1 John 2:20-21 | Already Anointed


image by Austin Moody

I don’t understand why people pray that other Christians would be anointed. I’ve led worship quite consistently for the last decade, and for some reason, “the anointing” people pray for is more important for musicians—at least that’s what I’ve been able to figure out. Everyone knows that while preachers need to be anointed, it’s the musicians who light it up (tongue firmly planted in cheek).

If you’ve prayed for someone to be anointed, don’t feel bad. I think I know what you’re trying to say. You’re asking God to let his servant feel his presence, right? That’s a great prayer, but it has nothing to do with being anointed.

TV shysters are particularly adept at throwing this word around. The picture above shows a good example of it. (By the way, if the anointing is the Holy Spirit, how is it possible to have 10 times infinity?)

John had this exact problem in his church. The false teachers (the ones he just called antichrists) were likely influenced by Gnosticism: a belief system which includes the idea that there is a secret knowledge that can be attained through ritual. The believers in John’s congregation were falling for it. Sure they were Christians, but there must be more to attain—some greater apprehension of the divine.

Sound familiar?  It’s been a constant threat throughout church history. Sure you’re a Christian, but if you go on this crusade, I guarantee you direct access to paradise when you die. Sure you’re a Christian, but if you’re one of the first 12 people to give me your cash, I’ll make sure you get ten times infinity. (Please pardon the cynicism.  This is starting to feel like a Scotteriology post!)

Here’s the point of this devotion: being a Christian = being anointed.

. . .

Let’s look at John’s logic in v. 20 (NRSV), and explore some of the interpretive difficulties:

  • “But you have been anointed” – This is a simple statement of fact. John is speaking to his church in general and saying that every one of them has an anointing. The word anointing (chrisma) speaks of the content of the anointing, not the act itself. To be clearer, John is not saying that at sometime in the past you went through an anointing ritual. He’s saying that the content of the anointing—the Holy Spirit whom you received upon conversion—is in you today.
  • “by the Holy One,” – No one’s quite sure who this refers to. The Holy One is a standard epithet for God the Father in the Old Testament (e.g. Habakkuk 3:3). However, The Gospel of John uses that phrase to refer to Jesus (John 6:69). In practice, it doesn’t matter. Old Testament references to God the Father are often appropriated for the Son in the New Testament.
  • “and all of you have knowledge.” – There is a textual problem here. We’re not sure whether the original manuscript read oidate pantes (you all know) or oidate panta (you know all things). If the first case is authentic, then John is reaffirming what he said in the previous clause: all believers are anointed. If the second case is authentic, then John is saying that his believers know everything they need to know about Christ to stand against the false teachers.

Continuing on, verse 21 is the result of verse 20. Since you know everything you need to know because you’ve carry the anointing of God, don’t be fooled by a lies of the antichrists!

. . .

The idea John explores here—that of carrying the knowledge of God—has ancient roots. Hear Jeremiah:

The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant . . . No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the LORD,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:31, 34, NRSV)

Jesus picked up on that ancient theme:

It is written in the prophets, “And they shall all be taught by God.” Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. (John 6:45, NRSV)

Now John reminds his church of that truth. When you became a believer, you received the Holy Spirit—the anointing—that will guide you to Christ. After all, the substance of the anointing is Jesus Christ’s own Spirit! You don’t need any secret knowledge. You don’t need to attain some new mystical standing. You’ve received everything there is to receive.

. . .

Think of the distance people will travel to go to a revival service. Think of the money people will waste to pad the pockets of someone offering 21st Century Protestant-style indulgences. Think of the agonizing prayers people offer to receive an anointing from God.

Now know this: you are already anointed—it’s time to stop looking for it and start living it.

< 1 John 2:18-19 | Accountability & Antichrists

1 John 2:22-25 | Scandalous Incarnation >


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