1 John 2. 18-29: Our Anointing

June 5, 2011 Series: Letters of John

Topic: New Testament Passage: 1 John 2:18–2:29

 

Jesus Attack

Last week we discussed the difference stages of spiritual maturity: new believers, middle-aged believers, and adult believers. Each one is attacked differently by the evil one, where they are most vulnerable. New believers are tempted to deny the truth, maturing believers are tempted to pervert the truth, and older believers are tempted to reject the truth.  All of the temptations attack the truthfulness of God’s Word in some way.  

And the truth of God, the Word of God, entered humanity in the form of Jesus himself.  Satan does not care how you live or what you do as long as you reject Jesus.  He will work to accomplish that through whatever means possible—giving you whatever you want.  He will give you every pleasure, he will deny you every pleasure, he will lie to you about God, he will lie you about His Word, he will lie to you about His church, he will lie to you about sin and even himself.   He will hurt you through those you love, he will sour you to true religion, he will tempt you with false religion, he will take the good things God has blessed us with and, through sin, make them idols we worship.  He will give or take away any number of things so that you will find your meaning, purpose, hope, and joy in anything but Jesus Christ. And he will never give up doing so until Jesus returns.

Antichrist Opposition & Replacement
In today’s text, John speaks about the demonic force leading this campaign to destroy faith and destroy the church of his people—the antichrist. John is not just addressing an idea; he is identifying actual people, certain false teachers and labeling them as antichrists: men who are working for Satan, who are opposed to the truth of Jesus, and who are trying to lead Christians toward sin and death away from Jesus the giver of life.  John’s first and second letters are the only books of the Bible to use the term Anti-Christ. But the concept of a powerful, lying, charismatic individual rising to oppose God had been widely understood by John’s audience for years, beginning with the book of Daniel.  The idea is further developed by Paul who uses the term “man of lawlessness” to describe a future individual who will rise before Christ returns, as well as John himself in Revelation.  In his letters, John doesn’t argue that “a man” will rise in the end, but he chooses instead to emphasize the attitude and actions of different Antichrists that have risen and are rising in the church right now. 

The Anti-Christ is not only in opposition to the truth of Jesus—it is a replacement for Jesus.  Jesus himself warned in Matthew24 of teachers who would claim to be especially anointed by God’s Spirit to do special redemptive work in God's name like Jesus did.   And there have been, and are today, various wingnuts and nutjobs claiming to actually be Jesus Christ. Here John is speaking about all of the preachers, teachers, and spiritual gurus who position themselves, their teaching, or their church so as the object to be worshipped—the one who takes the place of Christ in the community.  John knows that the more dangerous antichrists are not those who claim to be Jesus, but in fact those who work to replace him as Savior and Lord.  Cults begin when a group of people get polarized around one person who is to be revered, the one to example to follow, the one whose words are quoted, the one to be obeyed over and against the Word of God, the truth of God, the way of God, who is Christ himself.  Pastors, teachers, leaders, even writers must always be careful that as they are working for the fame of Jesus, they (or their people) don’t become more devoted to their own.

 

V.18-19 The Last Hour Before Jesus

Like a Father with years of joyful suffering, years of persecutions, years of watching false teachers come and go, John teaches this next generation how to understand and deal with the antichrists. He begins by reminding them that challenges to Jesus should not surprise us—they are to be expected.  The faith of the Christians of this church has been shaken.  The historicity of Jesus is being challenged, people are leaving the church, and many are confused as to exactly what the truth is.  John reminds them that the appearance of various antichrists is characteristic of what he calls “THE LAST HOUR”.  This phrase is unique to John, but the apostles regularly spoke of their present age as the LAST DAYS.  It has now been 2,000 years so either John was wrong, or he meant to describe something other than a specific time period.  The last hours, or the last days, describe the coming end of one age and the beginning of another.  In this case, it is last time period between the first coming and the second coming of Christ.  It is the completion of the passing away of a dying fallen world and its desires, culminating in he return of Christ and the final restoration of His people.   [PAUSE]  As we are tempted to deny the truth through the different trials we suffer, we would do well to remember that every hour is the last hour—that every decision is a choice to align ourselves either  with the living God or a dying world.  Remembering that this world is temporal, that it will come to an end at any moment, reminds us where our hope remains, it gives us courage to endure, it gives us reason to rejoice, and it should fill us with a sense of urgency for loving others with the truth. 

