1 John 2:12-17

Words of Reassurance

2:12 I am writing to you, little children, that your sins have been forgiven because of his name. 2:13 I am writing to you, fathers, that you have known him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young people, that you have conquered the evil one. 2:14 I have written to you, children, that you have known the Father. I have written to you, fathers, that you have known him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young people, that 10  you are strong, and the word of God resides in you, and you have conquered the evil one.

2:15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him, 2:16 because all that is in the world (the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the arrogance produced by material possessions) 11  is not from the Father, but is from the world. 2:17 And the world is passing away with all its desires, but the person who does the will of God remains 12  forever.

sn I am writing to you. The author appears to have been concerned that some of his readers, at least, would accept the claims of the opponents as voiced in 1:6, 8, and 10. The counterclaims the author has made in 1:7, 9, and 2:1 seem intended to strengthen the readers and reassure them (among other things) that their sins are forgiven. Further assurances of their position here is in keeping with such a theme, and indeed, the topic of reassurance runs throughout the entire letter (see the purpose statement in 5:13). Finally, in such a context the warning which follows in 2:15-17 is not out of place because the author is dealing with a community that is discouraged by the controversy which has arisen within it and that is in need of exhortation.

tn The ὅτι (Joti) that follows all six occurrences of γράφω/ἔγραψα (grafw/egraya) in 2:12-14 can be understood as introducing either (1) a causal clause or (2) a content clause (if content, it could be said to introduce a direct object clause or an indirect discourse clause). Many interpreters have favored a causal translation, so that in each of the six cases what follows the ὅτι gives the reason why the author is writing to the recipients. Usage in similar constructions is not decisive because only one other instance of γράφω followed by ὅτι occurs in 1 John (2:21), and that context is just as ambiguous as this one. On other occasions γράφω does tend to be followed by a noun or pronoun functioning as direct object. This might argue for the content usage here, but it could also be argued that the direct object in the six instances in these verses is understood, namely, the content of the entire letter itself. Thus the following ὅτι clause could still be causal. Grammatical considerations aside, these uses of ὅτι are more likely introducing content clauses here rather than causal clauses because such a meaning better fits the context. If the uses of ὅτι are understood as causal, it is difficult to see why the author immediately gives a warning in the section that follows about loving the world. The confidence he has expressed in his readers (if the ὅτι clauses are understood as causal) would appear to be ill-founded if he is so concerned about their relationship to the world as 2:15-17 seems to indicate. On the other hand, understanding the ὅτι clauses as content clauses fits very well the context of reassurance which runs throughout the letter.

tn “His” probably refers to Jesus Christ. Note the last reference was to Jesus in 2:8 and before that in 2:6; also the mention of sins being forgiven suggests Jesus’ work on the cross.

tn See the note on “that” in v. 12.

tn See the note on “that” in v. 12.

sn The phrase the evil one is used in John 17:15 as a reference to Satan. Satan is also the referent here and in the four other occurrences in 1 John (2:14; 3:12; 5:18, 19).

tn See the note on “that” in v. 12.

sn The versification of vv. 13 and 14 (so also NAB, NRSV, NLT) follows that of the NA27 and UBS4 editions of the Greek text. Some English translations, however, break the verses between the sentence addressed to children and the sentence addressed to fathers (KJV, NKJV, NASB, NIV). The same material has been translated in each case; the only difference is the versification of that material.

tn See the note on “that” in v. 12.

10 tn See the note on “that” in v. 12.

11 tn The genitive βίου (biou) is difficult to translate: (1) Many understand it as objective, so that βίος (bios, “material life”) becomes the object of one’s ἀλαζονεία (alazoneia; “pride” or “boastfulness”). Various interpretations along these lines refer to boasting about one’s wealth, showing off one’s possessions, boasting of one’s social status or lifestyle. (2) It is also possible to understand the genitive as subjective, however, in which case the βίος itself produces the ἀλαζονεία. In this case, the material security of one’s life and possessions produces a boastful overconfidence. This understanding better fits the context here: The focus is on people who operate purely on a human level and have no spiritual dimension to their existence. This is the person who loves the world, whose affections are all centered on the world, who has no love for God or spiritual things (“the love of the Father is not in him,” 2:15).

sn The arrogance produced by material possessions. The person who thinks he has enough wealth and property to protect himself and insure his security has no need for God (or anything outside himself).

12 tn See note on the translation of the Greek verb μένω (menw) in 2:6. The translation “remain” is used for μένω (menw) here because the context contrasts the transience of the world and its desires with the permanence of the person who does God’s will.