One John Chapter Two verses 18 to 28
Two Distinct Groups
John has a very clear idea of two groups of people. Verses nineteen and twenty link together to compare and contrast these two groups. Firstly, there are the false teachers. Many commentators agree that John wrote to the churches in an effort to combat the teaching of early Gnostic individuals. He has harsh words for these false teachers and verses nineteen and twenty attempt to step the tide somewhat for his readers. They come over to me as an encouragement.
Verse nineteen points out that some believers "went out" which (by implication) means that others stayed. The group that "went out" are described as not belonging to John, so, by implication those that stayed do belong. Some versions translate "belonged" as being "of [him]" and doesn't so much imply ownership as a more parental role - children "belong" in a particular family and are "of" the parents. The children share in the rich genetic heritage of their parents.
John doesn't appear to have even a shred of doubt in his mind about the status of these false teachers. He is utterly categorical when he says that they ALL are in the same boat. In his mind, departing the faith in the manner that they had proved that there was no faith available to salvage. They are separate and distinct from the flock of faithful believers that he was writing to. In other words, there's no place within the flock for heretical teaching: their departure from truth was enough to mark them off as distinct and different from those holding to orthodox values despite possibly being physically located in the same place.
Today, there are many people in the church that claim to be "Christian" yet there is no evidence of faith, not bible believing views and a great number of people chasing off away from orthodox teaching. By John's reasoning, there are no grey areas. A person either belongs or they don't. They either abide within the confines of good theology and the family of God, or they are outside. For example :
- The Bishop of Durham, denying the existence of a personal God
- Mary as co-redemptrix with Christ
- Unitarian Universalist/Universal Life churches that deny the need for the gospel
- Jehovah's witnesses and Mormons who deluge the simple message in extra teaching that leads the unwary believer away from Christ
It's a harsh statement to make, but a line must be drawn somewhere. The church needs people like John who will stand up and vocally point out the groups that have "gone out" from the boundaries of what could reasonably be termed "Christian" and not be afraid to tell things simply and clearly. John made this distinction between those that stay and those that go out an integral part of his message. The church today is no less under siege by false teaching than it was in John's day.
What's that about an anointing?
John points out that one of the two groups has received an anointing from "The Holy One". That is, the group that stayed - the group that held to the teaching they had received from the beginning. Members of the family of God have the Holy Spirit as seal on their faith - as a foretaste of things to come. Those that have left don't, though they may in the past have tasted of the goodness of God. If the group that "went out" from the believers were to show signs of some form of "anointing" we must be bold in asking the source of this power. The Holy Spirit dwells within us while our relationship with Jesus is intact. For those that have rejected Him, we must question what "spirit" has anointed them if they claim to have power from a spiritual source.
John links it clearly to knowing the truth. Back in John's gospel, it says that when the Holy Spirit comes, he would lead us into all truth. This is being re-iterated here.
This comes as an encouragement to the readers - the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth and thereby keep us from being misled by false (heretical) teaching.
John further underscores that the congregations hearing the message are doing OK when he points out the source of the lies. He says that he's writing because the readers know the truth. His expectation is that the falsehood is creeping in from outside. If we assume that he was expecting a public reading of the letter, by addressing the comments with "you", we see an expectation that the false teachers would not be masquerading as "believers" and submitting to John's oversight and leadership. Those hearing the letter were in the group that stayed, that received the anointing and are therefore not the source of the heretical lies. This being the case, John freely encourages the readers to trust God's provision and leading in staying free from the lies.
Spotting the liars
John's pretty clear that there are liars - false teachers that are distorting the truth - and that these liars are the antithesis of Christ, an "anti-Christ". How do we go about spotting them? How can we see them far enough in advance that our faith isn't damaged by their teaching?
The answer lies in chapter four. Verses one and two are the crux of the test - where is teacher "coming from" - does the teaching spring from an acknowledgement of the person and work of Jesus Christ, the one and only Son of God, begotten not created, who lived a sinless life, died a subsitutionary death on the cross and was physically raised from the death on the third day? It has been said that all so called "sub-Christian cults" are based on a misunderstanding or a misrepresentation of the person of Jesus. Bet, even within the church, there are those that would seek to downplay or flatly deny Him (the "Jesus Seminar" folks as a prime example).
by Paul Hawke