But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. . . . 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. 1 John 2:20, 27
In 1 John 2:20 and 27, the apostle John contrasts the anointing of true believers—that is, Christians—with that of unbelievers, who are called anti-Christians or antichrists. Both Christians and anti-Christians are anointed, but there is a difference: Christians are anointed with a holy anointing while anti-Christians are anointed with an unholy anointing. In other words, true believers in Jesus Christ are anointed by the Holy Spirit, but anti-Christians are anointed with an evil spirit, which causes them to deny the apostolic doctrine of the person and work of Jesus Christ. According to 1 John 4:1, anti-Christians are false prophets, pseudoprophêtai. They are anointed, not of God, but of the devil and, therefore, they will only prophesy lies and falsehoods. In this study we would like to examine the differences between these anointings and speak about how to ensure we have the holy anointing.
What Does Anointing Mean?
First, we want to look at what anointing is. The Greek word for anointing is chrisma, from which we have the word chrism. Chrisma appears several times in 1 John 2:20 and 27. It comes from the root word, chriô, which means to rub something or someone lightly with a substance like oil or lotion. The word christos means a person so anointed and the word chrisma refers to that by which a person is anointed. John uses chrisma in these two verses, not speaking of the object being anointed but of the instrument of anointing. Additionally, we find a word christianos in Acts 11:26, which means “one belonging to the Anointed One,” just as Herodianos would mean “one who belongs to Herod.”
The Old Testament tells us that certain officers in Israelite society—priests, prophets, and kings—were anointed as they began their official duties. For example, in Exodus 29:7 we read that Aaron the high priest was anointed before he began his ministry. God told Moses, “Take the anointing oil and anoint him by pouring it on his head.” In this case, the anointing oil was the chrisma, the instrument of anointing. Similarly, in 1 Kings 19:16 God told Elijah, “Also anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet.”
What was the significance of being anointed? By this ceremony the participants were set apart, commissioned, and authorized by God to work for him. They were anointed with oil, which represents the Holy Spirit. This is illustrated in the anointing of David as king of Israel by Samuel when he was designated to replace Saul. In 1 Samuel 16:3 we read, “So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers.” Here the oil symbolizes the Holy Spirit, and we are told, “from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power.”
The Anointing of Jesus
As the ultimate Prophet, King and Priest, Jesus Christ was anointed when he began his earthly ministry. This anointing was predicted by Isaiah in Isaiah 61:1 when he said that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon the Messiah. In God’s time, when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, we are told the Holy Spirit came upon him when he came up out of the water. In other words, he was anointed by the Holy Spirit, and that without measure. When Jesus quoted Isaiah 61:1,2 in the synagogue of Nazareth, saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,” he was announcing to the people that he was the Messiah prophesied by Isaiah long ago and that the anointing of the Holy Spirit was now resting upon him.
Not only is Jesus Christ anointed, but the Bible tells us that every believer in Jesus Christ is also anointed. We are kings, priests, and prophets under the Priest, Prophet and King, the Lord Jesus Christ. We find references to this in many places. John the Baptist said there was another person coming after him, mightier than himself, who would baptize people in the Holy Spirit and fire. In Acts 1:5 the Lord Jesus Christ himself speaks of this, saying, “For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” This was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, as we read in Acts 2:4: “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” Thus, when John writes in 1 John 2:20, “But you have a chrisma, an anointing,” he was referring to the coming of the Holy Spirit upon every believer.
True and False Anointing
Not only is there a holy anointing, but there is also a false anointing. The existence of this false anointing is revealed in the latter part of 1 John 2:27, where John writes, “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.”
We find mention of this false, evil, unholy, demonic anointing also in 1 John 4:1-4, where John writes,
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
There is a spirit from God and one not from God. If we are Christians, the spirit in us is the Holy Spirit, and through him the Father and the Son also dwell in us. We must understand the gravity of this statement: God is dwelling in us. So when we speak of being anointing with the Holy Spirit, it does not mean being anointed with a thing, such as talcum powder, which you might use to anoint infants with, or a power or force, as some say the Holy Spirit is. We are anointed with a Person—the infinite Third Person of the Trinity—God himself.
But there is also an evil spirit. In 1 Corinthians 2:12 Paul writes, “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God.” Here we see false, demonic, diabolic anointing as well as the true anointing of the Spirit of God who is from God.
