There are things which lie deeply and remotely behind what is actually set down in words in the Scriptures and unless we have perception concerning these things, we shall not really get the adequate motive and reason for taking heed unto the things which are said. So it is necessary that we should ask the Lord for insight.
We have already spoken of the first feature in the relationship between the Father and the Son, as basic to their fellowship, namely, divine life, which in this letter is called eternal life. We are now to be occupied with the second thing in this letter: the anointing. This is referred to by two forms of speech in this letter.
"And ye have an anointing from the Holy One, and ye know all the things... And as for you, the anointing which ye received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any one teach you; but as his anointing teacheth you; concerning all things, and is true, and is no lie, and even as it taught you, ye abide in him." (1 John 2:20,27).
"And he that keepeth his commandments abideth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he gave us." (1 John 3:24).
"Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not Jesus is not of God: and this is the spirit of the antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it cometh; and now it is in the world already... We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he who is not of God heareth us not. By this we know the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error... hereby we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit." (1 John 4:2-3,6,13).
"This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is the truth." (1 John 5:6,7).
We are proceeding under the direction and government of the first clause in this letter: "That which was from the beginning", and bringing the clause immediately into association with the anointing, we see that that which was from the beginning was a Man whose entire life was governed by the anointing.
It is just here that we may find it a little difficult in getting to the back of things. We have to go very far back and seek to get into the mind of God in that former beginning. God's thought concerning man always had associated with it in His mind the fact of evil and possible disasters, contingencies. We are speaking of that point in the course of divine history where man was conceived in the mind of God, and when man was conceived in the mind of God, He was aware of the existence of evil. Therefore there were these possibilities in relation to man so that when He brought forth man, He, at the same time with that other consciousness and knowledge of the existence of evil and these possibilities, took certain precautions. There were precautionary movements of God. That meant that there were warnings: "In the day that you eat from it you will surely die" (Gen. 2:17).
The safeguard for man, then, was very simple. It was just simply and purely faith in God of an objective kind. There were few complications. Man having no experience of sin, having no knowledge of sin, meant that he was free from all those elements which bring the battle within man and involve man in what he is in himself in that battle. The whole state was changed by the fall, but then it was very simple. He was innocent. All those complications with which we are familiar in our relationship with God, did not exist. Man would have been preserved by the simple means of just believing what God had said and acting accordingly. But afterward, man became involved and the enemy had his ground inside of man, and by reason of that, man in his fallen nature is one with the enemy in a moral and a spiritual way.
Oneness Morally and Spiritually
There is all the difference between being one in a moral and a spiritual way, and being one in a kind of organised way. If you join something on the outside you can resign from it, you can give it up. But when by your very nature, you are morally and spiritually one with that, you cannot separate yourself from that. You have got tot somehow get down to analyse that if there is any point of dividing, you have to find it somehow in your very moral being. But there is no such point. It is quite impossible to separate yourself from evil by analysis and dissecting. Spirit is not capable of dissection.
That is where man found himself, so that victory requires that the enemy shall be routed out and expelled from the innermost part of man's being, where man is at his most real self, and that is in man's spirit. He has a soul and a body, but the deepest reality of man's personality is his spirit, and it is spiritual alliance or oneness with the enemy which is the deepest factor in the fall.
Thus God's thought becomes far more positive in relation to man than it was before. God's thought afterwards, because of what has happened, becomes much more positive or energetic. By reason of an innocent state, so far as man is concerned, while there are warnings and precautions, God's thought is more of a passive kind. But now, because of what is in man, God's thought concerning man has to take on strength and become much more energetic, with elements of conflict and warfare.
A New Man
He begins, then, with a new Man, not one marred by Satan, but one in whom Satan has not that place, in whom the prince of this world has nothing. Immediately you get a flash of illumination on why Satan wants to set that aside, and why the spirit of antichrist is the setting of that aside. Jesus Christ come in the flesh. Into this new Man He puts that energetic, competitive force, those factors of a positive, aggressive character, which are the basis of renewing the whole order of mankind and the reversing of the order that has come about, and eventuating in a triumphant corporate man.
That means this first thing, of which we have already spoken: a very positive life, divine life in the spirit, the renewed, born anew spirit of man, indwelt by divine life.
