Greetings! Welcome to Lechem Panim. Last week, in our study of 1 John, we talked about what John means by his saying that we are living in the last hour, and what the nature is of the Antichrist who is to come and the many antichrists he says are already in the world. These antichrists (he says) are false teachers who lead people astray by teaching false doctrine; and so we talked about the importance of knowing the Word of God so that we might recognize when somebody (however well-intentioned) might be twisting it. And so we come to verse 19, which we will look at in a moment.
Overwhelming Heresies-- But first I must say that for anybody who has ever studied all the various heresies of the church, you know how complicated and confusing many of them can be. And then you have the religious cults like Jehovah's Witness and Mormonism, which are mind-boggling in their complexity and how they subtly take giant leaps away from scripture. Even my uncle, who taught systematic theology for about two decades, said on his radio show that sometimes he has to go back and look at those cults once in a while to remind himself of particular details because of just how complicated some of them can be. But how do you and I best protect ourselves against falling into any of these heresies?
Good Theology vs. No Theology-- Now some people say that because bad theology can lead you astray, it's better not to deal with all that theology stuff. But, as a wise person once said, the answer to bad theology isn’t no theology, but good theology. It is only good theology that can keep bad knowledge at bay. And that means that you and must be students of the Word.
The Loss of Bible Studies-- But one of the Great victories of Satan in our churches in America today is the loss of the spiritual education of the members of the Church; where they are being taught sound doctrine and how to get in to and study the Word of God for themselves. Therefore, the church in America is largely Biblically illiterate. I remember a conversation with a Christian young man that had grown up in Church. I began talking with him about the book of Ruth and he didn’t know who Ruth was. And I remember just how dumbfounded I was. And I want to say that that is why we are seeing more and more sin and heresy entering into the church. The Church is forgetting more and more of God’s Word because it is not being taught to our people. And because of that we are becoming more and more vulnerable to the Antichrist who is coming and the antichrists that are already here (as John says here in verse 2).
“The Man of Lawlessness” and “The Beast”— Now that is interesting to me because the antichrist is given a different name in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, where he is called "the man of lawlessness”. In other words, he is a man who has disregarded the Law of God. And therefore, the more we know the Law of God; His Word; the more easily we will be able to spot him and other false teachers and protect our churches from falling into sin.
Many antichrists— Now (as we have said before) in addition to the Antichrist, John also mentions the "many antichrists” who have already come. And these are false teachers who were leading God’s people astray. And John gives us some of their characteristics by which they can be recognized:
They Leave— First, we see that they leave the Church.
1 John 2:19 (ESV)-- 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
Light & Darkness Mutually Exclusive-- And as we talked about recently light cannot abide with darkness; they are mutually exclusive; one must expel the other. And, in this case we see that these false teachers leave the church. [In John’s day they left the church because they had nothing in common with believers (v. 19).]
1 John 2:20-21 (ESV)-- 20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. 21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth.
They Deny Jesus is the Christ— Secondly, we see that they deny the incarnation (that God became flesh) and that Jesus is the divine Christ. And in that they are revealed to be liars and deceivers.
1 John 2:22-23 (ESV)-- 22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.
The Gnostics— [The antichrists referred to in John’s letter were the early Gnostics.] And the fundamental teaching of Gnosticism is that our bodies of flesh and all that is physical, is evil; it is sinful. Only that which is entirely spirit is good. That is why they argue that God is completely good; for the very reason that He is entirely spirit. Now we know this teaching of all flesh being sinful and all that is spiritual being good is false because God created a physical world and called it good and also because Jesus himself had a physical body; but that didn’t make Him sinful. Also, what about demons? They are completely spirit and yet could you possibly consider them good? Obviously not.
Salvation is the escape from the body by special knowledge— But because of this whole flesh vs. spirit dualism they believe in, they believe that salvation is not a transformation or regeneration of the spirit, but an escape of our spirits (which are good) from our bodies (which, because they are physical, are said to be evil). So [Salvation is the escape from the body, achieved not by faith in Christ but by special knowledge (the Greek word for “knowledge” is gnosis, hence Gnosticism).] And one branch of this heresy (the Epicureans) taught that [since matter—and not the breaking of God’s law (1Jn 3:4)—was considered evil, breaking his law was of no moral consequence.] They taught that what is done in the flesh doesn’t really matter because the spirit is going to leave the flesh anyway. And that is a teaching that obviously goes against the clear teaching of scripture.