In Exodus 30 we find the idea of a false anointing in God’s prohibition of non-authorized persons manufacturing the anointing oil and anointing people with this illegally manufactured anointing oil. It is a crime to do so, God says in Exodus 30:32-33:
Do not pour it on men’s bodies and do not make any oil with the same formula. It is sacred, and you are to consider it sacred. Whoever makes perfume like it and whoever puts it on anyone other than a priest must be cut off from his people.
Here God forbids counterfeit anointing. The Bible tells us we are not to be naive and gullible; rather, we are to test every spirit and anointing. We must test every spirit, not by our own subjectivity, but by the objective truth of the apostolic doctrine. When we do so, we will be able to recognize those who have a counterfeit anointing. Such people will lie and deny the gospel, especially what the Bible teaches about the person and work of Jesus Christ. If a person does not believe and proclaim the objective, apostolic doctrine, his anointing is counterfeit. He is trying to lead you astray. Such a person is a false prophet and, in fact, the Bible calls him an antichrist.
We find examples of people being anointed with the false anointing throughout church history. Polycarp, a bishop in the early second century in the church of Smyrna, addresses this problem in a letter to the church of Philippi, saying, “Everyone who does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is antichrist, and whoever does not confess the testimony of the cross is of the devil. And whoever perverts the oracles of the Lord to his own lusts and says that there is neither resurrection or judgment, he is Satan’s firstborn.” So even by the early second century there is mention of people inspired by an evil anointing who denied the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ.
How to Deal with False Anointing
How do we deal with false anointing? We must base our response on the objective doctrine given to us by the apostles. In 2 John 9 we read, “Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God.” In other words, anyone who goes beyond God’s revelation does not have God. Then John continues, “whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.”
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 4:6: “Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, ‘Do not go beyond what is written.’” Paul is making the point that people with false anointing are always going beyond what is written. They will not abide in the once-for-all-given revelation of God in his Son Jesus Christ. These people are always running ahead. They can never be pinned down within the circle of revelation.
In Acts 2:42 we read that the early Christians devoted themselves first to the apostles’ doctrine. That is the biblical pattern: doctrine is first; then behavior—creed before conduct. We need both a proper belief system and proper behavior.
In 1 Corinthians 3 Paul spoke about building the church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets. In other words, the church is built upon a once-for-all-given foundation. When we build, we don’t lay a foundation again and again. This means a believer should be intelligent and knowledgeable. He must listen carefully and understand what he hears so that he can say without any difficulty, “That is of evil anointing,” when he hears false teaching. By the same token, such a person will also be able to recognize holy anointing and say, “That person is preaching what the Scripture has declared; therefore, he is anointed by the Spirit of the living God.”
Many people today claim to be anointed ones. People by the hundreds and thousands will flock to such people to be prayed for and touched by these anointed ones. When you observe the teaching as well as the behavior of such people, you notice it goes far beyond the Scripture.
The Ministry of the Holy Spirit
In Ezekiel 36:26-27 God says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” This wonderful promise of the Old Testament was fulfilled in the new covenant. It tells us that the holy anointing does a number of works in our lives.
1. First, of course, is regeneration. We must be born of the Spirit to enter into the kingdom of heaven. In John 3:6 Jesus Christ said, “Spirit,” meaning the Holy Spirit, “gives birth to spirit.” This is speaking about spiritual resurrection, which we all need because all have sinned. We are born dead in trespasses and sins, but God makes us alive, as we read in Ephesians 2:4: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ.” Thus, regeneration, is a work of the Holy Spirit.
2. This anointing is responsible for conviction of sin. Before the ministry of the Spirit, when we are confronted with our sin, we will argue and refuse to acknowledge that we are sinners. We will not pray as the publican did, “Have mercy upon me, the sinner.” But when the Holy Spirit convicts us, we will confess our sins. After Peter spoke to the people who had gathered together on the day of Pentecost, they were pierced to their hearts. Suddenly aware of their guilt and sin, they cried out, “What must we do?” That is the ministry of this holy anointing.
3. The Holy Spirit illuminates our minds and gives us understanding of the gospel. By nature we are blind, with a veil over our minds. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to remove the veil and cause us to understand the word of God.
In Acts 16 we read about Paul’s visit to the Macedonian city of Philippi. Outside the city is a river where Paul ministered to some women, including one named Lydia. We are told that the Lord opened her heart to respond to the gospel preached by Paul. The idea is that the Holy Spirit of God enabled her to understand the gospel so that she could believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved.
