The Standard Of Truth
Tim Temple


Open your Bibles, please, to I John, chapter 2, as we continue our study of John's letter to those early-day Christians. We are going to continue our study with verse 20. John, who knew that he was the beloved disciple—not that he was any more loved than the others, but he was just aware of it perhaps more than the others and referred to him in that way—lived to be a very old man. In the latter days of his life and in the latter years of the first century after Christ, he wrote three letters to Christians to whom he had ministered in person, and we have been looking at the first of those letters in the past few weeks. I John is a book that gives correction to those early-day Christians about problems that were already beginning to come into the body of Christians there at the end of that first century. The fascinating thing is that the correction that he gave them under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is still very practical and applicable to the day in which we live.

In our last lesson, we looked at verses 18-19, which talk about the antichrists which will come into the world. It is interesting in reading between the lines that those first century Christians already understood that there would be an Antichrist who would come in the latter days of the world and who would be opposed to everything that Jesus Christ is and all that God has tried to do through His Church. That Antichrist is described in the book of Revelation. He is referred to by that name not in the book of Revelation, but in I Thessalonians and those first century Christians already knew that information. But John said, “You heard that there will be an Antichrist, but I want to tell you there are already many antichrists in the world today.” Again, I say that if that was true at the end of the first century, it is certainly all the more true at the end of this century. There are many who are opposed to Christ. They are anti-Christ. There are many who are opposed to Christ by trying to insert themselves in the place of Christ; and so, as it was true in John's day, it is true in our day that there are many antichrists in the world today.

John was talking specifically about false teachers, but I think he had in mind, and it is certainly true in our day, too, that the principles that John gave us about false teachers apply to various sources of false teaching that we get not just from teachers who stand and teach falsely, but also false philosophies which are preached to us in this technological age by sources other than just human speakers. The principle that we talked about last week is that false teaching would be among us, that these false teachers would have their beginnings among the Christians. He said that ultimately they would go out from us because they were not of us and they would not be able to continue to pretend that they were of us because their false teaching would become more and more unlike what the Word of God is. Of course, that emphasizes the importance of the teaching and the preaching of the Word of God among the assembly of believers so that if there is false teaching going on, it can become more and more apparent—false teaching because it has that as its background, and its beginning uses terms and situations with which we are directly familiar.

I say again that we live in a day of all kinds of antichrists. Personal philosophies that have developed over the past thirty years with no teaching of the Bible or even reference to the Bible in the public schools are the public forum that has gotten us more and more as a nation and as a people in general away from the principles of the Word of God. Humanism has developed as a philosophy, and even one Supreme Court ruling referred to it as a religion—the philosophy that says that the man given enough time and enough money can solve all of his own problems, that there is no need for God. Humanism screams at us from billboards and magazines and television advertising and general television programming, antichrists that are all around us even though we many not have any access to some specific false religion or false cult or false teacher. The basic point of all this is that we need a standard by which we can judge this false teaching.

This last section of I John, chapter 2, is about the standard that we have given to us by God to determine Christian conduct. How do we know how we ought to live? Verses 18-29 tell us what the doctrine is for our Christian conduct. The nature of that doctrine is pointed out in verses 20-23, the verses that we want to begin to look at today.

Nature Of The Doctrine Is Supernatural

The first thing that we need to know about the nature of this doctrine that God has given us by which we can know how to follow Him and not follow the Antichrist is that it is supernatural. Look at verse 20:

I John 2:

20But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.
21I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.

Before we can look at the actual point of verse 20, there are several things that we need to clarify, several terms that I think need to be clarified. Verse 20 is one of those verses in the Bible that doesn't really seem to make a whole lot of sense just by itself. Even in the newer translations, it doesn't make a whole lot more sense. Most of us do not know what an unction is. It is a good biblical-sounding word. It sounds pretty spiritual. When I was in college, I heard an evangelist who was speaking in a chapel service at the university say something that has stuck with me all my life. He said, “It takes evangelistic unction to make orthodoxy function.” Isn't that a wonderful truth to know? What in the world is an unction? Well, we are helped a bit by the newer translations of the Scriptures such as the New King James . It says, “You have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.”

What is an unction or what is this anointing that we are talking about? You may be sitting there thinking, “Maybe I need to look into this. I remember being baptized, but I don't remember being anointed. Is that something I need to do as a Christian?”

What we are going to have to do is look at the biblical use of this term anointing down through the years and clarify what John is talking about. The first reference to anointing in the Scripture is back in the Old Testament in the book of Exodus when God set up the tabernacle and the worship services and all the worship activities. He set up Aaron, Moses' brother, as the High Priest. When Aaron was installed in office, he was anointed for that office. Moses took oil and poured it over the head of Aaron. Other Scripture refers to the fact that it ran down over his beard and down over his body. That is the first description of anointing in the Scripture. That anointing that Moses did of Aaron was to symbolize God's presence with Aaron and God's approval of Aaron and God's choice of Aaron.

