May 28 – 1 John 2:18-29


Main focus: Abiding in Jesus bears the fruit of faithfulness and steadfastness—if you want to make it to the finish, cling to him.

Steel yourself; this week’s passage talks about the antichrist. Not that you should be worried—the passage is pretty straightforward—but people get kinda squirrelly when you drop “antichrist” in a sentence. John uses it here in a kind of unique way, which we’ll get to in a moment, but in summary, John is warning us against the pitfalls of deception and driving us towards the source of all truth and eternal security: Jesus. 

Heads up!

We have a new resource, Weekday Studies! Weekday Studies are once-a-week, 15-minute studies you can do after listening to the sermon on Sunday to go a little bit deeper in our journey through the sermon series. They’re also focused on some of the same heart-work and takeaways that our community group discussion guides will tackle each week, so they form a perfect stepping stone between Sunday worship and CG discussion and will enrich your CG gathering (though by no means are required for it). Be sure to send this to your people this week as we’re updating the file on this page regularly. It’s available for viewing, downloading, and printing here.

Let’s take a moment to remember the flow of John’s letter thus far. In chapter 1 through 2:17 he’s been demonstrating the incompatibility between following Jesus and following the way of the world. We can’t walk in darkness and light at the same time, we can’t say we know Jesus if we don’t walk in his ways, and we can’t love the Father if we are infatuated with the world. And, as we mentioned a few weeks ago, John shares all of this to give us confidence as we live into the implications of our faith in Jesus. He’ll pick that up again and again, summarized in 5:13, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.”

All of this feeds into what John covers here in 2:18-29: truth and lies are distinct and incompatible, yet we have confidence in the face of deception because we belong to Jesus. When he brings up these lies and deception, he does so with this specific term, “antichrist.” When we hear that word we tend to hear it capitalized, The Antichrist, an invective that gets thrown at public figures from time to time, particularly at presidential candidates and/or anyone suspected of belonging to the Illuminati. For this and other reasons, we tend to avoid conversations that stray into those waters, or similarly spooky End Times discussions. 

But note that John says next to nothing about The Antichrist (and neither does the New Testament for that matter; let’s not major on the minors, folks). Also, aside from verse 18, John uses that term here in a way we typically don’t, in the plural, to describe specifically those who had recently left the faith (2:19) and generally those who deny that Jesus is the Son of God (2:22). Once again, John is deploying polarizing language to show the clear distinction between those who belong to Jesus and those who don’t. You’re either pro-Christ or anti-Christ; there’s no in-between. We’ll have a question in discussion to touch on this, which also gives you a chance to clear out the “antichrist” heebie jeebies and keep moving with the rest of the passage. 

That’s especially necessary because the emphasis of the passage isn’t on antichrist(s) but on the broader threat of deception and confidence through Jesus. This explains the very serious language John uses to describe these folks that have left the church and deny Jesus—John is connecting them to the anti-Jesus kingpin, Satan himself, the “father of lies.” John intends to warn his Christian readers against those who would persuade them to join their departure from the faith (2:26). But immediately after this John reassures them with the confidence we have in Jesus, “But the anointing [i.e. the Holy Spirit] that you received from him abides in you” (2:27). What shall we do in the face of forces in this world that would seek to lampoon our savior and hamstring our faith? We don’t wage our own war or retaliate with the same weapons. Instead, we simply abide. 

In discussion, we’ll turn to John 15:1-11 to get a fuller picture of what it means to abide in Jesus. There Jesus describes himself like a vine and his followers like branches grafted into him. Abiding in order to withstand temptation and deception doesn’t mean just trying harder or doing better. We have to have a new source of life, a stream of sustenance from which we drink, a connection to the only one who can conquer sin and The Deceiver. Jesus himself is the way, the truth, and the life. From abiding in Jesus, a posture and practice of relational intimacy with him, we can thus resist temptation, remembering in whom we have life to the full, and we can resist deception, remembering the Truth that has set us free.

One tangential thing from John 15 is worth a brief mention. If that passage gives folks a tough time, if it makes it sound like Jesus only accepts people who try hard enough in their faith and thus “bear fruit,” then hop over to the distinction he makes in verse 16 to all these half-baked disciples who are about to abandon him: “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” Our confidence rests not in our performance but in Jesus’s choice, and thus our poor performance cannot rob us of what Christ has won us. 

We’ll wrap up discussion by visiting what exactly can help us do this “abiding” thing, taking this from an ethereal theological nicety to a lived practicality. The second-to-last question about a recent struggle or hardship invites folks to consider what abiding looks like in the toughest times, while the last question about practices and community prompts us to think of what abiding looks like all the time. The goal here isn’t crushing it at living a Christian life. The goal is just not to wither, to stay joined to a source of life outside ourselves that can sustain us, in hopes that through Christ God will help us flourish in the producing of eternal fruit, that as we approach the end of our lives or Jesus’s return, whichever is first, we can have confidence not in ourselves but in him in whom we have hoped.

Questions for Discussion

• Could someone read 1 John 2:18-29 for us?

• What stood out to you from the passage?

• Verses 18-19 describe some folks who left the church as “anti-christs.” How does that show us the seriousness of what John is talking about?

• According to this passage, what does “abiding” in Jesus do for us?

• Could someone read John 15:1-11? 

• How does this passage help you think about your relationship with Jesus?

• How can abiding in him give you confidence when facing temptation or lies?

• Think of a struggle or hardship you faced recently—what does it look like to abide in Jesus in a moment like that?

• What are some practices or habits that help you abide in Jesus? What are some ways we can help each other abide in him?