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.
21 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.
22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.
23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.
24 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.
25 And this is the promise that he made to us – eternal life. 1 John 2:18-25
v. 20 “But you”: John’s intended readers are contrasted with those who were not really “of us”. They remained.
v. 20 “have an anointing from the Holy One”: The contrast is not one of mere doctrinal correctness. True doctrine flows from the anointing of the Holy Spirit. It is easily possible for someone to mouth doctrinally right things without the heart-level understanding that comes from the anointing of the Holy One. He does not say, we should TRY to achieve an anointing. Little children, young men, and old men, all have an anointing from the Holy One, and this is specifically what separates the ones who belong and remain from those who do not belong and leave. Those who remain do not adhere to the teachings of Jesus Christ from pretense, but from a true and manifest anointing.
What is an anointing? The Greek word “chrisma” seems similar to charisma and charis.
According to the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, anointing means to rub oil upon an object or person. People would do this as we do, for medicinal or cosmetic purposes. It would be similar to a perfume, but with oil instead of alcohol. It came to represent a number things through the ages.
- Literal Use: Anointing oil is used to give relief from the sun (Ps 104:15), as part of personal hygiene (Ruth 3:3, 2 Samuel 12:20, 2 Chronicles 28:15, Daniel 10:3, Amos 6:6, Micah 6:15), and medicinal use (James 5:14, Revelation 3:18).
- Special Location: In Genesis 28:18 Jacob anointed the pillar at Bethel, because God visited him there.
- Royalty: The practice of anointing a king is mentioned in the 14th century B.C., Amarna Letter #37. Saul (1 Samuel 9:16, 10:1), David (1 Samuel 16:13), and Solomon (1 Kings 1:34,39,45), as well as other kings (2 Kings 9:1-13,11:12,23:30) are mentioned in the OT as being anointed as kings. Perhaps there was a royal aroma that was designed to suggest the presence of the king’s authority.
- Priesthood: Priests were inducted into office by anointing(Exodus 28:41,29:7,30:30, Exodus 40:13-15, Leviticus 4:3,8:12,8:30,16:32,21:10).
- Divine Transfer: Kings anointed were perceived as receiving the Spirit of the Lord as well (1 Samuel 10:10, 1 Samuel 16:16). Anointing became a metaphor for the bestowal of God’s favor (Psalm 23:5,92:10), or for the designation of someone to a special place or office in God’s plan (Psalm 105:15, Isaiah 45:1).
- Messiah: Messiah and Christ literally mean “the anointed one.” (Psalm 2:2,18:50,84:9,89:38,89:51,132:10,17)
So, what are we to make of all this? It all hangs together as the meaning of anointing. Jesus is our healer (Mark 2:17,5:26), who cleanses us from a guilty conscience (Hebrews 9:14), and makes us an aroma of Christ wherever we go (2 Corinthians 2:14-16). We are the temple of Christ (1 Corinthians 3:16), the place of His presence. We are a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). We are the very body of Christ. All of these meanings of anointing beautifully represent our identity in Christ.
Concerning anointing, consider that we do not anoint ourselves, but another anoints us. All of these benefits and meanings of anointing are bestowed on someone by another, and not by the strength or force of the personal will. This suggests that anointing belongs in the gift culture, rather than being a responsibility pressed upon us.
v. 20 “and you all know”: The result or evidence of the anointing of the Holy One is knowledge. It is a kind of knowledge which inspires a heartfelt belonging in the fellowship of Christians who proclaim true doctrine concerning the person of Christ. It is clear how this follows. Once a president is inaugurated (which in prior times was similar to a king being crowned or anointed), he is bestowed with the authority to know all kinds of things. The bestowal of authority also leads to the bestowal of knowledge. Where authority is limited, knowledge is actively prohibited. So it is with the kingdom of God. Our anointing leads to knowledge of the truth about Jesus Christ and His identity.
Knowledge because of the bestowal of authority is the necessary antecedent to right action, action cannot be demanded without the giving of authority to so act and the knowledge of what there is and of how things work. Paul often spends half of his letters teaching on our identity in Christ, and afterwards tends to the practical applications of that knowledge. Anointing and the knowledge it bestows is the essential foundation for true grace-based action. You cannot jump to the pragmatic without it.