The explosion of knowledge continues to amaze the majority of people in the world. I write most of my articles on a computer. Fourty years ago a computer with a similar amount of memory would have cost over a million dollars and taken up one whole floor of an office building! Such is the rapid advance of technological knowledge.
Christians too should be increasing in knowledge, specifically the knowledge of God’s positive Word. We should be know “what God has freely given us”. I want to share with you the usage of the word “to know” in the New Testament, and in particular in the epistles to the churches. A key verse will set the stage for our discussion. “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand [know] what God has freely given us” (I Corinthians 2:12).
The real purpose behind the indwelling spirit is “that [with the outcome in view] we may understand” or know what God has already freely given to us, His children. The gift we receive from God is perfect and permanent with potential. We have everything we need for any situation we will ever run across, but we must know what we have. The extent of our knowing will be the extent of our enjoyment of the victorious, more abundant Christian life.
God Wants Us To Know
Now God has often written in the Word that we ought to know this and we ought to know that. God wants us to know, to understand, to comprehend, to reckon, to experience all the good things He has provided for us in Christ Jesus. God never encourages ignorance; He wants us to know.
Look at these statements as an example: “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (I Corinthians 3:16). “Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?” (I Corinthians 5:6). “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” (I Corinthians 6:2). “Do you not know that we will judge angels?” (verse 3). “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God?” (verse 9). “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself?” (verse 15). “Do you not know…” (verse 16). “Do you not know…” (verse 19). And so we could continue right through the epistles. I get the impression that God wants us to know!
Knowledge is power, but only when we use it. Filling my head with Bible knowledge will not help me to be a success in life, will not keep my in health, will not even get me to heaven! I may be able to locate the books of the Bible, I may know the depth of the Red Sea or the height of Mount Ararat, but all that will be of little help in everyday life. However, when I know what I am in Christ, when I know Christ is in me, when I know Christ as me, then the responsibility is on my shoulders to put that knowledge into action. Adjusting our lives according to God’s positive Word starts with renewing our minds and then acting on what we know.
Knowledge Gives Confidence
What we know gives us confidence. I have travelled by air many times, but that does not give me any confidence to sit down in front of all those dials in the cockpit and put the plane into flight. I can, however, sit down in front of the steering wheel of a car and drive it anywhere. I can sit down in front of a computer and guide it through many tasks. Knowledge gives you confidence. The knowledge of God’s positive Word gives us confidence to live the more abundant life.
Our fellowship with God, our Father, is based on our knowledge of the Word. Since I know from the Word that He loves me and wants only the best for me, I have confidence in co-operating with God to bring the best into operation in my life. I believe that one person and God are a majority. I’ve gained that confidence from knowing what He says about our relationship from the Word.
Two Words for “Know”
The first epistle of John deals with our fellowship with the Father. In this epistle two Greek words translated “know” are used some 40 times. The key verse in the epistle is I John 5:13, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know [by experience] that you have eternal life.” In everyday English, the word “know” can have more than one meaning. I could say that I know Queen Elizabeth, meaning I know about her. However, I do not know her personally; I have never sat down and talked to her face to face or had dinner with her.
The Greek language is fortunately more exact in these matters and there are several words used to give different shades of meaning to the concept of knowledge. In I John two of these words are employed. There is a word which means to mentally know something, oida. The Latin word “video” comes from this same root word. The implication is that the subject has come within one’s perception or circle of vision. There is also the word ginosko, which means to know by experience or in a personal and true relationship. Two verses actually use both words, I John 2:29 and 5:20, and I will deal with them later in this article.
Since we have already seen that knowledge gives confidence, then if we love God and want to follow His principles of living we must concern ourselves about knowing all that God wants us to know. Let’s look in some detail at the occurrences of the word “know” in the first Epistle of John.
We Know That We Know!
The first usage is in I John 2:3, “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.” Here the word “know” is ginosko both times — to know in a personal relationship. We “know that we know” Him, not just as an acquaintance or someone we may have seen on television, but we have personal knowledge of Him. Doesn’t that thrill you? And how do we “know that we know”? We obey His commands, what He has written in His Word. These commands are not the ten commandments of the Old Testament, they are not the commands of Jesus in the Gospels, but they are the commands written and addressed to us specifically in the epistles to the churches — Romans to Thessalonians. Our personal experiential knowledge of Him increases every time we do what He has asked us to do.
“The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (verse 4). It is a contradiction to say “I personally know Him”, when you choose not to do what He says. You think that He doesn’t know what He is talking about. If you would only experience Him in your life, then you would really personally know Him.
“But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did” (verses 5, 6). That is certainly straight from the shoulder! Do you really know Him (ginosko) or has He only just come within your range of vision (oida)?
