Bibliotheca Sacra 146 (1989) 76-93.
Copyright © 1989 by
An Expositional Study of 1 John
Part 4 (of 10 parts):
An Exposition of 1 John 2:18-28
Professor Emeritus of New Testament
Mennonite Brethren Biblical
In the preceding portion of the epistle (1:5-2:17) John presented
grounds for assurance through the test of fellowship. He wrote of the
contrasts between light and darkness, truth and error, obedience and
disobedience, things temporal and things eternal. In the long section
beginning with 2:18 John turned to offer his readers assurance
through the conflicts of faith (2:18-4:6). Assurance concerning one's
Christian faith can be drawn from the nature of the enemies he en-
counters. John insisted that these enemies must be exposed for what
they are and believers encouraged to understand the dangers they
present and to defeat them with the spiritual equipment God has
provided. These conflicts are portrayed under four aspects: (1) the
conflict between truth and falsehood (2:18-28); (2) the conflict be-
tween the children of God and the children of the devil (2:29-3:12);
(3) the conflict between love and hatred (3:13-24); and (4) the con-
flict between the Spirit of God and the spirit of error (4:1-6).
Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is
coming, even now many antichrists have arisen; from this we know that
it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of us;
for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they
went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us. But
you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. I have not
written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do
know it, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but the one
who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who
denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have
the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also. As for
you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what
An Exposition of 1 John 2:18-28 77
you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the
Son and in the Father. And this is the promise which He Himself made
to us: eternal life. These things I have written to you concerning those
who are trying to deceive you. And as for you, the anointing which you
received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to
teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true
and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him. And
now, little children, abide in Him, so that if He should appear, we may
have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His com-
ing (1 John 2:18-28).
The conflict between truth and falsehood is brought into sharp
focus by the presence of the anti-Christian false teachers. John
called attention to the crisis facing believers (vv. 18-19), indicated
the resources of believers to deal with these opponents (vv. 20-21),
underlined the test to distinguish true from false believers (vv. 22-
25), and instructed his readers in the face of the dangers (vv. 26-28).
The Crisis Facing Believers
In launching into his discussion on the conflicts of faith, John
first declared the reality of the crisis hour (v. 18) and then delin-
eated the nature of the crisis (v. 19).
THE REALITY OF THE CURRENT CRISIS (v. 18)
John marked a new beginning by again addressing his readers as
"children" (Paidi<a; cf. 2:14). In support of the view that the term
includes all his readers, Plummer remarks, "It is difficult to see any-
thing in this section specially suitable to children: indeed the very
reverse is rather the case."1 The term suggests John's fatherly con-
cern for his beloved readers as needing his guidance in facing the
The assertion (v. 18a). "It is the last hour" (e]sxa<th w!ra e]sti<n)
marks the crucial, situation. The term "last hour" obviously was not
intended as a literal chronological assertion. Since the original does
not have the definite article, two renderings, "the last hour," or "a
last hour," are possible. In support of the former rendering, com-
monly used in English versions, it is held that the expression is
sufficiently definite without the article, "for there can be only one
last hour." Or it may be viewed as a technical term that does not
need the definite article.2 But some like Westcott3 insist on render-
1 A Plummer, The Epistles of S. John, The
2 H E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament
Brooke Foss Westcott, The Epistles of
78 Bibliotheca Sacra I January—March 1989
ing the phrase "a last hour." Since this exact expression occurs only
here in the New Testament, Lenski feels that it cannot be treated as
a well-known concept that needed no article, and so he asserts, "The
term is plainly qualitative."4
The rendering "the last hour" is commonly understood to denote
the period immediately preceding the return of Christ. Thus The
Living Bible Paraphrased renders the phrase by the words "this
world's last hour has come."5 But this view is open to the charge
that "John was wrong."6 While accepting the eschatological refer-
scale. Like the New Testament authors generally he does not de-
limit precisely the expected date of the parousia."7
Jesus told His disciples that the time of His return was unre-
vealed (Matt. 24:36), but He instructed them to live in constant
readiness for His return (Matt. 24:44; 25:12-13; Luke 12:40). He also
told them that before His return apostasy and the presence of false
prophets would characterize the scene (Matt. 24:11-12; Mark 13:22-
23). As John contemplated the appearing of "many antichrists" in
his own day, he was fully aware that the characteristics of the end-
time, as foretold by Jesus, were present. While John avoided any
specific time declaration for the return of
Christ, he stressed the
gency of the time, which manifested eschatological characteristics.
Clearly the characteristics of the end-time as foretold by Jesus al-
ready manifested themselves before the close of the apostolic era.
The powers of the future eschatological kingdom actually en-
tered the scenes of human history during the first advent of Christ
(Heb. 6:5). The presence of the incarnate Messiah brought human
history face to face with the reality of the eschatological kingdom.
character was not established; that awaits His return in glory. But
according to J. H. Newman that encounter with the eschatological
future changed the direction of history.
