1 John 2:12–14 (NKJV) Part I
12 I write to you, little children, Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake…
13b I write to you, little children, Because you have known the Father.
This is one of the passages of 1 John that has confused me for years. Why would John write this structured form? In all my endeavors to chase this one down it seems to be an exhortation to not only the maturity levels of believers but possibly to other strata within the church. So let’s look at what he writes for each group and why.
To the children he writes two things, but we must note some inadequate translation here. The first instance of children in v. 12 is referring to a relational aspect such as father to his infant child. The second instance in verse 13 is referring to strictly the age of the person so possibly more like toddler or prepubescent youth. I found it odd that the Greek text has two different words used, but our major translations just use “children.” The only translation that didn’t was Young’s Literal Translation which uses, “little children” in the vs. 12 and “little youths” in vs. 13. So should this influence our interpretation? Let’s see. So back to what he says about the youngest generation addressed. He writes,
1. Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.
2. Because you have known the Father.
It is easy to emphasize the wrong aspects of a verse but when we put the two statements beside each other it becomes obvious that the focus is on God. He is the one who forgives because of his character and existence, it is who he is. God is the provider of sacrifice, the justifier of that sacrifice, and the Just One who adjudicates righteousness because the sacrifice was his son. So, in simplicity John wanted to remind them that their forgiveness is based on who God is, not their sin, nor self as a focus. This is core to a believer’s conversion. God in his mercy and grace forgives not because it is owed, but because he loves.
The second statement addressed to “little youths” or young children under tutelage, introduces the word known. Known conveys a level off knowledge influenced by relationship. It is not pure academic understanding, but academic understanding with experiential application. To know about God and to know God is two different perspectives. We can know our neighbors by name, occupation, and other things, but to know our neighbors on a personal level is different.
So does John have two different groups in mind here? Is he possibly talking to the church as a whole that he looks as his dear children? Is he wanting to remind them that it is God and his character as the foundation of their forgiveness. Is he wanting to remind them to continue to grow in the knowledge and relationship with God in their Christian walk?
Regardless of the answer this side of heaven it is a good reminder to put forgiveness and relationship in perspective again. God because of who he is, forgives. He is forgiving in nature. We are not owed, nor do we deserve such a grace. We cannot demand forgiveness nor earn such, but through the vehicle of regenerative faith this forgiveness begins. Also, do you know the Father? Does the proclamation of his name in Exodus cause you to respond as Moses did?
Exodus 34:5–9 (NKJV)
5 Now the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. 6 And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, 7 keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.”
8 So Moses made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped. 9 Then he said, “If now I have found grace in Your sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray, go among us, even though we are a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your inheritance.”
I bring this up because foundational to forgiveness is God’s character. Foundational to our faith is understanding who God is. It begins with his name. When we even use the word “God” or “Father” do we grasp what his name means? So in looking at what is written in Exodus, what do we really know about his name’s sake? What do we really know about the Father? And,…do we surpass our intellect so that this knowledge changes us spiritually and practically.
Does the comprehension of God’s mercy, grace, longsuffering, goodness, truth, forgiveness, and judgment cause you to worship in brokenness, humility, adoration, and thankfulness? Does it make you cry out for forgiveness but yet exclaim in jubilation God’s grace? This is foundational to our relationship and comprehension of who God is. He is forgiving and we can relationally know him based on his own testimony through the Word, Jesus Christ, and his written word He has left for us. May you grasp the gravity of who God is and His love for you. Just a few thoughts…