September 15, 2019

Faithfulness and Fruitfulness in Spirit and in Truth (1 John 2:18-27)

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. 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—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.

I want to begin with a question this morning, that I believe our passage answers. The question is this: How can Comunidade Horizonte be faithful and fruitful until the end?

I don’t think it is a coincidence that this is the passage for my last day as your pastor. It is not the passage I would have picked if I had chosen it. But I believe it is gloriously fitting, and that God is wonderfully sovereign and wise. So, how can Comunidade Horizonte be faithful and fruitful until the end? I’m glad you asked.

Now, I confess that the passage is complicated right from the beginning; so there’s some work to be done. My first thought when I read it was actually, “Really? This is going to be the last passage I preach on? I’m going to preach on the antichrist!?” But the more I dug into the passage the more I realized that this is exactly what John is not doing. He’s actually trying to point us away from these speculations! Look at verse 18 again.

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. In other words, John’s point here is something like this:

“Don’t get worked up about the end times, don’t get caught up in trying to identify the exact identity of the antichrist - who he is, when he will come, or anything else of that sort. Yes, you have heard that antichrist is coming. That is true. But what I want you to understand is that many antichrists have already come.

In fact, they have been right here among us. So don’t live your lives in anticipation of some future antichrist or these seemingly far-off future realities. The last hour is here! Now! Christ has risen! The kingdom of God is at hand! Stop speculating about a future ‘antichrist’ and deal with the current antichrists who are turning people away from the truth, right now.”

So again, John is trying to take our attention away from speculation about the end times and the individual identity of “the antichrist”, in order to deal with the realities right before our eyes. And the reality before the church when John wrote this letter was that antichrists were everywhere. Some had left the church in order to teach a different gospel, a gospel that denied that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. And these, he says, are antichrists. Which is what find in verses 19-23.

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. 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.

Now, none of this should be very surprising. In fact, that’s what John says, right? He says, in verse 18, “you have heard that antichrist is coming”. This is something they were already well aware of. They had already heard about this. Jesus himself talked about it. Mark 13:22-23: For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.

Jesus had told the disciples in advance. And John is now simply saying, “It’s here. It’s happening. What Jesus warned us about has come.” But there are two things he wants us to be aware of concerning antichrists. First, “just because they went out from us does not mean that they were of us”. In fact, their going out proves that they weren’t. And this is really important.

He did not say, “They went out from us and therefore, are now no longer of us.” He did not say that their leaving the church caused them to fall away and lose their salvation. Rather, he says that their falling away proves that they were never of us to begin with. In other words, they did not endure to the end because they never, in fact, belonged to Christ. If they had looked upon the Son and believed in him, there is no doubt that they would be raised up on the last day.

That’s how Jesus talks about it in John’s Gospel. John 6:39-40: And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

I will lose NOTHING of all that the Father has given me. I WILL raise him up on the last day. Again, in verse 40, everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him WILL be raised up by Jesus on the last day. Jesus is the guarantor of our endurance, not us! He will hold us. He will keep us. And he will raise us up! In fact, later in chapter 10 Jesus will say, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28).

I want to make it abundantly clear that this is not about our ability to endure, but about Christ’s ability to hold us. Did you hear that? This is not about our ability to endure, but about Christ’s ability to hold us. The falling away of these “antichrists” simply proves that they never belonged to Christ in the first place. The second thing he wants us to understand is that no one can know the Father apart from Jesus Christ, the Son. Verse 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.

To be an antichrist is to be one who denies that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One. That’s what Christ (kristos) means, by the way. Christ is not the last name of Jesus! It means “anointed one”. We don’t know exactly what the nature of the teaching was that John was refuting. But we do know that they affirmed and accepted Jesus as significant and important in some ways, but they negated his person, his divinity, and ultimately, the centrality of what he achieved on the cross.

And we have no shortage of modern examples of this, right? There are plenty of people who love Jesus as a moral teacher, or moral example, or as the supreme example of sacrifice, or even as the most evolved spiritual being (as the Spiritists would say). Well, let me tell you, none of these things are the gospel because they deny that Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah, the Anointed Son of God, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

And these people are not only outside the church, many of them are either in the church or came from the church. “They went out from us, but they were not of us.” In fact, there will be many, even from within the church, who will prophecy and do miracles and cast out demons in the name of Jesus who will one day stand before him only to hear him say, “I never knew you” (Matthew 7). And these also are antichrists. They do things in the name of Jesus, while denying his right and authority and rule over their lives.

So the second thing John wants us to understand is that anyone who would come to the Father must do so through union with the Son - Jesus the Christ, the Anointed One, the holy one of God. There is no other way. I know that absolute truths are out of style in this generation. But Jesus said - “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Either that is true, or it is not. You can call him a liar if you want. But the option of good moral teacher or evolved spiritual being is simply not available to us. He is either the Christ or he is not. The question is, will you embrace him as the Christ, or will you be among the antichrists who deny him?

This leads us, then, to verses 24-27. The only thing left for John to say is: “Therefore, abide in Christ.” We just spent an entire retreat on this topic, right?! But that’s exactly where he takes us.

