Tuesday, July 21, 2009

7-21; I John 2:20-23 Knowing the Truth

(Truth holding a mirror and a serpent- Thomas Jefferson Building- Washington DC)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

7/21- I John 2:20-23
20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. 21 I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. 22 Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Messiah. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

2:20,21- “I don’t write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it”- The Apostle backs down a little from his earnest warning about the future- recognizing that they probably knew these things. Paul did the same thing with the Romans (15:14,15). Yet it didn’t hurt for them to be reminded of these things so that they could do their duty. Both apostles were talking about what was practical for them and they were speaking not only to the ignorant but also to those well instructed in the Lord’s school.
“know all things”- is not to be taken in the widest sense of the term, but it is confined to the subject and truth treated here (“all of you know the truth”). “An anointing from the Holy One” is an allusion to the ancient types. The oil used for anointing the priests was taken from the sanctuary; Daniel mentions the coming of Christ as the proper time for anointing the Most Holy (Dan. 9:24). For Christ was anointed by the Father, in order to pour forth on us an abundant overflow from his own fullness. So people are not rightly made wise by the acumen of their own minds, but by the illumination of the Spirit; we are not made partakers of the Spirit except through Christ who is the true sanctuary and our only high priest.
2:21- “no lie comes from the truth”- the writer gives them a tool by which they could distinguish truth from falsehood; It is not the dialectic proposition (as is taught by the scholastic logicians) but what is said is practical and useful; he was saying that they not only hold to the truth, but were also fortified against the false and fake teaching of the ungodly. But he was saying whatever deception Satan might make up, or in whatever way he may attack them, they would be able readily to distinguish between light and darkness, because the Spirit is their guide.
2:22- “Who is the liar? Whoever denies that Jesus is the messiah” – earlier John had said that those lied who said that Jesus did not appear in the flesh, but here he adds another test. I agree with the ancient writers who say that Cerinthus and Carpocrates are referred to here. But the denial of Christ is much wider than this. For it is not enough in words to confess that Jesus is the Christ, unless he is acknowledged to be how he is depicted in scripture. The two I have named gave the title of Christ to the Son of God, but imagined him to be only human. Others followed them such as Arius who though he called him God robbed him of his eternal divinity. Marcion said Jesus was as mere phantom. Sabellius imagined that he was not distinguished from the Father. All of these denied the Son of God. But adulterating from the truth of scripture as far as they could, they devised an idol for themselves instead of Christ. Pelagius followed in their footsteps-not that he denied the essence of Christ, but strayed in denying the honor that is due him, giving humans all the glory for salvation. When we set his grace and power aside we reduce Christ to nothing. So the Papists of our day say part of our salvation comes from works. Thus they make a fictitious Christ weakening his power and undermining his work. So we understand that Christ is denied whenever things that belong to him are taken away from him. As Christ is the end of the law and the gospel, and as all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found in him, so he is the target of the attacks of the heretics. So the Apostle points out that the chief imposters are those who fight against Christ.
“such a person is the Antichrist denying the Father and the Son”- the writer doesn’t speak of the one person who appears at the end of times; but he was putting all of those who seek to overthrow Christ into the same category. That he might amplify their crime, he asserts that not only the Son but also the Father is denied by them. Basically saying, “they no longer have faith for they wholly cast away God.” Then he confirms this adding that the Father cannot be separated from the Son. This is a remarkable sentence and should be one of the first recognized truths of our faith. When we confess that there is one true God, we mean that he is no one else except the One made known in Christ. It is certain here that the Son cannot be disunited from the Father, for he is of the same essence (homousios). But this also says that the Father who is invisible, has revealed himself only in the Son. So Christ is called the “image of the Father (Heb. 1:3) because he reveals and exhibits to us all that is necessary to be known of the Father. For the naked majesty of God would, by its immense brightness, ever dazzle our eyes; therefore it is necessary for us to look on Christ (otherwise God would be inaccessible). This passage is not a discussion of the essence of God but it is a practical calling of our faith that since God has given himself only in Christ, when we look other places for him we will not find him. Since the fullness of the Deity lives in Christ, there is no God apart from him. So even those who worship one God, yet deny Jesus have a mere idol and not the true God. It doesn’t matter what titles you give to God as much as that you come to God through Christ in whom God has shown himself. Otherwise God is a fiction we make up. Philosophy about God without knowing him is useless- raving and ranting- without the Head (Col. 2:19). So it is obvious to conclude how necessary is the knowledge of Christ. Some may say that many of the ancients thought rightly of God, to whom Christ was not known; I admit that the knowledge of Christ has not always been so clearly revealed. Nevertheless I contend that it has always been true that as the light of the sun comes to us by its rays, so the knowledge of God has been communicated through Christ.

Calvin here helps to define our faith by saying what it is not, but also saying that to find God we must focus on how God has revealed God’s self- namely in Christ. To try to find God apart from how God has ultimately revealed himself is idolatry- making up God as we want Him to be. Pilate asked, "What is truth" when the way the truth and the life was standing before him. Philosophers try to find ultimate truth apart from the ultimate revelation of God, and they wonder (and wander). Today many have given up on the quest for truth, and have given into a philosophical no-man's land called "post-modernism." Basically, it is an effort to elevate tolerance above truth so that we might get along. Truth takes a back seat, in part recognizing our own limitation in finding it. Calvin would agree that apart from revelation, we distort the truth and even with it we distort the truth. Yet the Holy Spirit makes the difference- opening our eyes to truth. Truth is still truth even if we see it in a mirror dimly. Truth is also a corrective to how we live and what we believe. It is hard to build a house without true measurements. It is hard to build a life, or build a society without honesty and a goal of truth. Havel said postmodernism creates a world "where everything is possible and almost nothing is certain.” Christ gives us not quicksand, but a solid rock to stand on.

Prayer: Lord, help us to listen to what you have said to us in Christ the living Word. Thank you that you did not leave us ignorant, but you accommodated yourself to us, coming down so we might know you. Keep us from adding or detracting from or not focusing on your revelation of yourself.

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