Gems in the Letter of 1 John - Part 108
Aug 5th,2017

Gems in the Letter of 1 John

Part 108 - 1 John 2:20
The Truth

John said, “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.” Oh, dear – that sounds difficult!
He then goes on to say, “I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.”

That is all rather bluntly put. John kind of ‘shoots from the hip’ as they say. Depending on the culture we are in we may not be used to people saying what they mean quite as bluntly as that. There are two factors here. One is that John lived in a society where people spoke out very bluntly. In those days it was normal to call your antagonist in an argument by all sorts of not very nice names. The other is that John saw very clearly that you are either a Christian, a follower of Jesus, a believer in him, or not. We have a tendency in many cultures today to think it is very important thing not to hurt anyone’s feelings. So we wrap our opinion of someone’s status in faith up by saying things like ‘not yet a follower of Jesus’, ‘ a fringe member of the church’, or ‘she is a real believer underneath’. John did not do things like that.
The give away word for how important all this is is ‘antichrist’. That means that the problem in John’s church was not simple – it was of deeply spiritual significance. When we join a church or fellowship we become part of it and it is deeply significant if we leave it; it is not a case of changing membership of one local organisation for another.

We do not know for sure what happened in John’s fellowship. John describes it by saying that those who left “denied that Jesus is the Christ, or Messiah”, presumably by thinking that someone else was. Our modern equivalent of that is getting into problems with the concept of the Trinity. Time and again in the history of the church somebody has thought they are the first to realise it is difficult to understand the Trinity. They have rejected the accepted idea of the nature of Christ, and led other people after them. There is no space here to go into detail about this but, perhaps rather simplistically: if Jesus was not human he would not have been able to die on the cross in our place; if he had not been something more than human – God himself walking this earth - he could only have died for himself, not for you and me. So if he had not been fully human and also fully divine his death would not have been an effective atonement for our sins and we would still be un-reconciled to God the Father and without hope for this world and the next.

Then there is the further problem of how the Spirit fits into the Godhead and what his presence means in terms of how we know what we know about things spiritual. There are hints of that here: “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth”. … ” As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.” We all have a problem of being sure when it is the Spirit talking to us and when it is us talking to ourselves. John resolves that problem by refering to “what you have heard from the beginning”. That phrase is exactly the same as the one in the very first verse of the epistle, in other words he goes right back to the things that actually happened and the things that had been written down about them.

And we should do the same. Our understanding of what the Spirit is saying to us is subject to the vagaries of our self-understanding. The events of the faith and the things written about them, the Bible, are not subject to the same problems. Cling to Scripture. Test all other ideas, thoughts, even what we think are visions and words from the Lord by Scripture, particularly the New Testament, the words of Jesus and his closest apostles. They alone are sure, certain and to be completely relied on.

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