WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson LXI) 06/15/21

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

COMMENTARY

Priestly L. Greville (1891-1976) feels that the KJV rendering of “ye know all things” is better translated from older manuscripts as “you all know.” The NIV reads: “all of you know.” Under the First Covenant, only those chosen by God received revelations to share with the people. But in the Final Covenant, every believer is eligible to receive the Holy Spirit through the Anointed One and thereby become aware of what the Spirit of Truth teaches us about the knowledge of God. The saving knowledge of regeneration was not just for a cultured few, says Greville, but to every genuine member of the Body of the Anointed One. That is what Jesus was talking about when He said we would know the truth, and the truth would set us free.[1] [2]

Raymond E. Brown (1928-1998) says that John’s use of the Greek noun chrisma (“anointing”) makes sense only if that ointment has effects. There is no such thing as anointing for anointing’s sake. When used literally, it means consecration of the flesh for prayer. For example, scriptures tell us that if any of you are sick, you should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord.[3] It is also used figuratively for calling, illumination, and enlightenment.[4] Not only that, but it is used frequently in the sense of being under the anointing while preaching or teaching.[5]

Stephen S. Smalley (1931-2018) says that the Apostle John finishes with pointing out all the heretics’ antichrist errors and lies; now, he’s focused on the genuine believer. So, he introduces the identification marks of the authentic children of God. So, in the following few verses, we see a sharp contrast between the position of the fundamental and radical members in the congregation. Furthermore, John separates those who stayed behind with the loyal member from those who deserted the faithful.

It contrasts the basic concepts of truth and error represented by their positions with God, says Smalley. His Son, His Word, and His Spirit. John emphasizes three leading ideas: responsibility, remembering what they heard, and remaining steadfast. Together, these three themes highlight the concept of God’s indwelling word.[6] If it worked back then, indeed, it should work today. How many believers are there that confess the indwelling presence and Spirit of God, but the library of God’s Word is empty?

Peter Pett (1966) tells us that the word for “anointing” appears only three times in the Final Covenant, here and twice in verse twenty-seven, below. It signifies “that with which believers are anointed.” It initially had within it in the First Covenant the idea of applying oil to set a man aside in God’s service. The question, therefore, is whether it refers to such a literal “means of anointing” (that is, the oil or ointment itself applied to someone), or anointing with the “anointing,” that is, with the Holy Spirit, where the Holy Spirit replaces the oil.[7] It brings up whether a person is anointed because they preach, or do they preach because they are anointed? One of these must occur first. It seems clear that a person must first be anointed before they can preach under the anointing.

Douglas S. O’Donnell (1972) reminds us that the Greek noun chrisma means “anointed.” Now here, John uses a play on words by saying to his readers, they too have the “anointing.” It has become commonplace, says O’Donnell, to use the word anointed in ways that are foreign to its usage in Scripture. For example, we might call preachers, sermons, songs, or worship services as anointed. Widespread use speaks of a person or event in which there is an awareness of God’s power or presence. However, to anoint someone in the Bible has to do with setting a person apart for a particular purpose. Such anointing was the privilege of the chosen few – priests, prophets, and kings. Christ fulfilled these offices. Now, God bestowed this priestly, prophetic, and kingly anointing upon all who confess that Jesus is the Anointed One arrived in the flesh.[8] [9]

Current Bible scholar John W. (Jack) Carter points out that there is a play on words working here where the text states literally, “you have an anointing from the Anointed One.” Reminded of Jesus’ baptism, some would argue that this anointing refers explicitly to the believer’s baptism. Some attempt to connect the statement with the traditional act of anointing with oil. Let’s consider this passage in the context of a believer’s water baptism. We must remind ourselves that Jesus’ command was to baptize (or immerse) believers in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit from whom the anointing flows.

The command embraces Jesus’ plan for making disciples: by immersing them in the knowledge of God. The “Name” of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, refers to the whole nature and identity of the trinity. Jesus immersed His disciples in the knowledge of God. Stopping this process with a water immersion is a poor substitute.[10] However, we should notice that only after John baptized Jesus in water that the Holy Spirit descended from above in the form of a dove and landed on Him. It was only then that the Spirit led Him out into the wilderness for testing. It should be enough to convince us that the baptism of the Spirit follows the baptism of water.

2:21a So I am writing to you not because you don’t know the truth but because you see no lie ever comes as part of the truth.

Just in case his readers may have understood that John was accusing them of not knowing all they should know about God and the Anointed One, he wanted to clear that up immediately. Didn’t King Solomon say that it would be the wise among us to listen to good advice?[11] In fact, says Solomon, don’t try to correct those who think they know it all, for they will hate you for it. But correct those who are wise, and they will love you. Teach the wise, and they will become more discerning. Instruct those who live right, and they will learn even more. The Apostle Paul felt confident that the Roman believers were those who had grown in their knowledge of the truth. However, there was still more that they could learn.[12] The Apostle Peter said the same thing to his readers.[13]

John Bunyan (1628-1688) tells us in Pilgrim’s Progress how pilgrim Christian asked his fellow Pilgrim Hope if there was any truth in what Mr. Atheist said?  Pilgrim Hope responded by saying, be careful; Mr. Atheist is one of the Flatterers. Remember what it cost us already for listening to such kinds of fellows. What, no Mount Zion? Did we not see, from the Delectable Mountains, the gates of the city? Also, are we not now to walk by faith?[14] Let us go on, said Pilgrim Hope, in case the man with the whip overtakes us again. You should have taught me that lesson, with which I filled your ears: “If you stop listening to instruction, my son, you will turn your back on knowledge.”[15] So I say, my brother Christian, don’t listen to him anymore and continue to believe in saving the soul.

So, Christian answered: My brother, I did not put the question to you because I doubted the truth of our belief, but to prove you and gather the fruit of the honesty of your heart. As for Mr. Atheist, I know that the god of this world has blinded him. So let you and I go on, knowing that we have the truth, and no fiction comes from facts.[16] This story provides us with a good lesson on not listening to those who oppose or try to tear down our doctrines and teachings as if they are saying anything true. They may misquote Scripture or cite some known Christian scholar, but it is all an effort to promote lies.

As Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) sees it, the Apostle John, in his general epistle, plainly manifests that all readers were supposed to have true grace since he declares this to be the qualification he respects; he lets them know. So, he writes to them for that reason because they are supposed to be persons with the same character as those who’ve known God and overcame the wicked one, and had their sins forgiven them.[17] [18]


[1] John 8:32

[2] Greville, Priestly L., The Johannine Epistles, op. cit., p. 65

[3] James 5:14; see Mark 6:13

[4] 1 John 2:27

[5] See Luke 4:18

[6] Smalley, Stephen S., Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 51, op. cit., p. 104

[7] Pett, Peter: Commentary on the New Testament, op. cit., loc. cit.

[8] 1 John 4:2

[9] O’Donnell, Douglas Sean. 1-3, op. cit., (Kindle Locations 1769-1774)

[10] Carter, Dr. John W. (Jack). 1,2,3, John & Jude, op. cit., p. 61

[11] Proverbs 1:5

[12] Romans 15:14-15

[13] 2 Peter 1:12

[14] 2 Corinthians 5:7

[15] Proverbs 19:27

[16] Bunyan, John: Pilgrim’s Progress, Vol 9, p. 169

[17] 1 John 2:12-14, 21

[18] Edwards, Jonathan, The Works of: Vol. 3, A Humble Inquiry into the Rules of the Word of God Concerning Qualifications Requisite to a Complete Standing and Full Communion in the Visible Christian Church. Part 2, Section 7, p. 272

About drbob76

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