“And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.~ 1 John 5:20
Explanation of the Text: Beginning in the second century, it was the Gnostics who set the world of Christian theology ablaze. Creating controversy by claiming to have the ‘true’ knowledge of the Christian faith that Jesus gave only to John. While Gnosticism did not begin to from as a whole movement until after John’s death, the foundational teachings had already begun while John was alive. Thus, it is John’s own writings that would dispute Gnosticism from its infancy into even those who still maintain the same claims today. Here in 1 John 5:20, with the stroke of a few words, John provides a powerful refutation to those Gnostics while offering careful assurance to believers.
We see first that faith is grounded in a historical reality. While we are currently awaiting the return of our Savior, we have a strong confidence in that return because he has already come before. The words are significant: the Son of God has come. Christians around the world commemorated the first coming of Christ last month. It was an event promised from the beginning of God’s plan and we rejoice that it came to be as the incarnate Son of God ministered amongst the people so many years ago.
Why was it that Christ came? What was so important about the ministry of this God-man? Because in His coming He gave people understanding. He ministered among them, teaching them the truth of God and then upon His resurrection and ascension, we were left with the written account (the Bible) and the Holy Spirit to aid and continue in understanding.
It is not a mere understanding that makes His appearing so wonderful though, but rather it is more complex than that. Christ did not come merely to give man a list of do’s and don’ts or a head knowledge that we could attempt to live by. Instead, Christ gave men understanding in order to give them knowledge of God. The wording is very specific in that knowing Him is not a mere knowledge about Him, but John uses a Greek word that conveys a knowledge that occurs only through an intimate association. It is a genuine knowledge that comes from a genuine relationship. One cannot know God without knowing the Son (cf. 1 John 4:15).
My fellow believer, do you understand the magnificence of John’s teaching here then? We are in Him. We are given the opportunity to know God. We go from slaves to sinfulness to sons of holiness. Kenneth Grayston remarks, “The deepest level of awareness of God is achieved only by intimate communion with the Son” (1).
Our joy, our confidence, our hope, our entire life is intensified to unspeakable proportions when we recognize that in knowing Christ we know God and eternal life. How spectacular the Christian life is when we fixate on Christ and who He is. In Him we find eternal life, but not just eternal life, but eternal life with Him. It is one thing to have eternal life, which all people do, but it is marvelous for the Christian because the eternal life of the Christian is not spend separated from God, but in fellowship with Him. As one commentator notes, “Eternal life is a personal-encounter knowledge of God, leading to a lifetime of fellowship with Him, which cannot be counterfeited” (2).
Examination & Application of the Text: As John wrote he countered the core teachings of Gnosticism by affirming Christ as God and that understanding came from Him. While John defeated the Gnostics, he confirmed the Christians. Throughout the letter John has assured readers who Jesus Christ is. In that assurance John places before us reasons to also be assured of who we are in Him. Our confidence can be satisfied both in the activities and attributes of Christ.
As we look at the world situation around us, it is easy for Christians to become despondent. We hear the laments of Christians all the time. It is true that things are indeed difficult. It is also true that we stand firm in a defense of our faith. Yet, our confidence does not find its place in the world around us, but in the world that is to come.
It is easy for us to say this. In fact, many of us do say it. However, if that confidence is truly resounding within us, it will be displayed in our lives. Our reactions to the world situation will reflect an unchanging confidence by pointing to God and an eternal hope through Jesus Christ. Our knowledge of Him will be manifested to others. It is something that works in us by guiding our every step and through us by impacting the lives of others.
Questions to Consider:
- What hope do you have? Where is that hope placed (in Christ or the world)?
- Does your life indicate a hope in Christ? I.e. when something happens, do you cry your or do you cry out to God? There is a difference
(1) Kenneth Grayston, The Johannine Epistles, New Century Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1984), 147.
(2) David Jackman, The Message of John’s Letters: Living in the Love of God, The Bible Speaks Today (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 159.