Up to Christ's coming in the flesh, the course of things ran straight to-
ward that end, nearing it by every step; but now, under the Gospel, that
course has (if I may so speak) altered its direction, as regards His sec-
ond coming, and runs, not towards the end, but along it, and on the
4 R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistles of St.
5 The Living Bible Paraphrased (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1971).
6 William Barclay, The Letters of John and Jude, The Daily Study Bible
(Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1958), p. 71.
the New Testament (
An Exposition of 1 John 2:18-28 79
brink of it; and is at all times near that great event, which, did it run to-
wards it, it would at once run into it. Christ, then is ever at our doors.8
This is a helpful analogy. It preserves the sense of urgency and im-
minence found in the New Testament on the basis of the principle that
God is capable of extending the last hour (for the excellent reason in 2
Pet. 3:9) while retaining his own secret counsel on its duration.9
Since John's day human history has repeatedly been marked by the
characteristics of "the last hour." And the present times strongly cry
out with the sense of impending destiny. Only God's longsuffering
mercy holds back the manifestation of Christ's impending eschato-
logical return (2 Pet. 3:8-9).
The sign (v. 18b). With "and" (kai>) John immediately added
the justifying sign for his assertion. "And just as you heard that an-
tichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen; from this
we know that it is the last hour." The words "just as you heard that
antichrist is coming" recall the prophetic teaching John's readers
had received as part of their instruction in the faith. The aorist
rendered "you heard" (h]kou<sate) summarizes the varied occasions
when they heard the apostolic teaching that "antichrist is coming"
(a]nti<xristoj e@rxetai). The present tense "is coming" (e@rxetai) is
futuristic, conveying the "future of prophetic fixity,"10 while the
singular "antichrist" points to an individual yet to come. John's
readers were familiar with the apostolic teaching concerning the
coming of a final, personal "Antichrist" (2 Thess. 2:3-4, 8-9), a
teaching rooted in the ministry of Christ Himself (Matt. 24:11-15;
Mark 13:14). The term "antichrist" (a]nti<xristoj) occurs only in 1
and 2 John (1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 7), but the concept is important
on the pages of Scripture (Dan. 7:11-14; Matt. 24:24-28; Mark 13:14-
23; 2 Thess. 2:3-12; Rev. 13:1-10; 19:19-20). In the compound term the
prefix a]nti may mean either "against" or "instead of."' The biblical
picture of the "antichrist" suggests that both thoughts are involved
in the designation. The term is synonymous with Paul's "man of
lawlessness . . . who opposes and exalts himself above every so-
called god or object of worship" (2 Thess. 2:3-4). As Plummer re-
marks, "The Antichrist is a usurper, who under false pretenses as-
sumes a position which does not belong to him, and who opposes the
rightful owner. The idea of opposition is the predominant one."11
8 J. H. Newman, "Waiting for
Christ," Parochial and Plain Sermons
man's, 1896), p. 241.
9 Marshall, The Epistles of John, p. 150.
10 Henry Alford, The New Testament for English Readers (reprint,
Press, n.d.), p. 1712.
11 Plummer, The Epistles of S. John, p. 107.
80 Bibliotheca Sacra / January—March 1989
In writing "just as . . . even now" (kaqw>j . . . kai> nu?n, 1 John 2:18b)
John placed the future coming of the personal Antichrist as a paral-
lel reality to the existence of the "many antichrists" (a]nti<xristoi
polloi<) when he wrote. "Many" implies they were a strong group.
His use of the perfect tense "have arisen" (gego<nasin) recognizes their
historical arrival and their present impact on the church and the
world. The verb, literally "have come into being," marks a contrast
between these antichrists who have their origin during the course of
history and Christ who is from all eternity (John 1:1; 1 John 1:2).
From the presence of these antichrists John drew his conclusion
about the character of the time: "from this we know that it is the
last hour" (v. 18c). Their presence pointed to the coming Antichrist
and showed that "the mystery of lawlessness is already at work" (2
Thess. 2:7), making clear the character of the hour. While John felt
it necessary to remind his readers of the spiritual significance of the
situation, his use of the comprehensive "we know" (ginw<skomen) im-
plies that "the actuality is evident to every believer without
exception."12 John was well aware that these contemporary an-
tichrists were possessed by the spirit of the coming Antichrist. But it
is unwarranted to assume that John thereby "historicized" and
"rationalized the myth" of the personal end-time Antichrist.13 John
simply insisted that these "many antichrists" point to the coming of
the future Antichrist in that they already manifest the spirit of
that final opponent of Christ.
THE NATURE OF THE CURRENT CRISIS (v. 19)
John's statement, "They went out from us, but they were not re-
ally of us," relates the appearance of these antichrists to the Chris-
tian church. He omitted all details since his readers already knew
what had taken place. The clause "they went out" (e]ch?lqan) im-
plies not that they were excommunicated but that they voluntarily
incapable of bearing up under strong orthodox teachings."14 Clearly
the orthodox majority refused to accept their views. Their with-
drawal was not simply a matter of leaving one church to join an-
other. Rather, their "departure, like Judas's going out from the com-
munity of disciples, pointed to betrayal, denial of faith, and sepa-
Stephen S. Smalley, 1, 2, 3 John, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 51 (
Word Books, Publisher, 1984), p. 100 (italics his).
13 Rudolph Bultmann, The Johannine Epistles (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1973),
p. 36, n. 3; C. H. Dodd, The Johannine Epistles, The Moffatt New Testament Commen-
tary (New York: Harper & Row, 1946), p. 49.
14 Gordon H. Clark, First John: A Commentary (
Reformed Publishing Co., n.d.), p. 75.
