January 24, 2021
I want to begin this morning with a little doctrinal lesson. It’s a difficult concept to grasp – so difficult that an early church father named Tertullian, who lived in the late second and early third centuries, made up a new word to try to describe it. The concept is the truth that Christianity has one and only one true and living God, but who eternally exists in three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Which one is God? Well, they all are. The term Tertullian made up is Trinity, or tri-unity. It’s a fundamental, indispensable, essential truth to the Christian faith, but very difficult to understand.
To be clear, we do not have three gods – we have one God who exists eternally in three equal persons. You see, the Scripture is clear there is one God – Deuteronomy 6, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one!” This is the testimony of Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation – there is one God. Christianity is not polytheistic or even tri-theistic – we are monotheistic. But, the Bible clearly states the deity/Godness of the God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Mind blown.
So, through the years, people have tried to make sense of the concept, usually doing error to the truth. For example, an early guy named Sabellius came up with the idea that God existed in three modes – largely, the Father in the OT, the Son in the NT, and the Holy Spirit today. The Father in creation, the Son in redemption, the Spirit in regeneration. It was called modalism, and clearly denies the Trinity, because it denies three equal persons eternally existent. In fact, Tertullian was responding to Sabellius when coined the term, Trinity. Plus, you have the truth that all three Persons of the Godhead were present, at the same time, at Jesus’ baptism. The Son, in the person of Jesus, was baptized, the Spirit descended on Him in the form of a dove, and the Father’s voice was heard from heaven.
Others trying to grasp the concept use analogies, which can be helpful, but in the end, fall short. For example, you’ve perhaps heard of the egg illustration. There are three parts to the egg – the shell, the white and the yoke – just like there are three parts to God. That’s called partialism – and is condemned. You see, the shell and the white and the yoke have different properties – they’re not the same – and yet the Father, the Son and the Spirit are each fully and equally God, not partially so. Maybe you’ve heard of the pie illustration – cut a cherry pie into three pieces and you have what? Three pieces of cherry pie – all the same. The problem is again partialism – you only have part – one third to be exact – of the cherry pie. So, trying to describe the Trinity has proven to be elusive. The best illustration I’ve seen goes like this:
Well, the Bible clearly teaches the Trinity, even if difficult to comprehend. And so, early church councils/creeds taught and declared the Trinity. One of the clearest example is the Athanasian Creed. I won’t take the time to read it this morning, but it is excellent, and I refer you to it.
So why do I start with that truth today? Because, I want you to be encouraged – I know of no greater truth than this: our eternal, Triune God – infinitely majestic and glorious – is intimately and effectively involved in our salvation. Please understand that – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are involved in our faith, leading to salvation, and the result is, our salvation is most precious and eternally secure. The ultimate purpose of all human history is the glory of God, and it is displayed most gloriously in the salvation of God’s people.
We are studying I John. We have seen a group of secessionists, false teachers, had left the church – they had not remained. Among other things [like not obeying the commands of Christ, not loving other Christians], they denied the deity of Jesus Christ. They denied that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, come in the flesh. So the Apostle John writes to accomplish two primary purposes. First, obviously, is to expose their teaching and defend the Christian faith. And second is to assure his readers that they knew the truth, and that they should remain in the truth. To remain in the truth brings God greatest glory, and us, greatest joy.
I told you a couple weeks ago there were only ten commands in all of I John. The first one was in 2:15, Do not love the world. I also told you this idea of remaining was important to John – he uses the word 24 times in this letter. Well, today, he gives us the next three commands, and they all use the word, remain. It’s a command to remain or abide in the truth. Don’t depart – don’t follow this fallen world and its enticements; don’t follow the secessionists and their false teaching. Remain in the truth.
How can we do that? How can we remain faithful in the midst of a culture that is becoming increasingly hostile to the faith; where so many are deserting the faith; where so many are not remaining? John tells in our text today – read it with me, noting the commands to abide – and the power we have to abide because of our Triune God. Our salvation is so important, the Triune God is involved both in saving us, and keeping us. I John 2:24-29.
As we have seen, the Ap+ostle John speaks in terms of stark contrast: light and darkness; truth and lies; love and hate; love of the world, love of the Father. For John, you are either of the light, truth, love and the Father, or you are of the darkness, lies, hate and the evil one. And for him, there is no middle ground: there is no twilight; there are not half-truths; there is no indifference.
To be of the darkness, lies, the evil one is to follow the way of the secessionists – those who had left the church. Those who denied that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, come in the flesh. Last week, we saw him make a stunning declaration regarding these false teachers: they were antichrists. They stood opposed to the person and work of Jesus Christ. Stark contrast.
And now, he draws the next contrast – as for you, remain. They left the faith, they denied the Christ – as for you, remain. I know it’s tempting to quit. To walk away, as some have done. But he tells us three times, remain. And then he gives us the incredible truth that we have the power to remain, by the indwelling presence of the Spirit, to remain in the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let me give you the outline, focusing on those three commands:
- Abide in the Truth You Know (24-25)
Don’t Be Deceived by the Secessionists (26)
- Abide in Him through the Anointing (27)
- Abide in Him Because He’s Coming (28)
Again, please notice the three commands to remain – to not follow those who deny the Trinity, who deny that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, come in the flesh. And to remain in the truth you heard from the beginning will keep you in the Father and the Son, by the power of the Spirit. If there is one thing I want you to take away today, it’s this: the Trinity is involved in your salvation, so you are eternally loved and secure. Be encouraged.
