The question I would like to try to answer is: How did we get here? And how will we be faithful and fruitful here, to the glory of Christ? One of the most important statements in the New Testament about places of worship is in a conversation Jesus had with the woman at the well in John 4:19–23. She said to Jesus,
“Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. . . . But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit [I think this is big S giving life to little s] and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. (John 4:19–23)
In other words, instead of answering her geographical question about this mountain or Jerusalem, Jesus totally changed the categories of the question and said, “Neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem, but in spirit and truth.”
“Every one of you who is a Christian has an anointing from Jesus Christ.”
Shall we worship in Lakeville, or in downtown Minneapolis, or in Mounds View? Shall we worship in homes or a larger facility? Shall we worship in a high school or in our own building?
Jesus’s answer: That’s not the decisive question; the decisive question is: Will you worship in spirit and in truth? John 4:23: “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.”
How Did We Get Here?
How did we get here, and how will we be faithful and fruitful here, to the glory of Christ? We got here because we have worshiped God in Spirit and Truth. And we will be faithful and fruitful here if we go on worshiping God in Spirit and Truth.
What does that mean? John opens the meaning in 1 John 2:18–27.
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. 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.
So, there were people in the church who were not genuinely Christian. They were “not of us.” They had the spirit of Antichrist. We’ll see in a moment what they denied about Christ. They went out from us because, John says, they weren’t real. They weren’t “of us.” Then in verse 20, the next verse, he contrasts them with true Christians:
But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.
Literally: “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know.” I take the Holy One to be Jesus Christ, because that’s what he is called in John 6:69 (“the Holy One of God”), and Revelation 3:7 (“the Holy One”), and several other places (Mark 1:24; Acts 3:14; 13:35).
So, John is saying that every one of you who is a Christian has an anointing from Jesus Christ. Do you know what that is? Do you know this experience? This is why we have the Bible: so that we can be told by God what has happened to us to make us Christians and come into the fullest experience of it. The very word Christ means anointed.
Jesus said in Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news.”
In Acts 4:26, he is called “the Lord’s anointed.”
Acts 10:38 says, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.”
And Hebrews 1:9 says, “God anointed you with the oil of gladness.”
Christ himself is the original Anointed One. So, the antichrists of verse 18 (“many antichrists have come”) are “anti” the Anointed One. Verse 22: “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ [the anointed one!]? This is the antichrist [the anti-anointed], he who denies the Father and the Son.”
I think this is why John uses the anointing language in verse 20 for all Christians. “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know.” In other words, you are not anti-christoi, you are christoi — anointed ones. Anointed by the Holy Anointed One, Jesus Christ. If they are against him, they are against you — indeed they went out from you.
Anointed to Know
So, what does it mean to be anointed by Christ, the Holy One? I take it to mean that Jesus has poured out on every Christian something of his own anointing from the Father. And the most complete thing we can say about Jesus’s own anointing is that he was anointed by God the Father with the Holy Spirit. Acts 10:38: “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.”
So, every believer has come into contact with Jesus so that the oil — or ointment or salve — of the Holy Spirit has touched us. And the effect, according to 1 John 2:20, is that we know: “You have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know.” The knowing is the result of the anointing. It’s like the anointing of the man born blind in John 9:11 (he saw!) and the anointing salve in Revelation 3:18, where Jesus anoints their eyes and they see spiritual reality.
So here’s what I think 1 John 2:20 means: It says, “You have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know.” That is: One of the defining marks of every true believer is that Christ, God’s anointed Holy One, has touched us with his anointing — his Spirit — and caused us to know. “You have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know.”
Anointed for Treasure
To know what? The next verse answers (verse 21) answers: “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.” Verse 20: “You have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know.” Know what? The truth! What truth? The truth that doesn’t have any lies in it. What lies? Verse 22: “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?” The lie that Jesus isn’t the Christ. God’s Anointed One. The Holy One of God. The one sent from the Father. God’s Messiah.
“Jesus has poured out on every Christian something of his own anointing from the Father.”
This is what the anointing enables you to know: “You have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know.” You know that “Jesus is the Christ.” The anointing from Jesus, God’s Holy One, keeps you from believing the lie that Jesus is not God’s Anointed One.
Why does this matter? It matters because God’s Anointed One, his Holy One, is the Son of God, and if we deny the Son, we deny the Father. And we don’t know God. Verse 22b–23: “This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.”
