1 John 4:2-3, “2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 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.”
As we survey history, it seems that every generation of Christians has had to deal with those who denied essential aspects of the Christian faith because such teaching contradicted the prevailing attitudes and beliefs of the surrounding culture. The worship of lesser deities alongside Yahweh in the history of Israel demonstrates the impact of Canaanite religion upon the Israelites. Today many people believe that salvation is possible apart from Christ display how much the Body of Christ has been affected by postmodern denials of absolute truth.
When 1 John was written, certain ideas from Greek philosophy were significantly affecting the Body of Christ. One example of this teaching pertains to matter being evil, and only the spirit is good. This teaching taught that the eternal Son of God (spirit) became eternally united to human nature and body (matter). Such teaching was scandalous to the Greek culture, and thus many of the heretics in the early Church denied the Incarnation of Jesus.
Docetism, one of these early heresies, taught that the Divine Son only appeared to have a human body. Doceticism is a subset of Gnociticms also claimed the human body of Jesus was only an illusion and thus never existed. While similar forms of this heresy, such as the one espoused by Certinthus, a heretic, denied the Incarnation of Jesus, teaching, the eternal Spirit of Jesus Christ, descended upon the man Jesus only at His baptism, then left Him after His death.
Scholars believe the teaching of Certinhus was on John’s mind, as he wrote 1 John 4:2-3, but it’s hard to be certain for many different groups denied the Incarnation in his day. We learn from 1 John 4:2-3 that the Incarnation of Jesus is an essential mark of orthodoxy. It is also one way to determine if a spirit is from God or not (1 John 4:2-3).
Those who deny the Incarnation of Jesus Christ possesses the spirit of the antichrist. While it’s popular and partly right to think of Jesus as a good teacher or moral person, such a statement does not express the full revelation of Scripture. If people do not acknowledge the Lord Jesus as the Incarnate, Son of God, then we can be sure they are not of the Father.
The Incarnation of the Lord Jesus today is under attack, namely from people with anti-supernatural biases. Even so, with the rising interest in the supernatural, many people also are convinced of the Incarnation of Jesus but also deny any implications for the exclusivity of Jesus and the Christian faith. Since Jesus is the incarnate Son of God; He must likewise be the only way to salvation. As you share your Christian faith, please do not forget what the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus means for Jesus’ exclusivity and proclaim it to others.