I write to you, dear 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 lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
Commendation and assurance (2:12–14) precede instruction and admonishment (2:15–27). This poetic section has six sentences with the verb write, the group addressed, and the reason for commendation (in the perfect tense, stressing their state of being).
Each group is twice addressed:
“Dear Children”: they are first reminded that their sins have been forgiven in Christ’s name, and then reminded that they know their Father in heaven.
“Fathers”: they are twice reminded that they know Jesus Christ.
“Young Men”: they are first reminded that they have overcome the evil one, and then reminded that they are strong because the word of God lives in them and they have overcome the evil one.
This poetic prose exhorts the Church with reminders that we have a genuine relationship with our Father because our sins are forgiven (1:9–2:2) on account of the name of Christ (3:23; 5:13; 3 John 7), which is the basis of forgiveness (Heb. 8:8–13); it reminds us that through maturity we can come to and retain personal experiential knowledge (2:3) of the Father and gain victory over evil because of the Word in us (4:4).
Here we see Paul’s admonition to the church in action:
Colossians 3:16 (CSB) Let the word of Christ dwell richly among you, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
The gospel is to inhabit the very life and culture of the church. The word of Christ should inhabit all that we do as the church so that Christ is not only expressed through teach, but also in our worship and fellowship.
John’s poetic exhortation delivers several key lessons:
First, the forgiveness of sins in the name of Christ is the foundation of the Church. This is all too often overlooked and forgotten as unimportant because we are not serious about sin. But God is holy and cannot fellowship with sin.
Second, experiential knowledge of Christ comes to those who are mature in the faith. This, too, is often overlooked because we are a society of instant-gratification, yet maturity yields closeness to Christ. Press on towards maturity to experience greater fellowship with Christ.
Last, victory is gained over evil through the word of God when he fills us. We need this reminder to continue fighting the good fight by the weapon of our warfare; we need to be reminded to submit our lives in obedience to God’s word so that we can experience the victory of Christ.