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It’s a real privilege to speak to you tonight. Thank you for having me. Carol and I have been really loved by Christ Covenant. As a family we’re very grateful to be members of this church. I’m thankful for all the ways you’ve supported us and prayed for us, particularly the past few months with little Cedrick. Thank you, thank you, we are so grateful to be here and it is a real privilege to speak to you tonight from God’s Word.
It’s also a special night tonight. My parents have flown in all the way from Dublin today just to be here, just to hear me preach, which is nice of them. It’s about midnight, 11:00/midnight for them, so if you do see them kind of drifting, their eyes closing, they’re probably just thinking really hard about the sermon. So.
This morning when we were heading off to church, normally we ask the kids what should we pray for as we go to church this morning, and before I got in the car Caroline and Beatrix were in the car and Bebe, she poked up and said, “Mommy, when Daddy gets in the car, we should pray.” And Caroline said, “What should we pray?” “That we would listen with our ears and not with our mouth” was what she said, which was really sweet. Then Archie, as I was leaving him tonight to come here, he shouted after me, “Daddy, say good things.” So I think as we turn to God’s Word we’ll pray, we’ll ask that God would give us listening ears and that God would help me to say good things.
Let’s do that before we open God’s Word.
Father God in heaven, we thank You so much that You are a speaking God who speaks to us in the Bible. We pray that You would give us ears that would hear and with the measure that we use would be measured back to us. Help me, now, Lord, to say good things, to say true things, to say helpful things, things that pertain to everlasting life, things that pertain to Christ. I ask this in His name, for His glory. Amen.
Tonight we’re taking our reading, continuing our series in 1 John. I’ll be reading and preaching from chapter 2, verses 18 to 27. So let’s listen to the perfect Word of God. 1 John, chapter 2, verse 18.
“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 He taught you, abide in Him.”
This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
How do you feel about false teachers? Are you bothered when you hear of men who were once faithful Christians who then turn their back on the faith and are committed to the promotion of error? Perhaps you’ve come across these terms, kind of trendy terms, those deconstructing the faith or ex-vangelicals. And maybe the Christian preachers, authors, or musicians that we’ve admired, that we’ve benefited from, or be they people that we maybe know more intimately, maybe a mentor, a friend, a parent or a child. Are you bothered when you hear of false teachers?
I’m not asking are you irritated by the fact that they’re teaching error. Neither am I asking do you feel sad that they’ve left. Of course, it’s sad, they’ve left us, they’ve left the faith, they’ve left the Church, they’ve left Christ.
What I’m asking is have you ever maybe felt a sense of __? A sense that they may have had a good reason for rejecting the faith? You know, given their learning, the strength of their newfound convictions, the rejection of their old convictions, our convictions, perhaps maybe it might be we might be wrong.
Well, in our text tonight, John, he moves to discuss the doctrinal errors of antichrist. Now his concern is not to turn us into an army of heresy hunters, but rather his aim is to reassure us, reassure us in the face of false teaching of the certainty of what we have been taught. So rather than being a people who fixates or frets or just dwells on the presence of antichrists in our world, John, he exhorts us to three things.
First, to dwell on our anointing.
Second, to let our confession of Christ dwell in us.
And finally, and so ultimately dwell in Christ.
Three things we’ll be thinking about this evening.
So firstly, John wants us not to dwell on the antichrists but rather dwell on your anointing.
In verse 18, John speaks of antichrist and antichrists, many antichrists. Now there are many good men much wiser, wiser men than me, who believe that antichrist refers to a supremely wicked opponent of the Church whose future coming is the final threat that precedes Christ’s return. But I think we’ve got to be careful and we’ve got to note that John says nothing else here about this figure. In fact, verse 18 seems to maybe subvert those expectations of a singular enemy. So now many antichrists have come.
Later in verse 22 the antichrist is anyone who denies key Christian doctrines. Significantly, the word “antichrist” only appears twice more in our Bibles in the New Testament, and both places are in the letters of John, 1 John 4:3, just a few chapters on, and then in 2 John verse 7. On both those occasions, their describing false teachers generally rather than a specific big bad guy.
John spends no time elaborating on the coming of a singular antichrist, so neither are we. We’re just going to move swiftly on.
For John’s concern here isn’t about a final future antichrist, but the many present antichrists.
John gives us four initial reasons why Christians shouldn’t worry about the presence of false teachers and antichrists in our world.
The first, twice in verse 18, John says it is the last hour. This is the period of time following Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension, and before His return to judge the earth, what elsewhere in the New Testament calls the last days, the days in which we still are living. It’s in these days, in this last hour, the Church of Jesus is being built from every nation under heaven. This is also the hour in which the Church will inevitably face satanic and godless resistance. Just as when a wild animal is backed into the corner and his fangs, his claws come out, so in the last hour the claws of antichrist and the fangs of false teaching emerge.