When we speak about spiritual enlightenment, we are not speaking about the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century. That has nothing to do with true enlightenment. In fact, to me such philosophies are endarkenment. We are speaking about the Holy Spirit of God removing blindness from us, regenerating us, and enabling us to understand the wonderful truth of the gospel.
In 1 Corinthians 2:12 Paul says, “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.” This is the difference between people. Every Christian has received the Holy Spirit and, therefore, will come under his ministry of opening the Scriptures and revealing Christ to us through them.
The Westminster Confession of Faith speaks about the role of the Holy Spirit in illuminating the Scriptures to us. In reference to the Holy Scriptures we read, “Our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts” (Westminster Confession of Faith, Ch. 1, Sect. V, “Of the Holy Scriptures”). God reveals the gospel truth to us by the Holy Spirit.
In 2 Corinthians 4:6 we find this profound statement by the apostle Paul: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” Through the Holy Spirit the Scriptures are opened up to us, and the Scriptures testify to Jesus Christ. This is eternal life, as Jesus declared in John 17:3: “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
4. This anointing enables us finally to make a total surrender to the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ, by confessing the simple creed, “Jesus is Lord.” In Romans 10:9 we read, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” This confession is absolutely essential for our salvation. But how can we make this confession? We can do so only through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
In 1 Corinthians 12:1 Paul writes, ” Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.” So Paul continues, “You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were and led astray to mute idols.” If you visit ancient Delphi in Greece, you will learn how rich and famous people from all over the ancient world came to listen to demons speaking. That is being led astray to mute idols. Paul goes on: “Therefore, I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus be cursed. . . .’” Apparently this was happening in the early church, but Paul says it has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit. Then he continues, “and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.’” The purpose, then, of our anointing is that we confess Jesus as Lord.
In 1 John 2:23 we read, “No one who denies the Son has the Father; and whoever acknowledges the Son”—the word is homologeiô, meaning to confess—”has the Father also.” The evil anointing enables us to deny and reject Jesus Christ as Lord, but the holy anointing of the Spirit causes us to confess Jesus Christ as Lord.
The Holy Anointing
In 1 John 2:20 we are told that every Christian possesses the holy anointing. John writes, “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.” You cannot be a Christian unless you have the Holy Spirit. In verse 27 we are told, “And as for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you.” Christians receive this anointing at the time of their conversion. It is speaking about baptism in the Holy Spirit. We must then understand a few things. Every Christian has this anointing because every Christian has received the Holy Spirit.
When we study the Bible, we notice that the Holy Spirit comes upon us forever, as we read in John 14:16. In 1 John 2:27 we are told, “As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you,” meaning it dwells in you permanently. John uses the word menô. It is not coming and going. We are anointed permanently once-for-all.
Additionally, we are told that this anointing is from the Holy One. In 1 John 2:20 we read, “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.” We would say the anointing is from the Holy One, Jesus Christ, as well as from God the Father. In other words, this holy anointing doesn’t come from the devil, from below. There is evil anointing, but this anointing, which is the Holy Spirit, comes from the Holy One.
As a result of our being anointed and possessing the Holy Spirit, there is another item that is true of every Christian. In the latter part of 1 John 2:20 we read, “and all of you know the truth.” Anointing and knowledge are connected. If we have the Holy Spirit, we will know truth, specifically the apostolic doctrine, and especially Jesus Christ, whom the Scripture reveals.
This is the characteristic of the new covenant, as we read in Jeremiah 31:34 and Hebrews 8:11: “No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,’ declares the Lord.” In new covenant times, through the anointing of the Lord, everybody will have knowledge of Jesus Christ.
The purpose of the Holy Spirit is to testify concerning the person and work of Jesus Christ. Through his teaching we know the truth that Jesus Christ is God’s eternal Son who took upon himself perfect human nature, died in our place, was raised from the dead, and is our Savior; and there is going to be a judgment. The reason every Christian knows is because he is anointed by the Holy Spirit. A Christian is a saved one who knows the Father through the Son.
Continual Teaching of the Holy Spirit
Not only does the Holy Spirit teach us about Jesus Christ, but in 1 John 2:27 we read that “his anointing teaches you about all things. . . .” This anointing, which is not a powder or a power, but the Person of the Holy Spirit indwelling in us, is teaching us continually. In the Greek the verb is didaskei, a present active indicative. The Holy Spirit is continually teaching us. In John 14:26 Jesus Christ said when the Holy Spirit comes, he would teach us all things.