An Exposition of 1 John 2:18-28 81
ration from God's grace."15 "From us" (e]c h[mw?n), placed emphati-
cally at the beginning of the sentence, underlines John's self-identi-
fication with the orthodox majority. "Us" includes all true believ-
ers, whether of Jewish or Gentile origin. Van Gorder notes that "this
pronoun is used five times in verse 19, underscoring the wonderful
fellowship that marked the early believers."16
The departure of the heretics revealed their true nature, making
clear that "they were not really of us" (a]ll ] ou]k h#san e]c h[mw?n). The
strong adversative "but" (a]ll ] ) marks the clear contrast. Their defi-
nite act of departure is contrasted with their continuing state of "not
of us." Outwardly they had been members of the church, but in-
wardly they never shared the inner spiritual fellowship of the
group. Their defection had the effect of purifying the church and
marking the clear distinction between truth and error.
With the word "for" (ga<r) John added the significance of their
departure, "for if they had been of us, they would have remained
with us." The "if" construction assumes a condition contrary to re-
ality: "If they had been of us (but they weren't), they would have
remained with us (but they didn't)." Their departure proved that
they had a different spiritual origin, that they belonged to another
camp. It proved that they did not have the inner life of true believ-
ers. The test of experience had made clear the distinction between
true and counterfeit believers. As Bruce observes, "Continuance is the
test of reality."17 "He who began a good work in you will perfect it
until the day of Christ Jesus" (Phil. 1:6). Stott remarks, "This verse
also gives biblical warrant for some distinction between the visible
and invisible Church."18
The added words, "but they went out, in order that it might be
shown that they all are not of us," point to a divine purpose behind
their departure. "But" (a]ll ]) points to a strong contrast between
their hypothetical continuance and their actual departure. The
Greek construction (a]ll ] i!na) is elliptical, implying the words "they
went out." The phrase "in order that" (i!na) sets forth the purpose,
not of the heretics, but of God, in their departure, "that it might be
shown that they all are not of us." God used their departure to lay
15 Glenn W. Barker, "1 John," in The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 12 (Grand
Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), p. 324.
16 Paul R. Van Gorder,
In the Family: Lessons from First John
Bible Class, 1978), p. 88.
17 F. F. Bruce, The Epistles of John (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1970), p.
18 J. R. W. Stott, The Epistles of John, The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries
(Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1964), p. 106.
82 Bibliotheca Sacra / January—March 1989
bare the true nature of these departing heretics. It was decisive
proof "that they all are not of us."19 Westcott points out that when
the Greek verb stands between the negative (ou]k) and "all" (pa<ntej),
as here, the negation is always universal rather than partial. Their
departure made clear that "none of them belonged to us" (NIV). Bruce
suggests that John thus sought to assure "that his readers should not
be shaken in the faith by the secession of their former associates."20
John used "of us" (e]c h[mw?n) four times and "with us" (meq ] h[mw?n) once in
this verse to stress the unity of the true believers with whom John
associated himself. "Not those who deny the Christ are important,
but the believers."21
The Resources of the Believers
John now reminded his readers of the resources they had to meet
the crisis. They had an anointing from the Holy One (v. 20a) and
the knowledge of the truth (vv. 20b-21).
THE ANOINTING FROM THE HOLY ONE (v. 20a)
With his "but you" (kai> u[mei?j) John again turned directly to his
readers with assuring words. The use of the emphatic pronoun
(u[mei?j) lends support to the rendering "but" for the conjunction (kai>),
usually rendered "and."22 In spite of the claims of these heretics,
John assured his readers that they truly had the spiritual equipment
to resist these antichrists. Of primary importance is the fact that
"you have an anointing from the Holy One" (xri?sma e@xete a]po> tou?
a[gi<ou). The noun "anointing," the object of the verb, stands emphat-
ically forward. Based on the verb xri<w, "to anoint," the noun does
not denote the act of anointing but rather the result of the action. In
the Septuagint the noun is used of the "anointing oil" (cf. Exod. 29:7;
30:25), and in Daniel 9:26 it is used metaphorically of "the Mes-
siah." In the New Testament the term occurs only in 1 John (2:20, 27
19 The Greek is somewhat ambiguous and two renderings are possible: (1) "that not
all in our company truly belong to us" (
truly saved, and (2) "that none of them belonged to us" (NIV). Since the verse deals
with the exodus of the antichrists, the latter is preferable. The latter is the commonly
accepted reading in modern translations. The former is the reading of the KJV, but the
New King James Version reads, "none of them were of us."
20 Bruce, The Epistles of John, p. 70.
21 Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of the Epistle of James and the Epistles of John,
New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1986), p. 276.
22 If the conjunction kai> is rendered "and" or "also," the implication seems to be that
these anti-Christian heretics made the vaunted claim that they had received a spe-
cial "anointing" that distinguished them from the rest of the church members. What-
ever the claims of the heretics, John assured his readers that they did indeed have
"an anointing from the Holy One."
An Exposition of 1 John 2:18-28 83
[twice]). John did not identify this anointing, but it is generally
agreed that it refers to the Holy Spirit imparted to the believer at
regeneration. The figure of anointing is used of the Holy Spirit in
connection with Jesus' ministry (Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38), and in 2
Corinthians 1:21-22 it is used of God's work in establishing the be-
liever. John's statement here seems reminiscent of the promise of Je-
sus in the fourth Gospel about the coming of the Spirit (John 14:17;
15:26; 16:13). The verb "you have" (e@xete) indicates the continued
possession of this anointing. The indwelling presence of the Holy
Spirit establishes believers in their faith and enables them to un-
derstand God's truth.