Brothers and sisters, we’ve got to be realistic. As the Church grows as time goes on, as Christ’s return grows ever closer, as the Church grows, antichrists will grow. False teachers will be present in our world. This is exactly verse 18. John says, “As you have heard.”
Back in Matthew 24, Jesus warns specifically of false Christs and false prophets who would come to terrorize and plague the Church.
Later in chapter 4 John identifies the antichrist as false prophets. Jesus told us this would be normal, par for the course, so fear not. It’s all part of the plan. Nothing’s going wrong when we see these men teaching error in our day and age.
A second reason John gives not to worry, verse 19. He says, “They went out from us, but they were not of us, for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.”
Often what’s most upsetting when we do hear of false teaching is that it comes from those who are feigning to be or those who formally were Christian leaders, pastors, theologians, authors. Those who have devoted their lives to the study and the teaching of the faith, then they went on to forsake us. What’s going on? Have they discovered something we haven’t? What have I missed?
Well, the wonderful truth is that, for us anyway, is that they never discovered the truth in the first place. In leaving the faith, they showed they never had the faith. It’s not that we haven’t discovered something, it’s that they never discovered it. They haven’t ceased to believe the faith because they never truly believed. Antichrists, they never belonged to Christ.
A third reason John doesn’t want us to worry, verse 20, is because we have been anointed by the Holy One.
Here’s a question. When sharing your faith, when kink of giving your testimony, have you ever described yourself as anointed? I know I haven’t. Yet that’s how John describes Christians here. Verse 27, check it out. We have received the anointing, it’s an anointing that abides in us. It teaches us about everything.
What’s going on? Well, anointing refers to the special ritual where a person is marked with a special oil to signify that they’ve been set apart for a special job. In the Old Testament there were several groups of people who were anointed for special tasks. You had the priests, who were anointed for temple service; you had kings, who were anointed to rule; and prophets, who were anointed to speak to God’s people, anointed to speak God’s Word. Prophets, priests, and kings. They were the anointed ones.
This is actually why Jesus is called the Christ, because He is the anointed One. Christ is simply the Greek word for “anointed one.” He is our prophet, our priest, and our king. His anointing was not with oil, but it was with the Holy Spirit. He was anointed at His baptism. He claims as much in Luke 4 and the Apostles tell us that in Acts 10. At His baptism, Jesus was formally called and equipped to carry out His earthly mission. He was declared publicly by God to be God’s beloved Son.
So for Christ to have been anointed is He received the Holy Spirit, to be anointed with the Holy Spirit. For us to be anointed, it means the same thing, to have received the Holy Spirit. Yet this time, from Jesus. To be anointed is be one who has received the Holy Spirit from Jesus, to have been born again by the Holy Spirit, to be set apart and sanctified by the Holy Spirit, filled with the person and presence of the Holy Spirit, enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit to hold fast to Jesus and to walk in His ways.
There’s a play on words here that you miss in English. The false teachers, as antichrists, are literally the anti-anointed ones, whereas we are those who have received the anointing. The word in the original language is __, Christ, you can kind of hear the similarity. If they are the antichrists, well, we are the Christed, or the christened. We are those in whom the Holy Spirit dwells, those who are taught by the Holy Spirit, kept by the Holy Spirit, who belong to the Holy Spirit. We, as Christians, are those anointed with the holiest of oils, God Himself.
So rather than fretting or fixating about the antichrists in the world, we are to be a people who take heart, take comfort, in that Christ has christened us for Himself, made us His own.
A fourth reason John doesn’t want us to worry in verse 20 – “You all have knowledge,” is what John teaches us. Later in 27, “His anointing teaches you about everything.” Teaches you about everything.
I’m sure our high schoolers, college students, and even my fellow seminarians, we’d love to be taught everything in time for midterms and finals, but John’s point here isn’t that Christians possess omniscience, that we know everything that could ever possibly be known, but rather that we all have the knowledge that we need to truly know God. There is no secrets or special knowledge known only to a few that most Christians don’t have access to, that we must discover or receive in order to be truly saved.
John’s point is that if we receive the prophetic and apostolic Word in the Bible, we have all the knowledge we need for salvation, for worship, for godliness, to know God as our God and Father. It’s in this book.
It’s likely that the antichrists were teaching they alone had received a new and special anointing from God, they had a special knowledge, deeper insights, fresh interpretations of the faith. What John asserts here in contrast to that is that every Christian who can access what was first heard, if we can access the apostolic testimony, if we can read or hear the New Testament, we have all knowledge, and all of us have that knowledge.
When John speaks of the teaching of the Holy Spirit, the teaching of the anointing in verse 27, he’s not saying that the Holy Spirit teaches us new words, but rather He convinces and persuades us of the truth of these first words.
