1 John 2:12-17
I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake.…
I. How ADDRESSED.
1. First time,
(1) Generally. "I write unto you, my little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his Name's sake." In accordance with verse 1, we are to understand by "little children" all his readers. It is a designation expressive of affection more than of subordination. Christians are addressed according to their fundamental position. What we need first of all is to have our sins forgiven. As unforgiven, our position is fundamentally wrong; we lie under the Divine condemnation. As forgiven, our position is fundamentally right; we come into the Divine favour. The ground on account of which we are forgiven is here said to be his Name (Christ's), i.e., what he is declared to be. Because he is declared to be Saviour, to be the Source of all atoning virtue, by believing on him as such we have our sins forgiven by the Father. Those who are thus forgiven can be appealed to against the encroachments of the world.
(2) Older section. "I write unto you, fathers, because ye know him which is from the beginning." While all Christians are forgiven, they are divided into the class of the fathers and the class of the young men. There are those who have been a long time Christians. These, the fathers, are addressed as having the fruit of experience. They know him which is from the beginning, viz. Christ. They have a large amount of peculiarly Christian experience. They know him who best reveals the deep things of God, who was at the beginning, and entered into the Divine counsels about redemption. They know the love of him who, having an unbeginning existence and glory, entered into time and into the midst of sinful men, and devoted himself in shame and anguish and death - the love this which passeth knowledge. Those who have attained to this experience may well be appealed to against thinking of substituting for it a more worldly experience.
(3) Younger section. "I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the evil one." There are those who have not been a long time Christians. These, the young men, are addressed as having victory, the prize of strength. They have not had time for experience, but are in the midst of the conflicts which give rise to experience. Their adversary is here called the evil one, i.e., one who, as the great impersonation and champion of evil, heartily wishes their destruction, and seeks, by all stirrings within and solicitations from without, to compass their destruction. Especially are they exposed to his assaults as having, in their youth, strong passions and illusionary views of life, without the counterpoise of experience. But Christ has always his representatives among the young men. They have not been deterred by their powerful adversary from taking up their position on his side, and showing an active interest in his cause. These youthful victors may well be appealed to against thinking of throwing away victory for the sake of a few worldly pleasures.
2. Seceded time.
(1) Generally. "I have written unto you, little children, because ye know the Father." There is not the same Greek word here for "little children" that there is in the twelfth verse. It is a word which points to his hearers not so much as objects of his affection, as placed under his authority and care. There is not sufficient reason for destroying the symmetry of the passage, and supposing the reference to be to those who are literally little children. These are an interesting class, for whom Christ cared separately when he said, "Feed my lambs;" but they are to be regarded here as falling under the class of the young men. For even the little children may win victories over the evil one, by taking up their position on the side of Christ, and standing by his side in all that he requires of resistance to evil, and, beyond that, though their equipment is but small, of aggression on evil. Christians, both old and young, are addressed according to what essentially belongs to them. Being forgiven, they also know the Father, i.e., they have been adopted into his family, have his authority and loving care exercised over them, and are endeavouring to fulfill their duties to him as their Father. That is the basis on which their life goes forward, and they may well be appealed to against taking a worldly basis for their life.
(2) Older section "I have written unto you, fathers, because ye know him which is from the beginning." In writing to the fathers there is no change in his language. We need no new object of knowledge; for the knowledge of Christ comprehends all that we can know. What we need is to have our knowledge of him deepened, extended, cleared, ordered into a more complete whole; and this admits of endless progress. When we have known Christ for years, do we feel that we have exhausted the meaning of his words and his love? The fathers, then, may well be appealed to a second time, not to go aside, like the first human pair, to a forbidden knowledge.
(3) Younger section. "I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the Word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the evil one." In writing to the young men, to the fact of victory he adds the conditions of victory. The immediate condition of victory is strength. The condition of strength is the indwelling of the Word of God. When Christ was in his youthful conflict he opposed a decisive word from the Old Testament to the devil's lie. Three times he conquered by the use of the same means. Young men are to have their inexperience and rawness made up to them by their grasp of what God has spoken. The Word as a whole, and in its parts, must be in them - in their memory, in their understanding, in their heart - ready for use. And when the needed word is brought up clearly before them, they are rendered invulnerable. Young men who have felt this to be the secret of their strength may well be appealed to not to allow the strength they have acquired to be sapped by worldly compliance.
II. HOW WARNED.
1. Worldliness forbidden. "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world." We must connect with the world here the idea of that which is abnormal, or separated from God. But we are not to think of the morally corrupt world, the world that lieth in the evil one. We are to think of the world of created good as apart from God; for it is represented as passing away. What, then, is to be our feeling, the feeling of all Christians - for there is now no distinction of old and young - or rather, what is not to be our feeling with regard to the world? The feeling which is most peremptorily vetoed is that of love. Some would say, "Love not the world too much;" what the writer of this Epistle says is, "Love it not at all." Nay, he is yet more explicit. With regard to the various things which constitute the world, as though each passed before him in succession, he says, with the same peremptoriness, "Love them not at all."
2. Worldliness incompatible with love to God. "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." Earthly things, such as a living, money, art, office, may be sought legitimately and worthily in connection with God. But when they are sought as complete, as ends in themselves, they become rivals to God, and love to them can only be cherished at the expense of love to God. Love to the world and love to the Father (who adopts us in Christ) are so contrary that one heart cannot contain them both.
3. Three aspects of the worldliness that cannot be traced to God. "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the vain-glory of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." We have not here all sin; for such sins as hatred of the brethren, heresy, spiritual pride, are not included; we have only three aspects of one sin, viz. worldliness. "The flesh" points to that in which worldly enjoyment has its scat; "the eyes" point to means by which there is a ministering to worldly enjoyment; "life" (means of living) points to there being guarantee of worldly enjoyment. Within the flesh there is the stirring of desire for worldly enjoyment; the eyes are ministers to the flesh, presenting objects for desire. Objects not desired, but possessed beyond what we can appropriate of them for worldly enjoyment, produce a feeling of vain-glory. All this stirring within the flesh, this desiring through the eyes, this gloating over possession, has no high origin; it is not of the Father, but of the world.
4. Worldliness linked to the transient, not to the abiding. "And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever." The transitoriness of the world is brought in as a dissuasive from worldliness. There is a constant flux in earthly things, and the pleasures connected with them are momentary.
"But pleasures are like poppies spread -
You seize the flower, its bloom is shed;
Or like the snowflake on the river,
A moment white - then melts for ever;
Or like the borealis race,
That flit ere you can point their place;
Or like the rainbow's lovely form,
Evanishing amid the storm." Not merely does the world pass away, but also the lust thereof. After a time our capacity for enjoyment is diminished. Those that look out at the windows are darkened; the daughters of music arc brought low; and desire fails (Ecclesiastes 12). Death severs our connection with the world, and puts an end to all earthly appetency. What is this transitoriness of the world meant to teach us? The voice which is here given to it is this, "Love not the world." If our love is fixed on the world, then the time is coming when we shall be left with a total blank. Divine wisdom counsels another course. It is to do the will of God, i.e., to believe in Christ, and to follow Christ. The recommendation of this course is that it links us to the eternal order of things. "He that doeth the will of God abideth for ever." There are creatures that keep themselves from being drifted about in the waters by fastening themselves on to a rock; so in our mutable element we must secure fixity for our being by attaching ourselves to 'him who is "the same yesterday, and today, and for ever." - R.F.
Parallel VersesKJV: I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake.