1 John 2:20-27

John has given his warning about the presence of many "antichrists" in churches and the coming of a significant, major adversary (also called "Antichrist") who can be expected at any moment, because we are living in "the last days". But, as a good pastor, he quickly follows this up with some encouragement for his readers. However bad things may get, they need to remember that they have been anointed by God Himself. This "anointing" is carried out by the Holy Spirit and the proof is that they "know the truth".

All through the Bible, when the Father wants to correct or caution us, He combines His warning about the wrong that we are doing with a reminder of how He sees us in Christ: justified. ("Just-as-if-I’d-never-sinned") His love always shines through, even when He needs to discipline us. He doesn’t focus on the bad things, but lifts our eyes to focus on the bigger picture. (Matthew 7:15-27) This is a wonderful example for us to follow when talking to people about problems in their lives. As well as challenging anything that is contrary to the word of God, we should always look for the good that is happening at the same time. (Revelation 2:1-5)

The "Anointing"

This "anointing" of the Holy Spirit is very exciting because it sits on us like a cloak of God’s presence enveloping us. His overwhelming power rises within us so that we are able to act and speak on behalf of Jesus Himself. He is there with us and we see a supernatural response when we allow His presence to guide us and inspire us. God has not asked us to live out an impossible set of ideals and then simply left us to get on with it. He has given us the very same "anointing" that He gave Jesus when He was living on earth. At times, we may find that some activities leave us feeling exhausted. They seem to dry us out spiritually, physically and emotionally. At other times, we do things that tire us out but, along with our tiredness, there is a real sense of satisfaction at being right in the centre of the Father’s will. That is the difference between un-anointed and anointed work. It can be easy, as active people, to see a need and tack it on to our existing list of jobs for the day, but then find that there is no satisfaction in what we have done. We have to learn to recognise when God has "anointed" us to do something for Him. When He calls us, He will also equip us and prepare us. Carrying out the work will then seem easy and light. (Matthew 11:30) If we try doing God's work in our own strength - without His "cloak of anointing" - we shall find that we are spreading ourselves too thinly and the work will not be done with excellence. Such work will amount to only "wood, hay and stubble" that gets burned up on Judgement Day. (1 Corinthians 3:12)

The act of "anointing" someone was carried out frequently in Old Testament times as a sign of that person being appointed to carry out a particular role or function, such as priest, prophet or king. The custom was to use a special oil to pour on the head, hands or feet. (For example, Moses anointed Aaron with oil as the first High Priest. Exodus 29:7) David was anointed as king by the prophet, Samuel, long before he actually rose to be king after Saul had died. (1 Samuel 16:12-13; 1 Samuel 31:8) The "anointing" represented God's choice of a specific individual - as opposed to a political decision. Before King Saul's death, David recognised the importance of respecting God's choice of a king in his own dealings with Saul. He refused to take the kingdom from Saul by force and waited for God to give it to him. "David said to his men: 'The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord's anointed, or lift my hand against him, for he is the anointed of the Lord'." (1 Samuel 24:6) In fact, God Himself had given this instruction: "Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm." (1 Chronicles 16:22; Psalm 105:15; and Psalm 132:10)

The privilege of being anointed

The Lord takes seriously the prayers of anointed ones. Part of the blessing of walking in obedience with the cover of God's "anointing" is the confidence we have in knowing that our Father loves us and hears us. "Praise be to the Lord, for He has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to Him in song. The Lord is the strength of His people, a fortress of salvation for His anointed one." (Psalm 28:6-8) When we know that God has "anointed" us for a specific role or task, we can also respond - in faith - with joy as we begin to pray about the work He has given us, "giving thanks in all circumstances". (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) As "anointed" ones, we can trust Him to work in us and through us, knowing that "all things work together for good", whatever may be the outcome. (Psalm 20:6; Psalm 84:9)

Jesus - the Anointed One

Many people think that "Christ" was part of Jesus' name - in the way that we have a family name or surname. But "Christos" was a title, meaning (in the Greek language) "anointed one". It was a translation of a word in the Hebrew language ("Messiah") that also meant "anointed one". Not long after Jesus was taken up into heaven, after His resurrection, those who continued to follow Him were given a nickname: "Christianos". This meant literally: "little anointed ones". It was probably intended originally as something of an insult but, for any follower of Jesus - either then or today - this is not only literally true; it is an accolade of which to be proud. As he addressed the Roman centurion, Cornelius (with his household and friends all gathered round), the apostle, Peter, said that they would all know, "how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power and how He went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with Him." (Acts 10:38)

Jesus Himself understood that He had been "anointed" when He quoted from the prophet, Isaiah, and said: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed and to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour." (Isaiah 61:1-3; Luke 4:18-19)

Those who follow Jesus today and accept the "anointing" of the Holy Spirit are indeed "little anointed ones" and can be proud to answer to the name of "Christian". Jesus' work - of doing good and healing all those under the power of the devil, of preaching good news to the poor, proclaiming freedom for (spiritual) prisoners and recovery of sight for the (spiritually) blind, releasing the (spiritually) oppressed and proclaiming God's grace to the entire world - this is now our work too. We can only hope to succeed in doing it properly if we have His "anointing" and walk in His power, with His authority.