Not only does the Holy Spirit teach us continuously, but he also teaches concerning all things, peri pantôn. In other words, his teaching lacks nothing. That means we do not need to listen to vendors of error who claim to have the anointing and urge us to come to them to find out the truth.
What does John mean by the phrase: “you have no need for anyone to teach you”? Should we throw away our Bibles and get rid of all pastors? Some people have thought this way. In fact, in seventeenth-century England, the Puritans and Quakers disagreed over this issue. The Quakers said that they did not need any teaching or the Bible because they had this anointing within them. They called it the inner light and spoke in terms of the sufficiency of the inner light. We have people like that today. Such people believe in the sufficiency of the inner light; thus, no Bible or pastor is necessary. Such people say they receive direct revelation from God apart from the Bible.
The Puritans did not agree to such teaching and neither do we. To say that Christians have no need for teachers suggests a subscription to mysticism, which says that people must bypass the word of God and have a direct encounter with God by turning inward into themselves. Mysticism means looking within. Mysticism means no church, no Bible, no outward objective knowledge of God. The only problem is, this has nothing to do with the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
What “You Do Not Need Anyone to Teach You” Doesn’t Mean
What about the modern charismatic movement? Does it represent true anointing with the Holy Spirit? Not in every case. Many people in today’s charismatic movement absolutely reject any serious study of the Bible. Such people often use the phrases, “The Lord told me,” or “It has been revealed to me,” or “I had a dream,” to validate their teachings. Run when you hear these things! Such people are mystics who deny God’s final and total revelation in the Bible. In fact, many of them think they are as inspired as the apostles were.
A church that overemphasizes the Holy Spirit at the expense of other truth must be rejected. Have you ever heard people say, “You go to a church where they preach the Bible? Don’t you know that the letter kills, but the Spirit maketh alive?” Such people will then say, “Come to us. We have no letter. We have no use for the Bible. We are Spirit-filled people.”
Such people judge all things by their subjective state. The Mormons use this expression, “Do you feel a warmth in your bosom?” This warmth supposedly is the validation of the truth of whatever is being taught. Well, I feel warmth in my bosom whenever I take a test. It has no relationship to whether something is true or not. What about goose bumps? Some say that if you have goose bumps, then what someone is saying is true, and no more analysis and judgment is necessary. This is charismatic confusion.
Does John mean that we have no need of teachers and should engage in solo Christianity? By no means! What is a solo Christian? It is one who refuses to join and submit to a church body, or, if he or she does belong, it is a tangential relationship. PGM Such people are not involved in the heart of the church. They are afraid that maybe the pastor or elder will say something to them about change or repentance. Such people are always tangentially related to a church. Such people say, “I don’t need a church. The Lord speaks to me. I have no need to be taught by anyone!” But this is not what John is speaking about.
Does John mean that when we come to church and the word is preached, we don’t have to pay attention to it? There are people who do that also. They come to church, not to think biblically but to feel good. Others just fall asleep when the word is preached. If you come to this church, you may not feel very good, but that will mean you have come to the right church. In Acts 2 we read that when Peter preached the gospel, the people were cut to the heart. The meeting on the Day of Pentecost was a pretty good church meeting. The word of God was certainly preached but we cannot say the people felt good!
Do John’s words mean we therefore trust people who claim infallibility? I am not speaking about the pope of the Catholic church. Today’s Protestants have “popes” everywhere who claim infallibility. I would say, No! We do not believe in the infallibility of anybody.
What, then, does John mean when he says that “you do not need anyone to teach you”? It means we do not need false prophets with false anointing—vendors of error—to teach us anything. We are taught by the Spirit of the living God through the word of God and therefore lack nothing. False prophets are liars who are trying to lead the church astray. We have no need of their ministry.
In 2 John 10-11 we are told what to do with false teachers. John writes, “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching,” meaning the apostolic teaching, “do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work.” We must stand against errorists who pretend to be very, very learned with their new teachings. Such people want others to feel that they are naive and don’t know much, while they have so many wonderful teachings they can impart. The apostle says we have no need of these people to come and minister. “Do not even welcome them,” he warns.
The Need for Teachers of Truth
Does all this mean that we do not need any official teachers? No. After all, John himself wrote this letter and was teaching through it. This alone should put an end to the idea that Christians don’t need pastors and teachers to teach them the things of God.
