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)
So then, how do we heed John’s warnings concerning the world and concerning the Church? John considers–and rejects–two main possibilities:
- Should we simply rely on our common sense, trusting our own intuition and discerning to navigate through life?
- Or, should we despair of our own ability, and instead seek higher knowledge held by elite Christians who know the secrets of fighting temptation that common Christians do not?
John rejects both of these suggestions because they reek of faith in human ability and human wisdom. If our common sense were sufficient for guiding us through worldliness and heresy, then why would John write in the first place? And, if elite Christians had the secrets, wouldn’t John be among them? Why not just tell them the secrets so that everyone can know?
Instead, John writes the following:
But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth….
I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything–and is true and is no lie, just as it has taught you–abide in him. (1 John 2:20-21, 26-27)
So, what is this anointing? The word here is chrisma, and it is very closely related to the word christos, or Christ. In fact, “Christ” means “Anointed One.” John insists, though, that we too have this anointing. Those who do not have this anointing he refers to as antichristos, which describes someone opposed to the Anointed One (whose anointing we share).
This anointing comes from “the Holy One” (tou hagiou), which could possibly refer to Christ (e.g., Mark 1:24, John 6:69, Rev. 3:7), but which does not necessarily single the Son out from the other persons of the Trinity (e.g., Rev. 16:4). Holy One is a term used throughout the Old Testament (especially in Isaiah, who constantly speaks of the Holy One of Israel) to refer to the one true God.
In the Old Testament, prophets (e.g., 1 Kings 19:16), priests (e.g., Ex. 28:41), and kings (e.g., 1 Sam. 10:1) were all anointed in order to take their respective offices. The reason that Jesus is called the Christ (the Anointed One) is that he is the True Prophet, Priest, and King–he holds the ultimate anointing for each of these offices.
But, though Jesus was the Anointed One, he is not the One who anoints–that role belongs to the Holy Spirit. This is true in the Old Testament, for example, when David was anointed king of Israel in the midst of his brothers. There, we read that “the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David from that day forward” (1 Sam. 16:13).
Moreover, the Scriptures specifically attribute the anointing of the Anointed One (the Christ) to the Holy Spirit:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor” [Isa. 61:1]….And [Jesus] began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:18, 21)
…God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power… (Acts 10:38)
The Holy One, by whom Christ was anointed, and by whom we are anointed, is the Holy Spirit. John is telling these Christians that they can fight errors in the world and errors in the church by the anointing that they have received from the Holy Spirit.
So, John boldly declares that “you have no need that anyone should teach you” and that “his anointing teaches you about everything” (1 John 2:27). He wants them to know that Truth Himself abides within them, because they too have the Holy Spirit. By the anointing of the Holy Spirit, these Christians can stand strong against error from within and from without.
But notice carefully that John does not simply assure them that they have the Holy Spirit and turn them loose. He explains, “I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth” (1 John 2:21). He writes not to tell them something they do not know, but to confirm what they already know (at some level, at least) by the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
There is a mystery here, and this is the same mystery that we experience each time we re-read the Word of God, and each time we gather to hear the Word of God read, proclaimed, sung, and even visibly enacted in baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The goal isn’t really that we learn some new facts (although we should do that). The goal is that God would cause his Word to blossom into fruit in our hearts by his Holy Spirit.
We know the truth because we have the Truth in us. John wants us to be established, rooted, grounded, growing, and experienced in the Truth, because when we intensely, personally, know the Truth, we will neither stumble in the errors of the world nor those that crop up in the church.
And if we remain in the truth, then we will gain “the promise that he made to us–eternal life” (1 John 2:25). What does John mean by this promise? Simply peek ahead to the end of this letter: “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20).
The Holy Spirit anoints us that we might be confirmed in the truth of the Word, in order that we might gain the exquisite joy of a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, who is true God and eternal life Himself, and we then worship, adore, and delight in Christ to the glory of God the Father.