Out from US

And John says that these last days will be marked by an increase of attacks on Jesus and the Church by various antichrists.  John spoke this way, Paul spoke this way, Peter spoke this way, but we are reluctant to speak this way.  It is as if we live pretending there is not a spiritual war raging around us.  We have become both tolerant and blind to the different antichrists around us.  As we fulfill God’s command to love our neighbor, let us not forget that the last days are not characterized by good people who believe differently, rather, by rebellious so called “Christians” devoting themselves to the doctrine of demons. 1Timothy 4.1-2   Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared.  Paul says that this age is marked by people LEAVING the faith:  (STATS) This is what has happened in the churches John is writing to. Apparently, these false teaching “antichrists” were in the church but have since left.  The church is confused as to whether these people were Christians, and John simply reassures them that they were not because the heretics never repented and never returned.  They are not Christians and never were.  These are not good people leaving ungodly churches; these are ungodly people leaving good churches.

 

V.20-25 Truth and Lies About Jesus
More than that, those who left the church are now claiming that they have “special knowledge”, new interpretations, or unique insight into the truth. They are preaching lies marketed by to look, sound, and feel like truth.  And though their “knowledge” is completely unbiblical,  it  is apparently attractive enough to gather a crowd and draw others away from the  truth.  This has caused those who have remained to question what they believe.  John assures them that THEY DO NOT NEED THIS NEW TRUTH, they only need to be reminded of the truth they already know. John doesn’t tell them to study every nuance of this counterfeit faith and confront every lie, rather, he tells them to take devote themselves to the true faith found in the Bible, given to the church, and taught by the Holy Spirit.   

The Lies of the Antichrist

The light of Scripture protects whenever a liar comes out of the dark with attractive teaching that adds, subtracts, or attempts to replace the Bible.  All too often, we dismiss the teaching of various antichrists because of the good works they do.  In Deuteronomy 13.1-5, we are told that false teachers will rise and will be capable of perform all kinds convincing signs and wonders…as they lead you to worship false gods.  And while we might think it is unlikely that joe-christian will renounce their faith and become Muslim, it is certain that many will depart from their faith by renouncing Jesus Christ as the only way to salvation:  “There couldn’t possibly be just one way . . .” [Lady in the audience: "What about Jesus?"] “What about Jesus? . . . Does God care about your heart or does God care about if you call his son Jesus?”  — Oprah Winfrey

Out of fear of being called a religious nut, we fear using labels for anyone, even if they are biblical labels.   Apart from all of the macabre connotations you connect with antichrist, we must consider how we will characterize someone of influence, any individual or organization who denies Jesus before millions of people and proclaims that He is not the only means to salvation.  Are they confused? Lost? Mistaken?  Here, in chapter 4, and in his second letter, John says anyone denies the true identity Jesus as God in human flesh coming to save mankind is antichrist.  If that is true, then there are many more antichrists than we could have ever imagined and, in today’s wired world, their voices can reach more people than any other time in history. The false theology of antichrist is rampant in the church and in our culture. Their sermons amount to the following:

  • ·         Lies about Jesus. (How people relate God)
  • ·         Lies about Jesus’ Church. (How people relate to one another)
  • ·         Lies about the Spirit of Jesus (How people make decisions)

These are the people who talk about God, claim spirituality, even profess to know the Bible, but at the same time reject Jesus as God.   They readily accept the humanity of Jesus but vehemently reject his deity, his authority, and his salvation.  Confessing Christ as a real human does not save.  Confessing Christ as a good teacher does not save. Confessing Christ died on the cross as an example of humility does not save. Confessing Jesus as Savior and Lord, as a sinner’s substitute and crucified King, is what saves. John says quite plainly, if you deny Jesus, you deny God. Not surprisingly, Jesus taught the same thing.  

