First John: 1 John 2:4-The One Who Claims to Know the Lord Experientially and Yet Disobeys His Commands is a Liar Lesson # 51
The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. (NASB95)
The apostle John is employing the figure of asyndeton in order to mark a contrast between John’s apostolic teaching in and another assertion of the proto-Gnostic teachers in the Roman province of Asia presented here in .
“The one who says” is the articular nominative masculine singular present active participle form of the verb legō (λέγω), which refers to the substance of one of the teachings of John’s Gnostic opponents.
“I have come to know Him” is composed of the following: (1) first person singular perfect active indicative form of the verb ginōskō (γινώσκω), “I have come to know” (2) accusative third person masculine singular form of the intensive personal pronoun autos (αὐτός), “Him.”
The verb ginōskō is used in the perfect tense and means, “to know (the Lord Jesus) experientially.”
To experience means, “to personally encounter, observe or undergo something through a process, to have knowledge or practical wisdom gained from what one has observed, encountered or undergone,” and implies being affected by what one meets.
The intensive personal pronoun autos means “Him” referring to the Lord Jesus Christ and not the Father or the Spirit since this was the word’s referent in .
Therefore, this verb ginōskō means an “to know experientially” the Lord Jesus Christ in the sense of personally encountering Him through fellowship as He is revealed in the pages of Scripture and in prayer by God the Holy Spirit.
It also involves being affected by this encounter with the Lord resulting in the gaining of practical spiritual wisdom and more of the character of Christ.
The first person singular form refers to the Gnostic teachers in the Roman province of Asia.
The perfect tense of the verb ginōskō is an intensive perfect, which is used to emphasize the results or present state produced by a past action.
The present state in our context are the false teachers who say they know the Lord experientially and the past action is their disobeying the Lord Jesus Christ’s Spirit inspired commands.
“And does not keep His commandments” is presenting a contrast between a claim of the false teachers knowing the Lord experientially and their disobeying His commands.
“Does not keep His commandments” is composed of the following: (1) articular accusative feminine plural form of the noun entolē (ἐντολή), “commandments” (2) genitive third person masculine singular form of the intensive personal pronoun autos (αὐτός), “His” (3) negative particle me (μή) (me), “not” (4) nominative masculine singular present active participle form of the verb tēreō (τηρέω), “does keep.”
The verb tēreō means “to conscientiously obey” and is used in relation to the phrase τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ, “His commandments,” which refers to the commands the Lord Jesus Christ issued to the church by the Spirit through His apostles.
This word is negated by the negative particle me which denies any idea of the false teachers obeying the Lord’s commands conscientiously even though they claim they know Him experientially.
The present tense of this verb is a gnomic present which expresses the spiritual principle that the one who at any time does say that they know the Lord experientially and yet “at any time does” not observe conscientiously His commands is a liar and the truth is not active in his soul.
The noun entolē means “commands” and refers to the commands of the Lord Jesus Christ which were communicated to the apostles by the Spirit and can be summarized as loving one another as He loved the believer and which command is recorded in .
“Is a liar” is composed of the following: (1) nominative masculine singular form of the noun pseustēs (ψεύστης), “a liar” (2) third person singular present active indicative form of the verb eimi (εἰμί), “is.”
The verb eimi means “to possess a particular characteristic,” which is identified by the adjective pseustēs, which means “a liar.”
Therefore, this verb expresses the idea that a person who asserts they know the Lord experientially and yet disobey His commands possesses the characteristic of being a liar or in other words, they are characterized as being a liar.
The noun pseustēs in is in the emphatic position, which emphasizes the profound consequences of entering into this claim.
“And the truth is not in him” presents the result of the previous assertion.
The one who does, at any time say, “I know Him experientially” and yet at any time, does not observe His commands conscientiously is, as an eternal spiritual truth existing in the state of being a liar. Consequently, the truth is, as an eternal spiritual truth unequivocally not existing in them. (Author’s translation)
, and 9 reflects three more of the claims of the false teachers in the Roman province of Asia who were promoting an incipient form of the Gnosticism.
We have already noted three of these claims by these false teachers in , and 10.
In each of these verses, John was seeking to protect the recipients of this epistle from this proto-Gnostic teaching.
In , and 9, John employs direct discourse whereas in , and 10, he is uses indirect discourse to convey these claims to the recipients of this epistle.
The assertion or claim presented here in stands in stark contrast with John’s apostolic teaching in , which asserts that by means of one’s conscientious observance of the Lord’s commands, the believer can at any time confirm that they are existing in the state of knowing Him experientially.
Therefore, John is presenting the contradiction between such a claim and the conduct of those who make such a claim.
Their claim of knowing Christ experientially which is experiencing fellowship with Him was a lie since they did not obey the Lord’s commands.
Consequently, by making such false assertions, they were liars since their claims contradicted John’s apostolic teaching and specifically, they contradicted his apostolic teaching in which states that the believer can confirm that they know the Lord experientially if they observe conscientiously His commands.
Therefore, John is stating that making a such a claim and yet disobeying the Lord’s commands is self-deception.
This echoes to a certain extent his teaching in , in which he asserts that if any believer enters into making the claim that they have never experienced the guilt of sin, then they are, as an eternal spiritual truth deceiving themselves.
Consequently, the truth is, as an eternal spiritual unequivocally not existing in them.
Therefore, in , the apostle teaches that the believer is involved in self-deception by claiming that they have never sinned.
On the other hand, in , he is teaching that the believer is involved in self-deception by making the claim they know the Lord experientially and yet does not observe the Lord’s commands conscientiously.
The self-deception in is in relation to fellowship with the Lord whereas in it is in relation to committing personal sin.
Both verses contain a result clause which follows these claims and both assert that the truth is, as an eternal spiritual truth unequivocally not existing in the person who makes these claims.
Those who make the claim they know the Lord experientially and yet do not observe conscientiously the Lord’s commands are lying to themselves.
This is what he says in of those who enter into the claim that they have been experiencing fellowship with the Lord and yet have been living in the darkness and thus consequently, they are unequivocally not practicing the truth.
The same exact thing could be said to describe the believer who makes the claim that they know the Lord experientially and yet do not observe His commands conscientiously.
Therefore, as we noted, knowing the Lord Jesus Christ experientially in is a reference to fellowship with Him or in other words, it is a synonym for fellowship.
Fellowship with Him and thus knowing Him experientially is based upon observing conscientiously, or in other words, obeying His commandments, which were imparted by Him to His disciples, of which John was one.
The believer who adheres to the false teaching reflected in , , and 2:4 is involved in hypocrisy.
Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary defines hypocrisy, “a pretense of having a virtuous character, moral or religious beliefs or principles, etc., that one does not possess; a pretense of having some desirable or publicly approved attitude.
If we paraphrase this definition, we could say that the believer who makes the claim that they know the Lord experientially or in other words are experiencing fellowship with Him and yet do not observe conscientiously His commands is making a pretense of them having godly character which they do not possess.
and prohibit the believer from getting involved with hypocrisy.