Published June 4, 2009
1 John 2:3-11, 15-17
Related Sunday School Lesson, Bible Studies for Life, June 14
How do we really know anything for sure? How do we know for sure that we have landed on the moon? Did you know that a recent Gallup Poll says there are millions of Americans (six percent) who believe all six of the manned moon landings were a hoax and were staged and filmed in a warehouse by the government in Nevada?
There is an entire field of study in philosophy called epistemology that studies how we know things and how we know that we know them. Think about that for a while!
The focal question in this study is twofold: Can we know that we know that we belong to Christ, and how can we be sure that God really is in control in this world?
Let’s backtrack just a moment to keep our theme “Beyond Doubt” in focus. From last week the problem in John’s seven churches was that the Gnostics had infiltrated with “new information” about Jesus. Thinking that Christianity needed to be modernized in order to be attractive to the contemporary culture, they taught that Jesus was not really a man but a “Christ-spirit” that looked like a man.
All matter is evil (specifically our bodies) so live like you want. Sin does not exist, so don’t sweat it. Salvation comes through the knowledge (gnosis) that we are, in fact, god.
This new “theological upgrade” was supposed to attract thousands with its intellectual profundity and its natural outflow of peace and love. The result was devastating. The church became divisive, prideful, immoral, and hateful. It was in chaos and people were leaving left and right.
John writes this “crisis letter” to encourage the faithful to remain firm and to help them know how to tell the true believers from the imposters.
When our doctrine is tweaked and the true nature and role of Jesus is altered in the least, then our faith is not based on the biblical, personal Jesus. Fellowship in the church then begins to fragment and fail and we begin to experience disorientation, isolation, and doubt.
Doubts, fears, and uncertainties - 1 John 2:3-17
Our obedience strengthens our fellowship with God and through this relationship He assures us of our salvation and His sovereignty in the world. Assurance of our salvation is the crucial question in this passage and in our lives as Christians.
How do we know that we know God and forever belong to Him no matter what? In the twelve verses of vs. 3-14 the issue of assurance is mentioned eleven times in the terms “knowing Him” – or not, being “in Him” – or not, being “in the light,” – or not, etc. The short answer is a resounding “Yes. We can in fact know that we belong to God.”
The whole book is about knowing we are safe as believers. John states “we know” and “you know” at least 26 times in this short book, referring to comprehending the assurance of our salvation.
Why? Because we can and should know our status with God. Without this crucial knowledge life would be unbearable.
Crucial intelligence - 1 John 2:3
What we know intellectually is crucial. John understands the importance of knowledge and uses the word 38 times in this short book. The Gnostics however, were saying that head knowledge is all-important and that it alone saves because it connects and unites you with the universal mind of god. John says the opposite.
Knowing a who - 1 John 2:4-11
What we must know is actually a who, and His name is Jesus Christ.
John says in vs. 4-11 that a body of knowledge does not save us, but that God reveals to us the reality of the true identity of His Son Jesus Christ. That reality leads a true seeker of God to the awareness not of our purity and divinity, but of our sinfulness and weakness, and of our need for a savior.
We then must realize and accept Him (not a “doctrine” or body of knowledge) into our hearts as the only way to God, and the only embodiment of absolute truth in the world … the only giver of eternal life.
Salvation involves what we know, but more precisely it hangs on our understanding and acceptance of the God-man, Jesus Christ, into our hearts.
In verses 3-6 the personal pronouns “He,” “Him,” and “His” – referring to Jesus Christ the real person – are mentioned eight times as the giver of our salvation. Notice that the object of our faith is not an idea, doctrine, or sudden enlightenment, but the personal Jesus (indicating His humanity) Christ (indicating His Deity).
Evidence and assurance - 1 John 2:4-11, 15-17
How we live and what we do is the evidence and assurance that we belong to Christ. It is significant that the entire passage (3-17) begins with “keeping His commands” (v.3) and ends with “doing the will of God” (v.17).
The Gnostics had totally separated the knowledge of God (what we know about God) from our behavior. Here, John makes what we do the evidence and best “proof” that we, in fact, have a true knowledge of God.
We must be very careful here not to think we can earn or work our way to heaven or secure our relationship with Christ by our good deeds or actions. Once truly saved, nothing can void our relationship.
The key here is that if we truly know Christ, we desire and long to know how He wants us to live. The terms “keeping His word,” “remaining in Him,” and “walking as He walked” suggest not sinless perfection but our aspiration to live lives of purity and obedience.
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