This sermon is number 7 in a series of 23
1, 2 and 3 John - Part 7
"The Christian And False Doctrine"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2005 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Verse 18 then: "Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth. Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also. Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father. And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life. These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him".
Now you'll remember that in our outline that we gave in our introduction last week, we saw that from verse 15 through to verse 27 where we ended our reading tonight, John speaks to us of two dangers to the fellowship between God's people and one another, and specifically God's people, the church, and the Father and the Son, Jesus Christ with whom our fellowship is. Last Monday evening we looked at the first danger to such fellowship, and that was the threat of the world - 'Love not the world, neither the things that are of the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him'. We alluded to the fact that the second danger that John tells us of is false teachers, and we didn't have time to look at it because John goes into great detail in these verses that we read together tonight, verse 18 to 27, regarding this danger.
So we're looking tonight at the Christian and false doctrine. We do well to remember that this epistle is not only an epistle about fellowship, but it is also an epistle about assurance - how we can know that we have eternal life, how can we know that we're a true Christian, and those who are true Christians, and those who are belonging to the true Christian church and that which may be false in taking the name of Christ to itself. This portion also presents us again with another test. We looked in the last couple of weeks at the social test and the moral test, the moral test being: if we obey His commandments, we know that the life of God is in us; and if we love our brother, that is the social test, we know that the Father dwells within us. But this evening we're looking again at the doctrinal test: how we can know those who are in true Christian fellowship by the doctrine that they teach. I want you to remember right back to the very first week in our introduction, if you were here you'll remember I put on the screen a slide of a spiralling upward staircase, because that is the thematic cycle of this little book of 1 John. We will be revisiting themes week after week, as John revisits them throughout this book. Each time he repeats a cycle, like an upward spiral staircase, he adds a little bit more information to it. So we're going to learn as we continually revisit these truths.
We recently considered, as I said, the moral test, obedience; the social test, love; and now we're going to look again at this doctrinal test. We do well to remind ourselves, as John was reminding his Christians in his particular day, that the battle today in our world is not just between love and hatred, that is a social battle; it is not just a battle between holiness and sin, a moral battle; but it is a battle for doctrine, it is a battle between truth and error. So what more has John to tell us regarding this doctrinal test that we're going to look at this evening? Well, here's the first thing in verse 18: John tells us, addressing these Ephesian Christians and the wider people who would receive this circular letter, 'Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time'.
He tells us first of all, how young believers in particular are threatened in this age. Now we have already dealt with the fact that many of us, whether we're young or old, are threatened by the world, and particularly, I suppose, the young. Now he is really homing in on the young, and he's saying this is how young believers in particular are threatened: by false doctrine. This time the subject of doctrine is introduced by John with a warning about false teachers. Now, we saw last week that he's already spoken to the fathers in the faith, and he talked to the young men within the church, and then he addressed the little children. Now I again he is speaking to these little children, the Greek word is 'pedea' (sp?), it means 'immature', 'little children'. I want you to imagine it like a family talk that this father in the faith, John the apostle, is giving to his spiritual children. It's as if he's gathering them all beside the fire, he's giving them a kind of pep talk regarding the dangers that there are out there in that big wide world to the Christian. He's talked about the world, but now he's saying that there are also dangers here in your home, in the very church of Jesus Christ.
Now I wonder if you were giving the pep talk to the new believers in Ephesus, what would you warn them about? Well, John says in verse 18: 'It is the last time'. It could be translated, 'It is the last hour'. There's a great debate regarding what this period of time may be, and I'm not entering into it tonight, save to say that I believe that the last hour, the last time that is spoken of here is the time between the first coming and the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ - more specifically, the time between Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came, and the second coming of our Lord Jesus. It is the church age, it is the age in which we can say, 'It is the accepted time, behold now is the day of salvation. Today, if you hear His voice, harden not your heart'. It is the time of God's grace. I wonder do you know that tonight? That not every age in history that has been or will be in the future is a time when you can avail of God's grace in salvation: now is the time, you've been given today, and we don't know when the Lord will come and when this period will end, but we know this - while it is today, we can be saved.
