WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson XXIII) 02/16/22

4:3 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 have heard that the enemy of the Anointed One is coming. Well, he’s already in the world.

Erich Haupt (1841-1926) notes that the second half of verse three declares that such a denial of the incarnation is not only a token that one is not of God but also a stamp of positive anti-Christianity. With respect to the meaning, it is comparatively a matter of indifference whether each of the pronouns, toutō (“this”) and tou tō (“of the antichrist”) and the word “spirit,” speak of the same or agree as to the contents “of the,” and translate “of the Antichrist” as its nature or characteristic. Both are grammatically possible, though the former seems, on the whole, the more obvious. The Antichrist, says the Apostle John, concerning whom you have heard that he will appear as the highest and most fearful error and the most bitter enemy of Jesus, has manifested itself in this denying of the divine-human nature of Jesus. However, He who was to come has already arrived. In the future, He will be the final, perfected, and personal exhibition of the Incarnation principle.[1]

Dr. Haupt explains that when the Apostle John said, “every spirit” at the beginning of verse three, he was automatically implying “this is the spirit of the antichrist” in the middle part of verse three. So, to put it another way, John is saying, “the spirit of the antichrist is every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is from God.” That way, no one could say, “Oh, I don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth descended from God, but I’m not antichrist.” By just saying that, says John, you expose yourself as influenced by the antichrist spirit.

Alfred Plummer (1841-1926) states that the Apostle John had just declared that, in a life of obedience to and of God’s Spirit, we had a twofold seal – first, that we are of the truth; and secondly, that God abides in us. But it was not to rise to any false expectation that this seal would remain unchallenged from without, however clear it might be to our spirit within. At the same time, we are not to be easily persuaded to change our minds. Any attempt to draw us away from the faith should be confronted with a very trying test. That’s why John told us that teachers and preachers of novelty ideas are to be severely tested.

For many ages, says Plummer, there have been and will be two classes of religious individuals. First, those who desire to talk about any new fancy or supposed revelation that grabs their attention or dispute any accepted faith they are not willing to embrace. The second are those who are equally ready to listen to any novelty in doctrine which may enlighten them at any time. Even when the Apostle John wrote this letter, “many false prophets” had “gone out into the world.” And it is a great blessing for us that this elder apostle responded to that fact for the following reasons. (1) To administer a caution against those too eager to accept any new prophet. (2) To supply a test, both exclusive and inclusive, which might serve the Churches for all time, which John gratefully did with the help of the Holy Spirit.[2]

Clement Clemance (1845-1886) states that supposed Christian teachers are consistently 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 unimportance. This “spirit of antichrist” is more or less the “characteristics of an antichrist attitude.”[3] And now it is in the world already – an independent statement the Apostle John does not say that they heard about previously.[4] In other words, John makes it sound as though this antichrist spirit had recently gone out and is spreading fast. He has been aware that the antichrist spirit was already in fashion, which reminds everyone to be careful and not get caught unawares.

Aaron M. Hills (1848-1911) explains that every spirit that is not closely knitted to Jesus is not of God.[5] These words may be understood in different ways. Nevertheless, one way we may understand them is to realize that this knitting and fastening of Jesus to a person’s soul is brought about by a great desire to have Him in their hearts and feel the spiritual joy that it brings. The greater this desire, the faster Jesus is knit to the soul, and having less desire means the knitting has begun to unravel. Whatever spirit, therefore, or feeling that lessens this desire and draws the believer from steadfastly looking to Jesus the Anointed One and from the yearning for His presence, will unravel Jesus from the soul, and, therefore, is not of God, but is the working of the enemy. But if a spirit, feeling, or revelation makes this desire more, knitting the knots of love and devotion faster to Jesus, opening the eye of the soul into spiritual knowing more clearly, and making it more humble in itself, this Spirit is of God.[6]

James B. Morgan (1850-1942)  of Belfast says that after reading what the Apostle John told about spirits, “Who is meant by ‘the spirits’ of whom the apostle speaks?” We do not have far to go in order to find a satisfactory answer – it is furnished here in verse two. Those called “spirits” in the first part are designated “prophets” in the last. They are identified as constituting the same class: Ministers of the Word who claimed to be of God, whether those who write or preach it or those that were acknowledged as Church’s instructors. However, this view gives rise to another question: Why are the prophets or ministers of the Word designated as spirits? No doubt, a reason may be that they are what the spirit is to the spiritual body of the Anointed One. They animate, guide, and control it. But the main reason appears to be the influence that activates them. These may be good, or they may be evil. They may be according to the mind of the Spirit of truth or the spirit of error. They may be the servants either of the Spirit of God or of Satan. Or instruments to advance the cause of holiness or unholiness. They are either the best friends or the worst enemies of the Church and its teachings. Their influence is mighty for good or for evil.[7]

Then Morgan goes on to say that having been given this general counsel, John proceeds to give a particular illustration of both the error that might be introduced and of the duty of opposing it in the subsequent verses – “Here’s how you’ll know the Spirit of God,” etc. There are signs of whether a minister is teaching under the influence of the Spirit of God. What are they? They are both positive and negative. “Every spirit that confesses,” etc.

