Monday, April 24, 2017


The Apostle John wrote his first letter to help believers measure the quality of their belief—to know if their faith was genuine. 

He gives numerous “benchmarks” that show whether one truly knows God and possesses eternal life.

It is apparently important we know for sure that when we claim to know God, we have something upon which to base that claim.

The word “know” occurs 27 times in 22 verses in the First Epistle of John in the King James Version (KJV), and 35 times in 29 verses in the New Living Translation (NLT). There are only 105 verses in this letter from the Apostle of Love.

For the NLT that means 33% of the verses address the idea of “knowing” something, while the KJV has 26% of the verses in that category. (I didn’t count the number of words.)

The word “know” and its cognates translates two different Greek words—γινώσκω (ginōskō) and οἶδα (oida). Without going into all the nuances of meaning, a simple understanding of the two is—γινώσκω (ginōskō) is the knowledge that comes from experience and οἶδα (oida) comes from a perception of how things are. (Without question, there is quite a bit of overlap in meaning between the two words. I have only given the very basic of distinctions, which are not necessarily consistently visible within context.)

Let’s look first at the things the Lord wants us to “know” as found in John’s letter from the NLT.
  • Him 2:3; 3:6; 4:6-8; 5:20 
  • Living in Him 2:5 
  • The last hour has come 2:18 
  • The difference between truth and lies 2:21 
  • God’s children 2:29 
  • Real love 3:16 
  • He lives in us 3:24 
  • False prophets 4:2 
  • God’s love 4:16 
  • How to love God’s children 5:2 
  • We have eternal life 5:13 
Each of the items listed comes with an explanation of proof so that we can examine the evidence to see if we truly know what we claim. On a secondary level, we can also know whether someone who claims to “know” speaks truly, based on the same evidence.

The last item is, of course, the most important one as it encompasses all the rest. John wrote this as the reason for his letter—
“I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life.” [1Jo 5:13 NLT]

His entire letter, and especially this verse, speaks to what is known as the Doctrine of Assurance (
assurance of salvation).

Assurance of salvation is something the Holy Spirit wants us to have as evidenced by this letter of John. Doubts as to whether one is truly saved can, and often does, plague the sincere believer.

Doubt without an answer can lead to a host of problems, not the least of which is a floating conviction without any substance. This type of “conviction” can never be remedied by any amount of confession of sin, because it is a lie from the pit of hell.

Doubt can only be answered by faith, and that faith must be based on something genuine.

The Canons of Dort (1618-19 AD) addressed the doctrine of assurance in Article 10. Stated negatively at first, “this assurance does not derive from some private revelation beyond or outside the Word.”

Kevin DeYoung, in writing about this for the Gospel Coalition, states—
So if not from external revelation, where then does assurance come from? Dort gives three answers:
1. Assurance comes from faith in the promises of God. 2. Assurance comes from the testimony of the Holy Spirit testifying to our spirits that we are children of God. 3. Assurance comes from “a serious and holy pursuit of a clear conscience and of good works” (5.10).
In other words, believers find assurance in the promises of God, the witness of the Spirit, and evidences of Christ’s grace in our lives.

Any one of these by itself may provide a measure of assurance; but when all three come together, assurance becomes a fixed point upon which to base your faith.

If we are to “examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith” (2 Cor. 13:5), then it will help us to have a standard by which to make that examination. We can do no better than to use what God has revealed to us in His Word through this letter of John.

We will begin to look at each of these next time.

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