How did the Jesus of the beard and sandals walk while on this earth? The answer is, perfectly. His was a walk in love, a walk in power, a walk in constant fellowship with the Father. We could analyse every record, one by one. Jesus walked perfectly like God planned for all His sons to walk. His walk was one in alignment and harmony with God. Verse 6 says we “must walk as Jesus did”. So it is not automatic; it is dependent on our knowledge of the Word.
Children, Youth, Fathers
Let’s take another set of verses, I John 2:12-14. “I write to you, dear children, because your sin have been forgiven on account of his name. I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, dear children, because you have known the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.”
The greatest knowledge that is known is set before us in these verses — knowing the Father in a personal relationship. Only the word ginosko could have been used here. As children of God, we do not merely perceive mentally (oida) the Father. We have a real personal experience of Him, for we have His seed within us.
There are other things we need to know, and one is that “many antichrists have come. This is how we know that it is the last hour” (I John 2:18). There may be only one Antichrist in the book of Revelation, but there are many antichrists; many people who are against Christ. John knew some of them in his day, and we know plenty of them today. Some are good, upstanding people in the community, some are even religious, but God is only concerned as to whether they are for Christ or against Him. There is no fence sitting on this matter!
We Have An Anointing
“But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth” (I John 2:20; see also verse 27). Here the word is oida, to perceive or to have within our range of vision. The truth is now in our circle of vision. Prior to joining God’s forever family, facts governed our lives, for God’s truth is perceived only by those who have spirit (I Corinthians 2:14). However, now that we are in the family, all truth is brought into our vision. The choice is ours to experience the truth and make it work in our lives.
Part of the truth is that God is righteous. “If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him” (I John 2:29). In this verse both words for “know” are carefully employed. The first word is oida, for the truth that God is righteous came before our sphere of perception as a result of the New Birth. The second “know” is ginosko, knowing by experience that you must be born again in order to do what is right. This verse is not talking about good works but about showing forth to the world that “God in Christ” is in us. Personal knowledge in our life enables us to recognize Christ in other believers.
We Are His Children
One of my favourite passages in this epistle is I John 3:1-2. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”
There is no question about it: we are children of God! The world, the culture in which we live, cannot know us (ginosko) in a personal and true relationship because the culture as a whole does not know (ginosko) God in such a relationship. These two negative usages of ginosko are interesting in verse one.
Our confidence, based on the knowledge that “when he appears, we shall be like him”, comes from the Word. Since this is a future event, a hope (verse 3), we cannot know it in an experiential manner, but only as a mental perception. This is why the word “know” in verse 2 is oida. Again we observe the accuracy of God’s positive Word.
Loving and Knowing
“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 the 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 3:18-20). Once again, experience is the key to knowing, ginosko. Loving with actions provides evidence of the truth (or “reality” as it is translated elsewhere) in our lives. Loving God, loving ourselves and loving others (Mark 12:30) is also how we enjoy rest within our hearts, our minds, the seat of our personal lives. When the Bible speaks of God knowing everything, the word can only be ginosko, a personal and true knowledge.
“This is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us” (I John 3:24). “We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit” (I John 4:13). This is ginosko, knowledge by experience. Now the reason I am sure that the Spirit of God dwells in me is two-fold. Firstly, because the Word of God says so as a past-tense reality, and that is unquestioned. Secondly because every time I operate a manifestation of the spirit within, I have evidence in the senses world of the presence of His spirit within me. I thank God that this is not a “hope-so” truth, but one that I know by experience.
Chapter four of this epistle is totally concerned with ginosko, our knowledge of the Father in a personal and true relationship. The way to know by experience the spirit of truth and error is given to us in verses 2 and 6. The way to know by experience the outworking of the love of God is given in verses 7, 8 and 16. The opposite of love is fear (verse 18), and fear thrives on ignorance.
We have come to the final chapter in this epistle. “This is how we know [ginosko] that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands” (I John 5:2). We will truly love all the family of God, whether or not they wear our label. The reason we can love in this way is because we love the Father. Our relation ship with God in a personal and experiential way will help us even to love believers who do not love us or agree with us.
“We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true” (I John 5:20). We mentally perceive, oida, that Jesus came to the world. Through the great love plan of the Father, the way has been opened for us to know by experience, ginosko, the true God. Adjust your life to this relationship and see His power at work.
Mark Every Usage
I have covered every usage of ginosko in this article, and listed here are the usages of oida not mentioned: I John 2:11, 21 (twice); 3:5,14,15,16; 5:13,15 (twice), 18,19. Mark every usage of these two words in your Bible and see what tremendous truth there is in the distinction between these words.
Knowledge always brings with it the responsibility to act. Knowing the truth from God’s Word likewise involves the responsibility to walk on the greatness of the truths it declares. How about it? Do you mentally perceive God, oida, or do your know Him by experience, ginosko? Only the second is good enough to ensure you a future.
Copyright © 1997 Peter Wade. The Bible text in this publication, except where otherwise indicated, is from the New International Version (NIV), Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. This article appears on the site: https://www.peterwade.com/.
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