Lesson Seven – How Christians Can Know

How Christians Can Know


The following list of scriptures is an excerpt from item three in the Introduction of Part III.  It has been added for a “quick reference.”


The English word “know” has been translated from the Greek word ginosko in the following scriptures.  It is used in the sense of “realizing.”  There is a relationship between the person knowing and the object known.

2:3.         “We know (ginoskomen) we have come to know (eginoskomen) Him if we obey His commands.”

2:5, 6.    “This is how we know (ginoskomen) we are in Him: Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus walked.”

The Greek word oida has been translated “know” in the following scriptures.  The prefix and suffix will change according to the usage.  It means “to have seen or perceived.”  Thus, oida means this theology had already influenced the recipients’ paradigms.  Paradigm, in this context, means the model we use for seeing and the interpretation of a given situation.  The theology and ethic John presented in the thought where he used “you know” (oida) was already forming some of the church members’ “road maps” for seeing, understanding and explaining life.  This same theology or ethic also became their value system for learning the other theologies and ethics John presented in the thought where he used the word “know” translated from “ginosko.”

2:21.      “I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth.”

2:29.      “If you know (from oida) that He is righteous, you know (from ginosko) that everyone who does (Greek, poieo – practices, NASB) what is right has been born of Him.”

3:2.         “But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”

3:5          “But you know that He appeared so that He might take away our sins.”

3:14        “We know we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers.”

3:15.      “… And you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.”

 Know has been translated from “ginosko’ in the following scriptures.

                3:16.      “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.”

                3:19.      “This then is how we know that we belong to truth, …”

                3:24.      “And this is how we know He lives in us: We know it by the Spirit He gave us.”

                4:2.         “And this is how you can recognize (ginoskete) the Spirit of God.”

4:6          “We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us, but whoever is not from God does not listen to us.  This is how we recognize (ginoskomen) the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.”

4:13        “We know that we live in Him, and He in us because He has given us of His Spirit.”

4:16.      “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.”

5:2.         “This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out His commands.”

Know has been translated from “oido” in the following Scriptures.

5:13.      “… So you may know you have eternal life.”

5:15.      “And if we know that He hears us – whatever we ask – we know we have what we asked of Him.”

5:18.      “We know that anyone born of God does not continue in sin; …”

5:19.      “We know we are children of God, and the whole world is under the control of the evil one.”

5:20.      “We know (oida) also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding (dianoia means deep thought or disposition – the exercise of one’s mind, understanding and imagination) so that we may know (ginoskomen) Him who is true.”

End of excerpt. 

We studied the portion of scriptures from this list in which John used the Greek word “oida” in the previous lesson.  The recipients already knew these teachings.  In this lesson we will study spiritual growth attributes Christians can know (ginosko) because of what we already know (oida).  The aim of both lessons is to help Christians know the “sanctifying work of the Spirit.”  II Thess. 2:13.  This lesson will also serve as a review of Lessons Two, The Word of life; Three, Walking in the Light;  Four, Love Made Complete.


The theologies, ethics and practices the recipients already knew may be considered what new born babes “in Christ” know, or should know (I Pet. 2:2).  Of course, there are levels of knowing according to factors such as “from whence we came” before becoming a Christian (I Cor. 3:1, 2).  Jesus pointed out the advantage of the teachers of the law who had also received instructions about the kingdom of God (Matt. 13:52).  The kingdom of God and sonship must be understood in order to enter the faith process of the new birth.  A sinner in the world realm must know the new covenant before he or she can change their mind in their repentance.   There are only two categories of mature people on earth, covenant keepers and covenant breakers (Luke 13:5).  Those who are covenant breakers need to repent and accept God’s new covenant (Heb. 8:10-12).  This must happen before they have prepared their minds, hearts and consciences to be “washed” by God in baptism (Acts 22:16; Col. 2:11-14).

John’s point in his use of the two Greek words, oida and ginosko is “if” Christians know (oida) certain spiritual teachings and have made these teachings a functional part of our minds and hearts, we are ready to know (ginosko), that is, learn and develop other spiritual attributes.  See I John 2:28, 29.  The following is a review from the previous lessons of some things known (oida) by the recipients.  These are theologies and ethics Christians need to know (ginosko), if we will be able to develop other spiritual qualities.