Are you saved? Don't waste any time about! Who knows? Even this very evening the Lord Jesus could return. But yet, this is the import of what he is saying: it is the last hour. Not only is the church age a time when there's opportunities in the gospel, but the church age is a time when we need to be alert, and more so as the coming of the Lord Jesus draws near - because of these false teachers, these antichrists that are around. The import of what John is saying is also that young people in the faith, not young people by age but by their birth in Christ in the faith, are susceptible particularly to the lies of these antichrists. Of course, John's readers had been taught that an Antichrist would arise prior to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ again to the earth. This Antichrist would pretend to be Christ.
If you turn back with me for a moment to Matthew chapter 24, we read the words of our Lord Jesus Christ predicting the coming of this pseudo-Christ. In verse 4 chapter 24 of Matthew: 'Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many', and then if you look down to verse 24 chapter 24, 'For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect'. Then the apostle Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 gives us a further insight into this Antichrist: 'Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition'. That is the Antichrist that both Old and New Testament prophesies, and we find him right throughout the whole of the book of the Revelation. John the apostle particularly uses this term 'antichrist' four times, and once in his second epistle of John - but what John is saying is that prior to the rise of the Antichrist, look at verse 18, there shall arise many antichrists, if you want to put it 'many little antichrists' - antichrist with a small 'a'. They will precede this great Antichrist that will come on the earth.
So right throughout the period of the church age, there will be people who will arise claiming to take Christ's place, or be against Christ. Let me define this word 'antichrist' for you, because it is often misunderstood. This prefix 'anti' is a Greek prefix that can have two meanings. It can mean 'against', and you're familiar with that meaning, someone who is 'anti' is against. But it can also have a meaning that people are not so familiar with, it can mean 'instead of'. I believe that that is the chief meaning here and in many passages regarding antichrist in the Bible, because what John is teaching us and what the Lord taught in Matthew 24 is that these antichrists will offer themselves and their doctrines as a substitute for the true Christ. They'll not so much appear to be against Christ, although they will be, but they will be offering themselves and their doctrines as a substitute for the true Christ.
Here's a lesson if there ever was one for young Christians, indeed for all of us, and it's simply this: the devil wants us to take a substitute for the Lord Jesus as long as we don't take the real thing! He'll settle for us taking a pseudo-Christ, or something that is like Christ in person or in doctrine, as long as we miss the real Christ! That's his ploy. If you think for one moment that he wants everybody to be Satanists and bow down to him - no! He doesn't care what you bow down to, even if it's called 'Jesus Christ', as long as it's not the real thing! John's interest, by the way, is not so much in the antichrist - and that's why we're not going to dwell on it for too long, for our interest often is on him - but rather John's interest is that his children in the faith resist the influence of antichrist that is around even today and, the inference is, will increase more and more as the second coming of our Lord Jesus approaches.
So the question begs: how do these young believers that are threatened by antichrist recognise Antichrist and these little antichrists? Well, there are two ways I believe John outlines for us that we can recognise these antichrists. The first is: they are apostates. They are apostates. Verse 19 outlines this: 'They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us'. Now an apostate, to define it for you simply, is one who has completely abandoned the Christian faith, one who is standing apart from the Christian faith. It seemed that once they professed it, and stood beside the doctrines and tenets of Christianity, but now they're denying it and standing aloof from it. Now verse 19 tells us that these false teachers professed Christ, and at one time they were even the associates of the apostles - and I believe that's what the word 'us' means here collectively. John is speaking as one of the apostles: these people were with the apostles and knew the apostles. These people bore the name of Christ, these people identified with their local church, these people were baptised by immersion, these people were baptised in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. These people sat at the Lord's Table and broke bread and drank from the cup - but John says, after a while within the fellowship of the assembly, they eventually showed their true colours and they left the church, showing that they were not children of God, they were not of us in the first instance.
