One of the characteristics of John’s writings is their terseness. This is particularly evident in the verses that form the climax of his first epistle that we are considering today. There are a number of statements that are remarkable for their brevity: ‘All unrighteousness is sin’, v. 17; ‘whosoever is born of God sinneth not’, v. 18; ‘the whole world lieth in wickedness’, v. 19.
John would also emphasise what believers should know: ‘we know’, vv. 18,19, 20. The final point is that we might know ‘that the Son of God is come’, v. 20. His title ‘Son of God’ testifies to His deity. The verb ‘is come’ asserts His incarnation and true humanity. The phrase as a whole expresses the finality of His appearing as ‘God was manifest in the flesh’, 1 Tim. 3.16.
In stating what believers should know, John indicates how it is that we should know, ‘the Son … hath given us an understanding’, v. 20. That which would otherwise be beyond our scope and learning can be grasped and appreciated! An understanding’ is given us that ‘we may know him that is true’.
At the trial of the Lord, Pilate asked the question ‘What is truth?’, John 18. 38. In the world that is in the grip of one described by the Lord as ‘a liar, and the father of it’, John 8. 44, it is not surprising that Pilate should have such a dilemma. He did not, and could not, know that before him stood the One who could say, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life’, John 14. 6. The Lord possesses that essential characteristic of deity. He is, and remains, the personification of truth. In a world of changing values, what a tremendous privilege to know Him!
Apart from the privilege of knowing Him, John also tells us that we are ‘in him that is true’. Our union with Christ means that we are united with the true God. Our prospect is confirmed. ‘This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent’, John 17. 3. Against the background of an epistle that has dealt with so much that is false, 2. 9,18-19,22; 3. 7; 4.1,20, John would lift the spirit of his readers by reminding them, and us, that we are linked with and know the true God.