2 January – First Reading

Commentary on 1 John 2:22-28

Today we discuss the ‘fourth condition’ for ‘walking in the light’, which continues the warnings about the Antichrist and false teachers in the community. In today’s text, an “antichrist” is defined as someone who denies that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ. The antichrist is a “liar”; he is totally opposed to Jesus Christ, who is the Truth:

I am the way and the truth and the life. (John 14:6)

The writer says:

No one who denies the Son has the Father; everyone who confesses the Son has the Father also.

This comment seems to refer to the Gnostic Cerinthus. He taught that the Son of God entered the man Jesus only at his baptism and left before the Passion. But Jesus emphatically affirms elsewhere:

The Father and I are one. (John 10:30)

The reading continues:

As for you, the anointing that you received from him abides in you, so you do not need anyone to teach you.

This needs to be properly understood. Since the Bible constantly advocates teaching (Matt 28:20; 1 Cor 12:28; Eph 4:11; Col 3:16; 1 Tim 4:11; 2 Tim 2:2,24), John is certainly not ruling out human teachers and in fact he refers to them (“…what you heard from the beginning…”). At the time when he was writing, Gnostic teachers were insisting that the teaching of the apostles needed to be supplemented with the “higher knowledge” that the Gnostics claimed to possess.

John is saying that the teaching the Christians have received from their Spirit-guided teachers is not only enough, but is the only reliable source of the true message. The author appeals to his readers to remain faithful to the teaching they heard from the beginning and not to be led astray. And it is not enough just to have heard the teaching or to know its content (for the Gnostics, knowledge was everything). The message of the teaching has to be totally assimilated so that it becomes part of ones’s whole life – words, actions and relationships. As Paul said to the Galatians:

I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. (Gal 2:19-20)

Through this assimilation one becomes a “new” person.

The promise being given is that of eternal life. And that life is not just at some future time, but begins immediately we attach ourselves to Jesus and his Way. Using a favourite expression, the writer of the letter says:

…you will abide in the Son and in the Father.

That is the source of the life to be experienced here and now.

Through that union with Son and Father, one is ‘anointed’ by the Holy Spirit who helps us to understand all we need to know to live the life that Jesus proposes to us. It is for us to remain in him, and then and only then will we be ready when he comes to call us to himself:

…so that when he is revealed we may have confidence and not be put to shame before him at his coming.

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