WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson XXIV) 02/17/22

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.

Alan E. Brooke (1863-1939) says that the Apostle John transitions to a new section by repeating his last prominent idea.[1] The gift of the Spirit ensures knowledge of God to believers. But since all spiritual activities in John’s Day could not be traced back to the Spirit of God as their source, every spirit could not be accepted as true. Therefore, in the Apostle Paul’s day, he recommended that the Corinthians test every spiritual phenomenon accurately.[2] So John provided the readers with a test by which they could know whether the spirits were of God or not. The surest criterion was the confession of the Incarnation, or rather of the Incarnate Anointed One. Those who saw in Jesus of Nazareth as He appeared on earth in fleshly form the complete revelation of the Father was of God. Those who refused to confess Jesus were not of God. Such a refusal was the peculiar characteristic of the antichrist, whose coming they were taught to expect, and whose working they could already perceive.[3]

I remember in 2004 when my wife and I went to see the motion picture, “The Passion of the Christ.” As we watched, it was quite easy to pick out those in the theater who were of God and those who were not. Those who saw Jesus on the screen as a man being treated so terribly for no apparent reason looked like they were watching a horror movie, but those who saw Jesus as God’s Son in the flesh had tears in their eyes. That is why when we preach Jesus, whether, in the context of His ministry, passion, death, or resurrection, the listeners must know we are talking about God’s Divine Son, not just some holy person in history.

Rudolf Bultmann (1884-1976) says that the first part of verse three completes the criterion of “testing.” There we see that “every spirit which annuls Jesus’s divine Sonship is not of God,[4] is contrasted with “every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus the Anointed One has come in the flesh is from God.”[5]Deny” is used as the antithesis to a proper confession.[6] In any case, “deny” does not differ substantively in meaning from “does not confess,” attested to by most witnesses. The latter, however, was a correction very probably occasioned by verse two. In this sense, the use of “deny” is admittedly exceptional and striking, but the meaning cannot be in doubt: to deny Jesus the Anointed One as having come in the flesh means a person will not acknowledge that He did.[7]

Greville P. Lewis (1891-1976) says that the Apostle John calls this a subtle form of heresy, which claims to be a higher form of Christianity and yet rejects its foundation truth, is inspired by an evil spirit; that antichrist spirit. Today, we must bring the same charge against the modern heresies of “reduced Christianity” or “cheap grace.” The person who reveres the Anointed One as the noblest of all but denies that He was divine and most dignified of all men could not be more wrong. Or the individual who accepts the “divinity” of the Anointed One, but only in the sense that He was uniquely God-inspired, not God-incarnate, commits a grave mistake. So also, the one who stresses doctrine and theology over Christian living and ignores its moral and ethical implication is on the wrong path. In addition, the social reformer, who accepts the ethical and social teaching of Jesus, but ignores the fact of human sin and the redeeming power of a divine Savior – all these are “false prophets,” inspired by the antichrist spirit, not by the Spirit of the Anointed One.[8]

Amos N. Wilder (1895-1993) says that the human soul’s destiny is individually, and the fate of humans collectively is at stake here. To confess or not that Jesus has come in the flesh defines the perpetual crisis in which each person finds themselves and presents the fateful choice set before them. Jesus offers Himself as the Rock of Salvation[9] on which mankind may secure their eternal existence or as the Stone of Judgment that will grind them into powder.[10] The emergency in John’s circumstances compelled his use of the harsh dualism – The Anointed One or the Antichrist; of God or not of God; the spirit of truth or the spirit of error.  In the larger Gospel sense, it is the perpetual emergency of the human soul. The impulses that lead people to choose evil will remain a mystery to unbelievers. Jesus acknowledged this mystery.[11] [12] The Apostle Paul called these “sinful tendencies” leftover from our Adamic nature that lies dormant in our new nature, by which the believer’s moral or spiritual are awakened.[13]

Paul Waitman Hoon (1910-2000) says that the emergency in the Apostle John’s circumstances compelled his use of harsh dualisms – the Anointed One or Antichrist, of God or not of God, of the spirit of truth or the spirit of error. Its most powerful Gospel sense makes it a perceptual danger to the human soul. The impulses that lead people to choose evil will always remain mysterious. Jesus acknowledged this mystery when He prayed, “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever.”[14] Destructive factors in the soul, such as sinful tendencies to some thinkers, are so strong as to justify the doctrine of predestination. Some modern academics locate these factors in the subconscious depths of the mind.[15] Long before Jesus came, the Jews identified these tendencies as yetzer hara, which the Rabbis called “evil inclination.” It is based on what the LORD saw when He looked on the great wickedness of the human race, “that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.”[16] Jesus identified this tendency as being part of mankind’s “will.” So then, the conflict is when a person’s will either lean toward God and good, or Satan and evil.[17]

Henry Martyn Bacon (1827-1894) says pity those who dismissed the Anointed One in the flesh as a phantom. Whether it was a dream or documented fact or fiction, it is all the same. But this was not the Apostle John’s point of view. For him, anyone who does not confess that the Anointed One he knew and followed took on a human body proves God does not inspire them. They deny God’s greatest gift to mankind. They refuse to accept the grandest thing ever done for humanity. Furthermore, they reject the concept that the highest ideal of character was realized in the Anointed One.

