Studies in 1 John: Spiral 2 (Part 1)

1johndesign“This is the antichrist,” says John. The mystery is solved by the apostle. John doesn’t give us names and dates, but he gives a clear picture of the reality of the antichrist, or rather “antichrists” (v. 18). “This is the antichrist, ” he writes, “he who denies the Father and the Son.” That simple definition makes plan what it means to be the antichrist and, in fact, reveals that there are many antichrists. To be a Christian, on the other hand, means to believe in the Father and the Son. In particular, John says here that one of the tests of salvation is belief in the divinity of Jesus. A true Christians believes the truth about the person of Jesus.

I am so glad that John wrote this letter. Debates about the nature of Christ did not end in the second century. Debates about the person, character, and particularly the divinity of Jesus have continued up to the present day. In John’s first epistle he is writing to both correct the teachings of a group of heretics in the church, and to encourage the true believers in their faith in the divine Son of God. Nearly every section of John’s epistle vacillates between instruction, warning, and assurance. This section is no different. So Curtis Vaughan writes:

In the present passage there is that same triple strand of instruction, warning, and assurance. The instruction mainly concerns the Christian’s relations to God and truth. The warning is against an insidious error propagated by false teachers. The assurance concerns the validity of the Christian experience of John’s readers. (A Study Guide Commentary: 1,2, 3 John)

The churches to whom John writes were experiencing a major fallout from the recent departure of a group of influential false teachers. What did their departure mean? Why did they leave? These questions and more surely abounded in the remaining congregations. John writes to assure them by distinguishing between true believers and false believers. He points particularly to the conviction of the divinity of Jesus.

John begins by asserting that those who left weren’t really part of the body of Christ. “They went out from us,” he says, “but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us” (2:19). In fact God allowed for their departure in order that “it might become plain that they all are not of us.” He attempts here to assure the believers who remained behind as part of the fellowship of the local church that they are the true believers. The others may have departed in a huff, they may have accused those remaining of all kinds of error, but they are the ones who are in error. They are the pretenders, John says.

He distinguishes between them by identifying them as pretenders. They are liars, John says. The true believers have been “anointed by the Holy One” and “have knowledge” (v. 20). The false teachers are those who were “trying to deceive you” (v. 26). John gives the remaining church hope. They don’t need these false teachers, they are pretenders. He writes:

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 it has taught you, abide in him. (v. 27)

It is the Holy Spirit that taught them truth, they can continue to rely on Him now.

Finally, he points to their doctrinal content. The difference between true believer and pretender comes down to their convictions about Jesus. John writes very matter-of-factly throughout the letter. He says:

No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. (v. 23)

Whatever anyone else claimed if they denied the truth about Jesus, the Son of God, they could not speak of having a relationship with God the Father. To deny the one was to deny the other. John urges the church, then, to “abide” in “what you have heard from the beginning” (v. 24).

If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father.

The true believer clings to the truth of the divinity of the Son of God.

Bob preached on this point this weekend from the gospel of Matthew. He reminded us that we do not have the freedom to create a Jesus in our own minds and bow down to it. We must evaluate our beliefs. Does what I believe about Jesus align with what Jesus says about Himself? Do I believe in the true Jesus of Scripture? True believers submit to the Spirit of God in the Scriptures and to the presentation of Jesus therein. They affirm the divinity of Jesus, the Son of God. A vital test of our salvation is our belief about the Christ. True Christians affirm the divine nature of the Son.

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