All down through the years after that, any time there was a new High Priest, he would be anointed; and when there was to be a new king later on in Israel's history, the King was anointed with oil. When a prophet came on the scene, sometimes he would be anointed. So the general picture that we get from that historical use of the word is that it was a sign of God's work in that person's life, of God's blessing, of God's choosing of that person. He was anointed physically with oil.

In Psalm 23, there is a famous reference to anointing. In this Psalm, David describes himself as the sheep and God as the Shepherd. Among the various things that God says the Good Shepherd does is to anoint my head with oil. Shepherds put oil on the wounds and the scratches and cuts on the sheep's body. They would anoint the sheep with oil, but it was a picture of comfort, of care, of personal relationship.

If you turn to II Corinthians, chapter 1, verses 20-21, we see how this is all pulled together for us as Christians living on this side of the Cross. He says:

II Corinthians 1:

20For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.
21Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God;

This passage ties in the anointing with the Holy Spirit, so this anointing that John refers to is a reference to the fact that God has given us the Holy Spirit. Turn over to the gospel of John, chapter 14. Notice in verse, 16 Jesus is preparing His disciples for His departure and for what things will be like after He is gone, so He says:

John 14:

16And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
17Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

If we were to look at that whole chapter, we would see this Comforter, this Helper, that He is going to give them was the Holy Spirit. He refers to that in verse 17. Jesus said, “I am going away, and I am going to send a helper to you. I am going to send somebody to take My place, another helper to you—the Spirit of Truth.” The thing that I want you to particularly notice in John 14 is in the last line of verse 17: “…He will be in you.” Jesus was saying in so many words, “I have been with you, but I have been an external force in your life. I have been another person in your life, but when the Holy Spirit comes, He will be in you. There will be a difference. He is God just as I am. He is one of the three persons of the Trinity, but He will be in you.”

There are many advantages to that. Turn over to John, chapter 16. Here Jesus has them together on another occasion, and he is talking to them about the Holy Spirit some more. He says: “When He the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all truth, for He will not speak from His own authority, but whatever He hears, He will speak and He will tell you things to come.” Just keep that fact in mind. The Holy Spirit will be the teacher. He said, “He will guide you into all truth, and He will also tell you things that I have told Him; things that I will tell Him, He will enable you to understand future things.” So, number one, He will dwell within the believers. Number two, He will guide believers into the truth.

Holy Spirit Is Our Anointing

Then coming back to I John, chapter 2, look at verse 27. Here is a third point of understanding about the anointing. He says:

I John 2:

27But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.

Think about this. Here is the identification of the anointing. What is this unction? What is this anointing? We have seen that it is tied in with the Holy Spirit, and here in verse 27 what He says in essence is, “The anointing is the Holy Spirit.” God has given you the Holy Spirit. He refers to it in verse 27 even then as the anointing , but notice what he said: “…the anointing which you have received of him abideth in you…” Remember what Jesus said about the Holy Spirit in John, chapter 14, verse 17: “He will be your helper and He will be in you. I am with you, but He will be in you.” Then in verse 27, he says, “This anointing teaches you all things,” and John, chapter 16, verse 13, says that is exactly what the Holy Spirit would do.

The basic point is that this anointing that we have received is the Holy Spirit. God has given us the Holy Spirit, and God looks at that as His anointing of us in much the same way that Aaron was anointed to be the High Priest, the first high priest. As all his successors were anointed by the pouring out of oil on their heads, and the same way that the kings of Israel were anointed and demonstrated God's approval of them and acceptance of them and presence with them, you and I have been anointed by God. Our anointing has not been with the pouring out of oil on our heads, and you ladies are probably grateful for that, but it is instead the presence of the Holy Spirit within us.

This is a tremendously wonderful thing. Romans, chapter 8, verse, 9, the last part of that verse says:

Romans 8:

9…Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

The reason I am mentioning that verse is that it tells us that any person who accepts Jesus Christ as Savior receives the Holy Spirit at the moment they trust in Him as Savior. When we put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, we become His inheritance. We become His child, and we belong to Jesus Christ. He purchased us with His own blood. Paul words it from the negative standpoint, but he says, “If a person does not have the Holy Spirit, he does not belong to Christ.” Conversely, if a person belongs to Christ, he has the Holy Spirit. If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior at some point in the past, even if it has been today, you have the Holy Spirit. You have the anointing of God in the person of the Holy Spirit living within you. What a fantastic privilege that is to have the very Person of God living within us in the form of the Holy Spirit.

We do not always respond to the presence of the Holy Spirit, and we will talk about that farther down in the chapter, but every believer has this anointing from God, the presence of the Holy Spirit, if you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior.