Dodd understood the metaphor differently; he held that this
anointing is the Word of God and he said it is "a prophylactic
against the poison of false teaching."23 Dodd felt that this view of
the anointing freed the believer's knowledge of the truth from the
danger of subjectivism.24 But Burdick replies that Dodd's argument
"that the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit is too subjective to be
trustworthy loses its force in the light of Paul's declaration, 'The
Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the chil-
dren of God' (Rom. 8:16)."25 Kistemaker notes that "Scripture never
mentions the Word of God in relation to anointing."26 It is preferable
to hold that the "anointing" denotes the Holy Spirit, "since, accord-
ing to verse 27, the anointing 'teaches.' This clearly suggests that
the 'anointing' is conceived of as a Person."27
ing" should be combined.28 The objective truth of the Word and the
inner work of the Spirit must not be divorced in Christian experience.
Both are essential for balance in Christian faith and life. In verse 24
John insisted that his readers' adhere to the objective message they
received. The Spirit is the Agent who enables the believer to ap-
propriate and apply the Word of God in daily experience.
The anointing was received "from the Holy One" (a]po> tou?
a[gi<ou), stressing the sanctity of the Giver. The reference may be to
the Father, "the Holy One of
23 Dodd, The Johannine Epistles, p. 63.
24 Ibid., pp. 63-64.
25 Donald W. Burdick, The Letters of John the Apostle: An In-Depth Commentary
(Chicago: Moody Press, 1985), p. 197.
26 Kistemaker, Exposition of the Epistle of James and the Epistles of John, p. 279, n. 55.
27 Zane C. Hodges, "1 John," in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, ed. John F. Wal-
voord and Roy B. Zuck, 2 vols. (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983), 2:892.
28 Marshall, The Epistles of John, p. 155.
84 Bibliotheca Sacra / January—March 1989
carnate Son, "the Holy One of God" (Mark 1:24; John 6:69; Acts 2:27).
Views differ as to the intended identity. Biblical references associ-
ate both the Father and Jesus Christ with the coming of the Holy
Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26; Acts 2:33). The Spirit is indeed "the Spirit
of God" (
a study of the pronouns in 1 John 2:27-28 strongly suggests that the
reference is to Christ Himself here, Smalley suggests that "John is
possibly being deliberately ambivalent at this point."29 Elsewhere
John's pronouns often do not draw a sharp distinction between the
Father and the Son, implying John's unquestioned acceptance of the
full deity of the incarnate Son.
THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH (vv. 20b-21)
The connecting "and" (kai>) introduces a second resource which
the readers possess, "and you all know" (kai> oi@date pa<ntej). The
Greek manuscripts have two different readings, depending on the
case for "all." The reading in the King James Version, "and you know
all things," with pa<nta as the direct object of the verb, follows the
Textus Receptus and the majority of the later manuscripts. The
reading "and you all know," taking pa<ntej in the nominative in ap-
position to the subject of the verb, follows important early
manuscripts.30 The Textus Receptus reading certainly cannot mean
that the readers "know all things"; but those supporting the reading
reply that "all things" is limited by "the truth." But Lenski replies,
"Even so, this says too much and says it unnecessarily. A Christian
does not need to know everything in order to know who is an an-
tichristian liar."31 The reading "you all know" is preferable, for it
is consistent with John's assurance that his readers do have an
anointing and are not dependent on an elite few. They know the
reality and reliability of God's truth through the teaching of the
indwelling Spirit. The Greek verb "know" (oi@date) suggests that the
reference is not to studiously acquired knowledge but to innate know-
ledge. This knowledge, wrought in their hearts by the Holy Spirit,
enables them to know the difference between God's truth and the
spurious claims of the Gnostics.
Verse 21 reiterates John's assurance that his readers knew and
were adhering to "the truth" they had received. "I have not written
to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it"
assured them that he was not seeking to impart new truth but to sup-
29 Smalley, 1, 2, 3 John, p. 108.
30 For the textual evidence see Nestle-Aland, Novum Testamentum Graece, 26th ed.
31 Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistles of St.
An Exposition of 1 John 2:18-28 85
port them in their adherence to "the truth" in the face of the false
teachers. With his epistolary aorist, "I have written" (e@graya),
John placed himself at the time they would read what he had writ-
ten. The reference may be to the whole epistle, but more probably he
was thinking of what he had written in verses 18-20.
Negatively, he said he had not written "because you do not know
the truth" (o!ti ou]k oi@date th>n a]lh<qeian). The conjunction o!ti can mean
"because" or "that," but clearly it here indicates the reason for writing,
not the content of what he wrote. They were not to feel that he was
seeking to lead them into a new understanding of "the truth" (th>n a]lh<-
qeian) "as the living (not abstract, or purely intellectual) reality of
God, whose 'true' nature has been supremely revealed in ... Christ."32
In typical Johannine fashion, the positive is added: "but because
you do know it" (a]ll ] o!ti oi@date au]th<n). This pastoral assurance was
designed to confirm their rejection of the many antichrists that had
arisen (v. 18). As Barclay observes, "The greatest Christian defense
is simply to remember what we know."33
The precise rendering of the words "and because no lie is of the
truth" (kai> o!ti pa?n yeu?doj e]k th?j a]lhqei<aj ou]k e@stin) is less certain.