  • Faithful Christians, who identify as children of God, know we will receive a new spiritual body like Jesus when He comes again.  This is a part of our faith.  3:2
  • We are at peace with God because Jesus has taken away our sins.  3:5.  We remain at peace while we examine ourselves to perceive what is broken in our selves (Rom. 5:1; II Cor. 13:5).
  • We have replaced anger with love for our brethren; therefore, we are alive spiritually; this is to say, we enjoy fellowship with God. 3:14
  • We accept the purpose of John’s letter; therefore, we know our “selves” have life that will continue past our physical deaths. 5:13
  • We know God hears, understands and responds to the prayers we pray “according to His will.” 5:15
  • We know we belong to God and our relatives and friends in the world realm are still “under the control of the evil one.” 5:19

Please review the previous lesson in regard to the foregoing statements and the excerpt.  This will prepare our minds for a study of John’s use of the Greek word “ginosko.”  A composite of what the recipients knew in the foregoing list is what informed Christians know right now.  This composite picture is in our hearts and minds; therefore; we can learn love.  We can know (ginosko) love.  The composite picture of what we already know (oida) conditions our consciences and shapes our “world views.”  What we already know forms our paradigms for seeing and interacting with God, our Father, Jesus, our Lord, and our companion, the Holy Spirit.   This is the meaning “godliness.”  II Pet. 1:3.  Christians have internalized a composite of the foregoing list; it is our faith.  We are obedient to our faith (Rom. 1:5; 16:26).  Consequently, Christians practice righteousness in our relationship other Christians.  Because of “what we know,” we can move on from these fundamental teachings.  This is what the Hebrew writer spoke to in Hebrews 6:1-3.

This composite picture of what we know is also the faith of our brethren.  We are capable of loving them deeply because of the fundamental doctrines and ethics we know (I Pet. 1:22, 23).  In his letters John used the Greek word “agape,” translated love.  God commanded us to practice loving our brethren as an exercise so we will become love.  This is the divine principle for making love complete in Christians.  “Love made complete” means we have internalized love (agape) in our hearts.  Love is an identifying mark of Christians.  God is love; therefore, we can know and develop this aspect of His divine nature (II Pet. 1:3).

Jesus defined this word love (agape) for the world by doing His Father’s will when He subjected Himself to death on the cross (John 12:23-28; I John 3:16).  Love is an element of divine life (I John 4:7, 8).  It is an element of the fruit of the Spirit being developed in Christians because we follow the Spirit (Gal. 5:22; Rom. 8:4,9, 28).  We live in fellowship with God.  His Holy Spirit leads us in sanctification.  Christians become love (I John 5:1-4).  It is the quality of love Christians must develop (I John 4:16).  The Apostle Paul was excited about God’s love revealed in Jesus’ death for the salvation of all the sinners in the world.  He was even more excited about Jesus’ life as the law of mankind’s life.  Jesus life is the light of Christians’ lives (John 1:3, 4).  We are saved because we can know the law of life.  Like the law of nature, this law describes how we have been created to grow and produce fruit for God (Luke 3:9; 13:6-9; John 15:1-8).  Our potential is “to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.”  Rom. 8:29.

But God demonstrates His own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him!  For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled to Him, shall we be saved through His life!  Rom. 5:8-10

Jesus lived on earth “in Adam” with a perception of His real Father’s mind and heart (John 5:19).  His paradigm of people in the “world realm” was identical with the will of God (John 6:37-40).  Consequently, Jesus’ mission, as king, was and is, “to seek and save the lost.”  Luke 19:10.  For God is “not wanting anyone to perish.”  II Pet. 3:9.  All Christians have been commanded to carry on Jesus’ mission (Matt. 21:43; 28:16-20; Luke 9:59-62).  The love of God is required in Christians’ character to serve God with Jesus as our king (I Pet. 3:13-15; I John 4:16-18).  The practice of evangelism requires love in the heart of the evangelist.  When a Christian discovers he or she does not have this quality and strength of love, God commands her or him to exercise loving someone so they become love.

This how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out His commands.  I John 5:2

And so we know we rely on the love God has for us.  I John 4:16

Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.  This then is how we know that we belong to truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us.  For God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything.  I John 4:18-20

Growth promotes growth (II Cor. 3:18).  We can hear the truth about “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God” by a study of John’s letter (I John 3:1).  After we hear and then develop faith and obedience, we can know this agape love God has lavished on us as Christians.  By obeying God’s command to love Him and our brethren in deeds, we know love (I John 3:18; 4:16; 5:2).  “This then is how we know that we belong to truth and how we set our hearts at rest in His presence.”  I John 3:19.  Knowing we belong to truth is how we arrive at peace with ourselves and God.  We will not have truth in us as John spoke of several times in his second letter until we have practiced love.

