WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson XXI) 02/14/22

4:3 If another spirit refuses to say this about Jesus, that spirit is not from God. It is the spirit of the enemy of the Anointed One. You heard that the opponent of the Anointed One is coming. Well, he’s already here.

John Owen (1616-1683) writes that the Apostle Peter’s short but illustrious confession, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God,[1] fully embodies the whole truth concerning the person and office of the Anointed One, first, of His person, in that, although He was the Son of man, (under which term He made His inquiry, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”[2] Yet although that was true, He was also the eternal Son of the living God. Secondly, of His office, that He was the Anointed One, He whom God anointed to be the Head of the church in the discharge of His kingly, priestly, and prophetical power. Instances of  brief like confessions we have elsewhere in the Scripture.[3]

And, says Owen, it has been shown that all divine truths form a chain among themselves; they center in the person of the Anointed One – as vested with His offices towards the Church – that they are all virtually included in this confession. Therefore, all who destroy them by errors and inconsistent imaginations will be held accountable. First, however, all humankind has to obtain their expressed knowledge by whatever means available. The danger to the human soul does not lie in the inability to understand a confession of faith but in embracing things inconsistent with their lifestyle. Whatever it is whereby people cease to connect with the Head of the Church – His body, no matter how small of a distance that may be, that alone is unworthy of Him.[4]

Matthew Poole (1624-1679) says it should have been apparent to those who opposed saying that Jesus the man was also Jesus God’s Son,[5] that if they deny that He came, they don’t know anything about the purpose of His coming. And those who live impure lives while claiming to know the Messiah represents open opposition and hostility toward Him. Seeing this should convince anyone that this is the antichristian spirit, which would show itself in the world.[6]

Thomas Pyle (1674-1756), a Church of England controversial clergyman, hears John telling his readers, now you have a safe rule, by which to judge of all pretending prophecies, miracles, or inspirations of any kind. Your Christian religion, both as to the life, doctrine, and death of the Anointed One, that Holy Scripture gives it plentiful and inoffensive confirmation by God. Therefore, we can conclude that whatever heretical pretender organizes to fight the great truth of the incarnation of Jesus, the Anointed One denies He is the true Messiah. It is another way of saying that Jesus is not the real Anointed One, the Word, and Son of God. So let them pretend to have gifts and miracles to confirm it by an impostor, acting by demonic delusions and deceptions as one of those antichrists and false prophets, the forerunners of the great antichrist foretold by Jesus and the apostles.

On the contrary, whatever believer works any miracles in confirming the genuine articles of faith, so undeniably established beforehand, must accept that the Spirit of God inspired them. After all, it is impossible to conceive that the devil would lend his power to support a religion so opposed and destructive to his empire. Furthermore, the Anointed One would not give the power of His Spirit to those who do not embrace the true faith.[7] [8]

James Macknight (1721-1800) says that determining whether the Socinian[9] interpretation of the clause “is come in the flesh” expresses the Apostle John’s meaning; must not let their understanding become a substitute for what the Apostle John saying here. This is how you can recognize God’s Spirit. One spirit says, “I believe that Jesus is the Messiah who came to earth and became a man.” That is a godly spirit. Another spirit disbelieves this about Jesus. That spirit is not from God. It is antichrist.”[10]

To use some reverse psychology, Macknight proposes that if the Socinian sense of the phrase “is come” in the flesh is right; God has made it the mark of a true teacher who confesses Jesus the Anointed One is human. Thus, the mark of a false teacher is that they acknowledge Jesus the Anointed One is a man but affirms that He is only a man: Consequently, by so doing, John would condemn himself as a false teacher, because he later declares, “Jesus is the Son of God,[11] and “Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”[12]

So, by confessing that Jesus the Anointed One is the Son of God, a person acknowledges that He is more than a mere man. After all, the Jews, the learned doctors, and ordinary people believed the Son of God to be God: as is evident from John’s Gospel.[13] It means that no amount of church-attending, taking communion, being baptized, or being involved in church ministries will accomplish what this simple confession does – the man, Jesus of Nazareth, was the Anointed Son of God.

