WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson XVII) 02/08/22

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 the Anointed One came in a human body, that person has the Spirit of God.

Alfred Plummer (1841-1926) says that the words “Jesus the Anointed One is come in the flesh” are the crucial test and one which would quickly expose the spirit of“Cerinthian[1] and “Docetic[2] teachers. We are not to suppose that all other articles of faith are unimportant. To deny this truth is the worst of all denials, or that such denial involves every kind of doctrinal error prevalent in that age. The confession must, of course, not be in words only but in sincerity and action as well.[3] [4]

Erich Haupt (1841-1926) reflects on verses two and three and believes we must ask about the central point of each person’s confession. What concerns are they confessing? The admission must be grammatically arranged in its proper order concerning the word Christos (“Anointed One”). Should it be combined with “Jesusas the “Anointed One?” Could we modify it so that we confess Jesus is the Anointed One and that He appeared as such in the flesh? First, the Apostle John takes it for granted that Jesus is the Anointed One, and the requirement is that we affirm this Jesus the Anointed One as both God and man. Secondly, the assumption is that there must be a confession concerning Jesus as the Anointed One. Finally, it requires that we declare His Messiahship and Incarnation.[5]

Alonzo Rice Cocke (1858-1901) states that Jesus the Anointed One is the sum and substance of the Holy Spirit’s teaching, and every prophet who fully confessed Jesus the Anointed One is inspired by the Spirit of God. That Spirit, when it convicts of sin, does so in relation to the Anointed One: “The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in Me.”[6]He will bring Me glory by telling you whatever he receives from Me.”[7] Speaking the true doctrine regarding Jesus is the essential test to apply to all inspiration claims. All others are false. None are confirmed except those who give a true and loyal testimony to the divine-human Redeemer, Jesus the Anointed One.[8]

Albert Barnes notes that we should not take for granted that everyone who confesses to being a faithful Christian is honest. It is clear that a doctrine might be acknowledged to be accurate, yet the heart might not be changed, nor does it mean that accepting this truth was all that was needed to recognize someone as a Christian. On the contrary, everyone who truly came from God needed to confess this truth. Those who taught this held the secret that God revealed, which was indispensable, and they thus show that they did not belong to those to whom the name “antichrist” could properly be applied. Still, it was quite another question whether this doctrine harmonized with other doctrines to show that they were sincere Christians. It is evident that a person may follow and teach the true principles of Christianity and yet have no evidence that they are a child of God.[9]

Harry A. Ironside (1876-1951) asks, “If someone confesses the incarnation, are they of God?” Maybe, but it does not mean that everything else they teach is necessarily scriptural, but they have the right foundation if they truly believe in the incarnation of our Lord Jesus the Anointed One. We begin with the embodiment, not with an apotheosis. Ironside does not like the use of this theological term. The word apotheosis comes from two Greek words, one meaning from, and the other God or the Deity. So, we speak of an apotheosis as a person entirely under God’s influence. Many ministers and instructors today teach that in the person of our Lord Jesus the Anointed One, we see a remarkable child born into this world and in many respects superior to any other child. In addition, He is viewed as a religious genius, who from the earliest consciousness, was God-intoxicated. Furthermore, whose whole mind was toward a more excellent knowledge of the Deity, someone who was always reaching out to God. Thus, He was so constantly under God’s influence and so absorbed in Him that He eventually began to imitate Him. Therefore, we see in Jesus the Anointed One, God manifested.

Such apotheosis is what is commonly taught by those called “Modernists,” notes Ironside. They deny the incarnation but affirm an apotheosis. The Word of God does not teach apotheosis, but it does the incarnation. Jesus was not just a man or God; He was a God-Man – God in human form.  Jesus the Anointed One did not begin existing when He was born into the world. Instead, He came from heaven. Every spirit that confesseth this is of God. This is the incarnation. Did you ever stop to think what a remarkable expression this is, “Jesus the Anointed One came?” You were born into the world; you had no existence before you were born. But Jesus, the Son of God, was with God before the creation of the universe.[10]

Rudolf Bultmann (1884-1976) believes that for any of these false prophets to deny that the Anointed One, whom they also revere as the bringer of salvation, has already appeared in the historical Jesus, involves nothing other than that He came “in the flesh.” It, thus, seems to be a question of Docetism in the case of their heretical doctrine (instead of Jesus being two in one person, they insist that He was one person in two people). Therefore, of the one who makes the proper confession, it can be said: “they are of God.” Consequently, this confession asserts the paradoxical identity of the present (son of man below) and the future (Son of God above) figure of Jesus the Anointed One.[11]