Spiritual growth starts with the fundamentals revealed in the foregoing composite picture of what the recipients of John’s letter already knew.  From this plateau of faith Christians are in a learning mode to know love, agape.  After some exercises of loving our brethren, we become love.  With “God’s love truly made complete in us,” we are ready to know God’s own Holy Spirit gave us this truth (I John 4:6).  “We know that we live in Him, and He in us because He has given us of His Spirit.”  I John 3:24.  John made this declaration for his dear brethren then and for us today; “We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us, but whoever is not from God does not listen to us.  This is how we recognize (ginoskomen) the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.”  I John 4:6.   After we arrive at this level of knowing we are ready to accept God’s command to love those who do not love us.  We are ready to join Jesus’ evangelism team John described in his third letter.  If we keep growing we will experiment with loving our enemy and know the love Jesus Christ.  Please read Ephesians 3:14-21.

There is a branch of metaphysics called “ontology.”   According Wikipedia via Google, “Ontology deals with questions concerning what entities exist or can be said to exist.”  In other words, ontology deals with the “what is it” questions pre-school children repeatedly asked mothers.  “What is it, Mom?”  “It’s a bird; it’s a dog; it’s a spider – don’t touch it.”  God gave Adam the privilege of making a different sound to represent each of the “living creatures” children appear to have an innate “need to know.”  Gen. 2:19, 20.  By God’s hand, sounds have been developed in many languages to represent the word Adam used to answer his children’s “what is it” questions (Gen. 11:1- 9).  However, children are not satisfied to merely hear the sounds, bird, spider or dog.  After they see the animal, or the myriads of other things they want to know “what is it,” they want to get their little hands on them:  Why?  “Touching, seeing, tasting, smelling and hearing” is another step in their passive learning stage.  They have the capability of storing in their memory the result of their exercising these five senses.  We have indeed been “fearfully and wonderfully” created (Psa. 139:14).

Epistemology is a branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope of knowledge.  According to Wikipedia, it questions what knowledge is, how it is acquired and the possible extent a given subject, or entity, can be known.  Now we are speaking about how we know a dog is a dog.  The Lord has created in each living being a “need to know” and also the capability of knowing.  Children want to know (ginosko) so they ask, “What is it?”  The next time this four legged creature appears wagging its tail, the child may point and exclaim; “Mommy, a dog!”  Her older brother may tease her by asking, “How do you know?”  Her answer, “I just know (oida).”

We can instantly satisfy our need to know (ginosko) “what is it” by “googling” the word adopted by our native language to identify one of God’s creatures.  If we have had our “what is it” questions correctly answered and if we were allowed to properly examine its specific features we can know (oida), it is what it is.

In this lesson we have studied how John applied these principles of learning to our inner man (II Cor. 4:16).  We have studied “what is it” questions about things we cannot perceive with our physical senses.  We learned, “How we know we have it?”  John helped us with both questions.  For instance, a twelve year old child may ask her or his parents; “How can I know God?”  Johns answer; “You can know God if you obey His command.”  I John 2:3.

This completes our study of John’s first letter.  His second letter must be understood in the context of his first letter.  We will make this connection in the next lesson and then study John’s model for how Christians are a part of our king’s mission for “seeking and saving the lost.”  This will be a study of III John, the final lesson in this book.

Questions for Discussion 

1.  What did John present as fundamental entities of a Christian’s faith?  How does grace factor into this list?  Write a summary paragraph about the practicality of these fundamental entities.

2.  What is the meaning of godliness?  How does faith work in godliness?  How does the concept of “world view” factor into a discussion of godliness?

3.  Explain the difference in knowing about love and knowing love.  How does God’s command to love enter into your answer?  How does God’s love stimulate love in Christians?  Explain the different levels of stimulation.  How does the study in this lesson explain the Apostle Paul’s declaration in I Cor. 13:13?

4.  How does ontology and epistemology relate to reading John’s letter?  If you were asked, “what is love” which of the two studies would this question relate?  If you were asked “how do you know you have love” which of the two studies would this question relate?


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