Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Living Ethically in the Light of the Bible
John 11:38-44; 1 John 2:24-29; Job 11; Ezekiel 19-20
The anointing has been introduced in 1 John 2:20 as that which assures Christians that they know the truth. Its basis is that they have trusted Jesus and thereby received the Holy Spirit. Others were seeking to have John’s audience deny Jesus. Those false teachers were most likely Gnostics. They taught that only an inner circle had the true anointing. To join this elite required special knowledge, a deeper experience of some greater insight only available to a few. Jesus taught the opposite, that spiritual truths were revealed to children (Matthew 11:25). Paul emphasised that spiritual maturity was open to all people (Colossians 1:28). All Christians have been anointed and been given the Holy Spirit as a guarantee (2 Corinthians 1:21-22).
John elaborates here on this anointing and reaffirms that they have had this since the beginning – since they first became Christians. They do not need to acquire some special knowledge or have some deeper experience to be anointed. That is counterfeit teaching. Having received the Spirit, they are then able to discern true from false teaching.
Such discernment has two aspects. One is more objective in referring back to the received teachings. In John’s day, this meant the Old Testament, the growing body of New Testament documents, and the teachings provided by John and the other apostles who walked with Jesus. We today have the complete Bible with which to evaluate any teachings and claims we encounter. The second aspect is less tangible, but no less real. Jesus told the apostles that the Holy Spirit would guide them into the truth (John 16:13). John here states that the Holy Spirit continues to guide believers. Discernment is both an intellectual and a spiritual practice.
Ezekiel reminded his audience of a similar interplay between knowing God, Scripture, and discerning what is right. The elders of Israel came to ask for God’s guidance (Ezekiel 20:1). They are told they shouldn’t have bothered. We don’t know what their questions were; it seems not to matter as they had already shown they were not interested in his guidance. God had earlier given them many blessings, including his decrees and laws (v. 11). God provided clear guidance for their lives through Scripture. As we live according to God’s ways, we get to know God and know that his ways are good (v. 12). But if we turn our hearts away from him, we will soon be rejecting his ways (v. 16, 21). Continuing down this path leads to a place where we will no longer be able to inquire of the Lord (v. 31).
We may turn to God for guidance when faced with major ethical dilemmas. God can always choose to help, but he is more concerned about our on-going relationship with him. If we have turned our backs on him, we may not find any guidance in a crisis. Our hearts may be too cold to hear whatever he may have to say. But if we follow him in the little things in life, we are prepared to face the big challenges knowing that his ways are best.