WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson LX) 06/14/21

2:20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.

COMMENTARY

Father Haydock states that Robert Witham says the real children of God’s family remain in unity under the guidance of their lawful pastors. There, they partake of the grace of the Holy Spirit, promised to the Church and her pastors. They also have all the necessary knowledge and instruction in the Catholic Church, so do not look for it elsewhere. You can only find it in the Church of which they are members.[1]

German Protestant Richard Rothe (1799-1867) says that the Apostle John may have thought he was sending the wrong message to the faithful in the congregation by this time. It might suggest to them that he did not credit them with sufficient insight on the matter and that he looked at them as being on their way to backsliding. That’s why John tells them; they have the gifts the Anointed One gave them, so they know the truth. Then he apologizes and lets them know he did not write to them because they did not only comprehend the truth, but they know that facts do not come from the fiction.

It was another way of saying, compare what I’m telling with what the Anointed One said you’ll see they are in perfect harmony. But at the same time, John was aware that it never hurts to remind believers where their spiritual life started and where they are now, so they can better see if they are on the right road.[2] Some long-time Christians often feel uncomfortable when a pastor preaches a salvation message on Sunday morning, even giving an altar call. The truth is, they prefer not to know where they are in their spiritual union with the Anointed One.

Robert Candlish (1760-1854) says that mere human study might master everything said or written about God and His works and ways. However, knowledge obtained this way runs the risk of being one-sided and partial; we must examine all the creeds thoroughly to discover their doctrinal, controversial, and historical bearings. The all-knowing theologian may be able to discuss them all and know everything about them. But left to himself without any “unction” from the Holy Spirit, he is vulnerable to allow some peculiar leaning, some personal bias, or personal concept to prevail.

It generally leads, says Candlish, to some portion, aspect, or feature of the divine plan to be seen through a cloud of intellectual dust. In the end, it may cause endless perplexity and doubt to blemish the simplicity of the Gospel, which is the Anointed One. It is not, therefore, any such knowledge of all things that John recommended. Instead, it is that of which our Lord spoke when He prayed, “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way!”[3]

John James Lias (1834-1923) is happy that John tells his readers, and all true believers, you are not like what he described in the previous verse. There can be no doubt that the unction[4] here references the Anointed One and the Antichrist. The disciples of the Anointed One partake of His unction, of which those who reject Him are utterly lacking. We must ask, what is the connection between this verse and the previous one? And what is meant by “unction?”

First, however, Lias notes that the English translation of the Greek conjunction kai is “but.” For him and others, it seems there is no immediate connection with what precedes. There appears to be no apparent concern about the influential Hebrew element behind the Greek of this Epistle. What John says here is no doubt in fierce opposition to the traitors of the previous verse. Anyone acquainted with the various shades of meaning knows that they do not connect two opposite thoughts with “but,” we see that in Genesis 1:1 of heaven and earth. We notice the same here in the antithesis between true and false believers. Lias offers a better translation by changing “but” into “instead.” That way, the verse reads: “Instead, He gave the Holy Spirit to you.”[5]

Lias addresses another factor in this verse where John says that God gave His Spirit so that “all of you know the truth.” God does not regard each of us as standing alone but as parts of a great whole. However, there may be some people who object to the infallibility of the Pope. So, they withdraw into the safety of allowing each Christian to establish the truth for themselves. But how could any single individual sum up for themselves all the graces and perfections of Christian character?

No one who has grasped the foundation of all Christian virtue, humility, would think of pretending thus to stand alone, says Lias. When we are challenged, we must take counsel with God and our brethren, following what the Apostle Paul told the Corinthians, “If someone sitting in the meeting gets some special word from God, the one who is speaking should stop.”[6] Nor would anyone who seeks true enlightenment despise the voice of the “Apostles and elders” of the Christian Church. Here the Apostle John does not speak about the option to official authority, but the unction bestowed upon the whole Church.[7]

James Morgan (1859-1942) opens the door to a very enlightening discussion about the Holy Spirit. It is doubtful whether we should understand “the Holy One” to mean the Spirit Himself given to the believer or by the Anointed One who sent Him. He is customarily known as the Holy Spirit, and both His nature and His operations in the hearts and lives of humankind entitle Him to do His work. Yet, on the other hand, He is represented to be the Spirit of the Anointed One. He is the great gift which the Anointed One was to confer upon the Church. In His exaltation, it reveals the Savior as dispensing this gift. “I saw a Lamb standing in front of the twenty-four leaders. It was before the throne and in front of the four living beings. The lamb looked as if it had been sacrificed. It had seven horns and seven eyes. These are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the world.”[8]

