|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2007|
|The word “know” comes up in at least 25 different verses in 1 John. It is almost as if John is saying to the Gnostics, “You think you know something? Let me tell my sweet believers, if you want knowledge, remember Jesus Christ lives in you and that is the knowledge you need to have.”|
Turn with me to 1 John 2:26. We are still just getting the feel of this book. The more you get the heart beat of it, the more you can start learning what John is trying to tell all of us as he writes this wonderful epistle. I want to entitle this, “What a Believer Ought to Know”.
We have already seen that someone has been disturbing the audience of John, the people he is writing to. They have been disturbed and it is very obviously false doctrine. Look at 2:26: “These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you.” Present tense: they didn’t just make one effort and leave. John is saying, “They are constantly seeking to deceive you, to lead you astray, to get you away from the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Go back to 1:4. They had lost their joy. He says, “And these things we write, so that our joy [really it should be “your” joy] may be made complete.” What was the false doctrine that was getting in amongst the people? You will learn this as you study through it. You have to understand what Gnosticism is all about. You will see many facets of it come up in the epistle. John addresses those methodically as he writes to these precious believers in Asia Minor.
Gnosticism was one of the major threats to the gospel during the day of the Apostle John. It was in several forms and is very difficult to describe it in its full sense because it depends on the sect that you were dealing with as to exactly which direction they went with it. However, Gnosticism comes from the Greek word gnosis, which means knowledge. Regardless of what sect you dealt with, the Gnostics said a man was saved by knowledge, not because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, but by a mythological idea. It was based on some of the myths of that day. Once you had a revelation of this knowledge, that brought you into what they called a salvation experience. Salvation was of knowledge. Jesus was not necessary in the picture because He didn’t die. He wasn’t the propitiation for our sins.
You see, the Gnostics believed that all flesh was evil; therefore, God would never have inhabited a human body. Jesus came and died but He was strictly the physical, natural son of Joseph. He was not truly the Son of God.
The particular brand of Gnosticism that John is dealing with came from a man named Cerenthus. Cerenthus said first of all that Jesus was the natural born son of Joseph and one day, at His baptism, Christ, the Christ, the heavenly Christ came and indwelt Him and lived in Him until right before the crucifixion. Then it departed from Him. Therefore, Jesus when He died on the cross only died as a man. Poor, misfortunate creature!
This developed later into a more advance thinking at that time, Docetism, which said that Jesus was never really in any kind of human form. He was just a ghost. He was an apparition. He was a spirit. He never really had a body. Well, of course, this absolutely undermines everything we know of the gospel of Jesus Christ; that Jesus was God’s Son long before He ever came to this earth. He was preexistent. He is the second person of the Trinity. He has always been God and will always be God. He came to this earth, born of a virgin, and took upon Himself a human body without the nature to sin. As a matter of fact, Satan came to tempt Him one day but there was nothing in Him that he could draw out of Him. He did not have the nature to sin.
Don’t ever get hung up in the crazy argument, “Could Jesus ever have sinned?” If you will follow that out, that is the most ridiculous argument you could ever have because if He had sinned there would be no more second person of the Trinity which means there wouldn’t be a Trinity. How can God deny Himself? You see, Jesus lived a perfect life as the God-man on this earth. He took sin upon Himself, went to the cross, and paid a debt He did not owe. We owed a debt we could not pay. He became the propitiation for our sin. God was satisfied with His death and the shedding of His blood for man’s sin. He went there in our place. He resurrected the third day, ascended, and is glorified. That is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Gnosticism undermined all of that. They took away the deity of Christ. They denied that He was born of a virgin and they denied that His death upon the cross was ever necessary. Salvation was by this mystical, mythological knowledge. In fact, this knowledge was when you came to a full realization of your true self. Each sect had a different myth it seems. This knowledge that is apart from Jesus, apart from His Word, only a few had. Therefore, they were the saved ones. Once you became a saved person under their system, then you had to learn to deal with your flesh which was evil.
