1 John 2:22-23, “22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.”
Several days ago, in our series on 1 John, we considered the perseverance of the saints when we looked at 1 John 2:19. In that study, we explored how those who fall away from saving faith and abandon orthodoxy have made an empty confession. Only those who are truly born again will by the grace of God, persevere in the faith (Phil. 1:6). While 1 John 2:19 applies to all who would deny saving in Christ alone, it is the leaving of the false teachers that prompted John to write this portion of his letter. These false teachers were many of the antichrists that will come (1 John 2:18). The antichrist here is not the final, Antichrist at the end of all history; it is the lesser antichrists, in the form of false teachers that John has in view in this passage.
In 1 John 2:22-23, John contrasts those who are liars and those who are in the truth that his readers might recognize the spirit of the antichrist when it occurs. 1 John 2:22 helps us know the one who denies Jesus Christ is the Christ is among those who are antichrists.
The particular denial in focus here is not related to whether Jesus is the Messiah but a denial of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. A confession of the Incarnation is essential to biblical orthodoxy and crucial to an assurance of salvation (1 John 1:1-4). John has in mind false teachers who accepted the teaching of the heretic Cerinthus who called Jesus “the Christ,” yet, denied the apostolic definition and meaning of the title. While biblical orthodoxy teaches that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God who became incarnate, these false teachers taught that Jesus remained a mere man His entire life, only possessing the “Spirit of Christ.”
It’s popular today to hear people say they are willing to consider Jesus “the Christ.” Often though, they deny the Incarnation. Muslims, accept Jesus as the Messiah, but deny Him as the Incarnate Son of God. 1 John 2:23 reminds readers that if they are to call Jesus “the Christ,” but do not accept the apostolic person about His person, they have denied Jesus and the Father. John Calvin explains, “it is not enough in words to confess that Jesus is the Christ, except he is acknowledged to be such as the Father offers him to us in the gospel.”
It’s popular today to think that definitions don’t matter and using precise language doesn’t either, especially when it comes to theology. And yet, as we have seen, these false teachers that John talks about here, used imprecise language that was damming to their hearers. Sound doctrine matters and included in that is loving God with our minds. And this is why, we must use precise definitions, not only because they articulate biblical truth, but also because they help God’s people to guard apostolic doctrine.
We should not be afraid to learn the hard theological truths, along with how to explain those truths. We live in a culture that emphasizes it’s feelings. If we are going to stand for sound biblical doctrine, we must learn the meaning of these theological words and how they impact people’s lives. And to that end, one cannot honestly acknowledge Jesus as the “Christ” unless this title is defined biblically.
Many people today, claim to know Christ but deny critical truths about His person and work. Included in that denial is one related to His deity and the necessity of the substitutionary atonement, and the exclusivity of the Christian faith. When we confess these essential truths, though, we affirm that the Messiah, is not a mere man, but the incarnate Son of God, wholly or fully God, and at the same time wholly or fully man.
If you haven’t already consider taking time to review the biblical teaching on the person of Christ as found in the Nicene Creed, along with further study on the person and work of Jesus Christ in excellent systematic theologies like Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology and Greg Allison’s Historical Theology. You can also check out The Christian Faith by Michael Horton, Biblical Doctrine by MacArthur and Mayhue. Also excellent is 50 Core Truths About the Christian Faith by Greg Allison and Pilgrim Theology by Michael Horton.