Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

The World Does Not Know


1 John 3:1b

Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.

Here’s another half-verse that takes a whole DEEP to unpack. Since the world didn’t know Him, it doesn’t know us. That sounds important, but what does John mean by “world,” and what does he mean by “know”?

The BDAG lexicon has many definitions for the Greek word translated as “world” (κόσμος “kos-mos”).
1: adornment, adorning (It’s the Greek root for the English word “cosmetic.”)
2: the world as the sum total of everything
3: the world as the sum total of all beings above the animals
4: the world as the Earth
5: the world as mankind
6: the world as the scene of earthly joys, possessions, cares, sufferings
7: the world, and everything that belongs to it, appears as that which is hostile to God
8: totality

Thankfully, the Greek word translated as “know” (γινώσκει gin-ose-kay) isn’t so complex. It means, “know, learn, understand, perceive.”

That helps with interpreting kosmos. Only by the third and fifth definitions is “the world” smart enough to “know” anything. This isn’t about plants and animals—or stars and planets. (Still, the sense of the seventh definition is unavoidable in the context of this passage.) So, this boils down to one question. Is it just humans, or are angels (specifically fallen angels) included in the definition of kosmos?

In the gospels, demons always know who Jesus is. In the book of Job, Satan converses directly with God. Thus, the world not knowing us (gin-ose-kay is in the present tense), because it did not know Him (past tense) can’t be referring to angels.

So, the takeaway is that the world (unbelievers) don’t know us because they didn’t know Him.

We’re strange to them.

This is why evangelism absolutely depends on miracles. Christianity doesn’t make sense to the world.

The best apologetic explanation imaginable can’t convert anyone. It takes the supernatural intervention of the Holy Spirit for someone to even know what you’re talking about.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. — 1 Corinthians 1:18

These Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. The Weekend DEEPs are written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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