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1 John 2:13 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the wicked one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father.
I am writing to 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 νεανίσκοί, or young men, and would properly include those who were at the head of families.
Because you know him who has been from the beginning. That is, the Lord Jesus Christ. The argument is that they had long been acquainted with his religion’s principles and understood 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 reminding them of the principles of that religion they had learned from 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 am writing to you, young men. νεανίσκοι. This word would properly embrace those who were in the vigor of life, midway between children and old men. It is uniformly rendered young men in the New Testament: Matt. 19:20, 22; Mark 14:51; 16:5; Luke 7:14; Acts 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 vigor of manhood up to the period of about forty years.—Robinson.
Because ye have overcome the wicked one. That is, because you have vigor (see the next verse) and that vigor 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 combated 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. Therefore, it is proper to exhort you not to disgrace the victory you have already gained but to employ your vigor of character in maintaining the cause of the Savior. 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, because 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 vigor 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 vigor in the sacred cause of religion.
I have written to you, children. Many MSS read here, I have written—ἔγραψα—instead of I write—γράφω. This reading is found in both the ancient Syriac versions, and in the Coptic; it was followed by Origen, Cyril, Photius, and Œcumenius; and it is adopted by Grotius, Mill, and Hahn and is probably the true reading. The connection seems to demand this. In 1 John 2:12-13, the apostle uses the word γράφω—I write—in relation to children, lathers, 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 ἔγραψα—I have written. Therefore, the connection seems to demand that the same word should also be employed here. 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 John 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 substantially the same, but they are contemplated from different points of view, which shows that what he did was done with deliberation and from a deep sense of duty.
Because you know the Father. In 1 John 2:12, the reason assigned for writing to this class is, that their sins were forgiven. The reason assigned here is that they had become acquainted with God as a Father in early life. He desires that they would show themselves dutiful and faithful children in this relationship 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.
By Albert Barnes