Abide in the Truth (1 John 2.18-28, 4.1-6)

Publié le 8 novembre 2020 dans Non classé

1 John 2:18-28 and 4:1-6

2:18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. 20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.[d] 21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. 24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that he made to us[e]—eternal life. 26 I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him. 28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.

4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

Sermon

A question that comes up often for us human beings is: How do we know that we really know something? How do you know that what you know is true?

John writes to a group of Christians, a church, in Ephesus and these Christians are troubled because there were people there who also called themselves Christians, and claimed to be in communion with God, but they were teaching contrary things about the person of Jesus, and they were behaving in ways contrary to Christ’s example. They called themselves Christians but did not believe in the same Christ; they called themselves Christians but did not act like Christ. Normally, one thing and its opposite cannot be true at the same time. But each of these groups said they were right. In our day also, we see the same sort of thing : we see things, people, institutions which bear the Christian name, but which have abandoned fundamental Christian beliefs and obedience, saying ‘it’s no longer relevant in today’s culture’.

So who is telling the truth, and who is not ? In our time, some would say that’s not even the right question. “The important thing is diversity.” “Everyone should find their way, have their own interpretation, whatever is true for you.” Recently, a teacher said that to claim that 2 + 2 = 4 is Western imperialism, because the truth is fluid and adaptable.

The apostle John, the one we often call the apostle of love, wants to reassure his Christian friends, but he also wants to warn them, (and we see that he has not lost his reputation of “a son of thunder”) against errors and lies. The Christian faith is not a gullible spirituality, open to everything. There is the concern for the truth. For John, one of the tests to recognize an authentic Christian, is ongoing attachment to the truth. That’s the goal this morning : to abide in the truth. For that; we need to 

1) Recognize the opposition, 2) Receive the “anointing”, and 3) Remain in Christ

1) Recognize the opposition, v18-19

In a few words, John reminds his readers of God’s great plan for the ages : he says this in verse 18. It is the last hour. Since the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are in the last chapter of history. This last hour has been going on 2000 years, but the next stage is the final stage : the return of Christ and his final confrontation with evil, the evil one. This text and others in the NT allude to the coming of the Antichrist (v18 “you have heard that an Antichrist is coming.”), a person who represents and leads the final attack / rebellion against God. Antichrist means to be against Christ, but in many ways he will try to mimic Christ. From the Garden of Eden to the end of time, we are in a struggle between good and evil, truth and error, light and darkness, but evil disguises itself as good, darkness disguises itself as light, error mixes with the truth. 

So John refers to the ultimate Antichrist, but looks back through time and says that throughout history, between Christ’s first and second coming, there will be many antichrists. Because there is an ongoing battle between good and evil, we can know today that there will be influences, ideas, false teachers that are trying to lead us astray, to lie to us. 

And these antichrists, with their false doctrines, will have some resemblance to the truth, for a while… As John was writing these lines, perhaps, he was thinking of his colleague Judas, who lived as a disciple of Christ for many years …Verse 19 gives us an explanation to understand what unfortunately sometimes happens in the church : people who seem to be with us, engaged with Christ, get carried away by errors, abandon the faith, they do not remain in the truth; these were not of us, they never were.

2. Receive the “anointing”.

v20: you have received the anointing. Again in v27. This way of talking might seem weird to you. In some circles, people use this vocabulary to describe a heightened state of spirituality, or a feeling of being particularly close to God, or a special spiritual gift. “Our guitarist really had the anointing this morning…” But that’s not how John speaks. This is to confuse the OT and the NT. You have all received the anointing from Him who is holy. Every Christian receives this blessing, namely the Holy Spirit in us, he enlightens us, he helps us understand the Bible for ourselves, he  leads us in the truth, he gives us understanding to know Jesus, the Jesus of the Bible.

Amazing ! Any Christian, with the help of God, the word of God, can differentiate between truth and lies on matters that are essential to the faith. Often the lies and the errors will focus on the person of Jesus, v22.

So for example; you will find that a young Christian, without having done any major theological studies, will smell something fishy when talking to a Jehovah’s Witness, who denies that Jesus is God. Or one of you will have found something on the internet, and say, wait a second; this teaching is denying Jesus as the perfect, sufficient Christ, Savior, and telling me that I have to become my own Savior. Or a colleague might say ‘Anyways, we all worship the same God,” but you can’t agree. We cannot say that we worship the same God if we do not worship the same Jesus, who is his Son. (v23)

Throughout the centuries, the evil one, through his “antichrists”, has tried to pass on lies, errors which prevent saving faith in a saving Christ. All possible variations of error exist concerning 

Jesus: “Jesus was not really God.” “Jesus was not really a man.” “Jesus was not really dead.” “Jesus was not really resurrected.” “The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are three different gods.” “Or the Father, the son, the holy spirit are all the same person, etc, etc”.

We can be thankful that we do not have groups of heretics, antichrist, false prophets rising up every week in EBTM to lead others astray. Which is thanks to God; the influence of this epistle, the anointing we all have as Christians. and the Bible. But we can understand that in some contexts (a young church, pioneer missions; or where the Bible is not yet accessible, or not printed, not yet a solid Christian heritage), deceivers can be a real problem.

During the first 300 years after Jesus, there was a lot of debate about the person of Jesus, how to articulate the truth. Through this anointing, the church was able to enrich itself with some of the denominations, creeds, symbols (like the one we read a while ago, the Nicene Creed)). They are not infallible, inspired, but they offer guides to help us abide in the truth.

3. Remain in Christ, v24-28

In v24: Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. v.27 abide in him, according to the teachings. What they heard from the beginning, the teachings they received, was the apostolic message, the gospel message. The best way to stay in the truth is to stay attached to the gospel, to Jesus. 

Which means that abiding in the truth is more than just reciting a creed. It is being attached to Jesus, relying on him alone for the promise of eternal life, as in v25. Through Jesus, and what he did for us on the cross, paying the penalty of our sins, we can be confident that (v28) we will not shrink from him in shame at his coming. Any teaching or influence or persons that pull us away from Christ is… anti-christ.

In conclusion, who are you listening to ? Where are you getting your knowledge ? Is it true ? The main reason we believe the Bible is because it is a true, historical fact about Christ and it tells the truth about our own hearts.

Or are you being lied to ? Do you base your life on what the world says or what God says?  The media and the news outlets are not often going to declare that Jesus is King, that he reigns and that he is coming again, and yet, that’s the truth. Social media isn’t going to tell you that the most important thing about you is what you do with Jesus, and yet, that’s the truth. May God help us all to discern His truth and abide in it.