What have we heard from the beginning?

John is anxious that his readers should be able to distinguish between the lies of the "little antichrists" and the truth of the message (the good news or "gospel") that they have already heard. The antichrists were denying that Jesus was both human and divine, that God the Father had sent His Son, Jesus, to live as a human being. They stated that Jesus was not the true Messiah, but just an ordinary man who God had used but who was not fully divine. This belief is known as "Docetism" and it states that Jesus was just a man whom God had "clothed" with divinity (so that He could take on the role of Messiah), but who had never been fully God as well. Christians believe that Jesus was fully human (Hebrews 2:14) and fully divine (Romans 1:3-4). John says clearly that any who deny the relationship between God the Father and His Son, Jesus, can neither know nor belong to the Father.

If we are "born-again" believers, we know that:

  1. Jesus Christ is God’s Son; (Galatians 4:6-7)
  2. That He died for our sins; (2 Corinthians 5:21)
  3. That He was raised from the dead; (Ephesians 1:20) and
  4. He will return to establish His kingdom. (Acts 1:11)

Holding on to what is true

This has to be the foundation for our daily lives. "Little antichrists" are still around and love to work their way into churches and Christian fellowships. If anyone comes in to our fellowship to side-track us, we have these basic facts to refer to and hold onto. We should never swerve from them. (Acts 4:12) We cannot afford to give ground to any speculative, new theories or those who deny the truth, which is the foundation of our salvation. For example, a popular belief these days is that "all roads lead to God" or that "we all worship the same God in different ways". It is true that we are all made in God's image, but the only pathway to knowing God is the one that He Himself has set out, through His word down the ages (the Bible) and the One that He "anointed" to be the "bridge" between God and the human race: Jesus. Anything else is, at best, wishful thinking but, at worst, it is driven by people who want to divert us from focusing on Jesus and, instead, lift up themselves to positions of power and idolatry. We are all open to charismatic leaders who slowly lull us into a false sense of security through their passionate but entirely wrong teaching. Often, through laziness or weakness, we believe whatever they say without checking it out in our own spirit or by comparing it with the word of God.

When we have been walking with Jesus for some time, there is a danger that we may become disheartened by our slow progress and start looking for "more". We want to be "more like Jesus", so we are open to "new" revelations that promise a more exhilerating "spiritual ride". What God is looking for in us is a little more depth, a gradual growth in our ability to trust Him when things get difficult. He is looking for "stickability" and consistency whilst we are more interested in excitement! Let's not forget our "anointed one". He had more than His share of excitement on occasion, but it came from His willingness to persevere in following His Father's will. We need to be realistic about the continued opposition from our enemy and confident in those with whom we share fellowship. "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings." (1 Peter 5:8-9)

Using the handbook

"I've written to warn you about those who are trying to deceive you. But they're no match for what is embedded deeply within you — Christ's anointing, no less! You don't need any of their so-called teaching. Christ's anointing teaches you the truth on everything you need to know about yourself and Him, uncontaminated by a single lie. Live deeply in what you were taught." (1 John 2:26-27 - The Message Version)

Many people rely on some form of guidance or handbook in their working lives. Whether it's a workshop manual in the garage, a cookery book in the kitchen or almost any situation that we commonly face in our daily lives, it's useful to know what we're doing! When we first learn our trade or profession, we may have to study and learn quite a bit. As we gain in experience, we don't need to refer to the manual quite so much, but it's always useful to have at hand. The same is true for us as Christians. At first, we may have to do some serious reading - of the gospels, the New Testament letters, the Old Testament history and hymn-book (the Psalms) - but, as we start living with Jesus, day by day, have you noticed that you start to know the answer to problems and how you should react, before you get a chance to sit down quietly and read God's word or even pray? Some thought will pop into your mind, together with a half-remembered verse from Scripture, and you are sure that this is the right way forward. That is Christ’s "anointing" - the Holy Spirit - reminding you of the message of His word, all that you have learned about God's love and character. And the thought runs through your mind: "what would Jesus do?"

This helps us to become more aware of the Spirit’s leading so that we are quicker to obey next time. As time goes on, we can develop a habit of allowing the Spirit of truth to reveal the will of God to us. As we obey, His promptings become stronger and "we are led of the Spirit so that we do not fulfil the lusts of the flesh". (Galatians 5:16) God has not just anointed certain "super Christians". He has given the Spirit to all of us and, as we learn to be sensitive to His voice, He’ll guide us into all truth. Let's think about how our lives could be if we knew God’s truth in every situation that we faced. Let's take a step of faith together. His "anointing" will give us the power to accomplish all that He calls us to be. Let's welcome Him and honour Him in our everyday business. Let's allow Him to be our Lord and listen to His every whisper, whether that's in our hearts or comes to us through the reading of His word.

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