John’s encouragement in the face of false teachers is that we need not be intimidated by their learning or their confidence, but rather we are to be those inspired and cheered by what we have already received, the anointing and knowledge that has come from Christ Himself to us.
Of course, all this talk of antichrists and anointing raises the question, “What exactly are these antichrists teaching? How do their lies deviate from the truth? What is the truth? What is the truth I need to know, to believe?”
Well, our second thought for tonight, don’t dwell on the antichrists. Rather, let the confession of Christ dwell in you.
Verse 21. John writes to reassure us of the truth that we’ve received by calling out the lies of the antichrist.
Verse 22 – “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?”
John’s antichrists. They’re not denying Jesus’ messiah-ship as such, but rather they’re specifically denying His divinity, His God-ness. It’s likely they confessed a love for, a loyalty to Jesus as a man, as a good teacher. But they stopped short at acknowledging Him to be the Christ, or the eternal Son of the Father.
Again, maybe a bit confusingly, they did believe in Christ, but they recoiled at this idea that Christ, that the Son could have come in human flesh.
A few chapters over in chapter 4, John goes back to elaborate on their error. In 4, verse 2, he talks about how the antichrist denied Jesus Christ came in the flesh. That is, that Jesus was the Christ, the divine Christ, they denied that the Christ has become incarnate in Jesus.
Then in 4, verse 3, they denied Jesus is from the Father, that the man Jesus could have been from God as a divine man.
You see, for them, for the antichrists, there was Jesus, the ordinary man who was not divine, and there was the Christ, the Son, the divine spirit or presence who was not incarnate. There were two separate beings.
Christian history, Christian tradition, identifies a man called Cerinthus as one of the antichrists that John may have had in his sights. Cerinthus, we know, he told that Jesus was an ordinary man. He told that this man Jesus, that He received at His baptism the divine presence, the Christ, and the Christ remained with Him all His life up until His crucifixion at which point the Christ left Him, so it was only the man who died.
This theology, this anti-theology, if you will, by so dividing the person of Jesus Christ into man Jesus and God Christ, this anti-theology could be then used to justify a whole range of ethical and spiritual errors. All the errors that we’ve seen so far in the book of 1 John, a low view of sin, a low view of our bodies, a low view of one another, and the physical was bad, the spiritual was good. That’s why the divine Christ could never become incarnate in their view because He would become tainted by the flesh of man.
You see, if the physical is bad and the divine is good, what we do in our bodies, to ourselves or to one another, it doesn’t matter. What matters is communion with God. Yet this view, this teaching, is utter darkness, lies. It is heresy.
There is no human Jesus who is not also the divine Son. He is one person. One person with two distinct natures – a human nature and a divine nature. God the Son, He did not cease to be God when He became incarnate, when He became a human. Rather, He added to Himself an additional new human nature. He was conceived, born, lived, died, and rose as a human. There was no and is no Jesus who was not and is not God the Son, the eternal divine Christ.
The person of God the Son always had, and still has, a divine nature, yet since the moment He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, God the Son also now has a fully human nature. To deny that full and proper divinity and humanity of the one person of Jesus, to deny this is to deny Jesus. There can be no Jesus unless He is fully human and fully divine.
Our salvation rests upon receiving and resting upon Christ as He is actually offered to us in the Gospel, as He is revealed to us in the Scriptures. Any alternative Jesus is no Lord or Savior. Any alternative Jesus cannot hold us fast as we were singing earlier. See, only a man can die for us and only God can save us. Only a man like us can die in our place for our sins, taking the punishment that our sins deserve. Only God is worthy and righteous enough to make atonement and bring about salvation, a salvation we all so desperately need.
Come back with me to verse 23: “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.”
One of the reasons the early Church and the Church throughout history has used creeds and confessions and Catechisms is to clearly articulate the truth, to summarize, not replace, what the Bible teaches. They are no more than aids to our understanding. They are dependent on and subject to the perfect Word of God, tools to teach us and guides to protect us from false teaching.
To deny Jesus as He’s offered to us in the Gospel is to deny Jesus, and to deny Jesus is to deny the Father. For only Jesus reveals the Father, only Jesus reveals God the Father in mercy, in love, forgiveness, and covenant faithfulness. Only in Jesus do we truly see the extent of God’s brilliant holiness. That’s why Jesus said He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is the only way to know God personally, certainly, savingly, and everlastingly.
It needs to be said, then, doesn’t it, that the religions of the world that lay some claim to Jesus yet deny Him as He’s revealed to us in the Scriptures, as true man and true God, are not of the Holy Spirit, and do not have Jesus, do not have the Father, and do not have life. Islam teaches that Jesus was just a human prophet, a mere man. Muslims do not know the Father. Mormonism teaches that Jesus is a holy, separate, distinct being, apart from God. Mormons do not know the Son, nor do they know the Father. Jehovah’s Witnesses teach Jesus was a created being, a mere man in His incarnation. In denying the Son, they deny the Father.
