The Knowledge of the Father

1 John 2:13  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 12
J. A. Trench
A few words are necessary as to the construction of this part of the Epistle of John, for it is obscured in our A.V. translation, through not observing a distinction between “children,” by which endearing term the aged apostle addressed the whole family of God, as in Chapter 2:1, 12, 28 and afterward; and “little children,” for which another word is used in verses 13 and 18, when he is inspired to divide the family according to various stages ‘of growth. For in God’s, as in our natural families, there are fathers, young men, and little children. He sums up what he has to say to each of these in verse 13, and then develops his thoughts to each from verse 14 on.
The fathers, the most advanced stage of Christian growth, have known Him, that is from the beginning — that is Christ (see Chapter 1:1) — and to this he can add no more. There is nothing beyond the knowledge of Christ, for all true growth consists in “that I may know Him” (Phil. 3:1010That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; (Philippians 3:10)). In the middle of verse 14 the young men are addressed as being strong; their strength being manifested in having overcome the wicked one, but it is important to note that this strength is attributed to the word of God abiding in them. The world is their danger and of this they are warned. From verse 18 he addresses the “little children” fully, warning them against the many antichrists already manifested and the seductions of false teaching, and bringing out where their recourses lay, to the end of verse 27: and then at verse 28 he resumes his address to the whole family.
It is not now my object to go into what is said to each, but only to gather from the whole instruction what belongs by infinite grace to the little child, and if to the youngest, to all in the family of God. Three things come out prominently: that, in common with all addressed, their sins are forgiven them for His name’s sake, which involves all the value of His person and work (verse 12): further that, as ever intimately connected with this forgiveness, and consequent upon it, they have received the Holy Spirit to dwell within them. The effect of this indwelling is two-fold, (1) that they know all things (verse 20), — not of course in the developed knowledge of all the subjects of revelation, but as having divine capacity to enter into divine things (for the natural man receiveth them not), and (2) He is within them as the divine Teacher (verse 27) to teach them of all things, thus making them independent of the pretensions, wisdom, or folly of man. Then what the apostle makes the distinguishing characteristic of the little children, they know the Father (verse 13). These three things, then, characterize the full Christian position: The forgiveness of sins through Christ, The possession of the Holy Spirit, and The relationship of children with a known Father.
The apostle is not taking account of natural years in speaking of fathers, young men and children, nor is it any question of attainment. The little children are such, whatever their natural years, as having been only lately introduced into the full Christian place by receiving the glad tidings of their salvation. The young men and fathers are such by spiritual growth in that place.
And now we are face to face with what led me to take up the subject. What is this knowledge of the Father to which the youngest child in Christ has his inalienable title? And if he has this title, is it yours and mine actually to enjoy it in all its inestimable privilege? It is clearly something more than knowing that we are children of God; though our hearts may well be deeply touched as we behold the, manner of the love bestowed upon us, that we should bear this name and be able to take up the children’s place before the Father, as born of Him, and possessing the Spirit of His Son (Chapter 3:1).
The relationship is one thing; the knowledge of the Father whose child I am is another. Suppose the case of natural relationship, and the difference will at once be perceived: the relationship remains the same whatever the character of the parent, but for the children how much depends on it — he may be loving and considerate, or very much the reverse: the difference to them is incalculable. Is it enough, then, for us to know that by infinite grace we are the children of God, or shall we not seek to know our Father? Ought we not to earnestly desire to become familiar with the thoughts and feelings of His heart, the love of His nature, His character (if I may use the word in the deepest reverence), when He makes this knowledge of Himself the privilege of the youngest child of His? But it may be asked, how am I to know Him? It can only be as He reveals Himself. Let us then humbly seek the way Scripture presents this blessed revelation to us.
Matthew 11 will naturally come before us as the first intimation of such revelation in the ministry of the Lord Jesus. All the circumstances make it the more affecting for our hearts. It was a time of deep trial and testing for Him. Hard-hearted unbelief met Him in the cities wherein most of His mighty works were done, and these works attested who He was in whose presence they were so unmoved. But it only served to bring out in the perfection of the blessed Lord, what the knowledge of the Father was to Him. He knew whence to receive all that pressed so heavily upon Him, for we read, “at that time Jesus answered and said, I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.”
In His rejection by these cities He owned nothing but His Father’s ways of perfect wisdom and love. If in divine wisdom these things were hid from the wise and prudent, there were babes to whom they would be revealed by infinite grace. He knew the love of the Father, and in this He found His perfect resting-place, and submitted Himself absolutely to His will: this is clearly expressed in the words “Even so, Father for so it seemed good in Thy sight.” These two things come before us, then, in the experience of the blessed Lord: the source of His rest in the knowledge of the Father, and His perfect submission to the Father’s will: into both He would introduce us; for this is the connection of the words that follow, too often missed. In verse 27 all the deeper glories of His Person, of the place given to Him, and His work in the deepest character of it come before Him. Not only the Messianic Kingdom, but “all things” in universal supremacy are delivered unto Him by the Father: the unfathomable glory of His Person is made known in the words “no man knoweth the Son but the Father”: and then as the most precious object of the incarnation — “Neither knoweth any man the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him.” He had come to reveal the Father, and this goes far beyond and above the glory in which He had been presented to Israel up to the point heretofore reached in this gospel. But let us carefully observe that it is when the divine and inscrutable glory of His Person as the Son is brought out that He intimates, as so closely connected with and depending upon this glory, His purpose to reveal the Father.
If it now becomes an anxious question, to whom will He reveal the Father whom only the Son had seen and known, the answer comes at once in the precious words, “Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy-laden and I will give you rest.” How many there are that have been through the world, and with all their toil and weariness have found it void of anything to satisfy. He had been through it and found it to be such, but He had a secret source of perfect rest. He calls us to Him that He might reveal it to us. This source of rest is the Father, and His heart of infinite love. The Son would give us rest by revealing Him, and then we have only to learn of Him, the meek and lowly One, how to submit ourselves absolutely to His will to find this perfect rest realized practically under all circumstances. Both have been seen in practical operation in the blessed place the Lord took as expressed in “Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight”; and it is when faith finds its sure title to trace all that comes upon us to the Father’s heart, that the yoke of submission is easy, and His burden light. How blessed, then, the confirmation that to know the Father is not some advanced experience that only belongs to those who have been long in the Christian way, when we find that it is the first thing before the Lord as needed to give rest, and to establish the heart that trusted Him, in view of the consequences of His rejection and the changes of dispensation involved by it, as the remainder of this gospel opens them out. But for the full development of all that flows from the divine glory of His Person, that has just been touched here and then dropped, as not within the scope of Matthew, we must turn to the Gospel of John, where from the outset it shines out everywhere, though veiled in the lowly form of Manhood.