1 John 2:20
But you have an unction from the Holy One, and you know all things.
In some minds the love of knowledge is very strong. It is the supreme desire. As the warrior thirsts for glory, as the miser thirsts for gold, "as the hart panteth for the water brooks," so do they long to know — to possess truth. Compared with this, life itself is cheap, "It is more to be desired than gold, yea, than fine gold." He who really loves and is loyal to the truth will make any sacrifice for it. With scanty income, he is sometimes found starving the body that he may feed the soul. Even to extend our knowledge of this physical globe, what hardships will not men encounter! Knowledge is happiness; and man seeks to know. How deep the satisfaction of a Columbus when, after long tossing on the treacherous sea, and wearisome expostulations with mutinous men, he saw the new world arise from the deep! We experience something of this joy when we are brought, in the works of others, to new principles and thoughts — when we come into the possession of a great and true definition that casts a flood of light upon everything around us. Knowledge is power, and man seeks to know. The desire of power has led great kings at certain times to attempt the conquest of the world, and the founding of a universal empire. That was great ambition, but there is a greater still; even that of the man who aspires to universal knowledge. The text contains the astounding statement that true Christians know all things. We take the words "all things" in their widest comprehension, as including all existence and all events — the whole universe, material and spiritual. It is of all these we understand the assertion to be made; and it is admitted that, at first sight, such an assertion seems extravagant. For how can we know that which we have never seen; and the greater part of the universe we have not seen? How can we know that in the past of which we have never heard? How can we know the future which does not yet exist in relation to us? Here we must inquire into the nature of our knowledge — what it is to know. Our present knowledge is different in its character from God's. God comprehends all things fully and perfectly. God sees truth face to face. But while it cannot be said that the Christian knows all things as God knows them, it still remains true that He knows all things in a sense similar to that in which He can be said to know anything. To know one thing fully is to know all things fully. Take a piece of rock. To know that fully implies a knowledge of the history and formation of all rocks; and that implies a knowledge of the whole structure of the world, which again implies a knowledge of creation or the full and perfect knowledge of everything. The reason why the full knowledge of one thing implies a full knowledge of all things is that every object of knowledge is more or less directly connected with every other. Nothing in the universe stands alone, and therefore nothing can be understood alone. The statement in the text is not more astonishing or difficult to understand than another more common statement, which is accepted without qualification or hesitation, namely that the Christian knows God. God is infinitely greater than the universe, and infinitely deeper in the significance of His being; and therefore of the two statements, "Ye know all things," and "Ye know God," the latter is by far the greater and more wonderful of the two. What, then, does the Bible mean when it says the Christian knows God? It does not mean that he knows God fully or absolutely — that he has fathomed the unfathomable, or comprehended the infinite; for only God can thus know God. What the Scriptures mean by knowing God is, that we stand in a just relation to Him — that we are in a true sense related personally to Him — our mind being truly related to His mind, our heart to His heart, and our will to His will. We are in a true relation to His righteousness, justice, and mercy, and so of all the other aspects of His being. This is what is meant by knowing God in our present state, and seems to be the character of all our knowledge. As we advance in Divine truth, our knowledge will not change in this respect. It will only increase in depth and compass, in fulness and degree. Further, in order to sustain a true relation to the universe, we must sustain a true relation to God; for, since there is not a gulf between God and His works — seeing He continually sustains an intimate and living relation to them — to be justly related to Him is to sustain a similar relation to them; and to know Him is to know them. At the Fall man lost both the knowledge of God and the true meaning of the world. When the highest light went out all the lower lights were extinguished. Now Jesus Christ came to restore us to such a righteous relation to God, and to take that enmity and unbelief out of the heart which distorts for us the whole character of God. He says, "I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes; even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight." This agrees with what St. Paul says, that ungodly men are "ever learning, and yet never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" — a remarkable statement, distinguishing, as it does, between learning and knowledge. To learn is to collect information merely. To know is to understand the nature and relationships of things. Men may increase in knowledge as to the letter of God's word, as the Scribes and Pharisees of old did — they may have a "form of knowledge, and of truth in the law"; but if they have not the light of life, which is the key to all learning, in their own souls, they are still walking in darkness, and know not whither they are going. All such are enlarging their information, but not extending their true understanding. They are building up pyramids of learning which may be only pyramids of falsehood. They are "ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." But "what God has hid from the wise and prudent He has revealed unto babes." Jesus makes this great declaration — "No man knoweth the Father but through the Son"; and hence for every true idea of God we possess, we are indebted to Christ Jesus. He said unto Philip, "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." Therefore, when we know Jesus Christ, we know God, and not till then. But in order to know Christ, we must truly see Him, and to see Him we must sustain a right relation to Him. How then are we brought into a right relation to the Son of God? It is by His own anointing. "Ye have an unction from the Holy One." The Holy One from whom the unction cometh is the Lord Jesus. The unction itself — which is not the act of anointing, but the oil or ointment used in anointing — is the influence of the Holy Spirit in the heart. Let us gather out of this subject a few general principles or inferences. First, with regard to the nature of knowledge; and second, with regard to the line of duty.
I. With regard to THE NATURE OF KNOWLEDGE. Absolute knowledge is the comprehension of existence. It is the circle which embraces all things. Relative knowledge consists in sustaining the right point of view, which is to stand in the centre of the circle. God absolutely comprehends all things. Man understands all things, when he stands in the absolute centre — when he is in God and God in him. Knowledge implies the three ultimate ideas of the universe — being, existence, and thought. Being is that which lies within or beneath — the invisible ground of existence. It is the spiritual material, or uncreated substance from which thought proceeds, and out of which existence stands. Existence is that which stands out, as the etymology of the word shows. It stands out of being, which is its ground, and from which it is created or developed by thought. Being, in itself considered, is the absolute nothing: that is, being, in itself, cannot be thought. Thought is the process or energising power by which being comes forth from itself into existence. It is the method by which being, which is essentially invisible, translates itself into existence, which is essentially visible. A thing is that which can be thought. "All things," is all that can be thought. It is the believer's destiny, then, in the light of God, to think out the universe. "To know even as He is known!"
II. With regard to DUTY.
1. Notice, here, the identity of knowledge and holiness. This is set before us in other Scriptures besides the text (Proverbs 28:5; 1 Corinthians 2:15; 1 John 2:27; 1 John 3:2, 3; Matthew 5:8). Knowledge being the perfect reflection in the mind of man of the thought of God, it is evident that the mind must be as a perfectly polished mirror, or a perfectly pure lake, in order to receive and give the perfect image.
2. Notice, further, the identity of thought and sanctification. The process of sanctification is the same as that of thought. It is first negative, or a separation. It is a coming out of Egypt, and a cleansing "from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit." But it is also positive, or a union — a going into the Holy Land. The drawing away from sin implies a drawing nearer to God.
3. Notice, again, the identity of ignorance and sin. They are one in being confusion. Ignorance is blindness to the distinctions of things, or the confounding of what ought to be clearly separated in thought. Sin is the same in act or life. It is the confounding of what ought to be kept apart. It thus produces at once a false separation, and a false union. Now, the Word of God, which is the key to the whole universe, and the basis of all science, has been given to affect at once the thought and life of man — to make him at once think correctly and live purely. These cannot be separated. A man thinks correctly just to the extent of his being holy.
(F. Ferguson, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.