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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 20–27
Verses 20–27

Here, I. The apostle encourages the disciples (to whom he writes) in these dangerous times, in this hour of seducers; he encourages them in the assurance of their stability in this day of apostasy: But you have an unction from the Holy One, and you know all things. We see, 1. The blessing wherewith they were enriched—an unguent from heaven: You have an unction. True Christians are anointed ones, their name intimates as much. They are anointed with the oil of grace, with gifts and spiritual endowments, by the Spirit of grace. They are anointed into a similitude of their Lord’s offices, as subordinate prophets, priests, and kings, unto God. The Holy Spirit is compared to oil, as well as to fire and water; and the communication of his salvific grace is our anointing. 2. From whom this blessing comes—from the Holy One, either from the Holy Ghost or from the Lord Christ, as Rev. 3:7; These things saith he that is holy—the Holy One. The Lord Christ is glorious in his holiness. The Lord Christ disposes of the graces of the divine Spirit, and he anoints the disciples to make them like himself, and to secure them in his interest. 3. The effect of this unction—it is a spiritual eye-salve; it enlightens and strengthens the eyes of the understanding: “And thereby you know all things (1 John 2:20), all these things concerning Christ and his religion; it was promised and given you for that end,” John 14:26. The Lord Christ does not deal alike by all his professed disciples; some are more anointed than others. There is great danger lest those that are not thus anointed should be so far from being true to Christ that they should, on the contrary, turn antichrists, and prove adversaries to Christ’s person, and kingdom, and glory.

II. The apostle indicates to them the mind and meaning with which he wrote to them. 1. By way of negation; not as suspecting their knowledge, or supposing their ignorance in the grand truths of the gospel: “I have not written unto you because you know not the truth, 1 John 2:21. I could not then be so well assured of your stability therein, nor congratulate you on your unction from above.” It is good to surmise well concerning our Christian brethren; we ought to do so till evidence overthrows our surmise: a just confidence in religious persons may both encourage and contribute to their fidelity. 2. By way of assertion and acknowledgment, as relying upon their judgment in these things: But because you know it (you know the truth in Jesus), and that no lie is of the truth. Those who know the truth in any respect are thereby prepared to discern what is contrary thereto and inconsistent therewith. Rectum est index sui et obliqui—The line which shows itself to be straight shows also what line is crooked. Truth and falsehood do not well mix and suit together. Those that are well acquainted with Christian truth are thereby well fortified against antichristian error and delusion. No lie belongs to religion, either natural or revealed. The apostles most of all condemned lies, and showed the inconsistency of lies with their doctrine: they would have been the most self-condemned persons had they propagated the truth by lies. It is a commendation of the Christian religion that it so well accords with natural religion, which is the foundation of it, that it so well accords with the Jewish religion, which contained the elements or rudiments of it. No lie is of the truth; frauds and impostures then are very unfit means to support and propagate the truth. I suppose it had been better with the state of religion if they had never been used. The result of them appears in the infidelity of our age; the detection of ancient pious frauds and wiles has almost run our age into atheism and irreligion; but the greatest actors and sufferers for the Christian revelation would assure us that no lie is of the truth.

III. The apostle further impleads and arraigns these seducers who had newly arisen. 1. They are liars, egregious opposers of sacred truth: Who is a liar, or the liar, the notorious liar of the time and age in which we live, but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? The great and pernicious lies that the father of lies, or of liars, spreads in the world, were of old, and usually are, falsehoods and errors relating to the person of Christ. There is no truth so sacred and fully attested but some or other will contradict or deny it. That Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God had been attested by heaven, and earth, and hell. It should seem that some, in the tremendous judgment of God, are given up to strong delusions. 2. They are direst enemies to God as well as to the Lord Christ: He is antichrist who denieth the Father and the Son, 1 John 2:22. He that opposes Christ denies the witness and testimony of the Father, and the seal that he hath given to his Son; for him hath God the Father sealed, John 6:27. And he that denies the witness and testimony of the Father, concerning Jesus Christ denies that God is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently abandons the knowledge of God in Christ, and thereupon the whole revelation of God in Christ, and particularly of God in Christ reconciling the world unto himself; and therefore the apostle may well infer, Whosoever denies the Son the same has not the Father (1 John 2:23); he has not the true knowledge of the Father, for the Son has most and best revealed him; he has no interest in the Father, in his favour, and grace, and salvation, for none cometh to the Father but by the Son. But, as some copies add, he that acknowledgeth the Son has the Father also, 1 John 2:23. As there is an intimate relation between the Father and the Son, so there is an inviolable union in the doctrine, knowledge, and interests of both; so that he who has the knowledge of, and right to, the Son, has the knowledge of, and right to, the Father also. Those that adhere to the Christian revelation hold the light and benefit of natural religion withal.

