Bible Question:

What is the meaning of “know the Father” in 1 John 2:12-14? It says the children know the Father. Is this the same intimate knowledge of the father that is described at the beginning of the verse or is it describing something else?

Bible Answer:

The apostle John under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit wrote 1 John 2:12-14 which reads as follows:

I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. (NASB) 1 John 2:12-14

This passage is about spiritual growth in the Christian life. It speaks of little children, young men, and fathers. Little children are immature spiritually, while fathers are the most mature.

Little Children. There are two descriptions of the children, the young men, and of the fathers. Is this important? In order to answer this question lets make a chart of the different descriptions.

MaturityDescriptionPassage
Little children“your sins are forgiven”1 John 2:12
“you know the Father”1 John 2:13
Young Men“overcome the evil one”1 John 2:13
“you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.”1 John 2:14
Fathers“you know Him who has been from the beginning”1 John 2:13
“you know Him who has been from the beginning”1 John 2:14

First, we find that little children are said to have their sins forgiven. This is how any Christian starts. We become Christians when our sins are forgiven. When this happens, we are not only little children in a spiritual sense; we also know who is our father. One of the marks of a new Christian is that they want milk.

. . . like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation . . . (NASB) 1 Peter 2:2

They are happy with spiritual milk and not with meat.

Second, the Holy spirit uses two different words for “little children” in the 1 John 2:12-14 passage. The first word is TEKNON, and the second one is PAIDION. The first word has the idea of a very young child, while the second one is about a baby. Now if we put it all together, here is the sense of the passage. There are two things that are true about an immature Christian. His/her sins are forgiven. Even though they are young in the Lord, he/she knows God the Father, too, just like a baby knows its father. Even a baby knows his/her father but not as he/she will later in life.

Young Men. Young men are described several ways. They overcome the evil one. I believe this refers to increasing victory over Satan. A spiritual young man also is strong in many of the virtues of the Christian faith and the Word of God. Increasing knowledge of the Word of God is a strong mark of spiritual growth. The book of Hebrews 5:12-14 is a strong reminder that this is true.

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. (NASB) Heb. 5:12-14

This is a picture of Christians who are either mature or immature spiritually. The immature Christian feeds on spiritual milk – “the soft stuff of scripture.” But the mature Christians are strong in knowledge of the Bible. They know so much they can be teachers. Notice that these Christians are criticized for not knowing scripture. “You ought to be teachers!” They were not young men who were strong in scripture. They were still baby Christians.

Spiritual Fathers. Spiritual fathers are a special group of Christians. Their sins are forgiven just like the sins of the spiritual child. They are growing in the fruit of the Spirit. They are strong in the scripture. But the outstanding mark of the spiritual father is that he “knows Him who has been from the beginning. Notice the additional phrase “from the beginning.” This is never said of the spiritual child. Also, notice that the father is described the same way twice.

Path Of Spiritual Growth

Conclusion:

Yes, the little child “knows the Father” or knows who his/her father is, but the spiritual father knows “Him who has been from the beginning.” He REALLY knows the Father. Because the spiritual father knows scripture, he is able to know God the Father deeper and more intimately. One who seeks a knowledge of scripture and not a deep relationship with God will not become a spiritual father. Such a person will know about scripture and not the One who wrote it. Those who do not study scripture cannot know God as deeply as a friend knows a friend.