John is writing to the Christians in the churches because false doctrine had crept into the church and was deceiving many. He says that in vs 26, “These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you.” The false doctrine was especially perpetrated on the church by what was eventually called Gnosticism, which means knowledge. They professed that there was a special knowledge, a secret knowledge of spiritual things, which they wanted to teach the church. But it was false knowledge, and so John calls them false prophets. In fact he calls them antichrists back in vs 18.
He says, vs 18 “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.” Now John is concerned that the church be able to distinguish between the word of truth, and the lie of the antichrists and false prophets. He is concerned because the deception at it’s worst will keep people from being saved, and at it’s best will keep the saved from spiritual maturity. And so he has been showing us various tests by which we may discern the truth from the lie, and those that are saved from those that are not saved, but are in reality agents of Satan to deceive the church.
We no longer have gnosticism today, but we have the same old lies packaged under a different wrapping paper, which is being foisted upon the church in our age. Satan’s tactics are still the same as they ever were. Jesus said he is a liar and the father of lies. He just repackages the same old lies.
Another way that John has shown the difference between the true gospel and the false gospel is his frequent use of contrasts. He contrasts light and darkness. The truth and the lie. Righteousness and sin.
Now as we enter this next section, John gives us another contrast. He gives us a contrast between the promise of Christ and the false promise of the antichrists and false prophets. And I urge you as you consider this to let go of the “Left Behind” theology which portrays the anticrhist and false prophet in some dramatic, one world government scenario, in which he sits on the throne of the world and causes all these terrible tribulations to happen. I’m not here to argue for or against that theology with you this morning. I happen to think it should be interpreted more symbolically than literally. But according to the context in which John is talking about them, saying they are already in his day at work in the world, I would encourage you to think of the antichrists and false prophets as the emissaries of Satan’s strategy since the first century until now, which is to deceive and distort the truth, and to lead people into a false religion which intends to overthrow God’s plan of redemption of the world.
So John intends to show us a contrast between the truth and the deception so that we can be discerning and know the truth. He begins this contrast by saying in vs25 “This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life.” So the first point in this section is what John calls the promise. The promise.
To determine if someone is lying you first have to know what they said. John says that Jesus made a promise to us. That’s what the gospel is, isn’t it? A promise from God. A promise of life. John says it’s a promise of eternal life. Eternal life is not just a quantity of life, it’s a quality of life. That’s important to understand. Eternal life is not just a long, long, long time. It’s spiritual life, it’s abundant life, it’s life in the presence of God, in fellowship with God. It’s life as God intended it to be at creation.
Now I believe that John is speaking of Jesus Christ making that promise of eternal life. But as you know, Jesus Christ and the Father and the Spirit are One. But it’s interesting to see when that promise was made. It wasn’t made for the first time during Christ’s ministry. It wasn’t even made at creation. It was made sometime in eternity past. Paul says in Titus 1:1 “Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.” So Paul says God promised eternal life before the world began.
God’s plan from eternity past was to create a human race which would be the bride of Christ, which would be body, soul and spirit, and which would be like them, in that they would live forever with Him and love Him and serve Him. So it says in Genesis 2:7 that God breathed into the nostrils of man the breath of life and man became a living soul. But as man sinned, and sin entered into the world, that life with God died, the spirit of man died, and man ceased to live in fellowship with God but was doomed to eternal separation from God which is spiritual death.
But the plan of God which was established before creation did not come to an end at that point. Because the plan of God had planned for that as well. And the plan was to send Jesus Christ to earth to become man, to become man’s substitute, so that they might be given life, even eternal life, and be restored to fellowship with God.
So Jesus, when He began His ministry, came to fulfill that promise and give eternal life to those that believed in Him. He gave us the promise of life. And all that He taught, and all that He did, was the basis of that promise. It was to help us understand that promise, to be able to comprehend that promise, so that we might believe it and be saved from death.