IV. Hereupon the apostle advises and persuades the disciples to continue in the old doctrine at first communicated to them: Let that therefore abide in you which you have heard from the beginning, 1 John 2:24. Truth is older than error. The truth concerning Christ, that was at first delivered to the saints, is not to be exchanged for novelties. So sure were the apostles of the truth of what they had delivered concerning Christ, and from him, that after all their toils and sufferings they were not willing to relinquish it. The Christian truth may plead antiquity, and be recommended thereby. This exhortation is enforced by these considerations:—

1. From the sacred advantage they will receive by adhering to the primitive truth and faith. (1.) They will continue thereby in holy union with God and Christ: If that which you have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, you also shall continue in the Son and in the Father, 1 John 2:24. It is the truth of Christ abiding in us that is the means of severing us from sin and uniting us to the Son of God, John 15:3, 4. The Son is the medium or the Mediator by whom we are united to the Father. What value then should we put upon gospel truth! (2.) They will thereby secure the promise of eternal life: And this is the promise that he (even God the Father, 1 John 5:11) hath promised us, even eternal life, 1 John 2:25. Great is the promise that God makes to his faithful adherents. It is suitable to his own greatness, power, and goodness. It is eternal life, which none but God can give. The blessed God puts great value upon his Son, and the truth relating to him, when he is pleased to promise to those who continue in that truth (under the light, and power, and influence of it) eternal life. Then the exhortation aforesaid is enforced,

2. From the design of the apostle’s writing to them. This letter is to fortify them against the deceivers of the age: “These things have I written to you concerning those that seduce you (1 John 2:26), and therefore, if you continue not in what you have heard from the beginning, my writing and service will be in vain.” We should beware lest the apostolical letters, yea, lest the whole scripture of God, should be to us insignificant and fruitless. I have written to him the great things of my law (and my gospel too), but they were counted as a strange thing, Hos. 8:12.

3. From the instructive blessing they had received from heaven: But the anointing which you have received from him abideth in you, 1 John 2:27. True Christians have an inward confirmation of the divine truth they have imbibed: the Holy Spirit has imprinted it on their minds and hearts. It is meet that the Lord Jesus should have a constant witness in the hearts of his disciples. The unction, the pouring out of the gifts of grace upon sincere disciples, is a seal to the truth and doctrine of Christ, since none giveth that seal but God. Now he who establisheth us with you (and you with us) in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God, 2 Cor. 1:21. This sacred chrism, or divine unction, is commended on these accounts:—(1.) It is durable and lasting; oil or unguent is not so soon dried up as water: it abideth in you, 1 John 2:27. Divine illumination, in order to confirmation, must be something continued or constant. Temptations, snares, and seductions, arise. The anointing must abide. (2.) It is better than human instruction: “And you need not that any man teach you, 1 John 2:27. Not that this anointing will teach you without the appointed ministry. It could, if God so pleased; but it will not, though it will teach you better than we can: And you need not that any man teach you, 1 John 2:27. You were instructed by us before you were anointed; but now our teaching is nothing in comparison to that. Who teacheth like him?” Job 36:22. The divine unction does not supersede ministerial teaching, but surmount it. (3.) It is a sure evidence of truth, and all that it teaches is infallible truth: But as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, 1 John 2:27. The Holy Spirit must needs be the Spirit of truth, as he is called, John 14:17. The instruction and illumination that he affords must needs be in and of the truth. The Spirit of truth will not lie; and he teacheth all things, that is, all things in the present dispensation, all things necessary to our knowledge of God in Christ, and their glory in the gospel. And, (4.) It is of a conservative influence; it will preserve those in whom it abides against seducers and their seduction: “And even as it hath taught you you shall abide in him, 1 John 2:27. It teaches you to abide in Christ; and, as it teaches you, it secures you; it lays a restraint upon your minds and hearts, that you may not revolt from him. And he that hath anointed us is God, who also hath sealed us for himself, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” 2 Cor. 1:21, 22.