Warning Concerning Antichrists
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.
A few thoughts here:
1. "Antichrist" means, simply put, "opposed to Christ." We're not specifically talking about "The ANTICHRIST!" here, rather those who are opposed to the Lord Jesus Christ. That being said:
A. The opposition is not, necessarily, violent. It's just opposition. It may not even be antagonistic.
B. The opposition is not all that obvious, either. John highlights that it took the departure of those who were anti-Christ to make plain their position.
2. Those who were opposed to Christ, who had become anti-Christ (probably a better rendering of the idea), left the church. This is a good thing:
A. The departure revealed who was against the teaching of the Church. And don't be confused here: the Church exists to exalt Christ as Savior and Lord, and this requires that we teach about Christ. So, if there were those who didn't want to have Christ taught, they left.
We see similar things today: there are some who have left churches because those churches teach the doctrine of Christ. Others have left churches because those churches practice Biblical ethics as Christ taught them: love, sacrifice, discipline, compassion, and faithfulness. To leave over teaching what Jesus taught, teaching about Jesus, or teaching to do what Jesus commands we do, shows a decision to be against Christ.
B. Purity in a church is a necessity. There is one goal of the church: exalt Christ Jesus as Savior and Lord. If there is discord about the purpose, if there are cross-purposes at work, then the church will not succeed in its goal. Now, there can be a diversity of opinion of how to reach that goal, but there can be no discord that the church is about the Lord Jesus Christ. Exalting anything or anyone else, especially the preacher, blemishes the purity of pursuing Christ.
3. Notice: John writes that the church has been anointed and has knowledge. Catch the importance here:
A. The church, the people that are the body of Christ has the ability to discern right, wrong, the actions of God, the actions of men opposed to God.
B. Inherent in this is that the church is responsible to use that ability. Seriously. I am amazed at the number of people that complain that the pastor of a Baptist, congregational church is abusive of his power or not right in the pulpit, and then they let him stay there and do it. I'm not for the ambush business meeting over missing Aunt Sally's toenail surgery, I'm talking about people that honestly, based on Scripture, have a real issue with their pastor, and much of the church does, and they leave him alone. Or with a Sunday School teacher, whomever.
If you are clear through Scripture that someone is leading the church you attend in a blatantly anti-Christ manner, you are responsible to act, and if you get booted from the "church" what loss is it to you? Find true followers of Christ to associate with. The church should be self-error correcting. Now, what should happen, based on what you see here is this: the church holds the line with the Truth, the Gospel, the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who teach, lead, desire anything else pack it in and go away, and show their anti-Christ nature by doing so.
However, if they don't, and turn the church from being a church, go forth and establish or join a church that actually honors and exalts the Risen Christ. You have the ability, be responsible.
C. Seriously, church leaders, we need to remember: we're not the only anointed ones. Go to bed at night reminding yourself: "I'm special, just like everyone else." God is working in and through you in one way, and in and through others in a different way, and your way isn't better. It's just different. The Sundays I get over myself and preach with a fear of the Lord and a fear the people will catch me in error, I preach better. When I lead from a consensus of the people, helping them get where they see in Scripture they ought to go, guess what? That's great.
That doesn't mean we don't call out sin and unbelief, but let's leave sin and unbelief to be applied to sin and unbelief, not to disagreements with us. Sin is an issue with God, not me.
Well, that's what I've got today.