On Thursdays I have been sharing a little bit about what I have been learning as I read through 1 John.
We have been reading about a paragraph at a time and have just finished up a few weeks looking at a few verses about the world. This week we begin a new section.
“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. They went out from us, but they did not 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.” 1 John 2:18-19 TNIV
As I read there are two things that I notice.
The first is in verse 18 with the word antichrist. In his commentary John Stott writes that “the early commentators understood the word to signify and ‘adversary’ of Christ” (p.104). An adversary is one who contends with, opposes or resists. Thus, antichrist contends with, opposes or resists Christ. I plan to write about this a little bit more next week when John addresses this again in verse 22.
It is the second thing that strikes me as most important today, the idea of belonging. It seems to center around the word “remain.” I find it puzzling at first, wondering if this is a literal remaining with the believers John is referring to. I suppose this is possible. However, as I read the passage in context for another time, I realize the word “remain” repeats. In the next ten verses it appears two times and the idea is hinted at as well. I think that when he uses the word in verse 19 he is using it in a similar sense as he does in verses 24 and 27.
I begin by exploring the word “belong,” curious to know what the term means in the Greek. It is actually two words eimi and ek. Together they mean something like “to be out of” or “to be away from.”
Those that do not belong do not have something the believers do. What could it be?
The idea of not belonging seems to be in contrast to the word “remain” which is menō in the Greek. It is sometimes translated “abide.” It is the same word that Jesus uses when he talks about the vine and the branches and tells his disciples to “remain in my love.”
When John talks about this idea of remaining I cannot seem to separate it from John’s own words in the gospel he wrote. Is this what he had in mind too?
What comes to mind is the prayer Jesus prays for all believers:
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” John 17:20-26 TNIV
In this prayer, Jesus prays for the believers to be brought to complete unity. This only happens through Him. When we remain in Christ, we are one with Him; and through Him we are one with the Father and with the Spirit and with one another.
John reminds the believers of this--their oneness in Christ. They are one in Him. They know the Father through Him. The Spirit works in them through Him. This is a oneness that some do not have—because they do not abide in Christ. They are not one with Him. They are antichrist.
I’m trying to soak this idea in today, this oneness that comes through Christ. Perhaps you’ll join me?
Let’s abide and pray that through Christ we might be one.
Grace and peace be ours in abundance as we seek to remain in Christ. May we desire the oneness He prayed for us. May we discover unity in the Spirit and find that it is ever growing toward complete unity in Christ. May we experience the beauty of oneness and the power that comes from it.