1 John 4:3
And every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof you have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
1 John 4:3. Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh — That doth not acknowledge him to be the true Messiah, as above observed, and that he came in that particular manner, though he might have come otherwise; is not of Gods — “To determine whether the Socinian interpretation of the clause, hath come in the flesh, expresses the apostle’s meaning, let that interpretation be substituted for the expression of which it is the interpretation, and the passages under consideration will run thus: 1 John 4:2, Every spirit, every teacher, calling himself inspired, who confesseth Jesus Christ hath come a mere man, is from God; 1 John 4:3, And every spirit who doth not confess Jesus Christ hath come a mere man, is not from God. Wherefore, as St. John is here giving marks by which true and false teachers were to be distinguished, if the Socinian sense of the phrase, hath come in the flesh, be just, he hath made it the mark of a true teacher, that he confesseth Jesus Christ as a mere man; and the mark of a false teacher, that he doth not confess Jesus Christ as a mere man, but affirmeth that he is more than a mere man; consequently, by so doing, St. John has condemned himself as a false teacher; because, having declared (1 John 4:15; 1 John 5:5) that Jesus Christ is the Song of Solomon of God, he hath confessed that he is more than a mere man.” And also in his gospel, having told us, (John 1:14,) that the Word (who he had said, 1 John 4:1, was with God and was God) was made flesh and dwelt among us, and they beheld his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, “he hath certainly confessed that Jesus Christ is more than a mere man: for whose glory did the apostles behold, if it was not the glory of the Word made flesh, the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth? Wherefore, John having confessed that Jesus is the only-begotten Son of God, he cannot be supposed to have branded those teachers as deceivers, who did not confess Jesus Christ to be a mere man, but affirmed him to be more than a man; because, by so doing, he would have condemned himself as a false teacher.” And this is that spirit of antichrist which ye have heard, &c. — “From this, as well as from John 2:18, it appears that antichrist is not any particular person, nor any particular succession of persons in the church, but a general name for all false teachers in every age, who disseminate doctrines contrary to those taught by the apostles; especially if these doctrines have a tendency to derogate from Christ’s character and actions as the Saviour of the world.” — Macknight.4:1-6 Christians who are well acquainted with the Scriptures, may, in humble dependence on Divine teaching, discern those who set forth doctrines according to the apostles, and those who contradict them. The sum of revealed religion is in the doctrine concerning Christ, his person and office. The false teachers spake of the world according to its maxims and tastes, so as not to offend carnal men. The world approved them, they made rapid progress, and had many followers such as themselves; the world will love its own, and its own will love it. The true doctrine as to the Saviour's person, as leading men from the world to God, is a mark of the spirit of truth in opposition to the spirit of error. The more pure and holy any doctrine is, the more likely to be of God; nor can we by any other rules try the spirits whether they are of God or not. And what wonder is it, that people of a worldly spirit should cleave to those who are like themselves, and suit their schemes and discourses to their corrupt taste?And every spirit that confesseth not ... - That is, this doctrine is essential to the Christian system; and he who does not hold it cannot be regarded either as a Christian, or recognised as a Christian teacher. If he was not a man, then all that occurred in his life, in Gethsemane, and on the cross, was in "appearance" only, and was assumed only to delude the senses. There were no real sufferings; there was no shedding of blood; there was no death on the cross; and, of course, there was no atonement. A mere show, an appearance assumed, a vision, could not make atonement for sin; and a denial, therefore, of the doctrine that the Son of God had come in the flesh, was in fact a denial of the doctrine of expiation for sin. The Latin Vulgate here reads "qui solvit Jesum," "who dissolves or divides Jesus;" and Socrates (H. E. vii. 32) says that in the old copies of the New Testament it is written ὅ λίει τὸν Ἱησοῦν ho liei ton Hiēsoun, "who dissolves or divides Jesus;" that is, who "separates" his true nature or person, or who supposes that there were "two" Christs, one in appearance, and one in reality. This reading was early found in some manuscripts, and is referred to by many of the Fathers, (see Wetstein,) but it has no real authority, and was evidently introduced, perhaps at first from a marginal note, to oppose the prevailing errors of the times. The common reading, "who confesseth not," is found in all the Greek manuscripts, in the Syriac versions, in the Arabic; and, as Lucke says, the other reading is manifestly of Latin origin. The common reading in the text is that which is sustained by authority, and is entirely in accordance with the manner of John.