We know that to the Hebrews, the number seven means “completeness, perfection.” But it is also a spiritual number associated with “intuition, mysticism, inner wisdom, and deep inward knowing.” Understanding this, we can see how the seven spirits tied to the seven eyes of the slain Lamb can be taken to mean the “fullness” of the Spirit of the Anointed One. It would distinguish them from the “Gifts of the Spirit” outlined by the Apostle Paul.[9]

It seems natural, therefore, says Morgan, to understand the “Holy One” as the “Anointed One.” And we are thus presented with a most engaging and encouraging view of the truth. Jesus presides over His people and confers His Spirit upon them as His gifts and graces as needed. He does so either for preservation or their faithfulness and efficiency to others. To obtain the Spirit, they only have to appeal to Him. Therefore, they have at hand a never-failing supply of grace to which they may continually come. And having the “unction” from the Holy One, they may realize His gracious promise, “Whoever drinks the water that I will give him will never be thirsty. The water that I will give him will become in him a well of life that lasts forever.”[10] [11]

Robert Law (1860-1919) gives us a special note on the meaning of the Greek noun chrisma (“anointing.”) This word is the last descendant of a long and interesting Biblical lineage, says Law. He then offers the following successive steps briefly explaining the progress:

1. Practiced in the anointing of the body with oil as a means of invigoration.[12]   2. From the refreshing and pleasurable sensations thus produced, anointing (especially with fragrant ointments) is an act of courteous hospitality, betokening favor towards the guest.[13] Failure to observe this custom is a mark of unthinking and stingy hospitality.[14]   3. It naturally becomes a symbol of joy and strength.[15] It symbolically identifies the appointment of persons to high and sacred office as a mark of Divine favor and Divine endowment with the gifts and aptitudes required by the office.[16]   4. It is given to Jesus and accepted by Him[17] and becomes a proper name of Jesus.   5. The charisma in Jesus’ anointing is the Holy Spirit.[18]   6. This charisma is, after His Ascension, fully imparted to the Church.[19]

It does not follow that the use of the word charisma (which is unique in the Final Covenant) was a technical ecclesiastical term, or that the ceremony of actual christening, which very soon became a recognized addition to baptism and the laying on of hands, which was already in use.[20]


[1] Haydock, George: First Epistle of John, op. cit., loc. cit.

[2] Rothe, Richard: The Expository Times, op. cit., August 1892, p. 506

[3] Matthew 11:25-26

[4] The English word “unction” translates the Greek noun chrisma, which means an ointment usually used in anointing the priests at their inaugural ceremony.

[5] Lias, J. J., The First Epistle of John with Exposition, op. cit., p. 144

[6] 1 Corinthians 14:30

[7] Lias, J. J., The First Epistle of John with Homiletical Treatment, op. cit., pp. 147-149

[8] Revelation 5:6

[9] 1 Corinthians 12:4-11

[10] John 4:14

[11] Morgan, J. (1865)., An Exposition of the First Epistle of John, op. cit., (pp. 121–122) Edinburgh: T&T Clark.

[12] Ezekiel 16:9 upon infants; James 5:14 upon the sick.

[13] Psalm 23:5

[14] Luke 7:46

[15] Proverbs 27:9; Isaiah 61:3; Matthew 6:9

[16] (a) Kings are anointed (1 Sam. 10:1; the anointing being accompanied by the gift of the Spirit); (b) Priests are anointed (Lev. 8:12, 30, Ps. 133:2); (c) Prophets are anointed (1 Kings 19:16, Ps. 105:15, Isa. 61:1); (d) the title “Anointed” (Messiah, Christ) is applied specifically to the kings of David’s line (Ps. 2:2; 84:9); and becomes the title of the expected Deliverer and Redeemer of Israel (Dan. 9:25, 26, John 4:25; 7:27, 31).

[17] Matthew 16:16, 20, John 6:69; 11:27, Luke 24:26 etc.

[18] Acts of the Apostles 10:38; cf. Luke 4:18, John 3:34

[19] John 16:3, Acts of the Apostles 2:32; cf. 10:45, Ephesians 4:8ff., 2 Corinthians 1:21

[20] Law, Robert: (1909)., The Tests of Life: A Study of the First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., p. 127

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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