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Confessing His Son (I John 2:18-27)

February 11, 2018 Speaker: Bryce Morgan Series: Signs of Life

Topic: One Lord: So Great a Salvation Passage: 1 John 2:18–2:27

Signs of Life

 

Confessing His Son

I John 2:18-25

(One Lord: So Great a Salvation)

February 4th, 2018

 

 

I. Aim of Assurance

 

Last week's message had a straightforward title. Do you remember it? It was, “How to Know If You're a Christian”. For some, that is an easy test to take. As they understand it, being a Christian simply means agreeing to a certain set of propositions and principles; or it's about your social, cultural, or political leanings; or its about church attendance and commitment. For some it's a default, based on race, ethnicity, family identity or just where you grew up.

 

For others, that issue is a lot squishier. Some would say, “Well...I'm not sure if anyone can really know if they are forgiven and right with God. We can hope we are.” But as you may recall, the Apostle John, the author of the fourth Gospel, that same John made this confident statement in what we call his first letter...

 

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. (I John 5:13)

 

Now, some today take a statement like that and push back againsy those who are skeptical and squishy. They say, “Well, as long as you truly asked Jesus to come into your heart, you can know you have eternal life.”

 

But here's the problem with that: when we actually read through John's letter on assurance, he doesn't say that. So...what does he say? Well, as we talked about last time, John gives us three things to look for, what we could call, “signs of life” [i.e. eternal life].

 

Remember what he's doing in this letter. John is writing to give the spiritually vaccinated directions on verifying they are truly immunized. And we talked about why this is so incredibly important. If people who are really still sick and dying, believe they are healthy, or are being told they are “healthy”, they won't be looking for real help. And the symptoms of their spiritual illness will either be downplayed or addressed with worldly treatments.

 

So let's turn over to John 2:18-27, and consider the first of these 'signs of life'.

 

 

II. The Passage: "Whoever Confesses the Son" (2:18-27)

 

Now, some may wonder why we are not starting in chapter 1. But in a way we are. What God has revealed through John in the second half of chapter 2, is actually based on the opening words of the letter. Flip back and/or look back at I John 1:1. John writes...

 

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—

[2] the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us... (I John 1:1–2)

 

If you're familiar with the opening lines of John's Gospel, John 1:1, 2, you can hear a number of the same themes here in I John 1:1, 2. But think about what John is emphasizing here. John wants his readers to be confident in his testimony about Jesus, since John and many others actually saw and heard and touched Jesus...in the flesh.

 

 

1. Those Abandoning (2:18, 19)

 

So keep that in mind and look with me at verses 18 and 19 of chapter 2. John writes:

 

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.

 

There's a lot packed into those two verses. But let's try to make sense of what John is saying by starting with this word, “antichrist”. In Greek, the prefix “anti” means “opposite; over against, or in place of”. While the title “antichrist” has become a very popular word in popular Christian thinking, and even in pop culture, John is the only biblical writer to use that term. So what does he mean by it?

 

Well, in very broad terms, I think John is remembering back to what Jesus taught him and the others about what the NT calls the “last days”. Matthew 24:4, 5 speak of those days...

 

And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. [5] For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.”

 

And again in Matthew 24:11 he stresses, “And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.”

 

Now, the NT may point to a single individual coming just before the very end (like the one Paul calls the “man of lawlessness” in II Thessalonians 2). But notice what John is emphasizing to his readers. They may be so focused on some kind of super villain who breaks onto the scene in a very 'apocalyptic' way, (so focused on that) that they are missing the “antichrists” who have already come and who are already wreaking havoc.

 

And the presence of these “antichrists” simply confirmed what Jesus said about these “last days”, last days that began after Christ's death and resurrection: [Jesus said] false Christs and false prophets would come. So what were these antichrists teaching? Why were they so dangerous? Listen to how John explains it in his second letter. He writes...

 

For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. (II John 7)

 

Now, our letter, John's first letter, also explains more about the teaching of these “antichrists”. But notice how II Jn. 7 contradicts John's testimony (1:1-2) about seeing and touching Jesus.

But to be clear, the main point for us this morning is not the specifics of this teaching. The main point for us is what John says in verse 19 about where these “antichrists” came from...

 

They went out from us, [but then John is quick to explain what their leaving revealed] They went out from us, but they were not of us; [how can John be certain of his assessment? He continues...] 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.

 

 

2. Those Abiding (2:20-25)

 

Okay. Keep that in mind and look with me at the next few verses, 20-25. John tells them...

 

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.

 

Now, we'll come back to this idea of 'being anointed' in a few minutes. But look at how John tells us even more about these false teachers. They were spreading lies about Jesus not being the Messiah. And in doing this, they were ultimately spreading lies about God. You see, what we believe about the Son affects what we believe about the Father.

 

Listen, we don't know all the specifics of this false teaching about Jesus. But it's clear these were not minor disagreements. These were major differences that went right to the heart of the gospel, and thus, right to the heart of being right with God.