Jesus came for one purpose, to give life to those who had the condemnation of death. He didn’t come to create a social utopia on earth. He didn’t come to heal the sick and eradicate disease. He didn’t come to build a financial empire or to give us great scientific advancements. He came to give eternal life to those who are dying. To the people He created, whom He created for His pleasure, to have fellowship with Him, to be His eternal bride, but who had by their choice of sin had rejected Him and received in themselves the penalty of death. Because He still loved them, He came to give them life, that they that believe in Him might be with Him forever.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
But in order to do that, Jesus had to fulfill the justice of God. He had to take the place of sinners, and die in their place. He became our substitute, so that He might be our Savior. And so He died on the cross, suffering the punishment which we deserved, so that we might be given life.
This is the promise of eternal life. The gospel is the promise that Jesus made. It is the truth that will set you free. Jesus said in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man comes to the Father except by Me.” He said in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have [it] abundantly.” Jesus isn’t talking about the kind of “abundant life” you hear the false prophets claiming on so called Christian television. He is talking about spiritual life, which is life with God, which is fellowship with God, which is everlasting life.
But notice in that verse I just quoted from John 10:10, Jesus includes in His promise to give eternal life a warning. He gives a contrast between the promise of life and the lie which results in death. His warning is that there is a thief who comes to steal and kill and destroy. That’s the deceiver, who John says whose spirit is already at work in the world. And John follows the same pattern of Jesus and contrasts the promise of life with the deception that leads to death. So the contrast to the promise is the deception. Notice vs 26, “These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you.”
Last week in the previous section we talked a lot about the deception. John speaks of the antichrists already being at work in the world. Later on in the epistle he will speak of false prophets and deceiving spirits. Of our need to test the spirits. And as I said last week, the way we test the spirits is by the word of God. There is no other reliable test. We can’t test the spirits by whether or not they can work miracles. Jesus said in Matt. 24:24 “For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.” So you can’t test them by their miracle powers. Remember Pharaohs wise men did many of the same miracles that Moses did. The only reliable test is the word of God.
The antichrist is quite simply defined as those who are in opposition to Christ. They may not appear to be in opposition to Christ, in fact, they may even claim to know Christ, but their opposition is revealed by the fact that they lie. They distort the truth, they twist the truth and in some cases they outright deny the truth. Their purpose is to steal, to kill and destroy. John says beware of the deception.
But the good news is that we have an antidote for the deception. And that is what John calls the anointing. Vs 27 “As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.”
Now we addressed this anointing last time, but let’s make sure we understand what he is talking about. He is not talking about some sort of second blessing. He is not talking about some sort of secondary spiritual experience which completes what was lacking in our conversion. He is simply speaking of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which all believers receive upon salvation.
All believers in the Lord Jesus Christ possess the fullness of the Holy Spirit as our birthright. In fact, whether or not we possess the Spirit is the determining factor of our salvation. If we have not the Spirit, we are not Christ’s. Listen to what Paul says in Romans 8:9 “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” So if we are saved, then we have the anointing.
We have the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit. His purpose is to bring the word of God to life in us. His purpose is to teach us. His purpose is to abide with us. It’s not something we need to seek. It’s the Spirit of Christ, whom Christ calls the Spirit of Truth. He is the reason we that are saved can distinguish the truth from the lie.
Back in vs 20 John said, “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know (all things).” The Holy Spirit is not given to us sporadically so that we can have some spiritual experience that supposedly confirms our faith. But He confirms the teaching of the word of God in us so that we might know the truth, that we might distinguish the truth from the lie, and so that we might abide in Him.
But don’t be mistaken, the way the Holy Spirit teaches us is through the word of God. He is the author of the word of God. Peter said “holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” Paul says all scripture is given by inspiration of God. Inspiration means God breathed. Spirit is pneuma, which is air, breath. The Spirit of God breathed life into the words that holy men of God wrote down for us, that we might know the truth, that we might worship God in Spirit and in truth. So we can verify teaching through the word of God. We can verify the spirits by the word of God. John says in chapter 4, test the spirits to see if they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into he world. How do you test the spirits, the false prophets? By the word of God which is true, which is immutable, which is unchanging, which is eternal, through the anointing of the Holy Spirit who leads us in the truth.
Now that ministry of the Holy Spirit is what John calls abiding. Abiding is the antidote to prevent the deception. The abiding has two aspects. First of all, notice that the anointing abides in you. Vs 27, “As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you.” The Holy Spirit is not just passing through. He’s not temporary. He is permanently indwelling us that believe. He is the deposit on the promise that God made which is eternal life.
