1 John Lesson Four: 1 John 2:18-27 – The Importance of Right Belief

18 Children, it is the last hour. And as you have heard, “Antichrist is coming,” even now many antichrists have come. We know from this that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. However, they went out so that it might be made clear that none of them belongs to us. 

20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you have knowledge. 21 I have not written to you because you don’t know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie comes from the truth. 22 Who is the liar, if not the one who denies that Jesus is the Messiah? This one is the antichrist: the one who denies the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son can have the Father; he who confesses the Son has the Father as well. 

24 What you have heard from the beginning must remain in you. If what you have heard from the beginning remains in you, then you will remain in the Son and in the Father.  25 And this is the promise that He Himself made to us: eternal life. 26 I have written these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 

27 The anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you don’t need anyone to teach you. Instead, His anointing teaches you about all things and is true and is not a lie; just as He has taught you, remain in Him. (HCSB)

I will split this lesson into two parts.

  • The Antichrist and false believers – verses 18-23.
  • Remaining steadfast and obedient – verses 24-27.

The Antichrist and False Believers

John’s letter was written to believers who were facing many of the same challenges we face today, false teachers (antichrists) who lead people away from the true Gospel and Scripture. These individuals, both then and now, tear apart the unity which should be present in the church. The antichrists follow and teach heretical Christology and lead believers astray and in opposition to Christ. Let’s look at the challenges facing the readers of John’s letter.

  • The antichrists were secessionists. Instead of maintaining unity, they left the church.
  • They taught a docetic Christology; Jesus’ human body was an illusion. They only believed in the divinity of Jesus and not the human element.
  • There were some who only believed in the human side, not believing that Jesus was also God.
  • Either interpretation is possible depending on how one understands verse twenty-two.

Today there are several false teachings that have risen in the church.

  • The idea of more than two genders.
  • The acceptance of same-sex marriage. 
  • The prosperity Gospel. 
  • Avoiding teaching the holiness of God and the dangers of sin.

There are more, but these are probably the main ones you may face in today’s church. However, John makes it clear these antichrists shouldn’t discourage us or make us surprised. Scripture is clear that in the “last days,” the period after Christ’s resurrection and before His return, there will be false teachers, and people will search after the “truth” that is attractive to them. 

Verse nineteen contains a two-pronged warning.

  • The shallow teaching and lack of discipleship prevalent in the modern church have created believers who will abandon the faith at the first sign of challenges or persecution.
    • Scripture is clear that following Jesus comes at a cost.
      • Believers aren’t guaranteed an easy life.
      • Sacrifice is often required of believers.
      • Believes may be sent to a location they wouldn’t choose.
      • Hardship, at some point, is to be expected.
    • Many modern churches don’t disciple believers, both new and mature.
      • When we look at how Jesus interacted with those around Him, we see a system where He taught, and then they applied the teaching. 
      • Discipleship isn’t a six or twelve-week course; it is a lifestyle that results in transformation.
      • Biblical teaching is often offensive and runs counter to the world. Yet, that is precisely how believers should live.
  • There are antichrists, wolves, in both leadership roles as well as in the general congregation.
    • Those in leadership roles are more dangerous.
      • They use their position to promote false teaching.
      • They will accuse those who disagree with them of being intolerant or not expressing “love.”
      • At times they can bring an entire church down or lead a large group away from the faith.
    • The congregational wolves may not create as much widespread damage, but they shouldn’t be underestimated. They can be just like cancer, slowly spreading their damage through the church.

What do we have to protect ourselves from these dangers? John talks about anointing and knowledge.

  • The anointing clearly points to the Holy Spirit.
    • Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit at the beginning of His ministry.
    • Scripture teaches that Jesus will send the “Spirit of truth” in John 14:17.
    • The Holy Spirit will teach believers all things – John 14:26.
  • The knowledge points to the Bible.
    • We are taught about God.
    • We are taught how to be obedient and what is expected.
    • We are warned about false teachers.
    • The Bible is the sole source of truth and instruction in a fallen world.

When John is talking about the truth, he is talking about Scripture. If we are followers of Christ, we should be immersing ourselves in reading the Bible. If we do that, we are constantly feeding on the truth. When believers don’t constantly immerse themselves in Scripture, they are in danger of falling for lies and falling away from God.

John now switches from believers who know and follow the truth to those who deny the truth contained in Scripture.

