As believers in Christ, we’ve had certain spiritual experiences. There are moments in our lives when the light bulb comes on and we finally get it. There are certain milestones that we reach in our spiritual growth. This is what John is referring to when he addresses his readers as children, fathers, and young men. As children, we have experienced the forgiveness of our sins and we have entered into a relationship with the Lord. As fathers, we have come to know the eternal God on a personal level as our fellowship with Him has been made strong. As young men, we have a sense of spiritual vigor and have been victorious over the attacks of Satan. The Bible Knowledge Commentary says, “Thought of in this way, the sequence “children,” “fathers,” and “young men” is meaningful. The readers knew what it was to have sins forgiven and then have fellowship with the Eternal One. As a result, they were like vigorous young men who had defeated satanic assaults.” Let’s look at each of these spiritual milestones in greater depth.
Children. John says that he is writing to us as children “because your sins are forgiven for His name’s sake” and “because you have known the father.” This is a reference to initial faith. John is writing to those who have trusted in Jesus as their savior and, therefore, has their sins forgiven and have been reconciled to God. Before you came to faith in the Lord Jesus, you were dead in your sins. Ephesians 2:4-5 says, “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, by grace ye are saved.” To be dead in sin is to be separated from God. This is what we call spiritual death. Some will argue that to be dead means to not have any ability. They will say that dead means dead and a dead person can’t do anything. However, in 1 Timothy 5:6 we read of one who is ‘dead while she liveth.’ You can be physically alive while being spiritually dead. Since God breathed into man and he became a living soul, all human beings will live forever. We have an eternal soul. We will either live in eternal life or in eternal death. You see, death does not mean you don’t exist, or you are incapable of making a decision, or incapable of doing anything. Death simply means ‘separation.’ Physical death is separation of the soul from the body. Spiritual death is separation of body and soul from God. It is our sin that brings spiritual death. Sin separates us from God. Therefore, because of God’s great love for us, He provided a way that we can be reconciled to Him. He sent His only Son, Jesus, to die on an old rugged cross to pay the price of sin for us. This is God’s gift of grace. There is nothing that we can do of ourselves to be reconciled to God. Jesus did all that was needed to be done to reconcile us to God on the cross. The cross bridges the gap between God and man. The grace of God is given to us through faith. When we place our faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are then made alive, and we experience a new birth as we are reconciled to God. What about you? Have you received God’s gift of grace? Have you been to the cross? Are you born again? Have you been reconciled to God? Are you one of the ‘children’ that John is writing to?
Father. John goes on to say that he writes to us as fathers “because you have known Him that was from the beginning.” This is a reference to our fellowship with the Lord. Not only are sins forgiven, but we also have fellowship with the Lord. The fathers are those who has not just come to faith in Christ, but they also live in fellowship with God daily. They have fellowship with the One who is trustworthy from the very beginning of time. Their faith is strong because they are trusting in the One who is able. As we have learned before, it is possible to be born-again and be out of fellowship with God. Sin separates us from God. It puts a strain in our relationship with Him. When we walk in darkness rather than walking in the light, we cannot expect God’s favor on our lives because we are out of fellowship with Him. Therefore, to stay in fellowship with God, we must consistently confess our sins so that we may be cleansed and remain in right fellowship with God. John is writing to those who he has confident in that they are not only children, but also, fathers. They know Christ as their Savior and they are walking in the light. What about you? You may know Jesus as your Savior, but are you in right fellowship with God?
Young Men. The young men that John is referring to are those who have been challenged in their faith by Satan and by God’s Word they have overcome those attacks. We are in a spiritual war. Satan is in the business of attacking followers of Christ and the church. He will do anything he can to hinder the cause of Christ. However, we have the greatest weapon of all and that is the Word of God. Mature believers in Christ are such students of the Bible that they know God’s Word in such a way that they are able to overcome whatever Satan throws at them. Do you know God’s Word? Do you have the spiritual strength of a young man? Are you able to overcome the attacks of Satan?
John has confidence in those he is writing to though they may not have confidence in themselves. He believes they are children of God who have become fathers walking in fellowship with the Lord because they have the spiritual strength of young men overcoming the attacks of Satan through the Word of God. Do we have such confidence in ourselves? Where are you spiritually? Is your fellowship with the Lord strong? If so, you can be victorious over the attacks of Satan.
 Walvoord, J. F., & Zuck, R. B., Dallas Theological Seminary. (1985). The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 890). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.