Second, Jesus spoke of teachers when he gave the great commission to his disciples, saying, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). The great commission requires official teaching.
Third, in Ephesians 4 we read that God gave gifts to the church, including apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Once again we must conclude that the apostle John did not mean we do not need any official teaching. In fact, in Acts 2:42 we read that members of the early church devoted themselves to the apostles’ doctrine, meaning they were taught by the apostles, In Colossians 3:16 Paul exhorts us, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom. . . .” Additionally, in 2 Timothy 2:2 Paul says, “And the things you have heard me say,” meaning the apostolic doctrine, “in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who also will be qualified to teach others.” Paul is speaking of an ongoing ministry from Paul to Timothy to others so that they can teach others. So here we see valid teaching ministry going on in the church.
Fourth, in 2 Timothy 3:16 Paul reminds Timothy, “and how from infancy you have known the Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”
All Christians need biblical teaching by God-authorized and commissioned teachers. But if we are true believers, we are also indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who will teach and enlighten us and reveals the Bible to us so that we can see Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord.
We have an anointing from the Father! If you don’t have the right kind of anointing, ask God to help you even this day, because God is in the business of saving people. If you do not have the holy anointing, ask God to help you to receive the Holy Spirit that he may regenerate you, convict you, give you understanding, teach you and cause you to confess Jesus Christ is Lord, that you may be saved.
I pray that God will help us to appreciate his holy anointing. He has caused his Holy Spirit to come and dwell in us forever. He has opened our eyes and caused us to confess that Jesus Christ is God, Jesus Christ is man, Jesus Christ is Savior, and Jesus Christ is King.
Antidote to Error
The church has had to deal with errorists, both from without and within the church, throughout her history. What, then, is the antidote to the errors of the antichrists? First, we must make a distinction between false and true evangelism.
First John 2 deals specifically with errors from within the church. There is a false evangelism and true evangelism currently being practiced. Many churches today practice the wrong kind of evangelism.
You may think I am exaggerating when I say that, but I am not. Many evangelicals use the wrong kind of evangelism. They will tell people something like this: “Did you know that God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life? Jesus Christ himself died on the cross for you, and now he is knocking at the door of your heart.” This type of preaching and teaching is designed to produce some sympathy for this one who is dying on the cross. So you will ask, “What can I do for him?” The evangelist will say, “You can do him a favor. Accept him, receive him. He is standing outside in the cold; bring him in.”
This type of evangelism is often found illustrated in pictures of a circle with a throne inside the circle, representing our heart, and we are seated on the throne. We feel sorry for this Jesus who is on the cross. The musician is told to play appropriate music, and the preacher himself may shed a tear or two and touch you emotionally by telling a story or two so that we decide to do Jesus a favor: we decide to let Jesus to come in—not to run our life or anything like that, of course. We are still on the throne, but we let him come in to be our Savior. Nothing changes; we are the same old flesh.
The Bible tells us that which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. But with this type of evangelism there is no change, no Holy Spirit coming in, no regeneration. Its hearers can still practice autonomy and disobedience. But the evangelists of this type give people the false notion that now they are saved. Oh, it is the same old life, the same old flesh, the same old immorality, the same old mess, yet people are given the evangelist’s assurance that they are saved. Now, these people do not know what they are saved from, because no one preached about sin, wickedness, and guilt. Why didn’t the preacher preach those things? Because his is a user-friendly church. He knows that the moment he brings sin and guilt into the picture, people will not like such negativity! Instead, such preachers massage people and make their sermons nice and short.
This type of evangelism is a perversion especially of this century. It can be called cheap salvation, easy believism. The same old flesh which was outside is now inside the church. It is not the type of evangelism preached by Jonathan Edwards and others. But it is the most popular form of evangelism we find today, both in this country and throughout the world. And what are the results of such evangelism? Same old fellow doing the same old thing. Nothing changes except one very damnable thing: the person becomes so inoculated by the preacher with this gospel that damns him that he will never listen to the real preaching of the gospel because he thinks he is already a Christian. But nothing really happens to this person.
There is, however, another form of evangelism, which a minority of people in this country and the world practice. They preach that God is the Creator, that man has sinned and is born a sinner, that man is guilty before God, that the wrath of God is revealed against him, and that there is going to be an eternal judgment.
