By Stan Brown
I John 4:2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus (as) Christ has come in the flesh is from God.
The world is beset by false spirits who seek to move us from the place of mutual abiding in fellowship with the Father and the Son. This fellowship is enhanced by the one true Spirit, the Holy Spirit of Promise (Eph. 1:13). We know He always speaks the truth. Yet there are a plethora of voices out there. John says that many of them are from false prophets; the antichrists that he has earlier described 1John 2:22 Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. How is it that we are to know the voices that speak the truth; that is the voices that are from the Holy Spirit; and the voices that seek to destroy; that is the voices controlled by the evil one?
John answers that question beginning in this verse. The phrase By this you know the Spirit of God looks back as it speaks of the need to test every spirit. It is every spirit that must pass this test. It also looks forward as John begins his message about discernment by defining the spirits which speak the truth, that is the spirits which speak under the control of the Holy Spirit.
In the second half of the verse John tells us Every spirit that confesses Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God. This would be almost nonsensical if all it means is that Jesus Christ came to live on earth as a man. This admission alone does not distinguish the message coming from the Spirit of God. The phrase can be translated slightly differently by treating Jesus as Christ rather than as if He were a man with the first name of Jesus and the last name Christ. Let’s translate it as follows, every spirit that confesses that Jesus as Christ has come in the flesh is from God. Understood in this fashion it means that it is necessary to affirm the reality that Jesus is the Christ and God has come to earth as a man. If it were merely to say ‘Hey there, Jesus was a man” it would mean very little but if it declares that He is the Christ, it is also saying that He is God who came to earth as the perfect God man. The Old Testament prophecies demand that, as Christ, He is God. Is. 9:6 And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. This fits perfectly with what John has written in 1John 2:22 Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. It conforms exactly with what John has declared as the purpose of His Gospel in John 20:31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. Jesus is the Christ who came to set us free from the power of sin.
It is not just the fact that Jesus came in the flesh. It is God who has come in the flesh. When He came, He brought every quality of God with Him. The spirits attack his character as they question both his love and His holiness. They perpetuate lies about both these characteristics as they say ‘he can’t be God. He doesn’t measure up to our standards.’ They deny that He came to deliver us from sin. When they redefine truth and love, they deny that Jesus as Christ has come in the flesh. The Spirit emanating from God not only affirms who Jesus is, it also affirms everything that is true about Him. The voices arising from every direction cause confusion among believers. As we hear these voices, we need to know who Jesus is along with what He has done and what he is doing. Jesus told His disciples John 16:33 “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
So, let us abide in Him as He abides in us. Let us learn to discern the spirits as they speak about who Jesus is.