[We are] not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

Sunday, April 23, 2006

1 John 2:20-21 and Puristic Theology

by HK Flynn

I think often when Lordship Salvation is being promoted 1 John is mined for what seem to function as Purist proof texts. IMO, From the Head of the Moor has recently employed 4:2 in that type of use. To be fair, Jonathan does believe that 1 John teaches certain “tests of life” and apparently thinks 4:2 is a strong verse to demonstrate that theme. I don't and see much of 1 John as working against this "tests of life" idea.

Zane Hodges thinks the purpose of 1 John was to warn against false teachings (of pre-Gnostic heresies)--ideas that he didn’t want to be given a hearing in his churches. He thinks that John teaches that false doctrine is a direct threat to fellowship with God (1:3). So for that purpose, he gives tests of fellowship (If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth 1:6) and gives instructions on how to abide in fellowship with God so that his listeners can be bold at the Judgment Seat of Christ. (And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming 2:28; Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world 4:17)

Hodges suggests that the letter’s primary recipients were the inner circle of leaders, and that it was meant to be read to the entire congregation(s) as well. He believes John may have been intending to strengthen the hand of the leaders (who he believed had a fully sufficient knowledge of Christian doctrine [2:20] and had overcome Satan’s tactics [2:13]), by bolstering the confidence that the church had in those leaders so that the false teachers would be shut out and fail to gain a hearing in the churches. That would make sense of verses like this:

But you [the leaders?] have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. 2:20


I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth. 2:21

These seem like unusually optimistic ideas to convey to an entire church. I would be curious to know how Purists like Jonathan and Centuri0n fit verses 20 and 21 into the idea that the purpose of 1 John is to advocate the tests of life.


  • Excellent post.

    I am not so sure of the 'inner circle idea', though.
    But then I have not read Hodge's commentary.

    God Bless


    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Monday, April 24, 2006 12:25:00 AM  

  • Hi Matthew,

    He doesn't present it as a certainty, but I think it is one way to understand the upper room discourse "feel" of 1 John, tha I detect, and verses 20 and 21 that I quoted from chapter 2. And also the "elect lady", "her children" and "her sister" of 2 John 1 and 13.

    God bless :)

    By Blogger H K Flynn, at Monday, April 24, 2006 5:50:00 AM  

  • What about the use of 'little children'?

    'I am writing to you children'?

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Monday, April 24, 2006 8:48:00 AM  

  • The I Jn 4, even if the letter was against false doctrine, which I believe it was/is, passage definitely would be a "test" for salvation. Basically it seems John is saying, rhetorically, if you accept the incipient gnostic teaching on the dualist nature of Christ then you have not appropriated salvation, i.e. union with Christ or the Father, either.

    By Anonymous bobby grow, at Monday, April 24, 2006 9:33:00 AM  

  • Matthew,

    Jesus also uses the expression "little children" at the beginning of the Upper Room discourse. I see it as a way of saying to His inner circle, I am not dumping pure responsibility on you without also providing you with the gentle nurture you need to thrive.

    Likewise, John uses the terms, little children, fathers and young men to denote different aspects of their spiritual lives, the different roles these mature believers have fulfilled and are expected to continue to fulfill.

    I think it would be a stretch to speak only to men (Fathers and young men) if he were primarily addressing an entire congregation, but perhaps.

    I think it is a credible thing to consider even if it will never be conclusive.

    God bless,




    I'm interested in how you support that. You use the word "definitely". That seems a strong word for you.

    Anyway, this is a splice of my answer to Jonathan's challenge on 1 John 4:2

    1 John 4:2 "By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God."

    I think John is saying something simple and absolute here. He is saying that every time a person confesses the orthodox idea that Jesus is the Christ, and that He is fully human (and by implication fully divine) his words are sourced in God.

    Any believer who deviates from this foundational Christian doctrine and vocally advocates a competing idea is of the Devil. (just like Peter was of the Devil when he dismissed the idea of the cross...)

