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© Rosemary Bardsley 2022

In these verses where John identifies the false teachers and their followers as ‘antichrist’ he assures his readers that there is a clear distinction between them and those he calls ‘antichrist’. He also contrasts the message of the false teachers with the message proclaimed by the apostles and confirmed by the ‘anointing’ (the Holy Spirit) which true believers had received from the Father.


John again addresses his readers as ‘dear children’ (2:18). He is not associating them with those he identifies as ‘antichrist’, but is about to give them stern warnings against the teaching promoted by those whom he does term the ‘antichrist’. He also does not want them to feel that their own perseverance in the faith is liable to fail, so he tells them that those who have left, those who embraced a lesser Jesus, had never really had true faith.

A.1 ‘They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us’ – 2:19
John is quite clear about this. In three different ways he states that these people did not belong to the fellowship of those who believe in Christ:

‘they did not really belong to us’
‘if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us’
‘their going showed that none of them belonged to us’.

It is not that these people have simply found another church, but rather that they have dissociated themselves from those who believe in the Jesus Christ proclaimed by the apostles.

John has already in this letter given quite a number of criteria by which to discern true faith. He now refers to some people who did not have true faith in the real Jesus, and who have now separated themselves from those who do. It is not that they have ‘lost their salvation’: it is that they had never really had salvation, because they never really had the real Jesus.

This doesn’t actually surprise John; he had seen it happen even when Jesus was present on earth, and had seen and heard how Jesus responded:

Check these verses about people who appeared at first to believe in Jesus, but whom Jesus knew never had true faith in him:
John 2:23 – 25

John 6:60 – 71

John 8:30 – 32, 42 – 47, 59


A.2 ‘you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth’ – 2:20, 21
John is most likely referring to the gift of Holy Spirit, whom Jesus promised to send all who believe in him. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth and teaches the truth.

What do these verses teach about the Holy Spirit?
John 1:33

John 14:16, 17

John 14:25

John 15:26

John 16:13 – 15

1Corinthians 2:6 – 16


John is assuring his readers that they do indeed know the truth, because the Spirit of truth (whom he refers to again later in his letter) has taught them the truth.

So he repeats his affirmation in verse 21: ‘I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it ...

These strong affirmations that they ‘all know the truth’ and ‘you do know it’ were relevant when John wrote them, and they are equally relevant for believers today:

When John wrote his letter, the Gnostic aspect of the false teaching glorified the quest for knowledge. It lured people beyond Christ to further supposed knowledge. It taught that Jesus Christ was not the source of all knowledge of God, and called people on to further knowledge over and above what was known through Christ. (Similar to the heresy addressed by Paul’s letter to the Colossians). Jesus Christ was not enough. There was more to know. But John assures his readers: No. There is nothing more: if you know Jesus Christ, you know the truth. You do not have to search any further.

Today, there are many different voices interfering with the minds of believers and with our understanding of whether or not we actually know the truth.

There is the voice of our postmodern culture which tells us there is no such thing as ‘truth’ so you don’t even look for it.

There are the voices of non-discrimination and ecumenism that tell us that ‘all roads lead to God’ and there’s ‘only one God’ of whom Jesus Christ is just one manifestation among many.

There is the voice of the liberal theologians who deny that the Bible is the inspired, authoritative, infallible word of God – saying that it is just a human book, with no more authority or credibility than any other ancient religious text. They also deny anything miraculous – like the virgin birth and the physical resurrection of Christ, thus, like the false teachers of John’s day, denying the deity of Jesus Christ.

There is the voice of some within ‘charismatic’ Christianity, in particular of the New Apostolic Reformation, telling us that the Bible is not sufficient for twenty-first century people and so God is adding more authoritative revelation through contemporary prophets and apostles.

There is the voice of resurgent meditative and mystical faith traditions, encouraging us to hear from the Lord apart from the written word.

There are also the voices that tell us it is presumptuous to claim to have and to know the truth; and that such a claim is judgemental and unloving.

And so we tend to shy away from making such a claim about ourselves, and we begin to wonder if some of these voices may be right.

But John had no such qualms. Nor did any other New Testament writer. They knew that in Jesus Christ they encountered him who not only taught the truth, but who is the truth, to the exclusion of all other ‘truth’.

John’s readers’ faith was grounded on what the apostles had seen and heard from the real Jesus, and which they had proclaimed (1:1 – 5). It is that light, that truth, that was the basis of their fellowship with the Father, with the Son and with each other, and which was also the basis of their salvation. His readers knew the truth. And John assures them that they know the truth.


A.3 ‘... no lie comes from the truth’ – 2:21
John states that he is writing to his readers because they do know the truth, ‘and because no lie comes from the truth.’ This immediately makes a distinction between his readers and those people who believed in a different, lesser, Jesus. His readers ‘know the truth’. Those who had left were believing, and, at least some of them, promoting a lie – they said and believed things about Jesus that were not true. What they believed and said did not come from the truth. John is very clear about this, and has no problem with stating it. Anything that does not come from the truth is a lie. Anything that is a lie is not from the truth.

A few questions:
Is John being judgemental and unloving? Explain your answer.


