1 John 2:20
But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.
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Acts 2:2 - Acts 2:3
, Acts 2:17. - 1 John 2:20.

Wind, fire, water, oil,-these four are constant Scriptural symbols for the Spirit of God. We have them all in these fragments of verses which I have taken for my text now, and which I have isolated from their context for the purpose of bringing out simply these symbolical references. I think that perhaps we may get some force and freshness to the thoughts proper to this day [Footnote: Whit Sunday.] by looking at these rather than by treating the subject in some more abstract form. We have then the Breath of the Spirit, the Fire of the Spirit, the Water of the Spirit, and the Anointing Oil of the Spirit. And the consideration of these four will bring out a great many of the principal Scriptural ideas about the gift of the Spirit of God which belongs to all Christian souls.

I. First, ‘a rushing mighty wind.’

Of course, the symbol is but the putting into picturesque form of the idea that lies in the name. ‘Spirit’ is ‘breath.’ Wind is but air in motion. Breath is the synonym for life. ‘Spirit’ and ‘life’ are two words for one thing. So then, in the symbol, the ‘rushing mighty wind,’ we have set forth the highest work of the Spirit-the communication of a new and supernatural life.

We are carried hack to that grand vision of the prophet who saw the bones lying, very many and very dry, sapless and disintegrated, a heap dead and ready to rot. The question comes to him: ‘Son of man! Can these bones live?’ The only possible answer, if he consult experience, is, ‘O Lord God! Thou knowest.’ Then follows the great invocation: ‘Come from the four winds, O Breath! and breathe upon these slain that they may live.’ And the Breath comes and ‘they stand up, an exceeding great army.’ ‘It is the Spirit that quickeneth.’ The Scripture treats us all as dead, being separated from God, unless we are united to Him by faith in Jesus Christ. According to the saying of the Evangelist, ‘They which believe on Him receive’ the Spirit, and thereby receive the life which He gives, or, as our Lord Himself speaks, are ‘born of the Spirit.’ The highest and most characteristic office of the Spirit of God is to enkindle this new life, and hence His noblest name, among the many by which He is called, is the Spirit of life.

Again, remember, ‘that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.’ If there be life given it must be kindred with the life which is its source. Reflect upon those profound words of our Lord: ‘The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh nor whither it goeth. So is every one that is born of the Spirit.’ They describe first the operation of the life-giving Spirit, but they describe also the characteristics of the resulting life.

‘The wind bloweth where it listeth.’ That spiritual life, both in the divine source and in the human recipient, is its own law. Of course the wind has its laws, as every physical agent has; but these are so complicated and undiscovered that it has always been the very symbol of freedom, and poets have spoken of these ‘chartered libertines,’ the winds, and ‘free as the air’ has become a proverb. So that Divine Spirit is limited by no human conditions or laws, but dispenses His gifts in superb disregard of conventionalities and externalisms. Just as the lower gift of what we call ‘genius’ is above all limits of culture or education or position, and falls on a wool-stapler in Stratford-on-Avon, or on a ploughman in Ayrshire, so, in a similar manner, the altogether different gift of the divine, life-giving Spirit follows no lines that Churches or institutions draw. It falls upon an Augustinian monk in a convent, and he shakes Europe. It falls upon a tinker in Bedford gaol, and he writes Pilgrim’s Progress. It falls upon a cobbler in Kettering, and he founds modern Christian missions. It blows ‘where it listeth,’ sovereignly indifferent to the expectations and limitations and the externalisms, even of organised Christianity, and touching this man and that man, not arbitrarily but according to ‘the good pleasure’ that is a law to itself, because it is perfect in wisdom and in goodness.

And as thus the life-giving Spirit imparts Himself according to higher laws than we can grasp, so in like manner the life that is derived from it is a life which is its own law. The Christian conscience, touched by the Spirit of God, owes allegiance to no regulations or external commandments laid down by man. The Christian conscience, enlightened by the Spirit of God, at its peril will take its beliefs from any other than from that Divine Spirit. All authority over conduct, all authority over belief is burnt up and disappears in the presence of the grand democracy of the true Christian principle: ‘Ye are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ’; and every one of you possesses the Spirit which teaches, the Spirit which inspires, the Spirit which enlightens, the Spirit which is the guide to all truth. So ‘the wind bloweth where it listeth,’ and the voice of that Divine Quickener is,

‘Myself shall to My darling be

Both law and impulse.’

Under the impulse derived from the Divine Spirit, the human spirit ‘listeth’ what is right, and is bound to follow the promptings of its highest desires. Those men only are free as the air we breathe, who are vitalised by the Spirit of the Lord, for ‘where the Spirit of the Lord is, there,’ and there alone, ‘is liberty.’

In this symbol there lies not only the thought of a life derived, kindred with the life bestowed, and free like the life which is given, but there lies also the idea of power. The wind which filled the house was not only mighty but ‘borne onward’-fitting type of the strong impulse by which in olden times ‘holy men spake as they were “borne onward”‘ {the word is the same} ‘by the Holy Ghost.’ There are diversities of operations, but it is the same breath of God, which sometimes blows in the softest pianissimo that scarcely rustles the summer woods in the leafy month of June, and sometimes storms in wild tempest that dashes the seas against the rocks. So this mighty lif-giving Agent moves in gentleness and yet in power, and sometimes swells and rises almost to tempest, but is ever the impelling force of all that is strong and true and fair in Christian hearts and lives.

