Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,
I have told you before about a video of a man speaking with students on the campus of an American University. The interviewer is a 175cm tall, 28 year old, white male. But he tells the students that he is a 195cm tall, 7 year old, Chinese female. And he asks them if they have a problem with that. And they don’t; if that is his truth, that is fine with them. The point of the video is to demonstrate that truth is fast disappearing today. And the video ends with this message: “If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything.”
Well, that message is equally true in the church. We are going to see today that there will always be those who teach false theology. And if we don’t know what is true, we will fall for anything. But the message is set before us in a more positive form. Let me explain: The believers John was writing to were under fire from false teachers. And the false teaching was causing confusion and doubt. But John’s message to them is It’s OK! Because you believe one thing, you will not fall for anything. Or, more specifically, BECAUSE YOU BELIEVE THE TRUTH ABOUT CHRIST, YOU CAN RECOGNIZE AND RESIST ANTICHRISTS.
Now, of course, that is going to need some explaining. And we will get to that shortly. But what we are dealing with here is the third and last of the three profession of faith tests in 1 John 2. And it is called by many the THEOLOGICAL test.
And what is striking about this passage is that it draws very clear BATTLE LINES. We see Christ and antichrists, we see them and us, we see lie and truth, and we see deniers and confessors. So the line of truth/falsehood is very clearly a battle ground.
And one of the most well-known battle passages in the whole Bible is Eph. 6. There we read about the armour of God that needs to be worn and used if we are to resist the devil.
Well, our passage in 1 John is an ILLUSTRATION of what Ephesians 6 describes. There had been and there continued to be a battle in the churches that John was writing to. And the Holy Spirit caused John to write down these words because this battle continues in every age of the church. We also need to put on the full armour of God so that we can take our stand against the devil and his schemes.
So let us consider this preparing-for-battle-passage under three headings. And our headings come from three A words that we find in this passage – ANTICHRIST, ANOINTING, and ABIDING.
I. So first of all ANTICHRIST. For what we see in these verses is that is that John informs his readers of a constant enemy.
A. And we begin with vv18-19.
1. Already in this sermon series, I have mentioned, several times, what most commentators believe is the best explanation for the LOCAL SITUATION that gave rise to the writing of this letter. v19 talks about those who “went out from us.” It appears that there was a group of people who were once members of the churches John wrote to, but who had left because they now had different beliefs than those who remained. And those who left were trying to convince those who remained to leave also and to join with the new group. And the things that John says in this letter as well as what other historical material records suggest is that the group that left were Gnostics. The Gnostics denied that Jesus was the eternal Son of God. But they also said that believers didn’t have to keep all the commandments because as spiritual beings what they did with their bodies didn’t matter anymore, and that believers had no sin and did not sin. And these are the types of beliefs that John has been confronting in the first two chapters. You can well imagine then the turmoil and hurt that had torn apart this congregation. (Perhaps it started in a Bible study… families split…)
a. The account I am about to share with you is not from the Bible but it is from a very reliable historical source, so we have no reason to doubt its accuracy. The early church Father, Irenaeus, personally knew Polycarp, another church father, who had personally known the Apostle John. And Irenaeus writes about an episode Polycarp had told him about. One day, John had gone to a public bath house in Ephesus. But on arriving, he learned that Cerinthus, one of the Gnostic leaders, if not the Gnostic leader, was there also. So John rushed out without bathing, exclaiming, “Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within.” This account gives us an idea of how intense the situation there was.
2. So even though there is some guess-work in there, that is probably the local situation of the churches that John wrote to. But v18 says something about the BIG-PICTURE CHURCH SITUATION. There we read these words, “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.”
a. Now, the topic we come to here is one of the most widely debated topics in all of theology. But while we will not say all that could be said, hopefully a few statements will be enough to help us understand the main points:
(1). Earlier we read from Daniel 7 and 2 Thess. 2. We could also have read from Matthew 24 and Revelation 13. And while all the details are not easy to work out, what is clear is that just prior to the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus, there will be A SINGLE ANTICHRIST FIGURE, or “the man of lawlessness,” as he is called in 2 Thess. That is what John is referring to when he says, “As you have heard that antichrist is coming.” And antichrist simply means false Christ or against Christ. There will be a human being who works in the service of the evil one to oppose Christ and Christ’s church.
(2). But John also says, “So now MANY antichrists have come.” Jesus Himself said, “For false christs (plural) … will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.” These are ordinary men and women who don’t have a badge saying ‘I am Antichrist’ on it. And much of what they say and do appears good. But they are actually enemies of Christ who try to deceive God’s people, like the Gnostics in John’s time. And these antichrists are found in every age of the church.