If you were believing a lie about Jesus, what would you want someone to do?


If your ‘Jesus’ was not the biblical Jesus, would you know the Father?

If your ‘Jesus’ was not the biblical Jesus, could that ‘Jesus’ save you?

What is the most loving thing to do if someone believes lies about Jesus?’


A.4 ‘Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ’ – 2:22
Right through his letter up to this point John has been stressing the truth, as opposed to the absence of truth and the presence of lies and deception. It is having and acknowledging the truth, and living on the basis of that truth, that identifies a person as one who believes in Jesus Christ and has fellowship with the Father and the Son.

John now becomes more specific in his description of those who do not have the truth, but, on the contrary, have believed, and promoted what is false. It is these people that he is at pains to distinguish from true believers. He says of them:

[1] Such a person is ‘the liar’. In this they derive their mindset from the evil one, who, as we have seen in section 4 of the previous study, is the father of lies. [Remember that John has just affirmed that his readers ‘have overcome the evil one’ – 1:13, 14. By believing the truth about Jesus Christ, and rejecting lies about Jesus Christ, they have overcome the evil one and any who teach or follow his lies about God.]

[2] ‘They deny that Jesus is the Christ.’ That is, they deny that the real human, Jesus of Nazareth, was also the ‘Christ’. This is not simply saying that they denied that Jesus was the Messiah anticipated by the Old Testament. They did deny that. But they did more. In the Gospels, there were occasions when people referred to Jesus as ‘the Christ, the Son of the God’, indicating a clear understanding that the Messiah (the Christ) was also the divine, eternal Son.

Matthew 16:26: Peter said: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’

Matthew 26:63: The high priest commanded ‘I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.’ [See also Mark 14:61]

Mark 1:1: Mark introduced his gospel with ‘The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.’

John 11:27: Martha said: ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.’

John 20:31: John stated that his purpose in writing his gospel was ‘that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God ...’


In addition, the apostles and other believers taught that Christ is the Son of God:

Acts 8:37 (in footnotes in the NIV): The Ethiopian eunuch was baptized upon his confession ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’

Acts 9:20, 22: the newly converted Saul (Paul) preached ‘that Jesus is the Son of God’ and baffled the Jews ‘by proving that Jesus is the Christ’.

In his letters, Paul refers to Jesus as God’s ‘Son Jesus Christ our Lord’ (1Corinthians 1:9); ‘the Son of God, Jesus Christ’ (2Corinthians 1:19).

The writer to the Hebrews identifies ‘Christ’ as God’s ‘Son’ (3:6; 5:5).

When John says ‘they deny that Jesus is the Christ’ his meaning is that these people did not hold to the full and real deity of Jesus Christ. They interfered with the truth that Jesus is God. Because of their Gnostic beliefs they could not accept that ‘God’ who is spirit became ‘flesh’. Some taught that Jesus was simply a human being until his baptism; at his baptism the ‘Spirit’ of God came upon him, but departed from him prior to his crucifixion.

As we have seen previously, belief that the man Jesus is also God is a critical belief. Without it a person does not really believe in Jesus Christ, nor can that person be saved.

[3] ‘Such a man is the antichrist’ - verse 22. John now directly states that if a person denies that Jesus of Nazareth, who is really and truly human, is also ‘the Christ’, that is the Son of God, really and truly God, that person is ‘the antichrist’. John is not waiting for an individual end-time ‘antichrist’, he sees ‘the antichrist’ in any individual person who corrupts or diminishes the true knowledge of Jesus Christ. Such a person is anti (against) Jesus Christ, and also promotes an alternate/false Christ. They may not be the ‘end-time’ antichrist, but they are doing his work for him in the present.

[4] ‘he denies the Father and the Son’ – verse 22. John has affirmed three times that his readers ‘have known the Father’ (2:13, 14). He has also referred to people who ‘claim to know’ God (2:4), but don’t obey his commands.

This is also something of which John had firsthand experience as he observed various responses to Jesus Christ.

How do these verses connect knowing the Father and acknowledging Jesus as God?
Matthew 11:27

John 7:25 – 30

John 8:19

John 14:7

As Jesus said: ‘When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness’ (John 12:44 – 46).

John’s point is that a person who denies Jesus Christ, a person who denies that he is God in human flesh, also denies God the Father. He goes on to say:

[5] ‘No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also’ – verse 23. John sees this very clearly. Because he has eye-witness knowledge of Jesus Christ and his teaching he knows with absolute confidence that there is an indissoluble unity between the Father and the Son. To acknowledge one is to acknowledge the other; to deny one is to deny the other. There is no doubt in his mind that the false teachers, because they rejected the true and full deity of the man Jesus, were also rejecting God the Father. In denying the real Jesus they were denying the real God. Simply – they did not have God.

On the basis of all of this John confidently identified these people as ‘antichrists’. He does not regard such an assessment as ‘unloving’ or ‘judgemental’. Nor does he see what he is doing as disobeying the command of Christ ‘Judge not’ (Matthew 7:1). Rather he is obeying commands that Jesus gave in that same chapter: ‘Enter through the narrow gate ... Watch out for false prophets ... build on the rock ...’ (Matthew 7:13, 15, 24 – 27).


