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1 John 2:18-27 (ESV)

18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. 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. 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. 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. 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.

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.

What does John mean by "anointing" and how can such "anointing" teach us?

How can an "anointing" teach?

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  • Anointing of the Holy Spirit. ( John 14 ), 4 He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. 25 “These things I have spoken to you, while I am still with you. 26 But the Counselor, 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 have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give.
    – Bagpipes
    Commented Jun 9, 2022 at 20:43
  • @Bagpipes - while I agree, this reference does not mention the Holy Spirit
    – Dottard
    Commented Jun 10, 2022 at 2:26

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The trick in 1 John 2:20 is to identify who or what is "the Holy One". We have these options:

  • God/YHWH generally as per Ps 78:41, 89:18, Isa 10:17, 12:6, 17:7, 30:12, 40:25, 43:3, 14, 15, 45:11, 48:17, 49:7, Eze 39:7, Hab 3:3, etc.
  • In the NT "Holy One" is almost always Jesus as per Mark 1:24, Luke 1:35, 4:34, Acts 2:27, 3:14, 4:27, 13:35, 1 Peter 1:15, Rev 15:4, 16:5, etc.

That is, "Holy One" only ever refers to Jesus in the NT, with the possible (probable) exception of 1 John 2:20. So, could 1 John 2:20 be referring to the Holy Spirit? It is possible because:

  • Oil is used frequently as a metaphor for the Holy Spirit in Luke 4:18, Acts 10:38, 2 Cor 1:21, 22.
  • The Holy Spirit is often likened indirectly to anointing because the Holy Spirit is "poured out" on people, Acts 2:17, 18, 33, 10:45, Titus 3:6, Joel 2:28, 29, Isa 29:10, 32:15, etc.

Some versions make this explicit by translating "Holy One" as "Holy Spirit", eg, GNT, etc. Most commentators also agree that the Holy Spirit is the "Holy One" in 1 John 2:20.

If we now agree that John is discussing the anointing by the Holy Spirit, sometimes called the "baptism of the Holy Spirit" as symbolized by water baptism; Matt 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, Acts 1:5, 2:38, 8:12-16, 10:47, 48, 11:16, 19:4, 5, 1 Cor 12:13.

As is well-known, the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life is essential to the Christian life (Rom 8:9) and serves several functions. See the appendix below.

Jesus taught the identical doctrine of 1 John 2:27 at the last supper in John 16:13-15 -

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

APPENDIX - Function of the Holy Spirit

Jesus bequeathed the Gift of the Holy Spirit (John 20:22, Acts 1:8, 2:1-4) to His church for several reasons:

  1. To produce the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22 & 23, see especially v24-26) and so to sanctify (make distinct) the church members.
  2. The above changed life is to be a distinguishing sign or seal of God’s ownership of our lives and a guarantee of better things to come (Eph 1:13, 4:30).
  3. To provide specific guidance for the church (John 16:7-12, 14:17, 15:26, namely
  • Convict of sin
  • Instruct in Righteous (= right doing)
  • Convict of judgement to come
  1. To build up the church with spiritual (supernatural) gifts and abilities, 1 Cor 12:7, 14:12, and to influence/teach others John 7:37-39. See Rom 12:6-8, 1 Cor 12:8-10, 28-30, Eph 4:11, 1 Peter 4:10, 11, 1 Tim 4:14, Ex 35:30-33, etc.
  2. To strengthen the members in their daily walk to live the Christian ideals, Eph 3:16, 17, Heb 2:4, and maintain unity in the Christian community (Eph 4:3-6). The Christian must be born of the Spirit (John 3:5) by receiving the gift of the Spirit (Acts 2:38) and walk by the Spirit (Gal 5:25, John 6:63, Phil 3:3, John 4:24). In fact the whole life of Christian is to put aside the “psychical” mind and live by the Spirit (1 Cor 2:14, 1 Cor 15:44-46, Gal 5:17, Jude 19, John 6:63, 1 Peter 3:18). In short, the Holy Spirit is the only way we can know God, 1 Cor 2:10, 11, 14, John 16:13.
  3. To teach the church more of the character and work of Jesus and thus, imitate Jesus, John 7:38, 39, 15:26, 16:12-15, Rom 8:4, 11, Eph 3:17, 18, 4:3-6, 1 Thess 1:6, 4:8, 1 Cor 2:14.
  4. The Holy Spirit inspired the prophets to write Scripture, and explains such spiritual truths to us. John 14:16, 17, 15:26, 1 Cor 2:6-16, Eph 1:17-19, 2 Peter 1:21, 2 Tim 3:15, 16, 1 Thess 1:5, Heb 9:8, 1 Peter 1:12, Ps 119:18.

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