They withdrew themselves from the body of Christian believers, and either they formed their own little sect with their new revelations or their new teachings, or they went straight back into the world. But the point is this: they were among believers, but they went out from them, and the fact that they didn't continue with them was a sign that they were never of them in the first place. Now please don't misunderstand what I'm saying here this evening: this does not mean that everyone who ever leaves a church is an apostate or is an antichrist, just in case you get that into your head. But let me say this: it should make us think, because some people flit from church to church as if it matters nothing, and although it doesn't make you an apostate and it doesn't make you an antichrist, we ought not to take fellowship so lightly.
But what is the context of this withdrawing from the church fellowship? Well these who were splitting the church and schisming the church, they were doing it by false teaching. They were saying that they had a new revelation, that God had told them something that had never been known and that the rest of the Christians didn't know, and they withdrew with that elitist knowledge and made another group and claimed to be the true church. Now, whilst there is a lot of flitting about from denomination to denomination, that's not what John's talking about here, but there's a lot of this does go on: people who break away and claim that they have a new truth. Judas was one of the twelve, the Lord said He had chosen one who was a demon, and the matter wasn't in him in the beginning, and one of the signs of that was the fact that he never persevered in the truth. What John is saying here in verse 19 is that one of the signs that you're a child of God is that you persevere in the truth, you don't withdraw and stand apart from the Gospel, the faith once delivered to the saints, and deny it with various heresies. You don't split the church with untruth in the fundamental doctrines of the faith. So if you want to be assured of your salvation, make sure that you're persevering in the truth of God's word, and make sure that you're not attempting to split God's church with any false fundamental doctrine.
John says they went out that they might be made manifest that none of them were of us. Of course, we spent a year almost in the study of cults and false religions and so on, and it was interesting for me as I studied it and then did more research recently in putting the book together, how many of these modern heresies and cults were initiated by those who once professed the Christian evangelical faith. Let me give you an example: Sun Myung Moon, the founder of the Moonies, was born into a Presbyterian family. Joseph Smith was reared in a Presbyterian home, the founder of Mormonism. William Miller of the Seventh Day Adventists was a licensed Baptist preacher. Ellen White, their famous prophetess, was reared in a Methodist home. Charles Taze Russell of the Jehovah's Witnesses was brought up as a Congregationalist and as a Presbyterian. Mary Baker Eddy was a Congregationalist in a very strict home, I'm led to believe. William Irvine of the Cooneyites was a Faith Mission Pilgrim, took crusades all over Ireland. They went out from us, but they were not of us! They were apostate, and God's word is teaching, I believe, that the matter wasn't in them in the beginning or they would have persevered with the truth.
Of course, a mark of a cult is that they believe that their breakaway group with their new revelation on truth is the only true church. All of them, without exception, condemn the rest of Christendom as apostates, when they're the apostates! They are apostates, that's a sign of how you know antichrist and those who are antichrist: they stand away from truth, they split the church with their new revelations on fundamental Biblical doctrine. There's the first sign, but how can young believers see this threat in a second way? Well, John tells us they deny the Christ. Not only do they show themselves as apostates, but in verse 22 - and I know I'm splitting up the line of thought of the passage, but we want to get the themes here tonight, as we've seen in recent weeks the themes are scattered way throughout, and there's not much order to this particular epistle. In verse 22 he says this: 'Who is a liar' - now in the original Greek that reads like this 'Who is the liar' - the liar. You see these false prophets were saying that John was the liar, and there was a great debate as to who was telling the truth and who was of the devil. John is saying: 'Well, who is the liar in this great debate?'. John is careful to point out in this verse 22 that anyone who denies the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ denies the Father also, and that is a sign of those who are of the devil. 'Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son'.
Now please stay with me here, because what I am not saying is that these people, these apostates, these false teachers do not have any Jesus in their creed. Oh, far from it, most of them do have - but this is the point: just because a man or a movement takes the name of Jesus Christ does not mean that it's the Christ of God, the Christ of the Bible, and the Christ of the Gospel. Oh, banish the thought! So many people say to me: 'But they worship Jesus, they're Christocentric!' - what does that mean? Paul said in 2 Corinthians 11 that there are those who worship another Jesus - another Jesus? Yes, another Jesus, a fictitious character of their own imagination, an individual who bears no resemblance or relation to the true Christ of God found within the word of God. That's what was happening in this church at Ephesus, remember the Docetists who were the forerunners to the Gnostics? What were they claiming? That the man Jesus was born in Bethlehem, that He had no preexistence; and when He was baptised there in the Jordan the Spirit of God came down upon Him, the Christ-Spirit, and enlightened Him and made Him presently at that moment the Christ and anointed one of God; but that same Spirit left Him before He died at Calvary - so He was born a man and died a man! That's not the Christ of the Bible, John is saying.
