I’ve written many times about the fact that in Christ/Spirit, we have died and risen into new life. In Colossians 2:11-13 (ESV), Paul uses the illustration of physical circumcision to make this same point:
“In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses…”
There are several important things Paul states about this spiritual circumcision. First, it only exists “in him,” meaning in Christ/Spirit. It’s not something that is seen in the physical body or felt with physical senses. Second, it was done “without hands,” meaning that man had no part in it and cannot alter it. Third, this circumcision didn’t cut off a foreskin, but the entire “body of the flesh.” By doing this, God did what man couldn’t (and still can’t) – end the flesh. As God sees, in the Spirit, EVERYTHING which has been birthed from the “seed” of man is condemned, dead, taken away. Fourth, Paul says God did this while men were dead in trespasses and (spiritual) uncircumcision. We didn’t “earn” this, it was done in God’s timing and by His decision. Paul says by cutting off the flesh, God was forgiving all trespasses and uniting men with Christ, making them alive TOGETHER with him. Needless to say, a radical change has taken place! This change, for those with eyes to see, is not in the physical world, and not in the darkness within or outside of us. Those things remain dead. This change is in the Spirit, which then alters our perception of and relationship to everything, and which ultimately will consume all that is not in accordance with it!
In a recent post, I mentioned some questions I wanted to address in light of these things. Here are a few of these:
1. How should we relate to other people?
-I agree with Paul, who in 2 Corinthians 5:16 wrote believers are to “know no man after the flesh.” Knowing that in the light of the new covenant, all flesh has been cut off and put away, and all men reconciled to God, we will not relate to people (positively or negatively) based off what is dead and cut off. It’s unnatural and often very difficult to walk this way, but I think the term for it is LOVE. For example, In 2 Corinthians 5:14, Paul wrote: “…the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded (recognized) this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died…” In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul also famously wrote that love keeps no record of wrongs, is longsuffering and kind and never quits. I believe this is because love is based on the eternal, accomplished fact that Christ died for all, as all, reconciling all men to God, who is no longer counting sins against anyone.
2. What should our relationship be to the world? (I define “world” not as planet earth, but as the systems and values that have been founded and established by man on the earth).
Again, scripture answers this quite clearly:
“…the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” -Galatians 6:14
“…all that is in the world–the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions–is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” -1 John 2:16-17 ESV
Recognizing the cross of Christ was our cross too, and that his resurrection was our resurrection too, we will not make any firm attachments to anything still founded on the old creation, nor will we let its values or deceitful desires enter our hearts.
3. What is our relationship to religion?
-We realize that God is satisfied in His son, and places no value on anything except an increase of His spirit. In the new creation, there is no benefit (nor intrinsic harm) in any outward observances of any kind. The only obligation we have is to love one-another. Seeing the mind and hand of natural man underlying all forms of religion, and knowing natural man is spiritually dead, we simply leave religion be, calling men to come out of it as the Spirit reveals the new creation within them. We then follow the Spirit in freedom and Life, outside of pretense and ritual.
4. What do we make of it when we still “sin?,” if we have died and been raised with Christ?
– First, let us remember, according to scripture, Jesus became sin on our behalf, took away the sin of the world, and God is no longer reckoning sin against anyone. So while sin exists (in a sense), it is, in the final analysis, a moot point, a defeated foe, a nullified issue, and one that we would be much better off not worrying about at all.
Assuming this is true and we are reckoned sinless and have been raised to new life in Christ, it is still the case that the MANIFESTATION of this reality is not instant or painless. We remain human, and scripture gives many examples of carnal behavior even among the early church. Even when we genuinely are seeking the Kingdom, it often takes time for us to let go of habits and attachments that were formed in darkness, especially those deeply-rooted issues which often develop from traumatic experiences and subconcious lies. It also often takes time to unlearn and undo the fear-based, self-focused way of relating to God many of us were raised under. And because some of these things remain, sometimes old behaviors/habits persist for a time, or temporarily return.