They also preach that there is only one way to be saved, but it is not by doing Jesus Christ a favor and letting him in. No, convicted of sin, a person must cry out like the publican of Luke 18 and say, “O God, do me the biggest favor. Have mercy on me, a sinner!” That conviction and confession that Jesus Christ is Lord must be birthed in the individual by the mighty operation of the Spirit of God. Yes, he receives Jesus Christ into his life, and we use that terminology, but in this type of evangelism it is clear that Jesus Christ comes in as Lord, and the life of a person who receives Christ as Lord will never be the same. It is expected that a person who receives Christ as Lord will walk in the way of righteousness because he is no longer the Lord—Jesus Christ is—and he will think, speak and do the will of God, understanding clearly that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. This is true evangelism and true Christianity.
I hope we will think seriously about these things. Maybe you were influenced by the wrong type of evangelism and there has been no change in your life. But suppose someone starts to preach the true gospel. People may not like it, even within evangelical churches. It flies in the face of church growth methods which say that we must be user friendly and make everything nice. But true evangelism saves sinners, and people who are evangelized in this way will be firmly placed on their way to heaven. The true gospel will transform our daily lives. This is experimental religion.
Errors, confusion, and superficiality have been always in the church. We must oppose such things, just as the apostle John opposed them. Let us, then examine the antidotes to the errors of false teachers, whom John calls antichrists.
Get Back to Scripture
The first antidote to the poison of false teaching is to get back to Scripture. Don’t check your mind at the door when you come to church. Don’t come only to experience a good feeling, but come so that you can listen to God’s word and try to understand what God is saying. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit is speaking to the churches.” We must get back to the word of God.
Throughout his epistle John calls us to study the word of God. In 1 John 1:1 we read, “That which was from the beginning, that which we have heard. . .” meaning the word of God. In verse 2 John says, “We have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life.” In verse 4 he writes, “We write this to make our joy complete.” In all these references John is speaking about the fixed, unchanging apostolic doctrine. “That which we have heard, that which we proclaim, that which I am writing to you,” John says. And in 1 John 2:14 John writes, “I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong and the word of God lives in you.”
If we want to go to heaven, there is no other way than to give serious and careful attention to the word of God, which alone makes us wise unto salvation. It alone is God-breathed, fixed, profitable, and unchanging. If we want to be saved, there is no other way than the way of the gospel. That is why we must appreciate, study, understand, and preach it.
John also says the word of God lives in believers, and it does so permanently. This is an important point. Paul makes the same point, saying, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you.” So in 1 John 2:24 John says, “See that what you heard from the beginning dwells in you.” If the word of God abides in us, that means we have received it and embraced it, and it will bear fruit in our life. Remember the story of soils? The fourth soil, representing the human heart that receives the word, will retain it, understand it, and with perseverance bring forth fruit—thirty, sixty, and hundredfold. If we are Christians and have embraced the word of God, it will dwell in us permanently and produce fruit.
Additionally, if the word of God abides in us, we can be assured that Christ abides in us, the Holy Spirit abides in us, and God the Father abides in us. We can also be assured that we abide in Christ, in the Father, and in the Holy Spirit. In John 17:3 Jesus tells us, “This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” Such knowledge comes only through the ministry of the Spirit from the objective word of God.
In 1 John 3:9 we read, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin because God’s seed remains in him.” This is the same idea as the fourth soil, for the seed is the word of God—the potent, powerful word of God. If we are Christians, we have embraced God’s word and it dwells in us. That is what John means when he says, “The seed remains in you” or “The word abides in you.” It means we are responding to the word of God, loving it, and obeying it. We are practicing experimental Christianity. We are not just learning, memorizing, and regurgitating the Scripture, yet refusing to obey what it says. Only of those who obey the word of God can be said, “The seed remains in you.” As God’s word abides in us, we will abide in the Father and the Son and have fellowship with them. And as we have fellowship with the Father and the Son, we will also have fellowship with one another, and our joy will be complete.
In 2 John 9 we read, “Anyone who runs ahead,” meaning goes outside of the Scripture, “and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God.” Where do we find the teaching of Christ? In the Bible. Thus, if we do not like the Bible and its teaching about sin and guilt, the wrath of God and God’s mercy, God’s grace and God’s judgment, God’s heaven and God’s hell, God’s forgiveness and God’s compassion, we cannot be saved.
The first antidote to the purveyors of errors is a passionate subscription to the word of God and its authority. We receive the word of God and live under it, because it is the very word of God.
