He Who Confesses and He Who Does Not Confess: John’s Confession of Faith

The substantial theological differences that began to emerge in the days of the apostles caused them to develop short, pithy confessional statements that summarized vital elements of the apostolic teaching. These served as a dividing point between teachers of truth and teachers of error. The apostle John found some teachers infiltrating the church who taught that Jesus was only a spirit who appeared to be in a true body. Others taught that Jesus was only a man who served for a short while as a vehicle for the presence and teaching of a divine spirit who left him just before he died.

In order to expose the teachers of both these errors, John set forth a simple but highly evocative confessional statement: “Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.” (1 John 4:2, 3). The negative part of the confession borrows the context from the first part—that is, one is not from God who will not confess that the man named Jesus is the Christ who has come in the flesh.

1. It means we have fellowship with the Father

That confession summarizes much of the core teaching that John emphasized throughout this letter. In showing that God the Son, Jesus of Nazareth, and the promised Christ all were the same person from the point of his conception, John filled his short epistle with pertinent, pregnant phraseology. Our fellowship is with “the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1:3). The man that they knew as Jesus existed eternally as the Son of God and came into the world in fulfillment of all the messianic prophecies, to effect our fellowship with the Father.

2. It means we have forgiveness

Forgiveness of sins comes only through “the blood of Jesus his Son” (1:7). This one who eternally is the Son of God, in his coming to earth, had blood just like other human beings. Now in heaven exalted high, one who pleads for us as an advocate on the basis of his substitutionary blood-shedding, seated at the Father’s right hand is “Jesus Christ the righteous” (2:1). So pivotal a truth is this that John queried, “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?” (2:22).

3. It means there is no other way

So vital for a knowledge of and fellowship with the true God is a proper view of and belief in this Jesus that John claimed absolutely, “No one who denies the Son has the Father,” and on the other hand, “Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also” (2:23). If the message that they had heard from him remained in their minds as a true confession of their hearts, then they themselves would “abide in the Son, and in the Father” (2:24).

4. It means that Satan’s threats are vain

“The reason the Son of God appeared,” John taught, was to “destroy the works of the devil” (3:8). So the writer of Hebrews also claimed in Hebrews 2:14, 15. It seems that the original opposition that arose in the mind of this originally glorious angel was precisely at the point of God’s purpose to send his infinitely glorious, eternally generated, perfectly loving and loved Son to be one in nature with humans (Hebrews 2:11). At the idea of the glorious standing this would give humanity, Satan, certainly not grasping all that would be involved, revolted. Jesus clearly recognized the sinister nature of this primeval objection to the eternal purpose and immutable covenantal arrangement of his Father when Peter argued that Jesus surely had not come to die (Matthew 16:21-23). Ironically, “the works of the devil” made necessary the very thing Satan so despised.

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