So first, abide in the truth you know, or better, let the truth you know abide or remain in you. That’s what John said, As for you – unlike those who have left – as for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. John uses that word beginning to speak of several different ideas – the beginning of creation, the beginning before creation when the Son was with God and was God, the beginning of their salvation. Context has to dictate the way he’s using the word, and here, clearly he means, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning speaks of the beginning of the their salvation, their faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The gospel begins the Christian life. Perhaps you are new to this church or simply considering the claims of the Christian faith. I want to make sure you understand what John means when he speaks of that which they heard and believed at the beginning of their Christian lives. Again, everyone agrees he is referring to the Christian faith – found in the gospel of Jesus, the second person of the Trinity – the Son of God. Specifically, what Jesus did for us that makes it good news.
You see, the reason it’s called good news is because we needed it. The good news starts with the bad news that we are all sinners – living in rebellion against God. It started way back the beginning of creation, when our forebears – everyone’s ultimate ancestors – Adam and Even – sinned. God created them perfect, put them in a perfect environment, gave them the task of caring for His creation. Eat whatever you want – well, except from this one tree in the middle of the garden – Eden, we call it. Do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They had total freedom, and everything was good. But it wasn’t enough, apparently. So, they ate of the forbidden tree, plunging themselves and all their descendants – all humanity into sin. That includes us. By the way, some point out that the description of Eve and forbidden fruit – that she saw it was good for food, pleasing to the eye, and desired to make one wise – those three things correspond to John’s first command – do not love the world, for all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not from the Father.
We are all born sinners. I don’t have to convince you of that truth. You know it in your heart of hearts. You may do some good things – I’m not suggesting you are utterly evil. But sinner you are, disobeying God’s good and perfect laws.
And the further bad news is, there is nothing we can do about it. No amount of good things will suffice – will make up for our sin. You see, sin is defined ultimately as rebellion against a good and holy God – our Creator. And since He is perfect and just – a just punishment is required for our sin – namely death and eternal separation from God. That is all we deserved.
But here comes the good news. In spite of our rebellion, while we were still sinners, God loved us. We talked about this a couple weeks ago – the most famous verse in the Bible. While we are not supposed to love this fallen world’s systems and rebellion against God – God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. There are lots of verses which make clear this Son of God is God the Son, one in equal essence and eternity with the Father. God sent Him to do something about our sin – to do what we could not do. Namely, Jesus first lived a perfect life. While surrounded by sin in every direction, in fact, while tempted, Jesus never sinned. So, He did not deserve the punishment for sin.
But, as planned, He took our sins in His own body and died on the cross in our place. He took our punishment, so that through His work on the cross, and His resurrection three days later, our sins could be atoned – paid for. And by simply acknowledging our sin and need of a Savior – by confessing Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, the Lord of our lives, turning from our sin and receiving His righteousness in our place, we can be saved. Redeemed. Made new. You see, God made Jesus, who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness God required, in Him. In Jesus.
So don’t miss what I’m saying. The reason I began my sermon with this explanation of the Trinity is to show you that the entire Trinity was involved in salvation. God love His world – the world of people created in His image. So He sent His only Son, to die for us, so that we could be reconciled the Father. Meaning, God loves you – and wants to forgive you, through the work of His Son. I’m going to invite you, today, to ask God to forgive you of your sins and to be your God.
Now, I realize for most of you, your salvation happened in the past. There was a time you confessed Jesus as Lord, believed in your heart that God the Father raised Him, the Son, from the dead. That marked the beginning of your Christian life. And so John says to you, let that which you heard and believed from the beginning remain – abide in you. You see, if that which you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you will also abide in the Son and in the Father.
Now, that sounds a little daunting – as if my continuing salvation is in my hands. Yes, and no. Yes, you must continue to believe the gospel. Don’t turn from it, as people are doing by the score. Don’t turn away. Because, you see, if you leave, if you don’t remain – verse 19 says, your going out is proof that you were not part of us. The author of Hebrews (3) says it like this,
12 Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.
13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
14 For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end,
So, he says the same thing – don’t give into an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. In fact, encourage one another so that we remain faithful – so that none of us becomes hardened by sin’s deceptions and deceitfulness. For – don’t miss this – we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end. Hold onto it – don’t fall away. For we have become partakers if we hold fast. And if we don’t hold fast, we have not become partakers. Endurance to the end – some call it perseverance – is proof that we have been genuinely saved. So let’s encourage one another along the way.
Which, by the way, is why we need one another. Why we need this gathered assembly, the gatherings in smaller groups like life groups or connection groups or core classes or children’s or youth ministries, college ministries – men’s and women’s ministries. I’ve been saying this all along – don’t get used to this livestream. It is not the church – it is simply a stopgap. We need to be in each other’s lives.
