“Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist—he denies the Father and the Son.” — 1 John 2:22
Who is this child whose birth we celebrate this month? Who is Jesus Christ? It is evident that the names Jesus and Christ have somehow become fused together in our thinking today. We have become so familiar with placing these two names together that we may think that Jesus is the first name of the one born in Nazareth so long ago, and Christ is his last name. The word Christ, however, is not a name. It is a title. It is a Greek word that means the same as the Hebrew word Messiah. Both of those words translated into the English mean “the Anointed.”
So the word Christ does not refer to the last name of the child born in Bethlehem. Instead, it refers to the work that the child was to accomplish while he was here on earth. John used the name Christ in reference to the office that Jesus fulfilled. Jesus is the Anointed One, the Christ.
Anointed for Work
We read about the anointed servant of Jehovah in Isaiah 61. The one sent by God declares “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me” (v.1). In Isaiah, the One anointed has received the anointing in order to do a specific work:
The Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound, To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. —Isaiah 61:1–2
When Jesus began his ministry, he went to the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth and quoted from this very familiar passage. How well the Israelites knew this part of Isaiah. It told of the coming of a great and powerful Messiah, the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem, and a new kingdom of Israel with a new king who would be a great warrior like David and have the wisdom of Solomon. Isaiah 61 was a great prophecy that told of Israel once more being the exceptional nation she once had been.
After quoting only the portion that deals with the anointing, Jesus rolls up the scroll and says, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). Jesus was declaring at the beginning of His ministry that Jehovah, the almighty God, had anointed Him to proclaim the gospel. Jesus of Nazareth was announcing himself as the one God anointed to give release to the captives and to bind up the brokenhearted. This was his appointed work.
This passage makes clear that the baby named Jesus, born to Mary in a stable in Bethlehem, is the long-ago prophesied-about Anointed One. He is the one whom Isaiah saw 725 years before the angels sang over Bethlehem’s hillside and before the star directed the wise men to come and adore him.
Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ—the Anointed One. He is named Jesus because, as the angel announced to Joseph, “He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). That was to be the work of the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One. He would save His people from their sins.
The great heart of the Christian proclamation is that Jesus, the baby human born in Bethlehem who grew up and lived in Nazareth, who walked among the multitudes, spoke the Sermon on the Mount, performed miracles, and told parables is the long-awaited Christ—the Messiah.
In John 4, after Jesus talks with a Samaritan woman, she says, “I know that Messiah is coming (who is called Christ). When He comes, He will tell us all things.” Jesus responds to her: “I who speak to you am He” (vv. 25–26). Again, Jesus declared, “I am the long-awaited Christ.” He declared Himself to be the Anointed One, the Christ.
Jesus is the prophet, priest, and king sent by God to save his people from their sins. Jesus spoke the word of God as a prophet. He gave instruction for the way of salvation, saying, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
Anointed as God’s priest, Jesus is able to cleanse you from all your sin because he has made the once-for-all sacrifice for your sin upon the cross of Calvary. Anointed as king, he is to rule in your life. He was anointed to defend you in the battle against your greatest enemy, Satan.
The devil hates this truth more than anything else: Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ—your prophet, priest, and king who reconciles you to the Most High God. The devil is constantly exerting every wicked scheme, every evil strategy, every clever ruse he can come up with to distort this basic truth of the Christian message. The Christian church’s history demonstrates how the devil has tried to distort the fundamental truth of the gospel by twisting it so that it appears to be something else.
John addressed one of the early forms of this lie in his epistle as well as in the gospel he wrote. It was the teaching that Jesus was but a mere man upon whom the anointing came. The claim was that Jesus of Nazareth became the Anointed One when the “Christ-Spirit” descended upon him at his baptism.
Somehow the “Christ-Spirit” descended upon an ordinary man and enabled him to do all kinds of miracles, have great spiritual insight, and speak great and wonderful parables and sermons. But he was still just an ordinary man. Proponents of this idea went on to argue that this same spirit that entered Jesus at baptism left him at the cross so that Jesus—the man—died. Jesus was buried as Jesus the man, no longer the Christ.
Our goal in life, under this false teaching, is that we are to come into contact with this Christ-Spirit who is available to us all. We really have nothing to do, then, with the historical Jesus but instead seek the Christ-Spirit.
That was only one of the heresies being taught in John’s day that he writes against. It is one of the heresies that is still with us today as Satan tries to lure us away from the importance of the incarnation—the Son of God coming to earth for the salvation of God’s people. John says very simply, “That’s a lie!” According to such teaching, Jesus is not the Christ anticipated by the prophets; he only possessed the Christ. Put in modern-day terms, “The force was with him.”
This teaching denies completely the incarnation. The conception by the Holy Spirit, the virgin birth, and the resurrection are of no concern whatsoever. It denies our need for one to save us who is very God of very God. It denies what John tells us in his gospel: that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).