But, the key thing is, having died with Christ, we know these things are not “us.” As Paul wrote in Romans 7, it was not he (Christ, his true identity) that sinned, but the vestiges of sin (the old man/Adam) that remained within him. Knowing Christ alone is alive, he sought and suffered to see that truth become the manifest reality of his existence. Knowing any old, sinful ways are not “us” and are not being held against us, we can avoid the two deadly errors: either thinking we “have it” and becoming proud, or thinking we “don’t have it” and becoming discouraged and fearful. We don’t “have it” or “not have it.” We ARE it! It’s just a matter of revelation, refining, and manifestation.
Here’s what I mean by “we are it.” A few scriptures speak of purification or refining, which is a process that identifies and removes foreign material so only the valued substance remains. In the same sense, the Spirit isn’t working to make us something new or better, but simply to identify and consume what ISN’T our true and valuable nature – Christ/Spirit/love. As we yield to the Spirit’s gentle work, painful as it may be, the falsehoods and impurities are removed, making us become MANIFESTLY a new creation in the process. It may not look like the ideal person religion has presented, but more like Jesus.
Father, renew our minds and hearts to the reality of the new creation. Let us always remember that in the end, the “hands” of man are useless. May Christ, our life, be manifested, unhindered by our own efforts or misunderstandings. Thank you that you removed sin and are not dealing with us accordingly. May we be the same, for ourselves and others, that fear might diminish, and love and wisdom grow. Amen.
“For this cause, I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, that you may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; to the end that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strengthened to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know Christ’s love which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” -Ephesians 3:14-19 WEB (R)
In this post, I’d like to explore the idea of being “filled with all the fullness” of God. It’s both a bit of a paradox and a very very high call! Let’s keep in mind, as I wrote about here and here, Paul saw the church as a singular unit/body, so the things he prays are not for individuals, but for the entire assembly as one whole.
When trying to understand a certain word or phrase in scripture, it’s often helpful to look at other places it is used. Here are a couple other examples of Paul writing about “fullness”:
Colossians 1:18b-20 ESV: “…He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” -Notice that Jesus himself was indwelt with “all the fullness of God,” exactly as Paul prayed the Ephesians would be. Very interesting.
Colossians 2:7-12 ESV: “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.”
So, here is a summary of these three passages:
In Ephesians 3, Paul prays that through Christ dwelling in their hearts by faith, the Ephesians would be rooted in love, comprehend the love of Christ, and be filled with the fullness of God.
In Colossians 1, he writes that the fullness of God dwelt in Christ and therefore Christ was able to reconcile all things to God.
In Colossians 2, he warns about being “taken captive” by empty human wisdom and tradition, reminding believers that the fullness of God dwells in Christ, and that by being “in Christ” (an idea he wrote of many times), we too have been filled with God’s fullness.
In each of these passages, our being “filled with the fullness of God” hinges on our union with Christ. That is the crux of the whole issue – you and I are IN CHRIST, something Paul wrote of over and over. In fact, Paul saw our inclusion into Christ as so pervasive, powerful, and real that, apart from our individual involvement or choice, he writes we died with Christ (Romans 6:8), were buried with him (Romans 6:4, Colossians 2:12), rose with him (Colossians 3:1, Romans 6:5), and are seated in heaven with him! (Ephesians 2:6). If we are truly “in Christ,” then these things MUST be so, right? What is true of him is, at the deepest level, true of us, regardless of how blind we are to its reality or how stubbornly we resist it.
Now, as I intend to write more about in my next post, it’s certainly true that manifesting this new life is not instantaneous, not without difficulty, and not guaranteed, at least during our physical life. But what I want to stress in this post is that if nothing less than the fullness of God dwells in Christ, then nothing less than the fullness of God dwells in us as well, as members of his body! Lacking nothing, our own efforts to “be holy” (born out of fear and ignorance) become tremendously powerful and deceptive hindrances to the manifestation of this fullness in the church. These carnal/manmade imitations, both inward and outward, are going to have to be done away with. Nevertheless, because the fullness of God in Christ is an established fact, here is what the future holds:
1 Corinthians 15:22-24, 28 ESV: “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.” “When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.”
