My favorite epistle (everybody has one, right?) in the New Testament is 1 John. I have read and studied, studied and read 1 John many times. There are a couple of things of note about 1 John:
- It was probably written to the church(es) in Ephesus, a very polytheistic city in the first century. I’ll tell you why I think this is important later on.
- In the TNIV translation, the English word “know” or “known” appears 41 times.
There are two Greek words in 1 John that are translated “know” or “known:
- Ginosko (25 times) – basically means to come to know, not just intellectual ascent but knowing something intimately…in fact, the same word is used for the union of a man & a woman in a sexual way. Check out Matthew 1.25 & Luke 1.34, it is used this way in the story of Mary. KJV fans may remember the Genesis 4 use of this concept – “And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived…”
- Oida (the other word translated know) – basically means to perceive, or to have seen…here’s an Adam and Eve example (I made this up): Adam was standing in the garden and he noticed (knew-oida) someone was there with him, this someone was similar to him but much more attractive. One thing leads to another and Adam eventually “knows” (or ginosko) Eve…
There it is; one word basically means a growing, intimate knowledge and the other means to perceive or see. I have wanted to teach or explain this for some time now but could never figure how to teach it without usual the sexual idea of knowing.
Through an unfortunate series of events, I have come up with the perfect example…
I know (oida) that my car has a cooling system…a bunch of parts and liquid that are intended to keep the engine at a functional temperature. I have even looked under the hood and seen some of the parts that are components of this cooling system. One day I noticed (oida) that the temperature gauge was pegged out on the hot side, not a good thing. I knew (oida) that something was wrong. I decided to repair it myself to save some money. This decision would require me to know (ginosko) my cooling system.
Now four days later, I have disassembled and assembled my cooling system three times with one more on the way. And I am proud to say I know (ginosko) my cooling system – the radiator, the water pump, the belts, the hoses, the thermostat, the thermostat housing, and all of the peripheral parts that must be removed to get to the parts that I need to know. I might even try to do it blindfolded because I know it so well…
This knowing was a process though…it required me to get under the hood, to get close, to take apart, test, tighten, adjust, get my hands dirty, and go back to square one more than once. In this process of knowing my cooling system there have been a few failures and a few successes with the ultimate success yet to come. But now I have an intimate, experiential knowledge of my car.
Here are the things John wants the Ephesian church to know (ginosko):
- from chapter 2 – we can “know” him if we keep his commands; we can “know” we are in him if we live as Jesus lived; we can “know” him who is from the beginning; we can “know” the Father; we can “know” it is the last hour; we “know” that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.
- from chapter 3 – the world does not “know” us; the world did not “know” him; we “know” we will be like him; we can “know” what love is; we can “know” how we belong to the truth; we “know” God is greater than us; God “knows” everything; we can “know” he lives in us.
- from chapter 4 – we can “know” God, or not; we can “know” that we live in him; we “know” the love God has for us.
- from chapter 5 – we can “know” that we love the children of God; we may “know” him who is true
We can know. We can have this growing, experiential, intimate knowledge of God; of life in him.
And this was important to know (ginosko) in a 1st century, polytheistic world where there were many things competing for your attention; things offering grace and peace, blessing and security.
And it is no less important in a 21st century world where there are many things competing for our attention; things offering grace and peace, blessing and security.
Grace and peace, blessing and security…we can know (ginosko) these things.