Richard Rothe (1799-1867) states that the Apostle John is not alarmed at seeing an antichristian spirit in Christendom, and it should not discourage us now. The powers of darkness in the world, which are opposed to the working of God in it, must rouse themselves and stand out prominently. But we should be cautious in branding anything as antichristian; we should abide by the principle articulated here by the Apostle John. We should not speak of an antichristian tendency where we do not encounter the denial of the historical Anointed One. Furthermore, nor should we do so when the refusal confronts us, not of the fact itself, there will be people like that around until Jesus returns, but only in the form which John has advised through testing the spirits. The spirit of the antichrist has no place to dwell in anyone who is committed to retaining Jesus the Anointed One in humanity’s history. We should not repel such an individual from us, nor separate ourselves from them, but should instead attempt to come to an understanding with them.[14]

Alfred Plummer (1841-1926) tells us that there is yet another very ancient and fascinating difference of rendering here: “every spirit which severs Jesus, or, unmakes Jesus or, destroys Jesus, or, as the margin of the KJV, which annuls Jesus, the Greek verb lyō 1 John 3:8: is used as “destroy.” In this reading, it appears that Tertullian (155-240 AD) knew about this corrupt text. He quotes the Apostle John saying that “the fore-runners of Antichrist, who deny that the Anointed One is come in the flesh, and do not acknowledge Jesus (to be the Anointed One)” thereby sever (dissect) Jesus.”[15] So also to Irenaeus (130-202 AD), who quotes the whole passage, and in this place has “and every spirit which separates (severs) Jesus.”[16]

But it can scarcely be genuine, for it is not in a single Greek Manuscript, nor any version except the Vulgate. And we have no specific knowledge that any Greek Father had this reading. So, what Irenaeus wrote may be an interpretation rather than a literal translation. And Church Historian Socrates Scholasticus (380-439 AD) charges that the Nestorians tampered with the text and ignored the reading “which severeth Jesus,”[17] just as Tertullian accuses the Valentinians of falsifying the text of John 1:13, and Ambrose the Arians of mutilating John 1:6. So the supposed heretical reading that excluded the word “severs” is the right one in all these cases.

Joseph Benson (1749-1821) sees a simple formula in the Apostle John’s test to determine if a teacher is telling the truth about Jesus. John says, here’s how you look for the genuine Spirit of God. Everyone who confesses openly their faith in Jesus the Anointed One – Son of God, who came as an actual flesh-and-blood person – comes from God and belongs to God. And everyone who refuses to confess faith in Jesus has nothing in common with God. This is the spirit of antichrist that you heard was coming. Well, it’s here, sooner than we thought![18] It is not a new revelation for John; he said as much in his Gospel.[19] From this and John 2:18, it appears that antichrist is not any particular person, nor any specific succession of persons in the church; instead, it is a general term for all false teachers in every age who disseminate doctrines contrary to those taught by the Apostles.[20]

Albert Barnes (1798-1870) says that this doctrine of Jesus being the Son of God is essential to the Christian system. Those who do not support it cannot be regarded as Christian or recognized as Christian teachers. If He was not a man, then all that occurred in His life, in Gethsemane and on the cross, was in appearance only and was assumed only to fool those who watched. There were no real sufferings; there was no shedding of blood; there was no death on the cross; and, of course, there was no atonement. A mere show, an appearance assumed, a vision, could not make atonement for sin; and a denial that the Son of God had come in the flesh, was in fact, a rejection of the doctrine of compensation for sin. The Latin Vulgate here reads: “et omnis spiritus, qui solvit Iesum” (“Every spirit that separates Jesus”). And early church historian Scholasticus Socrates says that Origen was unacquainted with the fact that in the First Epistle of John, it was written in the ancient copies, “Every spirit that separates Jesus, is not of God.”[21]


[1] Matthew 16:16

[2] Ibid. 16:13

[3] Romans 10:9; 1 John 4:2-3

[4] Colossians 2:18-19

[5] John 8:24

[6] Poole, Matthew: Commentary on 1 John, op. cit., loc. cit.

[7] Cf. 1 Corinthians 12:5

[8] Pyle, Thomas: Paraphrase, op. cit., pp. 394-395

[9] Socinianism is an unorthodox form of non-trinitarianism that was developed around the same time as the Protestant Reformation (1517-1648) by Italian humanist Lelio Sozzini and later promulgated by his cousin, Fausto Sozzini. In modern times Socinianism has been referred to as psilanthropism, the view that Jesus was merely human (from the Greek psilo meaning “merely/only” and anthropos meaning “man/human being”), a view rejected by the First Council of Nicaea.

[10] 1 John 4:2-3

[11] Ibid. 4:15

[12] Ibid. 5:5

[13] Macknight, James: Literal Paraphrase, op. cit., p. 56

[14] Rothe, Richard: The Expository Times, December 1893, p. 124

[15] Tertullian: Part Second, Against Hermogenes, Bk. 5, Ch. 16, p. 826

[16] Irenaeus, Fragments, Against Heresies, Bk. 3, Ch. 16, Verse 8, p. 881

[17] Nestorius: The Ecclesiastical History by Socrates Scholasticus, Bk. 7, Ch. 32, p. 312

[18] 1 John 4:2-3

[19] John 1:4

[20] Benson, Joseph: Commentary of the Old and New Testaments, Vol. 3, p. 11098

[21] 1 John 4:2-3

About drbob76

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