People around today, they have their own Christ. He may be a Christ who is not quite God, and therefore probably a Christ that doesn't quite save. He may be a Christ that offers you health and offers you wealth, rather than salvation from sin. He might be a Christ that is continually offered in the mass, yet He never ever seems to take away our sins no matter how many times He is sacrificed. Now listen, be plain here tonight, for John certainly was! The Son of Thunder says it well, be under no illusion: 'He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son'. The application of what he says is that that person who is wrong on this point is not to be trusted on anything. Do you get what John is saying? Who is the liar?
Now relativism is a philosophy that's in our world today, but it's had a massive effect even on evangelical religion, because people are saying today that it doesn't really matter what you believe - all that matters is how you believe it, the sincerity wherewith you hold your convictions. Some people in our world of all colours of the spectrum of religious belief, believe that all they need to do is worship God sincerely. Even Christians are saying this, Dr William E. Hawking who was once the Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University in the States, he wrote a book 'Living Religions in a World of Faith'. He said this several years ago, I quote: 'God is in His world, but Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, are in their little private closets, and we shall thank them but never return to them' - did you hear that? 'God is in His world, but Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, are in their little private closets, and we shall thank them but never return to them'.
Now listen: Professor Hawking and all his like need to realise, as John said, you can't have God if you won't have Christ. That's it put plainly. If you won't have the Christ of the Bible, you cannot have God - as verse 23 says: 'Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father'. Indeed, the Lord Jesus Himself said something similar in John chapter 8 and verse 19: 'Then said they unto him, Where is thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also'. If you want to know God, you have to know Christ, for God can only be known through Christ. Then in verse 42 of John 8 He says: 'If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me'. If you want to love God with all your soul, with all your heart, with all your mind and all your strength, you've got to love Christ that way or you can't have Him!
Now what we have here is the wonderful truth of the unity between the Father and the Son, and we are on holy ground when we speak of these things. John is teaching that you cannot have the Father unless you have the Son, and without a right view of the Son of God you cannot have a right view of the Father - it's impossible! Take it or leave it, friends, it's God's word! David Jackman in his commentary, I believe he's a Church of England minister, put it like this, I quote: 'The God of the Bible is a Trinity. There is only one true God and He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Without the Son we cannot know the Father, and those who deny this may use the word 'God', but they cannot know Him'. Now that's what John said.
John Calvin, the great reformer's insights on this particular verse are very helpful - listen to what he says, and bear with me as I read through it, he says: 'I readily agree with the ancients, who thought that Cerinthus and Carpocrates were those referred to here', as the false teachers, the heretics teaching this Docetistic doctrine, but he goes on, 'The denial of Christ extends much further; for it is not enough in words to confess that Jesus is the Christ, but he must be acknowledged to be such as the Father offers Him to us in the gospel. These two heretics I mentioned gave the title of Christ to the Son of God, but imagined that He was a mere man. Others followed them, like Arius, who adorned Him with the name of God, but despoiled Him of his eternal divinity. Marcion dreamed that He was a mere phantom, a ghost. Sabellius imagined that He differed in nothing from the Father, that Jesus was the Father and the Spirit. All these', Calvin says, 'denied the Son of God; for none of them really acknowledged the whole Christ; but adulterated the truth about Him so far as they were able, and made for themselves an idol instead of Christ'. Calvin then goes on to add: 'We now see that Christ is denied whenever the things that belong to Him are taken from Him'. He goes on to say: 'To confess that Jesus is the Christ is to confess the Christ of the Scriptures'.
