Two Truths and a Lie
I have never seen the movie The Sound of Music. I have never tried Thanksgiving stuffing. I got married when I was 21 years old. The game is called “2 truths and a lie,” and the point of the game is obviously to think of two truths and one lie, that are all so believable that your opponent can’t discern between them. There’s skill in finding truths and a lie that are so close, so believable, that your opponent is tricked. You don’t want the truths or the lie to be so outlandish that it’s obvious. You need to deceive your adversary.
From the beginning of human history the serpent, the original antichrist, has been melding truth and lies to lead us into sin, “did God really say…?” This is the kind of reptilian nonsense that St. John is addressing here in 1 John 2.18-27. There had been false teachers, antichrists, John calls them, who had been leading Christians astray with lies, or heresies, about Jesus Christ. John writes to warn the church and to rebuke the false teachers. His word to them 2 millennia ago is still relevant to us today, if anyone teaches you anything about Jesus Christ that stands against what’s revealed in the Bible, reject it!
John continues his letter by reminding his spiritual children that it is the last hour. The Greek phrase is ἐσχάτη ὥρα, this is where we derive the theological term “eschatology.” Eschatology is the study of the last things, which refers to the entire period of time between the first and second comings of Christ. John says we know that it is the last hour because antichrist would come in the last hour and many antichrists have come. Now here we have to pause because there’s a lot of American evangelical baggage with the term antichrist. Whatever you may or may not believe about a man who will have evil influence for a short period of time before Christ returns, this is not the focus of what John is teaching in this pericope. His focus is on anyone who stands in opposition to Christ, the Messiah, the anointed one.
The term antichrist is only used in 1st and 2nd John and it means, “that which is opposed to Christ.” It doesn’t mean, “a false or fake Christ,” for if John had meant that, he would’ve used the word ψευδόχριστοι, like Jesus does in the Olivet Discourse. Antichrist means that which is anti the anointed one. The word Christ is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Messiah, which means, “anointed one.” Under the old covenant, the offices of prophet, priest, and king were all anointed offices. When we call Jesus “the Christ,” we’re declaring that he is the true prophet, priest, and king! That which is antichrist, stands against God’s anointed one.
These antichrists have revealed themselves by leaving the covenant community. Verse 19 says, 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. I like how the NLT translates this verse, these people left our churches, but they never really belonged with us; otherwise they would have stayed with us. Whether this refers specifically to the gnostic heretics, or a broader group, the underlying truth is that there have been antichrists, which have revealed themselves by abandoning the church.
John Stott makes two helpful points of application here. He notes that the departure of the antichrists teaches us about (1) the perseverance of the saints and (2) the nature of the church. First, the perseverance of the saints: true believers follow Christ until the end. Stott says,
‘He who stands firm to the end will be saved (Mark 13.13), not because salvation is the reward of endurance, but because endurance is the hallmark of the saved. If the false teachers had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. This is the stated principle. Those who belong to us stay with us. Future and final perseverance is the ultimate test of a past participation in Christ (cf. Heb 3.14). [As Calvin said],‘those who fall away’, on the other hand, ‘have never been thoroughly imbued with the knowledge of Christ but only had a slight and passing taste of it.
Perseverance is a mark that you’re actually a Christian.
Second, it teaches us about the nature of the church. There are wheat and tears that make up the body of Christ in this time between his comings. Some wont be revealed until Jesus himself separates them, but some will reveal themselves when they walk away from the church in this lifetime. Not all of Israel are true Israel.
John then contrast these anti anointed ones with the anointed ones. Verses 20-21 say 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. There’s a wordplay that’s evident in Greek, but hard to see in English, which is why I read the Scripture at the beginning in a particular way. The word anointed here is the word χρῖσμα, which comes from the same root as the word Christ. John is contrasting the antichrist, anti anointed one, with the chrisma, the anointed ones, literally “those who have been messiah-ed or Christ-ed.”
He’s talking about all believers; the Holy One – the Holy Spirit, has anointed us. All Christians are anointed at regeneration, when God saves them. Some people get confused about this kind of language and they think that there’s a “second blessing” or “anointing” that is accompanied by speaking in tongues or something like that, but that’s not at all what John is saying. He’s saying that all believers have been anointed. Just like Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit at his baptism, and the church was anointed at Pentecost, so are all believers anointed with the Spirit when they confess Christ. Because that’s true John says you all have knowledge.
