Spiritual Betrayal

Title: Spiritual Betrayal

Bible Book: 1 John 2 : 18-27

Author: Gil McKee

Subject: Betrayal, Spiritual



Have you ever been betrayed? Maybe it was a friend that betrayed you by failing to keep a confidence or by turning their back on you at a time when you needed them the most. Maybe your husband or your wife betrayed your trust in some way. Maybe it was a coworker that betrayed you by using unethical means to get that promotion you deserved or procured a new client that you had cultivated. Maybe it was a mentor or someone you had looked up to for a long time that betrayed you by behaving in a manner that completely contradicted everything they had stood for or valued in life.

Regardless of who was responsible, betrayal is something that really hurts. In fact, few things in life bring any more emotional pain, frustration, and anger than betrayal. And no one is immune. Even Jesus knew what it was to be betrayed.

The most famous betrayer of Jesus was a man named Judas Iscariot. Judas was one of Jesus’ twelve closest disciples. For three years he traveled with Christ and played the part of being a genuine follower of Christ; but in the end he betrayed Jesus! He turned his back on Him and rather than live and work FOR Christ he decided to live and work AGAINST Christ.

It is that kind of spiritual betrayal that John has on his mind as he continues his first epistle. John uses an interesting word in verse eighteen to describe spiritual betrayal or a person who decides to stand against Christ instead of for Him. He uses the word, antichrist. It simply refers to anyone who opposes Christ or seeks to replace Christ or falsely represent Christ. Read verse 18.

The last hour is also referred to in the Bible as the last days. It is a term that simply refers to the present age in which we live – an age that began when Jesus came the first time and will end when He comes the second time to usher in His millennial kingdom here on earth.

You will remember from our study of the Book of Revelation that prior to the Lord’s second coming, there will be a seven-year period called the Tribulation. And during that tribulation period a man will emerge as the ultimate Antichrist. That is who John is referring to here in verse eighteen when he says, “And as you have heard, ‘Antichrist (singular) is coming…’”

But then John adds another interesting phrase. He says, “Even now many antichrists (plural) have come.” In other words, when John wrote this epistle there had already been many people that opposed Christ or claimed to be Christ or sought to replace Christ. And obviously, there have been many others since John’s time until today.

But the most disturbing thing about this subject is that John goes on to indicate that some of those people even find their way into the Church. Like Judas Iscariot, there are those who seem to be genuine followers of Christ that in the end turn out to be antichrists.

Jesus warned us that this would be the case when he told the parable of the wheat and tares. You remember that a man planted his field with wheat but in the night an enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat. And when the wheat began to sprout so did the weeds. And the workers of the field went to the owner and said, “An enemy has sown weeds in the wheat. Do you want us to pull the weeds out of the wheat?”

But he said, "No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.’” Matthew 13:29-30 (NASU)

The point of that story is that there will always be Judas’ among us. There will always be antichrists among us. There will always be betrayers among us who seem to be followers of Christ but in the end will be revealed for who they truly are.

Have you ever known someone like that? Have you ever known someone who seemed to be a follower of Christ but betrayed Him? If you have then you have probably observed one or more of the following characteristics in their life. John mentions three things that spiritual betrayers do. First…

I. Spiritual Betrayers Desert the Church. (19)

Read verse 19.

You ought to highlight the word remain. It is a key word in understanding what John is saying in this passage. In fact, he uses this verb six times in the verses we are looking at this morning. The word literally means, “to abide, to continue, to persevere and persist.”

In other words, John is simply saying that those people who truly know Jesus Christ as their Savior are those who remain with Christ and the Christian community called the church. That’s what Jesus meant when He said that those who persevere to the end will be saved. But people who desert the church and become opposed to Christ and His Church are people who never truly knew Him in the first place.

So how does that happen? How do people desert the church? Well, they do it in different ways. For example, sometimes…

B. People desert the church physically.

These are the people who at one time were present and active in the church but who have now deserted the church and gone their own way. Some of those are people who may have even been on fire for the Lord for a year or two but then drop out somewhere along the way and are never seen again.

We’ve talked about this before but our church membership roll is full of deserters. Their names may still be on our roll but they haven’t been to church in years. They walked the aisle and many of them were even baptized but somewhere along the way they went AWOL and have never been seen again.

According to what the Bible says here in First John, although it might not be the case for all of them, many of them are people who acted like they were part of God’s family and hung out with God’s family but in reality were never truly part of God’s family because if they had been part of God’s family they would not have deserted God’s family.

Not only that but sometimes…

B. People desert the church morally.

People not only desert the church physically but sometimes people desert the church morally. Do you realize it’s possible to be physically present in the church and yet still be as morally and spiritually lost as you can be?

Let me ask you something this morning. How is it possible for a person who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ to consistently embrace, support, or practice moral and ethical principles that stand in direct opposition to the moral and ethical principles of the Word of God? For example, how can a person who claims to follow Christ support the practice and legislation of abortion on demand? How can a person who claims to follow Christ vote for politicians who support abortion on demand?

Or how about a person who claims to be a follower of Christ but seems to have no problem whatsoever telling a lie or being deceitful in some way if it benefits them or keeps them out of trouble?

Or what about the person who claims to be a follower of Christ but consistently lives a promiscuous or sexually immoral lifestyle?