The history of the world, since that day of Pentecost, has been a commentary upon the words of my text. With viewless, impalpable energy, the mighty breath of God swept across the ancient world and ‘laid the lofty city’ of paganism ‘low; even to the ground, and brought it even to the dust.’ A breath passed over the whole civilised world, like the breath of the west wind upon the glaciers in the spring, melting the thick-ribbed ice, and wooing forth the flowers, and the world was made over again. In our own hearts and lives this is the one Power that will make us strong and good. The question is all-important for each of us, ‘Have I this life, and does it move me, as the ships are borne along by the wind?’ ‘As many as are impelled by the Spirit of God, they’-they-’are the sons of God.’ Is that the breath that swells all the sails of your lives, and drives you upon your course? If it be, you are Christians; if it be not, you are not.

II. And now a word as to the second of these symbols-’Cloven tongues as of fire’-the fire of the Spirit.

I need not do more than remind you how frequently that emblem is employed both in the Old and in the New Testament. John the Baptist contrasted the cold negative efficiency of his baptism, which at its best, was but a baptism of repentance, with the quickening power of the baptism of Him who was to follow him; when he said, ‘I indeed baptise you with water, but He that cometh after me is mightier than I. He shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.’ The two words mean but one thing, the fire being the emblem of the Spirit.

You will remember, too, how our Lord Himself employs the same metaphor when He speaks about His coming to bring fire on the earth, and His longing to see it kindled into a beneficent blaze. In this connection the fire is a symbol of a quick, triumphant energy, which will transform us into its own likeness. There are two sides to that emblem: one destructive, one creative; one wrathful, one loving. There are the fire of love, and the fire of anger. There is the fire of the sunshine which is the condition of life, as well as the fire of the lightning which burns and consumes. The emblem of fire is selected to express the work of the Spirit of God, by reason of its leaping, triumphant, transforming energy. See, for instance, how, when you kindle a pile of dead green-wood, the tongues of fire spring from point to point until they have conquered the whole mass, and turned it all into a ruddy likeness of the parent flame. And so here, this fire of God, if it fall upon you, will burn up all your coldness, and will make you glow with enthusiasm, working your intellectual convictions in fire not in frost, making your creed a living power in your lives, and kindling you into a flame of earnest consecration.

The same idea is expressed by the common phrases of every language. We speak of the fervour of love, the warmth of affection, the blaze of enthusiasm, the fire of emotion, the coldness of indifference. Christians are to be set on fire of God. If the Spirit dwell in us, He will make us fiery like Himself, even as fire turns the wettest green-wood into fire. We have more than enough of cold Christians who are afraid of nothing so much as of being betrayed into warm emotion.

I believe, dear brethren, and I am bound to express the belief, that one of the chief wants of the Christian Church of this generation, the Christian Church of this city, the Christian Church of this chapel, is more of the fire of God! We are all icebergs compared with what we ought to be. Look at yourselves; never mind about your brethren. Let each of us look at his own heart, and say whether there is any trace in his Christianity of the power of that Spirit who is fire. Is our religion flame or ice? Where among us are to be found lives blazing with enthusiastic devotion and earnest love? Do not such words sound like mockery when applied to us? Have we not to listen to that solemn old warning that never loses its power, and, alas! seems never to lose its appropriateness: ‘Because thou art neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of My mouth.’ We ought to be like the burning beings before God’s throne, the seraphim, the spirits that blaze and serve. We ought to be like God Himself, all aflame with love. Let us seek penitently for that Spirit of fire who will dwell in us all if we will.

The metaphor of fire suggests also-purifying. ‘The Spirit of burning’ will burn the filth out of us. That is the only way by which a man can ever be made clean. You may wash and wash and wash with the cold water of moral reformation, you will never get the dirt out with it. No washing and no rubbing will ever cleanse sin. The way to purge a soul is to do with it as they do with foul clay-thrust it into the fire and that will burn all the blackness out of it. Get the love of God into your hearts, and the fire of His Divine Spirit into your spirits to melt you down, as it were, and then the scum and the dross will come to the top, and you can skim them off. Two powers conquer my sin: the one is the blood of Jesus Christ, which washes me from all the guilt of the past; the other is the fiery influence of that Divine Spirit which makes me pure and clean for all the time to come. Pray to be kindled with the fire of God.

III. Then once more, take that other metaphor, ‘I will pour out of My Spirit.’

That implies an emblem which is very frequently used, both in the Old and in the New Testament, viz., the Spirit as water. As our Lord said to Nicodemus: ‘Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.’ The ‘water’ stands in the same relation to the ‘Spirit’ as the ‘fire’ does in the saying of John the Baptist already referred to-that is to say, it is simply a symbol or material emblem of the Spirit. I suppose nobody would say that there were two baptisms spoken of by John, one of the Holy Ghost and one of fire,-and I suppose that just in the same way, there are not two agents of regeneration pointed at in our Lord’s words, nor even two conditions, but that the Spirit is the sole agent, and ‘water’ is but a figure to express some aspect of His operations. So that there is no reference to the water of baptism in the words, and to see such a reference is to be led astray by sound, and out of a metaphor to manufacture a miracle.

There are other passages where, in like manner, the Spirit is compared to a flowing stream, such as, for instance, when our Lord said, ‘He that believeth on Me, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water,’ and when John saw a ‘river of water of life proceeding from the throne.’ The expressions, too, of ‘pouring out’ and ‘shedding forth’ the Spirit, point in the same direction, and are drawn from more than one passage of Old Testament prophecy. What, then, is the significance of comparing that Divine Spirit with a river of water? First, cleansing, of which I need not say any more, because I have dealt with It in the previous part of my sermon. Then, further, refreshing, and satisfying. Ah! dear brethren, there is only one thing that will slake the immortal thirst in your souls. The world will never do it; love or ambition gratified and wealth possessed, will never do it. You will be as thirsty after you have drunk of these streams as ever you were before. There is one spring ‘of which if a man drink, he shall never thirst’ with unsatisfied, painful longings, but shall never cease to thirst with the longing which is blessedness, because it is fruition. Our thirst can be slaked by the deep draught of ‘the river of the Water of Life, which proceeds from the Throne of God and the Lamb.’ The Spirit of God, drunk in by my spirit, will still and satisfy my whole nature, and with it I shall be glad. Drink of this. ‘Ho! every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters!’