Ephesians 1:22-23 ESV: “And he (the Father) put all things under his (the son’s) feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”
Christ is the fullness of God, and God is the fullness of all. God, in His mercy, gathered ALL men into Christ! He adopted us as sons and put His nature within us to partake of and live from…it’s almost incomprehensibly glorious when we see it, and I think we still only see dimly and in part! To whatever measure we can, I pray you and I would see the beauty and worth of this, that we might gladly suffer in laying down the old to take up the new. Amen!
Ephesians 3: 14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
As I was reading this amazing prayer of Paul recently, I noticed the a paradox, in which Paul prays for the Ephesians to “know” the love of Christ which “surpasses knowledge.” Paul also writes that this knowledge beyond knowledge would enable the Ephesians to be filled with “all the fullness of God,” which is another incredible statement I may look at in another post! I think paradoxes often represent deep truths, so let’s look a bit closer.
As is evident here, Paul’s desire for the Ephesians was not primarily for “correct behavior,” but inward enlightenment and rich spiritual experience. I believe Paul was very aware of perhaps the greatest deception of religion; namely that righteousness can be found in the flesh – that is, in proper behaviors and observances. This emphasis on outward behaviors naturally leads to (among other errors) an emphasis on having a correct set of knowledge and “rules.” In desiring the Ephesians to know a love which surpasses knowledge, Paul is saying he desires the Ephesians to devalue “mental assent” of facts, and instead to receive and walk in an inward, spiritual revealed knowing. We can know facts about things, and we can know other things by inward experience and revelation…the latter is the way of the Kingdom of God.
Paul also desired the Ephesians to be “strengthened with might (power) through His Spirit in the inner man…” This leads to the question: power for what? For so many of us, our carnal minds and tenacious religious indoctrination lead us to continually see sin and temptation and the devil as our chief enemies. Therefore, we automatically think any strength God may give will be so that we can resist these things. However, you’ll notice not once in this passage does Paul mention or even imply any of these.
It seems to me Paul was praying the Ephesians would be strengthened with power through God’s spirit because it takes a divine touch and power, beyond mere human power, to break free (and to stay free) from the ways of the flesh, the most deceptive of which is religiosity! By the same token, it takes a divine touch and power to grow up in the divine nature, knowing (connecting with in a deep way) a love which surpasses knowledge and living that love out in the midst of darkness. Let’s not forget, this power has already been provided – we simply must connect with it and let go of the old (repent) to walk in it. If this is fulfilled, and we see believers begin to walk in spiritual knowledge, empowered to let go of religion and to suffer whatever loss is necessary, and to literally become the “body of Christ” and stones making up the temple of God, then the church and then the world will be so much more amazing and glorious than we can imagine.
What I see beginning is an exposure, weakening, and removal of those things which have masked themselves with spirituality and love, but are founded on selfishness and carnality. The greatest deception is darkness and selfishness masked with light and good (perhaps with Bible verses). I include most traditional “churches” in this category, but it’s far bigger than that. I don’t know how gradual or sudden this weakening and destruction might be, but I see it beginning already. The foundations and motivations of all things WILL be exposed in God’s time1 (which takes no concern for our natural lifespans), and only what is truly Spiritual will remain. Right now, that’s not very much of what we see, but it’s there and it’s growing. As I said last time, since everything that is not Spirit in origin will be consumed anyway, let’s not be afraid to question, to go a different way, to be radically different from the ways of flesh altogether, whether the extreme of religious devotion or hedonistic debauchery. Love is its own way, and the Spirit goes where It will.
