1 John 2:12 – I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake.
little children – teknion (a little child; used in the NT by teachers to their disciples) John uses this term 7 times in 1 John, as a teacher to his students, and thus he refers to all his readers as “little children” here. John is not referring to a group of children by age, but all of them as learners. In this sense, therefore, John is referring to all Christians of all time.
He does use “little children” (paidion) twice in 1 John to refer to children as opposed to older people with regard to their maturity in Christ: 1 John 2:13 & 2:18. In Vs 13 he is referring to newly born-again Christians who haven’t grown significantly yet. More on this in Vs 13 below.
are forgiven – aphiemi (to send away; divorce; yield up; let alone; disregard; leave; omit; neglect; abandon; forsake) Perfect tense – a completed action in the past. Thus “your sins have been forgiven once and for all time in the past”. This must be seen as an imputed forgiveness rather than the ongoing forgiveness of 1 John 1:9.
for his name’s sake – It was in the name of Jesus that they had been saved, according to the promise in Romans 10:13 that “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
John is writing to his readers because they are forgiven people, forgiven through the name of Jesus their Redeemer, therefore born-again saved Christians. This clearly defines John’s readers as genuine Christians and not just a group of people attending a church, and therefore this epistle is addressed to all believers as students of John! This fact is important for determining the group whose sins are propitiated in 1 John 2:2 (“he is the propitiation for our sins”) – these have to be all the genuine Christians of all time, not just of Israel as MacArthur mistakenly (and deceptively) claims. And therefore the propitiation for the sins of “the whole world” thus has to be more than all Christians (“and not for ours only, but also for [the sins of] the whole world.”), thus all mankind!
John’s words here are therefore fully applicable to Christians of today. 1 John is building a picture of the genuine Christian, not perfect, but forgiven anyway. All Christians should not sin (1 John 2:1), yet all Christians do sin (1 John 1:8) and therefore do need to confess, repent and be cleansed from sin (1 John 1:9); all Christians have an Advocate (Jesus Christ) (1 John 2:1) who is the propitiation for their sins (and also for the whole world) (1 John 2:2); all Christians should be walking in the light and not the darkness (1 John 1:6-7); and the love of God is perfected in all genuine Christians (1 John 2:5) who should show the love of God to those around them (their neighbours), especially to their fellow-Christians (1 John 2:10). And, a major means of identifying the genuine Christian is that he lives his life as Jesus lived, obeying (keeping) His word (commandments) (1 John 2:3).
Genuine Christians should tick all the boxes here. If someone is a Christian, then he should look and act like one, not just when others are looking, not just on Sundays, but as a whole way of life. John here is probably looking at the Gnostic Nicolaitan heresy of measuring their Christianity by how much they enjoyed the pleasures of the world. Such pleasure is defined as hedonism. Note that the hedonism heresy is still alive and well today.
Gnostic hedonism is taught by well-publicised calvinist and New Age author Gary Thomas who says (in “Sacred Marriage”): “But a healthy look at sex can provide fruitful meditation on our need and desire for God”. And John Piper who wrote “Christian Hedonism” allegedly based it on the writings of Jonathan Edwards who wrote (in “Concerning the Divine Decrees”) that “evil is necessary, in order to the highest happiness of the creature, and the completeness of that communication of God, for which he made the world; because the creature's happiness consists in the knowledge of God, and the sense of his love.” (as quoted by Piper!) Augustine’s Gnostic beliefs continue to pervert biblical teachings!
1 John 2:13 – I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him [that is] from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father.
fathers – pater (father; God as Father; male ancestor; can mean both parents; a more remote ancestor; progenitor of a people; older person advanced in years; a title of honour; a teacher especially of the law) We get our word “paternal” (fatherly) from this word.
young man – neaniskos (young man; youth; young attendant or servant)
little children – paidion (young child; little boy or girl; infants; little ones) This is a different term than the one used for “little children” in Vs 12 above. Here it refers to young in age or maturity, not teknion which is used for disciples and used in 1 John for those reading this epistle.
Here John now breaks up his audience into three groups, which can be roughly described as:
(a) fathers – older (mature) Christians, including church leaders, ones who should be teachers. Those who hold church office such as pastor, bishop (elder) or deacon (see 1 Timothy 3:1-13). Note in Hebrews 5:12 (below) those who should have been teachers but had not progressed past baby stage.
(b) young men – Christians who have some significant understanding of scriptural teachings; it is possible that most belonged to this group.
(c) little children – new Christians – those who have yet to move on from the milk of the word; learners under instruction. Such are described as babies still on milk rather than meat in Hebrews 5:12 – For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which [be] the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
have known (used twice) – ginosko (to know; to have knowledge) Both perfect tense, indicating a once-for-all-time completed action in the past. This defines the fathers as genuine Christians.
