Saturday, 9 May 2020
…and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. 1 John 4:3
John now returns to the concept of the Antichrist that he discussed in verses 2:18-22. In verse 2:22, he said, He is Antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. As explained, that was referring to the Father/Son relationship, meaning that Jesus Christ is born of God and thus He is fully God.
To deny the deity of Christ is Antichrist. John now confirms that, while continuing his thoughts concerning testing the spirits. He had just said that “Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God.” That speaks of the incarnation. To confess the incarnation of Jesus Christ is a spirit that is of God. Now he says, “and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God.”
A more literal translation of the first part of this verse would read, “And any spirit that not confesses Jesus Christ in the flesh has come, from God not is.” It is stated in a negative form, rather than a positive. John is drawing lines in the sand with his theology.
His use of “confess” is in the present tense and, as has been the case many times in this letter, is speaking of a person who does not actively and consistently follow through with an action. In this case, it is to confess that Jesus has come in the flesh. Sure, anyone can say Jesus is God incarnate to impress an audience, but he can also be speaking a complete lie. If he truly believes this is so, he will continue to confess it and live in such a manner that he believes it is really the case.
Another interesting point is that there is a definite article before “Jesus.” In essence, it says, “…does not confess that the Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.” Why would John do this? It is because there were, there are now, and there will continue to be, people who claim faith in Jesus, but it is not the same Jesus described in the Bible. They are proclaiming a “false Jesus.”
The words of John’s statement are obvious on the surface, but they needed to be said. A denial of the deity of Jesus, who is also fully human, is not of God. One must accept the incarnation, as it is presented in Scripture, or that person is not of God. A list of some of the heretical teachings found during the church age are Adoptionism, Docetism, Apollinarianism, Arianism, Nestorianism, Eutychianism (also known as Monophysitism), Monothelitism, Patripassianism, Psilanthropism, Sabellianism, and Tritheism. Each introduces a subtle change in what is considered orthodoxy, and eventually it will lead to a total breakdown in sound theology.
This list is not an all-inclusive list of heresies. Some of them affirm Jesus is human while not God. Some affirm He is God, but not human. Some divide His life up into being only human at times, and then endowed with deity at others. And so on. The main point of John’s words is that Jesus is God and He is human – fully and forever from the moment of His incarnation.
But even this can be misunderstood. Some say that Jesus was created in the womb of Mary, and then God united with this physical body. This is a heresy because it denies the actual human lineage of Jesus. It means God could have created a body for Jesus in any woman. The fact that He is born into a Jewish family is incidental to the story.
Rather, Jesus is of the lineage of Abraham, Israel, Judah, David, and so on because he was conceived – not created – in the womb of Mary. Rather than God creating a body, He prepared a body – meaning that He tended to the genealogy of Christ from the beginning of man’s time on earth. The genealogy was carefully and precisely aligned for Christ to be born at a specific moment, to a particular person, in the nation of Israel.
One can debate if some of the heresies mentioned above qualify for John’s definition concerning Antichrist or not, but they are heresies nonetheless. As he says, “And this is the spirit of the Antichrist.” The word “this” is pointing back to his already-penned words – “every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.”
Such a spirit is that of the Antichrist “which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.” The spirit had been warned about. John confirms that even at the earliest times within the church, there were already heretics who denied this fundamental truth. Instead of simply accepting the incarnation of Christ, as described by the Old Testament writings, and as confirmed by the apostles, the spirit of Antichrist blossomed, and it has continued to be expanded on by heretics who are of the Antichrist.
What John is saying here is not that any particular person is the Antichrist, but that this is the main point that characterizes the spirit of Antichrist. Someday, the Antichrist will come, and he will be one who espouses this doctrine, and who also fits the other prophecies which refer to him.
Life application: If you have studied Mormon theology, you will see that they believe something entirely different about Jesus than that of biblical Christianity. They profess a false Jesus – a Jesus which is of the spirit of the Antichrist. Islam denies that Jesus is God incarnate and is therefore of the spirit of the Antichrist. This is the test John lays out so clearly.
Either one teaches that Jesus Christ is fully God, clothed in human flesh, or he is under the control of the spirit of the Antichrist. Be attentive to this – John could not have been any clearer in his presentation. We are expected to believe this as a fundamental truth of our faith. To deny Jesus as coming in the flesh means one has never called on the Jesus of the Bible and therefore his condemnation remains.
Heavenly Father, though we may struggle with the concept of the incarnation, we accept it as truth because this is what Your word proclaims. Jesus is fully God and yet fully Man – Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. Thank You for sending Jesus to reveal You to us in a way in which we can comprehend. What a wonderfully magnificent Creator You are to do what You have done! Amen.