I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. – 1 John 2:12-13 ESV
This section in the book of First John is a fascinating and somewhat perplexing one. Even the commentaries seem to struggle with exactly what John seems to be saying and to whom he is trying to say it. He appears to be addressing three groups of people: Little children, fathers, and young men. There are those who believe there three groups simply represent the various age segments within the local church. Like any fellowship, it would have had children, young adults and older individuals. There is another school of thought that believes these three groups represent levels or degrees of spiritual maturity. The term “children” would simple be a designation for those who were new in Christ. “Young men” would represent those in the church whose lives exhibit a degree of spiritual growth. “Fathers” would be those who were the more spiritually mature. The problem with either of these views is that John complicates any conclusions we may reach by what he has to say to each of the three groups he mentions. Our tendency is to focus on the three audiences addressed rather than the message being conveyed. It is not exactly clear who John is addressing, but it is crystal clear what he is saying to them.
Your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.
You know him who is from the beginning.
You have overcome the evil one.
Because you know the father.
Because you know him who is from the beginning.
Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
If you notice, virtually every one of these statements is a review of what John has covered in his letter up until this point. Forgiveness of sins, knowledge of the Father, spiritual victory, the abiding presence of God, and a knowledge of Jesus Christ – each of these was to be real in their lives and not speculative. These truths were not to be in doubt. Regardless of who is talking to, John is reassuring them that everything he has been telling them is “true in him and in you” (1 John 2:8). Your sins are forgiven. What a remarkable statement that most of us take for granted or for to grasp its significance. We have forgiveness of our sins – for His name’s sake. Not because we have earned it or deserved it. Not because we have lived righteous and sinless lives. Not because we have paid the debt for our sins. But because of His name. God came up with a way to protect the integrity of His name, His very character, by providing His Son as the sacrifice for our sins. His sinless Son took our place and paid our debt, propitiating or satisfying the just demands of a holy, righteous God. And we are forgiven. Our sins are forgiven. “He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins” (Ephesians 1:7 NLT). Done deal. Case closed. Sins forgiven. Past. Present. Future. For all time.
Not only that, we know Him who was from the beginning. We know Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the creator of the universe. We have a relationship with the God-man, who left the throne of heaven and took on human flesh so that He might die as a substitute for our sins. And it is that relationship with Him that gives us access to the Father. We know the Father. We have an intimate and personal relationship with Him. We can come into His presence without fear of condemnation. We can have fellowship with Him and enjoy all the blessings and benefits that come with being a child of God. “This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault” (Colossians 1:19-20 NLT).
And if all that was not enough, John reminds his audience that they are overcomers. He doesn’t tell them they WILL be overcomers some day. No, he tells them they have already overcome the evil one. They have experienced victory over the enemy. They have conquered sin and death, because of the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. Yes, they were still living on this earth and were faced with the prospect battling their own sin natures and a very real spiritual enemy in the form of Satan, but John wanted them to know that they were already victorious and strong, because the word of God was abiding in them. They had the promise of forgiveness of sins and the assurance of eternal life with God. “But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless” (1 Corinthians 15:57-58 NLT).
In a way, these words are for all of us who have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. They are true of us whatever our chronological age or level of spiritual maturity. We are forgiven. We know God. We are strong. We are overcomers. And we will be victorious. Timely words. A much-needed reminder. Now let’s live like we believe it.