Of course, these are men and women, made in God’s image. These are our neighbors. We want to befriend them, love them, serve them, speak gently with them. But we are not of them, they are not of us, for they are not of Christ.
Let’s not be deceived. Rather, let the truth abide in us, the confession of Christ, the Scriptures’ testimony about Christ, let that dwell in us. Let us be those who pray that it would abide in them also, that they would come to know Jesus and in coming to know Him, they would come to know the Father.
Jesus as He is revealed to us in the Bible is the only way to the Father, yet the fact that He is the way, the fact that He is the only way, that means there is a way. It’s not good news. There is a way. God can be known. Not just known about, but known personally as our loving heavenly Father, both now and forever. Don’t miss the significance of this. Our joy is not simply that we can know God, but that we who confess Jesus as our Lord and Savior, that we are those who do know God. In and through and with Christ, you have God.
God is your Father. In Christ we can have fellowship with the Creator of all things. We know that we are loved by Him and we can love Him in return. To confess Jesus, to confess Him is to let what we’ve heard from the beginning abide in us. That is, to let the truth as it comes to us in the Bible live in us, remain in us, shape us, inform us, guide us, teach us in every aspect of our lives. To let the Word abide in us is to regularly expose ourselves as to its teaching and preaching, to its counsels and commands, its promises and precepts, its direction. And yes, to let the Word abide in us is actually to be those who confess it, who publicly cry out together and declare what we believe.
There’s nothing magical about saying creeds, about reading portions of Scripture, ___ together in worship, but they are powerful expressions of our faith. Truly spiritual acts of worship. When we make a statement corporately about what we believe, we are honoring God together by professing our allegiance to the flag of faith, the faith that He has taught us, the faith that saves us.
Just bask in the beauty of how John ends this thought in verse 24. He says: “And this is the promise that He made to us—eternal life.” Literally, he says this is the promise that He promised to us, eternal life.
To truly confess Jesus means salvation, forgiveness of sins, forever fellowship and family with the everlasting God. Jesus Himself promised us this precious promise. Our salvation isn’t just conjecture, wishful thinking or a hot take on our part, but a promise signed in Jesus’ blood, declared in His resurrection, applied to us by His Holy Spirit.
John 5:24 – “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in Him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment but is passed from death to life.”
John 6:40 – “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day.”
John 10:28 – “I give them eternal life and they will never perish and no one will snatch them out of My hand.”
John 11:24 – “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live.”
This is the promise which our Savior promised us. Let His words dwell in you, define you, and drive you back to Him. We see false teaching in our world. Let us not be those who dwell on or are bothered by or get hung up, who stumble or shaken by their words, but let us be those who dwell in our Savior, our Savior Jesus Christ.
See the very last words of our text tonight: Abide in Him. To be those anointed or christened by Christ, to have received the Holy Spirit, to be those taught by the Holy Spirit, to have Him dwell within us. For all of us to have knowledge of all things pertaining to salvation and eternal life is really to know and believe this one thing – that our life, our hope, our growth, our godliness, our love, all rest and depend upon Jesus.
So let us then, brothers and sisters, continue to be a people who trust in Him. Let us continue to trust in what the Scriptures teach us about Him. Let us continue to seek Him day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment. Let us come to Him in faith and in prayer, seeking His grace, His strength. Seeking conviction to live for Him in a world full of false teaching and antichrists. When those doubts arise, brothers and sisters, return to Jesus, He who is the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father. God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not created, of one being with the Father. Return to Him through whom all things were made, who for us and for our salvation came down from heaven and by the power of the Holy Spirit became incarnate of the Virgin Mary and was made man. This is our Jesus.
Let not the lies of the false teachers drive you to despair or distract you from the grace, from the glory of your Lord and Savior. Dwell on your anointing. Let the confession of Christ dwell within you, so dwell in Him.
Let’s pray that God would grant us to be people who dwell in Him this week. Father God in heaven, we thank You for Your Son, for sending Him, to take on our flesh, to be our Savior, to live for us, to die for us, to rise for us, to live for us at Your right hand, to intercede for us. We thank You. It is humbling to consider that those who profess Christ can fall, but reassuring to know that those who have faith, true faith, do no depart from You, because You hold them fast. Lord, would You keep us in Christ this week? Keep us running to Christ. When doubts arise, would we run to Him. Look upon Him in all His grace and glory. Receive and rest upon Him as He is offered to us in the Scriptures. Please, Lord, hear our prayer, in His name, for His sake. Amen.