Trinity Covenant RCUS, Colorado Springs
That’s the Truth
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. I John 4:1-3
Presumably, the Holy Spirit was saying something meaningful when he had John pen the words, “Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God.”
Do words mean something? Is it possible to convey truth by means of words? John (and the Holy Spirit) evidently thought so, for they call the church to examine spirits by means of the words.
Satan resists confession, for he uses words differently from God. Satan hates the wisdom and truth of God and denies that words confess truth. “God didn’t mean you will die,” he told Eve. Satan uses words to manipulate people away from the truth of God. God told Adam and Eve one time that if they ate the Tree in the midst of the Garden, they would die.
Nowadays the devil tells folks that the story of Adam and Eve is a “literary device” – that the whole first chapter of Genesis was a literary device, and that the days of creation did not happen that way. This would have been too transparent for Adam and Eve, and the devil was too subtle and clever to get caught in a lie like that in those days. Adam and Eve knew better—they knew that they were real and that God had spoken to them. So the devil did not question THAT God had spoken, he simply tried to twist God’s words and deny the truth of them. In fact, he accused God of using words to manipulate, just as the devil does. (Gen. 3:5)
The test by which the prophets of God are known and evil prophets are revealed is in the phrase written by John: “Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God.”
I. There are evil spirits, and they try to turn people away from the truth. They use people to spread their message. “There are many false prophets gone out into the world,” is the way John puts it. There is a real and present danger to people because of these false prophets. They do not come from God, but from another spirit, the devil, who is also called Appolyon, or the Destroyer, according to Rev. 9:11. Those who listen to them do not follow God or Jesus Christ and do not have salvation, but are destroyed.
II. These false prophets are not willing to confess the truth concerning Jesus Christ. They may speak of Christ. They may profess to love Jesus, but they deny the truth concerning Him. They imagine another sort of Jesus Christ than the One who is revealed by the Apostles, including Paul. Every word of the statement concerning Jesus Christ is important in John’s test of orthodoxy. They are just as important for us today as they were in the day John wrote them.
III. What are the words that John uses? What is the doctrine that false prophets reject and show themselves to be Antichrist? “Jesus Christ is come in the flesh” is the formula. To reject the meaning of these words is to be lost and alienated from God. These are the words, with their meaning:
A. “Jesus.” A name is used to identify a particular person. The person that John is speaking of is Jesus of Nazareth, who was born of Mary in Bethlehem, according to the Gospels. If this is not the meaning of what John wrote, then words mean nothing at all.
B. “Christ” This name was rich in the hopes and expectation of the Old Testament. The word “Christ” is the Greek word for “anointed” and corresponds to the Hebrew word for “Messiah.” John is simply affirming that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah promised to Adam, to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and throughout the Old Testament.
C. “Is come.” Come from where? One cannot “Come” unless He existed elsewhere, and this is simply the truth that John teaches throughout his writings. He is saying that the Christ, who is Jesus of Nazareth, is the pre-existent Wisdom and Word of God, the Son of God, who was with God and who was God in the beginning, as John affirms in Chapter One of his Gospel. Saint Paul said that He is the “Lord of Glory” (I Cor. 2:8). Jesus Himself speaks of the glory that He had with the Father before the world was (John 17:5).
D. “In the Flesh,” simply means that the Son, who was with the Father before the world was, really became a true man in history. It is not a parable, nor an allegory, but a wonderful, incomprehensible mystery. God Himself came in the flesh, in the Person of the Son of God, to fulfill the covenant that God had made with Abraham.
God had promised Abraham that He, God, would fulfill the covenant Himself. In accordance with the way covenants were made in old times, animals were divided and the parties passed between the parts. But in the case with the covenant with Abraham, only God passed between the parts, signifying that He alone would be surety for the covenant. (See Genesis 15 and Isaiah 59).
Through faith Abraham became the heir of the world (Rom. 4:13), receiving through the Promise that which Adam had lost by his sin. This Promise is fulfilled in Christ (Galatians 3:29). The essence of the Promise was that God would take His elect unto Himself and be their God, would freely forgive their sins, would give them His Spirit, would write His law upon the hearts of His people, preserve them through the sufferings of this present life, and take them to eternal glory and blessing when their sufferings are past. The zeal of God Himself would accomplish these things.