    God bless,


    By Blogger H K Flynn, at Monday, April 24, 2006 10:14:00 AM  

  • Hey Jodie,

    I enjoy many of your posts and in your exposition of James I think you are correct. In this I respectfully disagree. We can have failure to measure up to the Glory of God and we need chastening in regard to our sin and we can as believers sin a sin unto death, but in this we are discussing the very Spirit of God. He is our salvation. If we remove anything or delete anything from the Person of our salvation, then we remove the plank out from which we rest entirely on.

    Please understand that I know you believe in His diety, but I am speaking to those who don't.

    Jesus said, "If you do not believe that I am He, you will perish in your sin."

    Also all typology and visions of the past that men had to receive for revelation in order to believe has ceased and we are told by Peter himself who needed this revalation in the past that we are given a more sure word. We are required to believe on the Written Word and Who it reveals in order to be saved. We cannot be saved unless we take Him at His word, and the Person of Christ is the Promise seed of the New Covanent. He is Salvation.

    When John doubted Christ he represented what the Old Covanent could not do. Believe.

    Thomas needed revalation as well to bear witness of Him, but we have the Word and that is all we have. We must believe or we will not be blessed.

    I am like Bobby. I see no wiggle room here and anything outside of it will give birth to all kinds of ideas including those that Centurion share and some among the outward regenerative means crowd that pleads grace via Circumcision of the flesh imputed into their Covanental theology.

    I don't think Johnathon agrees with Centurion on this.

    Did you know Madonna believes Jesus is a gift and only means of salvation as she argues against the law and on the exclusivity of Jesus, but her Jesus is the New Age god of Shirley Maclaine as they believe that in part they are the eternal I Am. It is mixture of Zen(Buddha) and Judeo Christianity her religion.

    By Blogger Bhedr, at Monday, April 24, 2006 1:17:00 PM  

  • Jodie, does that mean that the "entire church" was regenerate?

    By Blogger Jonathan Moorhead, at Monday, April 24, 2006 2:36:00 PM  

  • I appreciate what you're saying Brian. I'm sympathetic to your seeing it as blatantly taught in Scripture and will look at the Scriptures you referred to.

    Thanks for disagreeing in such a brotherly way !

    God bless :)


    I'm not sure of which part of what I'm saying means the whole church is regenerate. Let me put it this way, I don't think John's strategy in dealing with false doctrine relates at all to questioning their salvation.

    (Generally, the FG position is that all who believe in Jesus, that He is the Christ, the Provider of eternal life, are regenerate, and to let people decide for themselves whether they have done that.)

    Am I being unclear about how I interpret 2:20,21 ?

    When Jesus said in the Upper Room that the Holy Spirit would lead his inner circle into "all things" they then passed "all things" unto faithful men. This seems like it may be a parallel situation (where John has his own inner circle on his [former?] mission field) but I realize it is far from conclusive.

    After the Holy Spirit came and began to lead the Apostles into all things, whole churches were then certainly grounded in that type of completely sufficient understanding of Christian doctrine, the Apostolic teaching. So John could have been writing to a church that he knew was so thoroughly grounded that he could say these statements.

    Either way, it certainly is the opposite of Galatians where false teaching was being accepted as true. In 1 John they are being affirmed for their maturity and doctrine. (2:13, 20-21)

    I know you disagree with what I'm saying but I would be interested in how you see these verses even if it is sort of tentative.


    By Blogger H K Flynn, at Monday, April 24, 2006 3:25:00 PM  

  • Jodie, it is interesting to me that 2:20-21 come after verse 19: “They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. However, they went out so that it might be made clear that none of them belongs to us.” What does that say about 20-21? It says that the people he is writing to are the ones that have remained and have not committed the damnable errors of verses 22-23. They have persevered in the truth.

    I don’t think there has to be an either/or “purpose” of the book. It is possible to have confidence in the church, but yet say that if any commit XYZ that they are not of the faith. To me, it is both/and.

