Why Does 1 John 2:23 Say We Cannot Deny the Son or the Father?
“Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23).
I am sure that most of us have heard the old phrase, “Big things come in small packages,” which in essence means that more often than not, the things that we value the most and find of the highest quality are small. And with the particular verse referenced above in mind, this expression finds a resting place. This is because we should always be careful not to assign this verse, and others like it, to a place of indifference in our hearts and minds because of its concise structure, or our inability to comprehend it. In fact, no Scripture should be looked at in this way. But it is quite possible to pass over such a verse, but doing this would cause us to miss the various aspects and angles that it powerfully presents to us, which are both practical and theological in its implications.
Honor Both God and Jesus
On the surface, and taken on its own, this verse seems to be a simple statement letting us know that if one denies or rejects Christ, they are at the same time rejecting God — which is absolutely true — but it is so much more than that.
Many in the world claim to know and have a certain respect or honor for God, or at least their understanding of who God is, but do not hold that very same honor for Christ; this verse states that this is impossible. God forbid that we who are in Christ should ever make such an error. We do well to make sure that the truth that John relates here remains indelibly stamped in on our own hearts. We should never come to the conclusion that the very same honor that we ascribe to our God is not the very same honor we ascribe to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, for we read the apostle Paul’s words to Titus:
“But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:4-7, emphasis added.)
God and Jesus Are Unified
Do we have two Saviors? No. Throughout His ministry on earth, Jesus made it absolutely clear, that you can’t have one without the other:
“’If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.’ Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:7-9).
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me” (John 13:20).
What these verses and so many others convey is the powerful truth of the unity that exists between the Father and the Son. Our opening verse in particular not only affirms their unity and identity, but it also affirms their distinctiveness.
When questioned by none other than the Pharisees, who were always seeking to find fault in Him, as to where His Father was, Jesus responded as only He could:
“Then they said to Him, ‘Where is Your Father?’ Jesus answered, ‘You know neither Me nor My Father. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also’” (John 8:19).
The Antichrist Spirit
Pertaining once again to 1 John 2:23, we must keep in mind that it comes on the back end of John giving warning and instruction concerning those who were in the church, but who through their actions and beliefs had proven that they were never really a part of the church:
“They 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” (1 John 2:19).
The Holy Spirit through John, labels these individuals as “antichrists,” and defines them in the verse that precedes ours:
“Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22).
John makes it absolutely clear that those who refuse to accept the obvious unity that exists between the Father and the Son – the unity that Scripture reveals – is not only misguided and deceived, but they have given heed to a diabolical point of view. It is an antichrist spirit which seeks to oppose, separate, and replace the true Christ with another.
But let’s make this clear: operating under such a mindset does not mean that one is possessed; but they have allowed themselves to be taken by seducing spirits and doctrines of devils. Deception is deception. But deception concerning Christ, who is the very foundation of Scripture, can send you off in several wrong directions doctrinally. One noted Bible teacher put it this way, “If you get Jesus wrong, it doesn’t matter what you get right.”
The Spirit of Truth
John also tells us in these verses what is true of every blood-bought child of God:
“But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth” (1 John 2:20-21).
This anointing is none other than the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of truth. He will always aid, guide, teach, and confirm the Word of God in your life, and will continually draw you close to Christ. As this happens, you will never give ear to the false teacher who may be operating under an antichrist spirit because you know the truth, and because the Holy Spirit has revealed and made it real to you.
I will close with a series of verses that will help us to see the importance of allowing the Holy Spirit to guide us in matters of faith and doctrine. Unless we do this, confusion can set in, and the Enemy will then seek to wreak havoc in your mind — but your anchor must hold.
“You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (1 John 4:4-6 ).
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26).
As complex as these truths may be to some, we must bear in mind the nature of our God. His ways and thoughts are far above those of our own. And while our corrupt and mortal minds are sometimes unable to fully grasp spiritual truth to the fullest extent, it is yet our heart, our spirit, and our soul – aided by His Spirit that dwells within us – that causes us to fully embrace by faith the glorious truths which He has revealed to us through His Word. Our God is truly awesome!
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Michael Jakes is a Bible teacher, and co-founder of That’s The Word! Ministries, a distinctly online Cross-centered outreach. He hosts several live weekly webcasts, including 'The Bible Speaks Live', 'The Cutting It Right Bible Study', and the 'Line By Line Webcast'. He has also authored three books, The Lights In The Windows, Churchified Or Sanctified?, and Living In Between Sundays. He and his wife Eddye have been married for over 40 years, and reside in New York. You can follow him on Facebook and Youtube , or listen to his podcasts on Spreaker.