WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson XIV) 02/03/22

4:2 This is how we know if they have God’s Spirit: If a person claiming to be a prophetacknowledges that Jesus the Anointed One came in a human body, that person has the Spirit of God.

Then Medieval scholar Bede the Venerable (672-735 AD) brings up another aspect to consider in what John is saying. He states that we must understand that the word “confesses” implies the profession of orthodox faith and the practice of the good works that ought to accompany faith. If it were not so, then there would be some heretics, many schismatics, and many pseudo-orthodox who would confess that Jesus the Anointed One has come in the flesh but who would deny that confession by their behavior, for they have no love. For it was the agápe-love of God toward us which induced His Son to come in the flesh. God showed His agápe-love to us not in words but in deeds, not by talking but by loving.”[1]

John Calvin (1509-1564) says, let us consider what this “confession” includes; for when the Apostle John says that the Anointed One came, we, therefore, conclude that He was before with the Father; by which His eternal divinity proves to be valid. Moreover, by saying that He came in the flesh, that means that by putting on a human body, He became a real man, of the exact nature with us to become our big brother, except that while being free from every sin and corruption, He was still subject to temptation.[2] So it should not surprise us that even after being born again, we are also subject to worldly temptation. And lastly, by saying that He came, the cause of His coming must be noticed, for the Father did not send Him for no reason. Later, it was on this truth that the office and merits of the Anointed One depended.

Now we can see that when the ancient heretics departed from the faith, they denied the Anointed One’s human and divine natures combined in one man, says Calvin. Unfortunately, the Vatican is doing the same thing today. (Calvin is speaking of his day and time.) Although they confess the Anointed One to be both God and man, they rob the Anointed One of His merits by substituting freewill, merits of good works, fictitious modes of worship, depending on all the sacraments for grace, and the advocacy of the saints. So, the question is, how much of the Anointed One is part of the Church’s salvation plan?[3] It not only goes for the Roman Catholic church but other so-called Christian cults and movements such as Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc.

John Trapp (1601-1669) takes the Apostle John’s words here in verse two and says, “Bring it to this test: Gold may be molten, yet it remains natural gold; so, does the truth. Whereas error like glass (bright, but brittle) cannot endure the hammer or fire.”[4]

Matthew Poole (1624-1679) sees the Apostle John giving his readers general rules, both affirmative and negative, which would serve them in judging their current situation; the great controversy of that time with the Apostle John and the Jews: Whether Jesus was the Messiah? And did the Messiah come or not? And with the Gnostics: Whether the Son of God came in the flesh, in true human nature? Or was He, by appearance, a mere apparition? And John affirms: They who confessed the Messiah’s arrival were of God; namely, they were in the right, this truth was of God. Therefore, of the two litigating parties, Jesus was of God, the others not of God; of these two warring parties (God & Gnostics), John took God’s side against those in opposition to Him. Yes, they made a true confession and honestly confessed Him, that is, sincerely, pleasantly, and practically. It allowed them to trust in Him fully, subject themselves to Him, be born of God, His very children, behave, and have the Holy Spirit’s influence in their lives.[5]

English classical scholar theologian and mathematician Isaac Barrow (1630-1677) says that our Savior’s conception by a virgin allowed Him to be born in a form agreeable to the nature of humankind. Thus, He became undeniably human, which excellent mystery is in Scripture[6] variously expressed or implied by the word’s “being made,” or “becoming.” In other words, God manifested in the flesh, taking the form of a servant,[7] being made in the likeness of humans, and being found as a man, assuming the seed of Abraham,[8] partaking of flesh and blood; descending from heaven. Again, God sent His Son into the world, in the likeness of sinful flesh.[9] The result of what is signified by these and like expressions being this: He which before from all eternity did exist in the form or nature of God, being the Son of God, did truly become a man; assuming human nature into the unity of His person, by conjunction and union with the Divine nature incomprehensible and inexpressible.[10]

He was not only (as the Gnostics and some other heretics concede) human in outward appearance, notes Barrow, but in reality, a perfect man. He had a natural body, figured and limited like ours, compacted of flesh and blood, visible and tangible; which was nourished and did grow, and He grew in wisdom and stature,[11] with a will, subject and submissive to the Divine Will,[12] with a normal appetite and need of sleep. Nevertheless, when He attended Lazarus’ grave, His spirit groaned and was troubled. He then and, upon other occasions, wept out of pity and sorrow.[13] The Gospel writers used terms such as being troubled feeling sorrow to describe Him undergoing His passion. The writer of Hebrews wrote, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet He did not sin.”[14] [15]

Daniel Whitby (1638-1726) explains why he thinks the Apostle John writes about testing the spirits to identify those from God and Satan. He tells us that the Jews were awaiting the coming of the Messiah. But they were divided into two camps: A minority remnant who believed that Messiah already came and Jesus of Nazareth was His name. He was the one promised with Messianic characteristics. But the majority rejected their choice and kept looking for another.