1. To confess that Jesus the Anointed One is come in the flesh is to own the Divinity of His mission.

2. To confess that Jesus the Anointed One is come in the flesh is to own the Divinity of His person.

3. To confess that Jesus the Anointed One is come in the flesh is to own the Grace of His mission and His person.[8]

4. Finally, to confess that Jesus the Anointed One is come in the flesh is to own the Reality of His incarnation as the all-sufficient Anointed One.[9]

Morgan concludes by advising, let us learn that we may judge our condition by our attention to the ministry of the Word and act towards it. 1) Do we apprehend, approve, enjoy, and encourage a faithful publication of the Gospel, of the Anointed One and Him crucified, the power and wisdom of God? Or 2) is the subject dark to our uneasiness, contrary to our taste, and distasteful to our feelings? If 1), then there is reason to think we are of God. If 2), there is reason to fear we are not of God. A healthy person relishes and requires solid and wholesome food, but the disgusted person shows that they are laboring under pressure. It is the same with the mind. An enlightened hearer of the Word must have the bread of life served to them, for no other food will satisfy their soul. They feel that they are nourished with the food of everlasting life.[10]  Morgan then closes with the lyrics of a grand old hymn:[11]

“How sweet the name of Jesus sounds

In a believer’s ear!

It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,

And drives away his fear.

It makes the wounded spirit whole,

And calms the troubled breast;

Tis manna to the hungry soul,

And to the weary rest.”[12]

Alonzo Rice Cocke (1858-1901) says that everyone who denies the incarnation as outlined in the Scriptures, with all that it implies, cannot derive their doctrine from God. First, there is the emphatic mark of all false inspiration. One denying this doctrine is of the antichrist and is swallowing the spirit which will one day control the antichrist. According to the Apostle John, these modifiers of God’s Word are their forerunners. There is a pseudo-Christology that comes from the father of lies. Even in John’s day, false spirits were coining Satan’s deceptions and trying to lead God’s children away from the truth. The initial point in the conflict between truth and error was the Person of the Anointed One; the battle had begun before John wrote this epistle.[13]

Then secondly, we must keep in mind, says Cocke, not believing that the Son of God came to earth as a spirit and was born as a human is not the only way to deny the Anointed One. Jesus said, “If anyone is ashamed of Me and My message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when He returns in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”[14] Then we have the case of the Apostle Peter sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant girl came over and said to him, “You were one of those with Jesus the Galilean.” But Peter denied it in front of everyone. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.[15] Then there was the Apostle Paul’s warning to Titus: “Such people claim they know God, but they deny Him by the way they live. They are detestable and disobedient, worthless for doing anything good.”[16] So, also, Paul’s notice to Timothy: “If we endure hardship, we will reign with Him. If we deny Him, He will deny us.”[17] And then Apostle Peter also called attention to this: “But there were also false prophets in Israel, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will cleverly teach destructive heresies and even deny the Master who bought them. In this way, they will bring sudden destruction on themselves.”[18] So, I’m sure we could all add to the list of ways to deny Jesus His rightful place in a person’s life.


[1] Haupt, Erich: The First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 253

[2] Plummer, Alfred: First Epistle of John, Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 22, Homiletics, p. 105

[3] See 1 John 2:18

[4] Clemance, Clement: First Epistle of John, Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 22, Exposition, op. cit., p. 102

[5] 1 John 4:3

[6] Hills, Aaron M., The Scale of Perfection, op. cit., Bk. 1, Part 1, p. 43

[7] Morgan, James B., An Exposition of the First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 285, 291

[8] 2 Corinthians 8:9

[9] Morgan, James B. Biblical Illustrator, op. cit., loc. cit., Lecture XXIX, p. 7

[10] See John 10:2-5

[11] Morgan, James B., The Exposition of the First Epistle of John, op. cit., Lecture XIX, p. 292

[12] How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds in a Believer’s Ear, by John Newton (1779), Music by Alexander R. Reinagle.

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

[14] Mark 8:38

[15] Matthew 26:69-70

[16] Titus 1:16

[17] 2 Timothy 2:12

[18] 2 Peter 2:1

About drbob76

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