Paul Waitman Hoon (1910-2000) tells us that by the Anointed One coming in the flesh it once and for all sanctifies our physical being. Such a gulf between the spiritual and the material is false and cannot be defended from the Christian point of view. Consider the implication of this insight for Christian altitudes toward intimacy. Also, this insight enables us to challenge philosophical ideas such as “situation ethics[12] in our age. The Christian’s answer to the challenge of fleshliness is not to surrender to the Gnostic misconception of declaring that our flesh is inherently corrupt. Instead, it is to spiritualize and ethicize the physical. The Incarnation is, in one sense, an event; in another way, it is also an eternal process whose comprehension needs our thought and thinking. The confession John speaks of stamps a person as “of God” or “not of God,” is not of the fact of being in the flesh, but that the Incarnate Anointed One was in the flesh.[13]

To make Dr. Hoon’s point a little clearer, the Gnostics believed that salvation is all about knowledge. Therefore, they say that the body is of no value, so it has no place or role in a person’s holy living. Therefore, pay no attention to the body’s passions affecting your standing with God. Let it do what it wants to do, but keep your mind on God. After all, Jesus died to save our soul, not our body. This may all sound convenient until you consider that the Son of God came to earth and took on the flesh of a human body. So how could a Gnostic say His body played no role or had any consequence in our salvation? And why does the Scripture say that we are to keep our bodies holy just as He was holy?[14] And the Apostle Paul urges us to give our bodies to God as a living sacrifice because of all He has done for us.[15]

Donald W. Burdick (1917-1996) states that this positive statement when the persuasive Gnostic Cerinthus (50-100 AD)[16] was spreading his destructive heresy abroad, how could Christian people discern which teachers came from God? Their trick was to acknowledge everything else about Jesus except His divinity. John’s answer in verse two is that any person who is from God will gladly confess “that Jesus the Anointed Son of God is come in the flesh.” Then in verse three, John contrasts them with those who “do not accept that Jesus the Anointed One is come in the flesh.” It suggests that their refusal to acknowledge Jesus as a human was intentional, not accidental. John is not talking about accepting a creed, but about faith in a Person who has become and still is incarnate. Such a person believes that the human Jesus and the divine Anointed One are one-and-the-same Person – God incarnate.[17]

Raymond E. Brown (1928-1998) makes an important point here. He says, when we read, “Every spirit that confesses Jesus the Anointed One came in the flesh belongs to God,” it is a translation that might give the wrong impression that there are many Spirits of God. The use of “everyone” introduces human beings, not spirits, as those who confess. John is offering an external principle for which a spirit is at the root of the actions of two groups of people. John reveals this when later he suddenly shifts over to “you [people]” and “those people,”[18] despite his previous reference to spirits. [19] So, instead of thinking about the word “spirit,” as we would a “virus” where many viruses can infect many people. Instead, it is one “spirit” – virus infecting many people.


[1] Cerinthus, an early Gnostic, who was prominent as the founder of the Cerinthians in view of the early Church leaders. Contrary to the Church Fathers, he used the Gospel of Cerinthus to deny that the Supreme God made the physical world. His interpretation of the Anointed One is what descended upon Jesus at His baptism and guided Him in ministry and the performing of miracles, but left him at the crucifixion because He was just a man, not the Son of God.

[2] Docetism, (from Greek dokein, “to seem”), a Christian heresy and one of the earliest Christian sectarian doctrines, affirming that the Anointed One did not have a real or natural body during His life on earth but only an apparent or phantom one.

[3] See 1 John 3:18

[4] Plummer, Alfred: Cambridge Bible, op. cit., p. 142

[5] Haupt, Erich: The First Epistle of John, op. cit., pp. 244-245

[6] John 16:9

[7] Ibid. 16:14

[8] Cocke, Alonzo R. Studies in the Epistles of John, op. cit., loc. cit., Logos

[9] Barnes, Albert: New Testament Notes, op. cit., p. 4860

[10] Ironside, Harry A., Epistles of John, op. cit., pp. 127-128

[11] Bultmann, Rudolf: Hermeneia, Critical and Historical Commentary, op. cit., p. 62

[12] Situation Ethics: The New Morality, on the doctrine of flexibility in the application of moral laws according to circumstances, was written by Joseph F. Fletcher, 1966

[13] Hoon, Paul H., The Interpreter’s Bible, op. cit., 1 John, Exegesis, p. 274

[14] Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2; 1 Peter 1:16

[15] Romans 12:1

[16] The Cerinthus doctrine was that the spirit of the Anointed One descended upon Jesus at baptism and guided Him in ministry and the performing of miracles, but departed from Him on the cross at the crucifixion.

[17] Burdick, Donald W., The Epistles of John, op. cit., p.67

[18] 1 John 4:4b-5a

[19] Brown, Raymond E., The Anchor Bible, op. cit., Vol. 30, pp. 491-492

About drbob76

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