These are two words that constantly recur in the first epistle of John. And living as we do in an age marked by moral and spiritual malaise and double talk, it is heartening to see the assurance that characterised this early disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.
John sounds forth a note of certainty. He was an eyewitness of the crucified and risen Lord Jesus, and accordingly he announces with forceful repetition: ‘We know’. It is a matter of fact that the Christian gospel is full of certainties. Jesus Christ is to be totally trusted and his Word is to be fully believed.
I encourage you to read and study this short letter in the New Testament, but in the meantime let us notice some of John’s confident assertions. They arise out of a personal knowledge of, and acquaintance with, the Son of God.
Here are eight things of which John was certain.
- ‘We know that we know him, if we keep his commandments’ (2:3).
- ‘We know that when he is revealed, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is’ (3:2).
- ‘We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren’ (3:14).
- ‘By this we know love, because he laid down his life for us’ (3:10).
- ‘By this we know that we abide in him, and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit’ (4:13).
- ‘We know that whoever is born of God does not practise sin’ (5:18).
- ‘We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one’ (5:19)
- ‘We know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know him who is true’ (5:20).
There is something very positive about what John is saying. He leaves no room for doubt, either on his own behalf or that of other true believers (he says ‘we’ not ‘I’). He speaks with a God-inspired dogmatism, characterised by a profound personal humility.
We should never confuse certainty and assurance of speech with pride and arrogance, as some tend to do. When John says ‘we know’, his statements are based on a sure and well-founded faith.
There is a Christian certainty that is born of God in the heart and mind of a person. It is the testimony of the indwelling Spirit. It is a confidence, not in who I am or what I can do; not in my own works and religious performances; but rather in Christ and in what he has done for the salvation of unworthy sinners. The assurance with which John writes is the assurance that every true Christian should seek to know.
Listen to him again in this same letter.
‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’ (1:9).
‘And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as the Saviour of the world’ (4:14).
‘And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life’ (5:11-12).
Check out these words for yourself. They are God’s words, for it was God the Holy Spirit who moved John to write them. Therefore they are true. Men may question them, criticise them, ignore them, and oppose them. But truth cannot change. It remains unaffected by our attitude to it.
Truth is to be believed, learned and obeyed. The same apostle John, in his Gospel, records Jesus as saying: ‘I am the truth’ (John 14:6). It is an exclusive claim. Jesus will have no rivals. There is no other way to God the Father than through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Every other way is false. John warns us in his letter that ‘every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God [but] is the spirit of the Antichrist’ (4:3).
And now some questions
- In whom have you placed your confidence?
- Who is totally worthy of your trust?
- Who is it that God the Father has sent to seek and to save the lost?
- Who is it that calls all who labour and are heavy laden to find rest in him?
Every true follower of Jesus will answer in the same words: ‘None other than the Lord Jesus Christ’. And why is that? Because ‘We know … We know … We know’.