Post Series on 1 John 2:15-27:
- John’s Warning Concerning the World (1 John 2:15-17)
- John’s Warning Concerning the Church (1 John 2:18-27)
- The Anointing of the Holy One (1 John 2:18-27)
Although John warns his flock about the dangers they face from the world, John spends far more time talking about the dangers his spiritual children face amidst their own ranks. John insists that the situation has become so dire that it is indeed “the last hour” (1 John 2:18) By this, John does not so much mean that this is the last hour in quantity, but in quality. In other words, this is not a discussion of when Jesus might return; John’s focus is rather on the condition of the Church.
John describes not a single, apocalyptic Antichrist, but many antichrists who lived in the 1st century. Moreover, these antichrists are not so much world leaders as they are apostates–John shockingly notes that these antichrists “went out from us” (1 John 2:19). The antichrists are not the worldly people that John described in 1 John 2:15-17; instead the antichrists are people from within the church!
But John wants us to see the difference between us and them: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19). Yes, John explains, these antichrists were indeed with us; but no, John assures, these antichrists were not of us.
What, then, is the difference? What makes the antichrists what they are, and what makes us what we are? John does not name greed, anger, pride, or even sexual sin. The difference is in their theology–the antichrists do not merely have bad theology, but abominable theology. John rails against their doctrine in 1 John 2:22-25:
Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us–eternal life.
Notice here the nature of the theological error. The antichrists are not merely those who differ on baptism, nor their view of the end times, nor proper church government, nor even predestination. The antichrists are those who try to get to the Father while rejecting the Son. Why is this crime so heinous?
Reflect for a moment on the Father’s intense love for his Son. At Jesus’ baptism, the voice of the Father boomed from heaven, declaring, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased!” (Matt. 3:17). When Peter, having seen Jesus transfigured on the mountain, imagined that he would honor Jesus by placing him side-by-side with Moses and Elijah, the Father would have none of it, and he rebuked Peter from heaven, insisting “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” (Luke 9:35). And after Jesus humbled himself all the way to the cross, he pleased his Father to the highest possible degree:
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)
Did you catch that last phrase? When the Son is glorified by all of creation, the Father is also glorified. Jesus Christ is the “image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15), and in him, “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col. 2:9). The eternal Son of God is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb. 1:3).
In other words, when we look upon the Son, we see the glory of the Father, for the Son is the image of the Father. Therefore, when we love, worship, adore, and obey the Son, we love, worship, adore, and obey the Father. If, on the other hand, we reject the Son, we also reject the Father.
You see, the Father takes our treatment of his Son personally. Christology (the doctrine of the Son of God) is not a theoretical exercise–Christology is intensely practical because Christology is intensely personal. If we honor the Son, we honor the Father; if we dishonor the Son, we dishonor the Father.
And the antichrists dishonored the Son. They did not dishonor the Son so much by rejecting him altogether, but by redefining him, by insisting that he was either not fully God or not fully Man. They dishonored him by insisting that they did not need the salvation that he provided through his shed blood on the cross, the plan for salvation that the Father and the Son had agreed upon before the foundations of the world were laid. The Father so loved the world that he gave the world his Son, and even allowed his Son to be crucified for the world! What could be more offensive than to spit upon such a sacrifice?
Notice what John does in what he writes. He warns briefly against the worldly in 1 John 2:15-17, but he spends much more time warning against the antichrists in the church in 1 John 2:18-27.
Here is the point: Cleaning up your life from worldliness is not enough. Becoming a member of the church is not enough.
Children, let no one deceive you: only the Son of God–who fully pleased his Father, and by whom the Father is glorified–is enough.