Those who hold these false views teach that all these stories are just myths, incredible ornaments that have been added to the life of Jesus to make the story more attractive and to make a superstitious culture of years ago believe that Jesus was some type of supernatural being. Jesus was but a natural human being like you and me. John says, “That is a lie.” It is a teaching that is brought to you by the father of all lies.
Why is that so important? Why must we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed One? John explains it in one very simple verse: “Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist—he denies the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22).
To deny Jesus as the Christ is to deny something far greater. To deny Jesus as the one anointed by the Father, sent by him to save his people from their sins, anointed to preach good news to the poor and to set the prisoner free is to deny the Father and the Son. It is to deny the relationship that they have with each other. Such a denial opens the door to all kinds of heresy and twisting of the truth.
First, the significance of the anointing means the Father sent the Son. To deny this truth can bring about the view that the First Person of the Trinity is a terribly angry God filled with wrath ready to destroy this creation and that the Second Person of the Trinity came to appease that wrath. This false teaching claims that God the Son came on his own initiative instead of being sent by that hating, angry Jehovah of the Old Testament.
Anytime time this teaching rears its ugly head, you are to remember these words: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16). That does not sound like a hating God, does it? John reminds us, very early in his gospel, that the First Person of the Trinity sent his Son into this world to die for our sins.
The salvation of the human race was not something thought up by the Second Person of the Trinity. He didn’t just sneak out of the house, as it were, and ransom his own life in order to please the Father and make him happy with us. No, the Lord God anointed him to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord. The Father anointed him to set us free from the prison of sin that we find ourselves in. The Father anointed him to open our once blind eyes to the way of salvation that his Christ has provided for us through his death on the cross. Through the Anointed One we are set free, not from the tyranny of the Father but from the tyranny of the devil.
Second, Jesus is the Anointed One. This certainly goes against the claims that there is more than one way to salvation. How often this misconception is being proclaimed today—even within some Reformed circles! No, it is not a “misconception,” but, as John would put it—how this lie is being proclaimed today. It is the lie of the antichrist to say that there is a way to God’s throne other than Jesus the Christ. Jesus is the way anointed, appointed, and declared by the Father to be the way unto salvation. Who else did God the Father anoint? No one!
Third, Jesus has already accomplished the task. How do you know about the love of God? That is not something that we can come up with on our own. It is not something you will find expressed in general revelation. Certainly, a person can see God’s wisdom and power in creation. Analyze the structure of anything in this creation, and you will be amazed at the absolute incredible wisdom of the God who has put it all together. More and more scientists are becoming aware that this creation is too fantastic, too structured, too grand and great to just have evolved that way.
But where can you find the love of God? Will you find it by looking through the microscope or the telescope? How big is it? How small is it? How can you know?
It is through him who is the Christ. As prophet, He has proclaimed it to you. As priest, He has demonstrated it to you through his sacrifice. He has accomplished salvation for you through his death and resurrection. As king, he has defeated Satan. Do you want to know how great the love of God is? Look to Jesus. Look to the one God sent to Bethlehem so many years ago. Look to the cross. Look to the work that child in the manger accomplished at Golgotha. He has fulfilled the work that he was anointed to accomplish.
When a person denies that Jesus is the Christ who was anointed by God to save him from his sin, he shuts himself off from the possibility of ever knowing the love of God the Father. He cannot experience it because he has rejected the fundamental truth that Jesus is the Christ. That is exactly why the devil so vehemently attacks the truth that Jesus is the Messiah sent from God.
The devil does not care if you believe in a historical Jesus. He does not care if you acknowledge that Jesus died on the cross. He really does not care what you think about Jesus, as long as you do not acknowledge him as the Christ—your Christ, anointed by the Father to save you from your sin and bring you back into the Father’s love where you will have fellowship with Him. Only with Jesus as your Christ can your joy be complete.
The devil is no playful little kitten that may leave a scratch on you every now and then. He is a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. He goes right for the jugular vein. Those devilish, diabolical heresies that appear over and over throughout history have only one goal in mind, and that is to destroy the very heart of the Christian message.
These are not trivialities or insignificant differences. These are brought upon the church as a deliberate attack to get you out of the church of Jesus Christ, to get you to relax in the warfare, and to get you to deny that Jesus is the Christ.
Satan does not want you to have fellowship with the Father. That was John’s whole purpose in writing this epistle—so that you can have fellowship with the Father ( see 1 John 1:3–4). That comes only through the One God has anointed to restore you into his fellowship. That is what the Second Person of the Holy Trinity was anointed to do. That is why he came into the world so many years ago. That is why we celebrate His coming on Christmas day. To Him be all glory and praise!
Rev. Wybren Oord is the co-pastor of Trinity United Reformed Church in Lethbridge, AB, and the editor of The Outlook.