The Difference Between Certainty and Clarity.

daily text logoMay 5, 2015

1 John 3:23-24

And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.



Today’s text brings us another recurrence of the “This is,” phrase followed by a declarative definition.   Clearly, John is working in a context of confusion. False teaching can be devastating to people. Ideas have consequences. Theological ideas take consequences to the next level. It’s very tempting to take a posture of “think and let think” when it comes to divergent takes on biblical and theological truth. It’s actually quite devastating. John aims for basic gut level clarity. It’s worth revisiting the at least seven prior occurrences of the “This is” phrase before going forward. The montage follows.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 1:1

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 1:5

This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister. 3:10

For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 3:11

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and our sisters. 3:16

This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 3:19-20

And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 3:23

And this is how we know that he lives in us. We know it by the Spirit that he gave us. 3:24.

So often, both then and now, people crave certainty when it comes to faith. Something about faith and certainty don’t seem to go together. Certainty counterfeits faith and produces an appealing but powerless dogmatism. Clarity, on the other hand, flowers into faith and leads to the fruitful and often vulnerable obedience of love. In my judgment, it is far more important to have clarity than certainty. Certainty produces a type of self confidence in leaders that can be very appealing in times of uncertainty and confusion. Clarity creates the conditions not for self confidence but for courageous faith.

False teaching bullies people with its confident certainty. The Truth patiently and persistently labors for courageous clarity. The Spirit is always on the side of clarity.

J.D. Walt writes daily for Seedbed’s Daily Text. He serves as Seedbed’s Sower in Chief. Follow him @jdwalt on Twitter or email him at Get the Daily Text delivered to your inbox fresh every morning. Subscribe HERE.

All Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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