V.24-27 Abiding by Spirit of Jesus
After a warning his children like a Dad, John imparts them wisdom about how they are protected from antichrist. And his wisdom is less about what they are to do and more about what they are to know and believe:
24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that he made to us— eternal life. 26 I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you.

Abide in Him
John uses the word, “abide”, five times in these four verses. The word has the connotation of remaining in, living in, walking in, being guided and governed by something or someone.  He tells the church to let what they have heard from the beginning “abide” in them.  The question is begged, “What have they heard?”  The answer is the gospel.  The gospel is not just the facts of Jesus life, death, and resurrection.  It is how we are saved, how we live, how we grow, how we overcome any problem we have.  Contentment comes from being right with our creator, and that comes from the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins through the death of Jesus. 

And at the moment of belief, you become a son, and the Spirit of God is sent into your hearts (Galatians 4.6)  Unlike the false teachers guided by their flesh, John argues that genuine Christians possess the Holy Spirit, who abides in them to help them abide in God: 2Corinthians 1.21-22 says, “21 And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

The Anointing, The Holy Spirit
John calls this indwelling “the Anointing” that was received not “an anointing” that can be received more than once.
27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.  In the Old Testament, the act of anointing referred to persons or things that were ceremonially set apart by God, signifying their holiness but usually employing them in some special role of function for Gods.  Prophets, Priests, and Kings were all anointed by God.  The term “anointing” has been historically abused by many. These false teachers are probably claiming a “special anointing” as many do today.  This phrase is commonly used by non-believing goats who don’t want to submit to the Bible and wolves who want to find weak sheep to submit to them.  Prideful Christians and false teachers use “anointing” as a weapon to look down on others or to have other look up to them. 

The term is intended as a description of the empowerment of the Holy Spirit in every believer. It is the power of God in us, not our intellect and not our gut, that protects us from the lies of the world.   And that power is bestowed by the will of God, not the will of man, to whom he chooses to save.  It is an empowerment that happens one time, an empowerment that brings new life, and an empowerment that is intended to equip us for gospel work.  It should fill us with joy and confidence to know that God lives in us.

The primary role of the Holy Spirit is to teach us and help us believe what Jesus taught. And the most important truth the Holy Spirit teaches is the true identity of Jesus as God and Messiah.  So the Holy Spirit guides, but He does not (as antichrists claim) intend to provide new revelation; He brings understanding to THE REVELATION that already exists, the Word of God. He is the antidote to the antichrist who casts doubt on the truth or trustworthiness of God’s Word.   John reminds the church that they don’t need a teacher, even a God-appointed one like himself, as the ultimate source of instruction. Every Christian is a spirit-filled anointed priest possessing the capacity to know God and His ways. Through the Spirit, the Word of God becomes authoritative, clear, sufficient, and necessary.   Through the Spirit, the believer possesses the ability know the truth and to know error.  Other than false teachers, this is not a condemnation on godly teachers whom we all love—but it is a challenge for you to read your Bible more, meditate on your Bible more, pray to understand your Bible more, commune with God more.

V. 28-29 Conclusion
28
And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.

Our Confidence
Jesus is returning and John tells us to abide in him until he does. It wasn’t May 21st, and doubt it is October 21st , but He could surprise us all.  And neither you, nor I, want to shrink in shame at his coming, feel as if you were caught with your hand in the sinner’s cookie jar.  Basically, John tells us to u if we know Jesus we will live like Jesus. What does that mean exactly? Get better? Try harder? Clean up your act? Pray more? Get more involved in church? Read the Bible longer? 

I believe it means We are to work, but we are to work to rest in Christ’s work.   Our hard work means coming to a deeper understanding of his work on our behalf.  As Martin Luther wrote, “To progress is always to begin again.” Moving forward in Christ requires a daily going back to the cross.  Our protection until Christ comes, and our confidence when he does, originates not with our own work, but in holding fast to gospel of Jesus, in fellowship with the bride of Jesus (the church), by the power of the Spirit of Jesus on whom we depend.

 Benediction: Philippians 2.12-13 12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

More in Letters of John

July 31, 2011

3 John: Our Imitation

July 24, 2011

1 John 5. 13-21: Our Assurance

July 17, 2011

1 John 5. 6-13: Our Faith