You could go one of two different routes according to the different sects. One was the sect of Asceticism, which means they would deny themselves. Paul dealt with those over in the book of Colossians. Then there was the other side of licentiousness. They believed since you can’t beat it, simply give into it. Live in sin, enjoy it. You are not accountable because you are spirit and by your knowledge you have been saved. You just live in a carton right now. You are not responsible for the sin that is going on in your life.
You can see what a major problem and threat they were to the gospel of Jesus during the New Testament time. John wants his readers to know that the only true knowledge, the only true spiritual knowledge comes from the Lord Jesus Christ and from His Word. We need to know this, too. Suppose somebody comes to you and says, “Oh, I have something over here that is not in the Book. It doesn’t necessarily have to do with Jesus but, oh, what spiritual knowledge it is.” Back off and say, “Oh, God, when you strike him, don’t hit me at the same time.” The only spiritual knowledge a man can ever have comes from Jesus Christ, revealed by His Spirit and in His Word. That is what John wants his readers to know.
As a matter of fact, the word “know” comes up in at least 25 different verses in the letter to 1 John. It is almost as if he is saying to the Gnostics, “You think you know something? Let me tell my sweet believers, if you want knowledge, remember Jesus Christ lives in you and that is the knowledge you need to have.”
There are two words for knowledge that he brings up. One is the word eido. That means intuitive knowledge, perceived knowledge, the ability to perceive something you did not go to a class to learn. It is kind of like when you ask your wife something sometimes and she says, “I just know it.” You say, “How do you know it?” She says, “I don’t know. I just know.” That is the kind of knowledge we are talking about. It is the ability to discern and perceive without ever having been trained to do it. The Spirit of God lives in you, and He gives you that kind of perceiving power, that discernment in your life. That is one kind of knowledge used in 10 verses in the book of 1 John.
The other kind is ginosko. That is when you experientially learn it, either through a classroom or usually the classroom of life. It comes by obeying the Lord Jesus Christ. You don’t know it until you surrender to it. You learn it as you go along. I love that verse over in Philippians when Paul says, “I have learned, therefore, to be content.” I love that! Do you know what that tells me? It tells me that Paul made some of the same bad decisions I have made. He did it and said, “Oh, boy, was that bad!” He did it again. “Oh, I am not going to do that again. I have learned, therefore, to be content.” You don’t get it intuitively. It is not discernment, a divine perception, it is something you have to go through. It is something that you learn by experiencing the Lord Jesus Christ. That kind of knowledge is used in 15 different verses in the book of 1 John. So I want to show you what the believer ought to know. Intuitively or experientially? What should he know that will help him stand firm against the false doctrines of this world? What is it? What should every believer know?
Look over in Colossians. I just want you to see what Paul says in Colossians 2:13. He is talking about the Lord Jesus Christ. If you ever think there is knowledge, spiritually, outside of Him, then I want you to read these verses and memorize them. “For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf, and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face, that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
Do you want knowledge? Bow before the One who is the treasure house, the store house of all knowledge and wisdom. Come to His Word. Surrender to it. When you receive Him in your heart, intuitively you will know so many things. But then you will begin to experientially learn of Him and the knowledge we are looking for is found in a person. It is not found anywhere else. That person is the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, what should every believer know? Obviously we will get to all of these verses in their context, but I just want to whet your appetite. What is it that a believer should know? Turn to 1 John 2. The word “knowledge” does not appear until chapter 2. I want you to see first of all what every believer should know intuitively. What is it that God gives you and me the ability to perceive and to discern that we don’t have to learn anywhere else? You can get saved today and have this exact knowledge tomorrow. It is something built in. It comes with the package of the Holy Spirit that comes into your life. What are the things we should know?
Chapter 2:20 says, “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know.” Actually that should be “you know all.” The word “know” there is eido, and it is the word that means you perceive all things. There is someone in you that gives you a discernment now that you didn’t have before. Christ has come in His Spirit, lives in you and gives you a perception, an ability to discern that you didn’t have before.
Back up to verse 18 and you will see specifically what he is talking about. “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen; from this we know that it is the last hour.” This is a different word for “know.” Verse 19 continues, “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ?”
Do you see how he is coming against that false doctrine? He is saying, “Listen, believers, don’t you listen to these people. You’ve got something built in. You know that the man, Jesus, is the Christ, the anointed One, the Messiah. He has always been God. Don’t you let these people come to you and shake your faith. You know that and you know it within.”
