1 JOHN – SERIES : NR 7
Scripture : 1 John 2: 18 – 27
Theme : Abiding anointing
In this paragraph, the Holy Spirit comes and draws – by way of the apostolic pen – a picture for us of the conflict zone wherein the true church of Christ functions in the world throughout the ages. There is a continuous attack on the church and there is everlasting protection and victory. It was like that in John (the Apostle’s) time and it is exactly the same today.
There will come a day – in the last hour before the return of Christ – when the antichrist will appear on the scene (see 2 Thess 2). But that last hour of the antichrist will be preceded by a very long period (now 2000 years) of many antichrists – forerunners of the final antichrist. The last hour will be preceded by a long drawn-out last hour that already existed in John’s time. With Jesus’s resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the “last hour” (end time) started and antichrists were already present – and so it will continue until the final last hour arrives and the final antichrist makes his appearance.
The Gnosticism – led by Cerinthius – were the antichrists/false preachers who plagued the churches in John’s time. In this entire letter, he continuously targets them.
Initially, they were part of the churches and apparently embraced the doctrine of the Apostles. But in reality, they did not. In their hearts, they were never really part of the true doctrine and true church. Outwardly yes, but not inwardly. That is why they later separated from the church.
They did not separate themselves because the church have strayed and they wanted to uphold the true doctrine. That would have been a Biblically valid reason for separation – see Romans 16:17. But no, they separated themselves for the wrong reason. They did NOT love the truth (doctrine of the apostles). And that is why they were anti-christ (AGAINST Christ). That is what “antichrist” means. That is why John the Apostle called them antichrists. They have dissociated themselves from the teaching of the Apostles and left the true church and therefore detached themselves from a relationship with the Triune God and therefore were AGAINST Christ and are therefore idolators.
In short, that is what is written in verses 18-19.
The 1 John letter shows us the THREE attributes of the antichrists: 1 > They do not love the true Christians and do not want to be part of them, 2 > They did not want to subject themselves (lawless) to the full authority of God’s Word (Apostolic doctrine) 3 > They have strayed concerning JESUS’S identity and work. They spoke mistakenly about JESUS. And were, therefore, anti-christ = antichrist.
Verses 22-23 address this third point clearly: The error about who/what Christ is. It is very serious – even in our day. There are very few straying spirits who do not deny Jesus in one way or another. Often very subtle. One can always see it when you hear A > the watering down of the authority of the Scriptures B > questions about the full Deity of Christ C > questions about the virgin birth and physical resurrection and personal return of Christ D > Jesus as only a good teacher.
There is a lecturer here at a South African theological college who believes exactly what the Gnostics taught in the first century. He does not believe that Jesus is the eternal Christ. He says that Jesus became the Messiah at His baptism and laid it aside again before His crucifixion. Jesus was only an ordinary man until his baptism when the divine Christ entered him and left him again at the crucifixion. He says that Jesus was created by the Father. And that it is idolatry to worship Jesus as God. Christ is only a divine spark who is present in all people.
This is heresy. Heresy points to a false doctrine that is so serious, that it would keep that person from becoming saved.
Gnosticism is therefore still alive and well in 2021.
Look what is written in verses 22-23 > READ IT AGAIN
WHO is the liar? WHO is the antichrist? THOSE who speak wrongly about the Lord Jesus Christ. Who profess wrongly about Him. Who does not acknowledge Him correctly? He must be professed the way the Apostles taught Him. Otherwise, it is false. And whoever rejects the truth about Christ, also rejects the Father. Whoever embraces the truth about Christ, also accepts the Father. It cuts both ways.
It is, in other words, absolutely impossible to belong to the Father without Christ Jesus. No one, no one who denies Christ, is, therefore, a child of God/saved/delivered. It is simply not possible.
We should look very carefully at verses 22-23. It is of the most significant teaching in the NT.
Not only concerning the Gnosticism, but ANYONE who denies the fact that Jesus is truly Christ is a liar. Who does not acknowledge the Son for whom/what He truly is? It is the greatest mistake anyone can make. AND it cost such a person eternal life. The results of this mistake are indescribably fatal. Such a person is THE liar.
What exactly is it then that is denied/disavowed?
Answer: That Jesus is the Christ. Which is much more than that Jesus is the long-expected Messiah. That also concerns His absolute Deity. We see it in the immediate context, where he refers to the unity of Father/Son and that the rejection of the one, implies the rejection of the other and that the Father can only be acknowledged in/through the Son. In addition, he calls Jesus also SON OF GOD! God became flesh/man in Jesus as the Christ/Messiah.
THAT JESUS IS THE CHRIST implies everything that the NT says about Christ Jesus. If you deviate from any of that, you make Him an idol. He becomes the Christ of human fantasy. While the whole truth is embodied in Him. No wonder that false preachers always aim their arrows at HIM. And ever and anon they pretend to stand firm in the truth. They only have a few minor differences here and there about Jesus – they say.
In the first century there was for example Marcion who said that Jesus was merely a divine spirit who appeared to people in human form, but never really became man.
Arius said that Jesus is not true God, he is only a god. Exactly what the Jehovah’s witnesses say.
Sebelius said there is no Trinity. The ONE God merely manifests now as Father, then again as Son, and then again as Holy Spirit. Like three masks He wears when and where He wants.
The early church condemned them all as heretics.
