Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tuesday Text

I used to read this and be slightly troubled: “I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you” (1 John 2:26, 27). What, John? How terribly uninformed of you. Surely you’re familiar with this: “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-14). Hmph. No need of anyone to teach us, indeed.

My former, mild hmph-ing illustrates the need to grasp basic principles for interpreting Scripture, one of the primary ones being, of course, that Scripture interprets itself. Put another way, passages like that one in 1 John, passages that may seem confusing, are interpreted in light of very clear passages that speak to the same issue. Specifically, such New Testament thoughts as John's above often need the knowledge of pertinent Old Testament thought in order to be understood correctly. There is a very simple reason for that: New Testament writers are writing in light of Old Testament truth that they are intimately familiar with. They now understood what the Old Testament had been talking about all along, and so their writing often refers back to that older revelation. John's statement goes back to the prophet Jeremiah.

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

Thus, John and Jeremiah are both talking about the same thing--the power of the new covenant, of the new birth--by which the true knowledge of God is birthed in the heart of forgiven sinners. John’s language for this gracious act of God is "the anointing that you received from him abides in you." Jeremiah’s language is "I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts." Jeremiah’s vision of a future surety, the true knowledge of God, has become a reality for John and for those Jew and Gentile believers to whom he is writing. This kind of knowledge of God could never be taught; it is a gift of revelation from above. It will come to its full culmination in the new kingdom, when we behold him face to face ("And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God'" [Revelation 21:3; compare with Jeremiah 31:33] ).

(P.S.--I won’t even mention the terrible misuse and abuse the biblical meaning of “anointing” has received at the hands of the pseudo-“charismatics” and such. Sigh. That word, too, is rooted in Old Testament realities that inform New Testament usage, and a responsible study of it would go a long way toward correcting the silly statements about this and that speaker you hear tossed around.)

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