C.S. Lewis used to talk about “chronological snobbery,” which was his term for the phenomenon where every generation believes that its own understanding of the truth is the best, most enlightened, and reliable. We write off the eras that came before as simple-minded or uneducated as we celebrate the brilliant thinkers of our own age.
But we’re fools to think that the generations to follow won’t do the same with us. One hundred years from now, people will look back on the wisdom of our age and smirk at our quaint, outdated, misinformed ways of looking at the world. And a hundred years after that, people will do the same with them.
In John’s day, people were coming to the church telling young Christians to abandon faith in Jesus in favor of faith in knowledge, as though the two were somehow in conflict. But John concludes this first letter with an appeal—a personal call for these believers he loves to seek the person of Christ. He calls them to pray, to live uprightly before Jesus, and to trust that Christ, not some other form of knowledge, will unite them to their Maker for all eternity.
Pushing back against gnostic false teachers who say knowledge is what saves a person, John says, “No. Only Jesus does that.” Here at the end of John’s first epistle, he says it as plain as he can: Jesus is the true God. He is the source of eternal life.
What strikes me throughout this entire letter is the consistency of John’s love for his readers. His appeal is very affectionate and relational. He loves them. A lot. They are his spiritual sons and daughters, and he wants good things for them. So what does he point them to? Jesus. He points them not to mere intellectual data, but to a Person. And he tells them their faith is a relationship, not a ritual or intellectual accomplishment.
The relationship John has with his readers – his affection for them and his obvious heartfelt longing for them to cling to Christ – is a picture of the sort of relationship he wants them to have with Jesus. Here is the great irony in John’s approach: his opponents promote the accumulation of knowledge while John promotes the bond of love. Historically, one era’s knowledge is inevitably found to be lacking by the eras that follow. But love has never fallen out of favor. No era has ever looked at those who have come before and mocked them for heartfelt love. Ever.
The apostle Paul said, “As for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when the perfect comes, the partial will come to an end” (1 Corinthians 13:8-10). Only love remains; and so it is Who we know, not what we know, that saves us. This will never change.
“And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know the true One” (1 John 5:20).
Written By Russ Ramsey