  • The main lie John addresses here is the false teaching that Jesus is not the Messiah.
    • Those who deny that Jesus is the Messiah are on the side of the antichrist.
    • John uses the word “liar” as a connotation for the devil.
    • In Johannine theology, the height of heresy is the denial of Jesus as the Messiah.
  • The designation of antichrist has a two-fold meaning.
    • In one sense, it is the specific apocalyptic figure who will arise at the end of time.
    • It also is a designation for anyone who opposes Jesus by rejecting His true identity.
  • In both cases, the end result is both the Father and the Son.
    • While the false teachers may not have denied the Father, their actions created a different consequence for them.
    • By denying that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, the Father is implicitly denied.
    • Therefore, by denying that Jesus is the Messiah, they demonstrate they never truly knew the Father.
    • Acceptance of denial of Jesus is equivalent to acceptance of denial of the Father – John 10:30 The Father and I are one.
  • A person who denies the Son has no child-parent relationship with God. A believer enters a relationship with the Father through their relationship with Jesus. Matthew 10:32-33 “Therefore, everyone who will acknowledge Me before men, I will also acknowledge him before My Father in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father in heaven.”

Remaining Steadfast and Obedient

As we begin this section, there are two important points to emphasize.

  • John hammers home the point of steadfast faithfulness with the word “remain.” He uses it three times in verse twenty-four.
    • The relationship where the believer remains firmly rooted with God through their relationship with Jesus can’t be underemphasized. It is key to the entire relationship.
    • John highlights the order, first through the Son and then through the Father. As mentioned previously, without a relationship with the Son, there is no relationship with the Father.
    • When the relationship is done according to Scripture, the believer gets a relationship with the Son and the Father.
  • The second point to discuss is the meaning of “what you have heard from the beginning.”
    • There are three possible interpretations of this phrase. Let’s look at each one in increasing relevance.
      • It could refer to Jesus’ preexistence with the Father.
      • It could refer to the possibility of the readers hearing Jesus’ message in person during His time of ministry.
      • It is most likely referring to the original apostolic message prior to and at their time of conversion.
    • This would contrast with the false message the heretics were speaking and which John was warning them about. 

Verse twenty-five begins with “and,” indicating a blessing we receive when we remain in what we’ve heard from the beginning. Let’s look at a couple of things from this verse.

  • The Greek form of the verb is present tense, indicating the promise is available now for those who believe Jesus is the Messiah.
  • Who does “the promise that He…made” refer to?
    • The structure of the grammar allows it to refer to both the Father and the Son.
    • However, from a functional standpoint, the promise of eternal life comes from the Father through the Son.
    • Through this section, John stresses the relationship with both the Father and the Son. Therefore, it makes the best sense to interpret that John is referring to both with the term “He.”
  • The promise is eternal life. The promise should be understood in a two-pronged meaning.
    • It refers to the future promise of eternal life with the Father and Son.
    • It also refers to the present experience of a relationship with the Father and the Son.
    • In both John’s Gospel and this letter, eternal life refers to both the present and the future.
      • The forgiveness of sins has moved the believer from darkness to light in the present age.
      • The defeat of sin and death through the cross and the resurrection of Jesus secures the believer a future dwelling place in the kingdom of God.

As John moves into verse twenty-six, he returns to the warning about the false teachers, the antichrists.

  • The false teachers believed and were teaching a false doctrine.
  • Their goal was to drag others away from the faith.
  • Not only was this a danger in John’s time, but it also a danger we face today with false teachers. Believers need to be on guard against false teaching, challenge it, and warn others when they identify it.

As John moves into the final verse of this passage, he tells the readers to remain rooted in the teaching and illumination of the Holy Spirit.

  • John is referring to a linking of the Spirit and the Word in this verse.
    • The Word is the source of absolute truth, and the Spirit enables us to understand this truth and gives us the strength to put it into practice.
    • When the two are combined, it gives the believer the ability to discern and avoid false teachers and teaching.
  • The reader might misunderstand and think John is telling them they don’t need human teachers.
    • John does not deny the importance of sound human teaching.
    • The fact John wrote this epistle to the readers is proof that John values human teaching.
  • John ends this passage with the phrase, “remain in Him.” This reminds us of Jesus’ words in John 15:4, “remain in Me.” To remain in Jesus is only possible when the believer has a close personal relationship with the Father through the Son.

Applications

  • Believers need to cling to the truth that Jesus is the divine Son of God. Jesus is both fully human and fully divine. Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, was crucified, died, was buried, and on the third day, He rose and sits at the right hand of the Father.
  • Let the Spirit lead your life. The Spirit should both illuminate you to the truth in Scripture as well as those who spew false teaching. 
  • When we identify false teaching, we need to confront it and warn others about it. It’s not enough to do only one. Suppose we saw a criminal but didn’t warn others; that wouldn’t be right. The same idea applies to false teachers. It’s not enough to identify them. We also need to warn others, so they aren’t harmed by them.

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