We know … we know … we know …
These two words recur constantly in a letter written by the apostle John and found towards the end of the New Testament (it is called ‘1 John’ because he wrote two other letters).
We live in an age marked by moral and spiritual malaise and double talk. It is heartening, therefore, to see the assurance that characterised the outlook of this early disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Note of certainty
John still sounds a note of certainty in an uncertain world. His confidence was based on experience, not hearsay. For he was an eyewitness of the events surrounding the crucified and risen Christ.
He enjoyed a personal acquaintance with the Son of God. And he assures us with forceful repetition that we can ‘know’ certain unchanging truths.
As a matter of fact, the Christian gospel is full of certainties. Jesus Christ can be totally trusted and his Word believed even in our godless and sceptical age.
I would encourage you to read and study this short letter for yourself. But in the meantime, let me share with you some of John’s confident assertions.
The things John knew
Let me begin by listing the verses where John declares the certainties of his faith. I am not going to discuss their meaning individually. That would take too long. I just want you to absorb something of the confidence with which John writes. He says:
‘We know that we know [God], if we keep his commandments’ (1 John 2:3).
‘We know that when he is revealed, we shall be like [Jesus Christ], for we shall see him as he is’ (1 John 3:2).
‘We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren’ (1 John 3:14).
‘By this we know love, because [Jesus] laid down his life for us’ (1 John 3:10).
‘By this we know that we abide in [God], and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit’ (1 John 4:13).
‘We know that whoever is born of God does not practise sin’ (1 John 5:18).
‘We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one’ (1 John 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’ (1 John 5:20).
There is something very positive in what John is saying. He leaves no room for doubt. He speaks with a God-inspired dogmatism, while displaying a profound personal humility.
We must never confuse certainty and assurance with pride and arrogance, as some tend to do. When John says ‘we know’, it is because he has a sure and well-founded faith, both in what he is saying and in the Christ about whom he speaks.
Christian certainty is born of God in the heart and mind of an individual. It is confidence, not in who I am or what I can do; not in my own works and religious practices; but rather in Christ and what he has done to save unworthy people.
The assurance John displays is the confidence that we all should strive 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 John 1:9).
‘And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as the Saviour of the world’ (1 John 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’ (1 John 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.
You may question, you may criticise, you may ignore, you may violently oppose. But truth is unchanging. It remains unaffected by our opposition to it.
Truth is to be learned, believed and obeyed. In his Gospel, the same apostle 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. Human philosophy and man-made religions offer us many alternatives. But apart from Christ, every other way is false.
John warns us that ‘every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God’ (1 John 4:3).
And now some questions.
In whom have you placed your confidence?
Who is totally worthy of your trust?
Who has God the Father sent to seek and save the lost?
Who calls all who labour and are heavy laden to find rest in him?
Every true follower of Jesus can answer from experience: ‘None other than the Lord Jesus Christ’. And why is that? Because ‘We know … We know … We know’.
How about you? – On your answer hangs your eternal destiny.