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THE FIRST EPISTLE GENERAL OF JOHN - Chapter 2 - Verse 13

Verse 13. 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 neaniskoi, or 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. See Barnes "1 Jo 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 froth 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. neaniskoi. This word would properly embrace those who were in the rigour of life, midway between children and old men. It is uniformly rendered young men in the New Testament: Mt 19:20,22; Mr 14:61; 16:6; Lu 7:14; Ac 2:17; 5:10; and in the passages before us. It does not elsewhere occur. It is commonly understood as embracing those in the prime and rigour of manhood up to the period of about forty years.—Robinson.

Because ye have overcome the wicked one. That is, because you have rigour, (see the next verse,)and that rigour 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 combatted 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 vigour 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, be; cause 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 rigour 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 rigour in the sacred cause of religion.

I write unto you, little children". Many Mss. read here, I have writtenegraqa—instead of I writegrafw. This reading is found in both the ancient Syriac versions, and in the Coptic; it was followed by Origen, Cyril, Photius, and OEcumenius; and it is adopted by Grotius, Mill, and Hahn; and is probably the true reading. The connexion seems to demand this. In 1 Jo 2:12,13, the apostle uses the word grafwI 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 egraqaI have written. The connexion, 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 Jo 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 Jo 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 towards him all the affectionate interest which grows out of this relation.

{a} "him" 1 Jo 1:1 {*} "little children" "Children" {b} "Father" Joh 14:7,9

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