Suffer now willingly in love, or suffer later by force, but know that in the end, love wins, God is good and we’re all heading there. Take heart, let go of fearful self-preservation, and jump aboard what is inevitable and what, deep down, we all know is the way of righteousness. Love, honor, humility, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, healing, truth…
- 1 Corinthians 3:11-13
“And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ For everyone will be salted with fire. -Mark 9:43-49 ESV
“…he has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” signifies the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that have been made, that those things which are not shaken may remain. Therefore, receiving a Kingdom that can’t be shaken, let us have grace, through which we serve God acceptably, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” -Hebrews 12:26-29
A while back, a friend of mine said something that struck me as profoundly true: the “fire” spoken of many times in the New Testament is nothing other than the presence and being of God. Let’s always remember, an essential part of who God is and what He does is “consuming fire.“ In the end, the fire of God’s presence “shakes,” consumes and permanently ends all that is based on the fearful mind of man apart from the spirit, including all inward and outward selfishness, oppression, wickedness, falsehood, and perversion. These are the “wood, hay and stubble” that Paul said are destined to burn up in fire.1 It can be no other way. Wicked men won’t “burn forever” any more than wicked systems or institutions will. Our God is not a torturing fire, He is a CONSUMING fire. What can remain after undergoing such intense Fire? Well, think about this: the only thing that no fire can consume is a fire like itself.
Jesus famously prayed that God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven,2 and I think we can agree on two things: 1) This prayer is inevitably going to be fulfilled, and 2). This reality has not fully manifested yet, in time and space. If it WILL be fullfilled, then all that remains to be seen is when and through whom. When will the members of Christ’s body lay down the illusion of OUR valuable independent lives to receive and live by the Life of the Spirit? Or, will the vast majority of us continue to fearfully oppose and resist the Spirit of the very God we claim to worship, while covering our hearts in the armor of fear, ignorance and pride? Paul said the manifestation of God’s reign on earth is characterized by “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”3 These qualities are only found when and where men follow Christ, loving one-another as themselves, where leaders are servants, the last are first, and meekness is recognized as strength. The Kingdom is not merely “moral.” It is LOVING – a far costlier way.
One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Romans 11:33-36. In the ESV translation it says this:
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”
All things are from God, through God, and to God. Isn’t that amazing? This is a solid hope: both the source and destination of the universe is God, who is love, light, spirit and consuming fire. The fire must first consume, but love DOES win. I refer to this as a “solid hope,” because in spite of whatever chaos and pain and lack of clarity we may find ourselves surrounded by, it remains true. This solid hope is like a beacon in darkness, a northern star to navigate by. It’s a truth to receive, build upon, and act in accordance with. What it is NOT is an excuse to continue following the “flesh” down a path of selfishness and fear (even if masked by religion). If we use divine truth as an excuse for the flesh, we are doubly guilty and awaiting God’s consuming fire to burn us and all we’ve built. Even worse, living such a way contradicts and dishonors the Father.
At the top, I quoted Jesus’ words in Mark 9:49, where he said we will ALL be salted with fire. In context, Jesus was talking about hell and is clearly saying that ALL will undergo the fire of hell itself. That alone should make us take another look at what we have thought “hell” is. Everyone, at least at first, has desires, ambitions, motivations, fears, enjoyments, and whatever else, which have been kept away from God, knowing that if they are exposed, they will be consumed. Well, I have news for us all: they will be exposed and consumed anyway! If we willingly bring them to the light to be exposed and to the fire to be consumed and refined, we will become children of light and have less to hinder our progress along path of righteousness, and we will not have to be burned by force later. This is largely what Paul meant in 1 Corinthians 11:31, when he wrote: “But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.”
I am speaking to myself as much as to anyone – keeping in mind the inevitability of Fire, let’s allow it to burn away our chaff and wickedness now. Again, this isn’t about “sin,” but more about selfishness, fear, and ignorance. Let’s let go of these and surrender to humility and love, following Paul’s counsel in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18: “…do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
Finally, think about this: not one single thing we can see with our physical eyes is eternal. Nothing. This simply means we should treat the physical world as transient and, in a sense, illusory, valuing and devoting ourselves much more fully to things which we can only see with the eyes of our hearts, things of the Spirit realm which won’t end, such as love, peace, joy, compassion, healing, kindness, faithfulness, self-denial, gentleness, righteousness, patience, faithfulness, truth, etc. This is how Jesus lived, and all who will follow him as a Son of God will devote themselves to these things as well.
Thank you for reading.
