I have written these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you.
I. THE NATURE OF THIS BLESSING. "Ye have an anointing from the Holy One." The "unction," or "anointing," does not signify the act of anointing, but the material which is used in the anointing - the oil, or ointment, or unguent. Here it denotes the Holy Spirit, whom the Christians to whom St. John was writing had received. Prophets, priests, and kings were anointed, and Christians are spoken of in the New Testament as "kings and priests" (Revelation 1:6); but we cannot see in our text any reference to either of these aspects of Christian character and life. The apostle is rather contrasting his readers, who had received the anointing from the Holy One, with the antichrists, who were opposed to the Anointed. As Alford expresses it, "The apostle sets his readers, as χριστούς, anointed of God, over against the ἀντίχριστοι." They possessed the Holy Spirit. He was within them as their Teacher, Comforter, Sanctifier. This blessing is of unspeakable and inestimable worth.
II. THE SOURCE OF THIS BLESSING. "Ye have an anointing from the Holy One;" i.e., Jesus Christ. In verse 1 St. John speaks of him as "the Righteous." In 1 John 3:3 he says that "he is pure." St. Peter said to him, "We know that thou art the Holy One of God" (John 6:69). And he afterwards spake of him as "the Holy and Righteous One" (Acts 3:14). And he spake of himself to "his servant John" as "he that is holy, he that is true" (Revelation 3:7). He baptizes with the Holy Spirit (John 1:33). He sends the Holy Spirit (John 15:26). The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost is ascribed to him (Acts 2:33). Therefore we conclude that he, our Lord and Saviour, is the Holy One from whom Christians receive the anointing; i.e., the Holy Spirit.
III. THE EFFECT OF THIS BLESSING. "Ye know all things And ye need not that any one teach you." The "all things" calmer, of course, mean all things in science and art, in history and philosophy. An examination of the context will lead us to the true meaning. In verse 20 St. John says, "Ye know all things;" in verse 21 and the next sentence he says, "Ye know the truth;" and in the following verse and the next sentence he shows what the truth of which he had spoken is, viz. "that Jesus is the Christ." By the "all things," then, the apostle means "the truth... that Jesus is the Christ." All things in the Christian system are comprised in that one great fact. "He who knows this one thing," says Ebrard, "that Jesus is the Christ, knows already in that one thing all; there is no most distant height or depth of truth which is not contained or involved in that simple proposition." This interpretation includes other interpretations which are not so clearly drawn from the context; e.g., Alford, "All things needful for right action in the matter under consideration;" Barnes, "All things which it is essential that you should know on the subject of religion;" and others, "All things necessary to salvation." These and others are comprised in the knowledge "that Jesus is the Christ." This knowledge they attained by means of "an unction from the Holy One." We do not understand that the Holy Spirit had communicated unto them new truths, or directly revealed any truth to them. But by reason of his influence they saw the truths which they had received, more clearly, and grasped them more firmly. This is well illustrated by Dr. Chalmers: The Spirit "does not tell us anything that is out of the record; but all that is within it he sends home with clearness and effect upon the mind. When a telescope is directed to some distant landscape, it enables us to see what we could not otherwise have seen; but it does not enable us to see anything which has not a real existence in the prospect before us. The natural eye saw nothing but blue land stretching along the distant horizon. By the aid of the glass there bursts upon it a charming variety of fields, and woods, and spires, and villages. Yet who would say that the glass added one feature to this assemblage? And so of the Spirit. He does not add a single truth or a single character to the book of revelation. He enables the spiritual man to see what the natural man cannot see; but the spectacle which he lays open is uniform and immutable. It is the Word of God which is ever the same." So the Holy Spirit had brought into clear and impressive light the things which they to whom this letter is addressed had learned from the sacred Scriptures and from St. John and other Christian teachers, and had enabled them to realize their importance and power. And as a matter of fact, in our own day we see persons whose educational advantages have been of the slightest, whose powers and opportunities for study have been must limited, who yet have a clear and comprehensive acquaintance with the essential truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And the reason of this is, they "have an anointing from the Holy One," they are enlightened by the Holy Spirit (cf. John 14:26; John 16:13, 14; 1 Corinthians 2:13-16). But St. John writes further, "Ye need not that any one teach you" - a statement on which Alford remarks, "His assertions here are so many delicate exhortations, veiled under the declaration of their true ideal state of unction with the Holy Spirit who guides into all truth. If that unction were abiding in them in all its fullness, they would have no need for his or any other teaching." The reference is to their knowledge of the great comprehensive truth "that Jesus is the Christ." They were not dependent upon any one for teaching concerning this vital and fundamental fact. But generally speaking, "the Divine unction does not supersede ministerial teaching, but surmounts it."