(a). Today, you will find a number of them on your TV screens in the early hours of the morning. They are the peddlers of the health and wealth, prosperity gospel. They walk around with the Bible in their hands, rattling off Bible verse after Bible verse. And they have very positive messages that even contain some truth. But the people I am talking about, like Robert Schuller of Crystal Cathedral fame, Joyce Meyer, Benny Hinn, T. D. Jakes, Joel Osteen, Paula White, and Creflo Dollar, teach false theology. They are forerunners of THE Antichrist to come.
3. So John says, “Children, it is THE LAST HOUR … [there are these antichrists] therefore we know it is the last hour.” The existence of antichrists proved to John that he and these believers were living in the last hour or the last days.
a. And just in case are thinking to yourself that John must have been wrong because we are living in the last hour or that the last hour is still coming, what you need to know is that the whole period of time between Jesus’ ascension and His second Coming is the last hour or last days!
(1). If you read Acts 2 and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, you will read it described as a last days event. This was just 50 days after Jesus ascended to heaven!
(2). And when you read passages like 1 Timothy 4 and 2 Timothy 3, where the last days are described, you will find the descriptions very familiar!
b. Brothers and Sisters, the only kingdom event left in God’s plan of salvation is the return of the Lord Jesus. Everything that comes before it is the last hour.
I saw a diagram of history that is quite helpful on this point.
History continues until the time of the coming of Jesus, as in
―――― First Coming Second Coming
So putting all of this together, in terms of the John’s situation, Christ had said that there would be many antichrists before He came again. So John did not need to know who THE antichrist was, he simply needed to expect and be ready for the Lord’s return.
And if you and I understand that we live in the last hour, and that there will be many antichrists before Jesus’ returns, this will keep us from getting caught up in the whole Who is THE antichrist, end-times ‘industry.’ The original WCoF stated that the Pope is THE Antichrist. Our calling is to expect and seek to be ready for the Lord’s return.
II. And that lifestyle of expectation and readiness is what we see in the rest of this passage. For having informed his readers about a constant enemy – ANTICHRIST, John then speaks of ANOINTING, which is why believers are equipped to recognize the enemy. And we see this in vv20-21.
A. And there are some very significant and beautiful word plays in this verse:
1. The first is the word “ANOINTED” in the first half of v20: “But you have been anointed by the Holy One.”
a. John has just alerted the church to the existence of an antichrist and many antichrists. Well, Christ is a title. It is a Greek word that means Anointed One. It refers to the anointing of Jesus with the Holy Spirit by the Father when Jesus was baptized.
b. And what does John say to his readers here? “You have been anointed by the Holy One.” Just as Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit, so you have been anointed by the Holy Spirit. And the Greek word translated as anointed is the word Chrisma. It comes from the same word group as Christ. So John is saying to believers, unlike the “false christs,” you are true “Christs”! There maybe AN Antichrist and many antichrists. But do not be discouraged because there is One Christ and many christs – many anointed ones – many Christians – many who have the same Holy Spirit that anointed Jesus living in them. And you, little children, are among them!
c. And this is what Jesus said the Holy Spirit would do in believers, “He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you … He will bear witness about me … He will guide you into all the truth … and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”
d. John’s message is not antichrist … woe! His message is antichrists, yes, but YOU HAVE THE HOLY SPIRIT!
2. But as the TV adverts put it, But wait! There’s more! For the second very significant and beautiful word play in these verses is found in the rest of vv20-21 and the mention of KNOWLEDGE: “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.”
a. Gnostic, you see, is a Greek word. It means one who knows, or one who has the knowledge. The Gnostics believed they had special spiritual knowledge, which is why they did not need the Bible or the parts of it they did not like. Their chief accusation against Christians was that they did not have the knowledge! And this accusation was leading the believers who had remained behind to doubt their salvation.
b. But John tells believer that the exact opposite is true: “You all have knowledge … you know [the truth].” And this is very closely tied with what we have just said about the believer’s anointing with the Spirit of truth who teaches them all things!
B. John has spoken about antichrist and THE antichrist. And the Bible talks about many being deceived by false signs. Do we all start to tremble now, and live in fear and doubt about such power? No, says John! You are anointed ones! You all know the truth! And the power of the Spirit of Christ makes the power of antichrists look like a caterpillar trying to knock down the Statue of Liberty!!
C. And oh how we need to hear this! If you are like me, there will have been times, especially when someone you know of or have read about, who once professed faith in Christ but who now denies Him, when you wonder if you will stay true to Him; if you could fall for the lies of a false teacher; if you might one day abandon Jesus because all the world’s famous and clever people keep telling you that you are an idiot. Well, be encouraged by the simply expressed confidence of John in the power of our anointing! I have the Spirit of truth!
III. And yet, we can’t just end there because John doesn’t just end there. So that is why we turn our attention lastly to the word ABIDING. For John also points his readers to the armour needed for the battle. And we see this in vv22-27.