Here o!ti may have the meaning "that" and the following words un-
derstood as dependent on the preceding "ye know," "and know that
no lie is of the truth" (RSV).34 Thus understood, John's positive reason
is given a double statement. He was referring to the knowledge of
the readers as it relates to falsehood. But Plummer insists that if
the conjunction means "because" in the first phrase "it is the simplest
and most natural to take the second and third in the same way."35
Then these words express a further reason for John's assurance con-
cerning the readers. He was certain that truth and falsehood cannot
mingle, that a lie can never be an inherent part of the truth.
The Confrontation with the Antichrists
The presence of the many antichrists demands that believers know
the identifying mark of these antichrists (vv. 22-23). Having ident-
ified them, they must use their resources to resist them (vv. 24-25).
32 Smalley, I, 2, 3 John, p. 109.
33 Barclay, The Letters of John and Jude, p. 78.
Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version (
Similarly The King James Version (
The New Testament in Modern English (
Gerrit Verkuvl, ed., The Modern Language Bible, The New
(Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969); and apparently The Living Bible
35 Plummer, The Epistles of S. John, p. 112.
86 Bibliotheca Sacra / January–March 1989
THE MARK OF FALSE AND TRUE BELIEVERS (vv. 22-23)
John emphatically established the identity of the antichristian
liar (vv. 22-23a) and simply stated the basic criterion of the true be-
liever (v. 23b).
The mark of the liar (vv. 22-23a). The rhetorical question,
"Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ?"
uttered without any connecting particle, is arresting in its abruptness.
The words "Who is the liar" (Ti<j e]stin o[ yeu<sthj) call for the
personal identification of such an individual when encountered. The
articular masculine noun, "the liar," marks the change from the ab-
stract to the concrete, calling for identification of that one as belong-
ing to that category. "But the one who denies" (ei] mh> o[ a]rnou<menoj,
literally, "if not the one denying") indicates that anyone character-
ized by this crucial denial cannot escape justly being branded as "the
liar." If he is not "the liar," then no one is. He is the liar par excel-
lence. He is identified by his characteristic denial, "the one who
denies that Jesus is the Christ" (o[ a]rnou<menoj o!ti ]Ihsou?j ou]k e@stin o[
Xristo<j). The conjunction o!ti is recitative and introduces the very
words of his denial, "Jesus is not the Christ." It is not a matter of
doubt but of an open refusal to accept this basic Christian doctrine.
He openly rejects the apostolic teaching of the Incarnation (cf. John
1:14, 18; 1 John 1:1-3). It is not merely a Jewish rejection of Jesus of
"the Son." It is the denial that in Jesus of Nazareth God and man are
The precise identity of these heretics has been much debated, but
it is generally accepted that some form of Gnosticism is involved.
Some form of philosophical dualism motivated this denial. Docetic
Gnosticism held that the divine Christ-spirit was too holy to have
been united with human nature. Cerinthian Gnosticism held that
the aeon-Christ came on the man Jesus at His baptism and empow-
ered His ministry but left Him before His crucifixion, and only a man
died on the cross.
Whatever the precise identity of these heretics, John regarded
their denial as the height of heresy, constituting a direct attack on
the very heart of the apostolic message of God's self-revelation in
Jesus Christ. In saying, "This is the antichrist" (ou$toj e]stin o[ a]n-
ti<xristoj), the demonstrative pronoun (ou$toj) as it were points out
the individual and stamps him as "the antichrist,"36 not the per-
sonal Antichrist but the very embodiment of his spirit. His denial is
"seen not merely as erroneous thinking but as diabolically in-
36 The James Moffatt version suggestively renders This is 'antichrist.'" See Dodd,
The Johannine Epistles, p. 47.
An Exposition of 1 John 2:18-28 87
spired.”37 The appositional identification, "the one who denies the
Father and the Son" (o[ a]rnou<menoj to>n pate<ra kai> to>n ui[o<n), estab-
lishes his diabolical anti-Christian spirit. The present articular
participle (o[ a]rnou<menoj "the one denying") portrays his open and
deliberate refusal to acknowledge the reality concerning "the Father
and the Son."
Whatever may have been their teaching about God, John de-
clared that these anti-Christian heretics had no personal relation-
ship with God as "Father" because their denial of "the Son" in-
evitably involved a denial of the Father, who revealed Himself in
the incarnate Son. This absolute designation "the Son" occurs here
for the first time in the epistle. In the first part of this verse Jesus is
accepted as "the Christ"; now He is called "the Son." The two des-
ignations relate to one Person. Westcott points out that, "there is no
passage in the mind of the Apostle from one personality to another,
from the human to the divine, nor yet from the conception of 'the man
Christ Jesus' to that of 'the Word': the thought of 'the Son' includes
both these conceptions in their ideal fulness."38
In verse 23a John carried the result a step further: "Whoever
denies the Son does not have the Father" (pa?j o[ a]rnou<menoj to>n ui[o>n
ou]de> to>n pate<ra e@xei). Their denial of the Son also means that they
have no personal relationship with God as "the Father." They do
not stand in any child-parent relationship with Him. By their de-
nial of the Son "they ipso facto excommunicate themselves from the
great Christian family in which Christ is the Brother, and God is
the Father, of all believers."39 "Whoever denies" (pa?j o[ a]rnou<-
menoj, literally, "every one denying") marks this as a universal fact
concerning all deniers of the Son.