Now let us go back to the Head, the new Man Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ. We saw that it was because of that life in Him, that eternal life, that the enemy focussed his attention so persistently to put into it some element that was not of God. But that life was a positive, active thing in Him, and when He co-operated with the will of the Father by faith, that life was not only preserved, but expressed itself continually as superior to all the force of death and triumphed.
In the end you get that triumphant life given, in its full triumph through faith, to all the born anew ones, so that the life that we possess in new birth is a life which has manifested its power over all the power of evil and of Satan and of death. It is a mighty life, a life of supreme power, of tremendous energy, and has in it all the competitive power of Christ's victory which culminated in the Cross. Thus God's thought becomes far more positive, because of what Satan has done; that is, that this Man has got to have put within Him something which can undo all that Satan has done and destroy all the works of the devil and reverse the order which has come about through Satan's interference and eventually produce a corporate, collective man according to God's thought. God's thought can only ultimately be realised by a great power being introduced into man which is more than sufficient for all that has happened to man and for all that is in man by the devil. It is the power of the life which was in the Son of Man.
What have we got in this first letter of John? In the main we have five things:
Firstly, we have a hostile realm, with human and Satanic forces in alliance against the Lord and His anointed.
Secondly, we have a hostile realm to be spiritually and morally overcome. Take account of the references to overcoming in this letter.
Thirdly, we have a Man in perfect fellowship with God, as having actually and representatively overcome that realm. "That which was from the beginning".
Fourthly, we have the believer called into fellowship with Him, also to overcome that realm by Him.
Fifthly, we have the factors which are basic in Him and in them to overcoming.
First divine life, then the anointing. The divine life is the incorruptible and therefore indispensable nature of God in that Man, and is implanted in us with that life. There is much said about that. We are not going to deal with the matter of sin and not sinning, but it is all bound up with that, that here is something which is not ourselves, which is out from God. That is the point that we must remember. It is something out from God. A mistake here has led to a great deal of confusion and false teaching, which has got people into great difficulty. We are not, in our natural selves, born of God. This body of ours has not been born of God, even in our regeneration; and this soul has not been born of God, otherwise we would never have the flicker of a wrong thought, a wrong feeling, a wrong desire, or a wrong judgement. The apostle takes pains to seek to deliver us from being mistaken on that matter. At the same time he puts his finger upon the deepest fact: that there is that in us which is begotten of God, and which sins not. It is out from God, and if we are termed as having been born again it is only by reason of that which has been implanted in us which makes us in the rest of our being to come into fellowship with God. God has planted something of Himself in Christ in us which is intended to get hold of our souls and swing them Godward, out of alliance with Satan, and our bodies too. But that does not mean that we, spirit, soul and body, have been born again! We are still represented in the Word of God as waiting for the redemption of our bodies, the full deliverance which was accomplished in Christ in His Cross, and our souls have yet to come into that. But, blessed be God, we have perfect redemption in the innermost parts. The thing is final there, and it is there that God is by His life and in His nature, and it is that which is begotten of God.
The great need for those who have responsibility for souls is to understand the real nature of new birth; not that they are going to talk about these things to the unconverted or try and explain them to the simple babes in Christ. In multitudes of cases an inadequate conception of the nature of the new birth has resulted in getting converts along the line of a kind of mental assent to certain propositions about Jesus Christ, His person and His work, and making it all objective and discovering afterwards that the real work was never done. We must be sure that it is not simply the reaction of a soul to a suggestion, to a presentation, but that it is the introduction of Christ into the innermost part of their being in the power of an incorruptible life. They may afterwards deviate, but there is something there upon which God can operate in the future which was not there before.
Just as Satan must have his ground implanted within the very nature and constitution of man to secure his end, so God, for the securing of His original thought concerning man, must implant His ground at the centre for all His operations. It is like David when he was driven out of his kingdom by Absalom, sending Abiathar the priest back into the city with the Ark. And it was that, right at the heart of things, which was the vantage ground of an expelled David. He had a footing inside and spiritually he was operating from the outside in relation to that which was at the heart of things.
The enemy may seem to be encamped upon the ground of the King, but the King has got the heart of things in His hands, and He will come back on that. The Lord has got something there, something established: His divine life. It may be smothered, covered over, but it is an energetic thing. You find more in a backslider than you find in an unconverted man. You find him fighting shy of you, resorting to all kinds of cunning and tricks to avoid you. Why? Because the heart of the thing is not as it once was. God has got a footing there though that man may be for the time being knowing a taste of hell, and this is the proof that God has His footing inside.
