The Gospel Standard, part 2
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 1 John 4:1-3
Yesterday we started to look at the standard John gives us for testing the spirits, that the Spirit of God “confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.” The name Jesus Christ shows us that Jesus was both God and man. Now, what does it mean that He “has come in the flesh.”
“Has come” is what is called a past perfect verb. Past means, of course, that it already happened. Perfect means the action has already been completed; Jesus isn’t still in the process of coming, He already did it. Together, they emphasizes that Jesus’ life on earth was a real historical event that happened in a particular time and place. It also indicates that He is no longer on earth; that His coming already happened and is now over.
In writing that Jesus “has come” instead of using another verb like “was born,” John is reflecting what he wrote about in the beginning of his gospel, in John 1: “In the beginning was the Word [Jesus], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Jesus didn’t spring into being when He was born; He already existed. He has been God from the very beginning of time.
Finally, “in the flesh” gives a final underline to Jesus’ real humanity. He had a real body that really died, like other human bodies, and experienced all of life in the same way we do.
So when John says the Spirit of God confesses the “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh,” these are some of the things a true teacher must believe:
1. Jesus is human.
2. Jesus is God.
3. Jesus lived on earth.
4. Jesus existed before His life on earth.
5. Jesus died and lived in the same way other humans do, except that He did it perfectly.
This is the standard we use to judge whether a message is from God.
Questions for reflection and discussion
1. Why is it important that Jesus existed before His life on Earth?
2. What if a teacher confesses 4 out of 5 of these points? Is he a true or false teacher?
Dear God, give us the wisdom to apply your standard to the teachings we hear. Help us abide in the gospel at all times. In Jesus’ name, amen.
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