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A Given Understanding

25 Jan

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“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

There are several deep and somewhat confusing statements in this obscure verse.  First, John says that Jesus came and gave an understanding, which enables us to “know Him who is true.” John then says that we are “in Him who is true,” “in His Son Jesus Christ,” and that somehow all this connects to “the true God and eternal life.” 

Reading this verse, the first question I have is, what is the “understanding” Jesus came and gave, and how does it enable us to “know Him who is true?”  On the surface, one might say this understanding refers to the things Jesus taught about God.  But there are two main reasons I don’t think that’s quite it.  First, because Jesus didn’t really teach “about” God.  Instead, he taught about the Kingdom of God, demonstrated it with healing and miracles, warned and prophesied against the corrupted religious establishment, and stressed the importance of loving others as oneself (which he said sums up the entire law). The second reason is, the Greek word for “understanding,” which is dianoia, doesn’t refer to mental knowledge.  It is most often translated “mind,” and seems to mean a full and true comprehension and thus a correct perception.    

John says this dianoia Jesus gave enables us to “know Him who is true.”  The word “true” is alethinos, which refers to that which is genuine, the real article without any falsehood or counterfeit.  Thayer’s Greek lexicon defines alethinos as:

  • 1. that which has not only the name and resemblance, but the real nature corresponding to the name, in every respect corresponding to the idea signified by the name, real, true genuine

    a. opposite to what is fictitious, counterfeit, imaginary, simulated or pretended

    b. it contrasts realities with their semblances

    c. opposite to what is imperfect defective, frail, uncertain

  • 2. True, veracious, sincere

So, it seems that John is saying the understanding and perception Jesus gave enables us to know God the Father as He genuinely is, to know His real nature, and not a distorted or incomplete representation.  The idea is, I think, that before Christ, under the Old Covenant, God’s people knew Him primarily through a relationship of laws and symbolic rituals.  Their relationship to God was more like one of master and slave, not Father and son.  The partnership and Spiritual union that the New Testament says is ours in and through Christ was not yet available.  The transition from the Old Covenant of law to the New Covenant of grace and faith through Christ was colossal, and has not yet been realized on a large scale.  Many scriptures speak of this transition.  Here are a few:

  • Galatians 4:4-7 (WEB): “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent out his Son, born to a woman, born under the law, that he might redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of children. And because you are children, God sent out the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” So you are no longer a bondservant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” 

  • John 4:19-24 (WEB):  “The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour comes, when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, will you worship the Father. You worship that which you don’t know. We worship that which we know; for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such to be his worshippers. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

  • Romans 7:6 (WEB): “But now we have been discharged from the law, having died to that in which we were held; so that we serve in newness of the spirit, and not in oldness of the letter.”

  • Hebrews 8:1-5 (WEB):  “Now in the things which we are saying, the main point is this. We have such a high priest, who sat down on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a servant of the sanctuary, and of the true (alethinos) tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. Therefore it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer. For if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, seeing there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things (the physical temples and rituals were only symbols and representations of heavenly, spiritual realities), even as Moses was warned by God when he was about to make the tabernacle, for he said, “See, you shall make everything according to the pattern that was shown to you on the mountain.”

  • Hebrews 9:22-24 (WEB): “According to the law, nearly everything is cleansed with blood, and apart from shedding of blood there is no remission. It was necessary therefore that the copies of the things in the heavens should be cleansed with these; but the heavenly things themselves (the alethinos, the true) with better sacrifices than these. For Christ hasn’t entered into holy places made with hands, which are representations of the true (alethinos), but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us…”

I believe the mind/perception/understanding Jesus gave is both the demonstration of God’s true nature as a loving Father rather than a callous master, along with the ability to be a “partaker” of this nature, as 2 Peter 1:4 says. I still believe that as far as God is concerned, flesh is dead and gone.  He doesn’t see our flesh or sin at all, because in God’s mind all believers are “in Christ,” meaning they have become adopted as members of the corporate son of God, literally becoming members of Christ’s body and filled with God’s nature, thus becoming one with God.  This too is the understanding Jesus gave, which Paul and others have elaborated on.  I won’t take the space to elaborate on it here, but, for example, scripture says Jesus “condemned sin in the flesh,” that there is no condemnation in Christ, that we have been perfected forever by the one sacrifice of Christ, and that God Himself has placed us into Christ Jesus, as 1 Corinthians 1:30 says.  

When John wrote that we are “in Him who is true, in His son Jesus Christ,” I believe he meant we are in God AS A RESULT of being in Christ. We in Christ (and Christ in us), Christ in God, thus we in God (see John 14:20).  It’s nothing we did or can do, God did it already.  Not only that, but it seems to me that neither “the true God” nor “eternal life” are found apart from our identity and union with Christ as members of his body, which is a spiritual reality we must “abide” in.  It’s as if God has allowed His nature and being to intertwine with ours in a deep way, through His son.  Now, all this doesn’t mean we as individuals are instantly perfect or that we can’t still act from the flesh.  To say that is to deny the obvious.  What it means is to the extent we have the “dianoia” to recognize we have been adopted as Sons in Christ, and our nature is that of Spirit and love, that we are not under the rule of sin and law, and that we are corporately the body of the son of God – as these truths become the foundation of our hearts and minds, we can manifest the fruit of the Spirit and establish the Kingdom of God on earth.  It is desperately needed, and I believe the season is coming where these things are going to come to pass.  The question is if we will have the courage to lay down our lives in the flesh and the world to manifest the life of the Son of God, our true Life.  Amen.

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Posted by on January 25, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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