John exposes them and clearly reveals the truth. Whoever does not confess Jesus as the Christ, is not reborn and remains under the wrath of God.
Then the Apostle turns his focus away from the antichrists and he turns to the Christ-believers in the churches to whom he is writing. In contrast to everything he has said about the antichrists, what protection and comfort does the believer enjoy?
That is in verses 20-21 and also 24-27. See how he starts verse 20: BUT YOU…. and verse 27: AS FOR YOU ..
And then he tells them in so many words only this one thing: YOU HAVE AN ANOINTING THAT PROTECTS YOU AND TEACHES YOU AND THAT REMAINS IN YOU! In other words: KNOW what the Gnostics teach, but embrace the truth which you heard from the Apostles and establish your soul in it, eat it, drink it, study it!
Now, what is this anointing which all Christians have and always shall have?
These days we hear so much about the ANOINTING! Particularly in charismatic circles. Someone like Benny Hinn suggests that “the anointing” descends upon him when the music starts up in his services. That is when he suddenly receives the ability to knock people flat, blow them over, strike them with invisible electrical waves, heal them, and so forth. After the service ends, the anointing is gone and he (for example) cannot go to the hospital to heal the sick.
It is though, a general idea that the anointing of the Holy Spirit is something that some Christians have and others do not. Or that you can have by degrees. If you for example pray for hours, you can receive a special anointing to powerfully witness or preach.
Significant that this idea does not appear anywhere in the NT. It is a human and religious fantasy.
The NT mentions ANOINTING (Greek: Grisma) only twice, and it is here in 1 John 2 and also 2 Cor 1:21-22 where it again appears that anointing is the part of all Christians.
It is a notion that is rooted in the OT where kings, prophets and, priests were anointed to the office with literal oil and with the symbolic meaning of: “The Lord appoints you for a special task and commission”. The assumption is then that the Spirit of God prompts and equips the person.
Look again at 2 Cor 1: 21-22: “Christ anointed us, set His seal of ownership on us and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come”. In other words: the anointing is the Holy Spirit who came to dwell in every child of God and protect and shelter and equip him/her as a Christian.
And these verses of John’s confirms what Paul is saying there. But he adds something! The anointing of the Holy Spirit walks hand-in-hand with the TRUTH (teaching of the Apostles) which they already know (verse 20b).
John is not writing the letter to the churches because they do NOT know the Truth. No, he wants to reassure them of what they already know! He writes to them because there were people who were trying to lead them astray and away from the doctrine of the Apostles (verse 26) which they heard from the beginning (verse 24).
Every true Christ-believer, therefore, has divine equipment (anointing) that will keep him/her from following and believing the false teaching. The Holy Spirit dwells in the Christ-believer and so too the truth of the teaching of the Apostles which they heard from the beginning. Indeed, it is through that teaching that they became Christians.
They, therefore, do not need the Gnostics (or whoever) to teach them something more (verse 27). When he says in that verse: “You do not need anyone to teach you”, he does not mean that there should not be preachers in the church and services where the Word is proclaimed. Such a view would go right against the rest of the Scriptures. No, he means that there is no need for them to listen to anything which the Gnostics preach because the anointing teaches/instructs them (verse 27).
Some translations say in verse 27 that the Holy Spirit teaches them. In Greek, it literally says “His anointing teaches you everything“. The anointing itself does the teaching. Naturally, it is the Holy Spirit who works through the anointing, therefore translations that translate it that way are not wrong.
Then how can the anointing instruct? The anointing is not SOMEONE. It is SOMETHING.
Yes, but remember that the anointing includes the apostolic doctrine of the truth that is in the believer. That which was taught from the beginning! The incessant fellowship with the Apostles, THAT teaches and instructs the believer. THAT is the anointing that gives instruction. Never-ceasing. It is the God-given equipment that restrains the Christ-believer from the false teaching, and remaining IN CHRIST. Because if you remain in the apostolic doctrine, you remain in Christ.
Look carefully: Verse 24 > SEE THAT WHAT YOU HAVE HEARD FROM THE BEGINNING REMAINS IN YOU. IF it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father!
There is a truth/doctrine that should dwell in the Christian. And that ensures that the Christian also lives in fellowship with God. REMAIN IN YOU, says the Apostle. REMAIN IN the true doctrine of the truth and REMAIN in the work of Christ. You are already in it, therefore REMAIN therein.
That is the simple, yet urgent instruction which the Apostle gives to the churches. And we know that it is what the Spirit is saying.
What it implies for our context and every Christian is: A > Dig into God’s Word. Forget voices and dreams and visions and shakes and read the Scriptures and believe the Scriptures. B > Have as little as possible to do with divergent doctrine and preachers.
From all of that, we see how important the thoughts/mind/reflection in the walk with God is. You will realize by reading the NT, experiences/emotions do not play as big a role as truth/ doctrine/ understanding/ trust.
It is SO urgent, that the Apostle goes so far as to say that you may have all kinds of wonderful experiences, but still be an antichrist if the truth/true doctrine does not abide in you.
Lastly: Even though the anointing already dwells in every true Christian, it places a responsibility on the Christian to REMAIN in the truth/Christ with conscious effort. Nowhere in this paragraph does one get the impression that a Christian can be passive. No, GAIN the victory over what is wrong and false! The Word is there and the Holy Spirit is there. More than enough to be victorious and triumphant!