The Spirit is not only refreshing and satisfying, but also productive and fertilising. In Eastern lands a rill of water is all that is needed to make the wilderness rejoice. Turn that stream on to the barrenness of your hearts, and fair flowers will grow that would never grow without it. The one means of lofty and fruitful Christian living is a deep, inward possession of the Spirit of God. The one way to fertilise barren souls is to let that stream flood them all over, and then the flush of green will soon come, and that which is else a desert will ‘rejoice and blossom as the rose.’

So this water will cleanse, it will satisfy and refresh, it will be productive and will fertilise, and ‘everything shall live whithersoever that river cometh.’

IV. Then, lastly, we have the oil of the Spirit.

‘Ye have an unction,’ says St. John in our last text, ‘from the Holy One.’ I need not remind you, I suppose, of how in the old system, prophets, priests, and kings were anointed with consecrating oil, as a symbol of their calling, and of their fitness for their special offices. The reason for the use of such a symbol, I presume, would lie in the invigorating and in the supposed, and possibly real, health-giving effect of the use of oil in those climates. Whatever may have been the reason for the use of oil in official anointings, the meaning of the act was plain. It was a preparation for a specific and distinct service. And so, when we read of the oil of the Spirit, we are to think that it is that which fits us for being prophets, priests, and kings, and which calls us to, because it fits us for, these functions.

You are anointed to be prophets that you may make known Him who has loved and saved you, and may go about the world evidently inspired to show forth His praise, and make His name glorious. That anointing calls and fits you to be priests, mediators between God and man, bringing God to men, and by pleading and persuasion, and the presentation of the truth, drawing men to God. That unction calls and fits you to be kings, exercising authority over the little monarchy of your own natures, and over the men round you, who will bow in submission whenever they come in contact with a man all evidently aflame with the love of Jesus Christ, and filled with His Spirit. The world is hard and rude; the world is blind and stupid; the world often fails to know its best friends and its truest benefactors; but there is no crust of stupidity so crass and dense but that through it there will pass the penetrating shafts of light that ray from the face of a man who walks in fellowship with Jesus. The whole nation of old was honoured with these sacred names. They were a kingdom of priests; and the divine Voice said of the nation, ‘Touch not Mine anointed, and do My prophets no harm!’ How much more are all Christian men, by the anointing of the Holy Spirit, made prophets, priests, and kings to God! Alas for the difference between what they ought to be and what they are!

And then, do not forget also that when the Scriptures speak of Christian men as being anointed, it really speaks of them as being Messiahs. ‘Christ’ means anointed, does it not? ‘Messiah’ means anointed. And when we read in such a passage as that of my text, ‘Ye have an unction from the Holy One,’ we cannot but feel that the words point in the same direction as the great words of our Master Himself, ‘As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you.’ By authority derived, no doubt, and in a subordinate and secondary sense, of course, we are Messiahs, anointed with that Spirit which was given to Him, not by measure, and which has passed from Him to us. ‘If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.’

So, dear brethren, all these things being certainly so, what are we to say about the present state of Christendom? What are we to say about the present state of English Christianity, Church and Dissent alike? Is Pentecost a vanished glory, then? Has that ‘rushing mighty wind’ blown itself out, and a dead calm followed? Has that leaping fire died down into grey ashes? Has the great river that burst out then, like the stream from the foot of the glaciers of Mont Blanc, full-grown in its birth, been all swallowed up in the sand, like some of those rivers in the East? Has the oil dried in the cruse? People tell us that Christianity is on its death-bed; and the aspect of a great many professing Christians seems to confirm the statement. But let us thankfully recognise that ‘we are not straitened in God, but in ourselves.’ To how many of us the question might be put: ‘Did you receive the Holy Ghost when you believed?’ And how many of us by our lives answer: ‘We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.’ Let us go where we can receive Him; and remember the blessed words: ‘If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him’!

1 John 2:20. But ye have an unction Χρισμα, a chrism, (perhaps so termed in opposition to the name of antichrist,) an inward teaching from the Holy Ghost, whereby ye know all things — Necessary for your preservation from these seducers, and for your eternal salvation. There seems to be no proof that the apostle here, as some suppose, was addressing those of the primitive Christians only who were endowed with extraordinary gifts, especially the gift of discerning spirits. It rather appears, that through the whole epistle he is addressing true Christians in general, that is, divinely illuminated, justified, and regenerated persons, all of whom are represented in this very epistle as dwelling in God, and God in them, and as knowing that he dwelt in them by the Spirit which he had given them, 1 John 3:24; 1 John 4:16; which is perfectly agreeable to the doctrine of the other apostles, particularly of St. Paul, who represents believers in general as the temple of God, having the Spirit of God dwelling in them, 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:22 : and who declares positively, that if any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his, Romans 8:9; and that only they who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God, Romans 8:14. Now, this Spirit, which all true believers possess, at least in his ordinary graces, as a Spirit of light and life, of love, peace, and joy, of holiness and happiness, is a Spirit of truth as well of grace, and leads those on whom he is conferred into at least all essential truth; all the grand leading doctrines of the gospel, which would sufficiently secure those to whom the apostle wrote against the seducing teachers, the antichrists here referred to.

