WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson XVIII) 02/09/22

4:3 Another spirit refuses to say this about Jesus. That spirit is not from God. This is the spirit of the enemy of Christ. You have heard that the enemy of Christ is coming, and now he is already in the world.

John R. W. Stott (1921-2011) feels that the phrase “Jesus the Anointed One is come in the flesh” (KJV), or as “Jesus the Anointed One in the flesh having come” (YLT),[1] could also read “Jesus as the Anointed One came in the flesh,” – James Moffatt translation, “Anointed One incarnate.” It harmonizes both with the name “Jesus” and what heretics taught. They claimed that the Anointed One, a divine figure, descended upon the man Jesus at His baptism and withdrew from Him before His death. John repudiates this doctrine. The truth is not that the Anointed One came “into” the flesh of Jesus, but that Jesus was the Anointed One come “in” the flesh. These two identify one person. The statement, simple as it is, is of exquisite precision.[2]

John Phillips (1927-2010) mentions that the Apostle Paul could say in his day that the “mystery of iniquity is already at work[3] and, as the Apostle John says, the spirit of antichrist was “even now in the world.” Only the hindering work of the Holy Spirit prevented end-time judgments from bursting into full power and fruit during John’s ministry. The restraining influence of the Holy Spirit has operated on this planet now for over two thousand years. Thus, God in His mercy lengthened the day of grace. But now, once again, the stage is being set for the coming of the personal Antichrist. However long his coming is delayed, his spirit is already here. End-time deceptions are overshadowing the world once more, possibly for the last time. We can see that the “falling away,” Paul wrote about, is all about us.

However, this time suggests Phillips; God may send rapture instead of revival, followed by a rapid fulfillment of all end-time prophetic events.[4] Paul prophesies: “Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons.”[5] Paul adds that the time will come when “people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. Instead, they will follow their desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths.”[6] It certainly harmonizes with the Spirit’s message included in this letter.[7]

David E. Hiebert (1928-1995) says the combination “Jesus the Anointed One” occurs eight times in John’s epistles.[8] In two places, the Apostle John separates the names by writing “Jesus is the Anointed One.”[9] Therefore, when the terms appear together, they need to be translated as such. Keeping the two names together best represents John’s insistence that “Jesus the Anointed One” is a union of the human and divine in the Incarnation in the historical Jesus. It’s spelled out in the words “has come in the flesh.” In saying “in the flesh,” rather than “into the flesh,” John repudiated Cerenthus (circa 100 AD), a late contemporary of John at Ephesus, who separated Jesus from the Anointed One. He taught that the spirit of the Anointed One came on a human named Jesus, the son of Joseph and Mary, at His baptism and empowered His ministry, but left Him before His crucifixion. That means only the human Jesus died and rose again. Cerenthus thus rejected the doctrine of the Incarnation and obliterated the Christian teaching of the atonement.[10]

Stephen S. Smalley (1931-2018) says the Apostle John now specifies the nature of the recommended “test” of the spirits, by which believers distinguish between true inspiration and pretending inspiration. John based this recognition on insight gained from the Anointed One. Living as a true child of God, and acting as a spokesman of His Spirit, involves a confession about Jesus (supremely, that He came from God). Verse two forms an inclusion with verse six and begins a pattern of contrasts that underlines John’s teaching. They include the need to “put the spirits to the test.” It became necessary because of the fundamental coequals in the Johannine community. John wanted to draw between truth and error, the Anointed One and the antichrist, the Church and the world.[11] It would have been easy to tell them apart had these false prophets come from the Jews or some other religion. But the false prophets arising out of the believing community made the test even more necessary.

Edward J. Malatesta (1932-1998) sees the Apostle John affirming that he and the community have the needed knowledge to deal with the spirit of deception with the Spirit of truth. A complete view of the spirits is how they influence the believer regarding their opposite ways of action. Either the Spirit guided them with Light to a clearer understanding of revelation or buried them in a cloud of deception. The ultimate purpose is to determine which is of God or not by observing exterior evidence of what is being said.[12]

Ian Howard Marshall (1934-2015) says that the Apostle John’s test is not infallible. Jesus protested when some people called Him “Lord” yet did not do what He said.[13] Mere confession with the mouth is not necessarily a guide to the heart’s belief. John’s test is relevant to a particular situation in which it was possible to regard certain people as inspired by the spirit of evil because of their false confession. A different form of words may be the test point in other circumstances. Ultimately, however, the whole of the Epistle furnishes the characteristics of genuine Christianity: faith, love, and righteousness are all relevant to the question, and concentration on any one of them to the exclusion of the others is bound to be misleading.[14]

