Epistemology is one of those words that few of us have heard of, let alone have any idea what it might mean. Epistemology is the Philosophy of Knowledge and Justified Belief, and it addresses mainly the following questions:
- What is knowledge?
- How is knowledge acquired?
- To what extent is it possible for a given subject or entity to be known?
Epistemology helps us know how we know stuff. Isn’t that exciting?!
Just how do we come to know or know about stuff? We come to know and know about stuff through Experience. Experience is based on perceptual observations through the senses. We come to know and know about stuff through Intuition. Intuition is the ability to acquire knowledge without inference and/or the use of reason. Some would say that it is the result of innate common sense. Every woman has it, few men do. At least that’s the commonly accepted wisdom of our culture. We come to know and know about stuff through Rationalism. Rationalalism is reasoned reflection and is the ability to take a wide-ranging set of facts and from them to logically deduce a conclusion.
But for us as Christians there is another way we come to know and know about stuff. It is through the infallible revelation of God. The intellectual world will sneer at our belief in the authoritative disclosure of truth that we find in the Scriptures. However, for the believer it is the surest source of knowledge there is. Sixteen times the Apostle John writes in this brief epistle, we know. We know, because the Spirit of God, working through men of God, gave us the word of God that can be absolutely trusted.
I. WE KNOW THAT SIN & SATAN NO LONGER HAVE DOMINION OVER US
- “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him.” (1 John 5:18, NIV84)
- as he winds down this letter, John reiterates a vitally important principle he introduced earlier in this epistle
- no one who has been transformed by the new birth goes on living in an unbroken lifestyle of sin
- Godliness, and holiness and Christlikeness become our motivation, and our goal
- if we know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin, then we can discern to important truths ...
A. THE UNCONVERTED CAN DO NOTHING BUT SIN
- ILLUS. I don’t know if it’s original to him or not, but the late Adrian Roger, long-time pastor of the Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, use to say that “We should never be surprised when lost people act like lost people. Rather, the surprise is when they act like saved people.”
- “A person who does not have the Spirit does not accept the truths that come from the Spirit of God. That person thinks they are foolish and cannot understand them, because they can only be judged to be true by the Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 2:14, NCV)
- the unconverted can do nothing but sin because ...
- ... they are sinners from birth (Ps. 51:5)
- ... they are slaves to sin (John 8:34; Rom. 6:16)
- ... they are defiant, rebellious haters of God (Psa. 5:10; 68:1; Rom. 1:30; 5:10; 8:7)
- ... they are under the dominion of Satan (Eph. 2:2; cf. Acts 26:18; Col. 1:13)
- in short, the unconverted are “dead in [their] trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1)
- and before our conversion, we were all those things, too!
B. THE CONVERTED HAVE TURNED THEIR BACK ON SIN
- the person who is born of God cannot live in an unbroken pattern of sin, for several reasons
- 1st, sin is incompatible with the law of God
- “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.” (1 John 3:4, NIV84)
- the redeemed of the Lord love God’s law and cannot habitually live in violation of God’s commands
- “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.” (Psalm 119:97, NIV84)
- “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (1 John 2:3–4, NIV84)
- “Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.” (1 John 3:24, NIV84)
- “But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin.” (1 John 3:5, NIV84)
- Jesus died not only to forgive us our sin, but to give us power over our sin
- “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13–14, NIV84)
- that we do not continually live in sin does not mean that believers ever reach a point in this life where we never sin
- in fact, John said that those who make such claims are liars
- “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8, NIV84)
- a pattern of righteousness characterizes the redeemed, whereas a pattern of unrighteousness characterizes the unredeemed
- the Apostle Paul reminded the Christians at Rome that sin’s power over them has been broken
- “But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” (Romans 6:17–22, NIV84)
C. THE REDEEMED ARE KEPT SAFE IN CHRIST
- the reason we can be victorious over the world, the flesh and the devil is because He who was born of God keeps him safe
- this is a reference to Jesus Christ as the only begotten Son of God
- as the Good Shepherd, Jesus protects His flock so that the evil one (Satan) cannot harm us
- the word harm in v. 18 literally means to touch—the Apostle John is saying that, because of Christ in us, Satan cannot lay a hand on us
- it means that he can no longer do us any spiritual harm
- believers are no longer under the Devil’s control, having been “rescued … from the domain of darkness”
- “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,” (Colossians 1:13, NIV84)
- Satan can tempt and harass the saints, as he did Job (Job 1–2) and Peter (Luke 22:31), but he can never reclaim them
- in Christ we are supernaturally preserved by the promises of God, the power of God, and the unchangeable purpose of God until the final day of redemption
- “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23–24, NIV84)
II. WE KNOW THAT WE ARE FACED WITH RADICALLY OPPOSING WORLDVIEWS
- “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” (1 John 5:19, NIV84)
- despite the existence of countless political, cultural, and social entities in the world, there are in reality only two realms
- there is the realm of God’s Kingdom and His righteous children
- there is the realm of Satan’s dominion and His unrighteous children
- if you do not belong to the former, by default you belong to the latter
- “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters.” (Luke 11:23, NIV84)
- ILLUS. British scholar and author, of the Narnia series, C.S. Lewis, said, “There simply is no moral neutral ground in the universe. Every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan.”
