Lesson Four
1 John 2:18-29

There is a statement that all of us have heard and many of us have used. "You are your own worst enemy." No person can damage my life as much as I can damage my life. No person can damage your life as much as you can damage your life.

That is true in our social associations. It is true in our roles in the community. It is true spiritually.

It is also true of the Christian community, the church. No force external of us believers can inflict as much damage on our spiritual community, the kingdom of God, as we can. That has always been true, and it always will be true. Satan can never through external attack inflict the wounds on God's family that we can inflict on ourselves. As is true of any family, the most serious threats to God's family come from within, not from without.

  1. From 1 John 1:5 through 1 John 2:15-17, John emphasized two obvious concerns.
    1. The first concern John emphasized was fellowship with God: specifically, those who are in fellowship with God.
      1. They must be committed to living the lifestyle that God revealed to believers (1:5).
      2. They must not knowingly, by choice, live a lifestyle of evil (1:6).
      3. They must maintain fellowship with fellow believers (1:7)
      4. They must accept responsibility for their mistakes and confess those mistakes to God (1:9).
    2. The second concern John emphasized was pretentious lying; to pretend to be in fellowship with God is to lie.
      1. For a person in the Christian community to say that he/she is in fellowship with God while knowingly living an ungodly lifestyle is to lie (1:6).
      2. For a person in the Christian community to say that he/she has no sin is to lie to self (1:8).
      3. For a person in the Christian community to say that he/she has not sinned is to make God a liar (1:10).
      4. For a person in the Christian community to claim fellowship with God while refusing to obey God is to lie (2:4).
      5. [Inferred] For a person in the Christian community to claim fellowship with God and hate a Christian is to lie (2:7-11).
      6. [Inferred] For a person in the Christian community to claim God's love is in him/her while he/she loves that which opposes God's purposes and objectives is to lie (2:15-17).

  2. John then began addressing the problem of false teachers.
    1. It is of critical importance to note carefully how John used the concept of false teachers.
      1. What John said in identifying such teachers has been ignored which results in the abuse of his statements.
      2. Too many have followed this pattern.
        1. They personally conclude, either by personal judgment or by collective conclusion, that something is "wrong."
        2. They declare that anyone who teaches this "wrong" to be a false teacher.
        3. They "seal" their conclusion with divine authority by citing statements from 1 John (or some other New Testament writing).
        4. They accept no responsibility to use their quotations as did the writer.
        5. They do not restrict their condemnation to the writer's concern.
      3. As a result we use John's statements to condemn things that John did not address, and we do not address John's concerns.
    2. John said many antichrists already existed when he wrote. (2:18).
      1. The fact that they existed was proof that the "last hour" had come.
        1. I do not understand that to be a predictive statement about the end of the world or the return of Christ.
        2. I understand that to be a declaration that a major transition had begun.
      2. In the context of what John said, what person was an antichrist?
        1. An antichrist was a person who affirmed that Jesus was not the Christ, the son of God.
        2. An antichrist affirmed that a person could be in fellowship with God without Jesus Christ.
        3. There have been antichrist in every age; there will always be antichrist in this world.
      3. The antichrists to whom John referred had been a part of the Christian community to whom he wrote this letter (2:19).
        1. These people had left the community of those who belonged to Christ.
        2. They left of their own choice; they wanted separation; they were not forced out.
        3. They left because their conversion to Christ was not genuine.
      4. Understandably, the views of these people about Jesus Christ and their departure caused genuine concern among those who believed in Christ.
        1. Both the views and the departure of the antichrists cast suspicion on the believers' fellowship with God.
        2. John understood the doubt that the antichrists had created.
    3. John said that you have no need to doubt your fellowship with God or to wonder about Jesus Christ.
      1. They should not doubt for two reasons (2:20,21).
        1. They have been anointed by Jesus Christ.
        2. They know the truth about Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ established and sustains their fellowship with God.
        3. That truth is never the source of a lie.
      2. The liars are the antichrists (2:22).
        1. Anyone who has been a part of the Christian community and denies that Jesus is the Christ is the liar.
        2. To declare that Jesus is not the Christ is not merely disputing a fact; it is affirms that Jesus was not God's promise, was not God's plan, was not God's work through Israel, was not God's Son, and did not achieve God's eternal purpose.
        3. It denies the basic bond and relationship between the Father and the Son.
      3. This is truth and fact (2:23).
        1. The person who denies Jesus also denies God.
        2. The person who confesses Jesus also confesses God.
    4. "Let what you heard and learned from the beginning live in you, and you will be in fellowship with God as the Son and the Father live in you" (2:24).
      1. What had they heard and learned from the beginning? The identity of Jesus and Jesus' relationship with God.
      2. Review the sermons in Acts beginning with the sermon in Acts 2; from the beginning they stressed Jesus' identity and his relationship with God.
      3. The result of letting the Son and the Father live in them was that they would receive the promise: eternal life (2:25).
    5. Do not be deceived; Jesus is the Christ (2:26).
      1. You should not be confused by a pretended new revelation.
      2. The anointing you received confirms the truth about Jesus and life in Jesus (2:27).
        1. The anointing does not lie to you.
        2. It instructs you in truth.
      3. Live in Jesus so that you will not be ashamed when Jesus returns (2:28).
        1. Jesus was righteous (2:29).
        2. Those who are born of Jesus practice righteousness.

  3. The more I understand what John wrote about these antichrists, two things scare me.
    1. The first thing that scares me is to note how often that we made fellowship with God depend on something besides Jesus Christ.
      1. A person can believe in Jesus, redirect his/her life away from evil, be baptized into Christ, trust the resurrection of Jesus, accept scripture as God's word, and devote his/her life to serving and ministering.
      2. BUT, some will say, "If you do not accept this position, if you do not take this stand on this issue, you are not in fellowship with God."
      3. When a person in God's family establishes conditions for fellowship with God that either exclude Christ or go beyond being in Christ, is that person flirting with the voice of the antichrist?
    2. The second thing that scares me is to see some in God's family giving the role and the work of Christ to the church.
      1. It is not enough to declare that the saved are the church because of an act of God (He adds, Acts 2:47); some declare that the church does the saving.
      2. It is not enough to declare that the forgiven are the church; some declare that the church does the forgiving.
      3. When people attribute to the church the things that scripture attributes to Jesus Christ, are those people flirting with the voice of the antichrists?

The community of Christians, the church, needs to make certain that Jesus Christ occupies the place, the role, and the purpose that God gave him when God accepted his atoning blood and raised him from the dead.

I am afraid that too many leave the church because they never had a relationship with Christ.

I am afraid that too many never become a part of the community of Christians because they never understand the true relationship between Christ and the church. I am afraid that restoration of the church has lost sight of the importance of restoration of the place and role of Jesus the Christ.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 14 March 1999
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