2:18-23 Every man is an antichrist, who denies the Person, or any of the offices of Christ; and in denying the Son, he denies the Father also, and has no part in his favour while he rejects his great salvation. Let this prophecy that seducers would rise in the Christian world, keep us from being seduced. The church knows not well who are its true members, and who are not, but thus true Christians were proved, and rendered more watchful and humble. True Christians are anointed ones; their names expresses this: they are anointed with grace, with gifts and spiritual privileges, by the Holy Spirit of grace. The great and most hurtful lies that the father of lies spreads in the world, usually are falsehoods and errors relating to the person of Christ. The unction from the Holy One, alone can keep us from delusions. While we judge favourably of all who trust in Christ as the Divine Saviour, and obey his word, and seek to live in union with them, let us pity and pray for those who deny the Godhead of Christ, or his atonement, and the new-creating work of the Holy Ghost. Let us protest against such antichristian doctrine, and keep from them as much as we may.But ye have an unction from the Holy One - The apostle in this verse evidently intends to say that he had no apprehension in regard to those to whom he wrote that they would thus apostatize, and bring dishonor on their religion. They had been so anointed by the Holy Spirit that they understood the true nature of religion, and it might be confidently expected that they would persevere. The word "unction" or "anointing" (χρίσμα chrisma) means, properly, "something rubbed in or ointed;" oil for anointing, "ointment;" then it means an anointing. The allusion is to the anointing of kings and priests, or their inauguration or coronation, (1 Samuel 10:1; 1 Samuel 16:13; Exodus 28:41; Exodus 40:15; compare the notes at Matthew 1:1); and the idea seems to have been that the oil thus used was emblematic of the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit as qualifying them for the discharge of the duties of their office. Christians, in the New Testament, are described as "kings and priests," Revelation 1:6; Revelation 5:10, and as a "royal priesthood" 1 Peter 2:5, 1 Peter 2:9; and hence they are represented as "anointed," or as endowed with those graces of the Spirit, of which anointing was the emblem. The phrase "the Holy One" refers here, doubtless, to the Holy Spirit, that Spirit whose influences are imparted to the people of God, to enlighten, to sanctify, and to comfort them in their trials. The particular reference here is to the influences of that Spirit as giving them clear and just views of the nature of religion, and thus securing them from error and apostasy.

And ye know all things - That is, all things which it is essential that you should know on the subject of religion. See the John 16:13 note; 1 Corinthians 2:15 note. The meaning cannot be that they knew all things pertaining to history, to science, to literature, and to the arts; but that, under the influences of the Holy Spirit, they had been made so thoroughly acquainted with the truths and duties of the Christian religion, that they might be regarded as safe from the danger or fatal error. The same may be said of all true Christians now, that they are so taught by the Spirit of God, that they have a practical acquaintance with what religion is, and with what it requires, and are secure from falling into fatal error. In regard to the general meaning of this verse, then, it may he observed:

I. That it does not mean any one of the following things:

(1) That Christians are literally instructed by the Holy Spirit in all things, or that they literally understand all subjects. The teaching, whatever it may be, refers only to religion.

(2) it is not meant that any new faculties of mind are conferred on them, or any increased intellectual endowments, by their religion. It is not a fact that Christians, as such, are superior in mental endowments to others; nor that by their religion they have any mental traits which they had not before their conversion. Paul, Peter, and John had essentially the same mental characteristics after their conversion which they had before; and the same is true of all Christians.

(3) it is not meant that any new truth is revealed to the mind by the Holy Spirit. All the truth that is brought before the mind of the Christian is to be found in the Word of God, and "revelation," as such, was completed when the Bible was finished.

(4) it is not meant that anything is perceived by Christians which they had not the natural faculty for perceiving before their conversion, or which other people have not also the natural faculty for perceiving. The difficulty with people is not a defect of natural faculties, it is in the blindness of the heart.

II. The statement here made by John "does" imply, it is supposed, the following things:

(1) That the minds of Christians are so enlightened that they have a new perception of the truth. They see it in a light in which they did not before. They see it as truth. They see its beauty, its force, its adapted less to their condition and wants. They understand the subject of religion better than they once did, and better than others do. What was once dark appears now plain; what once had no beauty to their minds now appears beautiful; what was once repellant is now attractive.

(2) they see this to be true; that is, they see it in such a light that they cannot doubt that it is true. They have such views of the doctrines of religion, that they have no doubt that they are true, and are willing on the belief of their truth to lay down their lives, and stake their eternal interests.

(3) their knowledge of truth is enlarged. They become acquainted with more truths than they would have known if they had not been under the teaching of the Holy Spirit. Their range of thought is greater; their vision more extended, as well as more clear.

III. The evidence that this is so is found in the following things:

(1) The express statements of Scripture. See 1 Corinthians 2:14-15, and the notes at that passage. Compare John 16:13-14.

(2) it is a matter of fact that it is so.