Now John makes it very plain, whoever you are. The Unitarians will say: 'We want God, but we don't want the Christ of the Bible' - well, you can't have Him. The Christian Scientists, and the Muslims, and the Jehovah's Witnesses will say: 'Give us Jehovah, give us Yahweh, give us the Creator of the ends of the earth, but not your Christ' - you can't have Him! The Jew, the Freemason, the liberal Protestants all are saying the same: 'We'll worship God and bow down with the pagans in the jungle, but we don't want the Christ of the Bible!'. Jesus says: 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh unto the Father but by me'.
How young believers are threatened: they are threatened by these false teachers. How are they recognised? They are apostates, they stand apart from the truth, they have subtracted themselves from the body of people who believe the truth; and secondly they deny the Christ. But my second point is: how should such a threat be thwarted? This great threat of false teaching towards young believers, how do we thwart it? Maybe you're sitting here and you're a young believer in the faith, and you're thinking to yourself: 'How would I ever recognise what was false teaching and what was true?'. Maybe you're not so young in the faith, and you're thinking the same thing! Maybe you see somebody like me, or maybe not me, but another teacher who is able to uncover some of these great truths and counterfeits - and you're thinking to yourself: 'That's a special gift that they have, I could never see through all that'.
Well, how can a young believer know what the truth is and what is falsehood? Well, John tells us every single believer, young, middle-aged or old, should be able to tell. Verse 20, look at it, John says: 'But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things'. How can such a threat of false teaching be thwarted in the life of the young believer? First of all: the Spirit of God - the Spirit of God. You see, John is saying that the Holy Spirit has been given to us by the Lord Jesus Christ according to the promise of John chapter 15 verse 26, where He said: 'When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me' - He shall lead you into all truth. Jesus promised the Spirit, Jesus sent the Spirit, the Father sent the Spirit also - and John is saying: 'You have the Spirit, believers, young believers, you have an unction, an anointing from the Holy One to tell what is truth and what is error'. Now this anointing, this unction is not an influence of the Spirit, it is the Spirit Himself. We're not anointed by the Spirit, like something being sprinkled on us or something zapping us, we're anointed with the Spirit, we're given Him - He is the anointing, He is the gift of God.
Let me explain this to you. When a person is saved, at that moment of conversion they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit indwelling them. He is the one who enables every believer, whoever they are, to discern between truth and error. Now Galatians teaches this, Paul says in Galatians chapter 4 and verse 6: 'Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father'. If you're a son of God, you have the Spirit of God - simple as that. Now, taking the illustration from natural humanity, a newborn babe into a family is as much part of the family as the eldest brother or the eldest sister, isn't that right? They might be younger, they might be only born, but they're in the family. What John is saying here is, by inference: how dare anyone say that just because you're a babe in Christ, that you're not one of the elite, you're not one of the charismatic people in this sect that has broken away who has an extra knowledge of God, a new revelation, a great experience that has taken them to a higher level. How dare you, because if you're one of God's children you have an unction from the Holy One, and you know all things! Don't believe these boys running about Ephesus, telling you that they're in the know, and they know something that you don't know about God - don't you believe them! You know all things because you've got the Spirit.
Perhaps that statement 'You know all things' should be translated, 'All of you have knowledge' - that, some believe, is the sense. Now it doesn't mean that these people knew everything, it wasn't a perfect knowledge that he's talking about here, but what he's saying is: you've got the capacity to know what is true and what is not. Any question that comes along your path, any false doctrine that comes along your way, a false practice or behaviour, you have the potential of being able to discern what's right and wrong because you've got the Spirit who knows everything, for He's God! Isn't that tremendously encouraging tonight? The youngest and the simplest believer in Christ has the capacity for all the knowledge that they need to get through this Christian life. Take that natural illustration of a little newborn babe: when a baby is born he's endowed with all his faculties. He mightn't have a lot of hair, he mightn't have any teeth - mind you, some of you are bravely on and you've neither of those two! - but nevertheless, the fact of the matter is: as they grow, and as they develop, what happens? The whole person develops - but the point is this: it's in them, it's programmed, and what is in them just comes out. Now, I grant you, we are responsible for bringing some of it out and allowing the Spirit to work in us. There are sometimes barriers and hindrances, and the Holy Spirit can be grieved, and the Holy Spirit can be quenched - and I'm sure that most of us couldn't say that we're filled with the Spirit, but we need to get away from thinking about getting more of the Spirit to thinking more about the Spirit getting more of me! Do you see the difference? You have the Holy Spirit, and don't let anybody tell you that you haven't - if you're saved He is in you!