Now, says Whitby, among those who did come pretending to be the Messiah or the prophet promised by Moses,[16] also claimed to have the spirit of prophecy and do what Jewish historian Flavius Josephus said, “pretended to be prophets.”[17] That’s what the Apostle John is saying here, but he calls them “antichrists.” It isn’t so much that they were against the Anointed One; they falsely pretended to be the Anointed One in opposition to the real Messiah. Neither could they belong to Him or confess Him who was the “Word made flesh.”[18]

William Burkitt (1650-1703) says that in this verse, the Apostle John lays down a rule of trial, how we might know that a teacher is inspired by the Spirit of God, from one that was not. The one sent from God daringly and openly, despite the danger, possessed and professed, taught and preached, Jesus the Anointed One in His character, nature, and offices, as the incarnate Word, the Son of God. That He was sent from heaven ascribing virtue and effectiveness to the sacrifice of His death and attributing to Him alone the whole glory of a perfect Savior: this doctrine is of the Spirit of God. However, some teachers would not take that risk for fear of suffering and persecution, so they denied either the Godhead or manhood of the Anointed One and disowned His incarnation, death, and resurrection. Such teachers and such doctrines are not of God but are the very spirit of antichrist, which, says John, you have been foretold should come, and is now already in the world.

Here’s what we learn from this, says Burkitt. Such teachers renounce either His incarnation, works, miracles, and teachings or deny any of the offices of the Anointed One such as Prophet, Priest, and King. Thus, they reject His divinity or the merits of His payment of our debt on the cross as not of God; they are antichrist and will find the Anointed One against them on Judgment Day when they appear before Him.[19]

James Macknight (1721-1800) explains that the passage “Jesus the Anointed One has come in the flesh” introduces two things; First, Jesus is the Jewish prophets’ prophesied Anointed One. Secondly, this divine celebrity came as a human being. Here, the Apostle John had rightly declared that every teacher convinced they are inspired, who confess that Jesus is the Anointed One come in the flesh, is God anointed. For as Paul told the Corinthians,[20]no one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit.[21]

John Brown of Haddington (1772-1787) hears the Apostle John say to his readers, “Now you can distinguish the good Spirit from the bad.” They are the ones called of God and preach the Gospel and inspiration of the Spirit because they believe, freely admit, and boldly proclaim their faith in the Anointed One, the Son of God. For it was He who took on our human nature and fulfilled the Law on our behalf to secure our salvation. These are genuinely anointed and authorized by God for the task. So, those who do not believe and adhere to these principles do not have God’s approval.[22]


[1] Bede the Venerable, Ancient Christian Commentary, Vol. XI, Bray, G. (Ed.), James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John

[2] See Matthew 4:1-11

[3] Calvin, John, Commentary on the Catholic Epistles, op. cit., loc. cit.

[4] Trapp, John, op. cit., p. 475

[5] See 1 John 5:1-5; Matthew 16:16-17; 1 Corinthians 12:3

[6] John 1:14

[7] Philippians 2:6-7

[8] Hebrews 2:16

[9] Ibid. 2:14

[10] Ibid. 2:17

[11] Luke 2:52

[12] See Mark 13:32; Luke 2:52; Matthew 26:39; Luke 22:42; John 5:30; Matthew. 21:18; John 4:6, 7

[13] John 11:33, 35

[14] Hebrews 4:15

[15] Barrow, Isaac: The Theological Works, Vo. VII, An Exposition on the Creed, University Press, Cambridge, 1859, pp. 196-197

[16] See Matthew 24:24-26

[17] Josephus, Flavius: The Complete Works, Wars of the Jews, Bk. 2, Ch. 13, Christian Classics Ethereal Library, Grand Rapids, p. 1238

[18] Whitby, Daniel: A Paraphrase with Annotations, 1 John Chapter 4, p. 466

[19] Burkitt, William: Expository Notes on N.T., op. cit., p. 729

[20] 1 Corinthians 12:3

[21] Macknight, James: Literal Paraphrase, op. cit., p. 85

[22] Brown, John of Haddington: Self-interpreting Bible, op. cit., p. 1327

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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