These studies look at the overwhelming goodness of the Triune God. Depicted by Andrei Rublev's icon of The Holy Trinity.
 

1 John 2:18-29

18 Children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come; therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; 19 but they went out, that it might be plain that they all are not of us. 20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all know. 21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and know that no lie is of the truth. 22 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. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. He who confesses the Son has the Father also. 24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is what he has promised us, eternal life.

26 I write this to you about those who would deceive you; but the anointing which you received from him abides in you and you have no need that any one should teach you; 27 as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true and is no lie, just as it has taught you, abide in him.

28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that every one who does right is born of him.

It seems that the situation in the churches to which John is writing is that there were people who had been a part of the church, but had pulled away and were now trying to influence others still in the church to follow them. It sounds like John's readers are feeling unsure about what to do. They know these people who are now trying to give them a "new, improved gospel" and this makes it harder for them to discern the truth. Perhaps these people had seemed very devout and enthusiastic when in the church and now they are equally passionate about their "advanced message." From what John has written so far, the message these people promote has to do with indulging one's desires in the world and turning against certain people. They may be stirring up hate and animosity towards a particular group. They are probably advocating trends, ideas, or pleasures that unbelievers around them are pursuing, arguing that these things are either harmless or even advantageous to the believer.

John begins this section by telling his readers that they are living in the last hour and that part of how they can know this is because there are many antichrists that have come. One interesting point that John makes about these antichrists, that I alluded to already, is that they are coming out of the church. It seems that John is saying that the greatest danger to Christians will not be from those who have never been in a church, but those who at one point were involved in the church and then left. These are the ones John says he wants his readers to know about so that they won't be deceived (v.26).

I can understand why someone who was once in the church would be harder to disregard. Perhaps some of these people are still claiming to be Christians. How are the readers to discern what is the truth? This is exactly what John is addressing.

John has already said that hating your brother is not something you can do if you are loving God (2:9). So if what his readers are hearing is tempted them to hate or turn against particular individuals or groups of people, John is reminding them that that is incompatible with abiding in God. John has also told them that "if any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him"(2:15). This is the last passage we looked at. John wants them to find their identity and life only in God and to see that pursuing "the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life"(2:16) is to turn from drawing on God's life and filling ourselves with what cannot possibly satisfy and give life.

Now John is telling them that they are in the last hour. It may be that these people John calls "antichrists" are advocating their doctrines with the argument that Jesus has left and that His kingdom is distant and doesn't really affect our lives here and now. But John says this is the last hour. I don't think John merely thought that Jesus was about to return and that he turned out to be wrong on this. I think that John is saying that all of life after the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus is in the "last hour". Don't be fooled--the kingdom is imminent, it has come closer in Christ and is still "at hand". It is the greater reality than life on this earth and should orient all that we do here and now. We live our lives differently now, in the framework of this imminent kingdom which is solid and real while "the world passes away". So this to is meant to help John's readers to remember the truth and discern the truth from falsehood. We can live now in the light of the coming rule and reign of God through Christ, because the Kingdom of God is a real hope, the actual future.

Ultimately John says in vv. 22-23 that the best way to discern what someone is saying is to know what she/he is saying about Jesus. First, he says that the antichrist is one who denies the Father and the Son, but then in the next verse he states that to deny the Son is to deny the Father. You can't have one without the other. God is the Father, Son, and Spirit God. This is who He is. To abide in God is to abide in this Trinity. To love God is to love all of God and to see that the heart of who He is and what He does involves the Father, Son, and Spirit. God is drawing us up into this very relationship of love between the Father and Son in the Spirit. To reject Jesus, but somehow to hold onto a generic "God" is to reject the Triune God revealed in Christ.

John assures his readers on the flip side that to confess Christ is to have the Father also. And he assures them more than once that God is already abiding in them by His Spirit and that He is and able to continue to teach them the truth. They do not need to be afraid that they will not be able to discern the truth. In v. 21 he tells them he is writing this to them not because they don't know the truth but because they do. In v. 27, he tells them that they have been anointed by God and that this anointing "teaches you everything". They do not need to fear. So how do they hear this Spirit? Well, John says they need to keep abiding in the word they heard from the beginning and to abide in Jesus. This I think shows the reason John's warns them about the antichrists. The real danger, the real loss when we hold onto hate, or look to the world for our life and identity is that we stop abiding, drawing on, living in, the great, good love and presence of our triune God. Did you notice how many times John repeats the word "abide" in this passage? This is the whole thing. Sometimes we want things in our lives to go faster or change. We want more immediate, tangible evidence of God's work. Or we fear we might be missing out on life somehow and so we try to grab a hold of our spiritual lives and take control.

But John reminds us over and over that it all comes down to abiding in Him. Whatever is going on in our lives, whatever we are struggling with, we are to hand it all to Him, and to rest in, wait on, live in His presence and peace. It is our abiding in Him, not counting on ourselves that will make us confident when He returns. It is interesting that shame comes not from what sins we have committed, but from not abiding in Him. So John concludes in v. 29 that we can be sure that "every one who does right is born of him" because we know Jesus is righteous. And this doing right is living in God, letting Him tell us who we are, letting Him work in our lives and in the lives of others around us, counting on Him and obeying Him out of our trust that He is light.

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