20. But—Greek, "And." He here states the means which they as believers have wherewith to withstand. Antichrists (1Jo 2:18), namely, the chrism (so the Greek: a play upon similar sounds), or "anointing unguent," namely, the Holy Spirit (more plainly mentioned further on, as in John's style, 1Jo 3:24; 4:13; 5:6), which they ("ye" is emphatical in contrast to those apostates, 1Jo 2:19) have "from the Holy One, Christ" (Joh 1:33; 3:34; 15:26; 16:14): "the righteous" (1Jo 2:1), "pure" (1Jo 3:3), "the Holy One" (Ac 3:14) "of God"; Mr 1:24. Those anointed of God in Christ alone can resist those anointed with the spirit of Satan, Antichrists, who would sever them from the Father and from the Son. Believers have the anointing Spirit from the Father also, as well as from the Son; even as the Son is anointed therewith by the Father. Hence the Spirit is the token that we are in the Father and in the Son; without it a man is none of Christ. The material unguent of costliest ingredients, poured on the head of priests and kings, typified this spiritual unguent, derived from Christ, the Head, to us, His members. We can have no share in Him as Jesus, except we become truly Christians, and so be in Him as Christ, anointed with that unction from the Holy One. The Spirit poured on Christ, the Head, is by Him diffused through all the members. "It appears that we all are the body of Christ, because we all are anointed: and we all in Him are both Christ's and Christ, because in some measure the whole Christ is Head and body."


ye know all things—needful for acting aright against Antichrist's seductions, and for Christian life and godliness. In the same measure as one hath the Spirit, in that measure (no more and no less) he knows all these things.

See Poole on "1Jo 2:27".

But ye have an unction from the Holy One,.... Meaning the Spirit, and his graces, with which Christ, the head, is anointed without measure, and his members in measure; from whence he is called Christ, and they Christians. These were really the Lord's anointed ones; they were true believers; were the wise virgins who had oil in their vessels with their lamps, which would never go out. The grace of the Spirit is called a chrism, or an ointment, or an anointing, in allusion to the anointing oil under the law; See Gill on Matthew 25:3; of which anointing oil the Jews say (h), that it continues all of it, "to time to come", (i.e. to the times of the Messiah,) as it is said, Exo_30:31. Now this these saints had, "from the Holy One"; or that Holy One; meaning, not the Holy Spirit of God, though it is true that this anointing, or these graces, were from him; he is the author of them, and may truly be said to anoint with them; nor the Father, who is holy in his nature, and in his works, and is the God of all grace, and is said to anoint the saints too, 2 Corinthians 1:21, but rather the Lord Jesus Christ, who is holy, both as God and man, and from whose fulness all grace is had. This oil, or ointment, was first poured on him without measure, and from him it descends to all the members of his mystical body, as the ointment poured on Aaron's head descended to his beard, and to the skirts of his garments; see 1 John 2:27;

and ye know all things; for this anointing is a teaching one; it makes persons of quick understanding; it enlightens their understandings, refreshes their memories, and strengthens all the powers and faculties of the soul; it leads into the knowledge of all spiritual things, into all the mysteries of grace, and truths of the Gospel, into all things necessary for salvation; for these words are not to be taken in the largest sense, in which they are only applicable to the omniscient God, but to be restrained to the subject matter treated of, and to those things chiefly in which the antichrists and deceivers cited; and regard not a perfect knowledge, for those that know most of these things, under the influence of this unction, know but in part. The Syriac version reads, "all men", and so refers to that discerning of spirits, of the Spirit of truth, from the spirit of error; a gift which was bestowed on many in the primitive times, by which they could distinguish hypocrites from true believers, and antichrists and deceivers from the faithful ministers of the word. One of Stephens's copies reads, "and ye all know".

(h) T. Hieros. Horayot, fol. 47. 3.

{21} But ye have an {p} unction from the {q} Holy One, and ye know all things.

(21) Thirdly, he comforts them, to make them stand fast, as they are anointed by the Holy Spirit with the true knowledge of salvation.

(p) The grace of the Holy Spirit, and this is a borrowed type of speech taken from the anointings used in the law.

(q) From Christ who is peculiarly called Holy.

1 John 2:20-21. Testimony that the believers, to whom the apostle writes, know the truth.

καὶ ὑμεῖς χρῖσμα ἔχετε] The apostle writes this neither as a captatio benevolentiae (Lange), nor as a justification of the brevity of his writing on the foregoing subject (a Lapide), nor for the purpose of quieting his readers, “who at the appearance of so many Antichrists might possibly be alarmed for the safety of their own faith” (Lücke), but in order to make the warning contained in his words in reference to the antichristian lie the more forcible; see on 1 John 2:12.

Most commentators take καί here as particula adversativa (so even de Wette; more cautiously Lücke: “the logical relationship of this verse to 1 John 2:19 is that of an antithesis, therefore καί becomes logically adversative”); the incorrectness of this view is recognised indeed by Düsterdieck and Ebrard, yet they maintain the antithetical reference of this verse to the preceding one; and of course in itself there is nothing against the supposition of a connection of adversative ideas by the simple copula; but that an adversative relationship occurs here is very much to be doubted, for the apostle did not now need to say to his readers that they, as such as have the χρῖσμα, were in opposition to the antichrists, and, besides, in the sequel that idea is not further followed up.[165] It is more suitable to the context to connect the first part of this verse closely with the second, and in this two-claused sentence to find the presupposition stated for what is said in the following verse (so also Brückner).

