• Joseph Durso

New Testament Epistemology


The Cambridge dictionary defines epistemology this way, "a branch of philosophy that investigates the origin, nature, methods, and limits of human knowledge." However, Friedrich Nietzsche notoriously asserted: “There are no facts, only interpretations.” A philosopher who comes closer to the truth than most on the subject was Immanuel Kant, "But, though all knowledge begins with experience, it by no means follows that all arises out of experience."


The one thing no person should ever do is assume they're in the eternal kingdom when they are not. When writing his first letter, the Apostle John intended to inform his reader how they might know their eternity was secure. By extension, his reader might learn to doubt his connection to the living God. Many a leader and church members today will tell you, "Never doubt your salvation." The Bible says, "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test? (2 Corinthians 13:5)


John stated the purpose of his letter in 5:13, "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life." John did not say imagine or think; he said, "that you may know." Regardless of the philosophers, the way a person can know the unknowable is if God reveals it to him, which He does through His Word, the Bible. These things are what John wanted us to discern. First, "By this, we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments." (1 John 2:3) He was not speaking about perfection but direction. Is the believer a student of the Word, thereby availing himself of the resources God has provided for his holiness and transformation of character?


Second, "By this, we know that we are in Him: the one who says that he remains in Him ought, himself also, walk just as He walked." (1 John 2:5, 6) John points to the person who says or makes a claim to be abiding or remaining in Christ. Many begin the walk with Jesus, but few continue to the end. Jesus said, "And you will be hated by everyone because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved." (Mark 13:13) Paul said, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future, there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day;" (2 Timothy 4:7, 8) The list of what Paul endured can be found in 2 Corinthians 11:23-29)


Third, "We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error." (1 John 4:6) Let us remember that John was not speaking as an interpreter of the Bible but one of its human authors. He was not guessing, neither was he lazy in his study of the Old Testament scriptures. Like the other Apostles, he was willing to die for his faith in Jesus Christ. He, having forsaken Jesus in the garden, heard Jesus say to him at the cross, “Behold, your mother!” And we are further told, "And from that hour the disciple took her into his own household." Therefore, when John said, "We are from God; he who knows God listens to us," there was no doubt that he was speaking the words of God. May all God's children proclaim God's truth today as he did then.


Fourth, "By this, we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit." (1 John 4:13) Of all the ways to know that you know what you believe about God is so, this one explained by John is the most personal, relational, and intimate with God. It is one thing to love another person; it is still another to be indwelt by the person of God. We are the temple; He is the occupant. He convicts us of sin, righteousness, and judgment. He imparts His peace, joy, and contentment. We understand all these and so much more as promises in His Word. The concept of God indwelling men is exemplified in the marriage relationship, as two are said to become one but taken to a whole other level.


Fifthly we are told, "By this, we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and [observe His commandments." (1 John 5:2) The commandments of God are not burdensome to the person of whom it is a reality, "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, this person is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come." (2 Corinthians 5:17) The fulfillment of God's commands is to love God and our neighbors. A changed heart allows a believer to know that God is at work within him.