- 1 Corinthians 3:11-15
- Matthew 6:10
- Romans 14:17
“…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him; having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope of his calling, and what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints…” -Ephesians 1:17-18
This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their hearts…” -Ephesians 4:17-18
Most of still today relate to God through law, believing that it is primarily our behavior/obedience that determines our relationship with Him, although we don’t have much of an explanation for why He seems so inconsistent in when and who He punishes and seems to reward. I have elaborated on this issue before, but for this post, suffice it to say I believe we relate to God in this way because we don’t understand the radical change that took place in moving from the Old to the New Covenant – radical enough to change the definition of “obedience.” In the Old Covenant, obedience was about keeping laws, about doing and not doing the correct things. In the New Covenant, obedience is about having a renewed mind and walking in the light and Life of the Spirit within us – all of which are impossible when law is in focus, because law fuels self-awareness, fear, and sin. I’m not making this up by the way, it’s in your Bible!1
At the top, I quoted two passages from the writings of the apostle Paul, who wrote powerfully about the New Covenant. In Ephesians 1, notice what he says is the key to know the hope of the God’s invitation to us, and to experience the riches of His glorious inheritance: enlightenment of the heart. Notice also what he says in Ephesians 4 is the one thing that alienates men from the Life of God: darkness of the understanding. Both, as is obvious, are not outward behaviors, but inward perceptions and ways of seeing. I believe that if we humble ourselves and genuinely seek the Spirit of God to enlighten the eyes of our hearts, being willing to let go of our precious doctrines and religious ways, it will happen. Scripture says whoever humbles themself will be given grace and sight. It is a renewal of the eyes/perception of the heart that constitutes “repentance,” which Jesus and the apostles said is the essential starting point to live within the kingdom (will, rule and reign) of God.
The law, which empowered sin, is fulfilled and gone. It was put away, nailed to the cross and ended in Christ. Therefore, sin, as we usually think of it, doesn’t exist.1 As I’ve said many times, the issue now isn’t to avoid bad behavior, but to receive an enlightened heart and understanding so that we may knowingly and willingly participate in the things of God. This is even more important when you realize that only what is Spiritual in origin will stand the purification of fire and the shaking which ALL people and things will undergo. I’m writing more about this right now. Again, this doesn’t mean we become better at stopping bad things and doing good things. This means we become new creations according to a new identity and Life, which are part of the nature/Spirit of God Himself that dwells within us. We walk in a different realm, with a whole new perception of things, so to speak.
The way of Christ is this: to abide in light/reality and overwhelm darkness/imagination, to walk in the spirit and deny the flesh, to receive grace and abandon self-righteousness, to see by faith and blind the eyes of flesh, to love and not to resist/demand/expect, to taste of death so that others might taste of Life. As I’ve said before, it’s a much, much higher way than simply avoiding bad behaviors. It’s actually MORE demanding and radical, but also much more life-giving!
I hope you’ll check back soon. Bless you all.
Colossians 2:11-15 ESV: “In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, (12) having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. (All this already happened. Your circumcision in Spirit, your burial and resurrection. In Christ it’s all done, and you are in Christ). (13) And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, (14) by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (15) He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.”
Along these lines, you can see also Romans chapters 5-7. Specifically you could look at 5:13, 5:20, 6:14, 7:5-8, along with 1 Corinthians 15:56. Hebrews also says we were perfected forever (in God’s sight) by the one, single sacrifice of Christ, and that God remembers our sins and lawless deeds NO MORE. This is the solid foundation for us to walk without consciousness of sin. This is also in part because no law = no sin. Sin as in the old covenant sense of “don’t do this or that.” Just as sin was taken away, our “obedience” is different too now. Obedience in the Greek language means “conformity.” How can you conform/obey rules if there aren’t any? In the New Covenant, obedience/conformity isn’t about adhering to a set of rules, but to one’s identity as a son of God, full of love and light, one who is enlivened by the Spirit and not the fear-based flesh. It’s all too easy to follow rules with a wicked heart. The pharisees did it in Jesus’ day and many religious people still do the same today. God has no desire for that. He looks for those who walk as sons in love and in the light and power of His spirit, without worrying about their behavior at all.
“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…”