If you truly are a believer, there is no excuse for you ever listening to any kind of error that ever questions the fact that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, the man Jesus, the Christ, the promised Messiah. It is built in. You already know that. Stand on what you know. You don’t have to be taught that. You know it in your spirit. Every believer should know that.
Secondly, in 3:5 we know that Jesus came to take away our sins: “And you know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin.” Look at verse 6: “No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.” Immediately you know what sect of that Gnostic heresy you are dealing with here. It was that group of licentiousness, that group that said, “Hey, you live in a carton. Go on and live in sin, man. You can’t beat it, go on and join it.” The Word of God says, “No, sir. You have a discernment within you built in by the Holy Spirit of God that says Jesus came to take away sin and the believer should never, ever allow sin to become a practice in his life.”
Let me show you the difference. Before you became a Christian there was no one living in you to convict you of anything. You had a moral consciousness that was developed by society and you knew right from wrong but you had no clue about good and evil. There is a huge difference. You can teach your son right and wrong, send him to University, and when he gets there they change the standards. What was right and wrong in your house is no longer right and wrong there. It is always determined by the ways of society. But good and evil never change. Once you become a believer, you know good and well that it was because of the evil of your life that Jesus came to die. When you become a believer, you no longer pursue sinful living.
If you find somebody who says, “I am a member of Such and Such Church, but boy, do I ever love...” and he begins to name his sin, back off and say, “Wait a minute. God says in His Word that man cannot know Christ. There is no possible way. You don’t pursue sin and claim to be a believer.” Do you know why that is not very acceptable in our society today? It is because we have so watered it down over the last 200 years. Nobody knows what a Christian is anymore. They think it is a member of the local church. That is about as far as they can go with it. You don’t pursue sin and claim to know Jesus Christ because you have a built in knowledge of the Holy One. He is letting you know that sin pursues you and you will deal with it until Jesus comes, but you no longer can pursue and claim to be a believer in Jesus Christ.
Thirdly, look at 3:14-15. What should we know? What is this intuitive knowledge? Every believer should know this. We should know that we no longer live in death. We have been moved into eternal life. Now watch this. Verse 14 says, “We know [eido] that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”
That is a long one, and I can’t wait until we get into the context of that. But I just want to show you something. One of the things about the Gnostics was they cared about nobody but themselves. Selfish, arrogant, you name it. That was Gnosticism. The Lord Jesus said, “You have a built in knowledge here. Now come on, don’t be so off the wall. You have a built in knowledge. You know good and well that you no longer live in death.” How do you know? You know by the love that God has put within you for your brothers and your sisters in the family of God.
When you become a believer, overnight God puts within you an affinity and affection for the family of God that is something that you cannot even explain to anybody. The day before you couldn’t stand people; the day after, you love everybody, especially in the family of God. You find people jumping from church to church to church, starting splits, causing problems. They don’t care about the people who are their brothers in Christ. I seriously question whether they even know Jesus.
We are going to get real serious about Christianity in 1 John. It cuts no corners and straight out puts it down. If you don’t love your brother, you had better check out your salvation. That is the way you know that you are in Him. That is the way you know that you are in eternal life. Every believer has that built-in discernment. How do I know I love Him? I know it by the love He has given me for the brothers and sisters in the family of God.
Turn to 5:13. We ought to know that we have eternal life. Not only have we been transferred into it, but we have eternal life. Verse 13 says, “These things I have written to you who believe [present tense] in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know [eido] that you have eternal life.”
There was a man who was a principal of a school. We had a Bible study in his school. Finally, through some of the local priests of another faith, they got us out. They said we were preaching Baptist doctrine. This man came to me one day and said, “Listen, you can’t come over here and tell these students that they can know that they are saved, that they can know that they have eternal life. No man can know.” I said, “I beg your pardon, 1 John 5:13 says,…” and I quoted it to him. He looked right back at me and said, “Say that again.” It is amazing how the Word of God clears up a lot of our thinking.