(that is) from the beginning – This would refer to God’s (and therefore Christ’s) eternal existence.
have overcome – nikao (conquer; be victorious; hold fast one’s faith even unto death; win one’s case; maintain one’s cause; get the victory; prevail) Perfect tense again, indicating a once-for-all-time action completed in the past.
nikao is used 28 times in the NT, just twice in the gospels …..
Eg John 16:33b – In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
….. 3 times in Romans
Eg Romans 12:21 – Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.)
….. and 6 times in 1 John.
Most of its occurrences (17) are in Revelation which talks more about overcoming than any other book in the NT.
nikao is translated “hath prevailed” in Revelation 5:5 and “gotten the victory” in Revelation 15:2.
A related word hypernikao is translated “are more than conquerors” in Romans 8:37. hypernikao is derived from hyper (over; beyond; more than) + nikao.
the wicked one – poneros (full of labours, annoyances, hardships; harassed by labours; bringing toils, annoyances, perils; causing pain and trouble; bad nature or condition; diseased or blind; evil, wicked, bad) From ponos (great trouble; pain)
poneros is an adjective, not a noun, and could probably be better translated “wicked” or “the wicked”.
John refers to Cain as belonging to “that wicked one” in 1 John 3:12 – Not as Cain, [who] was of that wicked one (poneros), and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil (poneros), and his brother’s righteous.
At the time John wrote 1 John, a Gnostic group called the Cainites (or Cainians) were worshippers of Cain. The Gospel of Judas was said to be one of their texts. “The Gospel of Judas is a Gnostic gospel. The content consists of conversations between Jesus and Judas Iscariot. Given that it includes late 2nd century theology, it is thought to have been composed in the 2nd century by Gnostic Christians.” (Wikipedia)
An early Christian author, Tertullian, said that “Theirs (the Nicolaitans) is called the Gaian (or Cainian) heresy.” (Wikipedia)
poneros is translated “wickedness” in 1 John 5:19.
poneros would refer to the devil (satan) in 1 John 2:13, although it can also refer to an evil person. Eg. “an evil man” in Matthew 12:35.
1 John 2:14 – I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him [that is] from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome (nikao) the wicked one.
Once again the perfect tense (a completed action in the past) is used for both “have known” and “have overcome”.
strong – ischyros (strong, mighty, in body or mind; one who has strength to sustain attacks of satan) It would refer here to strength in spiritual warfare. John may have been trying to encourage these young men to build their spiritual strengths.
the word of God abideth in you – This is a requirement for a proper relationship with Christ, and therefore being able to come before Him in prayer.
John 15:7 – If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
The fathers (or elders) are those who must take responsibility for proper leadership of the church; therefore they must have certainty about having known Christ once for all time in the past.
The young men are to be strong in order to capably support the leaders, providing vigour of teaching and service under the guidance of the fathers (elders). Possibly one day some of them would take their place as spiritual leaders in the church. They must also be openly genuine Christians, keeping the commandments of God faithfully, as per 1 John 3:23-24 – 23And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. 24And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.
They (particularly noting the young men) have also overcome (won the victory over) the wicked one (or possibly, given the context, the evil of the world – see following three Vss 15-17). Satan does try to ensnare his converts early before they have matured as Christians. The stronger they are spiritually and the more Scripture they know, the better they are able to resist evil and the harder it is for satan to gain some influence over them.
1 John 2:15 – Love not the world, neither the things [that are] in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
love – agapao (love of God for man; love of man for God and for others)
the world – kosmos. Used 23 times in 1 John, either to describe all the inhabitants of earth, all mankind …..
1 John 4:14 – And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son [to be] the Saviour of the world (kosmos).
….. or the world system that is generally opposed to God’s people.
1 John 3:13 – Marvel not, my brethren, if the world (kosmos) hate you.
Also see John 15:18-19)
Another word ge is used in 1 John 5:8, but is translated “earth”.
In most cases “world” refers to the realm of wickedness, of satan and his evil
1 John 5:19 – [And] we know that we are of God, and the whole world (kosmos) lieth in wickedness (poneros). Note that “the whole world” lying in wickedness here is the same phrase John has used in 1 John 2:2 to define the propitiation for “the whole world”.
Christians are seen as in conflict with “the world”.
1 John 4:4 – Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome (nikao, perfect tense) them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world (kosmos).
Satan is known as “the prince of this world (kosmos)” in John 12:31.