- though we exist in this world, we are not part of it
- “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (John 15:19, NIV84)
- “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.” (John 17:14, NIV84)
- “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.” (1 Peter 2:11, NIV84)
- “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,” (Philippians 3:20, NIV84)
- though we are in the world, we are to seek to influence it for Christ, rather than allowing it to influence us with its ungodliness
A. WE LIVE IN A WORLD OF CONFLICTING KINGDOMS
- ILLUS. In 1988 Chuck Coleson published a work entitled Kingdoms in Conflict. He wrote about the conflict between the kingdom of God and what he referred to as the kingdoms of man. But behind the kingdoms of men, there is another kingdom at work—a kingdom of evil and death.
- John writes that the whole world is under the control of the evil one—the devil
- that is a stunning statement!
- the devil holds the whole world in his power
- this is what the Body of Christ is up against
- Paul the Apostle says it this way ...
- “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:11–12, NIV84)
- do you reckon with a satanic global power that influences all the world so deeply that the Apostle says the whole world is under his dominion and authority ...
- ... and that Christians are the only ones who are truly liberated from that dominion and authority?
- this is why Jesus told his disciples ...
- “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36, NIV84)
- “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,” (Galatians 1:3–4, NIV84)
- today, we are engaged in nothing short of a great Civil War of Values raging throughout our culture
- two sides with vastly differing and incompatible worldviews are locked in a bitter conflict that permeates every level of society
- it is a struggle for the hearts and minds of people—it is a war over ideas and worldviews
- ILLUS. That war has been graphically illustrated for us in the last ten days. Years ago, Governor George Wallace of Alabama remarked with disdain that there is not “a dime’s worth of difference” between the Democrats and the Republicans. In a sense, he was at least partly right. A look back at the platforms of the two parties in the 1950s and 1960s reveals little division over many of the issues that now frame our national debate. There were, indeed, divisive issues such as the war in Vietnam, but the platforms of the two major parties reflected a shared moral and political framework. Fast forward fifty years to 2012, and the distance between the two parties is breathtaking— especially in the areas of protecting human life and the institution of marriage. One of those parties became the first major political party in the United States to call for the legalization of same-sex marriage. Their party plank states, “We support marriage equality and support the movement to secure equal treatment under the law for same-sex couples.” That is a breathtaking moral and social transformation. The opposition party’s platform states, “We affirm our support for a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” and calls for nothing less than a Constitutional amendment to prevent what the opposing party platform demands the law to affirm. On the issue of abortion, one party platform states, “We assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed,” while the opposing party states: “We strongly and unequivocally support ... a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay. We oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.”
- one party claims that no abortions should be legal and the other claims that all abortions should be legal
- one party defends traditional marriage while the other support marriage equality (which means ‘anything goes’)
- these worldviews simply cannot be reconciled and thus the increasing polarization of American politics
- one worldview seeks to eradicate large chunks of Christianity from the public square while the other seeks to preserve it
B. CHRISTIANS ARE SALT AND LIGHT THAT INFLUENCE THE KINGDOMS OF MEN
- “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13–16, NIV84)
- when the Christian proclaims with his or her whole heart, “I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God,” we are committing ourselves to a particular worldview ...
- a biblical worldview ... of God ... of man ... of sin ... of redemption ... of the purpose of God in creation and history ... and of human destiny
- this biblical worldview then guides us—or it should—in how we view and interact with every sphere of one’s culture
- pundits of all political persuasions have attempted to minimize the culture war in this year’s political debates
- “It’s all about the economy” they insist
- this is exactly what the devil wants us to concentrate on
- however, I would submit to you that it’s only partly about the economy, and mostly about the culture
- will God’s people seek to influence it for righteousness or will be cave in to the nattering nabobs of moral relevancy and allow unrighteousness to grow and flourish?
- this clash of worldviews could hardly be more dramatic
- any thoughtful observer will understand that American elections are also worldview exercises
- we reveal our worldview by our vote
- we are not looking at minor matters of political difference
- we are staring into the abyss of comprehensive worldview conflict
- Christian citizens can escape neither the consequences of their vote, nor the fact that our most basic convictions will be revealed in the voting booth come November
- the electoral map come November 8th, will reveal more than an election night winner
- it will reveal who Americans really are and what we really believe
- We Know That We Are Faced with Radically Opposing Worldviews
III. WE KNOW THAT WE HAVE THE MIND OF CHRIST THAT LEADS US INTO TRUTH
- “We know also 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—even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” (1 John 5:20, NIV84)
- in a world of deceit and falsehood, God has revealed himself in the Son as the one Who is true
- God has not forsaken us to the powers of darkness, but has endowed us with the ability to discern truth from error
- God sent his Son “so that we may know him who is true”
- the verb to know in this clause denotes knowledge we acquire by close association
- the Apostle John writes that in the fellowship we have with God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ, we come to know his truth
- we learn to know what belongs to God and what comes from Satan
- these closing verses finally bring the epistle full circle
- John began his epistle by confirming the coming of the Word of Life with whom he and the other Apostles had fellowship and were eye witnesses of his life, ministry, death and resurrection
- now he closes with the certainty that the Son of God has come
- the verb has come indicates that Jesus has come and is still present
- the Christian faith is not built on theoretical or abstract of ideas
- it is rooted in the practical truth that God became man in the person of Jesus Christ who indwells his people by his Spirit
- through that indwelling Spirit he helps us discern him who is true
- and once we discern him who is true we can discern what is true vs what is false
The whole world lies in the power of the evil one. This is what we are up against. You will confront his dominion in business and manufacturing, and commerce. You will confront his dominion in education and the classroom. You will confront his dominion in the arts, entertainment, and media industry. And unfortunately, you will even confront his dominion in Religion. And we each need clear, discerning judgment to know how we should then live and minister in such a world.