by David C. Grabbe
CGG Weekly, December 18, 2015
"Be obedient even when you do not know where obedience may lead you."
Last time, we looked at the apostle John's identification of an antichrist in II John 7 as one who denies that Jesus Christ is presently in His followers. In Colossians 1:27, Paul tells us that "Christ in [us is] the hope of glory," and if we have this hope, John points out, one of the fruits is that we will strive for purification (I John 3:3).
It has been said that "the goal determines the preparations." If an individual's hope or goal is to become a neurosurgeon, then he will discipline himself and turn his whole life toward that end through study and other focused activities. If a person seeks to become a world-class athlete, he will discipline himself and give up those things that would distract from the all-consuming preparation his hope demands.
But if the hope is in becoming another glorified child of God, as it should be for a Christian, then his preparation must revolve around purifying himself. It is another way of describing overcoming, that is, conquering what defiles or makes us impure. It is the same basic idea that Paul calls "perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (II Corinthians 7:1).
For this reason, John repeatedly links the indwelling of Jesus Christ with the keeping of the commandments—because they give us the basic standards against which we must measure ourselves. Along the same lines, Christ in us is also linked with love, as His presence in us makes it possible to treat people just as He does. If our hope is to experience the indescribable result of having the very Creator living within us, we will be divinely motivated to purify ourselves, and we do this by removing those elements of our lives that are not in alignment with that end.
As we read on in II John, the apostle clearly has more in mind than just our Savior's first coming:
Look to yourselves, that you do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward. Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ [the doctrine of His indwelling by His Spirit] does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. (II John 8-9)
Verse 9 coincides exactly with what we have seen regarding the indwelling of the Son. John mentions that work is involved in purifying oneself and that one can fall away and lose out on a full reward. He then makes a bold, declarative statement: A person who does not continue in this teaching about the indwelling of Christ does not have God, but one who does so has both the Father and the Son. As Jesus says in John 14:23, those who love Him will keep His Word, and the Father and the Son will make their home with him. The whole context reflects a present activity rather than the historical fact of the Incarnation.
While professing Christians, by definition, confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh (I John 4:2), the overwhelming majority do not accurately confess that He is appearing or entering into their flesh. How do we know? Because they deny Him in works (Titus 1:16).
For example, John makes it obvious in I John 3:24 that Jesus dwells in those who keep His commandments. However, most professing Christians hold that the fourth commandment—God's command to keep the Sabbath day holy—does not need to be kept. Why? They do not keep it because they do not yet have the hope of glory. Their hope is simply in going to heaven, and their trust is in false doctrines like "once saved, always saved." They believe such ideas because they are not being led by the same Spirit that is motivating us to purify ourselves in anticipation of what lies beyond the resurrection.
Along the same lines, the Father and Son are "one"—they are in union—and the people in whom they dwell will have a similar inclination toward unity. But where there is continual animosity and recurring disharmony in relationships, we find that the spirit involved is not the holy one, but a spirit that is contrary to the indwelling of the Prince of Peace. As John puts it so succinctly, it is a spirit that is antichrist.
Through John's warnings concerning the antichrist spirit, we can see several indicators that will help us to discern what is and is not of Christ. John's second epistle contains only a few words, yet when we grasp his meaning, this final description of antichrist in II John 7 cuts to the quick. The people of this world do not understand our divine destiny, and so they do not understand the mystery of Christ in us and our hope for glory. Where this belief—this faith; this hope—is taught and is alive and growing, there will also be growth toward that pure standard because the Creator is creating while He lives in us. But if someone comes to us without this doctrine and practice, John says quite plainly, he is a deceiver and an antichrist.