From the ethical checks of love and obedience we come to verse seven and the doctrinal check. This test centers on the all important question, “Who is Jesus Christ”? We saw in the previous verse John repeated the command concerning how we are to live our lives in Christ. The use of repetition (vs. 5 with 6) will press home the point that walking in truth, love, and obedience begins with correct views of the Person of Jesus Christ. John, as a true shepherd of the flock, not only encouraged and exhorted but also warned of the spiritual dangers that surround the followers of Christ. John writes, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh” (vs.7a).
The seriousness of this Christological error is made even sharper by the fact that some of these deceivers arose from their own ranks. John said that the promoters of error were once part of the local churches (see 1 John 2:19). This was predicted by the apostle Paul in his farewell address to the Ephesians elders some 30 years earlier. The apostle warned that from the midst of the church, savage wolves – false teachers, would arise and draw away members of the fellowship (see Acts 20:29-31). This proved true not just in Ephesus. All local churches faced the treat of deceivers not only from without but from within. Church history is littered with the wrecks of such ‘internal’ deceivers.
Let us consider the Christological error of the new thinkers. First, we state the teaching of historic apostolic Christianity. Jesus Christ is true God and true man, the two natures in the One Person forever, without any mixture or confusion. The coming of the Christ, the God- Man, is called the incarnation. The Divine Son took to Himself the human nature, conceived by the Holy Sprit, born of the virgin, Mary, and without sin.
We mentioned that the false teachers believed that the material world such as the physical body was evil. Therefore they reasoned that Christ could not have come in a physical body. Some said Christ only seemed real. He was a phantom. John puts that error to rest in the prolog of his first epistle (see 1 John 1:1-4).
Others misconstrued the Person of Christ by separating His two natures. Cerinthus, a contemporary of John, was one who propagated the error. He taught that Jesus was born as a result of the biological union of Joseph and Mary. Joseph was his natural father. Jesus was an extraordinary man, but nonetheless just a man. Joining the man Jesus was the heavenly Christ. The later was the chief mediating spirit in the Gnostic hierarchy of such beings. This spirit, “Christ” descended on the man Jesus at His baptism, remained for a time, but left Jesus prior to His suffering and death on the cross.
John abhors such an error concerning the Person of Jesus Christ and so must we. To deny that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is an error of the most catastrophic proportions. A Christ who is a phantom or has a divided nature is no Christ according to the teaching of God’s Word.
Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. The Son of God took on the human nature. He was made like us in all things yet without sin. It was as the God-Man that He bore our sins in His body on the cross as our substitute. The holy sinless Son of God was plunged into outer darkness, hell, for our sins. He paid the penalty our sins justly deserved, satisfied Divine justice, and reconciled us to the Father.
If that doesn’t ravish your heart with thankfulness to and love for God something is wrong with the state of your soul. If that doesn’t move you to see the beauty of Jesus Christ in His Person and work so that you give him all of your heart, something is wrong with your soul.
Now if the false teachers were correct then we would have no Savior able to accomplish the necessary work to secure our salvation. To separate the two natures of Christ, mix or confuse them, deny the virgin birth, deny or contradict His true humanity or Deity is contrary to the foundational truth of historic apostolic Christianity. To do so is the committing of spiritual suicide and leaves one without a Savior. I am afraid that I will be called old fashioned, narrow, or a fanatic. I expect that in a day where absolute truth is brushed aside to make way for ‘progressive’ thinking. But your controversy is not with me but with God.
John used the full title, Jesus Christ, to make sure we recognize our Lord’s human and Divine natures. Lest we fail to grasp the seriousness of the eternal consequences at stake, the apostle defines the deniers of the incarnation. He says of those who do not acknowledge the coming of the Son of God in human flesh, “This is the deceiver and the antichrist (vs.7b).
John is the only Biblical writer who specifically uses the term antichrist. By definition an antichrist is anyone who is opposed to Christ or stands in the place of Christ. Note that John refers to antichrist not as an individual but collectively. These deceivers are antichrists. There are many such according to John who were on the scene tampering with or denying the foundational truth concerning the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh.
Again John stresses in his first epistle that there were many antichrists on the scene. He describes them collectively as the divisive teachers that arose from among their own ranks. We give the passage in full. “Children, it is the last hour, and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen, from this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of us, for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us, but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us (1 John 2:18-19).
John doesn’t refer to one individual as antichrist. His readers heard that antichrist was coming but referred to antichrist as many. Furthermore, John in the same first epistle again emphasizes that many false prophets have gone out into the world denying the incarnation. This spirit (which I believe refers to the essence of their teaching) is that of the antichrist. John’s readers heard of its coming and John said that spirit was now present in their day. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this we 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, of which you have heard it is coming, and now it is already in the world (1 John 4:1-3).
The first coming of Christ ushered in the last days (see Hebrews 1:1-2, 1 Peter 1:20). The period between the first and second coming is the last days. The spirit of antichrist is already here. With all the talk on board about the antichrist, who he may be, and what he will do we seem to forget to take John’s warning into the picture. Antichrists according to John deny the foundational truth of Biblical Christianity concerning the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Antichrists boldly and subtly contradict or refute that Jesus Christ is truly the God-Man, the only able and mighty Savior of sinners,
The apostle Paul said that the coming of the “man of lawlessness” (who most likely is the final antichrist), will be a combination of boldness and cunning. This ‘son of destruction’ “opposes and exalts himself above every so called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God (2 Thessalonians 2:4). Here we have his arrogant boldness.
On the other hand this lawless one’s coming and dealings will be fueled by Satan “with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness […]” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10). Here we have his sheer cunning and deceptive prowess.
Boldness and deception permeates the thoughts, words, and deeds of all antichrists. It should not surprise us if the antichrist extraordinaire arises out of the church as John and Paul seem to imply.
Lets us not fail to mark it that all antichrists deny the Father-Son relationship. In the economy of salvation the Bible teaches that God the Father purposed salvation. God the Son carried out the work of salvation. God the Holy Spirit applied the work of salvation. The Father sent the Son to redeem sinners. “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came in to the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). But the Savior had to be made like us in order to reconcile us to God. “Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same […]. Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people […] (see Hebrews 2:14-18).
To reject Jesus Christ as to His true Person and consequently His work is to reject the Father because they are intimately related. “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Having a correct (Biblical) view of the Person of Jesus Christ becomes the basis for walking in truth, love, and obedience.