21; 13:14), priests (Judges 17:10; 18:19) and teachers (Proverbs 1:8)/; cf. Matthew 23:9; 1 Corinthians 4:15 Acts 7:2; 22:1. Here the natural characteristic of age is combined with that of eminence in the Christian body.”–Westcott

Verse 13b: “Because you have known Him who is from the beginning.”

“Known” in Greek is, ginosko which implies an intimate, personal relationship between the fathers and the Father! Ginosko implies experiential knowledge, not just the accumulation of facts.

“The perfect tense shows that this knowledge was a well-rounded matured knowledge, the results of which were a permanent possession of these men grown old in the Christian life. These fathers were the older men, mature in the Christian life, having lived in fellowship with the Lord Jesus for many years, and thus having gained much personal knowledge of Him by experience.” –Wuest

“Know (perfect tense) suggests a past knowledge that remains and grows, a knowledge centering in a Person characterized by His permanency…” –Hiebert

Verse 13c: “…from the beginning.” The beginning of what?

John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”

1 John 1:1, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life.”

Verse 14a: “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.”

“Young men” in Greek is neaniskos, generally describes men in the prime of their life between 20-40 years of age. Most commentators favor that this group is composed of believers younger in the faith as well as younger physically.

The glory of young men is their strength. A man can run the fastest, lift the most, or work the hardest between 14 and 35. He can do almost everything, if he puts his mind to it. These are prime years of a man’s physical strength

Almost everything that is great has been done by youth.

At age 27, Spurgeon built the great Metropolitan Tabernacle in London.

Billy Graham was 31 at the time of his now-famous Los Angeles Crusade.

Billy Sunday left home plate for the pulpit at 33.

John Wesley began his real life’s work at 35.

The average age of soldiers in World War two was 26, with thousands of teenagers, the youngest being 12 years old.

Josiah the King of Israel was 16 when he began his reign.

Martin Luther was 27 when he accepted the Biblical truth that salvation was by faith not by works, the seeds of the Reformation.  He was 34 when he nailed his monumental Ninety-five Theses to the door of that Wittenberg church.

George Muller was 27 when he moved to Bristol, sure that God wanted him to open an orphanage strictly on the basis of faith. With no money in hand, he was committed to telling his needs only to God.

John Bunyan was 32 when he was jailed for preaching without the permission of the established church. In that prison he wrote his immortal Pilgrim's Progress.

William Booth was 36 when he founded the Salvation Army. He threw himself into the crime, degradation and poverty of London's East End to rescue the poor, the wretched, and the despised.

David Brainerd was 25 when he set out to convert the American Indians. He was only 29 when he died.

William Carey was still in his teens when he could read the Bible in six languages. He was 32 when he went to India and launched the modern missionary era.

Such are God's strong young men. The world is a better place because of them and the church more glorious for all eternity.

And, by the way, Jesus Christ began the greatest work of all time at about age 30 culminating the greatest event of all time at about age 33

“The proper attribute of youth is, to carry on the active parts of life: if soldiers, to be engaged in all active service: that of age, to contemplate, and arrive at sound and matured knowledge. The latter have conquered as well, but the burden and heat of their struggle is past.” –Henry Alford

Ecclesiastes 11:9, “Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth; walk in the ways of your heart, and in the sight of your eyes.”

1 Timothy 4:12, “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit,[a] in faith, in purity.”

Verse 14b: “…because you are strong…”

Proverbs 20:29, “The glory of young men is their strength, and the splendor of old men is their gray head.”

1 Corinthians 16:13, “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.”

“Strong” in Greek is ischuros and refers primarily to continuing to be strong in the faith, not necessarily to their inherent physical strength, to which ischuros can refer. The best way to overcome the evil one is not by physical strength, but spiritual strength: Ephesians 6:16, “Above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.”

Verse 14c: “…the word of God abides in you…”

If your faith is weak, this could be the problem, neglect of God’s Word!

Psalm 119:9-11, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your Word. With all my heart I have sought You; Do not let me wander from Your commandments. Your Word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.”

Romans 10:17, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ”

Ephesians 6:17, “[Take] the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

1 Peter 2:2, “Desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.”

Verse 14d: “…you have overcome the wicked one.”

“You have overcome” in Greek is nikao, this verb means to conquer, to be victorious, in this case over Satan. It is only when you allow the Word of God to abide in you that you will overcome the enemy’s schemes.

It is not only the young who are to strong enough to overcome the “wicked [evil] one.” Every child of God is in a constant battle with our adversary the devil.

1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”

We resist the Devil by faith. When we exercise faith in the Word of God and the God of the word, and we take God at His Word, only on that basis can we resist him.

James 4:7,  “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” We cannot resist the Devil in the faith unless we fortify ourselves with the Word of God. 

Ephesians 6:10 “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”

Do you know Christ? I mean do you really know Him? Are you personally acquainted with the Savior?

Regardless of your age you are able to place your life in the hands of God and allow Him to work. God is doing, and will do, a great work in this world. He chooses to use people of all ages to accomplish His purposes. How wonderful it would be to allow Him to use us to accomplish great things for Him.

Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV) and The Living Bible (TLB).

Marlena and I support this ministry with our Social Security plus donations from a few of our friends. We need more friends! Will you be a friend to us and Everlasting Arms? Your financial support of this ministry is much appreciated. You may give on-line to John & Marlena’s Ministry. 25413 Alpha Street, Moreno Valley, CA 92557. Thank you and God bless you!

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