What does 1 John 2:12 mean?
ESV: I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.
NIV: I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
NASB: I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you on account of His name.
CSB: I am writing to you, little children, since your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
NLT: I am writing to you who are God’s children because your sins have been forgiven through Jesus.
KJV: I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake.
NKJV: I write to you, little children, Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.
Verse Commentary:
Verse 12 is the first of six poetic phrases which each begin by naming a target audience. The first half of the poem is three sentences introduced with the phrase, "I am writing to you." The second half is an additional three sentences, each beginning with the phrase, "I write to you." Each audience is mentioned in the first and second halves of the poem.

The first one is addressed to "little children," and mentions forgiveness of sins. These "little children" are not implying literal toddlers. More likely, this means young believers. These are newer Christians whose sins have been forgiven, and are one of the groups this letter is targeted at. John clearly knew some of the believers in the congregation (or congregations) reading his letter had only recently come to faith in Christ.

Verse 13, in the second half of this poem, will address this specific audience a second time. Verse 13 notes that these "children" know the Father. This brings to mind Christ's teaching in John 14:6, that He is "the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Those who know the Father are those who have come to faith in Christ and whose sins have been forgiven.
Verse Context:
First John 2:12–14 is a six-line poem where John addresses three different groups of believers. John speaks to new Christians, older Christians, and those in between, in that order. He then talks to each again, in the same order. New Christians are reminded of their forgiveness through Christ, older Christians of their faith in an eternal God, and other of their spiritual strength to overcome “the evil one.”
Chapter Summary:
Chapter 2 explains the fellowship Christians have with God. Christ is our advocate, even when we sin. Christians are not to love things of the world, or to love the world. Instead, we are to live, love, and act like Christ. False teachers, and those who deny Jesus are called ''liars.'' Those who demonstrate a Christ-like behavior are ''born of'' God.
Chapter Context:
Chapter 1 introduced the primary themes of John’s letter. Chapters 2 and 3 lay out a detailed description of how Christian conduct is meant to be marked by obedience to the truth. Christians are called to live like Christ. Therefore, those who do not (live that way) do not have ''the truth'' in them. Later chapters of this letter will fill in how Christian love and conduct give us confidence in our daily lives.
Book Summary:
First John seems to assume that the reader is familiar with the gospel. Rather than re-state these facts, John is concerned with building confidence in Christian believers. At the same time, his words encourage believers to examine their own lives for signs of their relationship with Christ. This letter also challenges false teachers and their incorrect claims about Jesus. Many themes are shared with the Gospel of John.
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