The Knowledge of a Witness

We often feel that if only we knew more about the Faith, more of its history, theology, the teachings of our holy Fathers, the lives of the Saints, then we could become better witnesses of Christ and be able to convince others of the truth of our Faith. These are desires that are to be encouraged. Knowledge is good and useful. Ignorance can lead to many errors. Yet there is another, greater kind of knowledge. Our Lord said, “If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority (John 7:17). This is the kind of knowledge that comes from doing his will, from keeping Christ’s commandments. This kind of knowledge is known in the very depths of our being — not by way of the mind alone, but by the heart that has come to know by experience that life in Christ is a spring of living water welling up to eternal life (John 4:14)

What is the doctrine of which Christ is speaking when He says that we shall know concerning the doctrine if only we will do his will? He has taught us, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength…And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:28–31). John the Beloved Evangelist and Theologian assures us that, “His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3b). They do not require years of study or a theological education, helpful though these may be. Christ’s doctrine and commandments are simple. The simplest minds—– the illiterate, the uneducated, even the mentally handicapped— are capable of understanding them, as He has demonstrated in innumerable lives of his Saints. His closest chosen apostles were unlearned men, yet they were found to be full of power in the knowledge of God.1 What Christ’s teaching requires in order to be known is simple obedience in love. St. Silouan the Athonite teaches us that “The commandments of God are not difficult, but easy (1 John 5:3). But they are only easy because of love, while they are all difficult if there is no love.”2

Obedience in Faith

Only by loving obedience to Christ can any of us be empowered to “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”3 Yet simple though the commandments are, obedience to Christ requires virtue (power) that we clearly do not possess of ourselves. Being perfect, loving our enemies, praying for, and doing good to those who hate us, persecute us, and use us spitefully are not things toward which we are naturally inclined. We know that such perfection is beyond our own ability—so much so that some mistake Christ’s words for hyperbole. We are all painfully aware that our sinful passions incline us to react, to avenge, to hate in return for hate, to wound in return for being wounded. Yet we also know that this is not the way of Christ.4 Our obedience to his commandments, therefore, is an obedience of faith. We believe He will grant us the power to fulfill his commandments in and through our obedience, trusting in his faithfulness completely. When He united us to Himself, He endowed us with his power. Thus, we have the full assurance of faith that He has both granted and will grant us all that is necessary to be conformed to his image when we obey him in everything.5 We need not shrink from obedience for fear of being unable to do the seemingly impossible, “for with men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.”6 It is precisely the inability of any person to be like Christ in his own strength that magnifies the power of God in us and reveals us to be his witnesses.7


  1. Acts 4:13

  2. St. Sophrony, St. Silouan the Athonite, trans. Rosemary Edwards (Crestwood: SVS, 2021), XVI.10.

  3. Matthew 5:16

  4. 1 Peter 2:23

  5. Romans 8:29

  6. Mark 10:27

  7. 2 Corinthians 4:7