WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson XVI) 02/07/22

4:2 This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God.

Charles Ellicott (1819-1904) mentions that the Apostle John’s statement, “Every spirit that does not confess” seems to be an old curious reading mentioned by Church historian Scholasticus Socrates of Constantinople who said, “every spirit that destroys” (or, dissolves) “Jesus the Anointed One.” However, these words were most likely written in the margin that ended up in the text as a statement against the Gnostics. Clearly, this verse presupposes an evangelistic presentation of the Anointed One before refusal to confess Him as a historical person.[1] This consolation is similar to that in 1 John 2:12 and introduced by the same endearing phrase, “dear children.” John is sure that his readers have held onto the truth and kinship with God.[2] God is in them, and therefore the victory is already theirs. Although they may still struggle, they have only to claim the Anointed One’s strength, and they have won. By making their choice between light and darkness, love and hate, good and evil, God and the devil, they are the victorious party.[3]

William B. Pope (1822-1903) writes that personal faith must have its outward affirmation; every “teacher” or “spirit” must teach based on a confession of belief in Jesus. In chapter two, the test of antichrist was the refusal to believe that “Jesus was the Anointed One,” or “the Son of the Father:” It established the divinity and Messiahship of our Lord. Here the true faith is that Jesus the Anointed One has come in the flesh: not into the world as a human of flesh and blood, which might imply a fallen condition, but “incarnated” that is, God in human form. He appeared who existed before as the Son of God and so “came” that it may be said of Him that He is an abiding presence. In other words, “God is here![4]

Bishop Charles J. Ellicott (1819-1905) comments that too often, people regard the Incarnation as a doctrine accepted by faith, but which, except in its issues and results, has no immediate connection with daily life activities. Yet it is plain enough from the text that to confess the Incarnation, in all its blessed fulness and reality of meaning, is to establish proof of being a child of God and a recipient in the fullest measure of the inworking power of the Spirit. It raises the question, could not the Word have become flesh without the humble birth, the slow, silent years of growth, and the gradual increase of wisdom and experience? It, however, may be said that had it been otherwise, the belief that God’s Son took our nature upon Himself would never have been accepted with completeness in the human heart.[5]

William Alexander (1824-1911) believes that the Church or Churches, which the First Epistle directly contemplates, did not consist of newly converted individuals. On the contrary, its whole language supposes Christians, some of whom had grown old and were “fathers” in the faith, while others who were younger enjoyed the privilege of having been born and brought up in a Christian atmosphere. John reminds them that the commandment “which they heard,” namely, the “Word,” the “message,” is the same which they “had from the beginning.[6] Now this will suit the circumstances of a Church like the one in Ephesus, to whom the Apostle Paul preached the Gospel many years before.[7] That means John could anticipate they would understand what he was saying without much explanation. Just as a minister would say today, “Remember the woman at the well in Samaria,” which regular attenders and long-time members could relate to without a detailed history lesson of the journeys of Jesus.[8]

Daniel Steele (1824-1914) notes that both the King James Version (1611) and Revised Version (N.T. 1881) failed to give the Greek verb homologeō, its exact meaning with the English word “confesseth” or “confesses,” Jesus the Anointed One, is come in the flesh. The Anointed One is the object confessed to, not some fact relating to Him. The confession required is of a person, not some abstract doctrine. Steele says, “The Gospel centers in a person and not in any truth, even the greatest, about the Person.” It is not the confession of the incarnation, but the Savior incarnate, the pledge and pattern of mankind completely redeemed, soul and body bearing the image of the glorified God-man. The believer who thus savingly accepts and publicly confesses the historic Anointed One, not as a phantom, as the Gnostics taught, but a real man, the incarnation of the uncreated Logos who in the beginning was with God and was God, is of God, born from above. “Faith, if it is real, must declare itself.”[9] So, when confession is made, it is not only for sins but also for acknowledging that you accept Jesus the Anointed One as having come to earth clothed in human form. He is not some myth or questionable historical figure; He is real.

Brooke F. Westcott (1825-1901) states the Gospel centers on a Person, not in any truth, even the most complimentary, about that Person. The Incarnate Savior is the pledge of humankind’s complete redemption and perfection, restoring “the body” to its proper place as the perfect vessel of the human spirit. Hence the Divine Spirit must bear witness to that regenerated spirit. The trial of spirits is found in confessing a fact that maintains life’s fulness. The test of the antichrist is located in the confession of spiritual truth.[10] [11]

Henry A. Sawtelle (1832-1913) focuses on the Apostle John’s insistence that confession must be that Jesus the Anointed One came clothed in human flesh and blood. The matter of the admission is not the mere name of the Anointed One, which even those spreading false doctrine confess. Instead, it is the Anointed One in His genuine nature, having a specific history and embodying a particular system of truth. He is Jesus, and, therefore, the Savior of all people. He is the Messiah and, therefore, the Anointed One of God. This Anointed One, Jesus, came from God in the flesh, with the soul and body of human nature. When John wrote this, people were beginning to teach that the Anointed One only appeared to have a human nature, like the angels who came to Abraham’s nephew Lot[12] and Sampson’s faither Manoah.[13] Being mistaken on the incarnation of the Anointed One, they were consequently at fault as to His priestly work and His saving power.