These are just a few examples of moral issues but I think you get the point. If your moral standards and practices seem to always contradict the Word of God then you may be a person who has morally deserted the Lord and His Church.

And then sometimes…

C. People desert the church doctrinally.

In verse nine of John’s second epistle he says this: “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.” 2 John 9 (NKJV)

What does that mean? That simply means that whoever does not remain faithful to the teachings of Christ as revealed in the Word of God is not saved. And what does the Word of God teach us about Christ? Well, John 14:6 says that He is the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to the Father except by Him. (Reinsert sub-point c.)

Unfortunately, there are many people in our day that are deserting the church doctrinally because they have bought into the lies and deception of the world that Jesus is just one of the ways a person can be saved but He is not the only way. Friend, listen; when you have a genuine relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ then you will have no problem believing what the Bible says about Him. He’s not a way or one way. He is the ONLY way!

Which leads us to a second thing spiritual betrayers do: Spiritual betrayers not only desert the church but…

II. Spiritual Betrayers Deny the Christ. (20-23)

Read verses 20-23.

One of the things in John’s day that seemed to be an issue for a lot of people and continues to be an issue for many people in our day is the matter of who Jesus Christ truly was. Was he really the God-Man, 100% God and 100% man or was He just a man? Unfortunately, many in John’s day and many in our day as well don’t have a problem believing that the man Jesus Christ of Nazareth actually lived and even had a ministry here on earth representing God. But when it comes to believing that He was in fact God in the flesh that is where many go their own way.

And yet, that is exactly Who the Bible says Jesus was. The first verse of the first chapter of the gospel of John says that Jesus was in the beginning with God and He WAS God. Verse fourteen says that He became flesh and dwelt among us. In other words, Jesus was God incarnate who came to live among us and show us the glory of God Himself. Verse twenty-nine says that Jesus was the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world. And verse forty-one says that Jesus was the anointed Messiah of God.

Please listen to me this morning. A right view of Jesus Christ is essential for saving faith; and no one can be saved who rejects the biblical revelation about Jesus Christ. In fact, any denial or distortion of the biblical view of Jesus Christ is the spirit of antichrist. And it is the mark of a person who has denied the Christ.


III. Spiritual Betrayers try to Deceive the Christians. (24-26)

Read verses 24-26.

There are two things here I want to show you before we close. First, notice in verse twenty-six that John refers to those who are trying to deceive you. Those who stand opposed to Christ are people who do not try to lead others TO Him but AWAY from Him. And their main targets are not those who have not made a commitment to Christ but those who say they have.

According to what John says back in verse nineteen spiritual betrayers do not come from without but from within the church. In fact, many of the cults of our day are filled with people who were once on the inside of the church of Jesus Christ. For example, Charles Russell, the founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, came from within the Presbyterian Church. Joseph Smith, the founder of the Morman Church, was disillusioned with all churches and so he began his own. Marshall Applewhite, the founder of the Heaven’s Gate Cult, was the son of a Presbyterian minister. In John’s words, all three of those men went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us.

Second, you will remember a few minutes ago that I told you to highlight the word translated remain because it is a key to this passage. Thus far John has used tenses of that word to simply describe a person. Here in verse twenty-four, however, he changes the tense of the word to an imperative. In other words, now he is commanding us to remain in what we have heard from the beginning; and to let what we have heard from the beginning remain in us so we won’t be deceived and become a spiritual betrayer.

How do you do that? How do you avoid being deceived into becoming a spiritual betrayer of Christ? By remaining! By abiding! By staying! And John mentions three things in our text in which we are to stay. First…

A. Stay in the church.

Some people say that it doesn’t matter what church you go to or if you even go to church at all. But it does matter. If you want to avoid being deceived and becoming a spiritual betrayer you better stay in a Christ-centered, Bible-preaching church. If the church you’re attending doesn’t present Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation and doesn’t preach the Word of God then you better find one that does.

That leads us to a second thing…

B. Stay in the Word.

Stay in the Word of God and let the Word of God stay in you! Listen to what Paul told the Christians in Thessalonica: “For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.” 1 Thessalonians 2:13 (NASU)

You know, there are people out there today, even people in some churches, who say that the Bible is nothing more than the words of men. If you want to avoid being deceived and becoming a spiritual betrayer then accept the Word of God for what it really is – not the word of men but the word of God! And when you do the Word will do its work in you!


C. Stay in the Spirit.

Read verse 27.

The anointing John is referring to here is nothing other than the Holy Spirit of God. Jesus affirmed this when he said: “When the Holy Spirit, who is truth, comes, he shall guide you into all truth, for he will not be presenting his own ideas, but will be passing on to you what he has heard…He shall praise me and bring me great honor by showing you my glory.” John 16:13-15 (TLB) That is exactly what John is saying here in versed twenty-seven when he says that His anointing teaches you about all things.

Not only that but look at what the Bible says in 2 Corinthians: “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 (NIV)

According to that verse, when we’re saved we’re anointed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. And it is His work of truth in us that guides us and leads us and protects us from being deceived and becoming a spiritual betrayer.

So here is what John is saying to those of us who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ today: if you want avoid becoming a spiritual betrayer then stay in the church, stay in the Word, and stay in the Spirit.

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