This divine life is incorruptible and therefore indestructible. It is deeper down than our consciousness, deeper than our souls, deeper than all our sensations. Yes, deeper than this human frame, deeper than this mental constitution, deeper than the whole organism of our physical and nervous life, so that we may even lose our reason and spend the end of our years in a lunatic asylum, and it makes no difference to the deepest reality. Very often in unconsciousness there is that that can be touched by prayer. There is a point of communication.
You may find some real child of God, in whom His life has not been paralysed, but who has been in communion with Him, and that one falls perhaps into a great sickness, and in sickness loses consciousness. There is no communication on the outside with anyone, no response to anything said; but kneel down beside that one and begin to pray in the Spirit, and you find a point of contact. There is response, quickening, peace comes in where there has been torment or delirium, perhaps life begins to flicker again. You have a point of contact. It is spirit to spirit. It is one life.
This life of God is a mighty thing within the renewed spirit of man. This is our point: that is the divine basis upon which His end concerning man is to be realised. The one thing that Satan is against is the getting of Christ inside. He will have any kind of substitute in Christianity and religion, just so long as you do not come too near on the question of regeneration or rebirth, which means the introduction of Christ into the innermost part. Anything but that. Any lie but that.
That is what we meant when we said that God's thought becomes much more positive by reason of the conditions obtaining through the fall: that is, there have to be these active, energetic factors now implanted in man. It all becomes a matter of conflict to get that.
Now for a little while we will deal with the anointing. As set forth in this letter and elsewhere, the anointing is the spiritual and moral intelligence in relation to God. In this letter for the greater part the anointing of the Spirit has to do with teaching. It all relates to spiritual intelligence.
To come up to that let us step back a bit. The anointing, in the very first place, means that God has committed Himself to the object concerned. The anointing is not some thing; it is the Lord, the Spirit. The anointing means that God has come by His Spirit and has committed Himself there. That in itself is tremendous. God has dignified that object with the power of spiritual intelligence above all others. It is interesting to note that John says this to "little children". The little children of the anointing are dignified by an intelligence which the greatest intelligence of this world apart from the anointing does not possess. Sometimes this constitutes one of our greatest difficulties; the difficulty of not being critical and spiritually proud. The fact remains that you get a very great intelligence in this world in the realm of scholarship coming to the Word of God with all the learning and resource of that kind, yet without the anointing taking up the Word of God honestly, sincerely, giving you wonderful thoughts, wonderful interpretations, getting near the mark; but strangely, with all the proximity to the truth, there are tremendous contradictions in the course of the life and practice. It is possible to get so near in an intellectual way to the truth, and yet in spirit there is not that mighty force and that knowledge of which we speak which has to be reckoned with. When you get intelligence by anointing, you are in an active and positive realm with God, where you cannot get on according to anything that is not that.
The anointing is a mighty thing, because it is a spiritual intelligence which, on the one hand, destroys a whole order of things, and, on the other hand, brings in God's new order and God's full thought concerning man. John says that this anointing, meaning this intelligence, is meant to be the position of the little child. It is not something just for advanced Christians. As a principle it is for little children. How wonderfully it works out. You get somebody who, perhaps without any of this world's advantages in education, scholarship and learning, is a very ordinary "little child" in the Lord and under the anointing he has got the inside of things. He can tell you things about the Lord. He opens up the secrets of the Lord. He knows the Lord. That is a dignity which is greater than the dignity of this world's masters.
Our life is in God by means of the anointing. The anointing means that our life is in God, and all the values of the anointing are by abiding in Him. It is a matter of faith. He abides in us by faith. We abide in Him by faith. When did the Lord Jesus receive the attestation of God with the anointing? True, at the point where He took up His public ministry and stepped out and became in a public and official way God's apostle and High Priest. But there is another factor. He did not receive that divine attestation at His birth, but at the end of thirty years. Not that He was not the Son of God at His birth, He was. That is not the question. But the attestation came after thirty years. That means that God saw moral worth in Him. The age of thirty was the age of maturity with the Levites. The Lord Jesus was tested under the eye of God for thirty years, and the attestation of the anointing came on the ground of moral worth.