Coming back to I John, chapter 2, verse 20, there is another term that we need to clarify and it is the phrase, “and you know all things.” You have this anointing from God, and you know all things. That needs some clarification. If we were to take the time to go back to the Greek text, the word in the Greek text is and you all know. The word things is not there, and the ordering of the words is better in the Greek. It is and you all know. Believers do not know all things. Even though some Christians act like they know it all, we don't know all things. So that is not an accurate translation of the Greek text. What John is saying here is: “We now have the Holy Spirit. We have the anointing of God, and we now have the capacity to know the things of God. We have this anointing from the Holy Spirit. We all have it if we are believers in Jesus Christ and all of us who have that anointing of the Holy Spirit from God know all. We have the capacity to know all that God reveals to us.”

Relationship With God Through The Holy Spirit

I want us to think a bit more about this relationship with God that we have through the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. For many of you, this is review, but turn back with me to I Corinthians, chapter 2. Paul is writing to the Corinthians about their exaltation of their wisdom and how proud they were of all they knew. He was taking them to task for that. In chapter 2, he begins to explain the difference between God's wisdom and their wisdom. In the process of that, he says in verse 11:

I Corinthians 2:

11For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.

Let's stop there for a moment. No matter how well we may know another person, we can't fully know everything about them. We can't know their heart. We can't really know what they are thinking about. The longer we are married to someone or the longer we are involved with someone in some other kind of relationship, we begin to understand and we begin to be able to read body language and we begin to be able to understand the terms that they use. We can come pretty close to knowing what that other person is thinking by the way they look or by some special tone of voice they have or by some particular word that they use. We can know pretty much what they are thinking, even if we don't hear it in what they are saying. But even at that, you can't really know exactly what is on another person's mind. You have no way of knowing, for example, that I do know what time it is today. You are hoping that I know that, and you are hoping I am paying attention to that, but you don't know that I know that. Only I know that because that is something in my spirit and my heart. You really don't know what I am thinking about while I am talking. I could be thinking about any number of things, even though I am talking about this, and I don't know what you are thinking about even though most of you are looking at me as if you are hearing what I am saying, but I really don't know if you are listening to me or not.

I have told you before, in my true confessions times, that having grown up as a pastor's kid, I developed the skill of looking somebody straight in the eye while they are talking to me and having my mind a thousand miles away. I could look at my Dad while he preached, but now that I am a preacher, I realize it may not have been as true as I thought it was, but I thought at least that he was thinking I was listening to him because I was looking at him. You see, you can't know what is on another person's mind. I really do not know if you are listening to me or not, and that is because I don't have your spirit and you do not have my spirit.

With that in mind, notice what he says in verse 12:

I Corinthians 2:

12Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

Do you see what that says? I can't give you my spirit. All I can do is try to communicate with you orally. You can't give me your spirit, but God has given us His Spirit. Notice what it says again:

I Corinthians 2:

12…that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

Those things that He has given to us are recorded in His Word. This means that it is potentially possible for you to know the God of the universe more closely than you know your spouse or your children or your closest friend. You can know and understand more fully what God's thoughts are than you can know what my thoughts are or what the thoughts are of any other human being because even though I can't give you my spirit, God has given you His Spirit and He has given me His Spirit and He has recorded His thoughts for us. He says in I Peter, chapter 1, that He has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness. He hasn't told us everything.

There are some secret things that He has kept to Himself. But everything that we need to know, He has recorded for us in His Word. Then, as He told His disciples, “When the Holy Spirit comes, the Holy Spirit will guide you into the truth.” God has recorded for us everything about Himself that He wants us to know, and He has given us the Holy Spirit, His own Spirit, to guide us into what He wants us to know. We can know what is the heart and thought and mind of God, even though we cannot, according to verse 11, know that about another person.

That blows my mind that God has opened Himself up to us that fully. A believer has the ability to understand things that unbelievers can't understand, the mysterious things of life that don't seem to make any sense. Even if we don't understand those things in the details, we can have the peace that passes understanding as we understand that God is too loving to do anything unkind and too wise to do anything wrong. We can come to understand the nature of God so that even if we don't understand the specifics of what He is doing in our lives, we can have the peace that passes understanding because we know enough about Him to trust Him, no matter what He is doing in us or to us.

This means that a human being is spiritually handicapped. We don't like to use that word any more. He is spiritually challenged until he comes to know Jesus Christ as Savior. A person who does not know Jesus Christ as Savior, Paul told us in Romans, chapter 8, verse 9, does not have the Holy Spirit. A person who does not know the Lord Jesus Christ and have the Holy Spirit within him is only part of what God intended human beings to be. God has given us His Spirit so that we may freely know the things that are given to us by God, but it is only when a person comes to Christ and receives the Holy Spirit that he has the ability to become all that God created human beings to be.

