WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson XIX) 02/10/22

4:3     Another doctrine refuses to ascribe this to Jesus.  That doctrine is not from God.  It is the doctrine of the antichrist.  You heard that the antichrist spirit is coming. Well, it is already in the world.

EXPOSITION

Now the Apostle John contrasts this doctrine with an opposing dogma.  As he did throughout his Gospel, John once again emphasizes that people must acknowledge Jesus as the man ordained by God to deliver His message of salvation. But there is more. No matter what recognition Jesus may receive as a good man, a great prophet, a wise philosopher, or a good moral leader, He must be confirmed as the Messiah, the Son of God. Therefore, if you do not embrace this premise, God’s Spirit does not live in you because the Spirit will always maintain that belief.

Every false teacher that does not acknowledge Jesus’ incarnation (God dwelling in the flesh) is not of God. False teachers that deny His divine embodiment get this idea from the “Antichrist.”  The Antichrist wants to undermine the Incarnation because it is the basis of our salvation. It would make the person and work of the Anointed One meaningless. John faithfully taught his readers that they would be tempted to backslide, namely, to turn their backs on God. They knew it was going to occur before it happened. The Antichrist himself was not there at the time of John’s writing, but the spirit of antichrist had already come through his false prophets and teachers. His emissaries attacked John’s readers for believing Jesus to be both human and the divine Redeemer of lost humanity.

John often states the case both negatively and positively for emphasis. There is an ancient variant reading of this text of much interest, probably of Latin origin, traced to the second century. In 1 John 4:2, 15 Instead of “to confess Jesus” it reads “to dissolve Jesus” in Latin “solvit Jesum.” Tertullian and Irenaeusboth knew about its existence. The modified text aimed at those who distinguished the man Jesus from the Divine Anointed One and thus “dissolved” his dual Personality. The Greek manuscripts are quite unanimous against this change in reading. Those professedly Christian teachers are ever among the most dangerous who treat the Divinity of Jesus the Anointed One as more or less of an open question or as a matter of indifference. In 1 John 5:3, the Greek το τον αντιχριστον (“of the antichrist”) probably means “the spirit of antichrist.” And now it is in the world. It is an independent statement; John does not say they heard this previously.

The issue is not the manner or mode of the Anointed One’s coming but the constitution of His humanness. From the moment Jesus became human, He identified with fallen humankind. His being man redeemed lost humanity. The contradiction of this is the spirit of the Antichrist. Unfortunately, the antichrist spirit is understated today. Many messengers of liberalism remove this message from the Gospel. They deny the Bible as God’s Word. They reject the deity of the Anointed One. They discard the idea that man is sinful and depraved. They have no message for sin-sick souls. It’s all “feel good” theology. Regrettably, this kind of preaching fills some churches today. Most false teachers admit that a historical Jesus appeared in the world just like Alexander the Great was a historical figure. Still, they will not acknowledge that God stepped foot on earth in a human body to pay for the sins of humanity.  

COMMENTARY

In writing to his home church, Ignatius of Antioch (circa 50-120 AD) was adamant about recognizing the combination of humanity and divinity in the body of Jesus the Anointed One. He wrote that whoever declares that there is but one God, just to take away the divinity of the Anointed One, is of the devil and an enemy of all righteousness. Furthermore, those who claim to have faith in the Anointed One as the Messiah, yet not as the Son of the Creator of the universe, are Satan’s instrument. This individual is antichrist, and those who reject the incarnation are ashamed of the cross I am in prison for, stated Ignatius. Moreover, the one who affirms the Anointed One to be a mere man is doomed, not trusting God. That’s why they are unfruitful, like the wild myrtle tree.[1] [2] As we can see, this was already a controversy in the apostolic church era just a few years after Jesus’ ascension into heaven.

In writing to the congregation in Philippi, Polycarp (69-155 AD), John’s disciple warned them to avoid the Docetæ and persevere in fasting and prayer. He tells them that if they did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God incarnate, they belonged to the antichrist movement. Furthermore, whoever does not confess to the reality of the cross, is of the devil. Not only that, but those who pervert the teachings of the Lord for their convenience, saying that there is neither resurrection nor judgment, are the firstborn of Satan’s brood. That means believers must reject such conceit and their false doctrines and return to the Word of God handed down from the beginning,[3] prayerfully watching[4] and continue fasting, pleading in prayer that the all-seeing God will not allow temptation to overcome them.[5]As our Lord said: “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”[6] [7]

Quintus Tertullian (155-240 AD), writing against the heretic Marcion, said that this skeptic must now cease to borrow poison from the Jews whom Jesus called “vipers,[8] and stop vomiting the hatred from his corrupt attitude, as when he alleges the Anointed One was a phantom. The problem is that his so-called bright and somewhat unsuccessful Marcionites would continue to preach this false doctrine. Therefore, the Apostle John designated them as antichrists when they denied that God’s Son came in the flesh. They did not do this to establish another god’s right, but because they started assuming the incredibility and impossibility of an incarnate God.[9]

Tertullian was constantly hounding those who denied the divinity of Jesus the Anointed One. For instance, in one epistle, he writes that instead of dwelling on such things as why some of Jesus’ disciples turned away from Him, let us keep in mind the Lord’s teachings and the Apostles’ letters, which warned us that heresies would come and ordered us to avoid them. In such cases, since we were not alarmed at their occurrence, we need not be surprised at their ability to do things that make us want to reject them even more.

