20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.21 I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. 22 Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.
24 As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is what he promised us—eternal life.
(1 John 2:20-25 NIV)
As John continues his second round of doctrinal instruction, he told the churches that some had left the church because they were not followers of Christ in the first place (verses 18 – 19).
In today’s passage, John tells his readers that the main test of being a Christ follower is whether a person acknowledges or denies that Jesus is the Messiah.
The churches in Asia Minor were in a state of upheaval due to the false teachers in their midst. The apostles and other faithful men and women had been ministering the Gospel of Christ to them for years, and now the false teachers were questioning everything and proposing alternate teachings that sounded plausible from a human perspective. In the end, though, these false teachers led their listeners away from Christ, not toward Him.
In verses 20 and 21, John, with his pastoral heart and deep care for the churches in Asia Minor, reassures the churches that they know the truth and have the Holy Spirit in them as evidence of God’s truth. John reassures them that he is not questioning their salvation or if they are truly followers of Christ.
John goes on to clearly articulate those who are Christ followers and those that are not.
The test? Whether a person acknowledges or denies Jesus as Messiah. John calls those who deny Jesus as Messiah the “antichrists”.
Remember that the prefix “anti-” can have two meanings:
1) against or opposed to – at war with, the opposite of
2) in place of or substituted for – a fake, counterfeit, forgery
Those false teachers who denied Jesus as Messiah fell into both of those definitions – either 1) denying outright that Jesus is Messiah, or 2) teaching man-made “rules” that took the focus away from God and onto human tradition.
John concludes this section by admonishing the churches to stick with what they were taught in the beginning – that Jesus is Messiah, that their sins are forgiven, and they have the promise of eternal life in Christ. John is encouraging the churches with these words, not because they are the tradition that John was teaching, but because John was telling them the same thing that Jesus had told him and the other apostles. John was merely pointing the churches back to Christ.
As Christ followers, we come across many “good people”, some even talking about God and Jesus in glowing and loving terms. They are offering hope and encouragement to many, and they seem to be legitimate. How do we know if they believe the same things the Bible teaches?
John’s first and foremost measure in verse 22 is our key. Do they acknowledge or deny Jesus as Messiah? This is the bottom line, the litmus test to understand their (and our) basis of faith, life, and eternity.
Thank You, Lord, for making eternal life so simple and straightforward. Jesus, may we always acknowledge You as Messiah and obey You as Lord.