1 John 2:18-27 Nov. 27, 2016
Sermon Series on I John Sermon # 8 “You Know the Truth”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
18 “Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.
20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.[a] 21 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. 22 Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—he denies the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.
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.25 And this is what he promised us—eternal life.
26 I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. 27 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.”
Introduction: Suppose you are watching a preacher on TV or listening to a pastor on the radio or a podcast, and he’s teaching some things that really excite you, that you haven’t heard before. How do you know if he’s telling the truth? How can you tell if he’s got real insight into the Bible or he’s pulling the wool over your eyes?
Or what if you have a trusted Christian friend, maybe she has a Bible college background, and she’s been influential in your life, but lately she’s been writing stuff on her blog that seems biblically out of line. You talk to her about your concerns, but she says that the Holy Spirit is really leading her in this new and exciting path of following the Lord. Do you keep listening to her? Should the church keep allowing her to lead a Bible study for women?
These are the kind of concerns that the Apostle John deals with in 1 John 2:18-27.
Here John gives us his third test to prove the genuineness of someone’s profession of faith in Christ, and therefore the way to recognize false teachers. Let’s review the first two tests:
The first test was the moral test – do you obey God’s commands? (2:3-6)
The second test was the social test – do you love God’s people? (2:7-11)
Then, after two brief digressions concerning the church (12-14) and the world (15-17), John here gives us the third test, which is the truth test – Do you hold to the correct doctrine?
I want you to apply this test in two ways: First, apply it to yourself – Do you believe the Biblical teaching about Christ? Second, apply it to those who are teaching you (your pastor, the people you read, watch, listen to, etc.): Do they have a Spirit-anointed, Bible-centered view of Jesus Christ, His person and His work? This is the all-important test of true, Biblical doctrine.
I. There are two ways of detecting false teachers. (2:18-19, 22-23)
A. They deny Christ (They are “anti-Christs”) (v. 18, 22-23)
They deny the incarnation; they deny that Jesus is the God-Man, the Messiah (v. 22). By denying Christ’s divinity, they also show that they do not know the Father (23). Everyone who denies the Biblical teaching that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and Son of Man is deceived and is a liar. John gives us the tools to discern what patterns and principles to look for in false teachers.
When I was a fairly young Christian at Rutgers University, a fellow Christian shared with me about a Bible study he was attending off campus that really opened God’s Word in a deep way. I was hungry for God’s Word, so I went with him to that Bible Study. At first, it was great. I was learning new insights into Scripture. But in the third lesson, they mentioned that Jesus Christ was not God! I knew enough of the Bible to realize that any group that denied the deity of Christ could not be true. It turned out that this group was a cult called The Way, led by Victor Paul Werwille. They were against Christ; they were anti-Christ, and therefore they were false.
The second way of detecting false teachers is that…
B. They defect from the church (v. 19 “They went out from us.”)
Their defection from the church shows their evil nature, just as Judas’ true nature was unmasked when he went out from the apostles, to betray Jesus. (John 13:30). The leaving of teachers from the church exposes their real intention of seeking to lead the church astray. They depart from true churches and start their own cults.
So beware of those who leave solid Bible preaching churches to start their own churches, especially if they are not under the umbrella of a trusted denomination or Godly leaders.
A few of you have been in those kinds of churches that are cult-like, and you know the danger they can cause you, right?
This is the flip side of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. The false teachers who left the church did so because they were never really true believers in the first place. They did not have the grace to endure to the end to be saved (Mk. 13:13)
I’m sure all of you can think of examples of cults and false religions that exhibited these two signs, of denying Christ and defecting from the church: Jehovah Witnesses, the Church of the Latter Day Saints (Mormons). But Satan isn’t finished sending false teachers; in fact, in this “last hour” we should expect an increase of cults and false teachers arising within the true church. Be on your guard. Don’t be led astray. Remember that Satan can appear as an angel of light!
II. There are two defenses against false teachers (2:20-21, 24-27)
A. The Anointing of God’s Spirit [Your Subjective Defense] (vv. 20, 27)
20 “But you have an anointing from the Holy One….27 As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you…”
When you come to know Jesus and are born again, God gives you the precious gift of Himself – God the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth – to live in you. And the gift of the Holy Spirit is one of the two defenses that God provides for His children, so that we can discern the false teaching of heretics and cults, and so that we can walk and remain in the truth of God’s Word.
