Bibliotheca Sacra 146 (1989) 76-93.

          Copyright © 1989 by Dallas Theological Seminary.  Cited with permission.

 

 

                                  An Expositional Study of 1 John

                                             Part 4 (of 10 parts):

 

                 An Exposition of 1 John 2:18-28

 

                                          D. Edmond Hiebert

                           Professor Emeritus of New Testament

                 Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, Fresno, California

 

            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

           

                                                76



                        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

current crisis.

            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 Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

(1883; reprint, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1938), p. 105.

2  H E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament

(reprint, New York: Macmillan Co., 1967), p. 149.

3   Brooke Foss Westcott, The Epistles of St. John: The Greek Text with Notes and Es-

says (reprint, Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1950), p. 68.



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-

ence, Marshall notes that "John does not commit himself to any time-

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 ur-

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.

Because Israel rejected her King, the kingdom in its eschatological

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. Peter, St. John and St. Jude

(1945; reprint, Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1966), p. 429.

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.

7   I. Howard Marshall, The Epistles of John, The New International Commentary on

the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.), p. 149.



                        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

Marshall, after quoting and diagramming this comment, declares,

            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 (London: Long-

man's, 1896), p. 241.

9   Marshall, The Epistles of John, p. 150.

10   Henry Alford, The New Testament for English Readers (reprint, Chicago: Moody

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

withdrew. Clark suggests that perhaps "they were psychologically

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-

 

12   Stephen S. Smalley, 1, 2, 3 John, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 51 (Waco, TX:

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 (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and

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 (Grand Rapids: Radio

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" (NEB), implying that not all formal members are

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

            Marshall suggests that these two interpretations of the "anoint-

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

God the Father, "the Holy One of Israel" (Isa. 1:4; etc.) or to the in-

 

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" (Rom. 8:9) as well as "the Spirit of Jesus" (Acts 16:7). While

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.

(Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelstiftung).

31   Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude, p. 436.



              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.

34   The Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version (Philadelphia: A. J. Holman Co.,

1962). Similarly The King James Version (Cambridge University Press); Helen Barett

Montgomery, The New Testament in Modern English (Philadelphia: Judson Press,

1924); Gerrit Verkuvl, ed., The Modern Language Bible, The New Berkeley Version

(Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969); and apparently The Living Bible

Paraphrased.

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

Nazareth as the personal Messiah, since John identified Him as

"the Son." It is the denial that in Jesus of Nazareth God and man are

indissolubly united.

            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

teachers espouse.

            "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" (NEB), with

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 Marshall holds

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" (Eng.: epiphany); (3) parousi<a, "presence,"

a "coming."

 

This material is cited with gracious permission from:

Dallas Theological Seminary

            3909 Swiss Ave.

            Dallas, TX   75204          

www.dts.edu

Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at:  thildebrandt@gordon.edu