What all mankind needed, says Bacon, was to see Jesus exert His transforming power. By this kind of seeing, Jesus brought about the profound change that took place in the first centuries of the Christian Church. It gave new elements to thought. It made having Him living in us more desirable. Likewise, it poured into the channel of human activity new forces of civilization and progress, and every department of social life felt the power of the most magnificent of all lives. Though Jesus may have been a phantom to some people’s imagination, nevertheless, He filled the world with His presence. It cannot be denied. It is moral, spiritual power. Not only that, but it made its impact in all the world, in society, government, courts, institutions, orphanages, hospitals, religion, laws, literature, and moral standards. The Anointed One is no phantom. His blessings are in our hearts, homes, churches, and society at large. His influence can be seen in the happiest efforts of the wondrous things being done in the world.[18]

William Barclay (1907-1978) says that Christian belief could be summed up in one great sentence for the Apostle John: “The Word became flesh and lived among us.”[19] Any spirit which denied the reality of the incarnation was not of God. John lays down two tests of belief. (1) To be of God, a spirit must acknowledge that Jesus is the Anointed One, the Messiah. (2) To be of God, a spirit must acknowledge that Jesus has come in the flesh.

It was precisely this that the Gnostics were guilty of, says Barclay. To deny the reality of the incarnation has inevitable consequences. (A) It is to deny that Jesus can ever be our example. If He was not in any real sense a man, living under the same conditions as other men and women, He could not show them how to live. (B) It is to deny that Jesus can be the high priest who opens the way to God. The true high priest must be like us in all things, knowing our weaknesses and temptations.[20] To lead people to God, the high priest must be human, or else he will point them to a road that is impossible for them to take if they want eternal life with God. (C) It is to deny that Jesus can in any real sense be Savior. To save men and women, He had to identify Himself with those He came to save.  (D) It is to deny the salvation of the body. Christian teaching is quite clear that salvation is the salvation of the whole person. The body, as well as the soul, is saved. To deny the incarnation is to deny the possibility that the body can ever become the temple of the Holy Spirit.

The last denial Barclay lists can be misleading unless we view it properly. When the Scripture talks about being “saved,” it refers to “saved from everlasting punishment without God.” Once a person dies, their body returns to the dust of the earth.[21] Those who are resurrected by the power of the Anointed One will receive a new body.[22] It would be more in line with the Scriptures if we were to say, “He came to save the soul and sanctify the body.” The Apostle Paul implied this when he asked dedicated believers to offer their bodies as holy and pleasing to God for His service, which is their true and proper worship.[23] Barclay continues by saying, (E) by far the most terrible thing is that denying the incarnation rejects that there can ever be any real union between God and human beings. If the spirit is altogether good and the body is entirely evil, God and humanity can never meet, as long as we are human. Nothing in Christianity is more central than the reality of Jesus the Anointed One’s humanity.[24]


[1] 1 John 3:24

[2] See Acts of the Apostles 16:16-18

[3] Brooke, Alan E., A Critical Exegetical Commentary, op. cit., p. 106

[4] 1 John 4:3

[5] Ibid. 4:2

[6] Ibid. 2:22ff

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

[8] Lewis, Greville P., Epworth Preacher’s Commentary, the Johannine Epistles, op. cit., pp. 94-95

[9] Psalm 89:26; cf. Matthew 7:24

[10] Matthew 21:44

[11] Matthew 11:25

[12] Wilder, Amos N., The Interpreter’s Bible, op. cit., 1 John, Exposition, pp. 271-273

[13] Cf. Romans 8:6-11

[14] Matthew 11:25

[15] Hoon, Paul W., The Interpreter’s Bible, op. cit., 1 John, Exegesis, p. 275

[16] Genesis 6:5; cf. 8:21; also see Isaiah 65:2; Jeremiah 3:17; 7:24; 9:14; 11:8; 13:10; 16:12; 23:17; Ezekiel 13:3, 17; Ephesians 2:3; Colossians 3:5

[17] Cf. Mark 3:35

[18] Bacon, Henry M., The Biblical Illustrator, op. cit., 1 John 4, p. 17

[19] John 1:14

[20] Hebrews 4:14-15

[21] Ecclesiastes 12:7

[22] 2 Corinthians 5:1-5; Philippians 3:21

[23] Romans 12:1

[24] Barclay, William: Daily Study Bible, op. cit., pp. 105-106

About drbob76

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