WHAT IS THE ANOINTING?
What type of anointing is it that I John 2:27 claims the Christians receives? This verse is a continuation of a thought first introduced in I John 2:20, "You have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth". References to both anointing and knowing the truth appear in each of the two verses. In the Old Testament the anointing given kings and priests was with oil to consecrate them to ministry. There is clearly a consecration or initiation going on in this passage as well, but there is no mention of oil. Jesus was never anointed with oil (other than perhaps the perfume poured over him at the end of his ministry in Bethany - John 12:3), but He was anointed with the Spirit, which came upon Him at His baptism. It is quite appropriate that Christians, who are followers of the Christ (which means Messiah or "Anointed One") should bear that same anointing. Paul indicates that Christians have been anointed with the Spirit when he says, "He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come". II Corinthians 1:21, 22
In the New Testament, baptism is normally associated with the experience of the Spirit, as are repentance from "dead works" and commitment to Christ. All need to be present for the complete initiatory experience. In I John 2:24 we read, "See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father". The "what you have heard from the beginning" is the apostolic witness to Christ (I John 1:1-3), which in the Gospel of John became Scripture.
John has at least three reasons for writing this. First, the false teachers were probably claiming to have some secret knowledge into which the orthodox Christians did not have. Nonsense, says John, you yourself have the real, not the counterfeit. Unlike them you have Truth himself within. Second, they already have received the apostolic witness and remain in it, the anointing of the Spirit showing them that it is indeed true. There is no need for supplementary teaching, for they already have what is true. Third, the Spirit within will guide them into truth.
Christians who are listening to the Spirit should "smell a rat" when they see false versions of the faith or outright evil, and they should recognize the family likeness in that which is of God. Unfortunately, Christians often do not listen to the Spirit, and when they do their perceptions can be warped, so the external guidelines of Scripture are always necessary.
John recognizes that there is a place for human teachers, yet that they may fall into error and it may be hard for Christians to sort out the true teacher from the imposter. It is the discernment taught by the Spirit that John believes will enable the believer who is committed to Christ to see correctly in this situation. The human remains important, but the divine Guide is the one in whom John places his ultimate confidence.
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