B. ‘SEE THAT ...’ – 2:24 – 27

As part of John’s exposure of the false teachers and their false teaching John gives both warnings and encouragement to his readers.

B.1 The warning – 2:24, 25
John says ‘see that what you heard from the beginning remains in you’. In the original Greek text of verse 24 John stresses ‘that which you have heard from the beginning’ by mentioning it twice. He also begins his command with ‘You’, setting up a contrast between his readers and those he has called ‘antichrist’. He says:

You, let that which you have heard from the beginning remain in you.

If that which you have heard from the beginning remains in you, then you also in the Son and in the Father will remain.

The false teaching was luring people away from the original gospel, the message proclaimed by the apostles that John has referred to in 1:1 – 3. There, John referred to Jesus Christ as ‘that which was from the beginning’, and stated that it was this, Jesus Christ, the ‘Word of life’, that the apostles proclaimed. Twice in verse 24 (in the Greek text) John refers to ‘that which you heard from the beginning’.

So centred on Jesus Christ is the message proclaimed by the apostles that in John’s mind Jesus Christ is the message. Now he commands his readers to let that original message remain in them, because it is only in holding to that original message, which is Christ, that salvation is found.

The Greek verb here translated ‘remain’ is meno. John uses this word twenty-three times in his first letter. (It seems that it is a significant concept for John: around half of the New Testament occurrences are in his writings.) It is translated in a range of ways in various verses – live, continue, remain. So far in this letter John has used meno in:

‘Whoever claims to live in him ...’ – 2:6.
‘Whoever loves his brother lives in the light’ – 2:10.
‘the word of God lives in you’ – 2:14.
‘the man who does the will of God lives forever’ – 2:17.
‘if they belonged to us they would have remained with us’ – 2:19.

And now three times in 2:24 – as underlined above at the beginning of this section.

The KJV frequently translated this word as ‘abide’, which in the old English was related to the noun ‘abode’, which was a person’s home or residence. It has the sense of continuance, referring to the place where a person lives or stays (as distinct from dropping in for a brief visit).

John has pointed out in 2:18 – 23 that the fact that people did not remain indicated that they did not really belong. If they had really belonged, if they were basing their lives on the truth, they would have remained. Now in verse 24, he urges his readers to remain in the truth, or rather, to let the truth remain in them. Only such continuance will authenticate the integrity of his readers’ relationship with the Father and the Son. And only such continuance in the Son and in the Father guarantees eternal life (verse 25). [John will have more to say about this later in his letter.]

B.2 The encouragement – 2:26 – 27
Although John has just given his readers a strong warning to continue in the original truth, he now gives them encouragement by affirming his confidence that they are indeed genuine believers. He says:

[1] That he had written to them concerning ‘those who are trying to lead you astray’. That is, he was not writing to them because he doubted their faith, but about the false teachers and their efforts to lead the believers astray.

[2] They, in contrast to those false teachers, had received ‘the anointing’, which he had already mentioned in 2:20 – an ‘anointing from the Holy One’ (see A.2 above).

What does he say, or infer, about this ‘anointing’?
2:20 – where it comes from?

2:20 – its impact?

2:27 – who it was received from?

2:27 – where it stays?

2:27 – its impact?

2:27 – what it teaches?

2:27 – its reality?

As John has stated in 2:20, this anointing which his readers have received comes from ‘the Holy One’ – that is God - ‘from him’ (verse 27). Also, as he stated in 2:20, he again stresses that this anointing, which remains in believers, results in knowledge of the truth – ‘you do not need anyone to teach you’, ‘his anointing teaches you about all things’. Because this anointing teaches them about all things, and because this anointing is ‘real, not counterfeit’ John commands his readers to ‘remain in him’ – that is, continue in him. The verb is present tense: John is commanding us to keep on living in Christ – in the truth about him proclaimed in the apostolic message and confirmed by the Holy Spirit – by this ‘anointing’.

They have no need for any additional knowledge, as promoted by the false teaching. They have the word of God proclaimed by the apostles, and they have the inner confirmation/assurance of that truth by ‘the anointing’, the Holy Spirit.

There is a contrast here between the ‘antichrists’ and the ‘anointing’ –

The ‘antichrists’ promoted their own corrupted version of Jesus Christ: the ‘anointing’ (the Holy Spirit) taught the truth.

The ‘antichrists’ were false; but the anointing, John says (v.27) is ‘real, not counterfeit’ – alethes not pseudostrue not false.

So John commands them, and us, remain in him. Continue to live in him. You have no need for any additional ‘truth’ or alternate ‘truth’. You actually have the truth, the true truth. Don’t think that you are missing out on something that is desirable or necessary. Remain in him. He is all that you need.

For a comprehensive study on the Holy Spirit and the believer go to this study - Section B.4.2 of this study gives New Testament texts about the Holy Spirit as our teacher; in addition to those listed in A.2 above.

Go to these studies on Colossians to understand how Paul combated a similar heresy: http://godswordforyou.com/joomla4/bible-studies/colossians/390-jesus-christ.html and