on 1-john 2 :20
But ye have an unction - The word χρισμα signifies not an unction, but an ointment, the very thing itself by which anointing is effected; and so it was properly rendered in our former translations. Probably this is an allusion to the holy anointing oil of the law, and to Psalm 14:7 : God hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness - he hath given thee the plenitude of the Spirit, which none of thy fellows - none of the prophets, ever received in such abundance. By this it is evident that not only the gifts of the Spirit, but the Holy Spirit himself, is intended. This Spirit dwelt at that time in a peculiar manner in the Church, to teach apostles, teachers, and all the primitive believers, every thing requisite for their salvation; and to make them the instruments of handing down to posterity that glorious system of truth which is contained in the New Testament. As oil was used among the Asiatics for the inauguration of persons into important offices, and this oil was acknowledged to be an emblem of the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, without which the duties of those offices could not be discharged; so it is put here for the Spirit himself, who presided in the Church, and from which all gifts and graces flowed. The χρισμα, chrism or ointment here mentioned is also an allusion to the holy anointing ointment prescribed by God himself, Exodus 30:23-25, which was composed of fine myrrh, sweet cinnamon, sweet calamus, cassia lignea, and olive oil. This was an emblem of the gifts and graces of the Divine Spirit. See the notes on Exodus 30:23-25 (note). And for the reason of this anointing see the note on Exodus 29:7.
Ye know all things - Every truth Of God necessary to your salvation and the salvation of man in general, and have no need of that knowledge of which the Gnostics boast.
But although the above is the sense in which this verse is generally understood, yet there is reason to doubt its accuracy. The adjective παντα, which we translate all things, is most probably in the accusative case singular, having ανθρωπον, man, or some such substantive, understood. The verse therefore should be translated: Ye have an ointment from the Holy One, and ye know or discern Every Man. This interpretation appears to be confirmed by των πλανωντων in 1 John 2:26, those who are deceiving or misleading you; and in the same sense should παντων, 1 John 2:27, be understood: But as the same anointing teacheth you παντων, not of all things, but of All Men. It is plain, from the whole tenor of the epistle, that St. John is guarding the Christians against seducers and deceivers, who were even then disturbing and striving to corrupt the Church. In consequence of this he desires them to try the spirits whether they were of God, 1 John 4:1. But how were they to try them? Principally by that anointing - that spiritual light and discernment which they had received from God; and also by comparing the doctrine of these men with what they had heard from the beginning. The anointing here mentioned seems to mean the spirit of illumination, or great knowledge and discernment in spiritual things. By this they could readily distinguish the false apostles from the true.
on 1-john 2 :20
But ye have an unction from the Holy One - The apostle in this verse evidently intends to say that he had no apprehension in regard to those to whom he wrote that they would thus apostatize, and bring dishonor on their religion. They had been so anointed by the Holy Spirit that they understood the true nature of religion, and it might be confidently expected that they would persevere. The word "unction" or "anointing" (χρίσμα chrisma) means, properly, "something rubbed in or ointed;" oil for anointing, "ointment;" then it means an anointing. The allusion is to the anointing of kings and priests, or their inauguration or coronation, (1 Samuel 10:1; 1 Samuel 16:13; Exodus 28:41; Exodus 40:15; compare the notes at Matthew 1:1); and the idea seems to have been that the oil thus used was emblematic of the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit as qualifying them for the discharge of the duties of their office. Christians, in the New Testament, are described as "kings and priests," Revelation 1:6; Revelation 5:10, and as a "royal priesthood" 1 Peter 2:5, 1 Peter 2:9; and hence they are represented as "anointed," or as endowed with those graces of the Spirit, of which anointing was the emblem. The phrase "the Holy One" refers here, doubtless, to the Holy Spirit, that Spirit whose influences are imparted to the people of God, to enlighten, to sanctify, and to comfort them in their trials. The particular reference here is to the influences of that Spirit as giving them clear and just views of the nature of religion, and thus securing them from error and apostasy.
And ye know all things - That is, all things which it is essential that you should know on the subject of religion. See the John 16:13 note; 1 Corinthians 2:15 note. The meaning cannot be that they knew all things pertaining to history, to science, to literature, and to the arts; but that, under the influences of the Holy Spirit, they had been made so thoroughly acquainted with the truths and duties of the Christian religion, that they might be regarded as safe from the danger or fatal error. The same may be said of all true Christians now, that they are so taught by the Spirit of God, that they have a practical acquaintance with what religion is, and with what it requires, and are secure from falling into fatal error. In regard to the general meaning of this verse, then, it may he observed:
I. That it does not mean any one of the following things:
(1) That Christians are literally instructed by the Holy Spirit in all things, or that they literally understand all subjects. The teaching, whatever it may be, refers only to religion.
(2) it is not meant that any new faculties of mind are conferred on them, or any increased intellectual endowments, by their religion. It is not a fact that Christians, as such, are superior in mental endowments to others; nor that by their religion they have any mental traits which they had not before their conversion. Paul, Peter, and John had essentially the same mental characteristics after their conversion which they had before; and the same is true of all Christians.
(3) it is not meant that any new truth is revealed to the mind by the Holy Spirit. All the truth that is brought before the mind of the Christian is to be found in the Word of God, and "revelation," as such, was completed when the Bible was finished.
(4) it is not meant that anything is perceived by Christians which they had not the natural faculty for perceiving before their conversion, or which other people have not also the natural faculty for perceiving. The difficulty with people is not a defect of natural faculties, it is in the blindness of the heart.
II. The statement here made by John "does" imply, it is supposed, the following things:
(1) That the minds of Christians are so enlightened that they have a new perception of the truth. They see it in a light in which they did not before. They see it as truth. They see its beauty, its force, its adapted less to their condition and wants. They understand the subject of religion better than they once did, and better than others do. What was once dark appears now plain; what once had no beauty to their minds now appears beautiful; what was once repellant is now attractive.
(2) they see this to be true; that is, they see it in such a light that they cannot doubt that it is true. They have such views of the doctrines of religion, that they have no doubt that they are true, and are willing on the belief of their truth to lay down their lives, and stake their eternal interests.
(3) their knowledge of truth is enlarged. They become acquainted with more truths than they would have known if they had not been under the teaching of the Holy Spirit. Their range of thought is greater; their vision more extended, as well as more clear.
III. The evidence that this is so is found in the following things:
(1) The express statements of Scripture. See 1 Corinthians 2:14-15, and the notes at that passage. Compare John 16:13-14.
(2) it is a matter of fact that it is so.
on 1-john 2 :20
2:20 But ye have an anointing - A chrism; perhaps so termed in opposition to the name of antichrist; an inward teaching from the Holy Ghost, whereby ye know all things - Necessary for your preservation from these seducers, and for your eternal salvation. St. John here but just touches upon the Holy Ghost, of whom he speaks more largely, 1Jo 3:24; 4:13; 5:6.