I don’t like the way the KJV translates that phrase: ye know all things. I think it’s a bad translation based on bad manuscripts. Christians don’t know all things, but we all have all the knowledge we need to follow Christ, we don’t need some special extra knowledge or blessing. Verse 21 says we have the truth and there’s no lie in the truth. The antichrists tell lies and he expounds upon those lies in verses 22-23.
Verse 22 says 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. Notice that he writes that the antichrist (articular noun) is anyone who denies the Father and the Son. Verse 23 says that if you deny the Son, you don’t have the Father, but if you confess the Son, you have the Father. What we believe about Jesus Christ is the very essence of whether or not we are Christians. The Gnostics denied that Jesus was the Son of God. They believed he was a man that became the Christ at his baptism and the Christ left him before his death. They did not teach that Jesus is the Christ, Son of the living God.
To deny what the Bible teaches about Jesus is to be antichrist. This doesn’t just include world religions like Buddhism and Hinduism, or secular humanistic atheism, but also includes that which looks more Christian. Jehovah’s Witness theology, Mormon, theology, and liberal Protestantism all deny what the Bible teaches about the person and work of Jesus Christ. Church, the warning from God’s Word for us this morning is that if anyone teaches you anything about Jesus that contradicts the apostolic witness, you must reject it. It is a lie. Those who believe false theology about Jesus Christ do not know God.
We must believe the truth about Jesus Christ. Dr. Russell Moore wrote an incredibly helpful article this week for the Gospel Coalition entitled, “Can You Explain the Gospel in Three Words?” You should google it, or go to my Twitter, if you haven’t seen it yet. Moore says that he would explain the gospel in these three words: Lord Jesus Christ. We believe that Jesus is the Lord, he’s eternal God, he’s YHWH. He is the righteous deity against whom we’ve sinned. But he’s also Jesus of Nazareth. He’s the man who lived the righteous, sinless life. He’s the true Israel. He’s also the Christ. He’s the true anointed one – the prophet, priest, and king foretold in the OT.
Jesus died on the cross in the place of sinners to appease the right wrath of God. Jesus resurrected on the third day. Jesus ascended into Heaven and sent his Spirit, anointing his followers. The true anointed one anointed us! This is the good news. This is what we must believe about Jesus. All else is a lie. And here’s the good part, if you haven’t believed this, you can repent of your sin right now and God will forgive you. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved!
In verses 24-27 John reminds us of the two lie detectors that God has left us to keep us from the lies of antichrists: (1) the Word and (2) the Spirit. First, he says in verse 24, let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. That which they’ve heard from the beginning is the Word of Christ, the gospel; it’s the Bible. 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. Eternal life is found in the Scripture alone, for it alone reveals Christ. There is no word apart from the Bible. The completed canon is God’s final revelation to us. He does not speak in any other way other than these 66 books.
But he hasn’t left us his Word alone; he has also left us his Spirit to help interpret his Word. Verse 27 says, 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. Again the anointing refers to the Holy Spirit, which all Christians have from the moment of regeneration.
Now again we want to be careful not to misread the text and end up with a faulty interpretation. When John says, “you have no need that anyone should teach you,” he’s not saying that preaching and teaching are null and void. John himself is teaching them in this letter! What he is saying is that there’s no special secret teaching that you can only get from the Gnostics, or the book of Mormon, or the RCC, or anyone who claims that every Christian can’t read their Bible on their own through the power of the Holy Spirit.
God has left the church both the Word and the Spirit to help us see through the heresies of the antichrists. The Word alone would produce bitter orthodoxy and a puffed up head knowledge. The Spirit alone would produce subjective emotionalism, but the Word and the Spirit together are the weapons of warfare against the lies of the antichrists that seek to persuade us of falsehood about Jesus.
I have never see the movie The Sound of Music. I have never tried Thanksgiving stuffing. But I was not married when I was 21; I was actually 20 years and 51 weeks old. I was married a week before my 21st birthday. Two truths and a lie. Antichrists tell lies that seem like the truth. Through the Word and the Spirit, we must fight them. If anyone teaches you anything about Jesus Christ that stands against what’s revealed in the Bible, reject it! Follow the Lord Jesus Christ that you see in the Bible, he’s the truth. And beware those antichrists; they don’t look like big, scary monsters. They look like preachers, and upstanding citizens. They talk about good morals and reading the Bible, and they may even use the name of Jesus, but their Jesus doesn’t line up with the text. The Word, the Spirit, and antichrists – two truths and a lie.