The confession of the true believer (v. 23b).40 Over against the
denials of the heretics stands the confession of the believer: "the one
who confesses the Son has the Father also." The singular, "the one
who confesses" (o[ o[mologw?n, literally, "the one confessing"), marks
this confession as an activity of an individual, not of a group. It
marks his open testimony to and acceptance of the truth concerning
"the Son," bringing the assurance that he "has the Father also" (kai>
to>n pate<ra e@xei). He possesses conscious communion with the Fa-
37 Burdick, The Letters of John the Apostle, p. 201.
38 Westcott, The Epistles of S. John, p. 76.
39 Plummer, The Epistles of S. John, p. 113.
40 The King James Version prints this part of verse 23 in italics, implying that it does
not occur in the Greek manuscripts. But modern critical editions list no manuscripts
that do not contain these words. This part of the verse is unquestionably genuine.
88 Bibliotheca Sacra / January–March 1989
ther, since the Father unequivocally mediates His presence to the
believer through the Son (John 14:6, 9).
THE APPEAL TO THE TRUE BELIEVERS (vv. 24-25)
The crucial importance of confessing the truth concerning the Son
forms the basis for John's appeal to adhere to the truth they had re-
ceived. John stated his appeal (v. 24a) and indicated the results of
abiding in the truth (vv. 24b-25).
The admonition (v. 24a). The emphatic personal pronoun "as for
you" (u[mei?j) calls attention to John's direct appeal to his readers,
and serves to heighten the contrast between them and the heretics.
His appeal is, "Let that abide in you which you heard from the be-
ginning" (o! h]kou<sate a]p ] a]rxh?j e]n u[mi?n mene<tw, literally, "that
which you heard from the beginning, in you let it be abiding").
"That which you heard" denotes the apostolic message, viewed as a
coherent whole, to which they must adhere in contrast to any teach-
ing the heretics might advance. "From the beginning" (a]p ] a]rxh?j)
carries them back to the time they first heard and received that
message, but the aorist verb "you heard" (h]kou<sate) includes the en-
tire period since then, during which they had been hearing that
same message. It is the continuity of the apostolic message to which
John appealed: "let it abide in you," continue to be at home and op-
erative in your lives. Letting this original message abide in them is
equivalent to their abiding in Christ (v. 28). Therein lay their
safety and effectiveness as believers. Stott remarks, "The continuous
obsession for 'some new thing' is a mark of the Athenian not the
Christian (Acts xvii. 21)."41
The results (vv. 24b-25). In expressing the result of this abiding
John deliberately restated the concept of abiding42 in his conditional
statement: "If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you
also will abide in the Son and in the Father" (v. 24b).43 The use of
the third class conditional sentence, "If what you heard from the
beginning" (e]a<n e]n u[mi?n mei<n^ o! a]p ] a]rxh?j h]kou<sate), leaves open the
matter of their fulfillment of the condition; it challenges them to
make sure the condition is fulfilled. The effective indwelling of
God's Word involves their cooperation.
The fulfilled condition assures that "you also will abide in the
Son and in the Father" (kai> u[mei?j e]n t&? ui[&? kai> e]n t&? patri> menei?te).
The "also" (kai>) assured them that with the indwelling Word they
41 Stott, The Epistles of John, p. 113.
42 In verses 24-28 John expressed this concept of abiding no less than six times.
43 The NIV eliminates the reiteration of the concept of abiding by rendering "If it
does, you also will...."
An Exposition of 1 John 2:18-28 89
would also" know the reality of abiding "in the Son and in the Fa-
ther." Smalley suggests that the plural pronouns have not merely an
individual but also a corporate and community reference: "As the
gospel dwells in the Church, so the Church dwells in the Son and in
the Father.44 The Son is now named before the Father to indicate
"that He is the key to any relationship with God (John 14:6)."45 The
force of the future "will abide" (menei?te) is progressive and expresses
the continuing reality of fellowship with God.
The opening "And" (kai>) of verse 25 introduces a further result
assured to those adhering to God's Word: "And this is the promise
which He Himself made to us: eternal life." The feminine demon-
strative pronoun rendered "this" (au!th) most naturally looks forward
to the expression "the eternal life" (th>n zwh>n th>n ai]w<nion) and is the
predicate nominative of the verb "is": "the promise which He
Himself promised us is this—the life, the eternal." The relative
clause "which He Himself promised us" (h!n au]to>j e]phggei<lato h[mi?n)
is parallel in thought to "that which you heard from the beginning"
(v. 24). It relates back to the beginning of the Christian faith. This
promise of eternal life connects with the repeated promises of Jesus in
the fourth Gospel (3:14-15, 36; 4:14; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 8:51; 17:2; 20:31).
Both the position at the end of the sentence and the repeated article
with the adjective stress the nature of the life Christ promised.
While this life will have its future eschatological unfolding for the
glorified saints, it is already the possession of everyone in faith
united to Jesus Christ (John 3:16, 36; 5:24; 1 John 3:2; 5:13). It is a life
both quantitatively and qualitatively new.
The Resources of Believers in the Face of Danger
Verses 26-28 are a summary conveying renewed reminders about
the conflict between truth and falsehood. John reminded of the dan-
ger from the heretics (v. 26), recalled the equipment given through
the anointing received (v. 27), and pointed to the hope of Christ's
return as motivation for abiding in Him (v. 28).