Well, if the truth of the gospel remains in you, then further, this is the promise which He Himself made – better, promised to us: eternal life. This is the promise, made from a God who cannot lie – that if we believe, He gives us eternal life. Of course, everyone lives forever – the question is not quantity of life, it is quality of life. And when God promises eternal life in the Scripture, it is a promise of life in the glories of His presence, for all eternity.
Which means you have a decision to make. Look at verse 26. He tells us clearly the reason he has written to his readers, to include us, is to warn us of those who are trying to deceive them, and us. Clearly, these are the secessionists who had departed the faith. They had gone away, denying that Jesus was the Christ. But as I said last week, it is not enough for them to deny – they want to take you with them. They want to deceive you. It is one thing to hear and not believe. It is another to hear and make a spurious profession of faith, and then leave. But it is altogether a different thing to deny the faith and seek to take others with you. And we remember, John called them antichrists.
But again, John draws a contrast in verse 27, As for you, the ones not deceived, the ones who had remained in the church, as for you…then the command is not found till the end of the verse, you abide in Him. Don’t walk away. Remain. But between the as for you and the command to remain, John reminds them of the third person of the Trinity who abides in them, giving them the ability to remain faithful. It is not dependent on your power or ability to muster the faith, to remain faithful in an ever-increasing faithless world.
Look at it: As for you, the anointing which you received from Him – we saw that back in verse 20. The secessionists had walked away, proving themselves to not be of the church – not to be true believers. But you, the ones remaining, have an anointing from the Holy One – referring either to the Father or the Son, such that you all know. Lots of discussion about the content of that anointing. Is it the truth they had received? Some say so, but most agree the anointing is the Holy Spirit Himself who comes to live in the believer. Remember, Jesus has not left us as orphans – He sent another Counselor to be with us and in us forever.
So John references this anointing by the Spirit again in verse 21. This anointing abides in you. That is, the Holy Spirit. I want to take a few minutes to talk about the Holy Spirit – the often most overlooked person of the Trinity. In his Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem says of the Holy Spirit, “The work of the Holy Spirit is to manifest the active presence of God in the world, and especially in the church.” I agree with that. As for manifesting the presence of God in the world, or His ministry to the world, we read in John 16:
7 “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.
8 “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment;
Basically, as it relates to the unbelieving world, the Holy Spirit convicts the world of their sin, of His righteousness, and the judgment to come. But I want to focus on the work of the Holy Spirit through His anointing you. Consider the following verses. In the Farewell Discourse, Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to them with these words:
John 14:16-17 – “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.”
So Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to come, and that, per the fulfillment of the promise of the New Covenant, that He would be in, He would fill believers. That happened in Acts 2:4 on the Day of Pentecost, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…”
And what does the Spirit do when He fills us? (By the way, both individually and corporately as believers together.) Back to the Farewell Discourse, John 14:26, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” There is some discussion as to whether Jesus was just talking about the disciples or the Apostles and their responsibility to write the Scripture.
But, in our text in I John, John said, “but the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and not a lied, and just as it [the anointing] has taught you, you abide in Him.”
By this, John is not suggesting that we don’t need teachers. The NT is filled with the responsibilities of pastors and teachers faithfully proclaiming the Word of God. In fact, if he’s saying we don’t need teachers, he’s violating it by writing this letter. Rather, what he is saying is we don’t need the false teachers to teach us something new and different from the which we first heard concerning Christ and His gospel. Paul said the same thing in Galatians, “if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed.” Don’t listen to him. You have the truth in you that your first received, confirmed by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Jesus said He is the Spirit of truth, and will guide you into all truth. Trust the indwelling presence of the Spirit. He will guide you.
Further, Paul writes in I Corinthians 2:
11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.
12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God,
You have the very Spirit of God, the third person of the Trinity, living within, to teach you, guide you into all truth. You can actually understand the things of God, largely in the Word of God, through the Spirit of God.
Certainly there are other things the Spirit does. He is the guarantee of our inheritance, insuring our faith firm to the end. He distributes spiritual gifts to us, by which we serve one another. The point for today is this, the entire Trinity is involved in our salvation – to include our sanctification, until Jesus comes back. Which is our last point, and our conclusion. We allow the truth we heard from the beginning – the gospel of Jesus, to abide in us. We have an anointing, that is the Holy Spirit, to guide us into all truth, so that we can abide in Him. And finally, verse 28, “Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.”
Jesus is coming back. And we want to be found faithful. We want Him to find us remaining in the truth, pursuing Him through the Holy Spirit. We want to be found abiding in Him, so we can confidence we are His at His coming. We don’t want to be ashamed, to hide in fear. Jesus is coming back. We must be ready for His coming. Rely on the anointing you have received, my brothers and my sisters. Last passage – Titus 3 says this:
5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,
6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
For those not yet brothers or sisters, the last thing I’ll say about the Spirit is this. The Holy Spirit regenerates people – lost sinners who come to faith in Christ. He makes you alive, dead in sins as you are, to believe in the gospel. If you are here, or listening in, and you have never placed your trust in Jesus – as I said earlier, I invite you to do so today. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.