And this is that spirit of antichrist - This is one of the things which characterize antichrist. John here refers not to an individual who should be known as antichrist, but to a class of persons. This does not, however, forbid the idea that there might be some one individual, or a succession of persons in the church, to whom the name might be applied by way of eminence. See the notes at 1 John 2:18. Compare the notes at 2 Thessalonians 2:3 ff.

Whereof ye have heard that it should come - See the notes at 1 John 2:18.

3. confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh—Irenæus [3.8], Lucifer, Origen, on Mt 25:14, and Vulgate read, "Every spirit which destroys (sets aside, or does away with) Jesus (Christ)." Cyprian and Polycarp support English Version text. The oldest extant manuscripts, which are, however, centuries after Polycarp, read, "Every spirit that confesseth not (that is, refuses to confess) Jesus" (in His person, and all His offices and divinity), omitting "is come in the flesh."

ye have heard—from your Christian teachers.

already is it in the world—in the person of the false prophets (1Jo 4:1).

But on the contrary, concerning them who against so plain evidence denied him to be so come, the case was plain; as with the Jews, John 8:24, and with the present heretics, who denying the true manner, could not but deny the true end of his coming; and who also lived so impure lives as imported the most open opposition and hostility thereto, and so discovered must evidently that antichristian spirit, which it was foreknown would show itself in the world. And every spirit that confesseth not,.... The proper deity and sonship of Christ, his true and real humanity, and his Messiahship; or any of his offices, doctrines, and ordinances; or his satisfaction and righteousness; or that peace, pardon, justification, life, and salvation, are by him; all which are meant by what follows,

that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh: this clause is left out in the Ethiopic version, and that without hurting the sense, since it is easily supplied from the preceding verse; and the Alexandrian copy, and the Vulgate Latin version, only read "Jesus": and the latter reads the whole thus, "and every spirit that dissolves Jesus"; that separates the two natures, human and divine, in him, and makes two persons of them; or denies either of them, either that he is truly God, or really man, or denies him to be Jesus, the Saviour; who, as much as in him lies, destroys his person, office, and work, and makes void his obedience, sufferings, and death:

is not of God; neither he nor his doctrine are of God; his doctrine cannot come from God, being contrary to the word of God; and he himself is neither born of God, nor on his side.

And this is that spirit of antichrist: who is against Christ, or opposes himself to him; as he who denies his sonship, his deity, his humanity, his offices, and his grace, manifestly does; every doctrine that is calculated against these truths is the spirit and doctrine of antichrist:

whereof you have heard that it should come, and even now already is it the world; in the false teachers, the forerunners of antichrist; See Gill on 1 John 2:18.

And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 John 4:3. In the reading: ὁ μὴ ὁμολογεῖ τὸν Ἰησοῦν, the article (which is not, with Lücke, to be deleted) must not be overlooked, for it indicates Jesus as the historical person who is Christ. The false teachers did not confess Jesus when they ascribed the work of healing, not to Jesus, but to the Aeon Christ. The particle μή indicates the contradiction of the true confession, whilst οὐ would only express the simple negation. At the words: καὶ τοῦτό ἐστι τὸ τοῦ ἀντιχρίστου, almost all commentators (even Brückner and Braune) supply with τό the word πνεῦμα; but Valla (with whom Zegerus agrees) interprets: et hic est antichristi spiritus, vel potius: et hoc est antichristi i.e. proprium antichristi; if this latter interpretation be correct, then τοῦτο refers to μὴ ὁμολογεῖν, and τὸ τοῦ ἀντιχρίστου is “the antichristian nature.” As it is not easy to see why John should have left out πνεῦμα, this interpretation is to be preferred to the usual one (so also Myrberg; Ewald similarly interprets: “the work of Antichrist;” the same form of expression in Matthew 21:21; 1 Corinthians 10:24; 2 Peter 2:22; Jam 4:14).[258]

ὃ ἀκηκόατε ὅτι ἔρχεται] compare chap. 1 John 2:18. Stephanus, groundlessly, would read “ὅν” instead of ; the relative does not refer to ἀντιχρίστου, but to τὸ τ. ἀντιχρ.

