We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols. 1 John 5:18–21
The obvious question those who remained in the Apostolic Church had to ask themselves was this: How do we know that we have the truth? That is a question that will be forced upon you at different times in your life too. You may encounter students in college who mock your faith as naïve or even bigoted. Undoubtedly, you will encounter many people throughout your life who think, and increasingly say, that to be a Bible-believing Christian means that there must be something wrong with your intellect. I mean, it’s only the dumb people in history who are Christians, right?
Well, thankfully, you don’t have to be brilliant to be a Christian. The LORD is far more gracious than that. Indeed, He frequently chooses the foolish things of this world to shame those who imagine that they are wise – and the weak things of this world to shame those who imagine themselves to be strong. But, perhaps just to remind us that being a Christian isn’t an insult to anyone’s intelligence, the LORD occasionally calls an Apostle Paul, a Saint Augustine or Thomas Aquinas, a Luther or Calvin or Pascal or Faraday, a Sir Isaac Newton, and to pick on just one person in our day: Francis Collins, the great geneticist, who has been leading the National Institute of Health for the past 11 or so years. So, Christianity is no insult to anyone’s intelligence. Yet, that still leaves us wondering how we can know that “we have the truth.”
John began his letter by telling us how: Jesus is the incarnate truth and the Apostles – Christ’s Ambassadors – are bearing witness to who Jesus is and what He did and taught.
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
Furthermore, God the Holy Spirit, bears witness to the Word so that we have God’s own testimony that when we believe the Bible we are believing the truth. But John is saying something even more remarkable here: We don’t only know the truth about God. By His grace, we know the God who is truth.
… we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
So, here is some encouraging news for all of us who are not going to be asked to replace Francis Collins when he retires: We don’t have to be smarter than those who mock Christianity or who try to lead us astray. All we have to do is cling to Jesus.
MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 20
Q. 20. Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?
A. God having, out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a redeemer.