We recently spoke about Professor Eta Linnemann, who critiqued and criticized the Bible all her life. She wrote books in unbelief and called herself a historical-critical scholar. God apprehended her and saved her, and she is now in her mid-seventies,passionately devoted to serving Christ. When God saved Dr. Linnemann by the power of the gospel, she took all of her books of unbelief, threw them in the garbage can, and now warns people not to read her older books. Eta Linnemann discovered the potency and power of the word of God that saved her.
What, then, is the first antidote to the purveyors of errors inside and outside the church? It is to call the church back to the Bible. May God give us a passion to know the word and to obey it!
Get Back to the Holy Spirit
What is the second antidote to error? We must get back to the Holy Spirit, the chrisma, the holy anointing that dwells in us. Jesus told us that the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Paraclete, would come in Christ’s name to be with us forever. Just as we need to get back to the Scripture, we must also get back to the Spirit. Just as we must appreciate the Scripture as the very word of God, so also must we appreciate this anointing with the Spirit as the anointing of the living God who dwells in us. How God can dwell in a human being? It is a miracle, and yet it is true. The Holy Spirit dwells in us, making us able and strong, teaching us, guiding us, empowering us, impelling us, and giving us the power we need to live a victorious Christian life.
Does the Holy Spirit supersede the Scripture? No. As the author of Scripture, the Holy Spirit works through the Scriptures to tell us how to live. As we already said, we are told that the word of God dwells in us; therefore, we must abide in the word of God. We find both indicative and imperative verbs here. Now we find the same idea in terms of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes and dwells with us forever, but, at the same time, we are told we must dwell in him by responding to his leading and guidance and living according to God’s word.
Exhibit Christian Ethics
The third antidote is that we must live according to biblical ethics. This is the reason John wrote his epistle. How do we know that we are Christians? We obey Jesus Christ and his word. There is no other way. The idea that we are saved if we just let Christ in our hearts is a false position if we remain in control of our lives and don’t change. How do we know if a person is a Christian? The only way that is given by John is by a demonstration of Christian ethics based on the indwelling of the Scripture and the Spirit. When we see Christian behavior in a person, we know that person is truly saved.
To fight error, then, we must first get back to Scripture. Don’t suspend your mind when you read the Bible, but study it with great diligence. I am not speaking about getting into intellectualism and philosophical speculation, but study so that you may say, “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it.”
Second, get back to the Holy Spirit. Some people will emphasize the Holy Scriptures so much that they don’t know a thing about the Holy Spirit. Others say, “We are Holy Spirit people,” and pay no attention to the Holy Scriptures. We need to keep these two in proper balance, as Jesus himself did. In Luke 24 Jesus said, “All Scriptures speak of me,” and in John 15:26 he declared, “The Holy Spirit testifies of me.” Both the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit speak of Christ; thus, we need both the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit. We must get back to them, even if every other church in the city disagrees with us. Some may prefer autonomy and speak against us. We must ignore their opposition. We want to go to heaven and have eternal life, and the only way to receive it is through the Scripture and the Spirit.
Third, we must base our lives on Christian ethics. I assure you, if the Scripture and the Holy Spirit are working in our lives, there will of necessity be a biblical response. This is experimental religion. We love God.
I pray that we will be delivered from the popular foolish nonsense that says, “Receive Jesus. Feel sorry for him. You can still run your life and everyone else’s.” Any time such people are told that they must respond to the true gospel, they attack the preacher , the Scripture, the church, and everything else. Such people are rebels. They are not on their way to heaven.
May we study the Scripture and ask the Holy Spirit to come into our lives as God, the third Person of the Trinity. May we look upon the Scriptures as the very word of God, and then respond to them. If we do so, we will be on our way to heaven and even now will experience eternal life as we abide in the word. As we abide in Christ, abide in the Father and abide in the Holy Spirit, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit will abide in us. This is eternal life, and when we get to heaven, we will enjoy full communion with God.
I pray that if you were given the wrong gospel and believed that you could receive Jesus as Savior but not as Lord, God will have mercy on you and grant you the real salvation. May the Spirit of the living God fall upon you that you will be regenerated, convicted, and enabled to confess, “Jesus is Lord.” If you are in a backslidden condition, may God help you to repent of your sins and live under the government of Jesus Christ and his word. May you be filled with a passion to hear the word and do it, for it is in doing the will of God that we find the way of true peace and full happiness. Amen.
By P. G. Mathew, M. A., M.Div., Th.M.