20 But you possess an anointing (chrisma) from the Holy One, and you know all things.1 John 2:20-23
21 I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and that no lie is of the truth.
22 Who is a liar but he that denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is the Antichrist that denies the Father and the Son.
23 All who deny the Son, have not the Father; he that confesses the Son, has the Father also.
Knowing and enjoying fellowship with God is not a matter of good brains and good behavior. Rather, it is the result of fellowship with God. Which is why, after the preceding stern warnings, John returns to assure the saints that they have received the anointing of the Anointed One, and all things necessary for life and godliness are made plain to them by Jesus Christ, His Spirit, and the apostles’ testimony.
John had sternly warned of the Antichrist, and the many antichrists who were afflicting the early church. Remember, Antichrist was not an invader, but a seducer. The Antichrist is not some vague figure, which we can discern through some Indiana Jones quest, putting every third letter of every fifth line of Scripture together in order to get the name of Henry Kissinger. Rather, the Antichrist was made manifest by what he taught.
The Antichrist, then, being a false teacher, it follows that those who adopted these teachings could rightly be called antichrists. It is important to understand that John has a real person in mind: the heretic Cerinthus. This heretic distinguished Jesus the man, from the person of Christ, and taught that Jesus was not conceived by the Holy Ghost, Christ came upon Jesus at His baptism, and left him at the crucifixion. Jesus was merely a man that Christ used. He also taught that salvation was found in strict adherence to the Mosaic Law. This undermined the very claims of Jesus, and what John and the other apostles had proclaims about the Christ and His Gospel.
Thus, while warnings against being seduced are necessary, it shouldn’t rattle the saints, but it should reinforce to them the need to look to their anointing, their charisma, their baptism into Christ so that they would not be led astray. The clever arguments of serpentine deceivers should not excite fear for the believers, rather they should turn to their Savior for reassurance that in Him is true wisdom, true illumination. John Calvin comments with great pastoral comfort on this passage:
“It hence follows that men are not rightly made wise by the acumen of their own minds, but by the illumination of the Spirit; and further, that we are not otherwise made partakers of the Spirit than through Christ, who is the true sanctuary and our only high priest.1”
This is why John has written to them (v21). Not to dismay them, or to accuse them, but to fortify them in the truth they’d previously received. You spot a counterfeit by being intimately familiar with the authentic thing. Which is why Cerinthus’ teaching (which John summarizes in v.22) is plainly a false gospel.
The additional clause in verse 23 is striking in that it harkens back to the confession in 1:9. Confessing your sins is agreeing with God about what He says about your sin. Here, your confession is saying the same thing about the Son as what the Father has said about His Son. Some dispute has arisen about the authenticity of this last clause, and whether it should be considered as part of the original text. For my part, I take the view that it matches John’s typical style of making the same point negatively and then positively (which we have here in the contrast between “deny” and “confess”). The point stands regardless, one cannot affirm the Father and deny the Son or vice versa. John is laying a strong Trinitarian foundation for the Church.
All this to say, cling to Your union with God the Father, through the Son, by the quickening grace which the Holy Spirit has sealed you with. This should fortify you as you oppose Rival Christs who would seduce you, for you will recognize that their tempting words undermine the basis of your salvation: Jesus Christ is the Word made flesh, and He is the propitiation for all your sins whereby through Him alone are you brought into fellowship with the Father.
- 1 John 5:16-19 | The Sin Unto Death
- 1 John 5:13-15 | Big Prayers
- 1 John 5:9-12 | God on the Stand
- 1 John 5:6-8 | The Threefold Witness
- 1 John 5:1-5 | Swept Up Into Victory
- 1 John 4:17-21 | Bold Sons & Fearful Slaves
- 1 John 4:11-16 | The Offensive Love of God
- 1 John 4:7-10 | God is Love
- 1 John 4:4-6 | Overcoming Swarms of Devils
- 1 John 4:1-3 | Stranger Danger
1 Calvin, Jean. Calvins Commentaries. Vol. XXII. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999. Pg.194.