Do you know you have eternal life? I’ll tell you what your problem is if you are truly a Christian and you don’t know: you are not believing. That is present tense. You are not daily obeying Him. You are not daily trusting Him. Two weeks ago maybe you were, but something has happened in your life and as a result you have slipped back instead of stepping forward. That will shut you down and you will doubt your salvation like never before. When you start believing Him, you will know that you have eternal life. Present tense is always used for people who are Christians, not past experience.
I want to tell you something. Talk is cheap. If you know Jesus Christ, it is going to be seen today, not 30 years ago in your life. The Holy Spirit of God lives in you. One of the epistles calls Him the divine referee. Do you think He won’t blow the whistle on somebody who says they have something that they don’t have?
Look at 5:15. The word eido is used again. “And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.” I can’t wait to get to this one either. You see, we have a listening ear with the Father. Do you know that? Do you know the Father will listen to you? He gives you His undivided attention.
I want you to see something here. We will have to get to it in chapter 5, but I want you to see this. We know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him. Be real careful. It doesn’t say we have received the answer for which we were looking. That is not what the text says. People love to get on television and throw that doctrine out. “Ask for it. You are God’s child. He is your cosmic bellhop. He will do what you want.” No way. Your Father will give you a listening ear. Go on and bring anything you want to bring before Him, but your Father will never grant a request that is not somehow within His divine perfect will for your life. Ask all you want.
We have individual requests. We can always bring anything before Him, but He looks for the heart and He examines it according to His divine purposes in our life. The believer knows he has a listening ear with the Father. He knows that He will give him His undivided attention. Do you know that?
Let’s look in 5:18-20. It is all down through the last part of the book. Verse 18 says, “We know [eido] that no one who is born out of God sins.” Now be careful. That is in the present tense. He means sins in a habitual way. We have already seen that. You don’t live in sin and call yourself a believer. The verse goes on, “but He who was born of God keeps him and the evil one does not touch him.” We will get to that in context.
Here is something else we know. We know that we don’t habitually sin. We can’t live in habitual sin. Verse 19 says, “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” We can know that we are out of God. We are not of this world. We are out of God. Big difference. Verse 20 reads, “And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding, in order that we might know Him who is true, and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” I can know that I am in Him and He is in me. He is in this world because I am here. He lives in me. “How do you know that?” I don’t know, I just know. He lives in me. I am in Him. He is in me.
There are things the believer knows. You ought to check these things out. We ought to know some things. It is built in. We didn’t have to be taught this in a class. We know it. We just know it. Now, that is intuitive knowledge.
But he also brings out some things that are experiential knowledge. What do I mean by that? You can know some other things, but you are going to have to obey the condition to get it. In other words, you are going to have to obey Him. If you do this, you can know this. That is experiential knowledge. That is ginosko. Paul said in Philippians 3:10, “I want to know Him and the power of His resurrection.” That is experiential. He knew Him intimately as his Savior and Lord, but he wanted to experience Him on a day by day basis.
Now, with that in mind, what is it that we can learn from Him? What knowledge does God have for us? I haven’t studied it all the way through yet, but every time he puts down the word “know,” I guarantee you, somehow it is refuting some tenet of the false doctrine that is coming against the people there in Asia Minor. I can’t wait until one of these days when I have enough time to work it all out and find out all that he is saying. It is beyond my understanding or comprehension at this time.
What can a believer know experientially? Now look in 2:3-5. The first thing he can know experientially is we can know beyond any doubt that we know Him. And that is only by our willingness to obey. We said that a while ago but here we find it with the right word. Look at verse 3: “And by this we know [experiential knowledge] that we have come to know Him [in the past], if we keep His commandments.” Now, if there is an obedient spirit within me to do what God wants me to do, I know then that I know Him.
I don’t know how many times Christians have come to me and said, “I don’t think I am saved.” I say, “Why?” “I just don’t know.” I say, “Why do you come to me?” They say, “Well, I just want to obey Christ. I want to do what He asks me to do.” I thought to myself, “Well, why would a lost person want to do what Christ wants them to do?” It is something within you. It is built in. You want to obey Him. Obedience is not something somebody has to knock you over the head to do. It is built in.