There are a couple of verses that speak of this. The first is 2Cor. 1:22 which says, “who also sealed us and gave [us] the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.( pledge means a deposit or down payment). The other is in 2Co 5:5 which says, “Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge.” (or down payment)
So in both verses we see the principle that the Holy Spirit is given to us as a down payment on our eternal life with God. When you buy a house, you usually have to make a down payment, and that serves as a pledge that you are going to purchase the house. You are in effect making a promise, which is guaranteed by a down payment. That’s what the anointing is that abides in us. It’s a down payment on the fullness of eternal life which we will receive at Christ’s second coming.
Eternal life is guaranteed by the abiding of the Holy Spirit in us. And God doesn’t break His promises. And so the Spirit is given permanently and He will complete in us what He has begun. But notice John speaks of us abiding as well. Not only does the Spirit abide in us, but we abide in Him. ““As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.”
So the second part of this verse speaks of our abiding in Him. Now what does that mean? To abide in Him means that we are in fellowship with Him, we obey Him, we walk in the light as He is in the light, we walk in the truth. That’s what John means when he says “as His anointing teaches you about all things, just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.” So we abide in the Holy Spirit by doing what He teaches us. As He leads us through the word of God, we obey His teaching, and in that way we abide in Him.
It’s like the Old Testament proverb in Amos 3:3 which says how can two walk together unless they be in agreement?” John said it another way back in chapter 1 vs 6, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” So we have fellowship with God when we walk with God, when we don’t walk in sin. That’s abiding. That’s how we abide in Him, we walk with Him. We obey His word.
So we have the promise, the deception, the anointing, the abiding, and now the coming. Vs28 “Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.” Now that’s self explanatory, isn’t it? If we obey Him, if we walk with Him, if we abide with Him, then we won’t be ashamed when He comes again.
When I was growing up, I think one of the things I dreaded the most hearing my Mom say was “just you wait until your dad comes home.” That usually came as the result of a day of fighting with my brother and sisters. Whatever it was, I had been disobeying. And when Dad came home my Mom was going to tell him what I had been doing. And there would be consequences. So on those days, I didn’t run to the door and throw my arms around my dad when he walked in the door. I hid in my room. I was afraid to come out.
John says Jesus is coming back. He is coming back to claim His bride, the church, to live with Him forever. He is also coming back to judge the world and to make all things new. John says the key to not being ashamed when He comes again is to abide with Him now. To do what He commands us to do through His Spirit and His word. That’s what it means to walk with the Lord, to be a disciple. It’s to follow, to fellowship, to obey, to abide in the truth. And if we abide in Him, then we will not be ashamed at His coming.
So that brings us to the last point, the last assurance that we are not deceived, that we abide with Him. And that last point is the righteousness. Vs.29 “If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.” So how are we assured that we are the children of God? How do we distinguish the children of God? By the fact that they practice righteousness.
We know that Jesus Christ is righteous. That should not be open for debate this morning. But if you have been born again then you are being remade into His image. In our salvation, we receive His righteousness in exchange for our sins, we receive His Spirit who is given to lead us into righteousness through the word of God and by His anointing. The Holy Spirit also gives us the power over sin, that we might have the power to do that which God commands us to do.
And so consequently because of this grace which we have received, we practice righteousness. Practice indicates that you haven’t perfected it yet. It means that you are a work in progress. But you have a deposit on what one day will be completed. That day when Christ returns our sinful nature will be done away with completely, we will receive a new body which will be joined to our renewed spirit, and we will be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Our righteousness will be perfected. And that righteousness will make it possible for us to have the fullness of life that God promised before the world began. A life that is abundant, and full, and everlasting. A life that abides with God forever.
If you are here today and you recognize in hearing this message that you have not received the promise of eternal life, that you have not received the anointing and abiding of the Holy Spirit, then I urge you to confess your sins, and believe in Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins, confessing Him as Lord and Savior, that you might receive the righteousness which comes through faith in Him. That is the only way to receive the eternal, abundant life that God has promised.
As Peter preached on the day of Pentecost; “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”