Which means that the anointing of verse 20 (“You have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know”) — this anointing, healing, sight-giving (Revelation 3:18) oil and salve of the Holy Spirit — is how we know that Jesus is from God. He is God’s Holy One. God’s Anointed One. God’s Son. Without the anointing — without the healing, sight-giving touch of the Spirit — we would not know this truth — not the way we need to know it — to know it as true and more treasured than anything. “You have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know — you know this truth: that Jesus is truly the infinitely precious Son of God.”
Anointed into the Family
So how did we get here today? We got here because each of us has been brought to worship God in Spirit and Truth. Remember the words of Jesus in John 4:23:
But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and Truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.
That is how we are here today. God’s Holy One touched every one of you, who is a Christian, with an anointing. And by this anointing — this sight-giving salve of the Spirit — each of you came to know the Truth. Spirit and Truth. The anointing of the Spirit, brought about the knowing of the Truth — that is, the embracing of the truth that Jesus is the infinitely precious Son of God.
And you found your way — in God’s providence — to this fellowship of believers called Bethlehem, and you discovered: They really believe this here — that knowing includes knowing Christ as infinitely precious, and therefore, follows anointing. That seeing Christ, as he really is, results from the sight-giving salve of his anointing. That apart from this miraculous salve for the eyes of my heart I am, as Revelation 3:17 says, “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.”
You found your way to a people who realize they would know nothing of the glories Christ without this anointing. They love the truth of 1 John 2:20: “You have an anointing from the Holy One, and [therefore] you know — you all know.”
How Will We Be Faithful and Fruitful?
That’s how we got here. Now, how will we be faithful and fruitful here, to the glory of Christ? Answer: 1 John 2:24–27:
[Bethlehem Lakeville,] 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. And this is the promise that he made to us — eternal life.
Notice the shift: John is now focusing on what we heard. “Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you.” That is, he is focusing on the Truth of verse 21: “I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it.” Namely, the truth of verse 22, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. That’s what you heard. Let this truth abide in you, continue in you — firm, rooted, unshaken, precious.
This is how we will be faithful and fruitful in these southern suburbs and not be led away by deceivers. Verse 26 is crucial: “I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you.” Deceivers — antichrists, anti-anointed — will be here till Jesus comes. But let what you heard — the truth that Jesus is the infinitely precious Son of God — abide in you and you will remain faithful and fruitful.
“Every believer has come into contact with Jesus so that the oil — or ointment or salve — of the Holy Spirit has touched us.”
Then, in verse 27, John returned to the anointing. And what’s crucial to notice is that, just as he says in verse 24 that the truth must abide in you, so now he says, you will not be deceived because the anointing abides in you. Verse 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.
John clarifies two things for us. One is this: Holding fast to the truth of Christ in a way that has eternal life, will not happen without also holding fast to the anointing. Verse 24: Let the truth — what you heard — abide in you, and (as verse 26 says) you will not be deceived and ruined, provided (verse 27) that the anointing also abides in you. Truth and Spirit. We must abide in both.
The other thing John clarifies for us in verse 27 is that what the anointing teaches is not the content of what we heard from the beginning, but its truthfulness. When John says there in the middle of verse 27, “You have no need that anyone should teach you,” he clarifies immediately in the next phrase: “But as his anointing teaches you about [or concerning] everything. . .” The anointing — the Holy Spirit — does not give us the content of the truth. That’s why John refers in verse 24 to “what you heard from the beginning.” That’s how we get the content of the truth. We get it from the apostles’ teaching, the New Testament, and from faithful preaching.
What the anointing does is teach us “about everything” that we heard from the beginning, namely — the next phrase in verse 27: “that [it] is true, and is no lie. The anointing salve of the Spirit for the eyes of our hearts enables them to see the self-authenticating glory of the things we have heard of Christ, and to “know” they are true. Verse 20: “You have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know.” You know that they are true. They are real. They are precious.
Let the Word and Spirit Abide
I conclude from 1 John 2, therefore that the faithfulness and fruitfulness of this church depends on two things: Truth and Spirit. The truth that we heard from the beginning abiding in us. And the anointing abiding in us. The Spirit-given knowing that Jesus is the infinitely precious Son of God. That will be our life, our faithfulness, our fruitfulness.
I hope you will permit me to end on a personal note. I pray almost every day, with joy and thankfulness, that God will cause his truth and his anointing — his word and his Spirit — to abide in this church.
I told you numerous times from this pulpit that I would like to be buried by the shepherds and flock at Bethlehem. I’ve written to Jason about it. And when that time comes, I fully expect that it will be a faithful flock — that I will be buried by those who have an anointing from the Holy One, and know — know the truth that Jesus is the all-satisfying Son of God.