    By Blogger Jonathan Moorhead, at Monday, April 24, 2006 3:57:00 PM  

  • Let me just quote Zane Hodges on I Jn 4:1-3, and then I'll come back later to tell you why I feel so strongly and definitely on this. Zane says:

    "The second new idea is the epistle's first of six explicit references to the Holy Spirit (cf. I John 4:2, 6, 13; 5:6, 8; cf. 'the Holy One' in 2:20). The way a believer can verify that God lives (menei, 'abides') in him is by the operation of God's Spirit in his life. John then showed that God's Spirit is the Spirit of both faith (4:1-6) and love (4:7-16)--the two aspects of the two part 'command' given in 3:23. 4:1-3. To begin with, the Spirit of God must be distinguished from false spirits. This is particularly necessary because many false prophets have gone out into the world. The touchstone by which these spirits (false prophets) are to be tested is their attitude toward the incarnate person of Jesus Christ. The failure to acknowledge (homologei, 'confess'; cf. 1:9; 2:23; 4:15) that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is precisely what exposes the spirit of the antichrist, which John had already warned his readers about (2:18-27; cf. 2 John 7). (quote taken from Bible Knowledge Commentary--Zane Hodges, pg 898)

    Principle: Anyone who denies the deity and humanity of Christ is of the spirit of the anti-Christ; and does not have "union" with God. Do I think this letter was to believers, absolutely! Do I think if someone denies the deity and humanity of Christ they are able to be saved, absolutely not!

    I'll come back later . . . to talk on this further!

    In Christ,

    By Anonymous bobby grow, at Monday, April 24, 2006 8:04:00 PM  

  • Hi Jodie,
    Your post is very well-presented, as usual. I also don't think the purpose of the epistle was to cause introspection, but to warn the BELIEVERS of false doctrine.

    Have you considered that perhaps if they fell for this false doctrine and started spreading it, their potential converts would then become believers in a "different Jesus"? I am still mulling over the "different Jesus" ideas that Antonio challenged me on, but I think it is prit-near impossible to receive eternal life from Christ if you don't know those essential facts about who He is. (unless you believe in regeneration that is not a result of faith)

    This is all very interesting and I am enjoying the comments. I hope it will go on so I can watch and learn. Thanks Jodie. Love to you my sister!

    By Blogger Rose~, at Tuesday, April 25, 2006 4:47:00 AM  

  • Thanks for commenting on this interesting passage, Jonathan.

    You see John using the term "antichrist" as a way of describing people who never really believed adequately and are now showing themselves to be unregenerate.

    And you don't think there was one central purpose, but may have been several purposes, with questioning of (some of) their salvation being one of them.

    I see the term antichrist differently. I think they were actively trying to co-opt the Christian movement for their own religious movement that denied Christ’s full humanity or full divinity (or both) and believed there was both light and darkness, moral goodness and immorality, in God--an idea which had implications for whether the religious person should attempt to be morally pure. They had at one point, before they were showing their true colors, been moving in Christian circles. Now John wanted these people, false teachers, to be fully and unambiguously isolated.

    John is saying you are of the truth. They have absolutely nothing to offer you truth-wise. You're not incomplete truth-wise. Don't be confused about that.

    So we see some of this from different angles, Jonathan. But I don't think we are quite opposites here.

    I'm not saying what you think I am saying. Have you read that article Solifidian brought up? Very helpful. I'm going to quote from it later on your thread, but it makes the point there is a huge difference between not knowing something and opposing it. That is an important point concerning the divinity of Christ and salvation.

    For instance, I don't think the woman at the well, or the other people of Sychar, probably understood Jesus was God Himself but understood him to be a God-sent prophet. Had they actively rejected his divinity that would have been very different. But I think they just hadn't yet been presented with it.

    God bless,


    By Blogger H K Flynn, at Tuesday, April 25, 2006 7:12:00 AM  

  • Jodie I agree with Rose concerning your clarity and I’ve been reading the wisdom here as well. I’m currently considering that there are two groups in view here. There are the false teachers committed to corrupting the flock and then there’s the flock who might even openly doubt, wonder and question and may fail to proclaim the Gospel but does this mean they can be plucked from His hand? I guess my question would be this; is our assurance dependant on our unwavering certainty or on the certainty of God’s word?

