Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. 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. And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.
I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 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.
I John 2:18-27 ESV
We are now at the third of our three tests for assurance of salvation. Notice that there are 3 not just one! If you haven’t been reading all along, take a gander at these earlier links #1 Righteousness: the Moral Test #2 Love: the Social Test.
Last week was a bit of a pause from the tests that John took, for those who are more sensitive and realize the depths of their own sin and how far short they fall in terms of living a righteous life (compared to Jesus) or a life of loving others (compared to
Now we’re back to test #3 Truth: The Doctrinal Test…but it must be balanced with righteous living and loving others. Ugh! Even there, we can’t measure up can we? We thought we could get our doctrine right. But living it out and loving others along with having right doctrine? Now that’s another story!
We think we can do doctrine right, but even there, we fail. Why?
Because without Jesus and His kind of love, we can come across too harsh or arrogant. Without Jesus, our lives don’t measure up to our doctrine. They are a mess and we come across as hypocrites. Nothing has shown that to be true more recently than what has happened recently with our 2020 election and the events of this past week! Violence from people who say they are pro-police? Fighting against a government we thought we believed in until our side lost? Breaking laws even though we said we believe in law and order? The chickens have come home to roost and shown us as a people to be more human than we realized…even if we weren’t directly involved. It has been a hard and scary week…for everyone!
Once again, we need Jesus to live the Christian life. We can’t do it right. But he already did! It is just difficult to remember that what He did was fully sufficient. We seem to feel we have to add to what He did. We need to do something! It’s the American way. It may be the American way, but it’s not the Christian way…or the way of grace.
For those of us who grew up with a Lone Ranger mentality, this is not easy. It is difficult to depend on others. It doesn’t come naturally…even if the one we’re depending on is Jesus! Maybe especially since it is Jesus doing the giving. We feel so unworthy. And like we don’t deserve what He has to give. Because no matter how hard we try, we just mess up again and again! If we are going to deserve His gifts to us, at least we should improve, right? Sadly, we will not improve in our own strength. It will not happen.
We limp along, living self-righteously in our own strength. Doing the best we can. We don’t realize that we can’t live the Christian Life apart from Christ! He lived it right. He did it perfectly...and what He did was put to our account. Our mess of a record…that was all in the future then, was put on His account and paid for when He died on the cross!
It is that simple and that complicated! It is that easy and that difficult. No wonder we need to be like a child…humble and aware of our own weakness…and complete inability to live the Christian life perfectly. No wonder it is so difficult. I know I can do some things. I have competencies. But in this arena, I have none!
Back to the topic of the day…which is very much related to what I’m talking about!
The kind of truth John is talking about here is presuppositional truth that is absolute!
John is speaking about truth in the absolute sense. This is the kind of truth the Bible speaks of when it talks about truth. To post-modern Americans (something I am not) it is a jarring concept. He is talking about truth in the sense that it is binding to all. It is true both now and forever.
For many who hear this, it is a huge, jarring concept that takes them awhile to even consider. I grew up in a world where this was, for the most part, the consensus belief. You can imagine the adjustment it is to live in the culture I live in now!
To say that the Christian faith is out of step with our present culture is an understatement for sure! No wonder so many churches and denominations waffle on the truth of the Bible, who Jesus was/is. etc. There are so few people in our culture who believe in absolute truth!
It is only one of many reasons we find it difficult to communicate with the culture around us.
Yet Scripture teaches much about the fact that certain truths are absolutely true! At this time, John was speaking directly to a specific heresy called Gnosticism which was present in their culture and in place in the church as well!
Here, John teaches using a 3 part outline which follows (from Boice):
- Contrasts the antichrists of his day with GOD’s true children. vss. 18-21
- Defines the heresy of the antichrists which is the chief heresy of all. vss. 22-23
- Encourages Christians to use their 2 most valuable defenses aginst heresy: truth of the Gospel and the Holy Spirit. vss. 24-27
1. Antichrists vs. GOD’s true children
Interestingly, this word antichrist only appears 5 times in the Bible and all 5 times it is in one of John’s Epistles (I or II John to be exact). Of course, the concept is found in both the Old and New Testaments. Are you as surprised as I was?
J.M. Boice goes into some interesting detail discussing this but I am running out of words already so I can’t tell it all here. Passages he mentioned that will be helpful in learning more about the context of this word or concept are found here: I John 2:18, 22, 4:3, II John 1:7, Daniel 7 (cf. vs. 8), also Daniel 11:3, 12:11, Revelation 13, Mark 13:22-23, II Thessalonians 2:3-4.