The point that John is making, with all these heretics running around, is: there is no enlightened elite in the church of Jesus Christ on whom others depend. This is what modern charismatics need to realise: if we start talking this way, that there are different planes of revelation in God's church - I know there's different calibres of Christians, that's a different thing - but if we're starting to say that there's a little group who are the elite, and we need to depend on them for their knowledge, we're going back to Rome - the Reformation might as well not have happened, for that's what the Popes of Rome said, that's what the Priests and Cardinals said! 'You can't interpret the word of God', so they chained it up, they were the only ones who could read it in the Latin and expound it. Whether it's a Pope or a Cardinal or a Priest, or a modern-day prophet, or a shepherd, or a healer, or a charismatic guru - the truth of God tells you, no matter who you are, as long as you're converted by God's grace: 'Ye have an anointing of the Holy One!'.
I hope this is clearing up a few questions for some people here tonight. In verses 26 and 27 he tells them that the Holy Spirit abides in you: 'I [have] written unto you concerning them that seduce you', or would lead you astray - there's plenty trying to do that. 'But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him'. The Holy Spirit, he says, abides in you - now what does that mean? It means that once you receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, He'll never ever be taken away from you - hallelujah! How could anyone believe that you can be saved one day and lost the next? The implication of this regarding these false teachers is that if you have received the Holy Spirit, you don't need anyone to teach you. Now, John is not saying that you don't need teachers to teach the word of God, otherwise I'd be redundant - but so would he be, because he's writing a letter, an epistle, and he's teaching them himself. God in Ephesians 4, and in other parts of the scripture, makes provision for teachers within the church. What he is meaning is that the Christian doesn't need any teaching apart from what is found in God's word, and the author of God's word is the Spirit of God, and He is the one who dwells in us and has promised to lead us into all truth. Yet these Gnostics profess to have additional truth - John is saying there's no need of it, because you've got all you need in the Spirit.
So, the first way of thwarting this threat of false teaching for young believers is the Spirit and, as we have already alluded to just now, the second is the word. In verse 21 he says: 'I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth'. John wasn't bringing a new revelation to them in 1 John - no, he's reminding them of something they already knew. He wants to reassure them that no lie is of the truth. Now, what does that mean, no lie is of the truth? Is that not obvious? He's telling them: 'These Gnostic teachers, and any false teachers who you're listening to, if what they tell you is contrary to what's in God's word: they are liars!'. You can't get much plainer than that. Now, how could they know the difference of what the truth was? Did we not spend a lot of time on it in chapter 1 and verses 1 to 4? How can they know the truth? Yes, they've the Spirit indwelling them, but John says 'that which was from the beginning', and he repeats this to them in verse 24, 'Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning'. What was from the beginning? The One who the apostles saw, they heard with their ears, their hands had handled, and then he tells them: 'For what was manifest to us we delivered unto you', the apostle's doctrine which is the Word of God!
Oh, it's so plain, yet so many err regarding it. In 2 Timothy, didn't Paul say to that young man in chapter 1 and verse 13: 'Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus'. This is the faith once and for all delivered to the saints, and we're not to change it or doctor it, or bring it up to date - we're to hold fast to it! In verse 24 the safeguard for young believers is to let that truth abide in us which we have known from the beginning, the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ and of all His apostles. John is ever pointing them back to the simple gospel message of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Our safety, John is saying, is to stay as close to the word of God as possible. The word he uses: 'Let it remain in you', he uses this Greek verb 'remain' four times in 1 John, and the word literally means 'let it take up a permanent address in your being', 'let it have a settled home in your soul'.
