Friday, 8 May 2020
By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, 1 John 4:2
John just noted that we are to “test the spirits” in order to determine if they are of God. One concrete test is now provided concerning this. That is evidenced by the words, “By this.” John will make a declaration that will confirm a truth. That truth is, “you know the Spirit of God.” If we are to test the spirits, we can be certain that in our testing of various precepts, one that meets the following criteria is from the Spirit of God. And that is, “Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God.”
The first thing to understand, then, is that any spirit which does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh cannot be of God. It is obvious on the surface. The Greek of the statement more literally reads, “Jesus Christ, having come in the flesh.” This is what the word “confesses” is referring to.
One of the significant points of this statement is that Jesus didn’t come “into the flesh,” as if there was a human who became the Christ at some point during his life. Rather, Jesus Christ came as a human, as is stated in John 1:14 – “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” It speaks of the incarnation where God united with humanity.
Next are the words “has come,” or more literally, “having come.” The verb is a perfect participle. We are not confessing a Christ who came, but is no longer the Christ. Rather, He came and abides in the flesh still. He is forever united to humanity – the God/Man. What occurred in His coming is a one-time and for-all-time event. And this coming is defined as “in the flesh.”
The thought takes us in two directions. He came, and He came “in the flesh.” It signifies that there was a point in the existence of Christ that He did not have flesh. Thus, it speaks of the deity of Christ as much as the humanity. He is fully God, but He also came (and abides) in the flesh. The second direction is that He truly bears flesh. It is not that He merely appeared to be human as Docetism claims. Rather, he is literally clothed in humanity.
Because of this state, he could – and did – fulfill all things according to the laws given to man, meaning the Law of Moses. He literally suffered as a human. He also literally died in fulfillment of the law and on behalf of others. This then is a confirmation of verse 3:16 which said that “He laid down His life for us.” This literally happened, in a real body, and it was a body that God had united with. This state in which Christ came was, therefore, fully sufficient to accomplish all things according to the order of men. This is what the author of Hebrews states –
“Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 16 For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. 17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” Hebrews 2:14-18
It is the confession that this is actually what occurred – God united with flesh and came and dwelt among us – that is the “of God.” This means the source of such a confession finds its source in God and it proceeds from Him. “To confess that Jesus the anointed is come in the flesh, is to confess that there is a medium of spiritual communications between the visible and the invisible world, between earth and heaven. It is to confess that there is one Mediator for all men” (Maurice).
Life application: One thing that we can be completely sure of is that if the Bible says something, then nothing will contradict what it says and still be of the Spirit of God. This is an important axiom to remember because churches and Christians ascribe a ton of things to the workings of the Holy Spirit which clearly can’t be such. Instead, they are the fanciful dreams of people – meant for good or for harm. A very good case in point is the speaking of tongues.
Paul gives very specific guidelines for the speaking of tongues in his letter to the Corinthians. This was under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and therefore, any “speaking of tongues” in a church that doesn’t adhere to those guidelines is only made up drama and not a working of the Spirit. Are the tongues translated? Are the tongues spoken one at a time? Do no more than three people speak in tongues during the service? If these three (and other) requirements – as a minimum – are not met, then it is not of the Holy Spirit – it was an invention of the person in an attempt to gain attention.
Likewise, when a pastor, teacher, etc. confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, then he has passed one of the basic tests necessary to be considered sound in his message. It isn’t the only test, but it is a necessary one.
“Confess” means to openly acknowledge this truth. Unless this is done, no confession has been made. The mode of the confession – when speaking of Christ’s manifestation – is “in flesh” with no article. Thus, it demonstrates the completeness of what occurred. And, as noted above, what John says is in the perfect tense (having come) and therefore indicates Jesus’ incarnation is permanent.
No one can speak truth about Jesus unless he confesses that Jesus Christ is God incarnate, that He is fully God and fully man, and that this incarnation is permanent. The permanence means He wasn’t resurrected in spirit only, but bodily. Likewise, this resurrected body is eternal in nature.
Listen carefully and make sure these points are acknowledged as truth.
Heavenly Father, may we never stray from the words of the Bible into things which are either sensational or detracting from its truth. Instead, give us wisdom in understanding Your word so that we will not be foolish in our worship or duped in our beliefs about the Person and work of Jesus the Lord. To Your glory we pray this! Amen.