Tuesday, 16 June 2020
And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may 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. 1 John 5:20
John now presents his third and final “we know,” saying, “And we know that the Son of God has come.” John has laid out this fact, both in his gospel, and also in this epistle (which may have been a letter which accompanied the gospel or a letter sent separately).
John the Baptist proclaimed this fact right at the beginning of the gospel, saying, “And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.” John the Apostle declared it right at the beginning of his epistle, saying –
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— 2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” 1 John 1:1-4
The evidences are laid out through all of the gospels, Acts, and the other epistles as well. There is as much (and indeed there is more) certainty that the Son of God has come as any other event in ancient history. This is even more apparent when the prophets before Christ’s coming prophesied in minute detail of when He would come, to where He would come, what He would do, and etc. With this surety of testimony available, John then says, “and has given us an understanding.”
The words here are not referring to a new ability not known before. We are the same species now that we were since creation. All humans have the same ability (if they are willing to use it) to think rationally, to test the evidences before them, to make logical conclusions, and so on. What John is referring to are the evidences presented. The record of the prophets, the writings of the gospels, the explanation in the epistles, the unveiling of the mysteries previously hidden, and so on. They are now available to believers, and thus we have been given an understanding, which is, “that we may know Him who is true.”
This is speaking of God, the Creator, and the One to whom all men are accountable to. There is one God, and the writings found in Scripture are what we would call “special revelation.” We can know things about God from nature, from thinking logically, and etc. This is known as “general revelation.” But there are things we cannot know about God unless He specifically reveals them to us. The highest form of special revelation is the incarnation of Jesus Christ. From that, we learn what is written about Him and His work.
In knowing these things, we are given an understanding to “know Him who is true.” What is otherwise completely unknowable about God can now be understood. The testimony is true, as is stated in John 3:33, “He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true.” And not only do we know that the God we are presented with in Scripture is true, but we can also “know Him.” This was stated in John’s gospel as well –
“No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.”
The God presented to us is true, and it is the Son – Jesus – who has declared Him. Thus, we can “know Him who is true.” The thoughts presented fit as perfectly as the most carefully made glove. The one who is given this understanding has a sound, logical, verifiable, and readily available understanding of these things. Along with this blessed state, John then adds, “and we are in Him who is true.”
The words here speak of intimate union and fellowship. Where we once were alienated from God, we are now brought near though Christ. What is implied here, but stated explicitly elsewhere, is the truth that without Christ this intimate union would be impossible. The only way to be united to God – and to have this personal, eternal, and blessed relationship – is to come to God through Christ. This is, as John next says, “in His Son Jesus Christ.”
What this means is that to be in “Him who is true,” meaning in God, one must be in Jesus Christ. When one is in Christ, He is in God. It should be noted that the construction of the Greek here is the same as was seen in verse 5:19 concerning the wicked one –
“in the evil one”
“in the (Him who is) true; in the Son of Him Jesus Christ.”
John has formed a complete divide between the two. On one side is “the whole world,” and on the other are those “in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ.” There are no other options available. One is either in Christ, or he is in the devil.
John then finishes with the words, “This is the true God and eternal life.” The words are in the masculine singular – “He is the true God and life eternal.” Because of this, scholars debate whether this is referring to God or to Jesus. The Pulpit Commentary says, “We must be content to leave the question open; both interpretations make excellent sense, and none of the arguments in favour of either are decisive.”
Albert Barnes gives the most delightful 5-point analysis which resoundingly favors the words pointing to Jesus – for obvious reasons. It is well worth reading, and it can be seen at this link – https://biblehub.com/commentaries/1_john/5-20.htm.
The answer to this is not unimportant, and so to understand more fully what John is relaying, the previous clauses need to be carefully laid out and examined –
1) that we may know Him who is true.
2) and we are in Him who is true.
3) in His Son Jesus Christ.
4) This is the true God and eternal life.
The answer to the question is obvious when placed this way. John first gives the reason for the coming of Christ. It is so that we may know Him who is true. It is speaking of God. As noted above, we cannot know God in this special way without Him revealing Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ.
John then says, “we may know Him who is true.” This must be speaking of God, because he then says, “in His Son Jesus Christ.” He is showing that there are two entities being referred to by stating it this way – God and Jesus Christ. However, despite being two entities, they are One. The words “This is the true God” refer to both clauses – Him who is true/in His Son Jesus Christ. Despite being masculine singular, they are One. There is no Jesus Christ apart from God, and there is no God other than the God – who is inclusive of Jesus Christ – because Jesus is God, and because there is One God.
This is no different than Matthew 28:19. There it refers to the “name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” However, the word “name” is singular. There is One name because there is One God. The three Persons within the Godhead do not negate that they are – together – One God.
What John is doing is demonstrating the truth – repeated elsewhere – that God has revealed Himself, God reveals Himself, and God will eternally reveal Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ. When John says, “This is the eternal God and true life,” he is simply repeating, while restating, what he said as he opened his epistle –
“the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us.” 1 John 1:2
The life, meaning Jesus Christ, was with the Father. The life, meaning eternal life, was manifested to us in the Person of Jesus Christ – who is with the Father. This is the true God and eternal life.
Life application: We know we have been given an understanding which is the ability to clearly receive and discern spiritual truth. Unlike others who claim to be spiritual, but have no foundation, we have the absolute assurance that we “may know Him who is true.” This means that Jesus has revealed the very Creator God to us.
The God who is Spirit and cannot be seen, is clearly and completely revealed in the Son. This revelation is unlike the gods invented by man. All other religions, despite their claims, are based on an incorrect and finite understanding of God. Jesus, however, is the true revelation of God and His depiction reaches to the infinite – in other words, our ability to learn from Him and seek out His glory will never end. All other religions necessarily end because they are based on finite contemplations.
So “we may know Him” is an eternally ongoing gift to us. We also know that “we are in Him.” As believers in Jesus Christ, we are adopted sons of God. We have moved from death to life and are eternally secure in His salvation. This then “is the true God and eternal life.” We have the Son and therefore we have the Father. Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. Jesus is the cornerstone, and we are living stones being built into an eternal temple in which God will dwell. It is the most incredible thing to ponder! Thank You, O God, for Jesus.
Lord, may we never be so haughty as to assume that we have merited Your grace. We can only look to what You have done and say, “O God, how great Thou art!” When we were separated and lost, You sent our Great Shepherd to find us and bring us to Your fold. And here we are…looking forward to eternity in Your glorious presence, ever praising You. Amen.