THE DANGER FROM THE DECEIVERS (v. 26)
John again referred to the crisis facing his readers: "These
things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to de-
ceive you." "These things I have written to you" (Tau?ta e@graya
u[mi?n) does not refer to a previous letter; the epistolary aorist views
this letter from the time the recipients will read it. "These things"
(tau?ta) could refer to the epistle as a whole, but most probably they
44 Smalley, I, 2, 3 John, p. 120 (italics his).
45 Burdick, The Letters of John the Apostle, p. 204.
90 Bibliotheca Sacra / January–March 1989
refer to verses 18-25, since they contain the most explicit treatment
thus far "concerning those who are trying to deceive you" (peri> tw?n
planw<twn u[ma?j). In verse 18 John called them "antichrists," expos-
ing their true character; now he characterized them as "those who
are trying to deceive you," underlining their seductive efforts. The
articular present participle (tw?n planw<ntwn) points to the heretics as
a group characterized by their continuing efforts to deceive, or "lead
astray." Though they had formally withdrawn from the Christian
community (v. 19), these former members still aggressively sought to
influence the faithful, intent on "deceiving" and leading them
astray from the apostolic faith and fellowship. John did not under-
estimate the strength and subtlety of these heretics and wanted his
beloved readers to be alert to the danger from them.
THE EQUIPMENT THROUGH THE ANOINTING (v. 27)
The opening "And" (kai>) adds that for the danger there is the
God-given equipment. "As for you" (u[mei?j), a suspended nominative,
underlines the sharp contrast between John's readers and the de-
ceivers, and that because "the anointing which you received from
Him abides in you" (cf. v. 20). He now reminded his readers of the
reception and permanence of their anointing. "Which you received
from Him" (o! e]la<bete a]p ] au]tou?) looks back to the beginning of their
Christian life when by faith they accepted God's, saving message (v.
24) and the anointing was God's gift to them. That anointing now
"abides in you" (me<nei e]n u[mi?n, that is, it dwells in them as a contin-
uing enduement, equipping them to stand firm against the deceivers.
"And" (kai>) adds the result, "you have no need for anyone to
teach you." John obviously did not mean that they no longer needed
a teacher to instruct and guide them in gaining a fuller and firmer
apprehension of the Christian faith and life. That is precisely
what John was doing in this letter. Christian teachers are Christ's
own gift to His church (1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11; 2 Tim. 1:11). John here
had in mind the teachings of Gnosticism, which professed to rise
higher than the divine revelation in Christ proclaimed by the
apostles. John assured his readers that, having received the apos-
tolic message, they had no need to be taught by these new teachers
with their professed higher spiritual insights.
This negative assertion is now grounded in the positive unfold-
ing of the function of the divine anointing in their lives (v. 27c). The
use of "but" (a]ll ] ) marks the contrasting reality in their experience.
The assertion that "His anointing teaches you about all things" es-
tablishes the personal nature of "His anointing" (to> au]tou? xri?sma).46
46 The reading the same anointing" in the King James Version follows the Textus
Receptus, to> au]to> xri?sma, the reading in A, K, L, most minuscules, and the Coptic ver-
An Exposition of 1 John 2:18-28 91
This function, "teaches you about all thing's (dida<skei u[ma?j peri>
pa<ntwn), parallels the promised work of the Holy Spirit as uttered
by Jesus in John 14:26. The present tense marks this teaching as the
continuing work of the Spirit, while the plural "you" indicates that
this teaching is received by all those indwelt by the Spirit. Kis-
temaker notes, "Believers do not have to consult learned professors of
theology before they can accept God's truth; in the sight of God,
clergy and laity are the same; the Holy Spirit is the teacher of ev-
ery believer, without distinction." 47 Bruce appropriately remarks
that "the ministry of teaching must be exercised by men who them-
selves share the 'anointing' of which John speaks."48 The Spirit
teaches "about all things" (peri> pa<ntwn), all the things concerning
which they needed His teaching to distinguish truth from error in
any teaching being advanced. This teaching "is true and is not a lie."
This typically Johannine positive-negative assertion assures that
what the Spirit teaches is true to fact, in full keeping with revealed
truth,, and therefore is "not a lie," not a falsehood such as heretical
"And just as it has taught you" reminds the readers of their own
experience of the Spirit's teaching ministry. The aorist verb "it has
taught" simply asserts the fact, whatever the length of their expe-
rience. "It" agrees with the "anointing" as the subject; the verb
(e]di<dacen) can also be rendered
"as He has taught you" (
Jesus understood as the subject of the verb. The former rendering is
preferable, in keeping with the verse as a whole.
The concluding clause, "you abide in Him" (me<nete e]n au]t&?), pre-
sents textual and interpretive difficulty. The reading "ye shall
abide in him" (KJV) represents the Textus Receptus.49 Textual schol-
ars generally agree that the present tense is the better supported
reading, but there is no agreement as to whether me<nete is indicative
or imperative. If indicative, the clause summarizes John's assurance
that his readers did adhere to the apostolic Christ. This is in keep-
ing with the declarative nature of verse 27 as a whole. But others
hold that the verb here, as in verse 28, is imperative. "It is more
reasonable," Burdick asserts, "for the apostle to repeat the impera-
tive in verse 28 than it would be for him to declare in verse 27 that
sion. The reading "His anointing" (to> au]tou? xri?sma) has strong early support, being
the reading in Aleph, B, C, P, about 20 minuscules, the Vulgate, and Coptic versions,
and a number of the church fathers.