καὶ νῦν ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ἐστὶν ἥδη] i.e. in the false prophets; comp. 1 John 4:1. John does not say here that Antichrist, but only that the antichristian nature (or the spirit of Antichrist) is already in the world; ἤδη is doubtless added, not merely to intensify the νῦν, but to point to the future time of the appearing of Antichrist, which is already being prepared for. According to Ebrard, the last sentence depends on ; this, however, is not likely, as is the accusative; it is rather connected, as an independent sentence, with the preceding one.

[258] Braune thinks that in these passages it was of importance to form a substantive conception, but that here the simple genitive would have been sufficient; it is plain, however, that the substantive idea τὸ τοῦ ἀντιχρ. is here also more significant than a mere genitive connected with ἐστίν.1 John 4:3. The Test negatively expressed. Omit Χριστὸν ἐν σαρκὶ ἐληλυθότα. τὸν Ἰησοῦν, “the aforementioned Jesus,” “jesus as thus described”. μή makes the statement hypothetical: “every spirit, if such there be, which doth not confess”. The variant λύει τὸν Ἰησοῦν, solvit Jesum (Vulg., Aug.), “dissolveth” or “severeth Jesus,” i.e., separates the divinity and the humanity, aptly defines the Cerinthian heresy. It was much appealed to in later days against Nestorius. The ecclesiastical historian Socrates (see crit. note) says it was the primitive reading, and was altered by “those who wished to separate the deity from the man of the Incarnation”. St. Augustine, defining heresy as schism due to lack of brotherly love, comments: “Ille venit colligere, tu venis solvere. Distringere vis membra Christi. Quomodo non negas Christum in carne venisse, qui disrumpis Ecclesiam Dei, quam ille congregavit? “On the Antichrist see note on 1 John 2:18. ὃ ἀκηκόατε ὅτι ἔρχεται, “which ye have heard that it is coming”—the regular Greek idiom. Cf. Luke 4:34 : οἶδά σε τίς εἶ.3. confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh] On overwhelming evidence (AB, Coptic, Aethiopic, Vulgate, &c.) we must omit the words ‘that Christ is come in the flesh’, retaining only confesseth not Jesus: the additional words are an obvious interpolation by one who wished to make the two sides of the antithesis exactly equal. But, as we have repeatedly seen (1 John 1:5-8; 1 John 1:10, 1 John 2:10; 1 John 2:22-23, &c.), this is rarely the case in S. John’s oppositions.

There is yet another very ancient and very interesting difference of reading here: every spirit which severeth Jesus, or, unmaketh Jesus, or, destroyeth Jesus, or, as the margin of R. V., which annulleth Jesus (ὃ λύει, qui solvit), the verb which in 1 John 3:8 is used for ‘to destroy’. This reading appears to have been known to Tertullian (a.d. 210), who quotes S. John as speaking of “the forerunners of Antichrist denying that Christ has come in the flesh and severing (solventes) Jesus” (Adv. Marcion V. xvi.), and to Irenaeus (a.d. 180), who quotes the whole passage, and in this place has “every spirit which severeth (qui solvit) Jesus” [Haer. III. xvi. 8). But it can scarcely be genuine, for it is not found in a single Greek MS., nor in any version except the Vulgate. And we have no certain knowledge that any Greek Father had this reading. ‘Qui solvit’ in Irenaeus may be interpretation rather than literal translation. Socrates the historian (a.d. 440) charges the Nestorians with tampering with the text and ignoring the reading ‘which severeth Jesus’; just as Tertullian accuses the Valentinians of falsifying the text of John 1:13, and S. Ambrose the Arians of mutilating John 1:6. In all these cases the supposed heretical reading is the right one.

