Yesterday I had the privilege to preaching 1 John 2:12-14 in our series titled, “Know.” As I worked through the text, which happens to be one of the most debated sections of John’s letter, something was very obvious. The text placed a great deal of focus on the fathers. As John the apostle writes a circular letter to the surrounding churches of Asia minor in his day, he had heard the testimony of fathers who were remaining faithful in the gospel. This encouraged John and it should provide a great example for us.
After addressing the entire church with the title, “little children” which he repeats again at the end of verse 13, John then focuses on two different groups. He moves from the church as a whole to the fathers, and then from the fathers to the young men. John organizes his thought from the large assembly to the individual home, and from the top to the bottom.
In two different places, we see references to the young men of the churches who had overcome the evil one. In the second reference, we see that that young men were strong and had overcome the evil one because they were abiding in the Word of God. What a powerful testimony for the younger men of the church. Considering all of the distractions and temptations that so easily attract the focus of young men—they had remained faithful. John Calvin comments, “We also know that those of that age are so addicted to the vain cares of the world that they think little of the kingdom of God, for the vigor of their minds and the strength of their bodies make them drunk, as it were.”  However, that was not the case for these men.
As I was reading and considering the testimony of the young men, it was apparent that before John addressed them each time, he first pointed to the fathers. The reference to “fathers” were not only those men who were the fathers to the young men, but also the leading and mature examples within the church. John said the same thing about them each time in this section. The fathers were known to be men who “know him who is from the beginning.” In other words, they knew Christ and walked with him intimately. Ephesians 6:4 reads, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
Before the young men could be strong in the Scriptures and able to overcome the evil one, they had to be mentored and discipled by the older fathers within the church. What an example set before us in Scripture that enables us to see the importance of faithful discipleship. There is a link between the fathers and the spiritual condition of the young people within the church. We must work to put Christ first—before all other things in life and enjoy God through the pages of Scripture on a regular basis as an example set before our children.
1 John 2:12-14:
I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
- John Calvin and Matthew Henry, 1, 2, & 3 John, Crossway Classic Commentaries (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1998), 38.