It was only one misstep, some might say, but it involved a denial of the Gospel’s message of salvation by the God-man, the Anointed One, and His actual death; and a person could not deny that essential plan of salvation and saved by it at the same time. It is an ominous warning to such who are passive enough to receive the nature and work of the Anointed One without being changed; who wish to explain this or that away, who deviate from what they consider the true faith. In particular, we must immediately believe this concerning the Anointed One: Gospel truth is of a definite type, which the regenerate will not miss; the spiritual mind will take to it as naturally as the bird to the air or the bee to clover. It does make any difference what a person believes, but it is God. It is related to them in their spiritual nature through regeneration[14]

John James Lias (1834-1923) states that we should observe that the Christian life has two sides, the inward and the outward. Of the inward, faith is the essential characteristic of the outward, confession. Inward determines humankind’s relation to God and the outward relationship to their fellow believers. By necessity, the Christian life passes from the internal to the external, from the union of the soul with God to the external brotherhood with those similarly united to Him. Thus, the public confession of discipleship of the Anointed One – is the necessary consequence of genuine faith.[15]

Lias continues. The Gospel entrusted to them came from above.[16] Over that, they had no power. It was God’s message. They could neither add to it nor subtract from it.[17] But the Apostle Paul does speak of his authority in applying the principles of the Gospel.[18] [19]

Robert Cameron (1839-1904) says that false teachers, whose mold of thought and purpose of life conformed to the wishes of evil spirits, are the indirect channels of opposition to the Anointed One and saints. They also approach believers directly by ambitious aims, the love of money, power, honor, and even knowledge that is not according to God. They gain possession of those rejecting the Anointed One and gratify their unnatural desires in the sins that are too terrible to mention. Unfortunately, too often, these spirits approach the saints and lead them astray through the sensual desires of human nature, by suggestions that are abhorrent to them living in conscious communion with God. All such approaches and improper influences from the unseen realm are practical revelations of the world of evil spirits surrounding us. Whether good or bad, these spirits must operate through human souls, exercising their power upon the stage of life, hence the introduction of false prophets. So, says Cameron, it is essential to understand a great, unseen spiritual force is all around us. It is not superstition but a remarkable fact. Being ignorant of this will lead to confusion, discouragement, and despair. As the old hymn goes:

“Oh, it is hard to work for God,

To rise and take His part

Upon the battlefield of life,

And not sometimes lose heart.”[20]

After years of earnest, conscientious, and intelligent fighting, we might lose heart and sink into utter despair without belief in the supernatural power of God that will someday rise to the rescue and move on to victory.[21]


[1] Cf. 1 John 2:18

[2] Cf. Ibid. 3:1-2; 13-14

[3] Ellicott, Charles J. Ellicott’s Bible Commentary for English Readers p. 16234

[4] Pope, William B., Popular Commentary, op. cit., p. 314

[5] Ellicott, Charles, J., The Church Pulpit Commentary, op. cit., Vol. 12, pp. 289-290

[6] Cf. 1 John 2:7, 24; 3:11; 2 John 5:5-6

[7] See John 4:6; 19:4; Acts of the Apostles 18:18-21; 3 John 1:12

[8] Alexander, William: The Expositor’s Bible, op. cit., p. 18

[9] Steele, Daniel: Half-hour, op. cit., pp. 96-97

[10] 1 John 2:22ff

[11] Westcott, Brooke F., The Epistles of St. John, op. cit., p. 140

[12] Genesis 19:1-3

[13] Judges 13:9

[14] Sawtelle, Henry A., An American Commentary, Alvah Hovey, Ed., op. cit., p. 46

[15] Lias, John James, The First Epistle of St. John with Exposition, op. cit., pp. 291-292

[16] See 1 Cor. 9:16; Gal. 1:8, 9

[17] See also Eph. 3:2, 3; Col. 1:25; 1 Tim. 1:11

[18] as in 1 Cor. 5:3, 7:12, 25, 40, 14:37, and 2 Cor. 10:8,

[19] Lias, John James, The First Epistle of St. John with Homiletical Treatment, pp. 287-288

[20]Oh, it is Hard to Work for God,” published in 1849 by Frederick W. Faber (1814-1863), who wrote 150 hymns including “Faith of our Fathers.”

[21] Cameron, Robert, First Epistle of John, op. cit., loc. cit.

About drbob76

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