The passage in S. Polycarp’s Epistle already alluded to (see on 1 John 2:18) is against the reading advocated by Socrates: ‘For every one who confesseth not that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is an Antichrist; and whosoever confesseth not the witness of the Cross is of the devil’ (Phil. VII.). The expressions ‘confess’, ‘come in the flesh’, ‘Antichrist’, ‘is of the devil’, place S. Polycarp’s knowledge of his master’s First Epistle beyond all reasonable doubt. This is very early testimony (a.d. 140–155) to the existence of the First Epistle.

The variations as regards reading are testimony to the same effect. Such things take time to arise and spread. If a corrupt reading is known to Tertullian in Africa, and (apparently) adopted by Irenaeus in Gaul, before the end of the second century, then the original document written in Asia Minor cannot be much later than the end of the first century, at which time S. John was still living.

is not of God] S. John gives two tests, one for trying human conduct, and one for trying spiritual claims: ‘Every one that doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother’ (1 John 3:10); and ‘Every spirit which confesseth not Jesus is not of God.’

and this is that spirit of Antichrist] ‘That’ should rather be ‘the’, as in R. V. The word ‘spirit’ is not expressed in the Greek, but is rightly understood from the context. The similar Greek expressions in Matthew 21:21; 1 Corinthians 10:24; James 4:14; 2 Peter 2:22 are not quite parallel.

that it should come] Better, with R. V., that it cometh. Wiclif and the Rhemish have ‘that he cometh’. Most English Versions before 1611 have ‘he’ for ‘it’; as also has Luther. This is due to the Vulgate, which has ‘Antichrist’ for ‘the (spirit) of Antichrist’. ‘It’ is certainly right. Not Antichrist, but the antichristian nature is affirmed to be now in the world already. The spirit of antagonism to Christ has passed from “the invisible world of spiritual wickedness” to the visible world of human action. The addition of ‘already’ hints that something more may be expected to follow. Comp. ‘The mystery of lawlessness doth already work’ (2 Thessalonians 2:7).1 John 4:3. Τὸ) that is, πνεῦμα, the spirit.—καὶ νῦν, and now) ch. 1 John 2:18, note.Verse 3. - Every spirit (not so much the personal teacher as the principle or tendency of the doctrine) which confesseth not Jesus. This is the true reading, the words Ξριστὸν ἐν σαρκὶ ἐληλυθότα being a spurious addition from verse 1. As so often, St. John states the case both negatively and positively for emphasis. There is an ancient variant reading of much interest, probably of Latin origin, which can be traced back to the second century, being known to Tertullian and Iranaeus. For μὴ ὁμολογεῖ τὸν Ἰησοῦν it gives λύει τὸν Ἰησοῦν, solvit Jesum. This corruption of the text was evidently aimed at those who distinguished the man Jesus from the Divine Christ, and thus "dissolved" his Personality. The Greek manuscripts are quite unanimous against the reading. Is not of God; and therefore is of the evil one (see on 1 John 3:10). These professedly Christian teachers are ever among the most dangerous who treat the Divinity of Jesus Christ as more or less of an open question, or as a matter of indifference. Τὸ τοῦ ἀντιχρίστου probably means "the spirit of antichrist," understanding πνεῦμα from the preceding clause rather than (quite vaguely) "the characteristic of antichrist" (see on 1 John 2:18, to which passage, however, ἀκηκόατε does not refer, (but to Christian teaching in general). And now it is in the world already. This is an independent statement; St. John does not say that they had heard this previously. Is come in the flesh

Omit. Render, confesseth not Jesus. So Rev. An ancient reading is λύει τὸν Ἱησοῦν annulleth or destroyeth Jesus." The simple Jesus emphasizes the humanity of our Lord considered in itself. See Romans 3:26; Romans 10:9; 2 Corinthians 11:4; Ephesians 4:21; Hebrews 2:9.

This (τοῦτο)

Not this spirit, but this non-confession, summed up in all its manifestations.

Cometh

See on 1 John 2:18.

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