Thursday, September 6, 2012

Adversary or Lord?

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 began a new section last week.  It continues:

“But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.  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.  Who is the liar?  It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ.  Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son.  No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.”  1 John 2:20-23 NIV

These verses are a continuation of the paragraph from last week.  This is clear from the opening words “but you.”  If you recall, John was writing to distinguish the believers he is writing to from others who “went out from us.”  He tells the believers that if they had belonged “they would have remained.”  The implication here is that these people were not united with the body through Christ.  Here we begin to get a better picture of who these people were and how they are different from the believers who are reading John’s words. 

There are a number of allusions being made that will help us begin to understand what John is communicating.  Let’s take a look verse by verse.

“But you have an anointing from the Holy One and all of you know the truth” (v.20). 

Who is the Holy One?  And what is this anointing?

To answer this first question let’s take a look at a passage in  John’s telling of the gospel.

“Simon Peter answered [Jesus], “Lord to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God(John 6:68-69).

The Holy One is Jesus.  So what is the anointing they have received from him?

The NLT translates verse 20 this way: “for the Holy One has given you his Spirit.”

The believers have been anointed with the Holy Spirit, by Jesus.  Besides finding a slightly different translation, there is another key word that confirms that this anointing is indeed the Spirit.  The phrase is “the truth.”

Jesus tells his disciples:

“I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. […]  But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.  He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.  He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.  All that belongs to the Father is mine.  That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” (John 14:16-17 and 16:13-15).

The word truth in Greek in John and in 1 John is alētheia.  It means “the reality lying at the basis of an appearance; the manifested, veritable essence of a matter” (VINES Expository Dictionary). 

John reminds these believers that they know the truth.  They know it because the Spirit is in them and “guides them into all truth.”  He reminds them that “no lie comes from the truth” (v.21).

Then, John tells them how to spot the liar.
“Who is the liar?  It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ” (v.22).

The liar does not recognize that Jesus is Lord.  In fact, he denies it. 

This is the central claim of the gospel—that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises to Israel; that he came in the flesh teaching us how to live; that he died for our sins; and that he defeated death in his resurrection proving he is the worthy judge and king--Jesus is Lord. 

John says the failure to acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus shows a person to be antichrist.

“Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son” (v.22).

In his commentary, John Stott writes that “the early commentators understood the word [antichrist] to signify an ‘adversary’ of Christ” (p.104).  An adversary is one who contends with, opposes or resists.  Thus, antichrist contends with, opposes or resists Christ.

I either recognize Jesus is Lord or I am an adversary—contending with, opposed or resistant to Christ. 

This makes sense to me; and if I think about it honestly, it really makes me consider how I am acting in any given moment.  Am I yielded to Christ in what he is calling me to right now?  Or am I contentious, resistant, and opposed to what He is calling me to right now?  Sometimes I am so very aware of the battle within me.  Sometimes I follow as a believer should.  Yet, if I’m honest, there are times where I find that I am antichrist—more of a friend of the world than of God.

I should note that I believe John is talking a little more generally about the character of one's beliefs and actions to distingush the believer from the Gnostic, who does not in any way acknowledge that Christ is Lord.*  Still, I think it is important to consider--am I living the obedience that follows when one really believes in the Lordship of Christ?

John continues, “No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also” (v.23).

In these words I am reminded of a passage from the gospel of John.

“Thomas said to him, “Lord we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you really know me, you will know my Father as well.  From now on, you do know him and have seen him.

Philip said, “Lord show us the Father and it will be enough for us.”

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time?  Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.  How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?  Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and that the Father is in me?  The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority.  Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.  Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves” (John 14:5-11 NIV).
Here we see the unity that comes in Christ.  When we recognize that Jesus is Lord we have relationship with the Father because of the Son.  John says this in his letter too.

I like the way the Voice translates it “The one affirming the Son enjoys an intimate relationship with the Father as well” (v. 23).  In it, I think I begin to see this beautiful dance of Father, Son and Spirit that includes the one who trusts in Christ.  In Christ, we come to right relationship and unity with God. 

Perhaps this is why the next few verses in John 14 say this, “Very truly I tell you, all who have faith in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.  And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it” (John 14:12-14 TNIV).

It is when we trust in Christ and are yielded to him as Lord, unified with him and with our fellow believers that we will accomplish much.  We need not be afraid to ask Jesus for anything, because when we are aligned with the will of God, He is eager to see His kingdom come on earth.  This comes when we recognize Christ is Lord and honor Him as such.  This comes when we are yielded and connected and seeking God’s will.


Grace and peace be ours in abundance as we choose to say Christ is Lord today.  May we find the contention, opposition, and resistance subsides when we realize that we have two choices—to be a disciple or to be antichrist.  May we find submission is made so much more simple and may we discover our hearts are becoming more aligned with God’s will.  May we pray fervently for His kingdom to come through us and be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading as He guides us into all truth.

Jessica :)

*One thing I would like to acknowledge is that John is confronting a specific Gnostic belief as he talks about "Jesus is the Christ."  This statement would have carried with it the truth of the humanity of Jesus.  The Gnostics denied Christ’s humanity in two ways “(1) Some said that Christ only seemed to have a body, a view called Docetism, from the Greek dokeo (“to seem”), and (2) others said that the divine Christ joined the man Jesus at baptism and left him before he died, a view called Cerinthianism, after its most prominent spokesman Cerinthus.  This view is the background of much of 1 John.”  (from Jason’s NASB Study Bible by Zondervan). 

This is precisely addressed in 1 John 2:22 which we looked at today.  Yet, I find it so fascinating that even in the midst of words addressing such a particular heresy, I find John’s contrasts still very applicable today in my own life.  I hope you have discovered the same.  Blessings.


  1. Thank you, Ashley. I am really learning a lot through writing through 1 John. It makes me go back to where I was in Scripture and conversation with God just a few weeks ago and reconsider the passages and think about how I'm living what I read. Blessings to you today :)