18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.
19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.
21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth.
22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.
23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.
24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father.
25 And this is the promise that he made to us – eternal life. 1 John 2:18-25
v. 21 “I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it”: This is a strange turn. In general, you teach people something because they don’t know it, not because they do know it. If you teach someone something they already know, perhaps it is to serve as a refresher course or a reminder.
So we have a radically different form of epistemology (theory of knowing) in Christ than any other that might be offered. We do not know by association with pleasure, nor by word association and labeling, nor as an intersection between belief and truth. Knowledge is imparted directly by the supernatural revelation of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26).
The word “know” here is not gnosis, but eido. Gnosis or ginosko indicates a progressive coming to knowledge, whereas eido implies you are a witness or a perceiver of a complete knowledge. The choice of word here supports the idea of an impartation of knowledge rather than a careful progressive study of knowledge. If you witness a car accident, you do not need to study carefully about cars and injuries and engines and traffic laws to have knowledge of the accident. You saw what you saw, and so you know what you know. Gnosis is the kind of knowledge where you study the traffic laws. It has its proper place. Eido is the kind of knowledge where you witnessed a car accident. You have sudden and complete knowledge regardless of your study. We have eido, and so does John, and he reinforces our eido with ginosko support.
This is also enormously consistent with the message of grace. We do not know because we work and study and press gradually through our scholastic efforts to come to a knowledge of truth. The Holy Spirit imparts knowledge of the truth directly to us as a gift.
However, John still writes to them about these things they already know. It raises the question, if this is true, if we are imparted knowledge (eido) of the truth directly, why ever teach anyone? If we know the truth, why write? He answers in this very statement: “I write to you, … because you know”. It confirms and affirms, in the midst of opposition from the many antichrists that go out from us, who oppose our knowledge, that what we seem to know intuitively is correct, and is affirmed by an important apostle. The teaching does not instruct us so much as it comforts and strengthens us.
The Christian writer and teacher writes in order to resonate with and reinforce the knowledge that the Christian believer already has by the supernatural revelation of the Holy Spirit in the first place. There may be peripheral information given which was not previously understood, such as certain Greek words or the meanings of passages, but these only serve to reinforce what believers already know by the Holy Spirit. Knowledge of the things of God comes by a direct gift by the grace of God, and not by work and labor and the art and thought of man. Academic scholarly knowledge is a wonderful tool and is highly needful, but it can easily become an idol which is thought to replace the gift of knowledge granted concerning the person and nature of Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit.
Does this mean anyone who is a Christian doesn’t really need instruction, and can’t possibly turn to error? This is the wrong question. The question is, does the Holy Spirit impart true and trustworthy knowledge to the believer? The scripture here says yes. The aim of Christian teaching is to validate and guide this already present knowledge. This is a core part of the new covenant:
“AND THEY SHALL NOT TEACH EVERYONE HIS FELLOW CITIZEN, AND EVERYONE HIS BROTHER, SAYING, ‘KNOW[ginosko] THE LORD,’ FOR ALL WILL KNOW[eido] ME, FROM THE LEAST TO THE GREATEST OF THEM.” Hebrews 8:11 NASB
In that case, is there no place for the Christian teacher, or Christian instruction? We have the answer here in 1 John! We teach because believers know, not because they don’t know. We teach because it confirms what is already known, and acts as a comfort in the face of opposition to the imparted knowledge.