 

But what is clear in this passage is what John tells us about assurance. Verse 23: No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. You can't be wrong about Jesus and say you're right with God (2x). But if you embrace and confess the truth by faith, you confirm God is at work in you.

 

And yet, this is not just about what some call 'making a confession [or profession] of faith'. Look again at verse 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.

 

John explains here that this is about more than 'getting saved'. He's talking about both receiving and remaining in the truth; about accepting and adhering; about clutching and clinging to Christ. There were some who had been among them who had abandoned the truth, the truth to which John testified, the truth John proclaimed as an eyewitness. As John made clear, these were 'antichrists' (and those who followed them were deceived).

 

But in contrast to those who abandoned the truth, John calls them to abide in the truth. And if they abide in the truth, according to verse 24, they will also abide in the Son and the Father. But wait? Hold up. Does that somehow make being a Christian all about me and my efforts? Is my confidence in Christ based on how well I can maintain my confession?

3. His Anointing (2:26, 27)

 

Well, John answers that question in the final verses of our section. Look at 2:26, 27...

 

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.

 

Okay. Remember John first broached this subject back in verse 20: But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. So it's in these verses that John expands on this idea of being “anointed”. But what exactly is he saying here about this “anointing”?

 

At first glance, it almost sounds like genuine Christians have no need for teachers or teaching; as if God has already downloaded into them everything they need to know. But that would not only contradict many other passages in the NT, but it would also contradict the very reality that John is truly teaching them here...in this letter, in these verses...they are being taught. So what is he saying?

 

The context is clear: John is reassuring them in light of the danger of these deceivers and their destructive deceptions. And that reassurance is fixed, is rooted in, is bolted down onto the solid rock of their anointing. So what is this anointing that will teach them about the truth in the face of such lies? I think John is referring to this same anointing in 4:13-15...

 

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. [14] And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. [15] Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.

 

Do you see the connections between that passage and 2:26, 27? I believe John is revealing that the anointing he writes about is in fact the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote about the Spirit in these terms in II Corinthians 1:21, 22...And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, [22] and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

 

You see, it is the Holy Spirit who abides in us, and who reveals the truth to us, and confirms the truth in us. Isn't this what Jesus told John and the others the night before He was crucified, as recorded in John's Gospel? But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (John 14:26)

 

So receiving and remaining in the truth, accepting and adhering to the gospel, is not ultimately my doing or your doing. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to protect God's children when they are tempted by false teaching; He affirms the truth when they are attacked with lies.

 

As John puts it in chapter 5:6... the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. And then in 5:9...If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God [i.e. the testimony of the Spirit] is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son.

III. The Confessing Life

 

So let's do a quick recap: one foundation for our assurance, one 'sign of life' [i.e. eternal life], is our confession of the truth about Jesus. Those who have abandoned that truth prove they were never really of the truth or in the truth, because the anointing of the Holy Spirit keeps true believers clinging to that truth, by God's grace. But what does it really mean to confess the truth about Jesus; to confess Jesus?

 

Well, we know confession is first about content. Look at chapter 4. In verse 2 we read, By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit [i.e. speaking through a prophet] that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God... Similarly, look at 4:15...Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.

 

So clearly, assurance of our connection with God is grounded in the content of what we confess, specifically, confessing the truth about Jesus Christ. Plenty of cultish groups, new age dabblers, social radicals, historic factions of Christendom, and even nominal evangelical, plenty of them align themselves with Jesus; but not based on the truth of God's word.

 

But the confession John speaks about here is also connected to conviction. Consider this verse from John's Gospel. John 12:42...Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue... You see, these authorities were persuaded that Jesus was from God. But sadly, they loved their place in the synagogue more than they loved God; more than they loved the truth.

 

John's readers also faced pressure. They faced the pressure of false teachers and the sneers of those abandoning the truth. And yet, they stood firm. They clung to Jesus, they abided in the truth because of the anointing they had received; because the Holy Spirit guarded them with and in the truth.

 

Where can you find assurance this morning? How can you encourage someone else who is seeking assurance, assurance he or she is right with God? It begins with the content of and the conviction of your confession. It isn't enough to say you believe, or to score well on a quiz about Jesus. The assurance John wants to give them is rooted in an enduring confession of the truth about Jesus, one that weathers the storms of trials and temptations.

 

Does that mean the absence of doubt? Does it mean we won't ever struggle with doctrine? Does it mean we will always speak about Jesus when tempted not to? No. It simply means those things will not ultimately steer us away or stop us. For those who have been anointed by the Spirit, such things will only help us grow...to more faithfully abide.

 

Remember, John wrote this letter not just to reassure true believers, but also to refocus them. His words, God's words, are the very thing the Spirit uses to strengthen us in the truth. Therefore, brothers and sisters, we need to fortify ourselves in the truth about Jesus, the Son of God, the Son of David, fully God, fully man, the Lamb of God. And we need to remember and remind each other about what it means, today, right here in this community, in word and deed, to live our lives in accordance with the words of Jesus himself...

 

"Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. [33] But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33)(NKJV) 

 

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