A. From v22, we read, “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.”
1. The GNOSTICS did not believe that Jesus was the eternal Son of God. They did not believe in the virgin birth. They did not believe that Jesus rose from the dead physically and that His death and resurrection are at the core of our salvation. They simply believed that Jesus was a good man who redeems mankind from his ignorance by setting him free to know the wisdom of the kingdom. So they talked about Jesus a lot and they talked about kingdom and wisdom and death and resurrection and being born again by the Spirit, but they meant something entirely different than what the Bible means. The Jesus they preached was not the Jesus of the Bible. And it is exactly the same today with people like the ones I mentioned earlier in the service. They speak Christianese, if we give it a title. But a little bit of Google research will soon show you that what they teach is not what the Bible teaches. Therefore, says John they are liars and deniers and they do not have fellowship with the Father.
2. So who does have fellowship with the Father? We see it at the end of v23, “WHOEVER CONFESSES THE SON.” So what does it mean to confess the Son? Well, John explains that in vv24-27. He says, “Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you.” And if you turn back to ch.1:1, you find that same language there, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard…” John, together with the other Apostles, was an eye-witnesses of the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
• They learned about the miraculous circumstances of His birth.
• They saw what He did and they heard what He said.
• They saw Him die on the cross and ate fish with Him after His resurrection!
• They came to see that eternal life is found in Jesus Christ.
So, in v3, “that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us, and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” So, what the believers John wrote to heard from the beginning was the apostolic witness about the person and work of Jesus Christ.
So if you turn back to v24 of our text, John is saying, If what you believed then is what you believe now, “then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is His promise that He made to us – eternal life.”
All those who believe what the Bible reveals about who Jesus really is and what He did have fellowship with the Father and eternal life. That is what it means to “confess the Son.”
But this is not something you do once in your life and then after that it doesn’t matter what you believe or what you do. No, you continually confess the Son. That is the significance of the word ABIDE in these verses – remain/continue.
a. Marriage – ceremony/vows/Husband and wife. You can’t abandon your wife and go and live somewhere else and continue to tell everyone that you are married to her because of what happened back then. Being married requires daily and ongoing activity.
b. And as we have seen, for the believers John wrote to, that meant continuing to confess what they had heard from John. Well, John is not physically here. But by the power of the Holy Spirit, who caused John and the other disciples to write down what they had seen and heard about Jesus in the Bible, we have the apostolic witness of Jesus Christ in John’s letters and the Gospels and the other letters of the NT.
c. So in terms of our battle with antichrists, Ephesians 6:17 talks about “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” The Holy Spirit teaches us the truth and keeps us in the truth through the Bible. Preaching. Bible reading plans. Family worship Bible guide. Bible study.
d. “From the beginning” – Creeds and confessions. We are a confessional church. There have been many anointed persons since the time of John. I mentioned Irenaeus and Ploycarp earlier. We benefit from the things they have written about what the Bible teaches. Creeds and confessions summarize biblical truth for us – teach truth/defend against error. How many times … Bible study – its in the confessions!
(1). New members/PoF class. Creeds/confessions. “Jesus is Lord (Rom 10/Phil 2/Ethiopean Eunuch).” Enough in times of persecution. What do you need to know to confess this with understanding? Apostles Creed. Confessions of faith.
IV. Well, one last point in connection with the theological test. It says in v19, “They went out from us.” False teachers can come from anywhere but very often will be someone who sat next to us on the pew for many years. We see this in Acts 20 also. There Paul was talking with the elders from the Ephesian church. He said to them, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock … I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.” And indeed, a good case can be made for saying that John was an elder at Ephesus when he wrote this letter to the churches in that region.
A. So pray for your elders, that they may pay attention to themselves and to all the flock. PoF vows. Welcome the spiritual guidance of your elders. But they are not infallible. Again and again in the history of the church, it has been minister and elders that led the people into false theology. But the Lord has at times used an ‘ordinary’ person in the pew to help ministers and elders see their errors.
1. ABRAHAM KUYPER is one example. University/Seminary/Ministry. Liberal theology. Minister in the small, rural town of Beesd. Started to preach and visited all the members. Well, soon he came to Pietje Baltus, the 30 year old unmarried daughter of a farmer. Initially, she refused to shake his hand. But he was insistent so she agree but made it clear she would do this only because he was a fellow human being, not a brother in Christ. Well, these words came as quite a shock to him so he asked her what she meant. And she spoke to him for a full hour about what it means to live and die in the comfort of knowing Jesus Christ. He then had to leave and she thought it was the last she would see of him. But he returned the next day and they talked for two hours more. And the testimony of those in that church reveals that the sermons from Rev. Kuyper after he had met Pietje Baltus ere very different than the ones he preached before.
There are antichrists today. There will be an antichrist before the return of Jesus. But BECAUSE YOU BELIEVE THE TRUTH ABOUT CHRIST, YOU CAN RECOGNIZE AND RESIST ANTICHRISTS. You are anointed with the Holy Spirit and you have the word of truth. Make sure it is the foundation of your life, every day. Amen.