He says in verse 4, “The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” I like the way he put that. John says, “He is not mistaken. He is not a little bit off the wall. He is a liar!” I like that. He is a liar and the truth is not in him. He is lying. Verse 5 continues, “but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected.” So we can know that we are in Him, but how do you know? Because you want to obey Him. It is something inside of you. You want to obey Him. There is the “want to” within you. It doesn’t mean you always do it, but the “want to” is there. When you don’t do it, you run to Him. Why? Because you are obeying Him and doing what He told you to do when you don’t do it. Did you get all that?
Now look again at 2:18: “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen; from this we know that it is the last hour.” How can you know that it is the last hour? You hear people talking about the last hour, the last days. How do you know we are in the last days? You can look around you and see all the people who are antichrist arising daily. Daily they are coming on the scene. Because of this, you have this knowledge that you didn’t have before. You know now. You know the days you are living in because all you have to do is look around you at the people who reject and are antichrist.
Look at 3:16. We can know how to love: “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” How can I know how to love like Christ? How can I know what love is? Well, by learning that it is not in word, it is in deed. Look in verse 17: “But whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” How can I learn to love others? It is not by telling them, it is by meeting a need that they have in their life. You learn it by experience. You learn to love. It just doesn’t happen. You learn it. You know love by this.
Look at 4:2-6. “By this you know the Spirit of God.” John tells them to test the spirits. How do I know the spirit? How do I know when I am dealing with somebody who is led of the Spirit? “Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” We can know when we are dealing with somebody who is led of the Spirit of God and we can know when we are dealing with somebody who is not led by the Spirit of God. We learn it by experience. The more you are around these kinds of people, the more you listen to what they say, denying the fact that Jesus came in the flesh, the more you learn to test the spirits in somebody’s life. We will get to that in the context.
Chapter 4:11 tells us we can know that we abide in Him and He is in us. Watch this: “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has beheld God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. And we have beheld and bear witness that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.”
Look at verse 16: “And we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” How can we know that we abide in Him? Again by loving one another.
Well, we could go on and on, but each time we look at it, there is something I can intuitively know and there is something I can learn by experience. But the place that I need to come to and learn from is at the feet of Christ who is the treasure of all knowledge and all wisdom and His Word. There is nothing spiritual I can learn outside of Him. I learn from Him. I learn from His Word. I learn from obeying His Word. There is no mystical knowledge. All this other stuff is all bound up in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is incredible to me how many people want to go someplace else to find knowledge. It is incredible to me how many people think they have knowledge apart from knowing Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.
When you start listening to some of this doctrine that is floating in from everywhere, you had better remember, if you are a true believer, there are some things you know, you already know it and nobody has to remind you. You know it. So quit denying what you are sensing in your Spirit. Then secondly, get busy and start living out what you tell other people you have because the more you live it out, the more experiential knowledge you are going to have and the more protected you are going to be from error ever getting into your life.
How many times have we said it! Get in the Word, obey the Word and that becomes a protection in your life. What does Ephesians tell us? The garment that comes from surrender is our armor in chapter 6. That is almost the same thing John is saying. He is writing to these believers in Asia Minor and saying, “Guys, you want knowledge? Quit chasing after those guys. Come to Christ. Get in His Word.” You have knowledge built in that you don’t even know you have yet, but it is there. You have been denying it. Start learning to obey Him. The more you obey Him, the more knowledge you will increase in. As you walk in Him, you learn of Him. I am thankful I don’t have to go anyplace but to Jesus to find knowledge. Oh, now if I want to learn how to fly a jet plane, I can go take a course. If I want to learn how to run a factory, I can go take schooling on that. But we are talking about spiritual knowledge. The only place you are going to find it is at the feet of Christ with a humble spirit saying, “Lord, I want to surrender to all Your Word has to say.” Over in Matthew He says, “Come unto Me and learn of Me.” He will show us everything we ever needed to know.
The next time you watch a program on television, listen. Not everything is bad on television. But when you are listening, listen to what you are hearing and see what the Spirit of God inside you says. Does it bear witness or does it not with what God has said? You are going to be surprised how protected you already are because of the treasure, wisdom and knowledge living within you.