So you must remain faithful to what you have been taught from the beginning. If you do, you will remain in fellowship with the Son and with the Father. – 1 John 2:24 NLT
There are always going to be reasons for believers to lose hope and doubt their faith. The enemy is real, his attacks are relentless and the pressure to doubt God is ever-present. John knew that those to whom he wrote were faced with all kinds of questions regarding their beliefs. They were having the very foundation of their faith shaken by those who claimed to be their brothers and sisters in Christ. Their fellowship had been rocked by the recent departure of a group who no longer believed what they believed. They had a different view about Jesus. At first glance, their perspective probably hadn’t sounded all that different, but over time it became clear that they were espousing a radically different doctrine regarding the identity and role of Jesus. Evidently, they had come to believe that Jesus was nothing more than a man. He was not the Son of God. He was not God in human flesh. In other words, they were rejecting the very idea of the incarnation. And it seems clear from John’s letter, that they were even doubting their need for a Savior, because they were denying their own sinfulness. John called this “the spirit of the antichrist” (1 John 4:3 ESV). Their views regarding Jesus were more than just opinions, they were heresy, dangerous and destructive teachings that undermined the very foundation of the faith and denied the Word of God. John called them what they were: liars. “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?” (1 John 2:22 ESV). To deny that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah and Savior of the world, was to deny that He was God. It was to disagree with what God said about Jesus and what Jesus claimed about Himself. It was to reject the teaching of the apostles, like John, who had been eye-witnesses of not only His earthly ministry, but His death and resurrection.
So John gives his struggling flock two ways for staying strong in the face of unrelenting attacks on their faith. The first was that they must remain faithful to what they had been taught. They must consider the source. John wrote, “So you must remain faithful to what you have been taught from the beginning. If you do, you will remain in fellowship with the Son and with the Father” (1 John 2:24 NLT). The Message paraphrase puts it this way: “Stay with what you heard from the beginning, the original message. Let it sink into your life. If what you heard from the beginning lives deeply in you, you will live deeply in both Son and Father.” Where did that original message come from? The apostles. They had been the messengers sent by Jesus to spread the good news regarding the gift of eternal life made possible by His death on the cross. They had brought the message of forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God that Jesus’ death and resurrection had made possible. And their message hinged on the reality of Jesus being the sinless Son of God. He was NOT just a man who lived a good life and died a martyr’s death. He was God’s own Son, and He had taken on human flesh, lived a sinless life, died a sinner’s death, as a payment to satisfy the just penalty required by a righteous and holy God. That is what the apostles had been taught. That is what they had shared. That is what the recipients of John’s letter had originally believed, and it had radically changed their lives. So John was encouraging them to remain faithful to what they had heard. There would be plenty of other opinions about God. There would be other views regarding Jesus and the way of salvation. But Jesus had said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 ESV). He had boldly claimed, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25 ESV). And John, who had personally seen Jesus in His post-crucifixion, resurrected state, had written, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 ESV).
But there was one more thing John told his readers to remember. “But you have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you” (1 John 2:27 NLT). They had experienced the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus had promised. When they had believed what the apostles had taught, it had been confirmed by the filling of the Spirit. John reminded them that because the Spirit of God lived or remained within them, they could know that what they had been taught by the apostles had been true. They didn’t need any “new” teaching. “…so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what he teaches is true—it is not a lie. So just as he has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ” (1 John 2:27 NLT). This did not mean that they were omniscient or all-knowing. It simply meant that they already knew the truth regarding Jesus and His claim to be the Son of God. The very presence of the Holy Spirit within them was the proof. Just like those to whom John was writing, we have the Word of God and the Spirit of God. We have the testimony of the apostles and the presence of the Spirit. We know the truth. We know Jesus – the way, the truth, and the life. He is who He who claimed to be. The Word of God declares it. The apostles gave their lives to defend it. And the indwelling presence of the Spirit of God makes it impossible to deny it.