ΧΡῖΣΜΑ appears in the N. T. only here and in 1 John 2:27; according to Greek usus loquendi, it is the anointing oil; as in the O. T., for example Exodus 29:7; Exodus 30:31. “In the O. T. the holy anointing oil is constantly the type of the Holy Spirit, both where anointing appears as a figurative action (besides the passages quoted, in 1 Samuel 10:1 ff; 1 Samuel 16:13-14) as well as where it appears in figurative language (Psalm 45:8; Isaiah 61:1). But that which in the O. T. is presented in type and shadow, in the N. T. has appeared in truth and substance” (Besser); χρῖσμα is therefore a symbolical expression for the Holy Spirit, as χρίειν, moreover, is frequently used of the gift of the Holy Spirit; comp. Acts 4:27; Acts 10:38; 2 Corinthians 1:21. With this most of the commentators agree, only that ΧΡῖΣΜΑ is usually incorrectly explained as the act: “unctio, anointing,” and this is then taken as a description of the Holy Spirit; so by Augustin, and even by de Wette, Ewald, Sander, and Erdmann. It is erroneous to understand ΧΡῖΣΜΑ of the “true tradition about Christ, vividly transmitted, proceeding from the apostles” (Köstlin, p. 243), or of the working of the Holy Spirit (Didymus: charitas, quae diffunditur in cordibus nostris per spiritum sanctum; Socinus: divinum beneficium cognoscendi ipsas res divinas, quatenus homini est opus; Emanuel Sa: christianismus), or of the act in which the Spirit is given to Christians, thus of baptism (Ewald) or of confirmation. Oecumenius wrongly finds here (ἘΛΆΒΕΤΕ ΔΙᾺ ΤΟῦ ΒΑΠΤΊΣΜΑΤΟς ΤῸ ΧΡῖΣΜΑ ΤῸ ἹΕΡΌΝ, ΚΑῚ ΔΙᾺ ΤΟΎΤΟΥ ΤῸ ΕἸς ΠᾶΣΑΝ ΤῊΝ ἈΛΉΘΕΙΑΝ ὉΔΗΓΟῦΝ ὙΜᾶς ΘΕῖΟΝ ΠΝΕῦΜΑ) an allusion to the old custom of anointing the candidate for baptism; this custom does not belong to the apostolic age, but was probably first introduced by this passage, as Bengel has observed.[166] It is, on the whole, less likely that John was here thinking of the communication of the Spirit by means of baptism, as is usually supposed, than that he was thinking of that by means of the preaching of the gospel (Düsterdieck), as in the whole context there is nothing to suggest the former.[167] That John uses just the word χρῖσμα is not without meaning; as in the O. T. not only kings, but also priests and (sometimes) prophets were anointed, he reminds believers thereby “of their high honour, calling, office, and glory” (Sander).[168] If it be the case that there is also an allusion in it to the name of the Antichrist (Bengel, Düsterdieck), then the apostle wanted to bring out that believers in possession of the ΧΡῖΣΜΑ are enabled fully to know the antichristian ψεῦδος in its contradiction to the ἈΛΉΘΕΙΑ; see 1 John 2:21.

ἜΧΕΤΕ ἈΠῸ ΤΟῦ ἉΓΊΟΥ] For ἜΧΕΤΕ, in 1 John 2:27, ἘΛΆΒΕΤΕ is put; the possession rests upon a reception, and this, indeed, ἈΠῸ ΤΟῦ ἉΓΊΟΥ; Ὁ ἍΓΙΟς is—following the correct interpretation of ΧΡῖΣΜΑ—not the Holy Spirit (Didymus, Lorinus, Semler), but either God (Rickli, Besser, Neander: “ἀπό indicates the source;” which, however, is not always the case),—comp. John 14:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19 : ΤΟῦ ἉΓΊΟΥ ΠΝΕΎΜΑΤΟς, ΟὟ ἜΧΕΤΕ ἈΠῸ ΘΕΟῦ,—or more probably, as most commentators think, Christ; comp. John 15:26 : ὁ παράκλητος, ὃν ἐγὼ πέμψω ὑμῖν παρὰ τοῦ πατρός; and John 6:69, where Christ (according to the overwhelming authorities) is called Ὁ ἍΓΙΟς ΤΟῦ ΘΕΟῦ; in favour of which is the fact that John, in 1 John 2:29, calls Christ ΔΊΚΑΙΟς, and in chap. 1 John 3:3, ἍΓΝΟς (comp. also Acts 3:14; Revelation 3:7).

That the bestower of the ΧΡῖΣΜΑ is called by John Ὁ ἍΓΙΟς (whether it be God or Christ) arises from this, that the anointing with the Spirit is an act of making holy, i.e. of separation from the world; but he only can make holy who himself is holy.

καὶ οἴδατε πάντα] Bengel, according to the sense, explains ΚΑΊ correctly by: et inde; the possession of the ΧΡῖΣΜΑ is the reason of the ΕἸΔΈΝΑΙ ΠΆΝΤΑ.

is not masculine (Syrus: omnes; Bede: discernitis inter probos et improbos), but neuter. Calvin rightly says: omnia, non universaliter capi, sed ad praesentis loci circumstantiam restringi debet; still it must not be restricted merely to those things (quae sunt) necessaria agnoscendis antichristis et cavendis illorum insidiis (Bengel), but it embraces along with these ΤῊΝ ἈΛΉΘΕΙΑΝ in general (1 John 2:21); comp. John 14:26; John 16:13 : ΠᾶΣΑΝ ΤῊΝ ἈΛΉΘΕΙΑΝ. In the possession of the whole truth Christians are also enabled to distinguish lies and truth.[169]

[165] By this, however, it is not meant that the apostle, when he turns to his readers with ὑμεῖς, does not contrast them at all with the antichrists, but only that he does not do it in this sense, that he wishes thereby to emphasize a contrast between them. Had the apostle intended this, he would certainly not have used καί, for in such antitheses καί is only suitable when the predicates exactly correspond with one another (e.g. they have τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ ἀντιχρίστου, and ye have τὸ πνεῦμα Θεοῦ); but even then usually δέ is used (comp. Matthew 5:21-22, and many other passages), or no particle at all (comp. John 3:31, etc.).

[166] As Bengel thinks that this whole section is addressed to the children, he says: Eam unctionem spiritualem habent τὰ παιδία pueruli; namque cum baptismo, quem susceperunt, conjunctum, erat donum Spiritus s., cujus significandi causa ex hoc ipso loco deinceps usu receptum esse videtur, ut oleo corpora baptizatorum ungerentur.—How in modern times this passage is misused as a proof of the post-apostolic origin of the Epistle, see the Introduction, sec. 3.