IV. THE OBLIGATION OF THIS BLESSING. More fully stated this is the obligation which is inseparable from the possession of this anointing from the Holy One. "Abide in him," i.e., in Christ, as the context clearly shows. The person spoken of in verses 27 and 28 is evidently the Lord Jesus. The exhortation to abide in him is based on the assurance that the anointing which they had received abode in them (verse 27). The "in him" must not be toned down to his doctrine, or his system, or anything of that kind. "In him" by the exercise of the faith of the heart, by the attachment of holy love, by intimate and reverent communion with him, and by participation in his life and spirit. Thus are we to abide in him (cf. John 15:4-7). From our subject we learn:
1. That the illumination of the Holy Spirit is indispensable to a clear and correct apprehension of the great truths of Christianity. "Words and syllables," says Cudworth, "which are but dead things, cannot possibly convey the living notions of heavenly truths to us. The secret mysteries of a Divine life, of a new nature, of Christ formed in our hearts, they cannot be written or spoken; language and expressions cannot reach them; neither can they be ever truly understood, except the soul itself be kindled from within, and awakened into the life of them" (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:10-12).
2. That the "anointing from the Holy One" - the influence and presence of the Holy Spirit within us - is a preservative against the seductions of error. "If that which ye heard from the beginning abide in you, ye also shall abide in the Son, and in the Father.... but the anointing which ye received of him abideth in you," etc.
3. That the possession of this Divine preservative is not an encouragement to presumption, but a reason for perseverance. Because the anointing which they received of Christ abode in them, St. John exhorts his readers to "abide in him." - W.J.
These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce youI. THE PROVISION MADE FOR OUR ABIDING IN HIM is the "anointing which we receive of Him abiding in us."
1. It is in us; it is an inward anointing. Not with oil on the head, but with the Holy Ghost in the heart, we are anointed; as He from whom we receive the anointing was Himself anointed.
2. This anointing is permanent — "it abideth in you." It is not a fitful emotion or wayward impulse, a rapture of excitement, alternating perhaps with deep depression. It partakes more of the nature of a calm, constant, settled conviction. There may be more or less of the vivid sense of this anointing, at different seasons and in different circumstances; the signs of it may be more or less clearly discernible, and the hold we have of it in our consciousness may be more or less strong. But it "abideth in us," keeping God and eternity still before us as realities, in our sorest trials and darkest horn's, causing us, as we fall back upon it, like David in his recovery from doubting despondency, to exclaim (Psalm 77:10).
3. This anointing is sufficient in and of itself; its teaching needs no corroboration from anyone; it has a Divine self-evidencing power of its own that makes him who receives it independent of human testimony: "ye need not that any man teach you."
4. The teaching of this anointing is complete and thorough, all embracing, all-comprehensive; "it teacheth you of all things." It is not partial or one-sided, as human teaching on Divine subjects is apt to be, but full-orbed, well rounded, like a perfect circle. It needs the Divine anointing of which we speak to teach, to unfold, to exhaust, all that is in the song of the angels, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."
5. Finally, this anointing "is truth, and is no lie." It carries with it, and in it, an assurance not to be called in question or shaken — an assurance, one may say, infallibly sure.
II. THE MOTIVE URGED FOR YOUR ABIDING IN CHRIST is the hope or prospect of "His appearing," "His coming." It is urged very earnestly and affectionately. John might have kept to the mode of address which he has been using, and to which in the next verse he returns; as an apostle exhorting his disciples, a teacher instructing his scholars, speaking authoritatively or ex cathedra. But when the end of all comes in view he cannot separate himself from them. We are to be together with the Lord, you and we — you disciples and we apostles; you scholars and we teachers. And for this end we would have you to abide in Him, that we may have confidence together when He appears. Let me be ever asking myself, at every moment, If He were to appear now, would I have confidence? If He were to come into my house, my room, and show Himself, and speak to me face to face, would I have confidence? Could I meet His look of love without embarrassment? Only if He found me "abiding in Him"; doing whatever I might be doing "in His name, giving thanks unto God even the Father by Him"; only if He found me keeping Him in my heart.