How does that tie in with false teachers, the antichrists that John has been writing about in verses 18-19? Well, the application is in verse 21, where we read:

I John 2:

21I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.

John is writing to believers warning them about the false teaching that is going around all around them, but you notice that he doesn't anywhere in this passage go into the specific teachings or the specific characteristics of those false teachers. We don't know exactly what it was they were teaching. We just know that it was false teaching, and we wonder why John didn't record for us the kinds of things they were teaching so that we could be on the lookout for them.

There are a couple of reasons for that. One is that by this time, they probably are not the same false teachings, even though we are surrounded by false teachings. The bigger reason for that is that he did not need to because what he gave them instead was a standard by which they could judge any false teaching and the standard by which they could judge false teaching we still have today. We still have the same standard that it gives right here. He says, “They knew the truth.” He didn't have to go into details because they knew the truth, and they had the Holy Spirit Who could guide them into the truth. Of course, as we have seen, every believer has this anointing of the Holy Spirit, and all those first Christians had to do and all that we have to do in this generation is compare whatever lie with which we are being confronted with the truth that we know. That is a supernatural provision from God.

Because of this great provision from God, we do not have to know all the details about all the false cults and false religions. We do not have to know all of the falsehoods that are being pumped into our homes on television and in other forms of advertising. Certainly there is some great programming on television. There are some valuable things we can learn from the media, but along with that come a lot of things that are purely from the perspective of the world. I don't, as a pastor, and God doesn't, in writing the Bible, make some list to watch out for this and watch out for that. He says, “Here is the standard. You have the truth. Does this thing you are hearing line up with the truth or doesn't it? ”

The Standard Is The Lord Jesus Christ And His Word

As we move on through the chapter, we are going to see that the standard is the Lord Jesus Christ and the truth that is revealed to us in His Word about Him. So the bottom line is this: We have the Holy Spirit to guide us into the truth. We have God's truth revealed for us in His Word, and if you want to be able to combat the error that comes in from every direction, if you want to have a standard by which to know what is true and what is not, what is from God and what is not, you need to spend time in God's Word. Every time you open your Bible, and you should be opening your Bible on your own, not just what you hear here, but open the Word and say, “Lord, You have given me your Holy Spirit to guide me into the truth, now open my eyes to what You want me to see in this passage;” and as you take in the Word of God, you form a matrix, you form a foundation, you form a base, out of which you can compare anything else that you hear from any other source. As you hear those other things, the Holy Spirit can show you what the truth is or bring it to your mind or remind you of it, and you will be able to have a standard by which you can judge what is true and what is not.

There are a lot of organized false teachings out there, and it would be a good idea for you to have a book. There are several on the market that give at least the general tenets of the various false religions and false cults, but you don't need to spend a lot of time studying those cults. You spend your time studying the Word of God, and then if you have a friend or relative who gets involved in one of those other organized things, go to your book or go to a Christian bookstore and buy one and then read up on the specifics of that particular false teaching. It may help you better apply the truth of God's Word to that and better explain it to your loved one. But to understand whether something is true or not in general all you need is the Word of God.

Take In The Word Daily

One of the things that you hear me talk about regularly is the importance of taking in the Word of God on a daily basis. The Psalmist refers to it as, “My daily meat and food.” Other of the Old Testament writers, and the New Testament writers, too, refer to it as food. Jesus said, “I am the Bread of life.” God, in His grace, has given us His truth as a standard by which to judge everything else and what a time to have a standard like that. We have so many incoming stimuli, so much incoming information. How do we process that? How do we know what is true and what is not? We are hearing all the different authorities about moral issues, about political issues, about economic issues. How do we know what is true? Take in the Word of God.

Not only has He given us the Word of God, but He has given us the Holy Spirit, this anointing from God that guides us into the truth and enables us to understand the truth of the Word of God that He has given us. He says, “Here is the standard, Christians, by which you judge the false teachers that are around you.”

At the end of the first century he wrote this, and the beauty of the Word of God is that here twenty centuries later it is still true, that we have a standard and we have one to guide us into the truth of that standard and the application of that standard. Today my plea to you is to make time in your day every day to take in some of the Word of God. You may not have much time, but you have some time. There is something you can do to arrange your schedule in such a way that you can take in some of the Word of God. You find time to eat food physically, don't you? I know you do. I can tell it by looking at you. People who say, “I am just too busy to read the Word of God are not so quick to admit, “I am just too busy to eat food.” This should become as necessary to us and as important to us as even the intake of physical food.


The Apostle Paul wrote that evil men and seducers would wax worse and worse as the end of the age approaches. Certainly I believe, and I think most of you do, too, that we are approaching the end of the age, and we can see that so many ideas are coming at us. What is true and what is not? You have the anointing from the Holy One and the capacity God says in this passage to know all things. God help us to use the equipment that He has given us in this crucial day in which we live.

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