1 John 2:15 is referring to all groups mentioned in the previous 2 verses: fathers, young men and little children. In particular, because fathers and young men are mentioned in both verses (while little children are only mentioned in one), it might be assumed that those seen to be more mature Christians are obligated to set a proper example for less mature Christians.
the love of the Father is not in him – Clearly this relates to John’s words in 1 John 2:5a (But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected).
John is continuing with his dichotomies (mutually exclusive groups): you either belong to one group or the other, but not both. If you love God, then you cannot love the world (Vs 16 below), because, if you love God, you will keep His commandments (John 14:15), and loving the world is not keeping God’s commandments. You cannot serve two masters; it’s either God or mammon (the world) (Matthew 6:24). If we love the world we are not keeping His commandments and therefore we do not love God (1 John 2:4-5).
Therefore, if you love the world (and the things belonging to the world), the love of the Father is not in you – it hasn’t been perfected in you as a completed action in the past. In fact, we can join a few dots here. All the following are perfect tense actions in 1 John 2: having known God/Christ (Vss 3-4; 13-14; 20; 29); having God’s love perfected in us (Vs 5); having had sins forgiven (Vs 12); having overcome the wicked one (Vss 13-14), have known the truth (Vs 21); have been born (of Him) (Vs 29). All of these are actions completed in the past once and for all time.
Note that being born of Him as a completed action in the past refers to calling upon the name of the Lord to be saved as per Romans 10:13. Thus, we may connect all these dots as part of that one event: our salvation in Christ, being born again. Therefore we may assume that all these aspects of our salvation in Christ were fully completed once and for all time in the past as part of the same event.
John connects these completed actions in the past (their salvation in Christ) with the truth, with the main evidences so far being that genuine Christians love God, keep His commandments, abide in Christ and walk the life He walked, and love their fellow-Christians. They will admit that they sin and will confess their sin. They will avoid desires for the things of the world. And, further on, in 1 John 2:28, we find that abiding in Christ results in not being ashamed when we face Him. These all belong to what John would term walking in the light.
On the other hand, anyone who claims to being saved in Christ, yet does not exhibit these evidences of those completed actions in the past, is in reality a liar and the truth is not in him. He is not walking in the light but in darkness instead (“we lie, and do not the truth” – 1 John 1:6).
John maintains that you must be either in light or darkness but not both, and only those in the light are the genuine Christians. Those who claim to be Christian yet walk in darkness are liars and lack truth; they cannot be Christian!
This admonition to not love the world appears to be aimed at all 3 groups in Vs 13, but in particular it applies to the fathers and young men of Vs 14 who had a responsibility to avoid spiritual corruption: the fathers (to avoid setting a bad example of leadership in the church) and the young men (who were strong, knowledgeable, and able to fight spiritual warfare). If satan can corrupt these 2 groups, then the “little children” (naïve ones who also should avoid the love of the world) are exposed to the danger of that world without any spiritual guidance to protect them. It is these “little children” who are most at risk out of these three groups.
1 John 2:16 – For all that [is] in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
the lust – epithymia (desire; craving; lust; desire for that which is forbidden)
the lust of the flesh – an intense craving for forbidden sinful physical pleasure
the lust of the eyes – “The desire of seeing unlawful sights for the sake of the sinful pleasure to be derived from the sight; idle and prurient curiosity.” (Cambridge)
the pride – alazoneia (empty braggart talk; an impious and empty presumption that trusts in the value of worldly things; arrogant assumption)
alazoneia is translated “boastings” in James 4:16 – But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil (poneros).
the pride of life – a boasting of the things in life that we are proud of; arrogant pride in the way we live our lives; vainglory.
the world – Here it certainly refers to the realm of satan, the wicked one. Satan wants dominion over as much of the world as possible, yet God gave world dominion to man in Genesis 1:26-28 (a right that has never been revoked). Satan would like total dominion, preferably without man around, if possible, but that will never happen. Satan and his demons cannot make man do his bidding unless man permits them to do so. If satan wants any dominion at all on earth, he must work through man, and any dominion decision must be made by man. Of course, if man were to sign over to satan power of attorney to act on man’s behalf, then satan could make those decisions as if man were making them. However, man will not generally just give over his dominion without some compelling reason to do so.
Therefore satan must offer man some incentive to want to hand over dominion. When Adam and Eve sinned, they were offered the incentive of having the knowledge of good and evil, thus (according to satan) becoming like gods. He told Eve, “in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5)
Man’s curiosity has got him into trouble many times throughout history. When the law was given to the Hebrews in the wilderness, they were specifically told not to be ensnared by wanting to know what it would be like to worship false gods.
Deuteronomy 12:29-30 – 29When the Lord thy God shall cut off the nations from before thee, whither thou goest to possess them, and thou succeedest them, and dwellest in their land; 30Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise.