47 Kisteirtaker, Exposition of the Epistle of James and the Epistles of John, p. 286.
48 Bruce, The Epistles of John, p. 76.
49 The future tense is the reading of uncials K and L (8th century or later) and most
minuscules. The present tense is supported by important uncials like Aleph, A, B, C, P.
For the textual evidence see Nestle-Aland, Novum Testamentum Graece, 26th ed.
92 Bibliotheca Sacra / January—March 1989
the recipients are dwelling in Him and then in the very next sentence
(v. 28) to command them to dwell in Him."50 Then John ended verse
27 with "an exhortation to hold fast to the teaching given by the
Spirit rather than to be tempted by the false teachers."51 This
switch to the imperative is another reminder that "divine provi-
dence has its counterpart in human responsibility."52
THE MOTIVATION FROM THE HOPE OF CHRIST'S RETURN (v. 28)
The words "And now, little children" (kai> nu?n tekni<a) appar-
ently mark a concluding appeal from the realities in verses 26-27.
The present imperative "abide in Him" (me<nete e]n au]t&?) calls for an
intimate fellowship with Christ as a standing duty. It offers the
true antidote to the allurements of the false teachers. It is not a call
to maintain a static relationship but rather to develop and enjoy a
vital spiritual fellowship with Christ.
The expressed motivation for such continued abiding in Christ is
eschatological in character: "so that if He should appear, we may
have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His
coming." John believed that the believers' prophetic hope properly
exerts a practical impact on present Christian living. "If He should
appear" (e]a>n fanerwq^?) does not express doubt concerning the fact of
Christ's coming but underlines the uncertainty as to the time. The
aorist passive rendered "should appear" points to Christ being made
visible when He returns to earth in open glory (cf. Col. 3:4,; 1 Pet. 5:4;
1 John 3:2).53 In keeping with this purpose to stimulate present
abiding in Christ, John pointed to the impact on believers when He
does return. The benefit of abiding in that future day is stated both
positively and negatively: "so that . . . we may have confidence and
not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming." With his
change to "we" John included himself in this picture. Smalley notes
that "John tends to distinguish himself from his readers when he is
being declarative or hortatory, but to associate himself with them
when he is describing the blessings and demands of the gospel."54
Present abiding in Christ will assure that in that day "we may
have confidence" (sxw?men parrhsi<an). The aorist verb simply points
to the experience of "confidence" in that day. "Confidence" as a
50 Burdick, The Letters of John the Apostle, p. 207 (italics his).
51 Marshall, The Epistles of John, p. 163.
52 Kistemaker, Exposition of the Epistle of fames and the Epistles of John, p. 286.
53 In 1 Peter 1:20 the aorist passive is used of Christ's first advent to denote the visi-
ble appearing of the eternal Christ in His incarnate manifestation.
54 Smalley, 1, 2, 3 John, p. 130.
An Exposition of 1 John 2:18-28 93
compound noun (par means "all" and rhsij means "speech") denotes
that freedom and assurance which will enable the one abiding in
Him now to appear before Him and speak with confidence and can-
dor. It denotes the result of a close, obedient relationship to Him
now. Here and in 4:17 this term is used of the believer's freedom and
fearlessness before Him at Christ's return; in 3:21 and 5:14 it is used
of the freedom that now belongs to the believer in prayer.
Negatively, present abiding in Christ is urged to avoid the em-
barrassment of some unresolved disobedience or sin in that day: "and
not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming" (kai> mh> ai]s-
xunqw?men a]p ] au]tou? e]n t^? parousi<% au]tou?). The verb here rendered
"shrink away" (ai]sxunqw?men is used only in the middle and passive
voice in the New Testament, and so may be rendered "be ashamed"
(if middle) or "be put to shame" (if passive). Some hold that the
words "from him" (a]p ] au]tou?) require the passive, "be put to shame,"
as implying rejection by Christ in that day. Thus
that "their rejection at his coming will be the final confirmation of a
life of spiritual separation from him."55 But the continued first
person plural verb indicates that John aimed at stimulating present
abiding by believers to help them avoid being ashamed before
Christ in that day. "This intimates divine disapproval at the
judgment seat of Christ, referred to in 4:17-19."56 The picture is that
of the averted face as the result of shame.
Only here does John use the compound noun parousi<a, "coming,
presence," one of three important terms for the Second Advent in
Sripture.57 Composed of para, "alongside of, close to," and the sub-
stantival form of the verb ei]mi<, "to be," it literally means "a being
alongside of" someone. The noun is sometimes used in the sense of
"coming, arrival," as pointing to the act whereby the "presence" is
brought about. Here, as generally, the thought is not merely of
Christ's moment of coming but of His resultant presence and dealing
with His own, as at the judgment seat of Christ (Rom. 14:10; 1 Cor.
3:12-15; 2 Cor. 5:10).
55 Marshall, The Epistles of John, p. 167.
56 Hodges, "1 John," p. 893.
57 The three Greek terms are (1) a]poka<luyij, "an unveiling," a "revelation"; (2)
fa<neia, "a shining
forth," an "appearing" (
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