That moral worth is going to be taken into the fire, which is the more positive side of things. It was to be the fire of public exposure, public testing, public life. It is there in secret, but now it has to come out. And in the arena with men and all the human elements surging around and playing upon Him - demons all active and heaven watching - He is tested by fire as to His moral worth. It came out triumphantly, it was something that could stand the test.
Here is One Whom we call Man - we recognise Him as more, but Whom we call Man, God's Man - Who, by reason of moral worth, had the attestation of God. And then, by reason of that moral worth tested, proved and established, actually received from the Father the gift of the Spirit when He reached the glory. The Spirit was given to Him as the Spirit of all the divine purpose that was His. The moral perfection, the moral glory, the moral power established in that Man is the realm in which you and I have to live by faith, in order to come into the values of the anointing. Abiding in Christ is getting out of ourselves and what we are, into Christ and what He is, and staying there. What the enemy is always trying to do with believers is to draw them out of Christ into what they are in themselves in some way, into what they are outside of Christ. If a believer leaves the one ground and comes on to the other, there is defeat at once, the Devil's triumph is at once. If we by faith stand into all the values of the anointing, not the anointing only, but the values of the anointing, our spiritual intelligence will grow and grow. In other words, our knowledge of the Lord will increase. If we get into things and they begin to dominate our consciousness and actuate us and dictate our course and our policy, we shall not come through.
It is possible to get a mighty surge of feelings, as to what you ought to do for the Lord, and rush off on the crest of that wave of a great emotion, with the best of motives, and the whole thing collapses after a time. Stay holding that before the Lord, and say, "Is that the Lord, or is that me?" That is capable of introducing an introspection if we are not careful, but we see in the life of the Lord that there were times when men sought to take hold of Him and cause Him to do things and persuade Him to take a certain course; argue as to what people would think, or what the common position was, but He waited. He refused to be taken hold of by anything outside and inwardly worked with His Father, in effect saying: "Father, do You want Me up there? It is not whether men expect Me to be there, whether it is politic to be there, do You want Me there? I am not going until I am quite sure You want Me there." When He did go up, He took possession of the whole thing in the power of the anointing. The anointing works because it is a mighty thing, the power of God at work as we abide in Him.
That may sound very high up and remote, but it works in very simple ways. Find the man or the woman who in this way abides in Him (that is, who walks with the Lord, not with common acceptances and public feeling or requirement, not according to anything outwardly) and you will find there a power and an effectiveness. It is because they are abiding in the Lord. The anointing does it. They have an intelligence which is not always a mental intelligence; that is, they are not thinking it out, it is not coming to them in the realm of the mind where they can see it all and work according to argument or any kind of mental activity. In the Spirit they know whether that is to be or not, and they move in the Spirit. The anointing gives that inward intelligence of the Yea or the Nay, and when we move according to the anointing, what fruit there is and what effectiveness! How different it is when we work on the outward plain: labour, struggle, with effort, expenditure in every way, and see the little result, the little fruit.
This is set forth as the Lord's standard for us, to be the prayerful desire of all our hearts. We must abide in Christ as God's good pleasure.
What a safeguard the anointing is! You notice these statements about the anointing teaching all things are set over against false spirits that have gone out and the antichrist. In the end time antichrists will be many, and the spirit of antichrist (which is referred to later in the letter) will be at work. How are believers going to be saved from the deceptions? How are they going to be kept when antichrist is imitating Christ in every way? "The anointing... teaches you about all things." The apostle is not saying here that the child of God has no need of instruction through the divinely chosen instruments of instruction. That is not the point here. The apostle is saying here that when there are all manner of things about of a spiritual kind, which would draw you off and you are not able in yourself to detect which is right and which is wrong, if you abide in Christ the anointing will teach you, and you will meet something that seems so right and on the outside, to your mind, you are incapable of seeing a flaw. It is all so scriptural, but the anointing says: "Be careful!" It does not let you go, and you have to say, "Well, I cannot see through it, but I have a feeling inside which holds me back; I must go steady." Wait, and you will say in the long run: "I am glad the Lord held me back and that I listened to that voice of gentle stillness. It saved me a lot of trouble."
As it was in Him, so it is to be in us, that the divine end is reached by divine means. And this is the basis of that fellowship with the Father and with the Son by which God reaches His full thought concerning man, in the power of His own divine life and the operation of the anointing.