Friday, August 28, 2009

Questions on 1 John?

A Question On 1 John

Q. 1 John 4:1-3 admonishes us to “not believe every spirit… but to test the spirits.” Further, “every spirit” is of God if it confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.

What are those “spirits” we are to test? Am I correct in assuming that the “spirits” we are to test are the message a speaker or writer promulgates? That a speaker/writer who denies the divinity of Jesus is not of God?

What does it mean to deny that Christ has “come in the flesh”? Surely it’s not something so simplistic as to deny the existence of the historical Jesus — a position that very few scholars espouse today. If not, however, what does it mean?

In a chance encounter, or even in a theological discussion, somehow I can’t imagine asking another person, “Has Jesus Christ come in the flesh?” What “modern” question can one use to “test a spirit” in a speaker or writer?

A. 1 John is directed specifically against a false teaching that would become known as the Gnostic Error. Their main contention was that divinity (being pure) and humanity (being sinful) could not possibly co-exist in the same body. Therefore if Jesus was human He couldn’t have been God and couldn’t have died for us.

I think the phrase “come in the flesh” is an abbreviation John used referring to the fact that God became man and dwelt among us in order to die for our sins, and whoever believes this is given the authority to become a child of God and will have eternal life. He said those who deny this are not of God, and of course the Gnostic teachers denied this (and still do).

Another Question About 1 John

Q. Please explain 1 John 5:8 and, if you could, 1 John 5:16-18…. sin leading to death and not leading to death. Thanks for your supernatural insight.

A. 1 John 5:7-8 is a controversial passage over which bitter arguments are held. Some say the part of the passage which reads, “in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one” never appeared in any early manuscript and was added in the 1500’s at the insistence of the Catholic Church. Others claim the reason it can’t be found in early manuscripts is because it was removed by people opposed to the doctrine of the Trinity. To me it’s an argument that leads nowhere, because neither side can offer conclusive proof to support their position.

In my opinion there is plenty of evidence for the Trinity in the Bible without getting stuck on the authenticity of one verse. For example, you only have to read Genesis 1:1-2 and John 1:1-2 to see the three persons of the Trinity present from the moment of Creation. And a careful reading of the New Testament will confirm that all three are said to dwell within every believer.

As for 1 John 5:16-18 we’re responsible to pray for a believer we observe in the commission of a sin, asking the Lord to forgive him. The exception is a sin that leads to death. The only such sin is to deny that Jesus died for us. There’s no forgiveness for that. I believe that John was referring specifically to those who followed the Gnostic teaching of the day denying the deity of Jesus and saying that being a mere human He couldn’t have died for our sins.

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