    By Blogger Kc, at Tuesday, April 25, 2006 7:26:00 AM  

  • Bobby,

    This is where we agree:

    Do I think if someone denies the deity and humanity of Christ they are able to be saved, absolutely not!

    But what about if someone doesn't understand that.

    What if a teenage girl goes to an exangelical outreach and believes in Christ--that He was sent to pay for her sins and is the Lord of Life and has given her eternal life as a gift--but when she goes home her New-Age Episcapalian mother makes fun of her for believing in the Divinity of Christ.

    The girl gets confused because she hadn't been sure if Jesus claimed to be God Himself, and isn't sure what to say to her mother.

    Is it even possible, Bobby, that she is saved?

    I would even go so far as to say there are lots of children who become saved who don't know Christ is God, even though they should. That should be part of anyone's evangelistic content.

    But the minimum content of the offer of eternal life is still important because it shows whether we are going to God's Word for it, or relying on our general knowledge of Scripture. I say it is more humble to go straight to God's Word for what the specific content is.

    Also, this is a busy week for me so I may be slow in responding but look forward to you (and maybe Jonathan) elaborating here and at the thread at "the moor".

    God bless,


    By Blogger H K Flynn, at Tuesday, April 25, 2006 7:26:00 AM  

  • Hi Rose :)

    I agree with what you are saying that there is a warning of believers of false doctrine. That is central to keep in mind.

    I tend to agree with Antonio that the "different Jesus" thing goes too far when it causes distortion in our understanding of the offer of eternal life. But I agree with you that the divinity of Christ is something that is needed to explain His power to redeem! Of course we teach His divinity in Evangelism!

    What if someone gets saved, believes in his divinity and then later gets confused band becomes convinced Jesus was not God and keeps evangelizing. This is what you brought up right? I would say "that" is not Christianity even if it is peppered with regenerate people!

    Thanks Rose :)

    By Blogger H K Flynn, at Tuesday, April 25, 2006 7:35:00 AM  

  • Hi Kc :)

    I'm beginning to study First John in depth and am excited about it. I am not at all finding Hodges interpretation to be "system-driven" as it were. And I appreciate the questions you bring up. These are the kind of things I want to start getting at.

    While I don't think John is assuming the anti-Christs are regenerate, what are the parameters of that? I want to flesh out how specific he is in his comments about a believer going in the way of false doctrine. And what are the consequences. And how does his famous assurance statement connect to all this?

    I think 1 John may be where this debate gets "settled" :)

    'Cause town ain't big enuff...


    By Blogger H K Flynn, at Tuesday, April 25, 2006 7:46:00 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger H K Flynn, at Tuesday, April 25, 2006 7:57:00 AM  

  • Clarification about my comment to Bobby. I quoted Bobby (see above)and said I agree with it. To elaborate, as a practical matter if I am the evangelist and someone denied the Divinity of Christ but seemed to be accepting the offer otherwise--which frankly seems fully illogical to me--I would certainly not think they were "done". As a practical matter I wouldn't assume they really believed in Jesus as the guarantor of eternal life if they denied his divinity.

    So for me the question is not about denying his divinity but about understanding it.

    Actively denying his divinity would mean to me that he probably doesn't really believe his simple offer.

    Though I think people who are unsure about the divinity of Christ become regenerate all the time.


    By Blogger H K Flynn, at Tuesday, April 25, 2006 8:19:00 AM  

  • 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 they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.

    Antonio has an excellent post on this verse from last December. He quotes a page of Hodges's commentary.

    Their arguement is that the "us" cannot be referring to us-Christians but must be referring to us-Apostles.

    By Blogger H K Flynn, at Tuesday, April 25, 2006 1:38:00 PM  

  • Brian,

    You said that Jesus said, "If you do not believe that I am He, you will perish in your sin."

    Where exactly is that? I am having trouble finding it on BibleGateway.


    By Blogger H K Flynn, at Tuesday, April 25, 2006 5:06:00 PM  

  • Wow, a lot of people are commenting on this post!!