The Spirit will never be taken from us, that's not what he's implying - that He'll get away somehow, but he's saying you are responsible for how He abides in you, how His teachings live out in your being, how you are filled with His influence. There's a great debate, of course, regarding how you're filled with the Holy Spirit. There are those who teach that you're saved, and you don't get the Holy Spirit when you're saved, and then maybe six months down the line you speak in tongues and then you get Him, or you're baptised in the Spirit or slain in the Spirit, and then you get the Holy Spirit and you're filled in the Spirit. I believe in the Spirit's filling, and I don't believe every Christian is filled in the Spirit the moment they're saved. I believe every Christian is gifted by the Holy Spirit, and all you need in the Holy Spirit is potentially given to you at your conversion - but if there was a definition of what is the filling of the Spirit, it is simply this: 'Letting the Holy Spirit have His sway in your life according to His word, that there be no hindrances, no obstacles'.
Let me define it in scripture, Colossians 3:16: 'Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly' - that is a definition of the Spirit's fullness, if ever there was one. Does the Spirit have His sway through the word? Is the word of God abiding in you? Does the word of God have a permanent address in your life? Has the Spirit of God a settled home in your heart? Well, are we not hearing afresh from God that we ought to test everything by this book - it is the canon, Latin meaning 'the measuring stick' for everything. We ought to ask of everything: 'What saith the Scriptures?' - and if a teaching doesn't agree with this book, we throw it out, we should reject it! What are we to think when the Mormons come along and present us with their little Book of Mormon, and its subtitle is 'Another Testament of Jesus Christ'? We're to say: 'That's a lie!' - that's what John says! After the New Testament and the first revelation of Jesus Christ, there's no such a thing as a new revelation of Him. There's no such a thing - listen to this - as 'new truth', it doesn't exist!
Indeed, Harry Ironside used to say: 'If it's new, it's not true; and if it's true, it's not new'. You might think that's a very blanket statement, but that's what John is saying in effect. Back in the 19th century Charles Hodge boasted of Princeton Seminary, which incidentally has apostatised since then, he said: 'I'm not afraid to say that a new idea never originated in this seminary'. Most universities wouldn't be proud of such a statement, but what he was trying to get across was that they studied the Scriptures, and it has been revealed. Then in verse 25 John says: 'This is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life'. When we abide in Christian doctrine we have the proof of the reality of our faith when we persevere in the truth. We don't stand apart from it, we don't deny who Christ is and what He did and everything that He is in the presentation of the gospel of God in the New Testament. If we accept this all by faith, we have the promise of eternal life! This is why it's serious, folks: for what you believe not only affects the way you behave, but it will affect whether you end up in hell or heaven! That is why false doctrine in the fundamentals of the faith is so serious, because Jesus said: 'My sheep hear my voice, and they follow me'. They hear His word as He spoke it, and they follow Him in His ways.
Someone has said, and I think it sums up all that I've said and all that John said very well: 'With the word of God in your hand, and Spirit of God in your heart, you've everything you need to understand truth and to grow in God'. Is that not what Paul said to Timothy, when he said in that second epistle in chapter 3 verse 14: 'But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works'. But when people abandon the word of God, do you know what happens? They don't believe in nothing, they believe in everything.
John's message is to us tonight: we are living in the last days, and the last days increasingly are fraught with terrible dangers. But if a man is drilled in the word of God, and filled with the Spirit of God, and thrilled with the Son of God, the victory of God will be his.
Our Father, we thank You for the gift of Thy Spirit and for the gift of Thy Word. Lord, oh how we squander these gifts but, Lord, we pray that both of them together may have their harmonious way in our lives. Dear God, that You'll protect us in these awful degenerate days from false teaching, especially for the lambs among us - protect them, and lead us all by Your Spirit in the word, that we may be full men and women, mature in the faith and filled to the uttermost with all the capacity of the Holy Ghost that God has given us. Oh Lord, hear us we pray, and may Thy word always be a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our pathway. May all of us be able to say tonight that the word of God dwells richly in our hearts. For Jesus' sake we pray, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the seventh recording in his '1, 2 and 3 John' series, entitled "The Christian And False Doctrine" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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