This is the subjective defense. What do I mean? I mean that when God the Holy Spirit lives in you, and you are exposed to false teachers who seem cool and confident, then the Spirit will set off the alarms and red lights in your spirit and your conscience, and He will help you to discern that there’s something rotten here; something just doesn’t feel right. That’s the Holy Spirit coming to your defense, so you don’t get sucked in. But God provides another defense system:
B. The Apostolic Teaching of God’s Truth [Your Objective Defense] (vv. 20, 24, 27)
“…all of you know the truth.” (20) “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.” (24) “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.” (27)
The second defense God gives us against false teaching is His Own Word, as conveyed to us through the apostles in the Bible. It is the truth that the earliest believers heard from the beginning of the gospel declaration. It is the truth about Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, as God and Man. It is the Living Word of God that abides in us. So for example, it means that when the JWs knock on your door, you can confidently take them right to John 1:1 “And the Word was God.” It means you that you can open up Romans 3-5 and the letter to the Galatians when your friend insists that we have to contribute to our salvation by our good works. It means that the Word of God is our sword and our shield, and it provides the basis for what we believe!
And these two defenses- the Anointing Spirit and the Apostolic Word- they work together: The Holy Spirit confirms that the Bible is God’s Word, and the Word of God explains the ministry of the Holy Spirit to us. Therefore you must continue in both the Word of God and the Holy Spirit of God, in order to grow, to mature, and to have your defenses ready.
Think about it: most cult leaders and most religious leaders all started by claiming that God appeared to them and gave them some special, new revelation, right? So how do you know if what they claim is true? I mean how can you say, “Oh no, the Holy Spirit didn’t speak to you”?
Look at v. 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.” What v. 24 shows us is that the truth which the Holy Spirit enables us to know is a truth that was delivered in the preaching of the apostles. John stresses to his readers that the truth that should remain in them is truth that came to them at the beginning of their Christian walk, that is, the apostles’ preaching.
John tells them that they have enough revelation in what they heard from the beginning. He does not want to set them off in pursuit of something new. The church does not need new revelation. Rather, it needs to let the original apostolic teaching about Christ abide in them.
Therefore the opposite of remaining in what you have heard from the beginning is to “go ahead” to new revelations and secret knowledge offered by people such as Mohammed, Charles Russell, Joseph Smith, and Mary Baker Eddy.
But the Holy Spirit does not expand the apostolic teaching of Christ. On the contrary, the Word tests the Spirit. 1 John 4:2 says, “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus has come in the flesh is of God.” The Spirit agrees with the apostolic doctrine or it is not the Spirit of God.
So the work of the Holy Spirit is not to take us beyond the teaching of the apostles. It is to help us accept and abide in that teaching. It helps us grow in our understanding of that teaching. It strengthens our power to practice that teaching. It increases our confidence in the truth of that teaching. But it does not change the teaching. It does not expand on the teaching.
Therefore we must let the Word remain in us and we should remain in the Spirit.
Let the Word abide in you! Abide in the Spirit! Think about a similar pair of admonitions:
Col. 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as you . . . sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Eph. 5:18–19, “Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, always and for everything giving thanks.”
“Let the word dwell in you!” is like John’s “Let the word abide in you!”
“Be filled with the Spirit!” is like John’s “Abide in the Spirit!”
Therefore, when you are challenged by a different teaching; when you find yourself questioning what you believe; when someone comes knocking at your door and gives you religious pamphlets; when a Charismatic teacher tells you that you’ve got to have a second blessing; or when you are attracted to a church where they promise prosperity and blessing all the time….
Here are the two things you should do:
First, have a good defense: be aware of anyone who comes to you with a new spiritual teaching, which differs or adds on to the gospel truth that you are already grounded in. Go back to the Word of God as communicated by Jesus’ apostles, and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you as you meditate on God’s Word. That will give you a solid defense against false teachers.
Second, have a good offense: When a false teacher or a follower of a false religion seeks to influence you, preach the good news of Jesus to that person! Tell them that the Son of God came in the flesh, as Jesus Christ, and He is the God-Man, the redeeming sacrifice for our sins, and that unless you know Him (the Son), you cannot know God the Father. Acknowledge/publically confess the Son, (v. 23) and show that person that you can discern truth from error.
When Lynn and I lived in Philly, the JWs came to our house 3 Saturdays a month. And each time I would preach the good news of Jesus to them! That’s what you should do. Make the most of the opportunity when they come to you!
So be encouraged! Think about the promises you can claim:
True believers remain in faithful churches; they stick with the solid saints. (19)
The truth of the Gospel will continue in the true believer. (24)
The true believer remains in the Son and in the Father (24b) as promised (25). (See John 15.)
The Holy One’s anointing – the Holy Spirit – remains in the true believer (27)
Therefore we have these encouragements, to “Remain in Him” (27) and “Continue in Him” (28)
The Spirit of God and the Word of God protect us from deception, and lead us into eternal life.
Therefore guard yourselves from the deceiver and the antichrist. Love the Word of God! Live in the Word and let it live in you! And ask God the Holy Spirit to open you to whatever the Spirit wants to do with you, through God’s Word.
Remember the promise of God: “If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he has promised us, eternal life.” (24-25)
“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.” (John 15:9)