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Interpretation of 1 John 4:1-3

Submitted: 6/21/2005
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Question: I was recently asked this question to which I am currently formulating a response. I was interested in your input. The questions is: 1 John 4:1-3 declares, 'Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God...' There are an abundance of denominational movements that are considered 'Christian,' however, each have different perspectives regarding how to be saved. How does John's test, in this text, expose who is of God and who is not? If all Christian movements similarly declare Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, then WHO is of God even when they differ in their understandings of obtaining salvation? I don't know if I'm making the question clear. Please advise.

Answer: In his first epistle, John is writing to counter the claims of those who were saying that Jesus was not a real human being, but only appeared to be (decetism). The statement 'Jesus Christ has come in the flesh' means that the Son of God was an actual and authentic human being (i.e. real flesh). John belief that the Son's deity was the Father must be assumed (e.g. John 10:31; 14:9). That was not the issue He was adressing.

Some groups claim to believe that Jesus was human but actually do not, because they do not believe that Jesus Christ has an actual connection to the human race. This includes all Docetists and Divine Flesh believers.

The issue of the true humanity of Jesus Christ has been an issue among many so-called Christians since the beginning. Paul wrote of those who preach 'another Jesus' (2 Corinthians 11:3). Some accept that Jesus was a man but deny that He was God manifested in the flesh. That is, they do not believe that the deity of the Son was the Father Himself. Some believe He was 'God the Son' manifested in the flesh. Others believe He was the Logos (a subordinate divine entity) manifested in the flesh. Of course, others such as Unitarians and Moslems believe that Jesus was merely a human being and was not a manifestation of any Deity. The truth is, God (the Father) was manifested in the flesh (real humanity, actual descendent of Adam just like the rest of us).

The test is whether or not a person agrees that Jesus Christ was a real human being or just appeared to be one. The issue comes down to whether a person believes the apostles' doctrine or some other doctrine. 1 John 4:6 says, 'We [the apostles] are of God. He who knows God hears us [the apostles]; he who is not of God does not hear us [the apostles]. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.' The spirit of truth is the words of the apostles and the spirit of error is the words of the false prophets mentioned in 1 John 4:1.

What this really boils down to is that every one of us needs to measure the words of every preacher or teacher or prophet we are listening to against the Word of God.