The Lord teaches that many ravening wolves will come in sheep’s clothing.[10] Tertullian reminds us this sheep’s clothing is nothing more than calling themselves “Christians” The ravening wolves are the crafty thoughts and impulses lurking within the church to attack the Anointed One’s flock. The false prophets are the fraudulent preachers, the fabricated apostles, and fake evangelists; today’s antichrists rebels. These assaults of perverse teaching upon the Church are not one bit less severe than the dreadful persecutions which the antichrist will carry out in his day. In fact, they are worse. Persecution at least makes martyrs: heresy only produces mavericks.[11] [12]

Others held and distributed this false doctrine for whom Tertullian had harsh words. He notes that in rebuking, with holy indignation, various heretics in his day, John cried out against them using multiple passages of prophetical Scripture. Therefore, for John, those who attacked the true doctrine that the Lord Jesus, the Anointed One is both God and man, must be condemned.

Tertullian also calls to our attention the artful influence of the prophetess Philumene[13] on the gnostic Christian teacher, Apelles.[14] Indeed, he is an antichrist who denies that the Anointed One has come in the flesh.[15] ­­But, by declaring that His flesh is actual and taken in the plain sense of human nature, the Scripture aims a blow at all who make distinctions in it. In the same way, when it defines the Anointed One to be one entity – God in man, it shakes the fancies of those who exhibit a multiform Anointed One. They claim the Anointed One is one person and Jesus is another. One escapes out of the midst of a crowd, and they detain the other. Finally, one appears on a solitary mountain with three disciples, clothed with a cloud’s glory. The other is an ordinary man talking to them; one is outgoing, but the other is timid; lastly, one suffers death while the other rises again. They then utilize this event to maintain their resurrection, only in another body. However, He who suffered “will come again from heaven[16] and be seen by all who rose from the dead.[17]

Tertullian aims at one more target. Who is it then that has provoked the Lord, now at God’s right hand, so unseasonably and with such severity “shake terribly[18] (as Isaiah expresses it) “that earth,” which is as yet unshattered? Who has put “the Anointed One’s enemies beneath His feet[19] (to use the language of David),[20] making Him more anxious than the Father, while crowds in our popular coliseums shout “the Christians to the lions?”[21] Who has yet beheld Jesus descending from heaven in like manner as the apostles saw Him ascend, according to the appointment of the two angels?[22]


[1] The myrtle is not mentioned in the Bible until the time of the captivity. The first reference is in Nehemiah 8:15 (see Isaiah 41:19; 55:13; Zechariah 1:8, 10-11) in regard to the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles. As an evergreen, fragrant shrub associated with watercourses, the myrtle is a fitting symbol of the recovery and establishment of God’s promises. Myrtle trees bore only flowers, not fruit.

[2] Ignatius to the Antiochians, Chapter V., Denunciation of False Teachers

[3] See Jude 1:3

[4] 1 Peter 4:7

[5] Matthew 6:13; 26:41

[6] Matthew 26:41; Mark 14:38

[7] Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians Ch. 7

[8] Matthew 3:7

[9] Tertullian, The Five Books Against Marcion, Bk. 5, Chapter VIII, p. 109

[10] Matthew 7:15

[11] A maverick is an unorthodox or independent-minded person

[12] Tertullian: The Prescription Against Heretics, ⁋4

[13] Philumene was a virgin friend who claimed to be possessed by an angel, who gave her “revelations” which Apelles read out in public.

[14] Apelles was a second-century Gnostic Christian thinker. He started out his ministry as a disciple of Marcion of Sinope, probably in Rome. But at some point, Apelles either left, or was expelled from, the Marcionite church.

[15] 1 John 4:3

[16] Acts of the Apostles 1:11

[17] Tertullian: On the Flesh of the Anointed One, Ch. 24

[18] Isaiah 2:19

[19] 1 Corinthians 15:25

[20] Psalm 110:1

[21] Cf. Tertullian’s The Apology, Ch. 40; it reads: “If the Tiber rises, if the Nile does not rise, if the heavens give no rain, if there is an earthquake, famine, or pestilence, straightway the cry is ‘The Christians to the lion!’”

[22] Acts of the Apostles 1:11

About drbob76

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