Notes on I John 2:12-17

by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)

I John 2:12 I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake.


John now begins a series of six brief messages, two each to three different groups. He starts with the “little children”, reminding them that their sins were forgiven for Christ’s Name’s sake. These “children” may not only be young in age but also relatively new in the Christian faith.

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.

Next, John speaks to the “fathers” because they had known Him (Jesus) who is from the beginning. These may be mature believers, old enough to know plenty about the Christian faith and mature enough to lead others. The “young men” might be those who are maturing in the Christian faith but were perhaps not so mature or knowledgeable as the “fathers”. John commends the young men because they had overcome the wicked one.

Then John once again speaks to the “little children”, who may not have yet overcome the wicked one but still knew the Father. May we, too, progress from “little children” through the “young men” to “fathers”.

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 the wicked one.

John uses a different tense of the verb, “I have written” instead of “I write” in this verse, For the “fathers”, the message is exactly the same in verses 13 and 14. For the “young men”, John adds the phrases “because you are strong” and “the Word of God abideth in you”. We do not have any of John’s other writings, except the Gospel, as of this date.

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.

Now John writes three verses about the believer

and some of what believers face in this world. “World” here doesn’t mean, necessarily, the actual earth or even God’s creation in general, but rather the world-system. He states that if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father isn’t in him or her. This approximates the words of James some years earlier, when James said, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. (James 4:4, KJV)”. John may have also known about Demas, who abandoned Paul (see 2 Timothy 4:10) because he “loved this present world”.

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.

These three items, specified here, are the building blocks of all sin. Jesus Himself experienced this during His Temptation (Matthew 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-13): the lust of the flesh, turning stones into bread; the lust of the eyes, seeing all the kingdoms of the world and Satan offering all of it to Him if He would worship Satan (!); and the pride of life, the attention He might receive if He jumped off a highly elevated portion of the Temple, reasonably confident angels or someone would keep Him from even touching the ground (a paraphrase, here, of Psalm 91:11-12. Jesus didn’t fall for nor did He fall into any of these. Amen!

17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

Here is another contrast, between the world itself and its lusts passing away wand the believer who does God’s will. By this date, some of God’s revealed will were already known (e.g., Paul’s exhortations in 1 Thessalonians 4:3 and chapter 5; and later, Romans 12:2) as part of the New Testament. John also reminds the readers that even though the world and its desires (“lusts”) will pass away, those who do the will of God will abide forever!

Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV)

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