The Importance of Christology
The Gospel According to Jesus: Against Antichrist
Text: I John 2: (17)18 – 25
Introduction: The last few months we are studying the First Epistle of John and so far we are learning what it means to walk in the light. That involves: keeping His commandments (2:3), loving one another (2:10), rejoice in the forgiveness of our sins (2: 12), and not loving the world (2:15). In verse 17, He ends with a note “the world is passing away, and also its lust, but the one who does the will of God abides forever.” There is an end to this world and Christians want to do the will of the Father till then. That is to walk in the light continually. I am not a movie-goer but lately a lot of movies that features the “end time” come to the theater near you. Considering what is happening in the world you start wonder, the end of the world is near. The first century Christians were in the same situation. There were a lot of books and letters written about the end time. Many Christians were going through severe persecutions and faced the martyr’s death. We don’t quite understand the book of Revelation but imagine, for those who were going through terrible persecutions, it was the book of hope that God will exterminate evils and bring the eternal rest for them. They did not have a clear chronological map of the end time like we have (though there are so many); they were anticipating the appearing of Jesus. But they also knew that the antichrist will come before that. Surprisingly John says, it is the last hour (Acts 2: 17; Heb. 1:1, 2) and antichrist is here. This is the problem embracing his community, division. Let’s look at the problem.
I. Problem Stated: Antichrist and the last hour vss. 18, 19
A. Removal (Separation) vs. 19a
Some people removed themselves from John’s community and started their own and teaching different doctrine, not only teaching false doctrine but tried to deceive John’s people.
2:26 says, “I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray.”
Also in 3:7, “Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray.”
Don’t you concern if your loving people are lead to wrong teaching? As a shepherd of the flock, John tries everything to prevent that. Church did not kick them out but they separated themselves. Proverbs 18:1 says, “He who separates himself seeks his own desire, he quarrels against all sound wisdom.” We think of antichrist as someone who stands against God and His people and appears at the final consummation of the time. But according to John it is here at all time and even within hundred year of the crucifixion of our Lord.
I John 4:3 says,
“every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.” Spirit of the antichrist.
Also 2 John 7 says,
“For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.”
Now preposition “anti” means “in place of,” synonymous to “pseudo” means “false.” In this context, it means “rival Christ” and therefore, it’s an “opponent of Christ.” Now “antichrist” is only used in the epistle of John (2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 7). In other word, it seems, John invented this word, rather than using “pseudochrist” (false) which Jesus used (Matt. 24:24; Mark 13:22). It is a stronger meaning against those who against Christ’s teaching.
B. Purpose (Selection by God) vs. 19b
It is a sad thing to witness a division in the church but if it’s a matter of truth, God Himself screens and cleanses His body. There was a purpose of this division. Verse 19b in NIV says, “but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” But this does not reflect the original meaning of this verse. NASV says, “in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us.” It is called “purpose clause,” the purpose of this division is that it becomes clear who are the true believes in the Lord. It is a God’s way of cleansing His flock to maintain pure doctrine. So division is OK, if the truth is in stake, but if it is because of our sin and preferences, it is a grave sin to cause division. In John’s case, it was very clear that those who left the group believed in wrong teaching. A commentator Plummer says, “Apostasy is possible, but only for those who have never really made Christ their own, never fully given themselves to Him.” They almost succeeded in persuading the John’s flock. But John says, “You have provisions from the Lord to understand the truth from false.”
II. Provisions: Sings of believers vss. 20, 21
“But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.” 2:20
We who truly believe and yield to the Lord have an anointing. It is natural for us to think of this “anointing” as the anointing of the Holy Spirit and I think so too, but it is very interesting John never mention about Holy Spirit in this passage. Many scholars think that those who are in the side of wrong may have claimed the special anointing of the Holy Spirit so that they have a special knowledge (gnosis). So here John says, “No, we are the ones who have this anointing from the Holy One.” Peter called Jesus “Holy One of God” in John 6:69. The word translated into “anointing” is “Chrisma.” Noun form appears only in this verse in the NT and twice in verse 27. A verb form appears in 2 Cor. 1:21, 22 which say,
Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
Here Paul separates the anointing by Christ the Lord and the sealing by the Holy Spirit. Then look at Eph. 1:13 which says,
“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,”
See, possibility is that we are anointed by the word of God then sealed by the Holy Spirit. So “anointing” may mean by the word of God. Those people who separated themselves claimed the anointing of the Holy Spirit to possess the special knowledge about Christ but here John affirms his people that they are the ones who have the objective word of God’s truth which brings objective measure in the situation. Smalley says, “The faithful, that is to say, are those who have (inwardly) received the gospel of truth, and made it their own through the activity of the Spirit (cf. 1 Thess 1:5,6); thereby they possess the antidote to heresy.” This is the reason, I believe, John says we are to abide in what we heard in the beginning. Verse 24,
“See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father.”
There is a play on the word here. Christ is the Anointed One: “Christos” and we have His anointing in the word and in the Spirit, “Chrisma" and those who are apostate thought they had anointing but actually they are “anti-christoi” (antichrists). Against the anointing that is against the Anointed One. This is the severity of the Lord who allows anyone to fall into apostate if one insists on the wrong understanding. In that it is from within the church. Paul warns this to elders in Ephesus in Acts 20:30,
“Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.”
But don’t be fearful says, John. Because, you all know the truth.
B. Knowledge vs. 21
He does this with negative first, “I have not written to you because you do not know the truth.” Then positive, “but because you know it.” Genuine (true) believers are not those who do not understand the truth but able to distinguish truth from falsehood.
Then John defines antichrist further.
III. Problem Defined: Christology vss. 22, 23
Antichrists are those who deny the humanity and divinity of Christ. Those apostates did not believe Christ is the God’s anointed One who took the form of man and became just like us. Jesus said in John 12:44, “He who believes in Me does not believe in Me, but in Him who sent Me.” No one can deny the One and not the other. Those who denied the humanity of Christ was called Docetism (from Greek Dokein, “to seem,”) because they held that Jesus only seemed to be human. We all know this is a false teaching but in all our area of life, how we understand Jesus Christ becomes so crucial for walking in the light. All religion in the world, view toward Christ determines the truth or false. This includes Christians as well. There are so many different Jesus among Christians and that we have hard time formulating our own faith. Marshall says, “The message must continue to be present and active in the lives of those who have heard it. They must continually call it to mind and let it affect their lives. This is why continual study of the Word and participation in Christian instruction is so important for perseverance in the faith.”
We must abide, means “remain” or “stay,” in what we heard from the beginning. Then we have sure assurance of eternal life. Promise involves Perseverance.
IV. Promise of Perseverance vss. 24, 25
We are not called to life of happiness but we are called to the life of obedience. That is what it means to “walk in the light.” God granted us this wonderful life of journey with Him. Famous reformer John Calvin said, “Those who fall away have never thoroughly imbued with the knowledge of Christ but only had a slight and passing taste of it.” True grace will bring forth what God planned in the Son and it is only granted when we take the Gospel as it was preached according to Jesus Christ. John 15: 1 - 4
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes a so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
a The Greek for prunes also means cleans.