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God's Anointed Flock

Commentary on 1 John 2: 20

However, what most interests John is not those whom he calls antichrists, but the flock that has remained, whom he seeks to protect from the allure¬ment of the antichrists. The beginning of verse 20 sets the contrast quite clearly: in verse 19, the repeated subject of every sentence is “they”—they went, they did not belong to us, if they had belonged, they would have re¬mained, they made it plain, none of them—and then verse 20 opens with “but you.”

These people whom John calls “you” have something special: they “have been anointed by the Holy One,” and they “have knowledge.” There is much debate about the exact meaning of this anointment, or who is “the Holy One.” Yet there is no doubt that John has chosen the word “anointed” quite purposefully. What the Greek says is literally “you have the anointment,” and the word for “anointment” is chrisma, which is the same root from which Jesus is called the Christ, the Anointed. Thus, John is speaking of antichrists and reminding Christians that they have received the chrisma, for which reason they belong to Christ, and not to the antichrists. Their power to resist the antichrists is in the chrisma they have received. Using the imagery of baptism as engraft¬ing, one could say that, since these “antichrists” were baptized, their grafts did not take.

Being chrismated or anointed was a very significant act in the ancient world, and particularly in the biblical tradition. Prophets and kings were anointed. Items devoted to the sacred service of God were anointed. Thus, having received the chrisma John’s audience would know that they had been set apart for sacred service, and that they were a priestly people—something that had been promised to Israel of old (Ex. 19:6), and that the New Testament now declares to be true of believers in Christ (1 Peter 2:9; Rev. 1:6; 5:10).


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