[167] As quite arbitrary interpretations, we may further mention here that of Semler and that of J. J. Hess (Flatt’s and Susskind’s Magaz. vol. xiv.); the former, on the false assumption that the Epistle is addressed especially to the presbyters also, explains χρῖσμα by: legitima auctoritas docendi, and adds: χρῖσμα est idem ac χάρισμα illud, cujus auctor spiritus s., qui per apostolos impertitur doctoribus; and the latter understands by it the instruction which the Churches of Asia Minor received about Antichrist through the Apocalypse.

[168] Neander: “That which in the Old Covenant was connected only with individuals to whom in some way the guidance of God’s people was entrusted, with individuals who thereby were singled out from the mass of the rest of the people, this under the New Covenant is connected with the people of God in general.… There are therefore no longer among the people of God any such distinctions as there were in the Old Covenant between kings, prophets, priests, and people.… They are one kingly priestly race, whose nobility and high destination all share; all are prophets by virtue of that common enlightenment by the Holy Spirit.”

[169] The genuinely Catholic interpretation of Estius is worthy of notice: habetis episcopos et presbyteros, quorum cura ae studio vestrae ecelesiae satis instructao sunt in iis, quae pertinent ad doctrinae christianae veritatem.

1 John 2:20. An expression of confidence in his readers: they will not be led astray; they have received “a chrism,” the enlightening grace of the Holy Spirit, “which He poured forth upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour” (Titus 3:6). Baptism was called χρῖσμα in later days (Greg. Naz. Orat. xl. 4) because of the rite of baptismal anointing (cf. Tert. De Bapt. 7: “Exinde egressi de lavacro perungimur benedicta unctione de pristina disciplina, qua ungi oleo de cornu in sacerdotium solebant”; Aug.: “Unctio spiritalis ipse Spiritus sanctus est, cujus sacramentum est in unctione visibili”)’, but there is no reference here to this rite, which was of a later date and was derived from our passage. χρῖσμα is suggested by ἀντίχριστοι. “They are ἀντίχριστοι, you are χριστοί.” Cf. Psalms 105 :(104: LXX) 15: μὴ ἅψησθε τῶν χριστῶν μου. τοῦ Ἁγίου, not the Holy Spirit. St. John has τὸ Πνεῦμα in Epp. and Rev., but never τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ Ἅγιον. Either (1) Christ (cf. Revelation 3:7) or (2) God the Father (cf. Acts 10:38; Hebrews 1:9). The latter is preferable. The Spirit παρὰ τοῦ Πατρὸς ἐκπορεύεται (John 15:26)—from (ἀπό) the Father through (διά) Christ (cf. Titus 3:6).

20. But ye have an unction from the holy One] Better, as R.V., And ye have an anointing (as in 1 John 2:27) from the Holy One. S. John, in his manner, puts two contrasted parties side by side, the Antichrist with his antichrists, and the Christ with His christs; but the fact of there being a contrast does not warrant us in turning S. John’s simple ‘and’ (καί) into ‘but’. Tyndale holds fast to ‘and’, in spite of Wiclif’s ‘but’ and the Vulgate’s sed. Just as the Antichrist has his representatives, so the Anointed One, the Christ, has His. All Christians in a secondary sense are what Christ is in a unique and primary sense, the Lord’s anointed. ‘These anointed’, says the Apostle to his readers, ‘ye are’. The ‘ye’ is not only expressed in the Greek, but stands first after the conjunction for emphasis: ‘ye’ in contrast to these apostates. The word for ‘anointing’ or ‘unction’ (χρίσμα) strictly means the ‘completed act of anointing:’ but in LXX. it is used of the unguent or anointing oil (Exodus 30:25); and Tyndale, Cranmer and the Genevan have ‘oyntment’ here. In N.T, it occurs only here and 1 John 2:27. Kings, priests, and sometimes prophets were anointed, in token of their receiving Divine grace. Hence oil both in O. and N.T. is a figure of the Holy Spirit (Psalm 45:6-7; Psalm 105:15; Isaiah 61:1; Acts 10:38; Hebrews 1:9; 2 Corinthians 1:21). It is confusing cause and effect to suppose that this passage was influenced by the custom of anointing candidates at baptism: the custom though ancient (for it is mentioned by S. Cyril of Jerusalem, c. a.d. 350, Catech. Lect, XXI. 3, 4), is later than this Epistle. More probably the custom was suggested by this passage. The opening of S. Cyril’s 21st Lecture throws much light on this passage. “Having been baptized into Christ and … being made partakers of Christ, ye are properly called christs, and of you God said, Touch not My christs, or anointed. Now ye were made christs by receiving the emblem of the Holy Spirit; and all things were in a figure wrought in you, because ye are figures of Christ. He also bathed Himself in the river Jordan, and … came up from them; and the Holy Spirit in substance lighted on Him, like resting upon like. In the same manner to you also, after you had come up from the pool of the sacred streams, was given the unction, the emblem of that wherewith Christ was anointed; and this is the Holy Spirit”. Similarly S. Augustine; “In the unction we have a sacramental sign (sacramentum); the virtue itself is invisible. The invisible unction is the Holy Spirit (Hom. III. 12).

