But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.1 John 2:20-23
John tells us that the reason he writes these sorts of things is because of “those who are trying to lead you astray”(1 John 2:26). And when we read the above passage, we are reminded that there are many theologians and leaders in the church who are still trying to lead people astray with false teaching.
Here’s the reality: it is impossible to read the above passage the leave any room for universalism. Universalism says that people with all different religions and belief systems will ultimately be accepted by God the Father. It says God accepts all belief systems equally and so everyone will make to heaven to spend eternity with God.
But the only way to hold a universalistic understanding is to completely ignore this passage of scripture (and many others like it). One cannot believe in the Bible and be a universalist. You can pick one or the other but not both because the two are incompatible.
John is clear about what the truth is. The truth is that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ. To deny Jesus is to reject God. To deny the Son is to deny the Father. There is no equivocation here. John makes no attempt to soften his language or side-step this foundational truth. If you acknowledge Jesus for who He really is, then you have connection and intimacy with the Father. But if you deny that Jesus is who He says He is, then you are simultaneously denying the Father.
John confirms this truth by referencing the anointing of the Holy One, the Holy Spirit. It is the internal witness of the Spirit that confirms the truth of these statements. About the Holy Spirit John goes on to say, “As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things…”(1 John 2:27). The Holy Spirit is ultimately our teacher and our guide. He confirms the truth of God’s word in us. And the Holy Spirit never contradicts the word of God.
What is interesting to notice is that the same sections of the church that dabble in the falsehood of universalism have also created distance from themselves and the things of the Holy Spirit. When we stop listening to, engaging with, receiving gifts and power from the Holy Spirit, our teaching is sure to become more and more influenced by the corrupt thinking of the world.
By the time many seminarians finish seminary, they’ve been filled with false teachings and emptied of any intimacy with the Spirit. They start doubting the truth that they read in scripture and begin distancing themselves from the authority of the word of God. As someone who went to seminary, I saw this firsthand in my own life and I continue to watch it happen to others. No wonder the churches in American are shrinking and dying. We need to return to the boldness that John writes with, proclaiming the exclusivity of Jesus as the Christ and the only way to the Father!