Meditations in 1 John : 18 : Fathers
1 John 2:13 I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning.
In these three verses John addresses three groups and he addresses them each twice. We have seen already how he has addressed ‘children’ and he gave two reasons for writing: “because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name,” and “because you have known the Father,” two aspects of the same thing, our salvation. We’ve been forgiven on the basis of what Jesus did on the Cross and now we have ongoing fellowship with the Father. We’ll see later his two words to ‘young men’ are also different, but when it comes to ‘fathers’ the words are identical (v.13a,14a).
Now what is it about ‘fathers’ that makes them different, and does John mean natural fathers or spiritual fathers? Well perhaps the answers to those two questions come in the latter half of the verse: “because you have known him who is from the beginning.” May we suggest there are levels of ‘knowing God’. There is knowing about God which is about gaining information about him. Then there is knowing God, as a little child knows its father – you have encountered him and experienced Him and almost now take Him for granted; He’s there a part of your life and it is good that He is there, and you are aware of His love and His provision in basic ways.
But then there is a knowing that comes with maturity, that understands much more of who He is and reveres Him for who He is. We come to realise that ‘daddy’ (see Mk 14:36, Rom 8:15, Gal 4:6 – Abba is really ‘daddy) is Almighty God who is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-wise, the Creator and Sustainer of all things, the One who has always existed. This is the knowing of the father, the mature man or woman who has entered into a relationship with God at new birth and has come to realise the wonder of who and what He is in a much deeper way over the years.
But fathers, by definition, have brought children into the world. It may be physical children and it may be spiritual children, but whichever it is the father has moved into a place of responsibility. The father takes on a new heart for his children, a heart of concern, a heart that wants to provide for the children and protect the children and that is as much true for spiritual children as it is physical children. Having children brings about a new level of maturity because of all that goes with being a father. Yes, fathers get up in the middle of the night when the baby is crying and support their wives when they are having to feed the baby. Husbands take on a new level of responsibility for wife and child, a responsibility that care for, guards, protects and provides for them. All of this works to develop maturity which does not happen when there are no children. (I am aware that we live in days when some have chosen not to have children and these words are not meant to offend, but this is the reality of raising a family).
We might ask, why does John pick out these three groups and now, in this particular case, fathers, and why does he say the same thing to them twice. I would guess that if you were hearing this letter read out for the first time, and you were a father, you might suddenly prick up your ears and listen more intently, especially when you’ve been mentioned twice in a short space of time, and you might then consider how all that John is saying applies to you as a father.
John is passing on what he knows about Jesus and about the Christian faith. He is an old man and may not have much time left to him. He is aware of the responsibility to pass on the truth. It was a responsibility that had been built intoIsraelfrom early on. Again and again when things happened, the Lord exhorted them not only to remember what happened, but to pass it on to their children and future generations. It started right back at the Exodus (Ex 10:2), and the Passover (Ex 12:26) and the Law (Deut 4:9,10, 6:6-9), and Crossing the Jordon (Josh 4:6). Passing on the truth to future generations was inherently (and still is) the responsibility before God of fathers.
The closing verses of Psa 92 are pertinent here: “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.” (Psa 92:12-15) Surely this must apply to spiritual fathers, those saints who grow old. They may feel limited physically but they can still testify to the truth that years of experience have proved to them: God is good; God can be trusted for He is an unchangeable foundation for us, One who is faithful and unchanging in His love and goodness and there is nothing bad in him! He is like this and always has been like this, right back to before the beginning of time! If we have reached old age, if we can say nothing else, we can say that! And it is true! Hallelujah!