    I forgot to link to Antonio's post on 1 John 2:19, so here it is :)

    By Blogger H K Flynn, at Tuesday, April 25, 2006 5:48:00 PM  

  • Hi Jodie,
    But what about their converts? They are teaching about a Christ that isn't God. Are there converts real Christians? I guess it is a tough question in a way because it is so hypothetical and weird - plus there is the individual heart to consider.

    By Blogger Rose~, at Tuesday, April 25, 2006 6:26:00 PM  

  • Hi Rose,

    The Nav Bar looks great :)

    First, just to be clear. I actually don't think the antichrists that John is talking about, the false teachers, who Hodges calls the "Revisionsists" are saved people. I just think we're missing what he is saying to think he is talking about whether they are saved, I just don't believe that is his topic. His topic is there posturing as being experientially spiritually enlightened is false.

    But about any hypothetical converts to a cult that thought Jesaus was a Saviour but not God, who knows, some might be regenerate. But it would still be an evil cult.

    To change the subject, for some reason it did crack me up that I had made the last 5 or 6 comments on this thread. LOL

    Oh well, back to housework :)

    By Blogger H K Flynn, at Tuesday, April 25, 2006 6:37:00 PM  

  • Yes, I think Jodie is absolutely right on this one.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Wednesday, April 26, 2006 12:49:00 AM  

  • Jodie,
    I don't think it was his purpose either. I agree. :~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at Wednesday, April 26, 2006 5:49:00 AM  

  • It is fun to keep making a lot of comments on your own post. :~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at Wednesday, April 26, 2006 5:50:00 AM  

  • After all, it is your post! :~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at Wednesday, April 26, 2006 5:50:00 AM  

  • Housework is so fun, isn't it?

    By Blogger Rose~, at Wednesday, April 26, 2006 5:51:00 AM  

  • giggles...

    By Blogger H K Flynn, at Wednesday, April 26, 2006 7:55:00 AM  

  • Hi Brian,

    I’m posting this on both Jonathan’s thread and here.

    I still think in John we have the clear target for belief (that Jesus is the Christ) and when people believe that very specific claim they instantaneously become regenerate. Believe it or not, I don’t really consider this the foundational starting premise of my “system”, though if you consider it that I won’t argue with you. I can see how loyalty to any “system” could be seen as egregious, when it dismisses all counter-evidence. I agree to a point, but I see it in far more personal terms. I am loyal to the foundational starting premise of my relationship with God. I am loyal to continuing to believe (and honor, and never giving the brush off to) the incredibly generous promise given to me personally by Jesus. I further think that my foundational promise—the promise I build the body of my faith on—was personally authorized and confirmed by the Trinity. Brian, I do remain open to any credible argument that I’m interpreting the Scriptures incorrectly, but as the debate on James showed, the details seem to show our opposition to be on shakier ground.

    So when you see me resisting the notion that my kind of assurance is unreasonable and unbiblical, understand that I’m open to other viewpoints but also confident that I’m standing on stable Biblical ground.

    About your question, Brian, I think when Jesus was presenting himself to people whose theology rightly perceived, from Isaiah and other prophets, that the Messiah would be God himself, He stood on that very ground , by proclaiming and defending His divinity along with his Sonship/Messiahship. He fully embraced and “officially” confirmed their theology about the Divinity of the Messiah by uniting His claim to be the Christ with His claim to be fully God.

    I myself do not blur the proper theologies of Christ’s Divinity and the Trinity with the simple offer of eternal life. The early church was not thoroughly clear on the Trinity but that didn’t stand in the way of their entering God’s family by faith in Christ. If you feel differently I hope you will not hold my differing with you against me and treat it like I’m corruptly brushing off what you see as solid evidence for your position.

    God bless,


    By Blogger H K Flynn, at Wednesday, April 26, 2006 12:52:00 PM  

  • So I don't need to believe in God in order to be saved by Him?

    What about the Ethiopian Eunich and the fact that Paul in Athens made Him known along with the resurrection?

    He is the seed of promise. He is salvation. Look unto me all ye ends of the earth and be ye saved.

    I really believe anything outside of this realm is anthropocentric.

    Thank you for your thoughts.

    By Blogger Bhedr, at Wednesday, April 26, 2006 8:49:00 PM  

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