(R. S. Candlish, D. D.)
The Evangelical Preacher.I. THIS ANOINTING IS A GIFT. It is "the anointing which ye have received." It is contrasted in the context with the transient possessions of worldly men. To these, what seems to be solid melts into air; what seems to be permanent vanishes away.
II. THIS ANOINTING IS A HEART-CLEANSING GIFT. Those who have it mortify the deeds of the body through the Spirit (Romans 8:13), and purify themselves even as Christ is pure (chap. 1 John 3:3). Not through any natural power of willing and working, but through the Spirit, they are able to do these things.
III. THIS ANOINTING IS A HEART-ENLARGING GIFT. A man's calling and election once made sure to his own mind, the sphere of his studies becomes enlarged. It is not written, One thing have I desired of the Lord that I may be saved, but (Psalm 27:4).
V. THIS ANOINTING WAS A GIFT DIVINELY GIVEN TO CHRIST. As to His human nature He was richly endued. The Spirit of God rested upon Him (Isaiah 11:2; John 1:32, 33). He was therewith anointed above his fellows (Psalm 45:7)
VI. THIS ANOINTING IS A GIFT DIVINELY GIVEN TO HIS PEOPLE. It is "the anointing which ye have received of Him" — not only as a proof that they are chosen in Him before the foundation of the world, but also as their instructor and guide (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:2).
VII. THIS ANOINTING IS A DISTINGUISHING GIFT. It "is the anointing which ye have received." As the anointing under the law, which is no doubt alluded to in the text, was of a sweet savour, so we, as many as are anointed with His Spirit, are thereby made a sweet savour of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:15). As that anointing oil was sprinkled upon Aaron and his sons (who represent the Church, as pointedly distinguished from the rest of the congregation), so Christ sends the comforter to His disciples, whom He pointedly distinguishes from the world (John 14:16, 17). As the anointing oil was forbidden to be poured upon the flesh of man (Exodus 30:25-33), so the Holy Ghost cannot be received by the world, which, in the present dispensation, "seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him."
VIII. THIS ANOINTING IS A PERMANENT GIFT. It is "the anointing which abideth in you." It is permanent as opposed to those proffers of grace, so called, which, depending on the volition of the creature, are worse than precarious. This distinctive mark cannot suffer abrasure or be blown away. Its permanence is chiefly shown by the vitality of our union to Christ (John 15:5), by the reality of our participation in the Divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), by the eternity of the life of which the Spirit is the demonstrator and source (1 John 5:11), and by the stability of the covenant under which that life is promised (1 John 2:25).
IX. THIS ANOINTING IS A TRUTHFUL GIFT. It is truth. It is truthful as opposed to those false misgivings, whether from the flesh or the devil, which frequently trouble the Christian. It is truthful, also, as opposed to the shadows of the law. It is truthful, also, as opposed to the lies and hypocrisy of false professors.
X. THIS ANOINTING IS A SUFFICIENT GIFT. Giving sufficiency to that spiritual judgment, that noble and inestimable endowment, which alone can distinguish truth from error.
(The Evangelical Preacher.)Psalm 94:12). If you have been praying to know more of Christ, do not be surprised if He takes you aside into a desert place, or leads you into a furnace of pain.
1. Christ teaches by the Holy Ghost. It is unmistakable that He is referred to in the reference to the anointing which we have received. The Holy Spirit is, so to speak, the medium by which Jesus dwells in the surrendered heart, and operates through it and in it.
2. This teaching is inward. There are doubtless many lessons taught by Providence. But, after all, the meaning of outward events is a riddle, until He opens "the dark saying on the harp." And the teaching is therefore so quiet, so unobtrusive, so hidden, that many an earnest seeker may think that nothing is being taught or acquired, as the months go on. But we cannot gauge the true amounts of progress which we are making from year to year — the teaching is so thoroughly a secret matter between God and the Spirit. But when some great crisis supervenes, some trial, some duty, and the spirit puts forth powers of which it had seemed incapable, there is a swift discovery of the results, which had been slowly accruing during previous years.
3. The main end of this teaching is to secure our abiding in Christ. "Even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him." All Christian progress begins, continues, and has its fruition here. Severed from Jesus we can do nothing. Abiding in Jesus we partake of "the root and fatness" of His glorious life. All His fulness slowly enters into us.
(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
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