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—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.

Abide! He uses that word five times in four verses. But there are two very clear things that must abide in us in order for us to abide in him - the Truth and the Spirit. Look at verse 24. Let what you heard 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. So, remember the question I asked at the beginning? How can Comunidade Horizonte be faithful and fruitful until the end?

The first answer is: Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. Let the truth of God’s Word abide in you. Let the unadulterated gospel of Jesus Christ never leave the center of all that you proclaim. Live the gospel, defend the gospel, protect the gospel, preach the gospel. Why? Because Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. And eternal life is at stake, according verse 25: This is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.

Be faithful, Comunidade Horizonte, by letting what you heard from the beginning abide in you. Because there are “those who are trying to deceive you”. Antichrists are all around us; they can even be among us. You will be faithful to the degree that God’s Word abides in you.

The second answer has to do with the second part of the question. I asked, “How can Comunidade Horizonte be faithful and fruitful until the end?” You will be fruitful to the degree you understand that fruit is a work of the Spirit of God. Verse 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.

The “anointing” John is talking about here is nothing less than the Holy Spirit. You may be thinking, then why didn’t John just say “if the Spirit abides in you”? Because there is a play on words happening here that we can’t see in Portuguese (or English).

John has already said that an antichrist is anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Like I said earlier, this is not Jesus’s last name. The “kristos” simply means “the Anointed One”. And those who deny him are “anti-kristos” - antichrists. So now he is saying, “But you, church - you who have been saved by grace through faith and abide in the truth of the gospel - you are united to Christ, and have therefore received the ‘krisma’, the anointing”. Kristos, anti-kristos, krisma.

In other words, in your union with Christ, you are now little “christs”, you are “the krisma”, the anointed ones. And this anointing would have been understood to be the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Let me give you just two examples to show you that this is true (though there are several more). Jesus himself was “anointed” by the Holy Spirit.

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power (Acts 10:38). And Paul, speaking to us Christians, says: It is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us; who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee (2 Corinthians 1:21-22).

In other words, “the anointing” is just another way to say, “the Spirit”. So we could read verse 27 this way: “But the Spirit that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his Spirit teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.”

So, how can Comunidade Horizonte be faithful and fruitful until the end? You will be fruitful to the degree you understand that fruitfulness is a work of the Spirit of God, that it is the Spirit that ultimately teaches us, convicts us, and stirs our hearts and affections for Christ.

That is the single greatest role of the Spirit in our lives. When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. He is the Spirit of truth, he will guide you into all truth, he will teach you about all things. This is what Jesus said concerning the Spirit.

John 16:13-14: When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

Comunidade Horizonte, how will you be faithful and fruitful until the end? By abiding in Christ, in Spirit and in Truth. In other words, first, by being faithful to the Word of God, the gospel - to that which you heard from the beginning. And secondly, by entrusting yourselves wholly to the anointing of God, the Spirit of truth.

Faithfulness in the long run means that whatever you do as a church, whether in preaching or regional communities or discipleship or in worship, or whatever it is, the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Word of God will always be at the center. It will revolve around the truth which you have heard from the beginning, and not the inconstant opinions of men.

BUT, you must never be satisfied with facts about God, or mere intellectual understanding. The aim is not to know about God, but to know God! And this is the work of the Holy Spirit. The “anointing” engages our affections - our love and joy and delight IN God, not just in truths about him.

Which means that we approach God’s Word and truth not with confidence in our own intellectual abilities to know and understand it, but with Spirit-wrought dependence. We approach God’s Word as those who know that if anything is going to happen in our hearts, if any transformation is going to come, it is going to be a work of God, by his Spirit, and not of man.

I love that as I, your primary “teacher” for the previous four years, am on my way out, God has been so kind as to remind us that you have no need that anyone should teach you. This doesn’t mean of course, that there is no place for teaching in the church. It would essentially make John’s very letter useless, right? Because John is teaching the church through this letter!

His point, rather, is that the Spirit is the ultimate teacher. It is the Spirit that gives us understanding in all things. It’s like when Paul tells Timothy, “My son, think deeply about these things, for the Lord will give you understanding in all things.” In other words, “Timothy, use your mind and logic in order to reflect and think about the truths I’m telling you.” Why? FOR the Lord will give you understanding!

We are not called to put our brains aside. We are called to teach and to learn and to think and to grow in our knowledge of who God is. But at the end of the day, the Spirit of God is our ultimate teacher, and HE will give us understanding in all things.

This passage diminishes any one man so as to put the Spirit of God on display and in his rightful place! This means that no matter who stands before you, God is God, and He will move powerfully in your midst to the degree that you abide in His Word, and depend wholly on His Spirit.

So, Comunidade Horizonte, my last charge to you as your pastor is simply this: Let all that you do as a church revolve around the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and in complete dependence on the anointing of God, the Spirit of truth. I pray that God would cause his truth and his anointing to remain in this church until the end.

As Jesus said to the Samaritan woman. The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. Let’s pray together.