It may be doubted whether S. John in this verse makes any allusion to the anointing which was a feature in some Gnostic systems.

from the holy One] This almost certainly means Christ, in accordance with other passages both in S. John and elsewhere (John 6:69; Revelation 3:7; Mark 1:24; Acts 3:14; Ps. 20:10), and in harmony with Christ being called ‘righteous’ in vv,. 1, 29, and ‘pure’ in 1 John 3:3. Moreover in John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:7; John 16:14 Christ promises to give the Holy Spirit. It may possibly mean God the Father (Habakkuk 3:3; Hosea 11:9; 1 Corinthians 6:19). It cannot well mean the Holy Spirit, unless some other meaning be found for ‘anointing’.

and ye know all things] There is very high authority for reading and ye all know (this), or, omitting the conjunction and placing a colon after ‘Holy One’, ye all know (this). If the reading followed in A.V. and R.V. be right, the meaning is, ‘It is you (and not these antichristian Gnostics who claim it) that are, in virtue of the anointing of the Spirit of truth, in the possession of the true knowledge’. Christians are in possession of the truth in a far higher sense than any unchristian philosopher. All the unbeliever’s knowledge is out of balance and proportion. The assertion here is strictly in harmony with the promise of Christ; ‘When He, the Spirit of truth is come, He shall guide you into all the truth’ (John 16:13). In the same spirit S. Ignatius writes, “None of these things is hidden from you, if ye be perfect in your faith and love towards Jesus Christ” (Eph. xiv. 1); and similarly S. Polycarp, “Nothing is hidden from you” (Phil. xii. 1). Comp. ‘They that seek the Lord understand all things’ (Proverbs 28:5).

1 John 2:20. Καὶ ὑμεῖς χρισμα ἔχετε ἀπὸ τοῦ ἁγίου, and ye have an unction from the Holy One) An abbreviated expression (as John 1:18; John 14:10, notes), with this meaning: you have an anointing (a chrism) from Christ; you have the Holy Spirit from the Holy One. But the title of anointing (chrism) has an allusion to the name of antichrist, in an opposite sense: 1 John 2:18; ὁ χρίσας, Θεός, He who hath anointed us is God, 2 Corinthians 1:21; Χριστὸς, Christ, the Anointed, is the Son of God, Acts 4:26-27; Χρίσμα, the anointing, is the Holy Spirit; Hebrews 1:9. Τὰ παιδία, the little children, have this spiritual anointing; for together with baptism, which they received, was joined the gift of the Holy Spirit; and for the sake of signifying this, it appears to have been a subsequently received practice, from this very passage, for the bodies of the baptized to be anointed with oil. See Suicer’s Thesaurus on the word χρίσμα. He speaks respecting the Holy Spirit more plainly, ch. 1 John 3:24, 1 John 4:13, 1 John 5:6. For this is often the custom of John, to touch upon any subject immediately, intending to handle it more plainly and fully after some interval. Thus, is born, 1 John 2:29, comp. with ch. 1 John 3:9; thus, liberty or confidence, ch. 1 John 3:21, comp. with ch. 1 John 5:14.—ἀπὸ τοῦ ἁγίου, from the Holy One) the Righteous, 1 John 2:1; 1 John 2:29; the Son of God, John 10:36. See respecting the anointing of the most Holy, Daniel 9:24. Formerly there was a sacred ointment of a material nature, Exodus 30:25; now it is of a spiritual kind.—καὶ) and from thence.—πάντα) all things, which it is most needful for you to know. Seducers were to be repelled with this answer: just as a prudent man answers an importunate vender, I want nothing.

Verse 20. - The thought of many antichrists suggests that of many Christs; i.e., many who have been anointed χριστοί by the Christ himself. "The false teachers have the spirit of antichrist; ye have a chrism from the Christ." The Johannine καί places the two antithetical groups side by side, while the emphatic ὑμεῖς (comp. 1 John 4:4) accentuates the contrast. And ye have an anointing from the Holy One. The unction or chrism is the Holy Spirit (John 1:33; 1 John 3:24; 1 John 2:27). As Christ was anointed with the Spirit in all fullness, so each Christian is anointed with him in his measure (2 Corinthians 1:21, 22). The twenty-first 'Catechetical Lecture' of St. Cyril, "On the Holy Chrism," should be read in illustration of this verse. "In apostolic language, each Christian is in due measure himself a Christ, empowered by the gift of the Holy Spirit to announce the truth which he has learnt, to apply the atonement which he has received, to establish the kingdom which he believes to be universal" (Westcott). The ἀπό depends on ἔχετε, not on χρίσμα. The Holy One is Jesus Christ (John 6:69; Acts 3:14; Revelation 3:7; comp. John 14:26; John 16:7, 13). It is hard to decide between three readings:

(1) καὶ οἴδατε πάντα, "and ye know all things" necessary to salvation, i.e., "the truth" (verse 21; John 16:13);

(2) καὶ οἴδατε πάντες, "and ye all know" that ye have this anointing;

(3) οἴδατε πάντες," ye all know - I did not write to you because ye know not the truth." There is evidence of a fourth variation, πάντας "ye know all" the antichrists. If

(1) be right, it does not mean that the Christian is omniscient, but that he has the basis of all knowledge; he can see things in their right proportions. The apostle's own disciple, St. Polycarp, writes to the Philippians 1 John 2:20An unction (χρίσμα)

The word means that with which the anointing is performed - the unguent or ointment. In the New Testament only here and 1 John 2:27. Rev., an anointing. The root of this word and of Χριστός, Christ, is the same. See on Matthew 1:1. The anointing is from the Anointed.

The Holy One

Christ. See John 6:69; Acts 3:14; Acts 4:27, Acts 4:30; Revelation 3:7.

Ye know all things (οἴδατε πα.ντα)

The best texts read πάντες, ye all know; in which case the connection is with the following clause: "I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it."

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