Messianic writer David Stern (1935) has a wake-up call for the Church. One of the earliest heresies was the Docetists, who taught that the Messiah only appeared to be a human being. They considered human flesh too low for such a holy figure as the Son of God. This heresy persists explicitly in “Theosophy[15] and sects based on Eastern religious teachings, which speak of “the Anointed One” as a spiritual entity which, in effect, masqueraded as a human but was actually “a higher being.” Moreover, it persists in a far more widespread fashion in the implied popular theology of much of the Christian Church. By emphasizing Yeshua’s divinity, it practically ignores His humanity and portrays Him as if He floated around the Holy Land several feet off the ground. For a Jew, there may be difficulty regarding the Messiah as divine, but none whatever regarding Him as human; quite the contrary, the idea of a Messiah who is not a human being is meaningless within the thought-framework of Judaism.[16]

William Loader (1944) says that the translation “acknowledges that Jesus the Anointed One has come in the flesh” is by far the most natural and doubtless reflects the Apostle John’s intention. However, it is possible, says Loader, to construe the Greek so that it reads in translation: “acknowledges that Jesus is the Anointed One came in the flesh.” The parallel with 1 John 5:6 suggests it is more than a literary elaboration. It indicates that the manner of coming is the primary matter of dispute: The anticipated arrival of Jesus as God’s messenger and the expectant arrival of the Anointed One. The sticking point was, are these both were embodied in one man, or was Jesus the man housing the Messiah?[17]

Marianne Meye Thompson (1964) notes that the Apostle John offers a test to discern the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, that is, challenging the substance of one’s teaching, specifically, about Jesus being the Anointed One.[18] The emphasis on true confession indicates that John is not talking about demon possession or ecstatic utterances or prediction of the future but about accepting the affirmations about Jesus handed down and taught in the community. It is not a new test, nor does John expect the Church to do anything new in exercising discernment. But he reminds them that the stakes are high. In the balance hang truth and error about the first commandment and the ultimate question of faith: knowledge and worship of the one true God. For denying Jesus would be equivalent to worshiping a false god, since only through the Anointed One is knowledge of the true God available.[19] [20]

Karen H. Jobes (1968) says that evidently, the Apostle John’s readers find themselves in a confusing situation, where discernment of the truth is needed. So, he reminds them of the necessity of recognizing the Incarnation of Jesus the Anointed One as true knowledge of God because the Word became flesh specifically to reveal the otherwise invisible God.[21]Therefore, everyone who has a true knowledge of God acknowledges that “Jesus the Anointed One has come in the flesh” – that is, that the Son of God became a son of man. The incarnation is the heart of Christian epistemology.[22] Consequently, the converse is also true, that anyone who does not acknowledge Jesus as come in the flesh is not God sent; that is, they have not acquired the actual knowledge of God through His revelation in Jesus the Anointed One.[23] It may not seem important to many believers today, but when you stop and think of all the gods and goddesses in religions worldwide, not one of them claims that their god came to earth in human form and died on their behalf that they might have everlasting life.


[1] Young’s Literal Translation, loc. cit.

[2] Stott, John. The Letters of John (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries), op. cit., p. 156

[3] 2 Thessalonians 2:7

[4] 2 Thessalonians 2:3

[5] 1 Timothy 4:1

[6] 2 Timothy 4:3-4

[7] Phillips, John: Exploring the First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 131

[8] 1 John 1:3; 2:1; 3:23; 4:2; 5:6, 20; 2 John 1:3, 7 

[9] 1 John 2:22; 5:1

[10] Hiebert, David E., Bibliotheca Sacra, October-December 1999, pp. 426-427

[11] Smalley, Stephen S., Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 51, op. cit., p. 220

[12] Malatesta, Edward J., Interiority and Covenant, op. cit., p. 284

[13] Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46

[14] Marshall, I. Howard. The Epistles of John (The New International Commentary on the New Testament), op. cit., p. 206

[15] Theosophy maintains that a knowledge of God may be achieved through spiritual ecstasy, direct intuition, or special individual relations, especially the movement founded in 1875 as the Theosophical Society by Helena Blavatsky and Henry Steel Olcott (1832-1907).

[16] Stern, David H., Jewish New Testament Commentary, Kindle Edition.

[17] Loader, William, Epworth Commentary, op. cit., p. 49

[18] 1 John 4:2-3

[19] Ibid. 5:21

[20] Thompson, Marianne M., The IVP New Testament Commentary, op. cit., pp. 113-114

[21] John 1:14, 18

[22] Epistemology is the study of acquiring knowledge. It involves an awareness of certain aspects of reality, and it seeks to discover what is known and how it is known. Considered as a branch of philosophy, epistemology addresses cognitive sciences, cultural studies and the history of science. Moreover, epistemology explains why our minds relate to reality and how these relationships are either valid or invalid. It is needed in order to distinguish between the truth and falsehood as we obtain knowledge from the world around us.

[23] Jobes, Karen H., 1, 2, and 3 John (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on The New Testament, Book 18) p. 178

About drbob76

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