One helpful thing to me was to learn more about what anti-Christ means. To me it has always had a connotation of someone repulsive in the manner of a Hitler or Stalin but Boice suggests that John may not have been referring to someone that was the “opposite of” in that sense, but rather a “pseudo-Christ” just as he talks about a pseudo-prophet in I John 4:1. Boice even suggests that the term “anti-christ” may have already been a term in use and not one he initiated. It may have been a term he couldn’t adjust or change to something he preferred.
Gnoticism is alive and well in our day. It is a false teaching.
He is definitely talking about those who teach Gnosticism. They are angels of Light for sure…just like Satan! It sounds good. They look like believers…but they aren’t!
Remember the parable of the Wheat and the Tares? (cf. Matthew 13:24-30)? The Wheat (true disciples) and Tares (false ones) were so close in how they looked that is was difficult to be sure which was which! Jesus told the disciples NOT to pull up the Tares (weeds) until the harvest because in so doing they would dislodge some of the wheat!
I wonder if that is where our love for one another tempers our love of truth/doctrine! Yes, there are times we need to make the distinction! Is Jesus GOD incarnate? YES. There is no fudging on that one. But there are a host of other issues that we make into big issues that the Bible is less clear on. When we do, we uproot true believers in ways that are disruptive to their growth in grace.
The implication of the parable and John’s statement is that some Cjhristians are so much like non-Christians and some non-Christians are so much like Christians that it impossible to tell the difference in this life!
Personally, I cringe when I hear a church brag about it’s purity. Often, it is a sign that they overemphasize truth and underemphasize love. There must be some balance. As believers, we must love righteousness AND love for others AND truth. We all have our own preferences and have to stretch in others. That is a good thing…and it helps guard against our natural tendency to be arrogant, self-righteous and self-satisfied with where we are in our Christian walk.
2. Definition of the chief heresy
The fundamental error of the Gnostic is that they deny that Jesus is the Christ. Of course, it is not only the Gnostic that makes this error. It is the most fundamental error anyone can make! John calls it THE lie...and the one who embraces it is THE liar!
But what does the confession Jesus is the Christ mean? I can’t tell you how many years I grew up hearing that as confirmation that I was a believer…if I could confess that. But I wasn’t sure what I was actually confessing!
What it’s not:
- I’m not merely confessing that Jesus is the Messiah of Old Testament expectation. If it were, the Gnostics wouldn’t have had a problem with it.
- The context helps in understanding here because it means much more than simply that Jesus was Messiah. The idea that Jesus is the Son of GOD and that the Son is in the Father and the Father is in the Son shows that we are confessing the full divinity of Jesus Christ.
- At that time, there was a form of Gnosticism (popularized by Cerinthus of Asia Minor) that said that Jesus was conceived as an emanation from the highest and superior GOD and the divine Christ came upon Jesus when he was baptized and left before he was crucified. Talk about heresy!! There are many forms of Gnosticism that have made their way to today. This illustrates only one of them!
- To deny Christ, the Son is also to deny the Father!
What it is:
- A confession of Jesus as the Christ is an acceptance of the Biblical Christ as GOD in human flesh.
- A confession of Jesus as the Christ is an acceptance of GOD the Father because He is so intricately united with the Father.
- It is that simple, that profound, that impossible apart from a work of GOD in my heart!
3. Two most valuable defenses against heresy:
the Gospel and the Holy Spirit
We have two main weapons of defense against heresy. In many ways, they are surprising. We are not told to study more doctrine per se. We are told to follow what we heard from the beginning or the truth of the Gospel. Basically, it the basic gospel teaching. There aren’t lots of great and lofty truths. It is the basics of the gospel we need to learn and live by each day. In general, read and live by GOD’s Word as we hear it and are changed by it a little each day. (cf. II Timothy 3:14-17)
Believe it or not, GOD’s Word alone isn’t enough. The Gnostics had that. They weren’t using it or living by it. John also talks about the anointing in vs. 20. During the Reformation, this doctrine became known as the priesthood of all believers. It states that the individual believer is not dependent on a priest or other churchman to interpret Scripture for him or her because we have the Holy Spirit as a means to understand the truth of GOD’s Word. and of using it to combat heresy.
It does not mean there is no value in the teaching ministry of a local church. We do need that as well. It is just saying that we have the Holy Spirit to guide and teach us in the absence of others, to give insight into His Word and guide us into Truth.
- For Christians, questions of truth matter! Truth, as found in GOD’s Word and as revealed in Jesus Christ is an objective standard.
- There is Christian responsibility where truth is concerned. We are responsible to abide/remain in the truth.
- The means by which we remain in victory and over error in life? By staying the Word of GOD and obeying the indwelling Holy Spirit. Both are needed to give balance.
Again, here is the link to the book by James Montgomery Boice entitled The Epistles of John.