Christ’s Humanity Denied-- Now we believe that Jesus was both fully God and fully man. However, the Gnostics (because of their belief that flesh was evil and spirit good) found it necessary to deny Jesus’ humanity. And they did this in either one of two ways. [(1) Some said that Christ only seemed to have a body, a view called Docetism, from the Greek dokeo (“to seem”), and (2) others said that the divine Christ joined the man Jesus at baptism and left him before he died, a view called Cerinthianism, after its most prominent spokesman, Cerinthus. This view is the background of much of 1 John (see 1:1; 2:22; 4:2-3).] So we can see why John wants to make sure that they hold fast to the foundational doctrine that Jesus was both fully God and fully man, that He became incarnate and remains incarnate, and that He died and rose again. This is why John says in…
1 John 2:24-25 (ESV)-- 24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.
The Gnostic Background-- Now we may talk about Gnosticism more as we move through this epistle, but for now we just need to understand that this heresy was in the background of much of the early church and (particularly) this epistle of 1 John. And this will help to shed light on how we interpret certain verses. For example, look at the next one, which can be really confusing if we don’t understand the context…
1 John 2:26-27 (ESV)-- 26 I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.
Now this verse says that we do not need teachers or pastors or any form of education? Is that what John is saying? Being a pastor and a teacher, obviously not.
You do not need anyone to teach you— … [Since the Bible constantly advocates teaching…, John is not ruling out human teachers. At the time when he wrote, however, Gnostic teachers were insisting that the teaching of the apostles was to be supplemented with the “higher knowledge” that they (the Gnostics) claimed to possess. John’s response was that what the readers were taught under the Spirit’s ministry through the apostles not only was adequate but was the only reliable truth.] [The teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit (what is commonly called illumination) does not involve revelation of new truth or the explanation of all difficult passages of Scripture to our satisfaction. Rather, it is the development of the capacity to appreciate and appropriate God’s truth already revealed—making the Bible meaningful in thought and daily living.] So the Holy Spirit helps you to understand what has already been revealed. And if you ever meet somebody who says they have had a revelation of some new truth, you better watch out for them, because they’re lying to you; or are deceived.
Now what does this all mean for you and for me? It means we have to value truth; know truth; and walk in truth. Well, how do we do that? By getting our theology right? That’s part of it. Knowing the Word of God, which means spending time in the Word of God and prayerfully seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance to help you to understand it. But I also want to remind you that truth is not an abstraction. Truth is person. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (Jn 14:6). And therefore if you want a life that makes sense; a life that is solid; it has to begin with a relationship with Jesus and culminate in a constant communion with Him in which He is teaching and growing you into a Christ-filled (and therefore Truth-filled person). And that is why I want to encourage you today to start an ongoing conversation with Him today. Draw near to the He who is the Truth this week. And let Him draw you near to Him. May you commune with Him day by day, hour by hour, and minute by minute. And may He in every way be your solid foundation. Amen.
Rev. Cameron Ury graduated from Asbury University in 2007 with a B.A. in Bible and Theology. From there he continued his studies at Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, MS. It was there that he met his wife Tanya, who graduated from WBS with her M.A. and M.Div. degrees. Cameron and Tanya got married in 2009. Cameron then graduated with his M.Div. degree with a pastoral concentration in 2011.
After shepherding churches in both Mississippi and Ohio, they joined the ministry team at Renton Park Chapel in January of 2018, where Cameron serves as Senior Pastor and Teacher.
Cameron is also the founder and host of Lechem Panim, a weekly radio show that airs on KGNW 820AM "The Word Seattle". The ministry of Lechem Panim is centered around leading people into the life-giving presence of God in and through Bible study, prayer, and active discipleship with the aim of ministering to a world that is in desperate need of the healing touch of Jesus Christ.