The last two weeks we worked on portions of 1 John that deal with antichrists: liars who are Christ-deniers, and John was very clear that they have no part in Christ. These were formerly members of the church, teaching false doctrines and masquerading as children of light while they continued to walk in the dark. But they left the church, leaving confusion and hurt in their wake. John wants to make crystal clear the fact that no true follower of Christ behaves that way, and so he has written to assure the believers of the differences between themselves and the false brethren, and to encourage them to hold fast to the gospel that they had heard from the beginning.
Our passage this week opens with that reminder. We then read a statement that is startling, and bears closer examination. John declares that we have received an anointing that abides in us and renders it unnecessary that anyone should teach us, but it teaches us everything. Now, before we think that John is exempting us from learning, remember the context—the false teachers were teaching something other than the gospel which the apostles had proclaimed to the church at the beginning. John’s epistle, and indeed, the rest of the New Testament, is full of needful teaching. Believers who have exchanged their old sinful lives for new lives in Christ must be taught new ways to live. I know I still have much to learn after walking with Christ for at least thirty years!
What John is saying is that because we have received the abiding anointing (of the Holy Spirit), having been born again under the teaching of the true gospel which we heard from the beginning, we have no need that anyone should teach us anything that deviates from the teaching of the true, living, and abiding word of God. The teaching that is available to us of the true word of God, beginning with the gospel and diving deeper into the knowledge of the Father and his Son Jesus Christ, is vast enough to occupy the rest of our natural lives, and (I suspect) the rest of eternity too. I have no need to bother myself with the philosophies of heresy and doubt. I am grateful for the wise shepherds of the flock who know enough of that stuff to guard and guide me and instruct me in the way of light and life.
In this life we have much learning and living in “walking in the way,” so that when Jesus appears at the end of history we may have confidence when we see him, rather than shrinking from him in shame at the ways in which we wasted our gifts and squandered our blessings. John wants us to stay focused on our goal—our coming reunion with our Lord and Savior. Let’s not get bogged down, but let us strive to learn and grow in our faith. (I’m convicted just writing this…)
And now, memory aids.
26 I write these things to you about those who are
trying to deceive you.
We have seen this phrase before: I write … to you. This time he is specifying the content and the subject of the content: these things… 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.
Full disclosure: this was tough. A lot of repeated words and ideas. Some brute force was needed. Break it into 5 sections: But… and… But… and… just.
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.
Trace the role of the anointing: it abides in you… teaches you… is true and is no lie… it has taught you. The anointing abides in you as it teaches you to abide in him. Repetition is key with this verse.
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.
Slight shift in emphasis and tone, but continuing the theme of abiding while adding assurance. Abiding in Christ lends confidence to our faith and anticipation of his return. And so, with gentleness, John says: And now (Enough of what they were teaching you), little children, abide in him (why?), so that when he appears we may have confidence… And to see that we understand, he gives us the definition of this confidence by way of a negative: 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.
The reason for our confidence comes by way of the test of obedience. We learned in week 3 that keeping his commands is one way we know that we have come to know him. Practicing righteousness is the same thing. John gives us a logical puzzle: If you know that he is righteous (and we do know this), then you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness (that’s us—not perfectly) has been born of him (and therefore abides in him).
Like I said above, this was a tough week to memorize. Keep at it. Add extra sessions to go over it. Walk a second time around the block with the dog (that’s me). Connect it to what has already been said. The more you rehearse what you have learned thus far, the strong it will take hold in your heart and mind. It’s worth it when you have a quiet moment and it comes to you, unbidden, as meat for meditation. Savor it. This is the Word of God, allow it to nourish your soul.