As we continue in chapter 2 John again addresses the errors of Gnosticism.
22 Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. 23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also. 24 Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that He has promised us – eternal life. 26 These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. 27 But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him. 1 John 2:22-27 (NKJV)
In verses 22-27 John informs us that we have an anointing. If we deny the Anointed One it shows that we are antichrist, opposed to the Anointed One. We cannot claim to be a Christian, an anointed one, and at the same time deny the Anointed One. In dealing with this early Gnostic heresy John brings out this truth and reinforces it by affirming who Jesus is, that He came in the flesh and was/is God. He also points out that to know Jesus is to know the Father. John in essence tells his readers to hold on to what they were first taught.
So what is they/we to hold on to? When we come to the end of this passage it is helpful to remember who John addressed in verse 18 because he is still addressing that audience, and by extension all future hearers. He wrote to the most immature believers (the meaning of ‘little children’ in verse 18) and assured them of an amazing truth. There is an anointing abiding within them that will teach them. John warned them about those who were trying to deceive them. One of the tenets of the Gnostics was the need for an ‘enlightened’ teacher to mentor others into this place, effectively supplanting the Holy Spirit. I am not negating the value of teaching since that is what I am doing by writing. The qualifier is that the true teacher in the body of Christ seeks to point fellow believers to the scriptures, Jesus and the Holy Spirit and in the process release them into their purpose and calling. Control is never an end or means for true teachers walking in their calling. The Gnostics sought to control and create dependency. The true believers sought to help one another learn to lean on and into the Holy Spirit.
This is one reason I reject the role of priests that we have in some segments of His body. They stand in opposition to scripture when they seek to be the go between in the relationship between Jesus and another believer. I see the potential for the same problem in the growing role of ‘spiritual directors’ in the evangelical church. This is further clarified in verse 27 which I have repeated below.
27 But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.
John’s point is that via the Holy Spirit Jesus is within us, in our spirits. As we learn to lean into and on Him we are taught by Him. When we do this consistently we are in a place of ‘abiding’ in Him. To illustrate this think of John’s exhortation to ‘walk in the light’ at the beginning of chapter 1. Have you ever walked down the same path in the dark and in the light? How different is the walking experience? Are you more careful in the dark?
Walking in the dark can be a scary thing. I am heading off backpacking this weekend and I know that if I get up during the night and need to go outside I minimally need a flashlight or headlamp. Even then things do not look the same as during the day and it is very easy to experience a sense of unease. We would be wise to consider our day to day walk in a similar ‘light.’ The way we abide in Him is by recognizing throughout our normal day to day activities the danger of functioning in our own wisdom and understanding, independently of the Holy Spirit. When we do this even though we think we are walking in the light our activity is more akin to being out on a mountain peak in the dark with no headlamp. It takes humility to lean into Him. Do we know we need Him?