Having outlined three central truths of the Christian life for his readers, John seems to start over by addressing, again, children, fathers (elders) and young men (people). He reiterates the same truths, but makes a few crucial changes. He reminds his dear children that what is ultimately at stake here is knowledge of God (you have known the Father). Although the English translation obscures it, the author uses a different and more emphatic verb (the aorist) when he writes, I write to you, dear children, because you have known the Father. It is as if he says, "What I have written to you, I repeat: you have known the Father." What is striking is that in verse 12 he actually wrote to his dear children because your sins have been forgiven. That forgiveness was offered through the mediation of Christ. In this way the Elder links what he writes about knowledge of the Father to what he has written about forgiveness through Christ: the only way to knowledge of the Father is through "the name" of Jesus Christ.
Once again (v. 14) John writes to the elders that they have known him who is from the beginning. Whereas earlier this phrase characterized Jesus, here it seems to refer to the Father, mentioned in the previous verse. The Father is unchanging. If the "elders" were promised that they knew the Father as they made their initial confession of faith, they need not fear that their knowledge has proven defective in any way.
Finally, the young people are once again addressed. Again they are told, you have overcome the evil one, but two explanatory clauses are now added: you are strong and the word of God lives in you. Basically these two clauses express the same truth captured by the statement you have overcome the evil one, but with the added nuance of resisting false doctrine (Smalley 1984:79). For the Elder can speak not only of over coming the evil one (2:13-14) and of overcoming the world (5:4), but also of overcoming "them," the false prophets inspired by the spirit of antichrist (4:4). John promises his readers that in remaining faithful to the message they have always heard, they are remaining faithful to the very word of God. It lives in them. But because the dissidents have left the word of God, that word no longer abides in them.
In summary, then, this section demonstrates the same pastoral con cern for building up the congregation that we have seen before. By reminding them of who they are and what they have been given, John assures his readers that they can be confident that they know God. Each statement of verse 14 describes the believer's standing in salvation: as children of God, they are strong, they have God's word abiding in them and they have overcome the evil one. But these are not simply abstract truths or credal assertions. The author's point is twofold: First, we can have confidence with God because God is not capricious or fickle, ar bitrarily tinkering with the truth or changing the grounds on which he is to be known. Second, this same, faithful God is not alien and distant, but knowable—knowable to us, knowable to me—in the love of Christ. What God revealed in Christ was not a new side of the divine character, but the confirmation of the love and forgiveness that have always char acterized God's actions.
What the Elder writes is not new to his readers. But it serves a useful function to lay it all out again, to spell out exactly what constitutes the "way of life." By so doing, John prepares his readers for the warnings that follow (2:15-17). If they have chosen the way of life, the way of forgiveness and knowledge of God, they must continue in their commit ment to it. For there is no other truth and no other way, except the love of the world—and that way is incompatible with the love of God.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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