(Yet the Hebrews did just that: they wanted to know the forbidden knowledge!)
Even today it is man’s insatiable curiosity to know what it is like to take drugs, or any other forbidden fruit that gets him into sin over and over again. We just have to know what it is like and then, we say, we will be satisfied. But man is never satisfied! Adam and Eve weren’t satisfied when they sinned and it’s the same today. Satisfying our curiosity merely opens a pandora’s box of greater temptations to explore.
But, this is satan’s plan: to ensnare man by offering him forbidden fruits (via the world), drawing him deeper and deeper into sin. However, satan isn’t just wanting to make man feel happy by assisting him with sin; he wants pay-back, and pay-back he will get. When Adam sinned, the price for mankind was to be rejected by God. If only Adam could have realised what he was gambling with – the eternal future of all mankind! But he was well and truly ensnared by the time he realised the truth of what he had done.
This is how satan and his demons work today. Using great deceptions, they sell, via satan’s emporium of the world, all manner of desirable yet forbidden fruits. They will be paid handsomely for their wares, too. Just as we cannot buy anything from a shop without paying for it, satan’s emporium demands payment for every purchase. However, while we pay shops in cash, satan demands payment in control (or dominion). Everything in satan’s emporium has a price tag with control written all over it. The bigger the sin (or the greater the promised pleasure), the bigger the payment of control demanded. And the more control you hand over, the less control you have over your urges to buy satan’s pleasures. Bit by bit, satan takes control of your life until he holds a controlling interest in the puppet strings that he will then use to make you dance to his tune. And don’t think for a minute that Christians are exempt; for if you play with fire you’ll get burnt! You cannot expect to be able to sin without consequences!
The word translated “demon-possessed” or “possessed by devils” etc is daimonizomai (demonised; to be under the power of a demon). It should not be translated “demon-possessed” but instead would be better translated “under the influence or control of demons”, or “demonised”. While it is possible for demons to “possess” or take full control of unsaved people, I consider it impossible that a genuine Christian could be likewise possessed. A Christian is indwelt by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16), and it is inconceivable that the Holy Spirit would co-exist in the same body with a demon. However, Christians can and do sin, and therefore are just as liable as anyone else for the payment of influence or control when partaking of satan’s wares of the world. And, if a Christian were to sin to the extent that demons controlled his life, then it would have to be questioned whether in fact he was a genuine Christian in the first place. Christians can grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30) and seemingly can even quench the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19) but would have to be not indwelt by the Holy Spirit before a demon could be able take up residence (Matthew 12:43-45).
Therefore, says John, all that is in the world (in satan’s emporium) on offer to mankind (the forbidden sinful pleasures of the flesh, the forbidden lustful pleasures to be looked at, and those things that cause us to arrogantly boast of our glorious lives) does not come from the Father but instead is from the sinful world of satan’s emporium, the world.
Only good and perfect gifts are from the Father above.
James 1:17 – Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
1 John 2:17 – And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
And one day the world will pass away, and with it will also pass all the lust (craving for forbidden pleasures) but he that does God’s will (and keeps His commandments) will remain forever. This is a truth about sin that satan and his demons do not want man to know: that the pleasures of sin are only for a season.
Hebrews 11:25 – (talking of Moses) Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;
He who does God’s will abides forever. God’s righteousness is for eternity.
Isaiah 32:17 – And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.
This is yet again another of John’s dichotomies: the world with its forbidden pleasures as opposed to eternity in the will of God. All will belong to one or the other, but not both. All will face judgment, some to life, the rest to death.
John 5:28-29 – 28Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
One day all that we now see will be destroyed; all the works of the world will be burned as by fire.
2 Peter 3:7; 10 – 7But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
10But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
Only righteous works will remain for eternity.
1 Corinthians 3:13-15 – 13Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. 14If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. (Note that the next verse defines this one as being indwelt by the Holy Spirit.)
One final note …… Satan and his demons can only seek to influence the old man flesh nature, that which is drawn to the world that we are not to love, nor anything in it. The unsaved person only has that flesh nature and therefore cannot retreat from it. However, look at Galatians 5:16 – [This] I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. Christians have received the new spirit nature, the new man; this is their new identity. They who walk according to that new spirit nature will not be drawn to the love of the world, and are therefore also exempt from any influence or control of satan and his demons. (This does not, however, prevent them from the spiritual warfare which satan brings against them.) But, if a Christian were to walk according to the flesh again, he becomes subject to demonic influence just like anyone else; if you buy the wares, then you must pay the price. Therefore, to escape the bondage of the enemy, Christians must walk in the Spirit in order to not fulfil the lusts of their flesh. Don’t play with fire or you will be burnt!