Re-learning to Speak Biblically: Another Riddle

18 January 2009

I posed a riddle from Psalm 99 a while back.  In the course of my Greek class last fall, I came upon another one in 1 John 2:3-4:

Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.  He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in Him.

The thing Free Grace folk usually talk about here is the definition of knowing God — what does that mean?  Is he talking about eternal destiny, or is he talking about something else?

Let’s skip that very important question and talk about something even more basic, that often gets missed.  Whatever knowing God might be, is it achievable?  Knowing what the commandments are — and John is at some pains to make sure the more demanding aspects of the commandments remain uppermost in our minds — how could anyone ever claim that they know God?  And if they can’t claim it for themselves, how could they claim it for anyone else?  We all violate the commandments every day.

So then here’s the riddle: How can John say, just a few verses later in 2:12-14:

I write to you, little children,
Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.
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 wicked one.
I write to you, little children,
Because you have known the Father.
I have written to you, fathers,
Because you have known Him who is from the beginning.
I have written to you, young men,
Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you,
And you have overcome the wicked one.

He says to those he addresses, three times, that they have known (already!) God.  He says it twice to “fathers” and once to “little children.”  This is significant because he addresses his whole audience as little children in a number of other places in the epistle (see, for example, 2:18, and also the synonymous uses in 2:1, 28, 3:7, 18, 4:4, 5:21).

How can he say to his audience “If you keep God’s commandments, then you can say you know God” and then say to them, only a few sentences later “You have known God”?  Given human sinfulness, how can he do that?

We would not dare, most of us, to speak this way to one another.  And because we would not dare to speak biblically to one another, we will find ourselves compelled to speak in truncated ways that do not match the Scriptures.  The solution is to come to terms with speaking biblically.  And to do that, we must solve this riddle.

NEWS: Orange County 1 John Class

28 August 2008

In 1915, Robert Frost wrote a famous poem titled “The Road Not Taken.”

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

For most Christians, the study of Greek is a road not taken, but usually there’s no clear point of decision.  It’s one of those things that flits Read the rest of this entry »