Although John’s purpose in writing was not to correct believers, he did desire to warn them of the potential danger in accepting another doctrine contrary to the apostles’ teaching; in fact, John commends his readers for their interest in spiritual growth (2:12-14). However, realizing that even believers can be susceptible to false teaching, John writes these words, “Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist [future deceiver in the end times] is coming, even now many antichrists [false teachers, see also 2:22-23] have come, by which we know that it is the last hour” (2:18). False teaching has existed since the time of Satan’s deception of Eve in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-6). The devil has the ability to twist God’s words in order to make them sound right when, in reality, his words are deceptive. From the beginning, Satan has endeavored to deceive the faithful and he will employ whatever strategy necessary to bring confusion to the world. False teachers existed in John’s day and they will certainly exist until the end. John’s readers needed to be aware of this reality.
Sometimes false teaching is not so obvious because it begins with those previously connected to the church but have since departed. This is why John writes, “They [false teachers] went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us” (2:19). Their departure from the truth proved that they were never of the truth. As a challenge to stay faithful to the truth John writes, “Therefore let that [truth] abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that He has promised us–eternal life” (2:24-25).
With so many teachings in our world, believers should be careful about listening to and accepting anything which “sounds good.” Even Paul warned Timothy, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). In order to guard against believing a lie, we must know the truth and since God revealed the truth through His written word, the Bible, we must read, study, meditate upon, and practice those things. Anything contrary to the Bible must be rejected and exposed as error.
Dear God, help me to know You through reading Your word…so that I can recognize and obey truth while exposing that which is false.